The Perfect Law of Liberty: Three principles that constrain our liberty in Christ
In today’s ever-expanding secular society people eagerly embrace liberty, defining it as “absolute freedom,” and insisting that they have the right to live as they please. There are no constraints because their “self-defined” right to freedom justifies whatever they choose to do. Such twisted thinking produces a world without boundaries, where adults, as well as children, have difficulty discerning right from wrong.
What we often forget is that liberty is unequivocally tied to responsibility. More liberty demands more accountability. Jesus confirmed that premise in the parable of the wise steward in Luke 12 when He said “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:” (v. 48).
Believers must be very careful to define Christian liberty properly, and to exercise it cautiously. Galatians 5 provides crucial guidance for that pursuit.
Principle # 1: Christian Liberty is granted by the Savior.
Galatians 5:1 declares our possession of liberty: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” We are free from “the yoke of bondage,” which is, according to Romans 8:2, the “law of sin and death.” We likewise understand that believers are no longer bound by the requirements of the Levitical law because Christ has set us free (Rom 7:6).
There is, however, no scriptural justification given for abandoning the moral law. Absolute freedom is not a characteristic of Christian liberty and it is impossible to demonstrate scriptural support for such a claim.
- No believer has a right to Christian liberty. It is a precious gift, offered freely to those who are willing to accept it. It is only available because Jesus was gracious enough to take our place on the cross.
Principle # 2: Christian Liberty is governed by the Scripture.
Galatians 5:13 defines the limitations of our liberty: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” There were some believers in Galatia (just as there are today) who were abusing their liberty, using it as justification for engaging in fleshly pursuits, which scripture clearly condemns.
Selfishness is at the root of every sin committed by humans against other humans. Anger, unkindness, arrogance, envy, vengeance, wrath, malice, slander, and a host of other ugly attitudes gain their strength from selfish pride.
Galatians 5:14 identifies the biblical law which constrains our liberty: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Jesus validated the principle in Matthew 22:39 and later emphasized its importance to his disciples (John 15:12).
- No believer has a right to use his liberty for selfish pursuits. Liberty frees us from the bondage of sinful, selfish desires and allows us to embrace the “mind of Christ” (Php. 2:5-8). Loving our neighbor will motivate us to serve our neighbor.
Principle #3: Christian Liberty is guided by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 describe the characteristics of our liberty: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Such “fruit” is only available to those who are willing to “live in the Spirit,” and “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).
Walking in the spirit is the cure for fleshly pursuits (Gal. 5:16). Those who are walking in the spirit will “not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:26).
- No believer has a right to exercise his liberty according to his personal philosophy. The moment our desire becomes a priority we lose our liberty.
Our society has become a much more dangerous place because people have determined that they have a right to live as they please, insisting that no individual or authority is entitled to restrict their desires or activities. They have embraced the faulty notion that requiring accountability somehow violates their rights. Children, who are being taught at a very young age to defy anyone who “violates their rights,” grow up believing they are accountable to no one.
Sadly, many believers have embraced a similar philosophy.
Christian liberty allows us to live, move, and serve the Lord with purpose. Its characteristics are dictated by scripture and managed by the indwelling Spirit of God. It does not allow a believer to self-determine priorities and choices in his life.
Liberty without accountability leads to anarchy. Our nation is well on its way. Believers shouldn’t be contributing to the problem.