Freedom and Slavery

Man, in his natural state as created by God, is free – free in speech, thought, action, association, and religion (though this does not mean that we are unaccountable for how we use our freedom – Ecclesiastes 11:9). But Satan, from the beginning, has worked diligently to bring man into bondage.

Why would Satan be concerned about and hostile toward man’s freedom? It is because the lack of freedom – which is the state of bondage or tyranny – hinders one from serving God and having a relationship with Him. Let us notice some ways in which man may become enslaved.

Those Things By Which Man Is Enslaved

Enslaved by sin – Satan introduced sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). This was the place in which Adam and Eve had enjoyed the privilege of being in the presence of God (Genesis 3:8). But because of sin, man was driven from the Garden and away from God’s presence (Genesis 3:24). Sin has kept man enslaved ever since. Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34). This applies to each one of us (Romans 3:23).

Enslaved by the opinions of others – This form of bondage occurs when man is pressured or forced into accepting the will of others – even when it is contrary to his own will – or face certain consequences. This is what happened with Lot in Sodom. Homosexuality was the norm there, so much so that the men of the city demanded that Lot hand over the visitors who had come to him so that they could gang rape them (Genesis 19:4-5); but Lot resisted (Genesis 19:6-8). These people tried to force Lot to accept their beliefs and practices. When he refused, they intended to punish him for it (Genesis 19:9).

Enslaved by human governments – Bible students are familiar with the slavery that existed in Egypt. It first began with the Egyptians themselves becoming enslaved to their government (Genesis 47:19, 25). Later the well-known enslavement of the Israelites occurred (Exodus 2:23). This resulted in harsh treatment (Exodus 1:13-14), confinement (Exodus 5:2), and a lack of religious freedom (Exodus 5:1).

The first of these – the enslavement of sin – severs man’s fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:2). The others – the enslavement of human opinion and human government – makes serving the Lord difficult and/or dangerous. It is easy to see why Satan would prefer that man would be enslaved rather than free.

Freedom Restored in Christ

Jesus came to set us free. He said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Later, Paul wrote, “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Let us notice how it is that Christ makes us free.

Free from sin – People often will not admit or cannot see that they are enslaved to sin. This was the problem with the Jews who were listening to Jesus speak about the freedom He offered: “They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’? Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin’” (John 8:33-34). Without freedom from sin in Christ, we would face eternal damnation (Romans 6:23). Jesus came in the flesh to set us free (Hebrews 2:14-15). But to gain this freedom, we must obey a certain form of doctrine which necessarily includes being “buried with Him through baptism” (Romans 6:3-4, 17-18).

Free from any obligation to obey human commandments in religious matters – When Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, he marveled that they were submitting to human opinions and doctrines in religious matters. “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourselves to decrees…in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion…” (Colossians 2:20-23). Jesus defended His disciples’ right to refuse to submit to the “tradition of the elders” (Matthew 15:2, 6-9). Paul opposed those who tried to bind their creed upon Titus (Galatians 2:3-5). Will there be consequences to face for refusing to comply with the opinions and doctrines of others? Perhaps. But with Christ, we must have no fear, regardless of the consequences (Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 13:6).

Free from civil authorities – I anticipate some may object to this point before even reading past the first line in this paragraph. But we are to submit to civil authorities! Yes, to an extent (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14). But we are also told by Peter in the same context: “Act as free men” (1 Peter 2:16). So are we free, or in subjection? We are free. Peter said earlier, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). For any law that is contrary to God’s law, we must disobey the human law and submit to God’s law. For laws that are of no consequence, we comply so as to not cause trouble (1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Peter 2:15). But our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Our King is Jesus (John 18:37). Our law is His word (Mark 16:15).

Conclusion

We must not esteem lightly God’s gift of freedom. In our appreciation to Him for this gift, we must follow Him and do His will. Peter wrote, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (1 Peter 2:16).


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