'Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus.' -- Gal. ii.4.
'With freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.' -- Gal. v.1.
There is no possession more precious or priceless than liberty. There is nothing more inspiring and elevating; nothing, on the other hand, more depressing and degrading than slavery. It robs a man of what constitutes his manhood, the power of self-decision, self-action, of being and doing what he would.
Sin is slavery; the bondage to a foreign power that has obtained the mastery over us, and compels often a most reluctant service. The redemption of Christ restores our liberty and sets us free from the power of sin. If we are truly to live as redeemed ones, we need not only to look at the work Christ did to accomplish our redemption, but to accept and realize fully how complete, how sure, how absolute the liberty is wherewith He hath made us free. It is only as we 'stand fast in our liberty in Christ Jesus,' that we can have our fruit unto sanctification.
It is remarkable how seldom the word holy occurs in the great argument of the Epistle to the Romans, and how, where twice used in chap. vi. in the expression 'unto sanctification,' it is distinctly set forth as the aim and fruit to be reached through a life of righteousness. The twice repeated 'unto sanctification,' pointing to a result to be obtained, is preceded by a twice repeated 'being made free from sin and become servants of righteousness.' It teaches us how the liberty from the power of sin and the surrender to the service of righteousness are not yet of themselves holiness, but the sure and only path by which it can be reached. A true insight and a full entering into our freedom from sin in Christ are indispensable to a life of holiness. It was when Israel was freed from Pharaoh that God began to reveal Himself as the Holy One: it is as we know ourselves 'freed from sin,' delivered from the hand of all our enemies, that we shall serve God in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life.
'Being made free from sin:' to understand this word aright, we must beware of a twofold error. We must neither narrow it down to less, nor import into it more, than the Holy Spirit means by it here. Paul is speaking neither of an imputation nor an experience. We must not limit it to being made free from the curse or punishment of sin. The context shows that he is speaking, not of our judicial standing, but of a spiritual reality, our being in living union with Christ in His death and resurrection, and so being entirely taken out from under the dominion or power of sin. 'Sin shall not have dominion over you.' Nor is he as yet speaking of an experience, that we feel that we are free from all sin. He speaks of the great objective fact, Christ's having finally delivered us from the power which sin had to compel us to do its will and its works, and urges us, in the faith of this glorious fact, boldly to refuse to listen to the bidding or temptation of sin. To know our liberty which we have in Christ, our freedom from sin's mastery and power, is the way to realize it as an experience.
In olden times, when Turks or Moors often made slaves of Christians, large sums were frequently paid for the ransom of those who were in bondage. But it happened more than once, away in the interior of the slave country, that the ransomed ones never got the tidings; the masters were only too glad to keep it from them. Others, again, got the tidings, but had grown too accustomed to their bondage to rouse themselves for the effort of reaching the coast. Slothfulness or hopelessness kept them in slavery; they could not believe that they would be able ever in safety to reach the land of liberty. The ransom had been paid; in truth they were free; and yet in their experience, by reason of ignorance or want of courage, they were still in bondage. Christ's redemption has so completely made an end of sin and the legal power it had over us, -- for 'the strength of sin is the law,' -- that in very deed, in the deepest reality, sin has no power to compel our obedience. It is only as we allow it again to reign, as we yield ourselves again as its servants, that it can exercise the mastery. Satan does his utmost to keep believers in ignorance of the completeness of this their freedom from his slavery. And because believers are so content with their own thoughts of what redemption means, and so little long and plead to see it and possess it in its fulness of deliverance and blessing, the experience of the extent to which the freedom from sin can be realized is so feeble. 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.' It is by the Holy Spirit, His light and leading within, humbly watched for and yielded to, that this liberty becomes our possession.
In the sixth chapter Paul speaks of freedom from sin, in chap. vii. (vers.3, 4, 6) of freedom from the law, as both being ours in Christ and union with Him. In chap. viii. (ver.2) he speaks of this freedom as become ours in experience. He says, 'The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.' The freedom which is ours in Christ, must become ours in personal appropriation and enjoyment through the Holy Spirit. The latter depends on the former: the fuller the faith, the clearer the insight, the more triumphant the glorying in Christ Jesus and the liberty with which He has made us free, the speedier and the fuller the entrance into the glorious liberty of the children of God. As the liberty is in Christ alone, so it is the Spirit of Christ alone that makes it ours in practical possession, and keeps us dwelling in it: 'the spirit of the life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.' 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.' As the Spirit reveals Jesus to us as Lord and Master, the new Master, who alone has ought to say over us, and leads us to yield ourselves, to present our members, to surrender our whole life to the service of God in Christ, our faith in the freedom from sin becomes a consciousness and a realization. Believing in the completeness of the redemption, the captive goes forth as 'the Lord's freedman.' He knows now that sin has no longer power for one moment to command obedience. It may seek to assert its old right; it may speak in the tone of authority; it may frighten us into fear and submission; power it has none over us, except as we, forgetting our freedom, yield to its temptation, and ourselves give it power.
