FREEDOM IN CHRIST
Lee Roger likes socializing. The most frequent visitor of Service at three
on Saturday afternoons, this approachable and amicable presence in the church
for the last two years, looks slightly perturbed in the Youth Class, as he
listens to a topical report. Breaking
away from his norm of leaving at Five, he sits amongst
the youths, restlessly supporting his head with his clasped hands.
This uneasiness is due to the fact
that the report on Christian freedom has emerged to be in sharp contrast to his
long-held beliefs. "I always
believe, you know, freedom in Christ signifies the unprecedented and
unchangeable freedom that Christ has given to us. It is a gift from Christ," (Gal 5: 1) he
says with much annoyance.
His twitchiness becomes more
apparent when the speaker agrees with him only on the premise that they should
no longer live in sin from which the death of Christ has delivered them (Rom 6:
6, 11). In the light of the Bible, Jesus
does not liberate us into our own sets of beliefs and ways of life. The new image of this freedom is a complete
detachment from the decadence of the world.
This is possible if we live a Spirit-filled life (Gal 5:16ff, Rom 8:2). For where the Spirit is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17).
As the class progresses, he adds
uncompromisingly, "As long as we have the Holy Spirit, we have
freedom. Isn't this true?" The
reception of the Holy Spirit is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a
Spirit-directed life, which is basic in the adherence to what God says. "If you abide in My
word, you are My disciples indeed. And
you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn 8:31ff). A life
of freedom, in short, must have the truth as its foundation (Gal 5:1ff, 7; 1 Jn 2:4). The Holy
Spirit will then further guide us to the truth.
He also believes that Paul
abrogated the rituals of the Old Testament and the Jewish customs. Therefore, we are no more bound by any
commandment. But how does he explain
Paul's assertion of the necessity of the Law in faith (Rom 3:31).
"It's the law of love that
Paul was referring to. And Jesus set
forth the pattern of this law in washing His disciples' feet (Jn 13:34f), to demonstrate His love for them to the
end" (Jn 13: 1).
The same intransigence is evident
when the speaker asked a further question about the Law of love which
summarizes and brings to life all the commandments.
I think, it's unbelievable to
place the commandments in the spotlight of love and I wonder if Paul has made a
mistake in saying that by the deeds of the Law, albeit the commandments, no
flesh will be Justified in Jesus' sight" (Rom 3:20).
"Those who come from the
Lutheran line hold a similar view. Since
salvation is given freely to us who believe in Jesus, our righteous deeds exert
no impact in the process of God's redemption.
As long as we faithfully trust in Him, we shall be saved."
True, there is none who can be
saved through good deeds without Christ's redemption. But it is hard to imagine what would become of us, should there be no good deeds in our converted
life? If any believer can profess
knowing perfectly the relationship between salvation and good deeds, it is
Paul. "For by grace you have been
saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of
works, lest anyone should boast. For we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:8ff).
As the Bible, which includes
Paul's teachings, consistently speaks for itself, it
would be wise to follow what it says in whole, to know perfectly the crucial
link between the two. "Who gave
Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for
Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Tit 2:14).
In Christ, the commandments remain
binding, as they are the essence which God requires of mankind, in particular
H's believers. Our faith in H' through
the redemption by His blood and the reception of the Holy Spirit, enables us to
keep the commandments in willingness and out of love for God. We, who love, do in freedom what the Law
requires and thus fulfilling it. This
differs radically from the outward restraint of the Law in the Old Testament,
which required the people to fulfil the actions it prescribed (cf Rom 13:8ff, Gal 5:14).
Freedom in Christ goes beyond the
prescription of the Law, though it remains the foundation of our Christian life
(cf 1 Cor 7:19). It is the strength to serve (1 Pet 2:16), in
modeling the service of Jesus. "For
you brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an
opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Gal 5:13; cf 1 Cor 9:19). It is the ability to deny ourselves for the
sake of others (1 Cor 6:12; 10:23).
Despite his outward respect for
God's word, Lee Poger still remains unchanged. He is strolling along East Road to Old Street Station, away
from the church. He could have easily
turned what he heard to his own advantage, if he has considered more humbly the
entire topical report.
It is rather sad and frightening
to realize that nowadays the solid proclamation of liberty in Christianity is
but arrogance, deception and rebellion underneath. While promising liberty, the advocates
themselves are slaves of corruption.