The Power of the Gospel, Part 7

Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

The nature of the bondage and slavery of sin is necessary to understand for two reasons. One, it is necessary to understand the nature of this in order for people to see themselves as slaves who cannot truly free themselves from their bondage. Two, it is necessary to understand this for people to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ in truth. If the power of the Gospel is seen in its power to free slaves from the slavery and bondage to sin, then one will only understand the Gospel to the degree that they understand the slavery and bondage of sin.

One way that the Bible (Ephesians and Colossians) describes our bondage to sin is spiritual death. That spiritual death is seen as living and walking in sins and trespasses and being by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:1-3). In the book of Titus there is a shocking verse that describes the nature of sin in another way. “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3). This verse is shocking if we begin to meditate upon what people live for and by. It is shocking when we meditate on what it is that drives people and moves them to make decisions.

Human beings make decisions and choices on the basis of the nature of their entire soul. The soul consists of the capacity to think, the capacity to feel, and then the capacity to choose. However, what we see in Titus 3:3 is that human beings are slaves to lusts and pleasures. The word “lust” has the idea of a passionate longing, the desires of the soul, an earnestness of the soul and perhaps even the impulses of the soul. In other words, to be a slave of our lusts is to be a slave to the things we have passionate longings for and to the deepest desires of our being. It is not that the slavery human beings consists of making them do things they don’t want to do, but it consists in the very desires of the soul. The slavery of human beings in sin is in having and doing the desires of the hearts. This slavery is not in God forcing people to do sin, but in God withdrawing His restraining hand and giving people over to the slavery of the lusts of their hearts. “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them” (Romans 1:24).

The verse above should send waves of shock through our systems. God does not just give people over to outward actions; He gives them over in the lusts of their hearts. If God does not restrain the power of lusts in the human soul, then no one can or will. The human heart will carry out the lusts of its heart when it is no longer ashamed to do so before other human beings or when it no longer has other external constraints. The very judgment of God is in turning people over in the lusts of their hearts and so His judgment is in giving people what they want. Their very desire to be free to carry out the lusts of the heart is a deep form of bondage to sin. The ways of God are certainly above our ways.

In the book of Romans Paul sets out the nature of sin in chaper 1:18-3:20. He then moves to the Gospel in 3:21-5:21, though in chapter five he is speaking of original sin. In chapter six he begins a section on dealing with sin.
“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:12-14). The believer, as one that has been delivered by the power of God in the Gospel, is to consider him or herself as dead to sin and alive to God. Why is that? It is in light of that that the believer is not to let sin reign in the body so that s/he obeys its lusts. The Gospel has delivered the believer and so that believer is now under the reign of grace rather than the reign and bondage of sin.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is of great power because it delivers the sinner from the bondage of the lusts that masters him or her. Unbelievers are in great bondage to sin because they are under the dominion of their own lusts that they love. They are also under the dominion of darkness and of the evil one. They are also under the judging hand of God who gives them over to the lusts of their hearts in His judgments. The Gospel of the power of God is, once again, not just some bit of information to believe, it is about the living God who delivers people from the power of their lusts and gives them a love for Himself that controls them rather than the lusts (II Cor 5:14).

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