I know the political season is upon us, and political folks everywhere are scrambling for megaphones. (If I held a megaphone, I wouldn’t even know what to say.) They claim that voting and elections and all that scrap is an extension of liberty. Well, I say that is all bunk because voting in this country has become steeped in money-based tradition and has no true liberty in it. We are given choices between A & B, but what we really need is around D, E, or F, and we are not given that. The Communists had elections too, and their choices were just a little more limited that ours are.
But I’m concerned today with our spiritual liberty. Paul spoke about spiritual liberty in Galatians. Liberty in the Greek Bible translation is “eleutheria.” It referred to the independence of one’s spirit from sin; or in another definition, “manumission from slavery.” Adam sinned, man became enslaved by sin; Jesus broke the power of sin through faith in the price that he paid on the cross for that sin.
John Gill wrote that the Christian liberty that delivered us from the dictatorship of sin stems from God’s grace. “There is the liberty of grace, and the liberty of glory; the former of these is here meant, and lies in a freedom from sin; not from the indwelling of it, but from the dominion, guilt, and damning power of it; from the captivity and tyranny of Satan, though not from his temptations and insults; from the law, the ceremonial law, as an handwriting of ordinances, a rigid severe schoolmaster, and a middle wall of partition, and from all its burdensome rites and institutions; from the moral law as a covenant of work…”
Paul’s message went further: Christ freed us not only from the bondage of sin, but from the concept of works-based religion. In short: Paul told us to backslide into the rigors of legalism. But then I must ask, why do so many Christians allow themselves to get so mangled by tradition that they begin to look like the same Pharisees to whom Christ brought his revolt? Brethren, we need to get rid of religion, which is politicized faith, and legalism, which “religionized” politics. And we must also scrap politics, which is legitimized tyranny.
Let us then praise the liberty that God has given us to “stand fast.” This was written in the imperative case, meaning that we must choose to stand firmly fixed in this Christian liberty, and not to succumb to the tyranny of religious legalism. Perhaps Paul knew of the constant threat of erosion to spiritual liberty that organized religion would bring. Paul knew that the spiritual reformers of his day would become the ritualistic oppressors a generation later. In fact, the Church that Paul helped to establish would within generations become a victim of its own political oppression, strangling the very liberty so vital to the faith.
Let us praise God for this freedom from bondage. The chains that held me where manifold and constricting, and Jesus ripped them from the walls and balls that bound them. The Word provides instructions how to get the chains off, clanging onto the cold ground, and from there on we walk, free and teeming with real liberty.
And liberty has nothing to do with the freedom to commit sin. That is not liberty; that is bondage. So to remain free in the Lord, we must choose to remain so.