God created Adam free. This does not mean that Adam was free to obey or not as he chose, for the power to choose sin is not freedom. It means that Adam had the right, the power, and the will to obey. Man’s freedom is always found within the bounds of the law. The fish is not free to live on the land, and the tree is not free to live apart from the soil. Just so man was not created free to obey or not as he chose, but to obey. In disobedience there is, not freedom, but death and bondage to sin.
When Adam sinned he lost his freedom. He (and, because of him, the human race) had no longer the right, the power, or the will to serve God. He became the servant of sin instead of the servant of God. He, having been found guilty, received from the judge of all men the sentence of death, and became the servant of him whom he obeyed. Death was his master, not only by power, but also by right, for God gave him (and therefore us) up to it.
Christ makes us free.
He frees us from the right of sin over us. By His precious blood He removes from us the sentence of condemnation. By dying our death, by Himself coming under the law and its curse on our behalf, He pays the price necessary to free us from the authority of our cruel taskmaster.
He also frees us from sin’s dominion. He removes the sentence of death from our consciences, so that we have peace. He takes us out of our depravity, and makes us dead to sin. Sin is no longer our master; we are no longer his slaves. Christ has redeemed us from, the curse of the law.
But there is more. Christ also frees us from the schoolmaster under which the church lived in the O.T. In the O.T. the church was like a child who has to be taught obedience by a consistent application of the rod. In order to drive the church to Christ (that is, in order to give His people forgiveness and teach them to obey) God added to the law of the ten commandments what we know as the civil and ceremonial law. These were either minutely detailed applications of the law of the ten commandments to various aspects of the church’s life or living pictures of the work of Christ which the people of God themselves were required to act out. Because the laws were numerous and strict the people of God found it constantly impossible to obey, and fled for refuge to Christ. But now Christ has come, and faith with Him, and we are no longer under the schoolmaster (Gal. 3:24, 25). This does not mean that we no longer have to obey the ten commandments (for we do), but we no longer need (or at least ought not to need) the application of the rod (the civil and ceremonial laws) to teach us obedience. We who have received the inheritance (Gal. 4:1) are no. longer little children. We have the law written in our hearts (Heb. 8:10) and are continually looking into it (James 1:25). We are old enough now to know both the law and ourselves. We have no more need of tutors and governors to teach us: we are free from that grievous, though necessary, oppression.
And even that is not all. For Christ not only frees us from condemnation, sin, and the schoolmaster, but He also frees us unto the service of God.
As we saw above, freedom is not license. It is not the right and the power to do whatever we please, to ignore the law. The most glorious aspect of our freedom in Christ is a new and blessed slavery: we are the servants of God and of righteousness. For liberty is, as we have said, the right, the power, and the desire to serve God.
Fallen man has no power to serve God; for he has been deprived, by God’s righteous justice, of the image of God in which he was created: righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. But, as a sinner he does not have either the right to serve God, for the Thrice Holy One will not, cannot, permit sinners to stand in His presence. Therefore, though God still commands sinners to obey, He will not, except in Christ, give them that glorious privilege.
The liberty which we have in Christ is so perfect a liberty that it is utterly impossible that we lose it again. And it will become so perfect in heaven that it will be impossible to sin. In heaven it will be our joy, the perfection of our liberty, that we will serve, and glorify, and love (for love is the fulfilling of the law, Rom. 13:10) our God perfectly world without end. Perfect liberty is perfect service. We are bound and free by the perfect law of liberty.
We must be careful to abide by these principles when we talk about the area of Christian liberty.
This “area of Christian liberty” is frequently misunderstood. Many Christians today understand this to be the freedom to do anything we please as long as we do not offend the brother. They say we are not bound any more by the ten commandments, but only by the law of love. That is not liberty but death. Others say that when we talk about the area of Christian liberty we are talking about things which are neutral, things neither right nor wrong in themselves. Some Christians then are able to do these things without sinning, but certain other Christians, who are weaker; cannot. Some Christians therefore are “free” to do things which others are not, though not at all times lest they offend the weaker brethren. This is not a wrong explanation of Christian liberty, but it is hard to discern the connection between it and the idea of liberty in Christ as outlined above. If we look at the whole question of “the area of Christian liberty” from another point of view the connection between it and liberty in Christ becomes much clearer.
There are some actions which are in themselves wrong: lying, stealing, committing adultery, etc. Christians may not do these things. There are other actions which are not in themselves wrong. Christians may do these, and their liberty in Christ means that they can do them in a manner which is pleasing to God, that is, by faith (Rom. 14:23) and to His glory (I Cor. 10:31). But there are some Christians who, because of previous sinful contact with these things or because of a besetting sin, cannot do these things in a manner which is pleasing to God. In addition there are some unbelievers who do not understand that “the earth is the Lord’s” (I Cor. 10:26), who see as sin certain things which Christians are indeed free to do. It is important that these not be offended. Therefore, and here is one of the important points, our liberty is restricted not only by the law of God, but also by the consciences of other men.
But, and here is the other important point, this restriction of our liberty is also liberty, in fact as perfect a liberty as the restriction of our liberty by the law of God. Why? Because liberty is service not only to God, but also (according to the second table of the perfect law of liberty), to the neighbor, and especially to our brethren. It is our joy, our perfect liberty in Christ, to serve others in whatever way we can. “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. ” “For, brethren, we have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”