Salvation brings freedom⤒🔗
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
The New Testament sees salvation in Christ as liberation and the Christian life as one of liberty — Christ has freed us for freedom (Gal. 5:1; John 8:32, 36). Christ’s liberating action is not a matter of socio-politico-economic improvement, as is sometimes suggested today, but relates to the following three points:
First, Christians have been set free from the law as a system of salvation. Being justified by faith in Christ, they are no longer under God’s law, but under his grace (Rom. 3:19; 6:14-15; Gal. 3:23-25). This means that their standing with God (the “peace” and “access” of Rom. 5:1-2) rests wholly on the fact that they have been accepted and adopted in Christ. It does not, nor ever will it, depend on what they do; it will never be imperiled by what they fail to do. They live, and as long as they are in this world will live, not by being perfect, but by being forgiven.
All natural religion, then, is negated, for the natural instinct of fallen man, as expressed in every form of religion that the world has ever devised, is to suppose that one gains and keeps a right relationship with ultimate reality (whether conceived as a personal God or in other terms) by disciplines of law observance, right ritual, and asceticism. This is how the world’s faiths prescribe the establishing of one’s own righteousness — the very thing Paul saw unbelieving Jews trying to do (Rom. 10:3). Paul’s experience had taught him that this is a hopeless enterprise. No human performance is ever good enough, for there are always wrong desires in the heart, along with a lack of right ones, regardless of how correct one’s outward motions are (Rom. 7:7-11; cf. Phil. 3:6), and it is at the heart that God looks first.
All the law can do is arouse, expose, and condemn the sin that permeates our moral makeup, and so make us aware of its reality, depth, and guilt (Rom. 3:19; 1 Cor. 15:56; Gal. 3:10). So the futility of treating the law as a covenant of works, and seeking righteousness by it, becomes plain (Gal. 3:10-12; 4:21-31), as does the misery of not knowing what else to do. This is the bondage to the law from which Christ sets us free.
Second, Christians have been set free from sin’s domination (John 8:34-36; Rom. 6:14-23). They have been supernaturally regenerated and made alive to God through union with Christ in his death and risen life (Rom. 6:3-11), and this means that the deepest desire of their heart now is to serve God by practicing righteousness (Rom. 6:18, 22). Sin’s domination involved not only constant acts of disobedience, but also a constant lack of zeal for law-keeping, rising sometimes to positive resentment and hatred toward the law. Now, however, being changed in heart, motivated by gratitude for acceptance through free grace, and energized by the Holy Spirit, they “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:6). This means that their attempts at obedience are now joyful and integrated in a way that was never true before. Sin rules them no longer. In this respect, too, they have been liberated from bondage.
Third, Christians have been set free from the superstition that treats matter and physical pleasure as intrinsically evil. Against this idea, Paul insists that Christians are free to enjoy as God’s good gifts all created things and the pleasures that they yield (1 Tim. 4:1-5), provided only that we do not transgress the moral law in our enjoyments or hinder our own spiritual well-being or that of others (1 Cor. 6:12-13; 8:7-13). The Reformers renewed this emphasis against various forms of medieval legalism.
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