As the USA celebrates Independence Day, the Savior’s statement in today’s passage rings especially true. Our history tells us that independence from tyranny’s oppression did not remove our responsibility to live under law as free men and women. It is a self-defeating premise and pursuit that declares liberty is freedom from the restraint of law. Free men and women understand and want the protection and constraints that law provides against evil (Rom 13:3-5). Those who seek good know that law serves good purposes (1 Tim. 1:8-11). Freedom from sin’s bondage, tyranny, and death is available through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Obeying the gospel from the heart ends our slavery to sin, not so we can declare ourselves free from every restraint, but so we may become “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The truth, the word of Jesus, marks the boundary of our liberty in Christ (2 Jno. 9; Gal. 1:6-10). We are “under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21, ESV). The gospel of Christ declares our freedom from sin and defines our life of freedom in Christ to serve righteousness according to His word of truth.
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. (Galatians 5:1–2, NKJV)
Sinners are freed from sin by Jesus Christ (John 8:36). Christ frees us from sin when we believe and obey His gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). However, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from living by the very gospel pattern (“form of doctrine,” Rom. 6:17) that frees us from sin. Liberty in Christ is not carte blanche to decide what is truth for ourselves (truth is not self-defined). Liberty in Christ freed Jews and Gentiles from the “yoke of bondage” produced by trying to be “justified by law,” as illustrated by demanding the circumcision of the flesh for salvation (Gal. 5:3-4). The plan of salvation, what is moral, what is sound doctrine, true worship, and everything else that “accords with godliness” must harmonize with the revealed gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). We are free from sin in Christ to live by the light of His truth and have fellowship with God (1 Jno. 1:5-7). The liberty to which the gospel calls us is not “an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). Put plainly, liberty in Christ does not permit us to practice sin (see Gal. 5:16-26, where Paul explains this). Liberty in Christ compels us to live by “faith working through love” by “obeying the truth” of the gospel (Gal. 5:6-7; Jno. 8:31-32).
9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:9–11, NKJV)
The Christian is described as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Conversion to Christ includes a deliberate decision of faith to put away the sins that defined the old person of sin with its deeds and to put on the new person who is in the image of Christ (Col. 3:9-10). Notably, being a new person in Christ is defined by a new way of life, one that ceases the practice of sin and practices righteousness (Col. 3:1-9, 12-17). Being a new person in Christ is not defined by culture (neither Greek nor Jew), previous religious traditions (circumcised nor uncircumcised), ethnicity and race (barbarian, Scythian), or social strata (slave nor free). All of these are in Christ, and yet Christ is not limited by any such things. The gospel is for all the world because all have sinned (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:16; 3:23). It is very wrong to look through the lens of race, ethnicity, social strata, human traditions, or any other humanly devised label to identify those who belong to Christ. Scripture says, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Christians ought to act like it and never be driven by prejudices of the heart.
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:34–36, NKJV)
The Fourth of July. Across the land, parades, picnics and fireworks celebrate America’s Independence Day. How many will pause and ponder this paradox: While living in a free country, most are not free at all. By committing sin, millions and millions of Americans (and billions around the globe) are enslaved to sin (Jno. 8:34). Liberty from a tyrannical king’s domination is cherished and celebrated in America. Yet, sin’s tyranny over the soul is more brutal and more enduring than any oppression by an earthly dictator. Are you genuinely free today? The Son of God can free you from the bondage of your sin. How? Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jno. 8:31-32). The apostle added, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). Believe, obey, and abide in the word of Christ to be truly free (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-42). Freedom from sin is a victory we celebrate every day (Rom. 6:14, 17, 22-23; 1 Cor. 15:57). (Revision of Sword Tips #802)
21 Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. 22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:21–24, NKJV)
One’s salvation in Christ does not depend on whether the person is a slave or free at the time of conversion. If the converted slave can become free, then do so. If not, then be a faithful Christian as a slave. The slave who is a Christian is free from sin in the Lord (John 8:34-36). When the person who is not a slave becomes a bondservant of God upon his conversion to Christ (1 Peter 2:16). Whether slave or free, we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). What we must not do is enslave our faith to another person. Christ has redeemed us with His blood, therefore, we belong to Him. We serve Him before anyone else. This is the principle undergirding the instruction in 1 Corinthians 7:15 to let the unbeliever “depart” if that person is unwilling to be married to a believer who serves Christ first. We must “remain with God” and not compromise our faith for the sake of others (verse 23). This means we must abide in the word of Christ instead of following the dictates of others – including an unbelieving spouse (John 8:31-32).
For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17, NKJV)
As it was then, so it continues to be. Those who speak the pure gospel of Christ stand in contrast to the hucksters who make merchandise of the word of God, peddling their adulterated message of the gospel for personal advancement and material gain. Why would a church charge people a fee to hear the word of God? Some do. Why would a church charge a fee for the activities they offer? Church-sponsored activities that request fees to participate are not from the word of God, for if they were, they would be offered to the public “without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). Truly, “by covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” (2 Peter 2:3). We stand before God and answer to Him. Therefore, let us speak the word of God with sincerity of heart and clarity of words, not with diluted speech and polluted motives. May we never charge for what God offers freely: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).