The Perfect Law of Liberty

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

The New Testament writer, James, said, "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing" (Jas. 1: 25). There are several important lessons to be learned from this passage.

(1) IT IS A "LAW." This body of truth which is the source of all pure religion is here called a "law." There are some who would -have us to believe that the Old Testament had law, but no grace; and that the New -Testament has grace, but no law. They therefore teach that we should preach "the Man" but not "the Plan," else we become legalists.

However, a law is simply a "rule of action." If there is no prescribed rule of action (i.e., no law), then it would be impossible to sin, since sin is the transgression of the law (I Jno. 3:4). The body of truth that guides us is elsewhere called the "law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:21), the "law of the Spirit of life" (Rom. 8:1, 2), and here it is called "the law of liberty" (Jas. 1:25; 2:12). It is true, however, that we are not under the Law of Moses (Rom. 6:14), but this does not mean that, we are under no law at all.

(2) IT IS "THE PERFECT LAW." it is the only "perfect law." The Law of Moses had some imperfections, the Hebrew writer -says (Heb. 8:7, 8). The Law of Moses could not take away sins (Heb. 9: 15; 10: 1-4). But the gospel is "the perfect law." There will be no other law like it given forever (Matt. 24:35).

"Perfect" means "completeness," "fullness," or "wholeness." In this gospel "all truth" for all time was revealed (Jno. 16: 13). Jude taught that the faith was "once for all" revealed (Jude 3). Thus this "Perfect law" cannot be amended, improved, or transcended by man. Any tampering at all by man, whether to add to it or to take from it, will destroy its perfection. It must be left just as it is to maintain its perfection.

(3) IT IS "THE LAW OF LIBERTY." The Law of Moses constituted an unbearable yoke (Acts 15:10). When the gospel was inaugurated, the "yoke of bondage" was removed. Jesus taught, "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jno. 8:32). Paul taught the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom. 8:2). The power of the gospel to liberate one from the tyranny of sin is another mark of its perfection. The gospel is God's only power unto salvation (Rom. 1: 16).

The fact that the gospel is "the law of liberty" does not mean that one is free so that he does not have to obey the gospel. Some teach that since the gospel is a liberating gospel, one does not necessarily have to obey that gospel; he does not have to believe and be baptized, we are told. But the only way we really can honor "the Man" is to obey "the Plan." When one is baptized "in the name of" Jesus Christ, he shows his faith in the saving power of Christ. It is only when one has obeyed that this "perfect law" becomes to him "the law of liberty" (Rom. 6:17).

November 18, 1971