GOSPEL FREEDOM

NOT FREEDOM FROM GOD’S MORAL STANDARDS

Wherever the apostles taught Gospel freedom they immediately followed this teaching with an urgent caution to not understand this freedom as a release from God’s moral standards. Indeed, they commanded a life of exceedingly high standards, way above our previous moral standards, and way above the standards of the society in which we live.

In Romans 1 to 11 Paul clearly and forcefully explained the Gospel. In Romans 12:1-2, because of these mercies of the Gospel, he urges us

To present our bodies as living sacrifices to God
To no longer let the world squeeze us into its mould, and
To be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

In Galatians, having spent four and a half chapters explaining the Gospel and its freedom, he warns:

Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh – do not use your freedom as an excuse for sin [5:13]
Do not gratify the desires of the flesh [5:16].

In Ephesians, after teaching us for three chapters how great our salvation is, he again urges us:

To live a life worthy of our calling [4:1]
To stop thinking and living like unbelievers think and live [4:17-19]
To get rid of those things which are improper for God’s holy people [5:3ff]
To have nothing to do with ‘deeds of darkness’ [5:11].

In Colossians, even after powerfully exposing false teachers who bound believers to a law-based relationship with God, Paul still urges us:

To put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature [3:5ff] and
To clothe ourselves with moral virtues [3:12ff].

Peter, identifying believers as a chosen, royal and holy people belonging to God, urges us

To live such good lives among the pagans that … they will see our good deeds and glorify God [1Peter 2:12].

John, having assured us that we are God’s dearly loved children, then commands us

To purify ourselves, even as Jesus Christ is pure [1John 3:3].

Gospel freedom, as we have seen over several weeks, is multi-faceted. It is not just freedom from sin’s penalty. It is not just freedom from a performance-based relationship with God. It is also freedom from the dominion of Satan, and it is also freedom from ignorance of God.

Because of the Gospel we have a new King – Jesus Christ, the Son of God. A king, of necessity, sets the standards and the principles for life in his Kingdom. We have not been set free to do as we please, we have been set free from Satan in order that we may honour and serve the real King.

Because of the Gospel we now actually know God – we know, as we never knew before, just what he is like: we have seen Jesus, therefore we both see and know God [John 12:44,45; 14:6-9]. And in this we find another freedom: that in seeing and knowing Jesus we are also set free from our false perceptions of what human life is meant to be. In seeing and knowing Jesus we now know what real human life looks like. It looks like Jesus. It images God. And that is exactly what God created us to do and to be [Genesis 1:26,27].

Thus, by the Gospel, we have been set free, we have been released, to once again be what God created us to be: a living reflection of his glory, a living reflection of his goodness, a living reflection of his grace. It is towards this end that the indwelling Holy Spirit is gradually changing us as we contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ [2Corinthians 3:18] and it is towards this end that the Word of God commands us [Ephesians 5:1].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013