What Is True Christian Liberty?

By Timothy P. Hadley

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “liberty”? The term has been used a lot in connection with civil liberties and personal rights. In the United States, the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Pledge of Allegiance all speak of it. The Statue of Liberty stands in New York harbor as a symbol of freedom, while the Liberty Bell is displayed near Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The inscription on that bell, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land Unto All The Inhabitants Thereof,” was taken from Leviticus 25:10 (KJV).

But what is true liberty? Once there was some graffiti painted on a wall that read, “Freedom is NO Authority!” But is that really freedom? Some feel that freedom or liberty means people can do anything their hearts desire. Even many Christians have the idea that we are free to do whatever we want, watch whatever we want, and go wherever we want; but is that really what the Bible teaches?

What Is True Freedom?
Spiritually speaking, the Bible tells us that everyone is a slave – no one is free. In our society today slavery is a negative thing that speaks of degradation, hardship and inequality. But the biblical perspective is that true freedom is found in Christ. Paul explained in Romans 6 that we are slaves to either sin or righteousness. Those who are slaves to sin cannot free themselves from it, but once we are freed through the cross from the penalty and power of sin, we become slaves to righteousness. In this second slavery we find complete peace and true freedom.

The only true freedom comes to those of us who recognize that we are not our own. The Lord Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32 NKJV). He continued, “Most assuredly, I say to you whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (vv.34-36).

A servant is one who works for wages and, by virtue of his work, is owed something by his master. The believer, on the other hand, has nothing to offer to the Lord in payment for His forgiveness; he is totally owned by the Master who bought him with His shed blood on the cross (see 1 Cor. 6:19-20). These individuals are purchased by His blood and are the possession of their Lord and Savior. Every true Christian can rejoice along with Paul, saying, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).

Why Do Many Christians Live As If In Bondage?
We often rebel against our Master, refusing to obey Him while clinging to our old lives and holding on to the sins that once bound us to Satan as our master. The Bible tells us that every believer has two natures: the new nature that came as a result of Christ’s work in our lives and the old nature with which we were born. The old nature seeks to draw us to sin. However, we are instructed to “put off” the old self with its deceit and corruption, and “put on” the new self with its righteousness and holiness. Put off lying and put on truthfulness. Put off stealing and put on usefulness and work. Put off bitterness, rage and anger; put on kindness, compassion and forgiveness (Eph. 4:22–32). We have been set free from the bondage of sin, yet we return at times to those chains because part of us loves the old life.

So how do we gain the victory and enter into true Christian liberty? It is through death! We must recognize that we died with Christ and have been crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20), and we have been born again as completely new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). The Christian life is one of a figurative death to self and rising to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

What Is Christian Liberty?
This word “liberty” appears 11 times in the New Testament and it affects our past, present and future. As we have seen, freedom in Christ is not cheap – it cost Him His life! He has purchased us with His own blood, securing for us our liberty. Christian liberty is freedom from the guilt of sin, freedom from the condemning wrath of God, and freedom from the curse of the moral law (Isa. 53:12; Gal. 3:13, 5:18; Heb. 1:3).

Freedom in Christ also impacts all our present and future liberties, such as freedom from the bondage to Satan (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). We are free from the dominion of sin (Rom. 6:14). We enjoy free access to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16), and we are free to serve Christ as His bondservants (Rom. 7:4; Heb. 9:14).

Christian liberty also includes freedom from the sting of death; we are given victory over the grave “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57). He gave Himself on that cruel cross to deliver us from this present evil world (Gal. 1:4), and someday very soon we will be brought out from the presence of sin to dwell in the city illuminated by the glory of God (Rev. 21:23-27)!

What Christian Liberty Is Not
We mentioned earlier that there are Christians who feel that they can do whatever they wish because they “have liberty.” But is true Christian liberty a license to sin or a permission to do want we want? The answer is, “No, of course not!” Paul wrote of this very thing in Romans 6:15-18: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine [teaching] to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Jude warned of those “who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). But Peter instructed us to be “as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God” (1 Pet. 2:16). “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17). Every area of our lives is His, and ought to be lived out for Him.

We have been called to liberty, but the danger is that we might use this liberty as a license to sin. Listen to these words: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:13-26).

If we are Spirit filled and Spirit led believers walking in the Spirit, we will enjoy the liberty that comes through the Spirit, for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). Romans 14 has much to say about Christian liberty, and throughout the chapter Paul taught that the real purpose of Christian liberty is to live to the Lord and serve one another – never using our liberty in a way that would stumble another brother or sister in Christ.

So Christian liberty is not a matter of being free to do whatever I please, but it is to live in such a way that whatever I do pleases the One to whom I belong – to His praise and for His glory!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace … to the praise of His glory.” —Ephesians 1:3-7,12

Author: Sebastien

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