Christian Liberty

Liberty, in the Christian life is not a freedom to do whatever one pleases; but a freedom from the domination of sin and a freedom to live in holiness.  At first this kind of liberty may not seem appealing – especially when given the caricatures of the joys of a life in self-indulgent sin and the stuffy and boring life of holiness.

Yet, when the reality of life sets in, a person discovers that the pursuit of pleasure in the realm of sin leaves a person spiritually bankrupt, unfulfilled, and doing damage to oneself and others.  Holiness, other the other hand, is a living that can partake of many of the same delights – success, relationships, relaxation, exploration, etc – and yet do so in a way that can be uplifting to the individual, to others, as well as spiritually fulfilling.  God is not a cosmic party-pooper, but rather the Heavenly Father who truly knows what is best for humanity and the best ways of obtaining and living out the pleasures of life in spirit, soul, and body.

John Owen, a Puritan theologian, describes the contrast between the liberty in the family of God and the life of bondage outside of the family of God in his book Communion with the Triune God:

[There] is a liberty in  the family of God, as well as a liberty from the family of Satan.  Sons are free.  Their obedience is a free obedience; they have the Spirit of the Lord: and where he is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17)… Now this liberty of our Father’s family, which we have as sons and children, being adopted by Christ through the Spirit, is a spiritual largeness of heart, whereby the children of God do freely, willingly, genuinely – without fear, terror, bondage, and constraint – go forth unto all holy obedience in Christ (p. 342).

It is from life; that gives them power as to the matter of obedience.  “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets them free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).  It frees them, it carries them out to all obedience freely; so that “they walk after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1)… There is, then, power for all living unto God, from Christ in them (p. 343).

Children have liberty in duty… The object of their obedience is represented to them as desirable, whereas to others it is terrible.  In all their approaches to God, they eye him as a Father; they call him Father, not in the form of words, but in the spirit of sons (Gal. 4:6)… Their motive unto obedience is love (2 Cor. 5:4)… The manner of their obedience is willingness… The rule of their walking with God is the law of liberty, as divested of all its terrifying, threatening, killing, condemning, cursing power; and rendered, in the blood of Jesus, sweet, tender, useful, directing – helpful as a rule of walking in the life they have received, not the way of working for the life they have not (pp. 343-345).


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