He had made up his mind the night before. He will say before the witness of judges, "I love my master, my wife and my children, I will not go out as a free man." Then Obidiah, in accordance with the Law shall take him and bring him to the Temple before God and he will pierce his ear upon the door post with an awl and he and his family will serve Obidiah permanently.
Although this account is fictitious, it is based on very real history and on Scripture. In Leviticus, Scripture records the decree of the Year of Jubilee saying:
|8 'And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.' -- Lev 25:8-10 (NKJV)|
|1 "Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: 2 If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. 3 If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. 5 But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' 6 then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever. -- Exodus 21:1-6 (NKJV)|
As Christians, we are quick to proclaim freedom from the Law but do we know what it truly means? Some Christians have also, in error, accused Paul of contradicting the Law of Moses but is this true? It is now the year 2012 AD in the Gregorian Calendar, 2012 years after the Birth of Christ, 1982 years Death and Resurrection of Christ and yet we still struggle and debate these questions.
Paul declares in Romans:
|12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. -- Romans 6:12-14 (NKJV]|
Yet, Christ Himself declares:
|17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." -- Matthew 5:17-20 (NKJV)|
- He came to fulfill the Law, arguably even more stringent (Matt 5:17-20)
- Murder begins in the heart and even anger in the heart without killing is in danger of hell fire (Matt 5:21-26)
- Adultery is in the eyes and mind not just in the consummated act and the remedy is drastic indeed (Matt 5:27-30)
- Divorce is not permitted except for sexual immorality (Matt 5:31-32)
- Swearing and oaths is forbidden (Matt 5:33-37)
- Retributional justice (revenge) is not only disallowed but is to be repaid with kindness and love (Matt 5:38-42)
- We have to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48)
- Do good to please God not men (Matt 6:1-4)
- Pray in secret (Matt 6:5-8, followed by the Lord's Prayer, Matt 6:9-13)
- Forgiveness is NOT an option (Matt 6:14-15)
- Fast in secret (Matt 6:16-18)
- Put God first - Lay up your treasures in Heaven (Matt 6:19-34)
- Do NOT Judge (Matt 7:1-6)
- Rely on God, seek Him, follow the path less traveled and go through the narrow gate (Matt 7:7-14)
- Beware false prophets, know them by their fruits (Matt 7:15-20)
- He will deny any who practice lawlessness (continual, habitual, and unrepentant sin) (Matt 7:21-23)
- Build on the Rock which is Christ. (Matt 7:24-29)
|15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. -- Romans 6:15-23 (NKJV)|
A bondservant by choice obeys his or her master out of choice in love, not by compulsion of fear or by decree of law. Moreover, a bondservant by choice will not only do that which is accordance to the expressed desires of his or her master, but go beyond those expressed desires to please Him. This is what is truly meant when we say that we are free from the Law. It does not mean that the Law is no longer is in effect but that it has become alive as we are alive in Christ. This is what Paul means when he says that we should present ourselves as "salves to righteousness for holiness". It is liberty in the highest sense and it gives us the liberty to apply the Law in love, subjecting ourselves and the application of the Law through the lenses of love, grace and mercy. Paul makes this connection even clearer in Romans 7:24-25 which is translated in the NIV as:
|24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV)|
Hence, we have to revisit our understanding of liberty with regards to the Law in relation to our walk in Christ. We who have been made new, born again into His wonderful light MUST understand that the Law has also become "alive" in that we have been given the liberty to apply the Law in accordance to the Greatest Commandment which is to love God with all our hearts, mind, strength, and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The amazing thing is that this revelation is not "old" and has ever been the case from the time of Adam to the present. Consider the account of the prostitute Rahab in Joshua 2:1-7. The Law declares: "Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Ex 20:16), yet Rahab clearly lied to the soldiers who came looking for Joshua's spies. But she did so out of a reverend fear of the Lord and as a result was spared (Joshua 6:17).
So then, what is liberty? What are its boundaries? What are its conditions? What are some examples of liberty at work in the Holy Scriptures? First, liberty always goes hand-in-hand with responsibility and accountability. The freer we are, the more is required of us. To the world of men, Lady Justice is blindfolded and holds a sword in one hand and empty scales in the other. When Christ died for us upon the cross and rose from the grave defeating death, He also freed those who humbly accept the gift of Salvation forever changing the role and purpose of the Law for the believer. The blindfold is removed, the sword replaced by an olive branch, and the scales permanently weighed on one side by love, grace, and mercy.
