Freedom from Sin


A question that has been much on my mind recently is this: what does it mean when Scripture says that Christ has set us free from slavery to sin? How do we explain the freedom we have now, vs. the freedom we had before Christ?

Clearly we are just as prone to sin as those who lived before Christ. The Catechism says that by cooperating with grace, we can be freed of attachment to sin. However, does this mean that grace did not exist before Christ came? Catholic apologists seem to say ‘no’.

Or does it mean that we can now find forgiveness from sin in Christ, where previously we could not? In other words, does that mean that there was no forgiveness from sin before Christ? But clearly there are many who God considered just, before Christ came.

Or is it referring to to the fact that the just who died before Christ came (and who were therefore not in the presence of Christ) now are?

Or does it mean that we are we free to follow Christ now, where before people could not, simply because Christ had not yet been revealed?

Or is ‘freedom from sin’ really explained by ‘freedom from the law’?

Any input would be appreciated -



Due to original sin, we are conceived without the state of grace. By baptism in Christ, we are given the state of grace, which infuses us the virtues we need to avoid grave sin: love, faith, hope, and all other virtues. We avoid sin by cooperating with actual graces, but the state of grace is of great help in avoiding sin.

Persons who remain in the state of grace, by definition, have not committed an actual mortal sin – the only type of sin that condemns to Hell. So we are freed from the most serious type of sin, and from eternal punishment for sin.

In Christ, we find great mercy for forgiveness of sin. So even if we sin gravely, we can be forgiven by Christ in Confession. And all the Sacraments are a bulwark for us against sin.

In Christ, we find a well-lit and level path to Heaven, where we will be forever free from sin.


It existed but it too came from Christ, since God is beyond time and can do that retroactively.

Or does it mean that we can now find forgiveness from sin in Christ, where previously we could not? In other words, does that mean that there was no forgiveness from sin before Christ? But clearly there are many who God considered just, before Christ came.

Same situation as above.

Or is it referring to to the fact that the just who died before Christ came (and who were therefore not in the presence of Christ) now are?

Or does it mean that we are we free to follow Christ now, where before people could not, simply because Christ had not yet been revealed?

it can mean these too.

Or is ‘freedom from sin’ really explained by ‘freedom from the law’?

Not sure what you mean here… St. Paul says the law is not sin, in Romans.

I think a lot of this would be answered if you read St. Augustine, Spirit and the Letter which talks about grace extensively


Catechism of the Catholic Church

**521 **Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. “By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man.” 193 We are called only to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model:

[INDENT]We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus’ life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. . . For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in his whole Church. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us. 194

193 GS 22 § 2.
194 St. John Eudes, LH, Week 33, Friday, OR.

Gauduim et Spes

  1. The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.

He Who is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15),(21) is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled,(22) by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice(23) and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.(24)

As an innocent lamb He merited for us life by the free shedding of His own blood. In Him God reconciled us(25) to Himself and among ourselves; from bondage to the devil and sin He delivered us, so that each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). By suffering for us He not only provided us with an example for our imitation,(26) He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning.

The Christian man, conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers,(27) received “the first-fruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23) by which he becomes capable of discharging the new law of love.(28) Through this Spirit, who is “the pledge of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14), the whole man is renewed from within, even to the achievement of “the redemption of the body” (Rom. 8:23): “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the death dwells in you, then he who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also bring to life your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).(29) Pressing upon the Christian to be sure, are the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold tribulations and even to suffer death. But, linked with the paschal mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, he will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope.(30)

All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way.(31) For, since Christ died for all men,(32) and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.

Such is the mystery of man, and it is a great one, as seen by believers in the light of Christian revelation. Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us(33) so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father(34)


So if I might summarize the responses, St. Paul’s idea is not so much that something (ie. freedom from slavery to sin) was impossible before but is now possible, but that now we are able to follow Christ as he has been fully revealed.

The idea then would be that this was possible, although much more difficult, before the Incarnation, just as it is possible, although very difficult, for a person now to follow Christ without knowing that he is following Him. This was possible because Christ (and the grace of the Holy Spirit) has always been present/available in some way.

One thing that did change with the Incarnation was that heaven is now open to us. So we are now free to be with Him for all eternity, where that was not true before.

Would that be correct?


St Paul is explaining the effect that Calvary had on us. I think some of the reasons why we often find these things hard to understand is because we forget how Cross-centred Paul was. We, in a sense, can take the Cross for granted because it is the whole basis of our faith and everything else is built on top of it. We get the merits applied at baptism and we sought of move on from it and get on with the whole sanctification thing except for around Easter time. But not so for St Paul, he explains the foundation, the cross, because it was new, and it literally changed everything!

I shall give you my two cents, and I will start with some words of Jesus
“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:34-36

Two things here: if you commit sin then you a a slave to sin, as a slave you do not inherit anything, you don’t have any right to the house. The Son however has that right and the son can set you free.

We shall come back to John but let’s fast forward to the discussion in Romans 6 which is very similar

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:16-18

So that just confirms what Jesus was teaching: if we sin we are slaves of sin. If you like we sell ourselves into slavery to sin.

Jesus the Son, by His death and resurrection has freed us so that we can become sons and heirs rather than slaves of the house (see Rom 8:17)

St Paul is informing them of this truth, they are no longer slaves of sin but have been purchased by the son and are now slaves of righteousness, slaves of God! bondservants of God!!! (I am getting all emotional because this topic always makes me emotional). A bondservant is someone who has gotten into debt to their master and becomes a slave to work it off so to speak, but our Master is the one and only God He makes us not only bondservants but Sons and Daughters!

We were condemned, sold into slavery, we had no hope in our sin except that the Son paid with His blood so that we can be freed from sin and become slaves of righteousness.
Anyway before I get carried away I shall finish off:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

St Paul is telling them, since then you have been bought at this great price (1 Cor 6:20, 1 Cor 7:23) let that be a motivation to not sin. And what a good motivation. Knowing what Jesus has done for you, do not sin anymore!

I saidI would get back to the passage in John but ihave rambled on long enough :slight_smile:


Continuing to Gospel of John 8, The Jews, knowing that they were the descendants of Abraham, not slaves …

39 [e]They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. 40 But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. 41 You are doing the works of your father!”

[So] they said to him, “We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Can any of you charge me with sin? If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.”


There was a major change with the New Covenant, established at a point in human history when man was finally ready to begin to receive the full revelation of God, via the Incarnation of Christ.

31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, " declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Jer 31:34


No, God’s plan of salvation has not changed. People have always been saved by grace, through faith. Jesus sent the HS to indwell us, Who gives us the grace and power to overcome our tendency to sin.

God has always forgiven the sins of those who throw themselves upon HIs mercy. The difference is that the Gate of Heaven was shut against humans after original sin. God did not want humans to live forever separated from Him, so those whose sins were forgiven have been waiting with eager longing for Him to open the Gates again after paying for our sins on the cross.

Yes. After His death He went to “prison”, also called Abraham’s bosom, where the righteous dead awaited Him and freed them, so they could go with Him to heaven.

The indwelling Spirit brings gifts and graces that were not available until after the resurrection.

This is also true. We have the supernatural power to keep from sinning.


Steve Ray answers this question:

How did the Old Testament covenants work? How were people saved in the Old Testament before the coming of Jesus Christ?

In this *Catholic Answers Podcast *at 46:30 minutes.



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