So what is Liberty? Many have recognized that: (1) Liberty involves freedom of actions. John Locke has written, “A man falling into water, a bridge breaking under him, has not here-in liberty … For though he has volition, though he prefers his not falling to falling; Yet, the forbearance of that motion not being in his power … Therein he is not free. So a man striking himself, or a friend by a convulsive motion of his arm which is not in his power … nobody thinks he has liberty. Liberty is not an idea belonging to volition (alone B.H.) But to … having the power of doing or forbearing to do” (Human Understanding, p. 223-224). (2) Liberty involves freedom from something, but not necessarily everything. John Locke has written, “Freedom is not … A liberty for everyone to do what he lists (wishes B.H.), to live as he pleases (But) A liberty to follow my own will … when the rule prescribes not” (Two Treaties, p. 283-284). Montesquieu wrote, “Liberty is the right to do everything the law permits … Liberty consists principally in not being forced to do a thing that the law does not order …” (The Spirit of the Law, p. 155, 514). (3) Liberty has limits. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., has remarked, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins …” (www.brainyquotes.com). Liberty can, and often does, have limits.
The Bible uses the term “liberty” 26 times (KJV), 17 times in the N.T. (KJV). The word is used of: (1) Freedom from debt (Leviticus 25:10 cf. Ezekiel 46:17); (2) Freedom from slavery (Jeremiah 34:8-ff); (3) Freedom to receive friends (Acts 24:23); (4) Freedom from Roman custody (Acts 26:32); (5) Freedom of movement to see friends (Acts 27:3); (6) Freedom from Roman imprisonment (Hebrews 13:23).
However, in this lesson we are focusing in on our liberty in Christ. Consider …
1. Christ came to give liberty (Luke 4:16-21).
He came: (a) To preach the Gospel to the poor. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). (b) To heal the broken-hearted. He said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). (c) To proclaim liberty to the captives. He has made possible freedom from sin (John 8:34 cf. 8:32). (d) To recover the sight to the blind. We sing, “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see” (song: Amazing Grace by John Newton). (e) To set at liberty those who are oppressed. Those oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). The reference may be to the year of jubilee (Isaiah 58:6 cf. Leviticus 25: 10, 28). (g) To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. This too may be a reference to the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:10). Today is the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2).
2. Freedom in Christ is freedom from the guilt of sin (John 8:34 cf. 8:32)!
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say unto you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). In this context, He said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Freedom comes from knowledge of the truth. This truth, of course, must be put into practice (James 1:22).
3. Liberty in Christ is freedom from the old covenant system (cf. Galatians 2:1, 3-4; 5:1-6).
The old covenant system was a very burdensome system. There were 613 commandments (248 positive “do this” / 365 negative “don’t do this”). We are free of this. The specifics of the old covenant are no longer bound (cf. Colossians 2:16-17).
4. Liberty in Christ is not freedom without any standard of conduct (James 1:21-25; 2:8-13).
We are under “the perfect law of liberty”. It is: (a) “law”, because we have a rule of standard by which we’re to live. (b) “perfect,” because it is complete, sufficient to accomplish the purpose intended. (c) “liberty,” because it brings freedom from the guilt of sin (cf. John 8:32). Watch the fact that “the word” is equated with “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:23 cf. 1:25).
5. Liberty in Christ does not exclude responsibilities to others (1 Corinthians 8, 10).
Some think that liberty means that one can do anything he wishes to do. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., indicated that Freedom of Speech had limits saying, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing panic” [(Schenck v. United States 1919). Such reckless use of words caused the death of 73 men, women, and children at a Christmas party on Dec. 24, 1913 in Calumet, Michigan in the Italian hall)].
The Bible also teaches limits to individual liberty. We should not only ask if a given action is lawful, but we should also ask how the action will affect others. Just because something may technically be lawful, in and of itself, does not mean that it should be done. We should ask will it help and edify others (1 Corinthians 8:4-13; 10:23-33).
6. Liberty involves free choice (1 Corinthians 7:39 cf. Numbers 36:5-6).
God hasn’t made all the choices for us. We are at liberty to act/choose where He has granted such liberty.
7. There have been, and still are, those who offer false promises of liberty (2 Peter 2:17-22).
We should each be careful to make certain that liberty promised, is really liberty God has offered. Moreover, we should be careful that the steps to liberty from the guilt of sin are in fact God’s steps and not just the false methods of men.