At one time I had Romans 6 memorized in English. I always loved verse 7: “He who has died is freed from sin.” Freedom! Yes!
As I was reading through the passage in Greek this morning I was surprised that the word for “freed” is δικαιόω. I expected ἐλευθερόω, which is the normal word for “free.”
Remember δικαιόω? It’s normally translated “justified.” It is listed in BDAG like this:
1. to take up a legal cause, show justice, do justice, take up a cause
2. to render a favorable verdict, vindicate.
3. to cause someone to be released from personal or institutional claims that are no longer to be considered pertinent or valid, make free/pure
4. to demonstrate to be morally right, prove to be right
As you can see, the third definition is what translators chose for this verse. “Freed from sin” is a perfectly good translation and yet this is a great example of the kind of thing that gets lost in translation.
Δεδικαίωται (“freed”) in verse 7 is a perfect tense. It indicates a new state of being brought about by a past event. The translation “freed” makes it sound aorist, as if Paul is simply reporting a past event. The perfect tense tells us not only that we WERE freed but that we now STAND free.
Even more, δεδικαίωται has strong overtones of justification. It’s not just that God kicked the door open and let me out of my sin-prison. He righted a wrong—MY wrong. I was justly condemned to a hell of my own making, tasting the bitter fruit of my stupidity, reaping what I had sown, sleeping in the bed I had made. Δεδικαίωται means that once and for all, Christ reaped what I had sown. He slept in the bed I had made. So justice was done, and I am free.
I didn’t escape an unjust sentence like in Shawshank Redemption. A just sentence that I deserved was paid and I am forever free.