Law And Liberty
It is more than passingly strange that so many of us look upon law as being incompatible with liberty, and that the latter is to be enjoyed only through a lax construction of the former. That is, as we view law to be vague and general are we led to think that liberty is established, and any urging of a strict regard for the law an impingement on our liberties. Conservative thought in either government or religion is frowned on as tending to restrict our liberty. Many things are being done in both areas of activity under the specious plea that we are thereby displaying a devotion to freedom.
James says, in 1:25, that "Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." The terms "perfect" and "liberty" both derive their significance in this connection from the term "law." Perfect is employed as identifying law in this statement, and can only suggest that the law under consideration is perfect as touching its completeness, and its capability or competency as related to its purpose or design. The term liberty establishes the design or purpose of the law here mentioned. Such terms as "good", "weak", "strong", "perfect" or "imperfect" may well all be understood as expressing such qualities in any given instance in relation to the purpose or design of the thing so described. The law of Moses was spoken of as being holy, just and good (Rom. 7:12), thus as touching the purpose for which it was given it was competent to accomplish this purpose. It was designed to bring those under it to Christ, and the reason the Jews failed to be brought to him was that they had made void the law of God by their traditions. Whenever any law is prostituted from its proper purpose it will fail in attaining the objective for which it was designed.
The perfect law of liberty mentioned by James has as its design the liberty of its subjects, and as touching this it is perfect; and only when it is tampered with or disregarded will its object fail of realization in the life of the one so doing. Law expresses will, and thus when one looks into this law and continueth therein he is doing the will of God. When, then he ceases or fails in respect thereto, he does not do the will of God. It matters not what else he may look into and be governed by in his life, he neither is doing nor can do the will of God, for only in this law is God's will expressed. Hence, James says of the one here described that "this man shall be blessed in his deed". What deed? The doing of the work. What work? The work of God inasmuch as he is doing the law or will of God. Looking elsewhere and acting in response thereto will not bring the blessing promised in this Scripture.
In Romans 8:2 we are told that the law of Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes us free from the law of sin and death. This is the liberty of James 1:25. It is a freedom from sin, a freedom secured by reason of our being forgiven of our sins through obedience to this law. The capacity of this law to secure this freedom rests on the fact that it is the covenant established by the death of Christ, and on the merits of his shed blood. No law or covenant can ever secure freedom from sin to anyone other than this law and for this reason. Any religious system conceived and formed by man is utterly barren of all redeeming virtue. Man cannot be made free apart from law in any sense, religious or political, and one's redemption from sin and the consequent freedom from it is here affirmed of this law of the Spirit. It is the law of Christ as touching its source and authority; it is the law of the Spirit as touching its revelation to man, and it is the law of liberty as touching its design and effect. It is the law of faith as related to its direction, character and influence.
Therefore, "we are led by the Spirit" and we walk in faith" as we are "doers of the work" in being responsive to the law of liberty. Thus doing we are "standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free," but when we go beyond this law, we forfeit the liberty identified with it, being brought into bondage again. (Gal. 5:1).
Apparently, many brethren today are spelling their alleged "liberty" in Christ thusly: e-x-p-e-d-i-e-n-c-y. Consequently they are doing things under the guise of an assumed measure of freedom that takes them beyond the law of liberty. Those who sought to impose circumcision on Gentile Christians were privily spying out their liberty" that they might bring them into bondage. (Gal. 2:5). Corresponding thereto, when men in the church today endeavor to impose upon their brethren unauthorized practices, they are bringing themselves, and those with whom they succeed, into bondage. The Master said his yoke, or rule, was easy, but never the yoke created by man and placed on his fellows. Religious servitude to the will and wisdom of man is the fate of millions today and in the past. The imposition of the human will on another fellow-human enslaves him. WE, in obeying the law of liberty, were also delivered from the religious traditions of men, and this deliverance was embodied in the design of Christ's death. I Peter 1:18. May we, then, remain aloof from the doctrines and commandments, the traditions of men.
There is being woven a web that will bind the children of God in the bonds of sectarianism just as certainly as was done less than a century ago, and to note the helplessness of their condition therein, take a look at the machinery of the Christian church today. The only escape for those in that bondage is to walk out - there is no reforming the existing body. We fearfully opine that the fate of many brethren is rapidly developing into the same as that, and that the day of opportunity of reversing the tide is far spent. May our love of 1iberty deepen our respect for the law that produces and safeguards it.
Truth Magazine IV:7, pp. 9-10