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Particulars of Christianity:
305 Liberty in Christ

Synonyms for Liberty in Christ

Liberty in Christ: Extended Introduction
Liberty in Christ: Introduction

Definitions and New Testament Survey
Synonyms for Liberty in Christ
Liberty and Death
Liberty, the Law, and the 10 Commandments
Origin of the Law of Liberty
Liberty and Yet Prohibition
Incorporating Pagan Practices in the Old Testament
"Christianizing" Pagan Practices
What is Observing Times?
Liberty, Bondage, and Righteousness
Liberty and Meat Sacrificed to Idols
Liberty and 1 Corinthians 8
Liberty, 1 Corinthians 10, and Idolatry
Liberty, 1 Corinthians 10, and Your Neighbor
Summary and Practical Applications
Addendum: Romans 14, the Conscience, and Morality

The obvious question that arises when reviewing the definitions of eleutheria, eleutheros, and eleutheroo is as follows. Are Christians free to pretty much "do as they please" with regard to eating meat sacrificed to idols? Are Christians free to "do as they please" with regard to a whole host of other potential sins? In short, does Christian "liberty in Christ" give us a "license" to do whatever we please?

The answer may seem obvious, but we want to start by building a strong foundation so that when we arrive at the questions, which are less than obvious, we can be sure our foundations are sound.

For the answer to these questions we now turn to some of the passages in which these 3 Greek words for "liberty" occur.

Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty [1657]; only use not liberty [1657] for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

The first thing to notice from this passage is the closing phrase, "by love serve one another." Paul's inclusion of this phrase alongside his mention of Christian liberty will become more significant a little later on in our study. The second thing to notice is that Paul clearly asserts that our liberty in Christ should not be used as an opportunity to "the flesh." The phrase "the flesh" in this context is the Greek word "sarx" (Strong's No. 4561), which is a typical New Testament metaphor for the sinful nature of the body.

1 Peter 2:16 As free [1658], and not using your liberty [1657] for a cloke of maliciousness [2549], but as the servants of God.

The word for "maliciousness" is the Greek word "kakia" (Strong's 2549.) Kakia means "malice, depravity, wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws, evil." In short, Peter is saying use not your liberty in Christ as a cover for evil or lawbreaking behavior.

What is clear from Galatians 5:13 and 1 Peter 2:16, is that both Paul and Peter agree that our liberty in Christ in NO WAY makes sinful behavior permissible. The liberty we gain in Christ was NOT intended to allow us to do "evil" or "break the law without shame."

So, if our liberty in Christ does not give us an opportunity to "break the law," commit "evil" acts, act in a "depraved" manner, or give in to the sinful desires of our flesh, then what does it refer to?

It is significant to note that we have already, in part answered one of our two fundamental questions. Earlier in this study we asked, is this Christian liberty a freedom TO DO something? And if so, what? We have just shown from Galatians 5:13 and 1 Peter 2:16, that Christian liberty is not a freedom TO DO sin.

At this point, we have found out what liberty in Christ is NOT. Liberty in Christ is not a license for us to perform sinful behavior. However, even though we have found what our liberty in Christ is NOT, we have not yet addressed what this liberty in Christ IS. If we are not at liberty to commit sin, then what does Paul mean when in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that "all things are lawful for me?" (And we still have to address whether or not this liberty in Christ changed or decreased the "number" of things considered sinful.)

With regard to the question how are we "at liberty" if we are still NOT free to sin, we will now return our attention to the New Testament passages, which assert the doctrine of "liberty in Christ" to see exactly what the New Testament authors meant that we were "free from" and "free to do."

What we will find is threefold. First, the "liberty" we have in Christ refers to our freedom FROM the specific consequence of death, which the Law required for us all. The Law not only mandated what we HAD to do but it also mandated what HAD to happen as punishment if we disobeyed. In Christ, we have liberty from those legally prescribed punishments.

Second, we are free FROM certain aspects of the Law, but NOT what is commonly known as the "moral code" of the Law. And we will establish which parts of the Law still apply to Christians and why a bit later in our study.

