Liberty Under the Law
Slaves are ransomed. Children of wrath are propitiated. Sinners are forgiven. Guilty are set free. Evil no more has dominion over them. Enemies are reconciled. Sins are atoned. Satan is defeated. Death and hell have lost their sting. Access to God is granted through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Truly, Christ’s crucifixion is the center of the Christian faith. How shall we then live? We are to live in liberty under the Law.
Christians were redeemed from their previous life of sin (Rom 5:8). What does it mean to be set free by the truth that is Christ Jesus, our Lord? The truth has given us faith in someone other than ourselves or other sinful people. Our identities and our actions have changed because we have the truth. We are being transformed into conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29).
Sanctification is the process to make us holy, even as Christ our God is holy (1 Cor 1:30; 1 Thess 4:3). Christ is the perfect standard. The perfect standard has always been perfect compliance to the Law of God. Jesus Christ kept the Law, and He fulfilled it in a way we could not because of our sin nature (Eph 2:3)
God’s revelation of His holiness is not obscured by Christ’s perfect obedience. It is highlighted. We are to become like Christ. Christ was obedient to the Law; therefore, we are to become obedient to the Law. Just as it was impossible for us to be justified by our works, it is likewise impossible to for us to be sanctified by our works. Thus, we have some help from God.
First, God has given us His Spirit (Jn 14:26; 15:26). The Holy Spirit is one agent of our sanctification (Jn 17:17; Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). He gives new birth to the soul He Himself regenerates and causes to be born again of God (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3). He indwells the Christian with a promise to never leave nor forsake her (Rom 8:9, 11; Heb 13:5). The Spirit leads and guides us into all truth (Jn 16:13; Rom 8:14; Gal 5:18).
Truth is the wisdom of God (Jn 14:6; 1 Cor 1:24). Christians are to walk in truth (2 Jn 1:4; 3 Jn 1:4); therefore, we walk by the Spirit (Rom 8:4). The Spirit gives us the mind of Christ because He is the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 2:16; Phil 1:9). The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20–21), where we find the mind of Christ…in print.
Second, God has given us His Word. Christ validated the Scriptures, and the Scriptures validate Christ (Jn 5:39). One is the Word of God incarnate (Jn 1:14), and the other is the Word of God, written down for our benefit. Before a person becomes a Christian, he cannot understand the Bible (1 Cor 2:14; 2 Cor 4:4). The Bible is the Word of God (Ps 119:160), which is the wisdom of God, which reveals the will of God.
God tells us He is for us, not against us. His good intentions are to lead us, on the path of righteousness (Is 26:7). It is a straight and narrow way (Mt 7:13–14). It has always been impossible to travel this way, until Christ traveled it. It is now possible for us to follow Christ (Jn 10:27; 17:6; 1 Pet 2:21), in the power of the Spirit, on this right and pleasing way. God’s Word shows us the way. Jesus Christ is the way (Jn 14:6).
Abiding in God’s Word is the way to abide in Christ (Jn 15:4–6). With the indwelling Holy Spirit, as our guide for the Scriptures, we learn Christ. Christ was pleasing to God His Father, and we are pleasing to God through obedient faith (Rom 1:5; 16:26). This faith in Christ is a gift of God (Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29), given to Christians (Rom 12:3; 2 Pet 1:1). We are living a life empowered by grace. God’s Spirit and God’s Word will accomplish their good work in us (Jn 17:17; Phil 1:6; 2:13).
Third, God has given us His Law. The Law of God is the moral law, which reveals His holiness (Ex 20; Dt 5). It also reveals the standard by which we should live in the presence of God. Too many Christians believe that the Law was discarded, in favor of grace, when Christ kept and fulfilled the Law (Mt 5:17; Lk 24:44). This is absolutely wrong. Grace does not negate the Law, but grace empowers a Christian to obey the Law (Ezek 36:26–27). The Law has never changed. When it was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, it was written by the finger of God on tablets of stone (Ex 31:18; Dt 9:10). This was to symbolize permanence.
God’s Law is despised by those who fail to keep it, and who are actually inspired to sin more against God, in light of knowing the Law (Rom 5:20). The Law served as a tutor for Old Testament saints (Gal 3:24–25). It was an external set of precepts to be obeyed. The children of Israel failed to obey. Jesus Christ obeyed.
Spirit-filled Christians now have the same Spirit of obedience living in them (1 Pet 1:2). They have the Spirit indwelling and the Law written on their hearts (Heb 8:10; 10:16), as promised by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:33). They are made willing to learn and love God’s Law.
If one desires to be holy, righteous, just, and at peace with God, then obedience is required. Is this not slavery all over again? What is the difference between being a slave to sin and a slave of Christ? Slavery to sin is a destructive path, leading to death. A person is born on this path will die two deaths. One death from sin killing the body (Rom 6:23), and there is a second death that kills the soul (Rev 20:14–15).
A person born a second time will only suffer one death, the death of his body. He is the slave of Christ (Eph 6:6), who defeated sin and death at the Cross. His soul died with Christ (Rom 6:8; Col 2:20; 3:3), was buried with Christ, raised with Christ, and seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6). His soul shall never die because He has eternal life found only in the Son of God (Jn 3:36; 1 Jn 5:12), who secured it for His people, through His death and resurrection. He who is in union with Christ has life because He has the Son, who said, “I am…the life…(Jn 14:6).”
