Freedom is a thoroughly Christian principle. The ancient pagan world knew nothing of true freedom, and despite secular humanism’s attempts at claiming it, there is no other liberty apart from the living God. Christian liberty is grounded in freedom to worship the Triune God, and when our hearts are turned to Him, we are set free from all bondage and set free to serve.
The Texts: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery… For you were called to freedom brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:1, 13-14).
Summary of the Text: In context, Paul is warning the Galatians against Judaizing, that is, adding Jewish ceremonial laws to Christ perhaps as an attempt to feel more secure, perhaps as an attempt to avoid persecution from zealous Jews (Gal. 5:2-11, cf. Gal. 1:4-9). But Christ is all. We worship Christ alone because Christ alone set us free. And every form of legalism is a crushing yoke of slavery – it is completely incompatible with Christ, and to return to Egypt is to sin against Christ who set us free (Gal. 5:1). The mentality of slavery is simple: just do as you’re told (legalism), but true freedom brings responsibility (Gal. 5:13). We’re not antinomian. Freedom looks at the need and determines how to best meet it. This means that true liberty is directed by God’s law of love (Gal. 3:14).
Freedom for Worship
In the Exodus story, one of the fundamental lessons we learn there is that freedom is for worship: “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness” (Ex. 5:1, cf. 10:25). But Pharaoh instinctively knew that if Israel was set free to worship God, they would never be slaves again. True worship of the living God sets the captives free. This certainly begins as moral and spiritual freedom with regeneration (and hearts that can’t stop singing), but freedom from sin teaches men to think like free men. This begins with personal responsibility (confession of sin and forgiveness). This is the dignity of guilt. Are we moral agents or are we just victims? This personal responsibility flows out to various covenantal responsibilities in the spheres of authority assigned to us by the Lord Jesus: family, church, and state.
When they are healthy, all three spheres mutually check and enforce one another, but throughout Scripture worship is the tip of the spear: Abraham built altars throughout the land of Canaan, the priests blew trumpets and carried the ark around Jericho, the choir went out in front of the army under Jehoshaphat, and Jesus sent us out into the world to preach and baptize and celebrate the Lord’s Supper as the vanguard of the Kingdom. Daniel shows us the centrality of free worship both in the refusal of the three friends to bow down to the statue (Dan. 3) and in Daniel’s resolute prayer despite the king’s decree (Dan. 6). Christians are free from every decree of man that would require idolatry or prohibit the worship of the living God.
While there is freedom in some of the particulars of when and where worship is conducted, Christians must be zealous for freedom to worship for two reasons: but there’s a primary reason and secondary. The primary reason is because Christ is worthy. Worship is the primary thing because Christ is the primary thing. But we must not miss the fact that the Christ offers us the secondary reason as well: because all of our other freedoms flow from there. Christ is not ashamed to say: do you want to be free? Do you want the government off your back? Do you want to live like true human beings? Then come to me. Come to Christ. When you think about preserving freedom, the first thing you think about must be worshipping the King who grants all freedom.
Freed to Serve
This freedom that Christ gives is for serving one another in love, and that love is measured by the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:13-14). But Christians must not be simplistic or naïve in this. And perhaps you already slightly grimaced when I said “serve one another in love,” because you are starting to get used to being beaten over the head with that kind of language. It is often in our modern day followed by, ‘so therefore do whatever I tell you.’ So we need to define our terms carefully. Remember first of all the gospel: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:10-11). God did not love us in the way that we thought He should; He loved us in the way that we actually needed. And we must love one another like that. This is truly serving one another in love: doing what is needed for long term physical and spiritual health, blessing, and success. This is our standard of love, and it is built directly on our standard for truth.
How does Scripture teach us to love like Christ? It says husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies, like Christ has loved the church and gave Himself up for her, providing for them and protecting them (Eph. 5:22-33), and fathers are to provide for and raise their children in the nurture and admonition of Jesus (Eph. 6:1-4). This includes the duty to care for the health, safety, medical decisions, welfare, and education of all in the family. Failure to do so is functional apostasy and worse than a run of the mill pagan (1 Tim. 5:8). It is not the duty of the state, the federal government, the CDC, the FDA, or any other government. This spiritual and religious duty to care for your family is why Christ set you free. This is what your Christian freedom is for. And you are under orders not to relinquish this freedom. Wise men will need to consider various tactical courses to protect this freedom but protect it we must.
One of the ways our freedom is under attack is through well-meaning appeals from other Christians that we need to be willing to lay our freedoms down for the sake of the gospel. They say things like: Don’t be selfish! Be willing to give up your rights for Christ! This is one of those half-truths that can sound more godly than it actually is. The half truth is: do not use your freedom for the flesh, to serve yourself, to serve your lusts, to bite and devour one another (Gal. 5:13-15). Don’t use your freedom to act like Egyptians.
But keep the image of the Exodus firmly in mind. Christian liberty is fundamentally freedom from Egypt (sin, death, the Devil) and it is freedom to love our people in obedience to Christ. Therefore, no Christian is free to go back to Egypt. Lay our freedom down? That’s like saying that you should be willing to go back to Egypt in order to get out of Egypt. That’s crazy talk. That’s like saying lay your obedience down, lay your duty down, lay your family down. God forbid. Christ has set us free to lay our lives down, but we must lay them down in obedience to Him. It certainly is true that sometimes obedience to Christ requires us to leave father, mother, children behind, but that is only when they are demanding that we stay in Egypt.
For another example, when drag queen story hour first burst on the scene in all of its lugubrious shame, some of our most prominent conservative, even “Reformed” leaders told us that this was merely the price of “freedom” in a country like ours. If we want to continue to have the freedom of speech, the freedom to express our religious convictions then we have to make room for gaudy perverts. Notice the hidden unbiblical assumption here is that “freedom” is merely power of choice. But that is like saying that in order to be a truly free country you must allow for the option of slavery. But just try saying that out loud. If someone said that, there would be people shrieking in the streets. Not hardly. This is because freedom is not merely power of choice. It is power of choice within God’s Word. It is doing what is best, what is most needful within the constraints of God’s Word.
For most of the history of this country flamboyant obscenity would have been illegal. Because it it’s freedom. It’s actually slavery. True freedom is walking in the light of Christ, walking in the relief of forgiveness of all our sins, and using that freedom to do good. No, the price of freedom was paid by Jesus on the cross, and He died to set us free from all that darkness. He died for porn-makers and porn users. He died for drag queens and homosexuals. He died for cross-dressers and the effeminate. He died for adulterers and the bitter. He died for rage and hate and lust and shame. He died for it, He paid for it, so that we might walk away from it. When He died those sins died in Him, and when He walked out of the grave, they were gone. Your sins were gone.
His word is our freedom, and loving your neighbor means doing all in your power to share that freedom with them.
Because He died for our sins, we sing at the top of lungs. And because we are free like that, we cannot go back into slavery. We have been set free to serve, to love – the way we have been loved—which is doing what is actually good and needful. We will not give that up willingly, but in fact, we cannot give it up. We can no more give up our freedom than our sins can come back out of the grave.