I received a question regarding the possibility of a Christian being enslaved to sin. I thought I would briefly address it here for others who wonder this too.
The Christian has been given victory over the inability not to sin. Prior to the Fall, man was able not to sin. He did not know sin and there was no sin in the world. He was given the option to obey or disobey as is evident from God's command to Adam to not eat of the tree in the center of the garden (Gen 2). God did not make it impossible for Adam to sin; He gave him the command not to and left it up to him to obey.
God, in His omniscience knew what Adam would choose when Eve tempted him to eat, and He knew the answers to the questions of accountability and culpability He asked Adam as he and Eve hid in the bushes (Gen 3).
When Adam ate the fruit and disobeyed God sin entered the world and Adam changed. He changed from a person who was able not to sin to a person who was not able not to sin. In other words, sinning became the normal state of being for the human race.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- Romans 5:12
When a person is regenerated (born again) they are once again able not to sin. As Christians, we have the choice to obey or disobey. Romans 6 tells us that we have been set free from the dominion or the power that sin formerly had over us when we were helpless (Rom. 5:6) and "free from the control of righteousness" (Rom. 6:20). We now have been set free from that control and "have become slaves to righteousness" (Rom. 6:18).
We are warned in Scripture not to enslave ourselves to the law (see Galatians) that cannot save, or to offer our bodies or minds/hearts as instruments of unrighteousness.
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness...Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6:16-18, 19-22
Scripture makes it clear to us that as Believers we can still be enslaved to a sin, but it is by choice. I have seen Christians enslave themselves to drugs and alcohol, people pleasing, sex, pornography, spending money, gambling, and many other things.
Remember that what we serve we worship. What we worship we often wrongly believe we control. What most people usually understand over time is that what they once controlled begins to control them. They mistakenly think that they can walk away from it, but soon discover that their love or lust for it has them enslaved.
We also sin in ways that do not necessarily enslave us. We justify things like using a coupon on the wrong product, telling a “white lie,” or “sharing” someone else’s business in the form of a prayer request. These things don’t equate the kind of slavery in question but do remind us that we are in as much need of the cross as the worst mass-murder is. These are the things of Romans 7, the things of daily life that I am personally frustrated by.
Sin can have dominion or ownership of a person when the heart wrongly makes something other than God an object of worship or makes it a god who they believe will meet their perceived need.
Breaking this bond of slavery is often painful physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Physically through painful withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, food or other substance, emotionally through the ruination of relationships and the stress and strain that comes from such things, and spiritually as the person sees their sin from God's perspective and grieves their sin of idolatry.
I urge the reader to make a careful examination of the book of Romans. No other source will explain the problems of life better than the Bible will. It is our authority and final word on the topic of sin.
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