Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A Look at Liberty in the New Testament

The word "liberty" is only used eleven times in the New Testament, none of which occur in the Gospels. It occurs most often in connection with the words serve or servant.

The discussion concerning Christian liberty falls into two categories:
1) liberty from the bondage of sin and
2) liberty from the demands of the law given in the Old Testament to the Israelites.
Paul addresses the liberty from the bondage of sin that is experienced by the Christian in 2 Corinthians 3:17 and Romans 8:21. 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us that this liberty can only be experienced by means of the Holy Spirit. While this liberty can be realized to a certain extent during this life, Romans 8:21 talks of the glory to come in heaven when the Christian will be completely free from all trappings of sin and will experience the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” In coming out from under the rule of sin, the Christian has come under a new rule under Jesus Christ. James calls that rule “the law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12), referring to the fact that it is this new rule that has freed the Christian from his bondage to sin. Those who do not want to surrender themselves to this “law of liberty,” fail to see the liberty it brings and offer a false liberty. It is against this false liberty that Peter warns, stating “while they promise . . . liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (II Peter 2:19).

The other aspect of liberty is liberty from the demands of the law that was given to the Israelites in the Old Testament. Both Paul and Peter address this liberty in their writings. Paul warns the Galatian believers to “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1; see also Galatians 2:4). This freedom from the law extends to those laws set forth concerning meat offered to idols (I Corinthians 10:29). However, as the Christian recognizes his freedom, he is exhorted to not use his liberty in such a manner as to offend a fellow believer. Rather, he is to use his liberty to serve his brother (Galatians 5:13; I Peter 2:16).

The Christian has been freed from his bondage to sin and an obligation to the law. However, he must keep in mind that he has been freed to be a slave. He has been freed to serve Jesus Christ and to serve his fellow believers. It is a liberty of relinquishing all personal opinions, rights, and preferences.

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