Friends: This is the sixth chapter of a short book I wrote a couple of years ago. Comments welcome! Subsequent chapters to follow!
Saved! Chapter Six: LIBERATED!
“Man’s first duty is not to find freedom, but a Master.” (anonymous) “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” (Gal. 5:1)
What happens when a person gets saved? We’ve seen that his lostness has been taken care of. He has been gloriously found by the Savior and brought home! We also realized how much that person has been loved by the Lord, loved enough to be shown that his own good works can’t save him, that he needs Someone to die for him so he can inherit, rather than earn, eternal life. We have also noticed that such a person has somehow been lured to the Lord and is now sent out to catch men for God! We also became aware that salvation involves learning, for Jesus invites His followers to study Him and get busy for the Kingdom. In our last chapter we observed that a major Christ-follower, the Apostle Paul, was not silenced when he was labeled. He clearly and cogently presented the Good News about Jesus to the philosophers of his day, apparently unconcerned that he was being thought an intellectual airhead!
We now want to focus on how our coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ involves one of the greatest gifts anyone could receive: freedom! But with that freedom come certain dangers which must be recognized and avoided. We learn about our liberation in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man
who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.” (Gal. 5:1-3)
The story is told of a pastor who was preaching on our text, Galatians 5. As he waxed eloquently on the liberty we now have in Christ, he shouted enthusiastically to the congregation, “If you are in Jesus, you are FREE! You’re FREE!” Little Tommy, sitting next to his mom and dad, cried out, “No! I’m FWOUR!”
History tells us of an occasion when Abraham Lincoln saw a pretty female slave being auctioned off. There were men there bidding on her for who-knows-what reasons. Lincoln saw this and started bidding on her as well. He outbid every man there and so she came over to him. She eyed him with hatred and disgust. She asked him something along the lines of “What are you gonna do to me?”
His reply? “Set you free.” Her face lit up in surprise as she asked him, “Free?” He nodded in the affirmative. “Free to do what I want to do?” He smiled, “Free.” “Free to SAY what I want to say?” Again he nodded, “Free.” Her eyes slowly grew large, “Free to go where I want to go?” Once more he nodded and she smiled and said, “Then I want to go with YOU.”
The Lord Jesus spoke of this freedom in John 8 when He said, “35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (vv. 35-36)
This liberty that Jesus gives begins with a freedom from our sins. The Bible teaches that our sins have made us enemies of God. We read in the book of Romans,
“9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath
through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5).
Reconciliation, being brought back into a harmonious relationship with God, took place while we were God’s enemies! What must it mean to be an enemy of God?
Enemies in the Bible are those that want to destroy you. They oppose you in every possible way. They do not want harmony; they want power and domination and victory . . . over you! We were enemies of God. We were not in a spiritually neutral position, neither opposing nor cooperating with God. We were enemies of God. There was enmity, disharmony, tension, alienation between us and the Creator of the universe. Of all the beings in creation the one Being we do not want to be opposed to is the Creator! Yet that was our spiritual condition before God. Enemies. Let us not sugarcoat that reality. He could have easily destroyed us, separated us from Himself forever.
Instead, He reached out in love and “reconciled us through the death of His Son.” We could not create or recover a harmonious relationship with our Creator on our own. He had to provide the reconciliation. We did not first become friends of God and then achieve reconciliation. No, while we were enemies of God, He provided His Son for us. Doesn’t it feel good not to be an enemy of God?
The Apostle Paul does not simply remind us that our reconciliation came through the death of the Son of God. He continues, “For if, while we were God’s
enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10). Please notice that reconciliation is a done deal. We have been reconciled to God. That took place through the death of His Son for us (and our belief in Him). What’s greater than reconciliation with a God to whom we were formerly enemies? Being continually saved through His life.
If it were not for the reconciling work of the Lord Jesus, we would not be free. We would not have the liberty promised in the Scriptures. We would still be enslaved, as enemies of God, to our sins.
