January 21, 2017

Free in Christ

By Ron Halbrook

Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Freedom from sin is provided only through the death of Christ as a perfect sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:12). As the blood of animals was sprinkled on the first covenant, so the New Testament of Christ was sealed and sanctified by the shedding of his blood (Heb. 9:15-23). As we abide within his covenant, Christ keeps us free from sin.

Free from Separation from God

Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden by their sin. Their blissful relationship with God was broken and their access to the tree of life was blocked. God “drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24). Sin separates us from fellowship with God, makes us enemies of God, and denies us the blessings of God (Isa. 59:1-2; Col 1:21). When we live in sin, our prayers are not accepted through the mediatorial name of Jesus Christ.

Christ restores our broken fellowship with God, giving us “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3). Both Jews and Gen- tiles have access to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). Christ frees us from sin so that we can enjoy full fellowship with God when we obey the gospel and are added to the church of Christ. Thus, we are reconciled “unto God in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16).

Free from Sin’s Enslaving, Degrading Effects

Sin soon enslaves us, leads us further and further away from God, and makes us vulnerable to many foolish and hurtful lusts. Mere covetousness opens the door to all sorts of temptations (1 Tim. 6:10). Step by step, King David was led deeper into sin, but he finally repented, whereas Judas followed a similar path and ended a suicide. Neither man intended to go as far as he did. Sin seems at first to be the servant of our desires but soon becomes the master of our souls! The history of the Gentile world shows that those who depart from the truth of God are soon “filled with all unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:29). Brethren who begin to com- promise the truth with the best of intentions may end up as false teachers who “wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).

When we are “baptized into Jesus Christ,” we are raised to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). When Christ cleanses our souls, he turns our lives around. The moment we obey the gospel, we are “then made free from sin” and become “the servants of righteousness.”

For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Rom. 6:18, 20-22).

The Lord can take our broken hearts and lives, so marred by sin, and remold us as vessels of honor in his service. He removes the garments so spotted and stained with sin, and clothes us in the beauties of holiness as his servants.

Free from the Old Law

The Old Law prepared men for the coming of Christ but could not itself provide a perfect sacrifice for sin. Once a man sinned under that Law, he stood under the condemnation of sin (Gal. 3:10-13). The only hope of forgiveness was in the Christ to come, but after Christ came and offered the perfect sacrifice for sin, it was impossible to serve God under the Law of Moses. To attempt to do so, in whole or in part, is to return to the condemnation pronounced on the sinner by that covenant. Modern day Jews and sabbatarians appeal to the Old Law. Denominationalism tries to justify infant membership, a clergy or priesthood, special robes, burning incense, dancing in worship, clapping, instrumental music, and other practices on the basis of the Old Law.

Christ takes away the yoke of Moses’ Law and teaches us, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” To appeal to the Old Law to justify our- selves today is to fall from grace (Gal. 5:1-6). The message of the book of Hebrews is that we serve God under a new and better high priest, a new and better covenant, with a new and better sacrifice, a new and better sabbath rest, a new and better tabernacle, and a new and better hope. “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13).

Free from Commandments and Doctrines of Men

Men are often misled in religion by false teachers who depart from the truth by omitting things from it and adding things to it. We are often warned against such men who twist the Scriptures “unto their own destruction” (Rev. 22:18-19; 2 Pet. 3:16). False teachers make us “subject to ordinances . . . after the commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:20-23). Such things make a fair show of religion, but are utterly worthless to God or man in the plan of salvation. Denominational churches with their man- made names, creeds, dogmas, and practices enslave men’s souls to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men. All forms of apostasy and departure from the true gospel of Christ create the same enslavement to men.

Christ teaches us to test all teachers by God’s Word in order to distinguish truth from error (Matt. 15:1-9; 1 Pet.4:11; 1 John 4:1-6). Thus, Christ frees us from the dominion of men and the theories of men. We “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ him- self being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). Being delivered from the confusion and uncertainty of human traditions and creeds, we are no longer “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14).

Free from the Law of Sin and Death

Once we sin, we are doomed to eternal punishment in hell. Once we are cast into hell with the devil and his angels, into “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,” there is no escape, no relief from torment, and no hope of freedom (Rev. 21:8). Think of it: Sin promises us joyous freedoms but finally enslaves and entombs us in the dungeon of eternal despair! Seeing this end result of the sin’s captivity, Paul exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 8:24) “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). In Christ we have forgiveness and the hope of eternal life with God in heaven (Tit. 1:2). On the great resurrection day, our bodies will be changed and “fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Both physical and spiritual death will be defeated. We shall live forever beyond the reach of the law of sin and death “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality.”

Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

False Forms of Freedom

We are not free to continue in sin, or to teach and practice false doctrine. Freedom in Christ is not a license to do wrong with impunity. False teachers open the door to sin and error by promising a false form of “liberty” (2 Pet. 2:1, 19). Those who oppose this false plea are attacked as “legalists,” “intolerant,” “sectarian,” “traditionalists,” “creed writers,” “narrow-minded,” “negative,” and “cultists.” The false teacher who hardens his heart will eventually leave God’s true people or else be rejected from their fellowship after repeated admonition (1 John 2:19; Tit. 3:10). He may become increasingly bitter, rash, and reckless as he waxes “worse and worse” under a false banner of freedom (2 Tim. 3:13).

Many practices not authorized in God’s Word are promoted under the false banner of freedom, such as sprinkling in place of Bible baptism, women preachers, church sponsored recreation, adulterous marriages, instrumental music in worship, and unity in doctrinal diversity. These doctrines and commandments of men are no part of the covenant sealed by the blood of Christ. Anyone with sincere questions about such things can be patiently taught such passages as Romans 6:4, 1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 11:34, Matthew 19:9, Ephesians 5:19, and 2 John 9-11. Sincere brethren seeking to learn and grow are not treated like false teachers, but neither are false teachers granted the “freedom” they demand to spread error unchallenged.

How to Become Free in Christ

Christ frees us from sin when we accept him by faith, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:36-38). Even when Christians fall into sin, Christ’s blood is always available to us if only we will repent and seek God’s pardon (Acts 8:22). Christ said of all who are willing to hear, believe, and obey his teaching, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Indeed, Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” which leads us into that blessed freedom of fellowship with God for time and for eternity (John 14:1-6). What good news to sinners who are tired of Satan’s lies and slavery!

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