It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
I’ve been pondering lately what exactly is this freedom that Christ set us free for. What does it look like in daily life?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts to share.
First, let me riff for a second on what freedom is not.
Freedom does not mean that you can do anything you want, and as long as you personally don’t feel bad about it then there is no problem and no one has the right to say anything to you about it.
This is to take excessive liberty, but I’ve seen many people fall into this trap. They assume that everything is fair game; yet there are clearly some standards of conduct revealed in the NT. (Not a moral code of law as in the OT, but there is a revealing of the conduct that the Spirit of Christ produces.)
The problem with this mindset is that it tends to be focused entirely on that person. They want to do what they want to do.
People often refer to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:13, often quoting, “everything is permissible.”
However, most scholars agree those weren’t Paul’s words. He was quoting a question from the Corinthian church and then giving an opposing answer. Look at how the NIV, NLT, and ESV translate this verse:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. (NIV)
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial. (NLT)
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. (ESV)
Note that the phrases “I have the right to do anything” and “All things are lawful” are in quotes. I did not add those quotations. They were included by the translators to show that Paul was quoting the Corinthians themselves.
Paul essentially refutes their statement, telling them that what is not helpful in building each other up – building up God’s spiritual house – should be abstained from.
The following verse adds:
Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:24, NLT)
Paul then goes on to explain how we may even restrain our own freedom for the sake of not offending our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So a self-centered, “I can do whatever I want” version of freedom doesn’t seem to cut it.
Nor have we been granted the freedom to stand over each other and police what each person does, comparing it to our own personal list of standards, and being sure to let people know if they’ve crossed any of your boundaries.
To do so is to fall off the other side of the horse and become a legalist. While there are situations in which we should approach a brother or sister to correct something, it still does not become our place to become their boss. Hopefully, in such a case, all involved are willing to seek Christ in the matter and yield to His Spirit working in and through each other.
So… what about this freedom that Christ gives us?
I don’t believe that this freedom is directly about behavior. Modifying our behavior is not the primary focus.
Instead, I believe what we have been freed from is the control of the flesh or the soul. While our “old man” was a slave to the law and death, our “new man” is a slave to the Spirit and to life!
And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8:2, NLT)
We were unable to obey the Law, but now, through the indwelling Spirit, we are able to set the written law aside and to live from the law written on our hearts.
This does not mean that we do whatever we want – it means we are free to live by the very life of God; divine life!
Our behavior isn’t an ingredient for divine life, it is a product of divine life. Christ is the source.
The exile of Adam and Eve is ended. Intimacy with God is restored. You are free to rest in the presence of God.
We are now free to set the world and its systems aside and to be led by the life of God as a people – a new humanity, a third race!
This is the freedom that Christ has provided, and it is glorious.
Follow the Life!
Any thoughts out there about freedom in Christ?
What have you experienced?