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).
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)
14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.” (1 Corinthians 9:14–15, NKJV)
A mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to see and assess a situation beyond oneself, to see the broader implications and outcomes of one’s actions, legitimate though they may be. And then, to forego one’s right for the sake of others. Here, Paul showed such maturity, acknowledging the right to be materially supported for preaching the gospel. Yet, in the case of the Corinthian church, he chose to forego his right for the sake of their spiritual development (see 1 Cor. 9:16-18). Too many times we say, “I have a right” (liberty) to do something, then press our freedom regardless of how our action impacts others. Such a decision is evidence of spiritual immaturity that can contributes to sin. For instance, Paul also said he would not eat meat if, by doing so, a brother who was weak in conscience was led to sin by violating his conscience (1 Cor. 8:10-13). Would you give up eating meat for the sake of your brother’s soul? Or would you proudly profess, “I have a right to eat meat, and I will, regardless of the circumstances.” Having a liberty does not make using it mandatory. At times, it is wiser to forego a liberty, and by so doing “save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24:25, NKJV)
The convenient time sought by Governor Felix did not come. His opportune time was an attempt to secure a bribe for Paul’s release (Acts 24:26). The irony is rich. The innocent man – Paul – remained bound in prison for two years, while the guilty man – Felix – remained imprisoned by his sin. You seen, when we are confronted with the truth of the gospel, looking for a more favorable time to believe it and obey it betrays a lack of faith. Putting off obeying the Lord does not produce good fruit. Now is the opportune time; now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). God is ready to save you and relieve you of your burdens of sorrow and sin. Today is the right time to put the Lord first, to do His will and to live in the freedom from sin He only gives (Acts 4:12).
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Galatians 5:13–15)
Liberty in Christ is not freedom to sin without eternal consequences. The apostle had just warned Christians against falling from grace (Gal. 5:4). Now, imagine if it were impossible to fall from grace as many believe and teach. Christians could then “bite and devour one another” and claim liberty in Christ as their exemption from eternal punishment. Even though such conduct is the sinful fulfilling of the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). What a harmful and deceptive view of sin! Backbiting, gossip and maligning others consumes brotherly relations while destroying the loving service that adorns our relationship in the family of God. Such works of the flesh condemn the soul (Gal. 5:16-21). Love your neighbor as yourself. Your liberty in Christ frees you to serve others in love, not to be a bondservant of sin.