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Freedom is a thoroughly Christian principle. The ancient pagan world knew nothing of true freedom, and despite secular humanism’s attempts at claiming it, there is no other liberty apart from the living God. Christian liberty is grounded in freedom to worship the Triune God, and when our hearts are turned to Him, we are set free from all bondage and set free to serve.
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery… For you were called to freedom brethren; 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’” (Gal. 5:1, 13-14).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
In context, Paul is warning the Galatians against Judaizing, that is, adding Jewish ceremonial laws to Christ perhaps as an attempt to feel more secure, perhaps as an attempt to avoid persecution from zealous Jews (Gal. 5:2-11, cf. Gal. 1:4-9). But every form of legalism is a crushing yoke of slavery, and to return to Egypt is to sin against Christ who set us free (Gal. 5:1). The mentality of slavery is simple: just do as you’re told, but true freedom brings responsibility (Gal. 5:13). This means that true liberty is directed by God’s law of love (Gal. 3:14).
FREEDOM FOR WORSHIP
In the Exodus story, one of the fundamental lessons we learn there that freedom is for worship: “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness” (Ex. 5:1, cf. 10:25). But Pharaoh instinctively knew that if Israel was set free to worship God, they would never be slaves again. True worship of the living God sets the captives free. This certainly begins as moral and spiritual freedom with regeneration (and hearts that can’t stop singing), but freedom from sin teaches men to think like free men. This begins with personal responsibility (confession of sin and forgiveness) and flows out to covenantal responsibility in the spheres of authority assigned to us by the Lord Jesus: family, church, and state.
When they are healthy, all three spheres mutually check and enforce one another, but throughout Scripture worship is the tip of the spear: Abraham built altars throughout the land of Canaan, the priests blew trumpets and carried the ark around Jericho, the choir went out in front of the army under Jehoshaphat, and Jesus sent us out into the world to preach and baptize and celebrate the Lord’s Supper as the vanguard of the Kingdom. Daniel shows us the centrality of free worship both in the refusal of the three friends to bow down to the statue (Dan. 3) and in Daniel’s resolute prayer despite the king’s decree (Dan. 6). Christians are free from every decree of man that would require idolatry or prohibit the worship of the living God. While there is freedom in some of the particulars of when and where worship is conducted, Christians must be zealous for freedom to worship because Christ is worthy and because all of our other freedoms flow from there. When you think about preserving freedom, first think about worshipping the King who grants all freedom.
FREED TO SERVE
This freedom that Christ gives is for serving one another in love, and that love is measured by the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:13-14). But Christians must not be simplistic or naïve in this. Remember first of all the gospel: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:10-11). God did not love us in the way that we thought He should; He loved us in the way that we actually needed. And we must love one another like that. This is truly serving one another in love: doing what is needed for long term physical and spiritual health, blessing, and success.
How does Scripture teach us to love like Christ? It says husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies, like Christ has loved the church and gave Himself up for her, providing for them and protecting them (Eph. 5:22-33), and fathers are to provide for and raise their children in the nurture and admonition of Jesus (Eph. 6:1-4). This includes the duty to care for the health, safety, medical decisions, welfare, and education of all in the family. Failure to do so is functional apostasy and worse than a run of the mill pagan (1 Tim. 5:8). This spiritual and religious duty to care for your family is why Christ set you free. This is what your Christian freedom is for. And you are under orders not to relinquish this freedom. Wise men will need to consider various tactical courses to protect this freedom but protect it we must.
One of the ways our freedom is under attack is through well-meaning appeals from other Christians that we need to be willing to lay our freedoms down for the sake of the gospel. Don’t be selfish! This is one of those half-truths that can sound more godly than it actually is. The half truth is: do not use your freedom for the flesh, to serve yourself, to serve your lusts, to bite and devour one another (Gal. 5:13-15). Don’t use your freedom to act like Egyptians. But keep the image of the Exodus firmly in mind. Christian liberty is fundamentally freedom from Egypt (sin, death, the Devil) and freedom to love our people in obedience to Christ. Therefore, no Christian is free to go back to Egypt. Lay our freedom down? That’s like saying lay your obedience down, lay your duty down, lay your family down. God forbid. Christ has set us free.
For another example, when drag queen story hour first burst on the scene in all of its lugubrious shame, some of our most prominent conservative, even “Reformed” leaders told us that this was merely the price of “freedom” in a country like ours. If we want to continue to have the freedom of speech, the freedom to express our religious convictions then we have to make room for gaudy perverts. Notice the hidden unbiblical assumption here is that “freedom” is merely power of choice. But that is like saying that in order to be a truly free country you must allow for the option of slavery. Not hardly. True freedom is walking in the light of Christ, walking in the relief of forgiveness of all our sins. No, the price of freedom was paid by Jesus on the cross, and He died to set us free from all that darkness. And loving your neighbor means doing all in your power to share that freedom with them.