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XLIX. THE FREEDOM OF THE CHRISTIAN
‘But now we have been discharged from the law.’ -- Rom. 7:6
‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.’ -- Rom. 8:2
Freedom is counted in Scripture as one of the greatest privileges of the child of God. There is nothing in history for which nations have made great sacrifices except freedom. Slavery is the lowest condition into which man can sink, for in it he can no longer dispose of himself. Freedom is the deepest need of his nature.
To be free, then, is the condition in which anything can develop itself according to the law of its nature, that is, according to its disposition. Without freedom nothing can attain its destiny or become what it ought to be. This is true alike of the animal and man, of the corporeal and the spiritual. It was for this cause that God in Israel chose the redemption out of the slavery of Egypt into the glorious liberty of God’s people, as the everlasting type of redemption out of the slavery of sin into the liberty of the children of God. (Ex. 1:14; 4:23; 6:5; 20:2; Deut. 24:8) On this account, Jesus said on earth: ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’ And the Holy Scriptures teach us to stand fast in the freedom with which Christ made us free. A right insight into this freedom opens up to us one of the greatest glories of the life that the grace of God has prepared for us. (John 8:32,36; Gal. 4:21,31; 5:1)
In the three passages, from the Epistle to the Romans, in which sanctification is dealt with, a threefold freedom is spoken of. There is freedom from sin in the sixth chapter, freedom from the law in the seventh, freedom from the law of sin in the eighth.
There is freedom from sin (Rom. 6:7,18,22). Sin is represented as a power that rules over man, under which he is brought and taken captive, and that urges him as a slave to evil. (John 8:34; Rom. 7:14,23; 2 Pet. 2:19) By the death of Christ and in Christ of the believer, who is one with Him, he is made entirely free from the dominion of sin: it has no more power over him. If, then, he still does sin, it is because he, not knowing his freedom by faith, permits sin still to rule over him. But it by faith he fully accepts what the word of God thus confirms, then sin has no power over him: he overcomes it by the faith that he is made free from it. (Rom. 5:21; 6:12,14)
Then there is freedom from the law. This leads us deeper into the life of grace than freedom from sin. According to Scripture, law and sin always go together. ‘The strength of sin is the law:’ The law does nothing but make the offense greater. (Rom. 4:15; 5:13,20; 7:13; 1 Cor. 15:56) The law is the token of our sinfulness, cannot help us against sin, but with its demand for perfect obedience gives us over hopeless to the power of sin. The Christian who does not discern that he is made free from the law will still always abide under sin. (Rom. 6:15; 7:5) Christ and the law cannot rule over us together: in every endeavour to fulfil the law as believers, we are taken captive by sin. (Rom. 7:5,23) The Christian must know that he is entirely free from the law, from the you must that stands without us and over us: then for the first time shall he know what it is to be free from sin.
Then there is also freedom from the law of sin, actual liberation from the power of sin in our members. What we have in Christ, freedom from sin and from the law, is inwardly appropriated for us by the Spirit of God. ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.’ The Holy Spirit in us takes the place of the law over us. ‘If ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.’ Freeing from the law is not anything external, but takes place according to the measure the Spirit obtains dominion in us and leads us. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ According as the law of the Spirit rules in us, we are made free from the law, from the law of sin. We are then free to do what we, as God’s children, would fain do, free to serve God. (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:18)
Free expresses a condition in which nothing hinders me from being what I would be and ought to be. In other words, free is to be able to do what I would. The power of sin over us, the power of the law against us, the power of the law of sin in us, hinder us. But he that stands in the freedom of the Holy Spirit, he that is then truly free, nothing can prevent or hinder him from being what he would be and ought to be. As it is the nature of a tree to grow upwards, and it also grows as it is free from all hindrances, so a child of God then grows to what he ought to be and shall be. And according as the Holy Spirit leads him into this freedom, there springs up the joyful consciousness of his strength for the life of faith. He joyfully shouts: ‘I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.’ ‘Thanks be unto God which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.’
Son of God, anointed with the Spirit to announce freedom to the captives, make me also truly free. Let the Spirit of life in Thee, my Lord, make me free from the law of sin and of death. I am Thy ransomed one. O let me live as Thy freed one, who is hindered by nothing from serving Thee. Amen.
1. The freedom of the Christian extends over his whole life. He is free in relation to the institutions and teachings of men. ‘Ye were bought with a price: become not bond-servants of men.’ ( 1 Cor. 7:23; Col. 2:20) He is free in relation to the world, and in the use of what God gives: he has power to possess it or to dispense with it, to enjoy it or to sacrifice it. (1 Cor. 8:8; 9:4,5)
2. This freedom is no lawlessness. We are free from sin and the law to serve God in the Spirit. We are not under the law, but give ourselves, with free choice and in love, to Him who loved. us. (Rom. 6:18; Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:16) Not under the law, also not without law; but in the law; a new, a higher law, ‘The law of the Spirit of life,’ ‘the law of liberty,’ the law written in our hearts, is our rule and measure. (1 Cor. 9:21; Jas. 1:15; 2:12) In this last passage the translation ought to be: ‘bound by a law to Christ.’
5. This glorious liberty to serve God and our neighbour in love is a spiritual thing. We cannot by any means seize it and draw it to us. It becomes known only by a life in the Holy Spirit. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is there liberty.’ ‘If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.’ It is the Holy Spirit that makes free. Let us suffer ourselves to be introduced by Him into the effectual glorious liberty of the children of God. ‘The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed me from the law of sin and of death.’
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