One of my great privileges in being a seminary professor is that I get to teach a survey of Bible doctrine at our local prison. We have a cooperative program with the South Carolina prison system for lifers who are believers in Jesus and want to achieve an Associates’ degree in Prison Chaplaincy. For several years now I have taught theology to inmates who will never get out of jail.
One of the first challenges which I faced in working with these men was my curiosity. I wanted to know what each did that would land them in jail, for life. It was a natural curiosity, but God taught me that I did not need to know that information. Such knowledge would not assist me in training them. The gospel offers full forgiveness for sin, although being incarcerated for life is how these men will pay their debt to society. Some of the dearest brothers I would ever want to meet are my students in this prison.
The first year I began teaching in the prison, I was overwhelmed with my own freedom. I could show my ID badge to the officers at several exit points, and they
would buzz open the large metal doors, allowing me to leave the prison. For a few weeks in that first year I would exit the prison, walked to my car in the parking lot, and sit there thanking the Lord for my freedom, for His grace that I could leave. A couple of times — don’t tell my wife this — I drove directly to a local ice cream place and had a large vanilla milkshake! Because I could. I had the freedom to go anywhere and do just about anything that I wanted to. (The milkshake is our secret, right?)
The freedom which Christ has purchased for us with His blood allows us to go just about anywhere and do just about anything we want. Our text, Galatians 5, indicates that He saved us to give us that freedom: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” He does not want our lives to be incarcerated.
Nor does He want us to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. The slavery to which Paul is referring is the effort to save oneself by a keeping of the law. Specifically in Galatians 5, these believers were capitulating to the propaganda of the Judaizers who were teaching that one had to be circumcised to be saved.
Salvation does not come about by our efforts to keep the laws of God. God’s laws were given to show us our sin and our need of a Savior. The Galatian Christians were in danger of putting themselves again under the yoke of slavery, the idea that one must keep God’s laws to be saved. Such an idea was anathema to the concept of grace and made null and void the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus.
The very idea of circumcision, especially for an adult male, makes me shiver. And Paul essentially says that if the Galatians allow themselves to be circumcised,
that won’t be good enough. (I would think an adult male who has been talked into circumcision would find that extremely troubled news!). They would then be “obligated to obey the whole law.”
But isn’t the Christian obligated to obey the whole law? Didn’t Jesus say, “If you love me, keep my commandments”? (Jn. 14:15). Yes, of course, but not for salvation!
Putting oneself under the law for salvation negates the work of Christ — and steals away our God-given freedom in Him.
I understand that when the Allies moved into areas that had been occupied by the Nazis in World War II, a number of concentration camps were discovered. The Nazis had tried to conceal from the world what they had been doing to the Jews (and other nationalities). Sometimes the camps were empty, for the prisoners had been sent away, often on death marches.
In a number of camps the Allied soldiers found hundreds or thousands of malnourished prisoners, many of them dangerously close to death.
The liberation of the concentration and extermination camps began with the Soviet troops in July of 1944. British and American troops did not reach the German concentration camps until the Spring of 1945. They found not only piles of corpses, but tens of thousands on the verge of death. The Allied liberators did everything they could to help the survivors, but many died anyway.10
10 To read further on the emancipation of such prisoners, one might find help at: http:// sfi.usc.edu/watch/exhibits/witnesses-change-stories- liberation#sthash.ISUW6C8N.dpuf
When the Lord Jesus gave Himself as the ransom for our sins, He bought us with His blood and set us free from the penalty we rightfully deserved. Unlike the innocent victims of the concentration camps, our guilt before God kept us in a condition of slavery. From that slavery Christ has set us free.
I have led several tours of Christian high school students from the States to Europe, and eventually to visit the concentration camp Dachau, where over 32,000 prisoners died. It is hard to describe the somberness one feels in walking around Dachau. The citizens of the medieval town of Dachau appear naturally ashamed of what took place there during World War II, but tourism is their primary industry.
There is now no more Dachau for the children of God. We are free to serve Christ with the liberty He has purchased with His own blood.