“Liberty” and “freedom” have been the rallying cries of millions throughout history.From teenagers rebelling from parental authority, to ethnic tribes rebelling against unjust government, liberty has been the ultimate dream of mankind since Eden. Any insurrection against existing authority can be seen, depending on your perspective, as a bid for freedom. Even Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven can be understood as a bid for freedom from whatever rules and laws that he considered unjust or unfair. So not all rebellions are justified, even though ‘freedom’ may be the rallying cry for supporters. Therefore, not all freedom is necessarily good; I would question if total freedom is even desirable, even possible?
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
What is this liberty wherewith Christ has set us free? And what is it that we are set free from?
Gen 2:15 -17 And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Adam and Eve were created free to choose any of the trees of the garden to eat from, except one. An entire orchard of good trees straight from the creative genius of God Himself, uncorrupted by any disease, pest, or imperfection, every fruit, nut, and berry was perfect in flavor, looks, and nutritional value. Adam and Eve were free to choose, but independence was not an option. Freedom, or liberty, to many means complete independence. It means loosed from what they see as the shackles of society, freed from what they believe to be the bondage of laws and restrictions that govern human behavior. Libertarians believe man is better off devising his own moral and ethical boundaries, finding his own limitations, without having to be obliged to obey ethical restraints placed upon them by society.
What they do not realize however, is that there is no such thing as complete freedom. It simply does not exist, and cannot.
To be perfectly free, to be utterly independent is impossible. Take for example the natural laws that govern life here on earth. The only way to overcome e.g. gravity, is through living in an artificial environment. And although one may then be free to float about in the air, yet that same one is restricted to the environment he has placed himself in. He is not free. In fact, he is less free than when he was when under the law of gravity.
What of civil laws governing restrictions on driving for example. One needn’t have much of an imagination to see the consequences of anyone thinking they are free to disobey any of those laws. In fact, many do drive as if they are free and the results are seen daily on our news channels. Civil laws of many kinds are essential.
And the spiritual world? Many Christians today think as ‘libertarians’. They view the cross of Calvary as their passport to freedom from any obligation to obey the law. They see any obligation to obey the Ten Commandments as a burden. And they often use Gal. 5:1 as evidence to support their stand. The ‘bondage’ they say, is the moral law of Ten Commandments. Many even excuse their sin by claiming it is impossible to obey the Ten Commandments. Thus they seem to repeat the reasons for Lucifer’s rebellion in the beginning. “I don’t like God’s laws, they don’t suit me, I can’t keep them anyway, so I will rule my life, not God.”. Or failing that, they believe God Himself has done away with them. Thus they believe God has lowered His standard to meet our deficiency, rather than lifting us up to meet His standards.
The laws of God are reflections of His character. In doing away with the laws of God, or thinking one is free from the obligation to obey them, is akin to doing away with God Himself. In the natural world or the secular,we rid ourselves of law only by undermining the authority upon which they were first established. And in the spiritual world, any attempt to disobey, or seek to be free from moral laws, places us at enmity with the Authority of the one who first established them. So whatever freedom Christ offers, isn’t freedom from obligation to obedience. The freedom God offers us through Christ is the same freedom that Adam and Eve once enjoyed, but through disobedience, lost. You see, Adam and Eve had freedom, but only within a particular parameter.
They were free to choose between two alternatives.They could believe God and keep His commandments, or believe Lucifer, and become their own god. They chose the latter. And as a result, they lost freedom. They were forbidden to then partake of any of the trees of the garden, being exiled to the outer world, and the garden, particularly the tree of life, was placed under guard that they may not enter. The freedom they had was the liberty to choose between two masters. They could choose to obey God, or choose to obey the lust and the selfish desire of their own flesh. The master they chose bound them in far greater bondage. What freedom they lost! Adam and Eve had an entire garden, maybe what we might today call a forest, to choose from. A limitless variety of good things from which to freely partake, with the exception of just one!
Satan has since reversed the order. Whereas in the garden the choice was between much good and a little evil, today the choice is between much evil and little good. The way of evil, Jesus told us, is a wide way, well traveled, and much used. The way to life is narrow, hard, and lonely.
Rom 6:16-23: Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification. For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness. What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life. For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Through Christ we are restored to a state of liberty where we have restored to us the power to choose to obey God’s laws. Through faith in His sanctifying power, we can obey the Creator God, the Almighty Father, as our Master and Lord. And instead of the restriction of wickedness that plagued our lives and incurred not only the wrath of God but brought upon our miserable stultified existence pain, suffering, discontent, sickness and death, we now have available to us unlimited potential. An infinite existence beyond man’s wildest imagination. A God who offers us a life that by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, can raise us up to heights of right living that were previously unimaginable.
An unbeliever would claim that becoming a Christian would limit his horizons, his potential, and ability to express his true self. But what he is doing is choosing his own restrictive confines of time, space, knowledge and experience. He is merely choosing himself as a god, one greatly limited to his own ignorance. And sadly, many Christians are experiencing the same limited existence through unbelief.
