By Pat Higgins
The popular concept of freedom is to be able to do as one pleases, with no responsibilities, no restraints, no rules. The “hippies,” the “flower people” and others of that era practiced their version of freedom. The youth of our nation are even now being caught up in a quest for freedom that has left very few families untroubled. They want to answer to no one, have no supervision of any kind, and be accountable to no higher authority than themselves.
This “freedom binge” has affected all areas. There are those who picket for freedom to go naked on the beaches; those who insist on (and gain) the freedom to print and distribute pornographic materials; those who demand freedom of speech even in the media, no matter how vulgar and distasteful they may become. And on and on it goes!
Is this really being “free”? Of course not. One person cannot rightly have freedom at the expense of another. In a free society the privileges of liberty are extended equally to all. So how is a man free? Strictly speaking, he is free only so long as he is obedient! Consider this: a citizen of the United States can enjoy his freedom only so long as he obeys the laws of the land. In what way, then, is he free if he must be obedient? He is free from punishment, from imprisonment, from unjust treatment. He is not free to do as he pleases, with no concern for those round about him. He has liberty only within the limitations of the law. Compliance within those limitations qualifies him to partake of privileges enjoyed only by a law-abiding citizen, such as the right to vote, the right to pursue a career of his choosing, etc. Freedom is conditional.
Likewise, spiritually, we have freedom through the gospel of Christ. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). This is not freedom to do as we please under the guise of religion, for Paul said, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak” (1 Cor. 8:9). He further states “. . . use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). Peter tells us not to use our ” . . . liberty for a cloak of maliciousness” (1 Pet. 2:16).
In what way does the truth of the gospel make a man free? Through obedience to the perfect law of liberty, man gained freedom from the bondage of the Law of Moses (Gal. 5:1; Rom. 8:2); from the displeasure of God by way of right living (Rom. 2:6-11); from sin and the condemnation thereof (Rom. 6:18, 22, 23). A faithful child of God is free from anxiety (Mt. 6:33, 34); from the cares of this world (Phil. 4:6, 7; 2 Cor. 4:16-18); from fear of what any man can do to him (Mt. 10:28; Rom. 8:31).
Spiritual freedom, this perfect law of liberty, does not give one the right to set up his own system of worship (Rom. 10:1-3; Mt. 15:9, 10), or to reject the inspired word of God, either by adding to or taking from (Rev. 22:18, 19; Jn. 12:48). A man has liberty only within the set limitations of the law of God as revealed in the New Testament (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Jn. 9-11). Compliance within these limitations permits one to partake of certain blessings that only the-obedient can enjoy. He is free to be called a child of God, ‘a joint-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:14-16); he has freedom to approach the Father in prayer (Phil. 4:6); he is, free to enjoy all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:1-3).
A faithful Christian, a citizen, in the kingdom of God, is free from the threat of eternal punishment (2 Thess. 1:7-9) and free to enjoy an abundance of blessings on this earth and the promise of ever being with the Lord in heaven (Mk. 10:28-30; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Truth Magazine XXIII: 28, p. 450
July 19, 1979