We are the Lord's freedmen. 'We have our liberty in Christ Jesus.' In Rom. vii. Paul describes the terrible struggles of the soul who still seeks to fulfil the law, but finds itself utterly helpless; sold under sin, a captive and a slave, without the liberty to do what the whole heart desires. But when the Spirit takes the place of the law, the complaint, 'O wretched man that I am,' is changed into the song of victory: 'I thank God, through Jesus Christ, the law of the Spirit of life hath made me free.'
What numberless complaints of insufficient strength to do God's will, of unsuccessful effort and disappointed hopes, of continual failure, re-echo in a thousand different forms the complaint of the captive, 'O wretched man that I am!' Thank God! there is deliverance. 'With freedom did Christ set us free! Stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.' Satan is ever seeking to lay on us again the yoke either of sin or the law, to beget again the spirit of bondage, as if sin or the law with their demands somehow had power over us. It is not so: be not entangled; stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made you free. Let us listen to the message: 'Being made free from sin, ye became servants unto righteousness; now yield your members servants to righteousness unto sanctification.' 'Having been made free from sin, and having been enslaved unto God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification.' To be holy, you must be free, perfectly free; free for Jesus to rule you, to lead you; free for the Holy Spirit to dispose of you, to breathe in you, to work His secret, gentle, but mighty work, so that you may grow up unto all the liberty Jesus has won for you. The temple could not be sanctified by the indwelling of God, except as it was free from every other master and every other use, to be for Him and His service alone. The inner temple of our heart cannot be truly and fully sanctified, except as we are free from every other master and power, from every yoke of bondage, or fear, or doubt, to let His Spirit lead us into the perfect liberty which has its fruit in true holiness.
Being made free from sin, having become servants unto righteousness, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end life everlasting. Freedom, Righteousness, Holiness -- these are the steps on the way to the coming glory. The more deeply we enter by faith into our liberty, which we have in Christ, the more joyfully and confidently we present our members to God as instruments of righteousness. The God is the Father whose will we delight to do, whose service is perfect liberty. The Redeemer is the Master, to whom love binds us in willing obedience. The liberty is not lawlessness: 'we are delivered from our enemies, that we may serve Him in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life.'
The liberty is the condition of the righteousness; and this again of the holiness. The doing of God's will leads up into that fellowship, that heart sympathy with God Himself, out of which comes that reflection of the Divine Presence, which is Holiness. Being made free from sin, being made the slaves of righteousness and of God, we have our fruit unto holiness, and the end -- the fruit of holiness becomes, when ripe, the seed of -- everlasting life.
BE YE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
Most glorious God! I pray Thee to open my eyes to this wonderful liberty with which Christ has made me free. May I enter fully into Thy word, that sin shall have no dominion over me because I am not under the law but under grace. May I know my liberty which I have in Christ Jesus, and stand fast in it.
Father! Thy service is perfect liberty: reveal this too to me. Thou art the infinitely Free, and Thy will knows no limits but what its own perfection has placed. And Thou invitest us into Thy will, that we may be free as Thou art. O my God! show me the beauty of Thy will, as it frees me from self and from sin, and let it be my only blessedness. Let the service of righteousness so be a joy and a strength to me, having its fruit unto sanctification, leading me into Thy Holiness.
Blessed Lord Jesus! my Deliverer and my Liberty, I belong to Thee. I give myself to Thy will, to know no will but Thine. Master! Thee and Thee alone would I serve. I have my liberty in Thee! be Thou my Keeper. I cannot stand for one moment out of Thee. In Thee I can stand fast: in Thee I put my trust.
Most Holy God! as Thy free, obedient, loving child, Thou wilt make me holy. Amen.
1. Liberty is the power to carry out unhindered the impulse of our nature. In Christ the child of God is free from every power that could hinder his acting out the law of his new nature.
2. This liberty is of faith (Gal. v.5, 6). By faith in Christ I enter into it, and stand in it.
3. This liberty is of the Holy Spirit. 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.' 'If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.' A heart filled with the Spirit is made free indeed. But we are not made free that we may do our own will. No, made free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. 'Where the Spirit is, there is liberty.'
4. This liberty is in love. 'Ye were called for freedom; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love be servants, one to another.' The freedom with which the Son makes free is a freedom to become like Himself, to love and to serve. 'Though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more.' This is the liberty of love.
5. 'Being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness unto sanctification.' 'Let my people go, that they may serve me.' It is only the man that doeth righteousness that can become holy.
6. This liberty is a thing of joy and singing.
7. This liberty is the groundwork of holiness. The Redeemer who makes free is God the Holy One. As the Holy Spirit He leads into the full possession of it. To be so free from everything that God can take complete possession, is to be holy.
 See Note G.