But through God’s promises, we can become partakers of His own divine nature. We are transformed into the same character of Christ. What glorious freedom there is in Christ. What unlimited potential there is for one who is willing to surrender their old sinful self on the altar of sacrifice and allow God to renew them in His Son’s image.
“Whom do ye serve?” One without Christ has no choice but to remain locked into a lifestyle of sin and rebelliousness that result in only one sure thing, eternal death. But praise God Who has redeemed us by His grace, has freed us from the tyranny of Satan, of sin, and of death, and has given us the glorious liberty to choose Him and reject the old ways, and the old masters.
But what of the law? Four hundred years of slavery found the family of Abraham ignorant of God’s ways, and in bondage to Egypt. They were slaves not just to sin, but to the consequences of sin. Sin had so corrupted mankind that the greatest then known nation on earth, Egypt, was utterly bound in a prison cell of idolatry and all the corrupt occultic abominations and superstitions that accompanied it. When God chose Moses and Aaron to approach Pharaoh to free the Hebrew slaves from their bondage, for what purpose was God offering Israel this freedom?
Exo 3:14-18 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel……thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, hath met with us: and now let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to Jehovah our God.
See also Exo 4:22,23. Exo 5:1 Exo 6:6-8 Exo 7:16 Exo 8: Exo 9:1,13.
Israel was offered freedom for the sole purpose of serving and worshiping the true Creator God. God was presenting Himself as a direct contrast to Egypt’s present system. Jehovah was saying, through Moses, that there is no room for more than one god. “I am the Lord, there is no other!” In the midst of a generation that worshiped anything that crawled, swam, slithered walked and flew, Israel was being called out to worship the One True Creator of all things and serve only Him. Were they forced to worship and serve God? Not at all. God does not compel us to obey. Just as Adam and Eve had the choice, so did Israel. They may well have refused to believe Moses and neglected to prepare for the exodus and die in Egypt, or chosen to surrender to the Egyptians when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds at the Red sea. They may at any time have left the camp in the wilderness and returned to Egypt. But what God was doing was releasing Israel from a situation where they had no choice.
And once on the other side of the Red Sea, Israel was no longer obliged to obey Pharaoh, but could still worship the same gods as Pharaoh if they chose! And sadly, that is exactly what they did! They built a calf made of gold and proclaimed that this was the god that brought them out of Egypt. The Lord however had an alternative. God offered them a covenant and if Israel would keep to their side of the agreement, they would become a kingdom of priests, holy and acceptable to God. This covenant was expressed in terms of Ten Laws, or Ten Commandments by which Israel would live. These laws weren’t anything new as far as the world was concerned, they had already had a taste of the Sabbath for a month or so, and the patriarchs would have been thoroughly familiar with these moral laws, but which had become unfamiliar to Israel over the previous years of servitude and ignorance.
Deut. 30:10-20 if thou shalt obey the voice of Jehovah thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law; if thou turn unto Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul. For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love Jehovah thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, that thou mayest live and multiply, and that Jehovah thy God may bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it. But if thy heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days in the land, whither thou passest over the Jordan to go in to possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love Jehovah thy God, to obey his voice, and to cleave unto him; for he is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which Jehovah sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
And just as Israel were no longer bound by the restrictive slavery of false worship and idolatry, so also are we no longer bound by sin, for sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are no longer under law, but under grace. Romans 6:14.
“What then? Shall we sin, because we are no longer under law, but under grace? God forbid!! Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves as servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye become the servants of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18.
Note that we are not completely free. Christ does not make us independent. We do not, as a libertarian would argue, become free to any obligation to the law. We are only free to choose our master. And it is our master who decides whether we keep the law, or not. If we choose sin the law has dominion over us. We stand condemned. However, if we choose Christ, He changes our hearts and minds, writes His law upon our hearts, and gives to us His righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness. Because of the hopeless nature of man’s predicament, we cannot choose righteousness, and then attempt to keep the law with our own strength. That is attempting the impossible.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end, everlasting life, for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:20-23.
There is our liberty. We are set free, not to sin, but to obey. Our liberty is granted us for the express purpose of our serving and obeying a new Master. And as we choose to obey, God grants us the power to do so.
For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, (that is, to sin), but by love serve one another. For the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Gal. 5:14,15.
Rom 13:9,10 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfilment of the law.
Perfect freedom therefore is found only in the context of obedience to God’s commandments, through love. As Israel was free to serve God in the wilderness, their ultimate freedom was found in obedience to God’s commandments which resulted in their entering into the promised land; as Jesus was free to obey His Father and speak only His Father’s words, and act only according to the will of His Father, His obedience led to His resurrection and His acceptance before the Father as the perfect sacrifice on our behalf, which in turn makes the way open for to us to receive the same freedom to obey God’s commandments through love, that we also may walk as Jesus walked, victorious overcomers and this promise will be ours:
Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14
Where Adam and Eve failed in their choices, Jesus overcame that we may not fail in ours. And where Adam and Eve lost their right to the tree of life through disobedience, we, through Christ’s obedience being imparted to us by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit indwelling in us, may once again have the right to eat of the tree of life.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. James 1:25