In the previous article under the title “Liberty and Maturity” we showed the principle of freedom for the Christian through the work of Jesus on the cross from the viewpoint of Galatians 5:1. The believer is free from the curse of the law because Christ is the end (goal) of the law for righteousness to every one that believes (Rom. 10:4). This does not mean that the believer is lawless. Now he seeks to keep the law out of love for the God Who delivered him out of the house of bondage.
Before the Reformation God’s people were held in the bondage of Rome’s false doctrine. They could not properly understand or enjoy their freedom in Christ. Rome’s false doctrine engendered immaturity in God’s people. They dared not interpret Scripture or even live according to the dictates of their renewed consciences without the consent of the church.
Rome’s false view of justification tied the work of Christ to the regulation and dispensation of the priest, which is both bondage and immaturity.
In the Reformation God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, used Martin Luther to free His people. Luther began to grapple with the question—How does one stand before God? Then God by His grace and Spirit opened anew the truth that “standing” or justification before Him was by faith directly in Jesus Christ.
Justification was not through the priest to Jesus Christ. It was not justification by faith in Jesus Christ and yet some good works to do. The glorious gospel uncovered in the Reformation was justification by faithonly. The poor oppressed Church felt the weight of bondage lifted from her and she breathed thankfully. She breathed freely. Then anew was she able to lay hold of this Word: “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.”
That was not the end of the attempts to bind the child of God. Any perversion or distortion of the doctrine of the truth of the Scripture is that which sets the child of God on a course which shall at length lead to bondage. Anything that covers the way to Christ, or anything that hides the glory of the freedom that is in Christ, is bondage.
Whenever the truth of the Word of God is set around with the regulations of men, then you have potential for bondage. When customs or traditions stand in the place of the regulatory principles of the Word of God, that is a situation ripe for bondage. We must be finished with that! We must stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. No regulation that is made by ourselves or another man may bind us.
That has implications in all of our life. If I say, “Now I am free, I am redeemed in Christ Jesus. How wonderful! Now I must do this for Him and that for Him.” That is bondage. That is trusting in something we think we must do, or be, or know in order to be accepted of God; and that is unacceptable to Him. Husbands may require of their wives more than God requires. Parents in setting bounds for their children may make the way of acceptance with God more rigorous than God Himself does. And that too is bondage.
Liberty, what a glorious liberty we have—if, only by the grace of God and the work of His Spirit we understand that our liberty is in Christ only. We have such a difficult time with that truth. The Word of God is not unclear with respect to our justification. God spells it out in clear language. My child, who has been made alive by grace, in whom I have implanted My faith, begin now to live out that faith—that faith which is regulated by the law of perfect righteousness. Look to the cross of Jesus Christ and find acceptance with Me. We say, Lord what must we do to be saved? God declares in His holy Word, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house. With the exercise of the faith that I give you, look to Christ and see Him really as the whole of your justification, ;to which you can add nothing. If we seek to add anything we lose it all. If we seek justification by the works of the law we become debtors to do the whole law which is an impossible burden.
We must put nothing in the place of Christ or along side of Him. Oh how we struggle with that. How we struggle to justify ourselves. We do that in the natural sphere. We seek self-justification by making ourselves look better in the eyes of men than we really are. We do the same thing before the eyes of God. We say, Lord, I have tried to walk in the way of Thy Word. I’m not as bad as John or Mary. But, you see, that is not what God requires. He says, What think ye of the Christ? Have you believed in Him only? In a sense God says, I don’t care what you have tried to do. All of your efforts are doomed to failure. Your hope is in Christ. There is your liberty. Stand fast in Him! Be not entangled in your own pride as a new yoke of bondage. Do not allow yourself through immaturity to be bound by others. Stand fast day by day. Fight, strive to keep everything else away from the vision of Jesus Christ in Whom is your perfect righteousness. In Him there is relief, liberty and joy. Oh the thankfulness of a soul set free by faith in Christ Jesus.
So then we say, Isn’t that nice? Now I am “running free.” I have been liberated. Now I can do as I please. Isn’t that the implication? No, that is bouncing to the opposite extreme. In Galatians 5:13 Paul writes, “for, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” In heaven we will be “running free” (if we can use that phrase), because then we will be living perfectly out of the new heart that God has given us, but in this life we yet have the old man of sin within us. We have the flesh, and on the other hand we have the new man or, as it is called in the context, “Spirit.”Galatians 5:15 says, “for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Let me do what I want to do? Oh, what I want to do in the flesh! I dare not tell you what I would do in my flesh. And the same is true of all of us. The flesh is the evil man within us that seeks its only satisfaction in the things of this world. But, you see, God has given us the new man. In the new man we have the victory over sin in the flesh. We are more than conquerors, but while we are in the flesh we have a battle. These two are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would in the flesh and be pleasing to God. And on the other hand ye cannot do the things of the Spirit, for we are hindered by the flesh. Paul speaks of this in Romans 7 when he says, The good that I would I do not: but the evil that I would not, that I do. Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death—this bondage? Then he says, I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. The idea is that in Him we have deliverance from sin and bondage, but we cannot do those things that we would. We have to struggle and we have to find the way that God has set for us in His Word. We are called to liberty, only use not liberty as an occasion for the flesh.
Do you know what would happen if you were to say that, because you’re free, therefore you are going to “run free” and enjoy your liberty? That “liberty” would soon become a horrible bondage. Think of the young people who say, I would like to enjoy my freedom with the use of drugs. These young people abuse their liberty and freedom. So they use drugs and it feels good for a while and they keep using them until finally they begin to experience the adverse side effects of that “wonderful liberty”; and, lo and behold, they are bound in an awful bondage. Not only is that a spiritual bondage, but also a physical bondage as well. That is only one example. Our lives and our world are full of such examples. Escapism it is, a misuse of our freedom to walk in ways that please our flesh. To involve oneself in anything in an inordinate way is to become a slave to it.
Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. In the liberty of Jesus Christ there is a yoke. Jesus Himself calls it that in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” That is the comfort that there is in the freedom of Christ Jesus.
The yoke of Christ that we have in liberty and maturity is this: “by love serve one another.” In love we will not insist upon our freedom if it hurts another. That is immaturity. In love we will not flaunt our freedom nor cause a brother to stumble. In love and maturity we will understand that we do not have to exercise all our freedom to be assured of possessing it. In love we will look to Christ and see in Him the fullness of freedom and be satisfied. I may live all my life refraining to exercise my liberty for Christ’s sake. That is maturity.
The first calling and duty of the church is always to make clear the way of deliverance and liberty in Christ. God commands the prophets and the pastors: “Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:1, 2). That is the calling of the church. Comfort God’s people. Yes, even as they sin and come short of the glory of God. Comfort them in what? In their sin? Oh no, comfort them in this that their justification is in Jesus only.
Is that all that the church does? No, secondly the church has the calling to expound the way of God more perfectly or completely to those who for the first time or anew come into the understanding of the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. It is no simple thing, but the Spirit within us leads us to understand the way of God more perfectly as we grow. In true Christian maturity we go from freedom to a greater freedom, as we find that way of God outlined in His Word. It is no simple thing, but the Spirit within us leads us to understand the way of God more perfectly as we grow. In true Christian maturity we go from freedom to a greater freedom, as we find that way of God outlined in His Word. It is easy to err on the one hand in licentiousness. It is easy to err on the other hand in bondage. But by God’s grace and walking in the Spirit we have that freedom. Stand fast in that liberty wherewith Christ has made us free!