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Doctrine of Christian Liberty - True Liberty Defined

June 12, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Galatians 3:5–13, Genesis 5, Titus 2:14, 1 Thessalonians 1:10

Quote: A.A. Hodge

The subject of this Chapter is that liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free, which is very different from that freedom of the will ... that freedom of the will is an inalienable constitutional faculty of the human soul, whereby it always exercises its volitions as upon the whole it pleases in any given case. This liberty of will is essential to free agency, and is possessed by all free agents, good or bad, or they could not be held accountable.

Christian liberty on the other hand implies two things;

 (a) such an inward spiritual condition of soul that a man has full power through grace to desire and will as he ought to do in conformity to the law of God; and

(b) such relations to God that the person is delivered from the constraining motives of fear, and brought under the ennobling impulses of love and hope, and such relations to Satan and evil men that he is delivered from their coercive influences, and such providential circumstances that he has knowledge of his privileges and gracious aid in availing himself of them.

This liberty involves the change of nature effected in regeneration and perfected in sanctification, and the change of relation involved in justification. It is a main element in the grace of adoption, and a privilege of all the children of God. (Rom 8:24). It was purchased for us by Christ and is therefore attributed to him (Gal 5:1); it is applied and effectually wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, and therefore attributed to him. (2 Cor 3:17).


Last week we concluded our short look at how to use inferences to understand Scripture when there are not explicitly clear statements to address a particular situation.

We used 1 Corinthians 6 where we see that our bodies are not our own, but they belong to the Lord.

The implications are:

  1. We cannot do as we please with them.
    1. Asserting ownership over our bodies is not biblical nor godly
    2. Asserting ownership over what does not belong to us borders on theft
    3. Asserting ownership over our bodies is a form of will-worship and self-idolatry
  2. We must care for our bodies because they are somebody else’s property
    1. The Lord Jesus Christ owns them
    2. The Lord Jesus Christ has bought them

Introduction – Galatians 5

There are some corners of Christianity where liberty is defined by saying that we are free from the moral law.

  • That is a grave error.

There are other portions of the visible church where liberty of conscience is touted as something where men become lords over their conscience.

  • That also is a grave error.

We are going to look to see where the Scriptures fall on this topic

  • No matter the errors of the world
  • No matter the errors of the church
  • No matter the errors of our preferences

Much of what we are going to say today, you may already know or may have already heard.

But reviews can be beneficial and helpful

  • because sometimes we forget.
  • Because sometimes we become discouraged as we look at the world around us

The reason we see people pressing their liberties when they are not really biblical liberties

  • is because they are somehow and, in some way, dissatisfied with the liberty that God has provided.

But we cannot do our theology based on our perceptions and personal beliefs

We must do our theology based on God's word.

Otherwise, we are liable to err – and err greatly

  1. When we do things according to our perceptions.
  2. When we build doctrines on our perception

If you were to pull someone off the street that professes the Christian faith and proceed to tell them about the liberties they possess as a Christian

  • the common response might “ok, so what?”

I submit, the reason, that you would receive such a lack-luster response is because

  • they have allowed the world to define liberty.

For example, speak to the average professing Christian about the Sabbath what the Scriptures teach

And they will most likely respond with some sort of argument that encompasses the ideas of

  • “bondage”
  • “law”


  • because they believe that they are free with regard to what they would call the ceremonial law, including the Sabbath day, (which we understand is not ceremonial at all, but moral.)
  • because they believe
    • they are free to do things that the scriptures do not give them permission to do
      • their own recreations
      • their own desires

You might bring up that the Bible does not permit what they say they have liberty to do

  • but they would respond again withsomething to the effect
    • you are restricting them
    • you are putting them back into bondage

The reason that we have this trouble today with understanding the Biblical teaching about Christian liberty

  • is because we are competing with what should really be referred to as license
  • is because we are taking “license” to do things that we should not
  • is because we are ignoring the issue by substituting the term “Christian Liberty” instead

We must understand that our Christian Liberties are not frivolous freedoms

  • They were purchased and bought by Christ
    • through the shedding of his blood
    • through death
    • through suffering

WCF Chapter 20. Article 1

Grammar Help

The Westminster divines used commas and semicolons the way they ought to be used

They used them in such a way to divide things and put other things together

  • the commas put things together
  • the semicolons divide things apart

Outline – Section 1

Notice the Liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists

  • in their freedom from the guilt of sin
  • in their freedom from the condemning wrath of God
  • in their freedom from the curse of the moral law.

Semicolon: this is like a carriage return in the outline

The Point:

  • We are delivered from the effects of the fall.
  • We are freed from the effects of the fall.

This is a part of our Christian Liberty

  • This is true Liberty.

Liberty is something that God has done for you.

  • Whereas in Adam, you were shut up to judgment.
  • Whereas in Christ, God, has freed you from that judgment

1st - freedom from guilt of sin. (Titus 2:14)

Theologically, what do we call this?

  • Justification

Do you see the preface here?

  • It was “purchased for believers”]
  • We say that justification is by what?
    • Faith alone (Romans 4 & 5)

So, Christ has purchased for believers freedom from the guilt of sin.

