“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 1:5-6).
“Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).
Our sin ruins us in two ways. It makes us guilty before God, so that we are under his just condemnation; and it makes us ugly in our behavior, so that we disfigure the image of God we were meant to display. It damns us with guilt, and it enslaves us to lovelessness.
The blood of Jesus frees us from both miseries. It satisfies God’s righteousness so that our sins can be justly forgiven. And it defeats the power of sin to make us slaves to lovelessness. We have seen how Christ absorbs the wrath of God and takes away our guilt. But now how does the blood of Christ liberate us from the slavery of sin?
The answer is not that he is a powerful example to us and inspires us to free ourselves from selfishness. Oh, yes, Jesus is an example to us. And a very powerful one. He clearly meant for us to imitate him: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). But the call to imitation is not the power of liberation. There is something deeper.
Sin is such a powerful influence in our lives that we must be liberated by God’s power, not by our willpower. But since we are sinners we must ask, Is the power of God directed toward our liberation or our condemnation? That’s where the suffering of Christ comes in. When Christ died to remove our condemnation, he opened, as it were, the valve of heaven’s mighty mercy to flow on behalf of our liberation from the power of sin.
In other words, rescue from the guilt of sin and the wrath of God had to precede rescue from the power of sin by the mercy of God. The crucial biblical words for saying this are: Justification precedes and secures sanctification. They are different. One is an instantaneous declaration (not guilty!); the other is an ongoing transformation.
Now, for those who are trusting Christ, the power of God is not in the service of his condemning wrath, but his liberating mercy. God gives us this power for change through the person of his Holy Spirit. That is why the beauty of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control” are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). This is why the Bible can make the amazing promise: “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Being “under grace” secures the omnipotent power of God to destroy our lovelessness (not all at once, but progressively). We are not passive in the defeat of our selfishness, but neither do we provide the decisive power. It is God’s grace. Hence the great apostle Paul said, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). May the God of all grace, by faith in Christ, free us from both the guilt and slavery of sin.
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.