Freedom in Christ
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For many of us, freedom has become synonymous with personal independence—the ability to make our own decisions and choose our own path in life, to do whatever we want, whenever we want. It’s what I call “outside freedom.”
But this is not the freedom that Jesus promised us. When Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah, He said that He had come to Earth to “proclaim freedom.”1 And on another occasion, He said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”2
Jesus was not setting us free to do whatever we wanted; He was freeing us to do what we ought to do. He was liberating us to walk in relationship with God and to be the kind of people He created us to be. This spiritual freedom is what I call “inside freedom”—the ability to obey God and choose His will for our lives. And this is the freedom that sin had long denied us.
Jesus shocked the Pharisees, the spiritual leaders of His day, when He stated, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”3 Jesus was asserting that we are all under the power and control of a natural tendency to sin; we can’t get away from it by ourselves. Sin brings a penalty that, by ourselves, we can’t escape either. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.”4
How do we find freedom from the penalty and power of sin? That comes through accepting Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross as the payment for our sin. As we submit to Christ, sin loses its power—Christ’s power takes over.
As we choose to trust and follow Him, our sinful habits, thoughts, and attitudes lose their control. Guilt disappears, and peace of mind dominates. Right habits become the norm. That’s freedom—true freedom!—Larry Fowler5
The price for our freedom
Redemption is a biblical concept which helps to explain how Jesus’ death has brought us salvation. The words translated to redeem and redemption come from a Greek family of words which mean to loose, to set free through a ransom payment, to ransom. Other variations are a ransom price, the act of ransoming, to pay a ransom price. Some examples of verses using these words are:
“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”6
“There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”7
The use of the words ransom or redeem expresses the concept of paying a price, a ransom, to set someone free, to remove them from bondage or dominion. In these verses, Jesus said He came to give His life as a ransom for many. Through His sacrificial death, His blood shed for us, we are redeemed or ransomed. He paid for our freedom from the penalty for our sins by taking the punishment in our place.
The ransom is paid to God the Father, since He is the one who has put the penalty in place. Jesus, God’s Son, pays the ransom by way of His death. Justice is done, the penalty for the crime is paid, and the guilty one is now free. The guilty one is not only declared innocent, but is also transformed into a new creature, and ideally begins to live a life of love for God and others in gratitude for receiving God’s great gift.
Due to God’s love for us, He both judges and redeems us. His plan satisfies the need for righteous judgment, but God the Judge has also paid the price for our redemption by the shedding of the blood of His only Son.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”8—Peter Amsterdam
Freedom to serve
The belief that individual freedom to do, be, or say whatever we want is often cut off and isolated from any thoughtfulness towards community consequences or responsibility. Sadly, freedom is rarely viewed as an opportunity to serve others.
The apostle Paul raised this issue as he wrote to the early Christians at Corinth. In discussing matters of personal freedom, he exhorted these early Christians that “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his or her own good, but that of his or her neighbor. … Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”9
In his letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul applies the gift of freedom to a sense of corporate responsibility: “You were called to freedom; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”10
Paul’s definition of freedom for love and service seems to fly in the face of understanding freedom as doing whatever one wants to do, individually. … We are called to freedom, freedom for others—and not simply as the individualistic pursuit of self-interest.
Rightly understood, freedom is grounded in love for the sake of one another.—Margaret Manning Schull
Everyone craves freedom, but we quickly realize that freedom has its price. One person jokingly said, “Absolute freedom is being able to do what you please without considering anyone except your spouse and your kids, the company and the boss, neighbors and friends, the police and the government, the doctor and the church.”
In a human society, chaos results if we consider just our own interests. Laws are necessary to guarantee freedom. This is also true with the spiritual law of God. Psalm 119 is a beautiful tribute to the freedoms that come through obedience to God’s law. Notice verses 44 and 45: “So shall I keep Your law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.”11
James calls God’s law a “law of liberty,” or freedom, when he says that “he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”12 He continues in the next chapter: “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”13 …
Jesus Christ, as the perfect example of freedom, kept God’s commands.14 True freedom cannot come apart from, but must come from harmony with, God’s commandments. As Christ asks in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” Also: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”15
Loving obedience to God’s law is not an effort to attain salvation by works, but an honest, heartfelt response to want to serve and please the great God of the universe who gave His spiritual laws for our own well-being. It’s not a matter of what’s convenient, but of what pleases God. It is an irony that, as we gain freedom through Christ, we become His slaves, as stated in 1 Corinthians 7:22: “For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.”
Ultimately, true freedom comes through the resurrection at Christ’s return. As Paul explains in Romans 8:21, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” God speed that day!—Rainer Salomaa16
Published on Anchor June 2021. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
Music by John Listen.
1 Luke 4:18.
2 John 8:36.
3 John 8:34.
4 Romans 6:23.
6 Matthew 20:28.
7 1 Timothy 2:5–6. See also Titus 2:13–14; 1 Peter 1:18–19.
8 John 3:16–17.
9 1 Corinthians 10:23–24, 31.
10 Galatians 5:13–14.
11 Psalm 119:44–45.
12 James 1:25.
13 James 2:12.
14 John 15:10.
15 Matthew 19:17.