Month 6:20, Week 3:5 (Chamashee/Teruah), Year:Day 5940:167 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50 - Teshuvah 20/39
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 21 September 2016
In Truth or Idolatry
What Biblical Freedom Isn't
There is a misconception among antinomian (lawless) Christians that New Testament freedom equates with freedom to more or less do as you please because the Law has been done away with. They say: Now we live by the Ruach (Spirit) which will teach us what we are free to do, and what we cannot do, on an individual basis - since we are now 'free' from the Law (Torah). Therefore there is now no longer a universal standard of Law. It's all relative. It's all existential.
Five Key Scriptures on Liberty
There are several key scriptures, co-opted by antinomians in support of their lawlessness, which need to be put in context of the whole counsel of Scripture. Let's first familiarise ourselves with the five main ones:
Political Freedom Not Part of the Agenda
"Now the Master (Lord) Yahweh Himself [in this text] is the Ruach (Spirit). And where the Ruach (Spirit) of Master Yahweh is, there is cherut (freedom)" (2 Cor.3:17, AENT, OJB).
"It is for freedom (liberty) that Messiah has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened (subjugated) again by a yoke of slavery (servitude)" (Gal.5:1, NIV).
"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom (liberty) to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in ahavah (love)" (Gal.5:13, NIV).
"The man who looks intently into the perfect Torah (Law) that gives freedom (liberty), and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25, NIV).
"Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of Elohim (God)" (1 Peter 2:16, NIV).
We need to be absolutely clear what the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) teach about "freedom" or "liberty" to avoid falling into a major trap that is deceiving so many believers into worshipping a false god. It may surprise many to learn that the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) nowhere teach or talk about political freedom.
What Scriptural Freedom Is
Even though that is, of course, highly desirable, it is not necessary in order to live the Christian/Messianic life. Rather, the the whole counsel of Scripture teaches about freedom in Messiah from:
To this we must also add:
- 1. The bondage of sin;
- 2. The penalty/punishment of the Torah (Law) (not from the Torah (Law) itself);
- 3. Satan;
- 4. The old carnal, fleshy, Adamic man; and finally
- 5. Death.
The Freedom Agenda of Heaven
- 6. The freedom to make choices in this life whilst understanding that there are unpleasant consequences in making wrong (lawless) ones.
None of these things may be said to exist in isolation, however, for as we saw yesterday, there is always a twinning to the call to be qadosh or holy (set-apart) which we understood to have an unmistakable Torah context. Notice that "freedom" and "holiness" are both things we are called to. They are not intrinsic - we have to choose or reject them. This is important to understsnd when we consider Besorah (Gospel) "freedom" or "liberty" as opposed to the world's notions of this which are tied up to 'rights'. Freedom comes from being in right relationship with Messiah, and because it is of Messiah, it can only be used in the exercise of the Divine Agenda - it doesn't exist for our own private ones. To enjoy messianic freedom is to be set-free from sin and bondage and equipped to serve in ahavah (love) within the parameters of Torah, which is the character Yahweh wishes us to possess that comes from right-living in His Son.
Loving Someone Means Not Harming Them
There is always a tendency, when we read words like "freedom" in Scripture, to associate them with modern ideas that have little or nothing to do with the original scriptural sense. One thing it does not mean is 'anarchism' - to do as you please. At the heart of Romans 10:1-13 is the idea that "loving" someone is not harming them which is the result of breaking such Torah mitzvot (commandments) as not mudering, stealing. etc.. Thus Paul said:
Torah and the Freedom to Love
"Don't owe anything to anyone except the debt of mutual love. If you love your neighbour, you see, you have fulfilled the Torah (Law). Mitzvot (commandments) like 'don't commit adultery, don't kill, don't steal, don't covet' - and any other mitzvah (commandment) - are summed up in this 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' Ahavah (love) does no wrong to its neighbour; so ahavah (love) is the fulfilment of the Torah (Law) (plértóma nomou)" (Rom.13:8-10, KNT ).
