Freedom in Christ

Freedom is the deep longing of the soul and is every man’s desire. How is true freedom in Christ achieved for the believer?

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Freedom. The idea is a deep longing in every man’s soul. The word invokes a peaceful, sublime image of existence after the darkness of punishing captivity. It is the license to live in goodwill without fear of retribution from malevolent subjugators. In short, it is liberty and emancipation for the body and mind from harmful oppression.

The Bible says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1 NIV). In other words, Christians are set free from bondage for the purpose of living unhindered. At first, the verse seems like an obvious statement that does not need to be made, but often, people get bewilderingly theological about what they believe God’s reasons are for events in their lives, trials, blessings, tests, callings, etc. The Apostle Paul is stating freedom from bondage for the believer is not some type of hidden, complicated plan; it is simply the will of God for a Christian to live liberated.

Have you ever noticed that most Christians don’t live every day as if they are free? Regardless of the facts that they serve a God who tells them to be free (verse above), many people live in cruel subjugation to something. Watch or listen long enough; they will tell exactly who or what enslaves them. The saddest aspect is the voluntary nature of their bondage. People get out of bed every morning to slap the chains back on their wrists or drag heavy irons toward the shower; that’s if they did not wear them to bed and spend the hours of the night worrying, thinking, and dreaming about whatever binds them.

Bondage and captivity are not what our Lord intended for His followers. Life was never meant to be years of drudgery and worry. In John, chapter 8, Jesus made statements about how to gain freedom,

As he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:30-36 ESV).

Notice in the above passage, Jesus is speaking to those who believe in Him. Our Lord had been talking to a larger group earlier in the passage that included both believers and those who opposed Him, but these words are strictly for those who believe (the verses above call them believers twice). The above passage contains several immutable truths about the topic of freedom:

  1. Freedom can only come to those who know the truth. Bondage, slavery, and captivity are all based on lies, false information, and ignorance. The Bible says people can be destroyed for what they do not know (Hosea 4:6), so they can certainly be enslaved by it. Educated and knowledgeable populations have historically made terrible slaves, so the enemy of our souls works hard to keep people in ignorance.
  2. Truth comes from abiding in our Lord’s words. According to Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary ‘abiding’ is a word that means ‘to accept or act in accordance with.’ People must accept and live according to what they read in the Bible. Hearing the truth is better than not, but they must abide in the Word of God to experience freedom. A person cannot put into practice knowledge they do not possess.
  3. The corollary of number 2 is that some truth from the Bible is going to be in direct opposition to what is commonly ‘known.’ Those around you may say you will not amount to anything, but the Bible says you are part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Those in the business world say you must cut corners and cheat to get ahead, but the Bible says a person reaps what they sow (Galatians 6:7). Your coworkers may disrespect your employer in private, but the Word says all authority is established by God (Romans 13:1). Commercials show happiness comes from being in debt, but the Bible says the borrower is a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). In short, what is considered worldly wisdom or common knowledge may just be camouflage for chains of slavery.
  4. Even believers resist the idea that they are in slavery. Bondage can masquerade as ‘just part of life.’
  5. Any sin repeated often can become a cruel slave master. Notice Jesus did not say sin led to bondage but the practice of sin. This is not a one-time slip-up but a besetting, oft-repeated sin that the Lord is referencing. The word ‘practice’ refers to doing something over and over. This reference is to the junkie, the glutton, the person who often flies into rages, the pathological liar, the thief, etc.—anyone who no longer controls something that is controlling them. Sin in practice is slavery, bondage, and captivity.
  6. The slave cannot stay in the house forever. Those who willfully remain in slavery cannot experience sonship. Notice the little ‘s’ is not a reference to Jesus but all of us (more on that below).
  7. Jesus, the Son (the second use of the word ‘Son’ with a capital ‘S’ refers to our Lord), can set everyone free. That is part of what salvation is: Jesus setting a person free from their bondage to sin.

What about those who are believers like the Jews in the passage above who remain in slavery to sin or go back to sinning after salvation? I quoted a partial verse above, so let’s see the entirety of it: “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” (Galatians 5:1 NIV). We already know repeated, practiced sin can enslave even those who have believed in Jesus, and the second half of this verse even calls the bondage a ‘yoke of slavery.’ A yoke was a heavy wooden brace put around the neck of an ox to keep its head bowed down and to tie it to other animals and farm equipment to get maximum work accomplished with minimum resistance. The yoke was heavy and confining. The animal would often be introduced to it at the youngest age possible, so it became used to the feel and control of the device—even to the point of easy acceptance.

So if a person is already saved, set free by Jesus, and has managed to pick back up a yoke of slavery through practiced sin, how can they get free again? The Bible has a three-pronged solution to gain permanent freedom in life. The first two we have talked about above: 1. Salvation and 2. Abiding in the Word of God. These are both crucial steps. Often, those are the only two a person will be taught in church, but that is not the entirety of the counsel of God on the matter.

The Bible also states, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).” Remember in the above verses from John where the apostle said the slave cannot stay in the house but a son can? The Apostle Paul also speaks about the topic of sonship, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Romans 8:15 ESV). The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit adopts believers into sonship (both men and women—son is a position in this case, not a gender), so they cannot remain a slave. In the ancient world, slavery may or may not have been a perpetual status for a person, but adoption was always permanent.

Further, the Holy Spirit guides everyone into truth as they abide in the Word, so they can no longer believe the lies of sin. Adoption plus truth is a combination slavery cannot overcome. Dungeons cannot hold a person who possesses the keys of ownership, and chains are not effective when you know the secret to picking the locks. Sonship by adoption into the family of God and knowledge from the Word keeps a person free.

Freedom is a result of salvation (belief in Jesus), abiding in the Word of God, and adoption into sonship (also known as the anointing or Baptism of the Holy Spirit). Adoption into the family of God may sound complex, but the Lord promised, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13 ESV). Ask. That is all it takes. Ask the Lord for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the freedom of sonship He gives.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (or anointing), I have written extensively about the topic in Bapticostal as well as one of my other articles “Kingdom Purpose.”



Featured Image by Mitch Lensink

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About the Author

Shannon Gibson was an average believer in Jesus living an average life . . . until he received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Since then, nothing has been the same.