The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Despite being the first negro author in America to publish a piece of literature, Jupiter Hammon remained a slave his entire life. He worked as a clerk for a wealthy slave company in New York. As the first African-American writer, he also became the first anti-slavery protester in American literature.
God saved him during the beginning of the Great Awakening. He was a slave, and yet he was at greater liberty than most freemen — the Chain-breaker had set him free. And whomever Jesus sets free — although earthly shackles still temporarily bite at his wrists — he is free indeed (John 8:36).
Speaking to fellow slaves, Hammon remarks,
"My dear brethren, we are many of us seeking for a temporal freedom, and I pray that God would grant your desire. If we are slaves, it is by the permission of God. If we are free, it must be by the power of the most high God. Be not discouraged, but cheerfully perform the duties of the day, sensible that the same power that created the heavens and the earth and causeth the greater light to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night can cause a universal freedom. And I pray God may give you grace to seek that freedom which tendeth to everlasting life."
Liberation from the horrors of chattel slavery was unmistakably a good to be desired, but Hammon knew that the greatest freedom for any child of Adam is freedom in the Son of God. Freedom from our sin. Freedom from the sting of death. Freedom from eternal punishment.
God’s Emancipation Proclamation
Scripture is clear: “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34). Try as you will outside of God’s help, you will not break free. The chain around your neck is secure. Sin, like the hydra, has many heads: “conquer” one sin and two more will take its place. Those whom the Son has not freed are slaves of their cravings.
And sin is a brutal master. It defiles us. It shames us. It makes us guilty and wretched. It marks us as a target for God’s wrath because it makes us his enemies. And before God saves us, we actually love sin, and will refuse to go to Christ because we love the poisonous nectar of lust, pride, and anger and don’t want it to be exposed and taken away (John 3:19–21).
But God sent his Emancipation Proclamation by causing his Word to become flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14). He, the Liberator, made a way for us to be eternally set free from our guilt and tyrannical desires that keep us walking after Satan into judgment like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:2–3). On the cross, he was voluntarily chained in our place, shackled to our punishment, to bear our eternal wrath.
And he was victorious, now being addressed as the one “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). He has broken our chains and ripped the prison door from its hinges.
If you have been freed by Christ, you are free — and the best kind of slave:
Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22–23)
True freedom is found in slavery to God. Jesus breaks our chains that were leading us off into execution and puts new chains on us that lead unfailingly to sanctification and eternal life. He does not free us to live how we please apart from him; he frees us to finally obey God from the heart and please our Savior.
Therefore, we find commands such as, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God”(1 Peter 2:16); and, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He sets us free from sin that we might go forth and sin no more. None of us will achieve perfection in this life, but we are a people branded by God to shine as lights in the world. He takes our chains and sets us free to be slaves of righteousness, captives of joy, and glad servants of our God and King.
No greater existence is imaginable. Creation groans for it to be perfected. We groan for Jesus to complete it. And the good news is that he is coming soon.