Fourth, God has given liberty. The great problem here is the definition of liberty. The Antinomian defines liberty, as Christ securing liberty, so he has the license to sin without consequence. The Perfectionist defines it, as life lived without sin. One claims to be free to sin, and the other claims he has no sin. Both of these are wrong. The Legalist is terrified of both of these positions, so he creates a whole new set of rules to dictate her Christian life. These rules are not found in the Scriptures. Clearly, liberty and Law are elusive concepts.
A correct view of Christian liberty begins with God’s grace. Christians still have a competing sin nature producing sins in them (Eph 2:3; Rom 7). Christ’s nature is being formed by the indwelling Spirit in them (Gal 4:19). This is a process in the Christian, and we call it maturity (Heb 6:1). As we learn Christ, and grow in grace (2 Pet 3:18), we become more like Him. Christ was sinless (Heb 4:15; 7:26), but we will have sin up until death and glorification. There is a maturing but not a perfection here. We are being released from sin (Rev 1:5), but we are not yet in glory. This is our first liberty.
Liberty also means we are set free from fear. Sinful people live lives of great fear. They fear God’s wrath, and they fear the wrath of man. Christians are liberated from both fears. This, too, does not mean it is a perfect, changeless state of freedom from fear. We are growing in fearlessness. We do not fear God’s wrath because Christ has re-directed God’s wrath against us (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). He is a propitiation for our sins. God is no longer angry with the Christian, as He is every day with sinners (Ps 5:5; 7:11; 11:5).
Christians are at peace with God (Rom 5:1), which allows us to be peacemakers with men (Rom 12:18). We are blessed to no longer be in competition with our neighbor (Eccl 4:4). We have been set free from enmity (Rom 5:10). We are heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17; Gal 3:29), and those with an inheritance do not strive.
Sin causes men to strive with one another for power, position, and pecuniary prowess before everything is lost in hell. This is insanity, but it is man’s daily grind. Remember, he is a slave (Rom 6:6). Christians do not fear what man can do to them because God’s perfect love casts out all fear for Christians (Prv 29:25; 1 Jn 4:18). This is our second liberty.
Liberty means we are free to serve God. A slave of Christ is free to labor in love for His master (1 Thess 1:3). How different this is from the burden of laborious addiction and pain for the slave of sin. To serve sin, the slave must destroy himself, in trying to gain fugacious pleasures. He destroys others in the attempt to be king of the mountain. The Christian loves His labor because He loves his Lord (Jn 21:15–17).
Being in alignment with God brings the Christian love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, and self-control (Gal 5:22–23). He then delights in the Law of the Lord because of the innumerable benefits. He eats as unto the Lord, and often in the joyous company of convives of Christ. Feast! Fellowship! Festival! He drinks as unto the Lord. In fact, he does everything as unto the Lord (Col 3:17).
The Christian’s life has become one of incessant worship. He prays without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). He gives thanks in everything (1 Thess 5:18). He meditates on God’s Word day and night (Jos 1:8; Ps 1:2). He gives his possessions to the poor (Lk 16:9; 1 Jn 3:17). He loves his brothers and sisters in Christ. He loves his neighbor as himself. He even has a loving compassion for his enemies. He is compelled by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14), to serve God and others who are in need. His labor is not a burden. Service to God is our third liberty.
Liberty means we care for nothing in this world (1 Jn 2:15–17). The Bible teaches the Christian to be anxious for nothing (Phil 4:6). Too many Christians do not heed this instruction, but here is liberty for the taking. The Book of Ecclesiastes warns us that life in this world is utter futility (Eccl 1:2).
We enter the world with nothing, and we leave the world with nothing (1 Tim 6:17). Nothing is gained. All of our machinations are meaningless. Once this wisdom is appropriated, the Christian is free to live for the world to come. Affections are moved from the things of the earth to become affections set on heaven above (Col 3:2). We walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7), and in a manner worthy of our calling to be citizens of heaven (Eph 4:1; Col 1:10). We are kingdom of heaven people, ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). Our love and labor are to enhance our homeland, with its capitol city being heavenly Zion, the New Jerusalem (Heb 11:16; 12:22).
Investments are not for selfish gain and hoarding of resources (Mt 6:19), but they are for others to learn of King Jesus and the kingdom He has gone to prepare for those who love Him (Jn 14:2–3). Assets are used to publish the message sent from heaven, to all people, inviting them to the marriage feast of the Lamb (Mt 22; Rev 19:7), being prepared for the consummation of the ages. Everything else burns (2 Pet 3:10–12).
Here is the test for the Christian to consider the degree of their freedom. Have you stored up treasures on earth instead of heaven? What motivates you to have a big bank account, a big investment account, a big real estate portfolio? Is this fear of loss, unbelief in God’s ability to provide daily bread, or is it love for Christ and His kingdom? There is a vast difference between hoarding and sacrifice. Examine yourself. Are you free?
Christians must return to the Word of God, to look again at the promises of God, to be loosed all the more. If we live under the law of love, we are free. Christ’s law is for us to live like Him. He was free to truly pour out His life without fear. He gave His life away, from a heart of love. He was fearless, in His relationship with God the Father. He was fearless in the face of sinful men, who only wished to destroy Him. He was the servant King. He was perfectly obedient to the Law of God. He was perfectly free to live apart from sin. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. He is God, and He calls us to a life of liberty under His law.
Let us abandon our fears in the world and live for Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. The promise is that if we do, we will be people of faith, children of God, and filled with joy. Perfect obedience to the Law is perfect freedom because it is the law of liberty (Jas 2:12), a law that is holy, just, and good (Rom 7:12). Jesus Christ came for this (Gal 5:1), that we might be delivered out of the hand of our enemies, to serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life (Lk 1:74–75). Let us do this, as He leads us!
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 21, 2021