The Misnomer of Freedom

Dear Church Family,

As Americans, one of the things that we cherish is our individual freedoms. This political notion has, unfortunately, spilled over into how we understand ourselves as human beings, who we are and how we behave. It is not uncommon these days to hear people speak of the freedom to “reinvent themselves” or to become the gender of their choosing. It would seem that for many people human beings aren’t even bound by the given human nature.

What’s more, the notion of freedom is also spoken of in terms of describing our freedom from God Himself. We are free, it is said, to do as we please. Instead of acknowledging that God alone is Lord of the conscience (WCF 20:2), many believe and live as if man alone is lord of the conscience. In his article, “The Myth of Free Will,” Walter Chantry aptly and helpfully enumerates the myths of circumstantial free will, ethical freedom, and spiritual freedom. Reasoning from the Scriptures, Chantry refutes the notion of true freedom in any of these areas. I commend the article to you.

Slaves, one and all

The truth of the matter is: we are all slaves. According to the Scriptures, we are actually born slaves. In his epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul actually describes three masters to whom we are born in bondage:

(Ephesians 2:1-3) 1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

 

We are by nature children of wrath (v 3b), born into slaver to the world (v 2a), the devil (v 2b), and the lusts of our own flesh (v 3a). As someone once said, our passions form our fetters.

In addition to being born into sin, we also choose to be enslaved to sin. Jesus put it this way, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).

So, because of the original sin of Adam we are born into sin – enslaved to our own sinful passions. And, because we choose to sin of our own volition, we are enslaved to sin. The Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes it this way:

(WCF 9:3) Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

 

True Freedom

True freedom may only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. After explaining that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin, Jesus went on to give the good news: “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Freedom from the punishment and power of sin, from the fear of death, freedom to love God and your neighbor – true freedom – may only be obtained through Jesus Christ. For He has conquered sin and death and the devil. This is the good news that Paul explains in Ephesians 2, as well – after he has described our natural state of enslavement and children of wrath:

(Ephesians 2:3-10) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

 

The writer of Hebrews explicitly speaks of the believers freedom from slavery when he describes how Jesus partook of flesh and blood (became a man), and then died in order to render the devil powerless in order to free those who were subject to slaver all their lives (Hebrews 2:14-15). What glorious good news!

As Chantry writes, “The powerful grace of God alone offers deliverance. Cast yourself upon God’s mercy for salvation. Ask for the Spirit of Grace that he may create a new spirit within you.” And, if God has created a new spirit in you, then embrace, rejoice in, and live out your freedom to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). For, in keeping the law of God (which only those who have been set free in Christ may do) lies true freedom.

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch