Four Not Right Definitions of Christian Liberty

With all this talk about liberty lately here, what was up with yesterday’s guilt-ridden post about being rich, fat Americans?

Don’t we have liberty? Isn’t being rich and fat merely an expression of our freedom? I thought physical stuff didn’t matter, now I’m in trouble for having cable television?

No one is in trouble, we need to be careful with what we mean by liberty though. There are generally four misconceptions about liberty we must overcome to get the right view of it. When people hear “liberty,” usually one of these four ideas springs to mind.

1) Political Liberty. What America is all about–the rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Although these are fine political ideals based on humanism, they have nothing to do with Christian Liberty.

2) I have Liberty to Sin. Many think Christian Liberty means sin is fine. When God looks at me He only sees Jesus, not my sin, so I can sin with impunity. This is turning liberty into licentiousness and is not Christian Liberty.

3) I Have Liberty so I Don’t Have to Listen to You. Others think liberty is the right to ignore everyone and do what I want. It’s sort of an anti-authoritarian mindset. The Church has no authority, so I can do what I want, get off my back. Again, this is not Christian Liberty and flies in the face of all passages concerning church discipline.

4) I Have Liberty to do what is Right. This is an attempt to be unique in defining Christian Liberty. It’s the idea that before I could only sin and now that I am saved I can choose to do what is right. I had no choice before, but now I do. I find this to be a cute attempt, but falls short of what Christian Liberty is.

Again, so we’re clear, Christian Liberty, as defined by the Bible, has to do with freedom from physical things. We are now spiritual creations, not minding things of this earth but setting our affections on things above. We are set free from burdensome worry about death and how we’ll eat tomorrow, setting us free to use our stuff for others.

So, you can have cable television, be fat and rich, have air conditioned homes all you want. Government won’t stop ya, the church won’t stop ya, go for it. But if you are a Spiritual creation, the Spirit might stop you!

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Liberty is where we are to be. Liberty has a restriction! Remember, we have to serve somebody! A couple verses later Paul says, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”

The Spirit is what helps you fight off the flesh’s desires to manipulate liberty. Liberty is in check by the Spirit. Liberty is walking in the Spirit–where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, remember.

1) The Spirit will keep you in subjection to the government, so liberty cannot be political liberty.
2) The Spirit will never lead you into sin, so liberty is not freedom to sin.
3) The Spirit will keep you in mutual-submission to fellow believers acting in love and honor to others, so liberty is not freedom to ignore everyone.
4) The Spirit will always lead you to do what is right, so this one is close to being right!

That being the case, the Spirit may help you see your priorities in spending money and He may lead you to make some changes. This should not be fought. It should not be done because I said so. It should be done because the Spirit led you to do it.

Perhaps my words can help you think, give the Spirit a little something to work with. That’s all I can ask! I write for me as well!


2 thoughts on “Four Not Right Definitions of Christian Liberty”

  1. The Spirit’s liberty is indeed not about the liberty of political states. And because the Spirit’s liberty is about leading us to do right, the Spirit does not necessarily “keep you in subjection to the government.” For “the government” has a bad habit of doing wrong.

    Among the ruling authorities (political as well as religious) during Jesus’ day were the scribes and Pharisees, whose authority over the law of Moses (the constitution for the nation of Israel) included interpreting and enforcing it via the local synagogues (under the watchful eye of Rome). Jesus did not simply remain “in subjection” to these authorities.

    Your link is to Rom. 13:1f., where Paul commands being subject to the ruling authorities. But the context is important. In Rom. 12:14f. Paul introduces how Christians should react to those persecuting them; they should not seek revenge, punishing them for their evil persecution; instead, they should overcome evil (persecution) with good (even feeding their enemies, who are hungry). They are to seek peace with everyone, including those who persecute them. Thus I think what Rom. 13:1f. is saying is: let everyone (who persecutes them) be subject to the ruling authorities, who can be instruments of God’s wrath, punishing evil (persecution); and if Paul’s readers seek to take the law into their own hands and use evil (punishment) themselves, they will also need to fear punishment from the authorities. So Paul concludes in 13:8 that they should owe no one anything (no revenge or punishment), except to love one another.

    The liberty here is to do right by loving enemies. Paul was often persecuted by Jewish opponents (like the scribes and Pharisees who plotted against Jesus). In fact, Paul used to be one of them, persecuting Christians. But after his conversion, the Spirit’s liberty meant he was no longer in subjection to those (Jewish) authorities. And sometimes other authorities (the Romans) would come to Paul’s rescue when he faced threats from Jewish leaders.

  2. Couple things:

    1) I do believe the Spirit will lead people to be subject to the government unless the government forces you to compromise worship of God.

    2) The idea that Paul is telling those who persecute Christians to be subject to the government is a stretch of the context. You yourself said “they [believers] should not seek revenge” but rather do good and let the government “punish evil (persecution)”. This is telling Christians to be in subjection to the government by letting government do the job of revenge and not them. Why would Paul be writing to the persecutors here who wouldn’t even be reading it?

    The NT is very clear on subjection to the government. 1 Timothy 2:1,2 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” The Spirit will lead here.

    3) Jesus remained in subjection to government authority. Rome was the government authority. Pharisees and scribes needed Rome to carry out punishment on Jesus as they had no authority to do it. Jesus was silent before government rulers. The only time we see Jesus fight authority is when it is religious authority making a mockery of His Father.

    4) The liberty of Romans 13 is indeed doing right by our enemies, using our physical stuff to show love rather than keeping it for our fleshly desires as God has promised to provide and we are to trust Him, not fighting after stuff as the heathen do who are in bondage to it.

Comments are closed.