Christian Liberty Is Not Libertinism
Galatians 5:1, 4, 13, KJV Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage…  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace…  For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh…
- • Verse 1 — "the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" — is sometimes misapplied by Christians to suggest a non-biblical, loose style of living. It's vitally important that we discern this: What does liberty mean in the Bible? What is Christian liberty understood Scripturally?
- • The “liberty” Paul speaks of in verses 1 and 4 is freedom from trying to be justified before God by the works of the Law. It speaks of our being redeemed entirely by God’s grace, not by works (see Ephesians 2:8-10).
- • And notice also (vs. 13) that this grace-based “liberty” of the saved Christian is not liberty to indulge our flesh, our carnal cravings — “use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.” The apostle Paul addresses this thought further in Romans.
Romans 6:17-18, 22 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness…  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
- • Our liberation, our "being set free," is from sin (18). It is not a freedom to commit sin. It is liberty from sin, not libertinism, which rejects moral boundaries and self-restraints.
- • The grace by which we are saved is not permissive. It does not give us liberty to indulge our carnal appetites. To the contrary, “the grace of God … teaches us to say ’No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives…” (Titus 2:11-12).
- • Back to our Romans 6 text — We have been “set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness … [and] the benefit you reap leads to holiness” (18, 22). Our Christian liberty “leads to holiness,” not to casual living on the border of carnality.
Colossians 1:21-22 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…
- • Before we came to Christ, we were God’s enemies “because of [our] evil behavior.” But now, having come in faith and repentance to the Savior Jesus, we are to live “holy in his sight … and free from accusation.” Before I turned to Jesus for salvation in 1969, I was alienated from Him because of my “evil behavior.” Then He saved me, and my goal every day is to live a life of holiness that is free from accusation. With His help and grace, we can press successfully into a holy life.
John 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- • How can we walk daily in our freedom from the law of sin and death? Jesus gave us a simple rule: hold to His teaching and its truth will set us free! Read the word of God, the Bible. Let its truths penetrate deep within your spirit. And those truths of Scripture will set you free in Christ and keep you free from a life of indulging the flesh.
- • Psalm 119:9 gives us an excellent example of the sanctifying influence of the Scriptures — “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”
1 Peter 2:16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
Amplified: [Live] as free people, [yet] without employing your freedom as a pretext for wickedness…
- • We have already seen that the Christian is “free” — free from the rule of sin, free from the dominion of evil behavior, free from the insurmountable task of trying to be justified before God by good works. We are freed from the former worldly, sinful life and are now able to pursue holiness so as to be “free from accusation.” Our "being set free" (Romans 6:18,22) is a liberation from sin, not freedom to sin!
2 Peter 2:18-19 For they [the false teachers] mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
- • There are plenty of people calling themselves “Christians” who live very carnal lives and teach other Christians to do so. They “promise them freedom … [by] appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh.”
- • Peter condemns their anti-biblical teaching and points out that these false teachers are themselves “slaves of depravity.” Far from being free, they are slaves!
- • And sadly, those teaching this perverted appeal to a “Christian liberty” unknown in the Bible often aim this deceptive appeal to newer believers, “those who are just escaping from those who live in error.”
Romans 14:15, 20-21 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died…  Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
- • Verses 1-6 of this chapter speak of issues like vegetarianism versus meat eating, also strict sabbath observance by some in contrast to other believers who treat all seven days alike. On these and many other issues that don’t involve sin we have much liberty (vss. 5-6).
- • However(!), the apostle Paul tells us to consider whether our Christian liberty used wrongly might distress a brother or sister (15). The rule he offers for this type of thing — for example (vs. 21), meat-eating or not; drinking alcohol or not — is this: “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” That is the primary reason (among many) why I permanently stopped drinking alcohol in 1971. I don’t want to set an example (if I were to drink) that might cause one of my Christian brothers or sisters to stumble or fall.
Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
- • The Christian life is not “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” Quite the opposite! Jesus Christ laid out a straight-and-narrow path for those who wish to be His disciples: deny himself … take up his cross daily … and follow Jesus. Follow Him? Yes, striving to pattern our lives after His life of absolute holiness, totally dedicated to the Father’s will, and willing even to lay down our lives for Him, as He did for us.
- • That is a grand “liberty” to walk in — following the faultless example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There could be no greater freedom than walking step by step in harmony with Jesus!
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©2014, 2020, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.