To say that we are now to live the Law by the spirit of the Law is an oversimplification because the spirit of the Law is the Spirit of God and its heart is the heart of God and who indeed can know the heart of God but by the Spirit? God is the Creator, the first cause Who Himself is without cause, so it is with Christ's teachings on the mount. The first cause of murder is anger in the heart, be it anger over perceived injustice or jealousy or covetousness, or difference in skin color or gender, so Christ teaches that even the seed without the fruition is murder. The first cause of adultery is in the lust of the eyes and the impurity of thought and so in God's eyes, adultery is consummated in the heart. Such knowledge and wisdom is beyond the mind of men. It requires a total surrender to the Spirit lived out in prayer and obedience to His prompting. It requires a total dedication of heart, mind, strength, and soul. Liberty in the Law goes beyond the Law and yet Christ tells us not to judge, to forgive, to repay evil with good, and to love our enemies. What could this mean? We are told to seek God, to pray and fast in secret, to rely on Him. For me, there is but one answer:
Liberty in the Law requires me to live the Law in personal relationship with God, to apply the Law to myself with the greatest of stringency and to all others with the greatest of love grace, and mercy I must always be mindful that my actions are my witness and while I am free and all things are permissible, any action that drives a wedge between those I am witnessing to or causes another to stumble, become for me not permissible because of love.
This is what Scripture teaches as well when Paul says that we are free and all things are Lawful (permissible) but exhorts us to realize that not all things edify (are profitable).
|1 Cor 10:23: |
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. (NKJV)
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. (KJV)
You say, "I am allowed to do anything"—but not everything is good for you. You say, "I am allowed to do anything"—but not everything is beneficial. (NLT)
Hence, Liberty in the Law requires us to become bondservants to Christ, willful slaves to Him. No longer are we permitted to blindly follow the Law but are now given the greater responsibility to act in accordance to the prompting of the Holy Spirit with the Law as a guide. In my blog, "Ashtrays and Smoking Shelters" we see such liberty in practice. A young pastor in love and recognition of Scripture's injunction to reach the lost and broken men in his community, learned to play pool and joined the men at the local pool hall and convinced his congregation to put up ashtrays and smoking shelters outside his church. I am a Baptist, but I recognize that the Scripture teach us that drunkenness is a sin NOT the consumption of alcohol. I also work with recovering addicts and alcoholics and though I know that I am free to have a beer or glass of wine occasionally, I go beyond the teaching of Scripture and do not drink in public because it may cause those I am working with to stumble. In my post, "Conversation With A Muslim", the Lord has led me to have an opportunity to witness to a Muslim family who will only eat Halal meat - meat that has slaughtered in a specific and prepared in a specific way. Liberty in the Law allows me the freedom to eat their food when they invite me to join them for family or celebratory meals so that I may be able to witness the Gospel. Moreover, it allows me the freedom to make sure that I serve them only Halal food when I invite them to my home. While working with the poor, homeless, and disenfranchised, I had been asked by many forced to hold down two and three jobs to provide for their families what they should do if they have to work on Sunday or risk being fired. Liberty in the Law allows me to advise them to ensure that they set aside one day a week or at the very least time throughout the week to rest in the Lord and to dwell on Him and feel God's grace upon them even if they have to work on the Sabbath. While working in the same ministry, I have also encountered battered women who live in dangerous and abusive relationships and households. Liberty in the Law allows me advise them to flee the relationship for their own and their children's safety even if the abusive spouse had not committed sexual immorality.
Such liberty is far more demanding and requires us to be in the Word, in prayer, and in communion with the Lord. It gives us the freedom to apply love, grace, mercy, in our walk and our witness. It empowers our ability to fulfill the Great Commission. As the bondservants and slaves to Christ, the Word of God and hence the Law also, becomes of us not a set of rigid laws to be blindly followed, rather they become a guide and a friend, God's love letter to us, revealing to us His Heart. It serves to reveal to us that which pleases Him and that which grieves Him. It tells us of His plan for us and for humanity, serving to be guideposts for our daily living and application. No longer do we obey out of fear but out of love which is the Greatest Commandment. It becomes alive, giving us the liberty and wisdom to act and live even if a specific sin is not listed in the Word.
May this sharing be a blessing,