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November 08, 2008

Biblical freedom

Lately I've been trying to learn what a Biblical definition for freedom really is. While I realized that in Scripture we are said to be both free and slaves, I had never given much thought to how the two can coexist. Are those words not antithetic? Here are a few of my notes and some interesting quotes I've come across, without much comment. This is a lesson I'm still preaching to myself.

Interesting Biblical references to freedom
  • Gen 2:16 - Adam and Eve were "free to eat from any tree in the garden" except one. (Freedom is found within a form which is already created by God)
  • Psalm 119:32 - "I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free"; Psalm 119:45 - "I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts"; James 1:25 and 2:12 - "the perfect law that gives freedom"
  • Proverbs 11:21 - The righteous will go free, the wicked will be punished
  • John 8:32 - "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"
  • Romans 6:7-22 - When we were slaves to sin, we were free from the control of righteousness. Believers in Christ have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness and to God. When we offer ourselves to someone to obey them as slaves, we are making ourselves slaves, either to sin (which leads to death) or obedience, which leads to righteousness. We are to offer our bodies in slavery to righteousness, which leads to holiness.
Interesting words and phrases used in conjunction with freedom:
  • stand firm (Gal 5:1)
  • don't indulge, but serve (Gal 5:13)
  • perfect law (that gives freedom, Jas 1:25, 2:12)
  • servants of God (1 Pe 2:16)
  • commandments (Ps 119:32)
  • precepts (Ps 119:45)
  • truth (Jn 8:32)
  • slaves (to righteousness, Ro. 6:18)
Further comments on Biblical freedom
  • Freedom finds its roots in the Bible
  • Freedom from the power of sin, to abundant and eternal life.
  • Freedom comes with responsibilities and consequences.
  • Freedom is not doing our own will, absence of law or anarchy
  • Sin binds. When we don't "do" the truth daily, we are living in slavery.
  • Followers of Christ can have individual freedom no matter the external circumstances. We can be content and peaceful (unconstrained, free to move) even in great disasters and persecution.
The Word of God teaches that the Christian is a free man and should “stand in the freedom which Christ has made him free.” What is meant by Christian freedom? What is freedom in general? We answer: it is not the right and the ability to do as one pleases, but the ability to move without constraint in the sphere for which God made us. Freedom therefore is not inconsistent with limitation and law. The bird is free only when it can move in the air unhindered. A worm is free when it is not prevented from moving in the ground--in a sphere which would mean bondage and death for many other creatures. A locomotive is not free unless its motion is confined to the two rails on which it was made to run. Man was made in the image of God to be like Him and to reflect his holiness. Consequently he is free only when he moves without constraint in the sphere of holiness and obedience to God’s law.
-“Christian Liberty,” in “Report of the Committee on Worldly Amusements,” Agenda: Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, To convene June 13, 1928 at Holland, Mich., p. 22.

"Slavery to God is perfect freedom."
-Augustine
In popular use [freedom] means simply absence of hindrance, confinement, repression. However, that meaning is negative; it defines what freedom is not. But why should we want to be free? Only when we get beyond freedom from restraint and ask about freedom for a purpose can we understand its true meaning. Only then will we understand the basic elements of limitation and responsibility inherent in the nature of freedom itself.
Freedom is a condition in which something can fulfill the purpose for which it is designed. This principle is evident in everyday life. For example, an automobile is designed to run swiftly on a paved road. Yet it is free to do so only as long as it stays on the road. If it seeks greater "freedom" by suddenly turning off into the bushes, the vehicle comes to a grinding halt, possibly injuring or killing its passengers.
We can understand the meaning of human freedom only when we know the purpose for which we were designed. What are we set free for? The Bible portrays humankind created in the image of God for a life of loving obedience to our Creator. We are free to obey God; free to express His love to those around us; free to take care of the earth and its creatures.
--"Managing your Life," Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles E. Hummel, 1997, p28-29

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