Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Liberated from Legalism 3

In our first two posts, we looked at legalism. Today I want to sketch what “Freedom” means for Paul, and then next week I want to sketch some simple procedures we can use to liberate ourselves from legalism.

Freedom is an Act of God to set us free from sin, from the condemnation of sin, from the system of evil and injustice, and from the clutches of Satan. Freedom, though, is also positive: it is an Act of God to empower us to live in righteousness, to live without judgment and fear, to live courageously to do good and justice, and to live apart from the enslaving effects of Satan.
I find the following elements in Paul’s “theology of freedom”:
1. God is the one who liberates us: Gal 3:10-14; 5:1, 13.
2. God liberates us from sin and the system and Satan and the Torah through the death of Christ, who absorbs the curse of sin, death and the law by becoming the curse (Gal 1:4; 2:4; 3:13; 4:5). In this category, Christ is the Liberator through the Cross.
3. God liberates us from sin and the system and Satan and the Torah by empowering us with the Holy Spirit to be and do what God wants: 2 Cor 3:17; Rom 8:2.

4. God liberates us from the things that enslave us: Gal 2:4; 5:3-4, 12.

5. God actualizes this liberation in us at an inner, or existential, level: humans sense they have been set free (though they may not always sense this). I think we see this in the transforming elements of Gal 5:16-26.
6. God liberates us to make us slaves to Christ (1 Cor 7:22), God (Rom 6:22), and to righteousness (Rom 6:18).
7. God liberates us so we can accomplish a new social, ecclesial form of life: this is the point of Gal 3:28 (one in Christ) and the empowerment to love (Gal 5:16-26) and the freedom to cross boundaries (1 Cor 9:19-23).
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David Yates

posted March 5, 2010 at 7:15 am

Scot (2 and 3), were there two components in Paul’s account in Galatians of Christ’s saving death: one, saving OT Israel specifically from Torah (becoming a curse to save from the curse of Torah), and two, saving everybody (including OT Israel) from sin (becoming a ‘curse’ specifically not being involved here)? Tom Wright has a view on this which as best I can make out is that OT Israel needed redeeming from their curse because they were roadblocking Abraham’s blessing from getting to the nations, but Wright’s metaphor sheds no light on things to me. Many OT persons had faith in God, not all being of OT Israel, so it would seem there never was anything preventing anyone at any time having (saving) faith. The revelation of Christ was ‘merely’ fuller light on that faith, and Christ’s death at a particular point in history the occasion of that faith being saving.
And 7, is the new social, ecclesial form of life meant to be a world-size, monolithic, homogenous group, or what ‘local’ differences in traditions and practices might there legitimately be among Christian groups? I suppose in this question on 7, I am thinking about issues in why Torah was abolished. If Torah was a merely ethnic difference between people (New Perspective!? – or just a calumny on it?!), then there doesn’t seem enough reason in just that to say it must no longer apply.

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posted March 5, 2010 at 8:01 am

I can’t help but share my rejoicing at the timeliness of this for me personally. Thank you.

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John W Frye

posted March 5, 2010 at 8:43 am

Scot, this is so needed in light of the USAmerican definition and practices of “freedom.” The hackneyed Reformed “priesthood of all believers” degenerates to stringent USAmerican individualism–“You (the church) can’t tell *me* what to do!”

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Scott Leonard

posted March 5, 2010 at 8:50 am

Awesome! I love it. Very thorough summary, Scot. U DA MANNN!!!!

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Jeff Cook

posted March 5, 2010 at 10:13 am

It seems to me that central to Paul’s picture of freedom is using the Exodus narrative to understand God’s work in the Christian community. We are no longer slaves to sin. A wicked and ruthless Pharoah to be sure. We are now free to enter a new land, teaming with new fruit.

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Kurt willems

posted March 5, 2010 at 10:51 am

An amazing book on this from the perspective if Galatians is : “Religious No More” by mark baker!!!!

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Daniel Mann

posted March 5, 2010 at 10:55 am

Thanks for the list. We indeed require liberation from the power and deceitfulness of sin (Romans 7:11). It had deceived me into thinking that I didn?t need a Redeemer, that I was righteous and deserving in myself. What bondage. In order to maintain that numbing illusion, we have to continually suppress the ugly truth about ourselves. Consequently, we continue to harden our hearts, convincing ourselves that whatever we do is right (Proverbs 21:2).
The illusion is so powerful that is it only through the assurances of His love and forgiveness (plus trials) that He enables us to face ourselves.

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posted March 5, 2010 at 11:07 am

John, the priesthood of all believers would not lead to strident individualism if we had “We (the church)” instead of “You (the church)”.
One of the reasons we have a fragmented church is because the strident individualism also exists among the leadership.

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posted March 5, 2010 at 11:58 am

Scot has recommended this book before but I want to encourage you all to pick up the book, “A Better Freedom” by Michael Card. Probably one of the most thoughtful books on this subject I’ve read yet.
Card points to Jesus parables to demonstrate true freedom. For example the Parable of the Watchful Servant tells the story of a slave invited to recline at the Master’s table – an unheard of proposition, maybe even offensive to a master’s ears: “Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” – Talk about a world turned upside-down.
God frees us from the chains of this world so we might becomes “slaves to righteousness” – a better freedom where the last shall be first and where God uses the week things of the world to shame the strong.

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posted March 5, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Part of what I have been processing intensely for the past 10 months is this series of three phrases by Wayne Jacobsen (in association with his amazing book, “He Loves Me”):
Live Loved. Live Free. Live Full.
If we do not live loved by God, then nothing works properly.
If we live loved by God, we will live free — from sin, fear, et al, and for mission / relationship / covenant-keeping.
If we live loved by God, and live free of barriers to right relationship, we will live lives full of love for God and love for others.
As my mentor, Scott Bartchy says, “How much freedom can you stand?”
Great post….

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posted March 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

This list is meaty – good stuff.
Number 5 arrests my attention. The fruit of the Spirit is part of the process of God actualizing his liberation at an existential level.
So, fruit of flesh / fruit of Spirit are intertwined with bondage/freedom.

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