Thus the freedom to love - which is the supreme goal - is intimately and inextricably bound to Torah. Likewise:
Fulfilling Torah in Messiah
"Carry each other's burdens; that's the way to fulfil Messiah's Torah (Law)" (Gal.6:2, KNT)
Thus we are not only to live Yahweh's Torah but to fulfil it in Messiah by bringing it to completion in ahavah (love). The ethical Torah tells you not to harm or hurt anyone (by not committing muder, adultery, theft, etc.) but there are other types of Torah too, like observing the moedim (appointments) of Yahweh which have, as their chief object, honouring our Creator by which we slowly become transformed in character to be like Him by walking in their divine tavnith (pattern). We are not doing either kind of Torah perfectly - yet - but that is the goal - perfect love of Elohim (God) and perfect love of our neighbour. The freedom or liberty we have been given is precisely to do these things and thereby receiving a filling of Ruach (Spirit) and of ahavah (love). We have been freed to both live the moral life, as originally intended, but also to receive that inner life which must shape all our outward living - our lifestyle - in every way.
The Antinomian Spirit
This being so, how can an antinomian Christian - one who rejects the Torah by claiming it has been 'done away with' or 'nailed to the cross' (when it is, in fact, the Torah's penalities that have been thus disposed of through the atonement of Messiah) - who refuses the full lifestyle commanded by Yahweh for all believers, possibly be qualified to talk about the fullness of freedom in Messiah? That is impossible! There may well be a partial fulfilling of Torah in his life, but how can it ever be complete, if he does not walk in the way demanded by Yahweh? And whilst I have learned - and continue to learn - a lot from antinomian preachers, I shall always hestitate to follow their 'spirit' all the way. It is just too risky for before long that 'spirit' - that amalgam of emet (truth) and falsehood - will start telling you that you can do things which Torah forbids and that you are 'free' to challenge the authorites Yahweh has mandated in Torah and established in your life for your own good and safety. I have seen this ugly false 'spirit of freedom' wreck Christian lives.
The Intoxication of Freedom
Here's the problem. Freedom of all kinds is intoxicating. The freedom to do right and the perceived freedom to do wrong both feel the same initially. The two are only distinguished further down the road when the negative consequences of lawless choices are experienced to the detriment of our well-being and shalom (peace). And then the anticipated 'heaven' turns into a living hell. So beware of freedom. Check it out very carefully. It is neither so precious that it must be rationed (as Lenin claimed) nor so cheap that you can do whatever you like. Freedom is always linked to responsibility, in all its kosher forms. Cheap freedom is simply idolatry - it's another form of worshipping the self. It is precious but it must be used in a lawful way.
The Truth Brings Freedom
Yah'shua (Jesus) said to believers:
The Freedom to Love
"If you hold to My teaching, you are really my talmidim (disciples). Then you will know the emet (truth), and the emet (truth) will set you free" (John 8:31-32, NIV).
Freedom from the bondage and idolatry of sin, freedom from the penalty or punishment of the Torah (Law) when it's broken, freedom from Satan who is given legal grounds to make life miserable for you when you disobey the mitzvot (commandments), freedom from the old carnal man which is silenced, and freedom from spiritual death and, at the resurrection, freedom from physical death too. Best of all, you are given the freedom to love and be loved the way you were made to and deep down want to. In our natural sinful state, we are captive to lies, we don’t see reality as it is and we deny what we know deep down is true, "exchang[ing] the emet (truth) of Elohim (God) for a lie" (Rom.1:25, NIV).
The Torah of Liberty
Remember, remember, that LIBERTY (FREEDOM) HAS A LAW for it is by the Torah (Law) - the decree of Yahweh the Father - that gives freedom in the first place (Jas.2:12). There is no freedom without Torah. Thus we are able to enjoy grace only within the structure of ethical rules. Alec Motyer said:
"When we come into bondage to the Davar Elohim (Word of God) we come into freedom, because the Davar (Word) liberates us from the lustful pull of our own nature, and brings us on viâ the pathway of hard obedience, into new realms of living for Elohim (God). It is the Torah (Law) of Liberty" .
Torah (Law) and liberty (freedom) are not, therefore, contradictory. Just as a train needs tracks in order to experience 'trainness', and a car needs manufacturers' specifications to continue in its 'carness,' so humans need to follow the Creator's manual of Torah rules to experience 'humanness' . For we cannot be perfectly human until we are perfectly walking in our Heavenly Father's ways, since we are made in His image.
Biblical freedom is a very special kind of freedom requiring both obligatory Torah- and voluntary self-restraint. Without those restraints it isn't ahavah (love), and ahavah (love) is what it is all about. The other kind of 'freedom' is about self; and as self is dead, it leads only to death.
 N.T.Wright, Kingdom New Testament (Harper One, NY: 2012)
 Dr. Art Lindsley, Freedom in the new Testament
 Dr. Art Lindsley, op.cit.