Biblical Reflections on Liberty

[As the United States of America celebrates its Independence Day on July 4, 2018, we reproduce the following set of studies from Pastor M. H. Reynolds Jr., originally published in Feature: A Daily Bible Study Guide. We are grateful for our political and civil liberties, yet as Christians, we must never forget to praise and thank God for the spiritual liberty we possess through the person and work of Jesus Christ.]

The Foundation of Liberty—Psalm 119:41-48

Psalm 119:45 says, “And I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts.” Genuine liberty has its foundation in the Bible, God’s written Word, and in the perfect person and saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Word (Jn. 1:1; 17:17). In John 8:36, Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” The liberty to which these verses refer is spiritual liberty that forever sets believers free from the law of sin and death under which all mankind exists (Rom. 8:2). All believers, even those who do not enjoy the great blessings of political freedom, can experience and appreciate the spiritual liberty that is in Jesus Christ.

Note throughout Psalm 119:41-48 the repeated references to the Word of God: “Thy Word” (vv. 41-42); “the Word of truth” (v. 43); “Thy Judgments” (v. 43); “Thy Law” (v. 44); “Thy Precepts” (v. 45); “Thy Testimonies” (v. 46); “Thy Commandments” (vv. 47-48) and “Thy Statutes” (v. 48). The written Word of God given by the Living Word of God through inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the basis and foundation for the spiritual liberty that every believer enjoys. Vain is the search for liberty by anyone who rejects “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21b). Wonderful is the experience of all who accept God’s condition for liberty: “But whoso looketh into the perfect Law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (Jas. 1:25). Obedience to the precepts of God’s Word paves the way for the freedom to enjoy His best for us. Are we studying, meditating on and obeying the foundation of our liberty, God’s holy Word?

The Limitations of Liberty—1 Peter 2:11-20

Those believers who live in free countries enjoy the double blessing of spiritual liberty and political liberty. We should be thankful for both and use them wisely and scripturally. It is important to give a warning concerning the way in which we can abuse our spiritual liberty. Under this present dispensation of grace, we may be allowed to do certain things, but if doing those things offends or causes another to stumble, we need to voluntarily curtail that liberty, as the following verses command us: “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God” (v. 16); “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient” (1 Cor. 6:12); “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Cor. 8:9); “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). We are free to serve the Lord and others but never self.

Carefully study 1 Peter 2:11-20. Note the plea in the eleventh verse for believers to “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” Compromising evangelical and charismatic leaders often encourage God’s children to gratify the flesh. “After all,” they falsely reason, “haven’t believers in the past been so narrow minded that their unsaved friends wouldn’t even listen to the gospel?” Such unscriptural, dangerous reasoning deceives many because, pragmatically speaking, it seems to work. Crowds flock to churches that pander to the desires of the flesh. Never forget, however, that any abuse of our glorious liberty in Christ always produces ruinous results (Gal. 6:6-9).

The Proclamation of Liberty—Isaiah 61:1-3

Millions of people around the world today are enslaved by tyrannical despots and long for the freedoms enjoyed, but often taken for granted, by those living in countries where such tyranny is prohibited because of foundational, guaranteed liberties. Yet multitudes, even many in our “free America,” are slaves to sin and headed for hell. However, every believer has a wonderful message to give to all who will hear. It is the good news of the gospel. Forgiveness from the penalty of sin and liberty from the bondage of sin are available to all who will believe that Jesus died for their sins and rose again for their justification (Rom. 10:7-17). We have the best news possible, and we have the only message that not only proclaims but also guarantees liberty for the soul both now and in the future (1 Cor. 2:9). Have you believed this saving message? If so, are you sharing it with others who so desperately need it?

Isaiah 61:1-3 goes back in history to the time of Isaiah, one of God’s faithful Old Testament servants. This prophecy of Isaiah is obviously a promise of the coming of Jesus Christ. Part of that prophecy already has been fulfilled in Christ’s first advent when He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, an event also prophesied in other Scriptures. Read Luke 1-3 for details of Christ’s first coming; then read Acts 1:1-11 for the promise of His return. In verse three of our text, note the gracious promises God has given concerning that which He alone can and will bestow upon His people in the future. Let every believer join in praise to the Lord for the liberty He has provided in Jesus Christ and proclaim this glorious liberty to all who are still bound in sin.

The Preservation of Liberty—Galatians 5:1

The political freedom we enjoy here in the United States of America is such a great blessing. On this “Independence Day,” we take time to recognize and commemorate our liberty. Yet, we also need to realize that our liberties are under attack as never before. The enemies of faith and freedom are twisting words like liberty and freedom in order to defend their wicked ways. The organization “Freedom Now” is part of the unbiblical “Women’s Liberation Movement.” The “Gay Pride” movement describes its immoral behavior as “sexual freedom.” Those who advocate murder by abortion claim to seek “freedom of choice” for women. For years, the American Civil Liberties Union has been using “liberty” to undermine righteousness. Many defend vile language and pornography as “free speech” and “free expression.” But true, biblical liberty will never call evil “good” nor good “evil” (Isa. 5:20).

We must “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (v. 1). Yes, the primary application of this command concerns spiritual liberty, but the underlying principle also can be applied to the preservation of constitutional liberties guaranteed in free nations. Often, wicked political policies run concurrent with the actions and beliefs of rulers who are still under the bondage of the sin nature. Satan is a master counterfeiter. He and his angels of light use false promises of liberty to deceive millions (2 Pet. 2:19). This is no time for pacifism or silence. We cannot preserve our liberties if we wobble in our convictions. We must firmly stand fast and speak up for that which is right!

— M. H. Reynolds Jr. (1919-1997)