T. Pierce Brown
Freedom is one of the most universal desires of mankind. How freedom is to be gained, maintained and used is not as universally understood. Freedom from what and freedom for what need to be clearly defined before any plan for freedom can be devised or implemented that will be of any value.
The freedom about which we write is the kind of freedom that is basic to all other kinds, and without which most other kinds are relatively useless. It is freedom of the spirit.
One important principle that needs to be clearly understood before one can have and use freedom in any area and that is: Freedom is to be achieved only in obedience to some universal laws. One is not freed from the law of gravity simply by deciding to disregard or disobey that law. One may be free from the law of gravity only by obeying a higher or different law, as the astronauts found in going into outer space.
In simple terms, that means that mankind cannot have absolute freedom. Trying to get it will cause bondage of the worst sort. For example, a person who wants to be totally free of governmental restraint will discover that he is bound to total confusion and anarchy. A person who tries to live free from the laws of health will find himself in bondage to all sorts of diseases.
Knowledge of the truth in economic matters gives one the ability to be free from economic hardship. Knowledge of the truth in political matters enables a person to form a government that allows freedom in a broad sense, yet operates by laws. Knowledge of truth in a spiritual sense gives one access to freedom in the broadest, deepest, widest and most significant sense it is possible to have.
Since it is the case that real freedom can come only in obedience to the highest laws, the statement of Jesus, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32) and “If the Son of man therefore shall make you free, then are ye free indeed” (John 8:36) become more meaningful.
The most significant part of man’s nature is his spirit. Thus, when one learns how to free the spirit from all things that may hold it in bondage, he has laid the groundwork for the proper use of all other kinds of freedom. All laws that we call “laws of nature” are God’s laws. One does not deny or defy the law of gravity when he files an airplane which gravity pulls toward the ground. He merely finds and obeys a different law–the law of aerodynamics. One of God’s laws does not contradict another law. It merely supplements it.
Written into the very nature of things is the law that when one fails to live in harmony with the purpose for which he was created (which is just another way of saying, “he disobeys God”), he must pay the penalty for that. This is as much a law as the law of gravity.
God’s problem (speaking from man’s viewpoint) was that He is infinitely just, and must condemn and punish sin or disobedience. He is also infinitely loving and must give man a way to escape the consequences of his sins. Also, since God made man in His image, with freedom of choice, He had to leave man free to choose to be free from sin, or stay in bondage to sin. It is our judgment that the average person has not yet grasped the fact that only God’s wisdom, love and power could find a way to make man free and solve all those “problems” through His Son, Jesus.
The fact that God had to be just and punish sin was solved by Jesus dying for our sins. Since He had no sin, He would willingly take whatever punishment was due us for Divine justice to be met. Yet man is free to accept or reject that sacrifice.
The second problem of how to demonstrate Divine love, and yet let some men suffer the eternal consequence of sin was solved in the same way at the same time. As John3:16says, man should not perish, for God’s love provided for his freedom from the guilt, the love, the practice and the punishment for sin. Indeed, “If the Son of Man makes you free, then are ye free indeed!” Yet because of the nature of God and man, we still are free to choose to accept or reject that love.
Note how man is made free from the various aspects of sin. He is offered freedom from the guilt and punishment of sin by the fact that Jesus died for us. Paul says, “Him who knew no sin was made to be sin in our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians5:21). Peter puts it this way, “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter2:24).
We are made free from the love and practice of sin through the same event because of how God made us emotionally and psychologically. That is, when a normal person understands, believes and accepts the fact that Jesus’ love prompted Him to do that great deed for us, love is created in him and he responds by giving up his sins. The higher law of the love of Christ has overcome the operation of the lower law of the love of sin. One of the marvels of it is that is done while still leaving man freedom of choice.
The question with which all men need to be concerned is, “How do I accept this sacrifice of Christ so that I may obtain the benefits therefrom?” “How can I be free from the law of sin and death?”
First, one must accept it intellectually. One must believe the facts revealed about it. If we have doubts about the reality of the life and death of Christ, we should study the records until we are convinced of their reality. Then, having discovered the facts, we should meditate on them until we trust in Him about whom those facts relate. Note that there is a difference in believing the facts and trusting in Him who gave the facts. When one is convinced that He really died for us and was resurrected, and is therefore the Son of God, one can safely trust in Him as our final authority in all things. Note, however, that one still has the freedom of choice to demonstrate that trust. The devils believe the facts, and tremble because of the certainty of those facts, but do not trust in the Lord.
Once we have accepted His authority in all things, we automatically are willing to listen to His words, commandments and promises. We hear Him say, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). We believe this is true not only because He said so, but because we understand that without turning away from sin we cannot have fellowship with God and enjoy all the blessings that come from such.
We hear Him say, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark16:16). We hear His inspired Apostle say to those who had accepted His lordship say, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Acts2:38).
We read every account of conversion in the New Testament and realize that they all did the same things, no matter where they were or what was their previous condition. They first heard of Jesus, because “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans10:17). Second, they put their trust in Him. “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy path” (Proverbs 3:5). Third, they all repented of their sins and turned away from their former way of life and followed the way of life recommended and commanded by Christ. Fourth, they were all baptized into a state or relationship with Him as their Lord and King. Fifth, “They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts2:41). As a result of their turning their lives over to Him, the Lord gave them the freedom He promised and added them to His church (Acts2:47).
His church is not an ecclesiastical organization that some men formed that one needs to join, but a called out group of persons who are willing to surrender their lives to the authority of Christ. When we do that, we have the freedom He offers as we live in accordance with His wisdom and direction. As in all cases, both physical and spiritual, we can only have the freedom from the smaller laws by accepting the greater laws. Paul puts it beautifully in Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”