Christian Liberty

Please note that Scriptural doctrine related to the teachings concerning God’s chronological plans for Israel are not salvation-essential, but are for encouragement, as are all non-essential doctrines. NC

Christian Liberty​

In Romans Six the Apostle Paul says of the believer in the Lord Jesus, “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (vs 18). There is yet sin in the believer, but he is set free from its dominion. He has learned what it is to have died with the Lord Jesus, and to be alive in Him, in all the freedom of resurrection. This liberty, however, is not known till I have the sense that I have died with Him, and also am risen with Him. What is true of Him, the believer is to apprehend by faith for himself, and take account of as true of himself (1John4:17).

“For in that He died, he died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, he liveth unto God” (vs 10). What is that? He has nothing but the Father before Him. Now for the sequence: “Likewise, reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” (vs 11). Is not that liberty? If you do not understand that, I trust you soon will.

Romans Seven tells us of one who is what many are today—full of himself.* He speaks of himself forty times, and at length he cries, “O wretched man that I am!” He could not be anything else, because he is full of himself. How did he get liberty? “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vs 25). “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus: for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (8:1, 2). There is our new position before the Father in the Son. Who is that true of? Everyone who through faith in the Savior has entered into it. There is no use pretending to be free if you are not.* But thank God, it is the portion of the feeblest believer.

Now go to Galatians and see how this liberty is presented there. We find Paul saying, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (5:1). What is that? Getting under law. Nine-tenths of God’s people today are under law as to their standing* before God, and in their soul’s relation to Him, hence they are in bondage. Paul urges us not to be entrapped by the yoke of bondage, because law occupies me with myself, and a man that is occupied with himself is bound to be wretched, because there is nothing in him that can answer to God’s claims.

You must learn that you are “dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Rom 7:4), and alive unto God, before you can have liberty. The believer is entitled to know this, hence Paul says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Liberty—freedom, is what belongs to the believer; not liberty for the flesh, but emancipation from it, and from all that which keeps the soul in bondage, darkness, and distance, so that we might be in the enjoyment of the Father, even as the Son is.

What a trumpet note of the Spirit to our souls we next hear: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). The Apostle Paul was so incensed with the legalist teachers—the men that put the Christian under the law, and consequently into bondage—that he adds, “I would they were cut off which trouble you” (vs 12). He knew that love effects what law could never produce, just as the Gospel takes you much further than law. The law says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Gospel teaches us to “lay down our loves for the brethren” (1John 3:16). For this the believer has power, by the Holy Spirit; for the Gospel gives the Lord Jesus personally as the Object of the heart (Col 3:1-3; 2Cor 3:18). The law gives none of these; the Gospel gives them all. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free”—i.e. hold firmly the very elements of the Christian calling—and then is added—“only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:13).

Now look at 2 Corinthians 3, where Paul says, “Our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life” (vss 5, 6). If we were under the new covenant in the letter, we would get into bondage again, therefore Paul says, God “hath made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter but of the Spirit.” What is the new covenant? The terms of relationship with Himself into which God will enter by-and-by with the house of Israel and the house of Judah according to Jerimiah 31:33, 34.

Israel will then be fitted for the enjoyment of the millennial reign of the King; they will have the forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit will be in them—but their blessing does not include the sense of son-ship and union with the glorified Lord Jesus. We have all that they will have*, and much more; but we are in the enjoyment of the blessings of the new covenant, through the ministry of it, without being under it. We must remember that all Israel’s blessing by-and-by is on earth, whereas we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.

We get the spirit of that covenant, which is grace. Then we are told, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:17). That is the characteristic feature of Christianity—liberty, as there was none under the law, to behold the unveiled glory of God in the face of the Lord Jesus; and the effect of it is to transform us into the same image, for “we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (vs 18).

We become occupied with the Lord Jesus, as He is revealed in glory. And as we are in fellowship with Him we are transformed—we become more and more like the One, with whom we are occupied. What occupies a person will give color to his character; and as we are occupied with the Lord Jesus in fellowship, in the enjoyment of what He is, and where He is, we take our character from Him, and come back into this world to be for Him, and to manifest Him in the scene where He is rejected.

Now if it be true that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” we may ask, “Where is the Spirit of the Lord”? He dwells in His temple. “What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1Cor 6:19, 20).

- W T P Wolston

Poster’s Notes:

* “full of himself”: In Paul’s explanation concerning the law of God and the law of sin within the believer, his attention concerns mostly that of self in order to describe the interaction of this conflict, which will continue as long as the believer is in the natural body. Unbelievers or the unregenerate are void of this conflict because of the absence of “delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom 7:22).

* “pretending to be free if you are not”: Though the believer is free from the condemnation and reign of the sin nature (“old man”), there still remains the need to be consciously free in knowing and understanding this freedom; e.g. believers can be in mental bondage (though the rest of one is free) if there is insufficient knowledge and understanding concerning certain Christian truths.

*”as to their standing”: e.g. in their thinking.

*”We have all that they will have”: Millennial Israel (remaining Jews who disbelieve in Christ before His final return) will have (not presently) the place of being a people of God (Eze 36:28) after He saves them (they believe in God but not in His Son, but will after they see Him), but will never inherit the blessing of son-ship (John 20:29) status because of their unbelief in the Lord Jesus. Believers are presently not only a people of God, but also already have inherited the son-ship status—forever. With the exception of occasional hyperbolic usages, Israel is never referred to in Scripture as the “children of God,” but rather “people of God.” Only “by faith in Christ Jesus” can we be “the children of God”; those not in the faith of the Lord Jesus, “these are not the children of God” (Gal 3:26; Rom 9:8).