Saturday, August 15, 2015

Liberty in the Law of God

It will surprise many to discover the liberty that God provides in His law.  The steady influence of semi-antinomianism has helped many to think of the law only as restrictive and therefore often something to be relegated to rarely useful in the life of a Christian.  People will often reference the restrictive nature of God’s law and over-emphasize their “freedom” in Christ.  Too often their freedom in Christ is misunderstood as freedom to do as they please.  The resulting feelings which appear as guilt and shame, and may actually be the gracious convicting power of the Holy Spirit, are pushed away as the “bad feelings” that come from the law.  We are free in Christ to obey God which is important because apart from the Holy Spirit we are prone only to disobey God.  True joy is only found in the obedience that freedom brings.  There are at least two positively liberating affirmations I would like to mention about the law of God.
The law of God is liberating in its protections.  As a loving Father, God cares enough about His children to tell them “no”.  Every time that God says “no” He is setting a protective barrier in the lives of His children.  He knows the destruction that sin will bring far better than we can know and so He sets up danger signs calling us away from that which destroys.  The Ten Commandments reveal this principle clearly.  Liberation is the introduction of the Commandments, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Exodus 20:2)  This divine provision of freedom also provides a proper motivation of the obedience to the Law God expects of His people.  The divine acts of protection in the Law are at least the following.  To have any other gods would be to mislead a soul from the only God who can satisfy. (vs. 3)  To make a carved image would be to misrepresent the Creator in the form of a creation and prevent one from the fulfillment that only the one true God can provide. (vs. 4)  A falsification of God’s true identity would be the result of taking the LORD’s name in vain as well as falsifying that individual’s identity. (vs. 7)  If one is not even honest with himself then he certainly would not be helping himself.  The Sabbath is God’s gift of rest to mankind and to break it is to literally break oneself. (vs. 8)  These first four commandments deal with man’s relationship to God and to disobey them is to place oneself in bondage as it prohibits that which is best for man in personal fulfillment.  
The following six Commandments are also liberating in their restrictions.  The fractured relationships that would occur from breaking these commands is not good for anyone.  The love of neighbor expressed in the obedience to these laws helps to produce a healthy society where people can live freely with mutual respect and enjoy human flourishing.  To take away any of these Commandments is to take away the potential for enjoying the liberty the law provides.  A broken relationship that would come from dishonoring father and mother is a certain measure for misery. (vs. 12)  Murder causes so much pain not only in the life of the victim but also their family, society as a whole, and deep personal torment in the life of the assailant. (vs. 13)  Adultery brings a yoke of pain in relationships and to the conscience of the guilty party. (vs. 14)  It not only destroys the trust and intimacy of one relationship but also robs the adulterer of the pure joy God gives to those who practice marriage biblically.  Theft is a violation of the property rights of others but also steals personal liberty from the thief who spends his life hiding in the shadows always trying to not get caught. (vs. 15)  To bear false witness against one’s neighbor is not only to hurt another’s reputation but also to repetitively shackle the liar in telling more lies to cover up what has been said. (vs. 16)  The tenth Commandment fights against covetousness which produces a life always eluding the contentment God provides for those who are thankful for their own blessings. (vs. 17)  These last six commandments deal with man’s relationship to man and to disobey them is to miss that which is best for man in personal enjoyment.  
The law of God is liberating in its lack of restrictions.  An aspect of God’s law that often goes unnoticed is the freedom which is allowed in the shortage of prohibitions.  I focus primarily on a few of the Ten Commandments because of their prominence.  Consider the command to “not steal”.  It is a financially oriented command with the idea that one person does not take advantage of another person in their trading or robbing another of the opportunity for trade.  It requires consent in the transaction process.  This eighth Commandment certainly has application beyond commerce but it does provide a great deal of freedom in economic practice.  For example the law could have stated, “You shall only participate in financial transactions Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.  And you shall provide a socialistic or communistic form of economics.  And you shall charge a 15% transaction fee on all financial exchanges.”  The list could go on ad nauseum but this helps illustrate the bondage God could have placed on the people through the Law.  Instead He just says, “Do not steal.”  You are free to operate in a vast multitude of ways financially but don’t steal from anyone.  J.A. Motyer adds clarity, “The Ten Commandments is the Bible’s fundamental statement of ‘the law of liberty’... a negative command is far more liberating than a positive one, for a positive command restricts life to that one course of action, whereas a negative command leaves life open to every course of action except one!”

  For further clarity we might consider the First Commandment, “you shall have no other gods”.  A libertarian freedom is found in the negation of how “not” to worship.  The following commands give further instruction regarding how “not” to worship.  We are not to make carved images of God nor are we to take His name in vain.  But consider the amount of freedom in worship with what is not said.  God did not say you must worship Me only in a highly liturgical format while wearing flip-flops with your hands in your pockets while you hum one particular song.  You get the point.  There are a variety of ways God can be properly worshipped.  Of course the New Testament explains we should worship Him in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24) but in Exodus it is the liberating command to worship Him and “have no other gods”. (Exodus 20:3)  This is a law of liberty. 

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