This will be a short essay focusing on the bondage of man to sin after the fall, and what Christ has to say about how man comes to salvation.
Does man have a will that is free, or is man’s will bound? Jesus says in John 8:34 -36 in reply to Jewish unbelief that they are not already free, “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits a 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.” Clearly, Jesus tells man that he is in bondage. He is a slave to sin. This bondage, which by all means begins with original sin, begins with Adam and Eve and their first fruits of sin which bound man in sin.
Paul says in Romans 6:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Follow this train of thought. Since all men from the moment they are born show the signs of aging and death upon them, it goes to follow that all men have sinned. and if all men have sinned, then as Jesus says, all men are slaves to sin. But understand that this type of bondage does not continue against the will of man.
This bondage is one in which the man bound has no understanding that there is any other way than that which sin provides. In fact, in this bondage man takes pleasure from sin, indeed, from doing things against the will of God. We see that in Romans 5:10, man without God’s intervention is an enemy of God, in that he sees God as an enemy. Understand “enemy” to its extent and you can understand that an enemy has every intention other than doing what his enemy wills.
Paul also describes this bondage in other terms. In Ephesians 2:1-10 we see that we were described to be “dead in the trespasses and sins” (v1) and “even as we were dead in our trespasses” (v5). Again, follow the logic. Normally when we think of a dead man, what do we think of a dead man doing? Nothing! Paul goes on and defines this death. It is not simply “nothing” that happens with one who is dead in their trespasses. No, that person lives in their trespasses. Following up verse 1, with verses 2 and 3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” A person who is dead in their trespasses lives a life of the living dead. A person who Christ has not lighten with the Gospel takes pleasure out of doing the things of this world and cannot see that there is anything different.
In fact, what does Christ say is his reason for coming to Earth for anyway. Look at what Christ himself says in Luke 4:18,19 “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Reflecting to back to the Jubilee in Leviticus 25 when liberty was proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the land, and also to Isaiah, Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of that passage in bringing permanent freedom to those who are in bondage and held captive.
Man is completely in bondage to sin. Scripture has said so. So how then does man gain salvation? Again we need only recall Jesus’ words in Luke 4 telling how God is the actor who frees man from bondage and not man.
Look at John 1:9-13,“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Jesus Christ is the true light. as he says elsewhere in John clarifying this, “I am the light of the world.” He is the one who enlightens. The world did not known him, though he made everything. He went to his people. Jesus is the one who acts! The ones who received him, not by anything of their own accord became children of God.
And John tells us how that happened. They were made children of God not by blood or being born into it in the hereditary sense (as the Jews were often apt to claim they were children of Abraham), nor by the will of the flesh (for the flesh desires that which is flesh), nor by the will of man (for it is bound in sin), but of God! God acts! God saves! And He does this through his Son Jesus Christ!
Matthew tells us how He is going to do this. 1:21, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Christ is designated actor of salvation from the beginning. And this is so throughout his life and death and resurrection which is the salvific act for all of man throughout history. God acts. God acts through his Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ. All our responses are only after the fact of hearing the preached Word of Jesus Christ. God has always acted first and man can only give a response to this working of the Holy Spirit in him.
And of course we know that the Holy Spirit is God and his work is such that it is through Him that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” Romans 5:5. And that love is the merits of Christ Jesus.