by Russell Young
The nature of the freedom enjoyed by the believer in Christ is sometimes confused. Some accept it to mean that they are free of consequences regardless of their behaviour. There are many compelling Scriptural evidences that reject such thinking (Rom 8:13; Gal 6:7-8; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Pet 1:17; Mt 7:21) In fact, this understanding might be what the Lord referred to as the teaching of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6, 15) that he strongly rejected.
The truth about freedom has best been revealed by Paul to the Galatians. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1, NIV) His address to them was concerning the return of some to Jewish practices and to the covenant of the law. He had stated that Sarah and Hagar, the wives of Abraham, “represent two covenants.” (Gal 4:24, NIV) Freedom comes through release of enslavement to the Old Covenant which required the law to be fully lived through a person’s own resources. The second covenant is the covenant of the Spirit. The son of Sarah was born by the power of the Spirit (Gal 4:29); he was the son of promise and enjoyed right to the New Covenant or the Covenant of the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:6). Freedom belongs to those who are re-born by the power of the Spirit.
It needs to be understood that the requirements of the New Covenant have to be completed and in this regard, Paul wrote to the Romans: “He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:3-4, NIV) There is clearly a requirement for the believer to live according to the Spirit’s leadership and through his power in order to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law. Freedom is from the first or Old Covenant and the consequence of sin committed while under its requirements but not from the consequences of all sin that might follow confession of faith. Once placed under the jurisdiction of the New Covenant the believer must still strive for righteousness. Further in his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote: “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (Gal 5:5, NIV) The Spirit must produce the needed righteousness, but that comes through living according to his leadership. The believer cannot engage in those unlawful practices about which he is being convicted. “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life.” (Rom 8:5…6, NIV)
If believers have to live in accordance to the Spirit, where is their freedom? They have been freed from the death sentence that awaited them for the sins committed while under the first covenant, and they have been freed from having to live out the law through their own resources. They have been released or freed from these two impossible burdens.
The Lord also addressed the issue of “freedom.” “Jesus replied. ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn 8:34-36, NIV) Further in the discussion he has stated, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (Jn 8:51, NIV) He has been addressing the issue of slavery to sin and was talking to some Jewish believers. The issue of his concern related to the nature of their slavery and his teaching is that they have been set free from slavery to sin because they now have the Spirit to gain victory over it. Freedom in Christ is freedom from slavery to sin.
The Lord is the Spirit. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” (2 Cor 3:17) He had gained victory over sin while in the body that the father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary and he can provide freedom from sin while in the body of the believer, if obediently followed. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” (Jn 10: 27, NIV)
James spoke of “the perfect law that gives freedom.” (Jas 1:25, NIV) The perfect law is the law (commands) given by Christ through the Spirit to the believer. The one who obeys his law-his Spirit- will be free from slavery to sin. Sin need not have dominion over the person who is committed to Christ.
Russell Young returns tomorrow with part two of our look at freedom.