Third, we will see that we are not only free FROM certain aspects of the Law and free FROM the legally prescribed punishment of the Law, but we are also FREE TO DO righteousness. And so, while this liberty in Christ does make us both FREE FROM some things and FREE TO DO other things, it does not make us FREE TO sin.

Lastly, we will see the New Testament authors never mentioned or used liberty in Christ to refer to a specific liberty to do a specific act or behavior. Instead, whenever they mentioned Christian liberty in Christ they were always using that notion as a general reference to these three principles mentioned above: that we are free from the legal consequence of death, that we are free from certain specific aspects of the Law while other aspects of the Law continued, and that we are free to do righteousness. Once again, it is important to state that the New Testament authors NEVER used our liberty in Christ to convey a specific liberty to do specific acts or behaviors.

Before we demonstrate the three aspects of our liberty in Christ mentioned above, we should first take a survey to demonstrate the synonymous phrases used by the New Testament writers to refer to this general concept of "liberty in Christ." So far, for simplicity we have used only the phrase "liberty in Christ" in this study. What we will now see is that there are actually several phrases which all refer to this same concept that the New Testament writers used interchangeably as synonyms for this concept.

Galatians 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage [2615]:

It is from Galatians 2:4 that we get the phrase "liberty in Christ" which we have been using so far in this study. Notice that the Greek word for "liberty" here in Galatians 2:4 is eleutheria (Strong's No. 1657.) And we should also notice the Greek word for bondage, which is the word "katadouloo" (Strong's No. 2615) because it will become important momentarily.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [eleutheria - 1657].

Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul again speaks of our eleutheria (liberty.) Paul writes, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." In saying this, Paul is stating that this liberty Christians have in Christ results from the presence of the Spirit of the Lord. So, our liberty in Christ is a result of the Spirit of the Lord.

James twice refers to this Christian liberty in his epistle, both times calling it a "Law," even a "perfect Law" and the law we will be "judged by."

James 1:25 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.

James 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

James 2:12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

Here in James 1 and 2, we see James refer to our liberty in Christ as "the law of liberty." James also, in chapter 2:8 refers to this "law of liberty" as the "royal law." James goes on to say that we fulfill the royal law by loving our neighbor. So, from James we see that Christian liberty is not just a freedom but it is also itself a Law that is binding upon us. This deserves further exploration later on since if this Christian liberty is itself a law, we will need to know what the precepts or components of this law are. Or in other words, how does this liberty function as a law? For a hint at answering that question, we turn to Galatians 6.

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Here in Galatians 6, we see Paul referring to the "Law of Christ." Now, the question arises of whether or not the "Law of Christ" is the same as the what James calls "the perfect law of liberty." Well, first of all we notice that Paul says that "bearing one another's burdens" fulfills the "law of Christ." Because of the similarity between "bearing each others burdens" spoken of here by Paul and "loving our neighbor as ourselves" spoken of by James in James 2:8, we can safely conclude that the "law of Christ" is the same as the "royal law" spoken of by James in James 2:8.

However, Paul's instructions to "fulfill the Law of Christ" by "bearing each others burdens" here in Galatians 6:2 is also very similar to Paul's earlier statement in Galatians 5:13, where Paul instructs us to use our "liberty" (eleutheria - 1657) to "by love serve one another."

Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty [1657]; only use not liberty [1657] for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

So, by comparing these passages, we know that the "law of Christ" in Galatians 6:2 is synonymous with the "Christian liberty" spoken of in Galatians 5:13. And by comparing Galatians 5:13 and 6:2 to James 2:8,12 we know that the "law of Christ" is also synonymous with the "royal law" and "law of liberty," spoken of by James. In all of these cases, we see that the royal law of liberty of Christ is fulfilled at least in part, by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

We'll get back into this point a little later on. For now, we will continue with our survey of the synonymous phrases used in the New Testament to refer to this concept of Christian liberty.