The Liberty

In Christ we’re free, absolutely free; He paid a great price to deliver us, so we should stand fast in that freedom, rejoice in it, and not return to bondage. (Ga 5:1) It’s like He’s given us the key to our own prison door and expects us to use it. But what exactly is freedom, and how do we walk in it?

Those who find A Scandalous Freedom (Steve Brown, 2004) in Christ, define freedom as “exemption or liberation from the control of some other person, or some arbitrary power.” (p.6) To them, freedom in Christ means we may live as we please, with no rules, constraints, expectations or obligations toward God. The claim is that we have God’s permission to do whatever we want; anything else is “a weird sort of freedom.” (p.7) Their claim is that God will love us just as much, be just as fond of us, no matter what we do, and that He will never be angry or disappointed in us. (p.14)

Yet Christ defines freedom differently, as the ability and tendency to keep God’s Law: when we break God’s law we become slaves to sin (Jn 8:34); so freedom is deliverance from the tendency and inclination to sin (Ro 7:24-25a), being given a new nature that aligns with God’s law. (He 8:10) He says, in effect, that freedom is the ability to live according to our design, and that our design is to be in right relationship with God, to love and obey Him; there’s no salvation, deliverance or freedom apart from this. (1Jn 3:7-8)

Freedom isn’t about having no master; it’s about having the right master. We all have a master: we either serve sin or we serve obedience. (Ro 6:16) Outside Christ we’re slaves to sin (vs 17), but Christ sets us free from sin to serve righteousness. (vs 18) Our new nature serves God’s law, but any lies remaining within us will always serve sin. (Ro 7:25b)

Sin always springs from a lie and takes us captive (2Ti 2:25-26); so freedom is walking in truth, for the truth makes us free. (Jn 8:32) Those who find permission in Christ to sin are simply twisting God’s grace into indulgence, missing Christ entirely. (Jud 1:4)

Lies about freedom are often rooted in a misunderstanding of grace, confusing it with leniency, mercy, and forgiveness, and thus reading related scriptures incorrectly. Grace is the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life. (Strong) Grace is the very power of God enabling us to live free of sin, to be aligned with His law. Grace is divine enablement, not unconditional forgiveness and love. So, thinking grace gives us freedom to sin is an open contradiction: it’s like freedom to be sick in our healing, or filthy in our cleansing. It is this misunderstanding of grace, turning God’s truth into a lie (Ro 1:25), which gives the half-truths of Christian “freedom” their insidious appeal.

It is true that God loves and forgives believers totally and unconditionally; there is no sin that Christ did not atone for, and He will never impute sin to any believer. (Ro 4:8) But this is only half of the truth.

The rest of the truth is that believers don’t sin, or break God’s Law (1Jn 3:4), on purpose, carelessly, negligently or presumptuously, as a manner of life. (1Jn 2:4) God has commanded us to keep His law diligently (Ps 119:4), and believers have a new nature that longs to be perfect (Ps 119:5); we actually are obedient to God (1Pe 1:2), inclined toward righteousness and holiness. (Ep 2:10)

Yet believers do sin (1Jn 1:8), drawn away by our own lusts and enticed (Ja 1:14), missing the mark of perfection even as we try our best to obey. And when we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1Jn 2:1) So, once we have salvation we can never lose it: it is eternal. (He 5:9) But thinking this implies freedom to sin willfully and presumptuously is a gross misunderstanding of the gospel. (He 10:26-27)

As believers, we work out our deliverance from sin with fear and trembling (Php 2:13), knowing God Himself is working His grace in us according to His good pleasure. (vs 14) And He that began this good work in us will continue to perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ. (Php 1:6)

articles    posts

One thought on “The Liberty”

  1. Here are some notes as I read, A Scandalous Freedom. My general impression is that, though Brown makes some very good points, they’re half-truths; his errors will [1] tend to make unregenerate Christians complacent in their lost condition, blinding them to their need for Christ, and [2] encourage believers in presumptuous, willful sin.

    p. 14 “Does being free mean that when Christians are really upset with me, God isn’t? Yes.” Christ says to several of the churches, “I have a few things against thee.” (Re 2:4, 14, 20) “Repent … or else.” (2:5,16) To the lukewarm, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Re 3:16) “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Re 3:19) Sounds like He gets upset with His own, and can be very displeased with us.

    p. 40 “Look to Jesus – Christ is the standard for everything we should think about God.” Sometimes, Jesus didn’t appear to like the apostles: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” (Mt 17:17) It seems He hated their unbelief, didn’t enjoy their company all the time.

    God loves everyone unconditionally, true, but this doesn’t imply that He’s fond of us, or that He likes us. He abhors us, in and of ourselves, as filthy rags. As we begin to see our sin more clearly, we’ll feel the same way. (Job 42:6, Is 6:5) Apart from Christ Himself, there’s nothing attractive about us to God.

    p. 46 “If you are a Christian, it means that God will never be angry with you again.” God was angry with Moses, a believer. (Ex 4:14, De 3:26) God killed Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-11), many of the Corinthian believers, and struck many with sickness. (1Co 11:30) God does see believers’ sins, and chastens us when appropriate. (1Co 11:32) It is an expression of love to be angry with us for harming ourselves and others, even under extenuating circumstances.

    p. 53 “The greatest cause for our not getting better is our obsession with not getting better.”
    p. 63 “Perfection robs you of your freedom. That is why I gave up.”
    God says, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (2Pe 1:5-7) We should definitely continue trying to get better, but we should be doing it God’s way, by memorizing and meditating on His Word. (Ps 119:9-11) We should not only be trying to get better all the time, we should be doing so with fear and trembling (Php 2:12), yet knowing that He loves us unconditionally. I agree we should not be obsessing over our imperfections, but that doesn’t mean we should ever quit trying to correct them. We should not be trying to get better on our own, but asking God to quicken us (Ps 119:25) and give us more grace, humbling ourselves (1Pe 5:5) and beholding Christ. (2Co 3:18) There are even seasons we should be afflicted, mourning and weeping over our sin. (Ja 4:8-9) Brown’s understanding of freedom dismisses such intentional pursuits of godliness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.