Sidebar: there is a distinction between guilt and “guilt feelings.”

  • They do not say that you are freed from “guilt feelings.”
  • They say that you are freed from guilt.
  • There is a significant difference between being free from guilt and “guilt feelings.”
  • There are all kinds of people today that are seeking to be freed from guilt feelings
    • But they are never freed from guilt.
  • You understand that you can be free from guilt feelings, without being freed from guilt.
  • Because one is gospel based, and one is not.

This freedom that we see here

  • It all comes, it all falls under the gospel
  • It is purchased by Christ under the gospel.
  • This is Christ's work
  • It is his liberty.
  • It is that gift that is given to us.
  • It is nothing that we earn.

2nd - condemning wrath of God

Condemnation (Romans 2:1)

As we know all men are guilty in Adam

  • all men are born as children of wrath (Eph 2.2-3)

When Adam fell, all men judicially inherited his sin.

  • It does not mean that when Adam fell, that everybody personally sinned.
  • It means that Adam as a representative sinned,
    • and when he sinned, we all inherited guilt.

When Adam fell. we also inherited corruption.

So, when we talk about justification and sanctification

  • both needs are filled by Christ

Justification because, without it

  • we are adjudged guilty before we start and remain guilty to the end

Sanctification because, without it

  • we only add to our guilt as we go.

The corruption that we inherit from Adam adds to our guilt

  • there is no way we can ever deliver ourselves out of that sentence of guilt.
  • We only add to it
  • We only augment the depth of our guilt.

So, in addition to that guilt that we received from Adam, we also receive his corruption

But under the gospel, Christ has freed us from the guilt of sin.

  • This is what we call justification.

It is something that is given to believers.

We know that faith comes from God

We know that we must have a new heart to believe

We know that once we believe upon the event of faith

  • we are justified
  • we are reckoned
  • we are accounted not guilty.

We are freed from condemnation and corruption.

Wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

There might be times in our lives where this guilt is more or less tangible.

Often, to deal with that, instead of turning to Christ, man turns to pleasure

  • this is probably why we hold on so tightly
    • to those things we want to do
    • ignore those things we know we should do

Man is particularly good at ignoring what God commands

Man is particularly good at rationalizing why they should continue in rebellion doing instead what he prefers.

Because man cannot deal with his sin

  • he instead tries to ignore it

We can ignore

  • but we cannot reckon with the guilt
  • therefore, man deceives himself into thinking he is ok

But in Christ, under the gospel, for believers

  • there is freedom from the guilt of sin.

This is not something that we have earned

  • We have earned the condemning wrath of God.

That is how we come into this world.

  • As sons of Adam
  • As those who are guilty
    • both in original and actual sins.
  • We are bound up
  • We are sentenced.
  • We are guilty.
  • We are chained
  • We are handcuffed
  • We are shackled.

We have forgotten the greatness of this Christian liberty.

In Christ under the gospel, for believers

  • there is freedom from the condemning wrath of God.
  • Romans 8:1 → There is therefore now no condemnation to them, who are in Christ Jesus.

3rd - the curse of the moral law wrath of God

Curse (Galatians 3:5-13)

What is freedom from the curse of the moral law?

What is the curse of the law?

When Adam was set in the garden

  • he had the ability to keep the law of God.
  • he had the very presence and instruction of God on a face to face and day to day basis.
  • he had a helper to help him with all of his duty.
  • he lived as the best of men in the best possible circumstances
  • he was set up on this earth innocent and without corruption.
  • God created him very good.

And what did God tell him?

  • In Genesis 2 →
  • of all of the trees of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou must not eat for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.

What is the curse of the law?

Death (Romans 6:23)

Death is the curse of the law.

But in Christ, under the gospel, for believers

  • there is freedom from the curse of the law.
Freedom from the curse (1 Peter 2.3)

This is seen in many ways and sometimes by way of example in Scripture

Not only did it involve death

  • But it also involved making a living
    • in that very dust, by the sweat of his brow.

This is why

  • the Lord places his mark upon the forehead and washes away that curse. (Ezek’s inkhorn)
  • the water of baptism is placed upon the forehead to cleanse sweat, that sign of the curse
    • symbolically telling us that we are freed from the laws curse.


In this first section -> Liberty is seen as

  • overcoming the violated covenant of works
  • freedom from those consequences.

The consequences are:

  • the guilt of sin
  • the condemning wrath of God
  • the curse of the law.

1 Corinthians 15:21 → In Adam, all die, in Christ, shall all be made alive.

  • Those who are in Adam
    • they all die
  • But in Christ, under the gospel, for believers
    • they all are made alive
    • they are delivered from the curse of the law.

Christian Liberty, as described here in Scripture, is an intangible.

It is not something we can physically hold on to.

This is not something you can feel or place your hands around

This is one of those truth propositions.

This is that a part of that propositional revelation of Scripture

  • that teaches a truth that is not available to an empirical mindset

You cannot empirically verify that you are justified from your sins

  • This is something that we receive by faith.

This is not an empirical freedom

  • In other words, you cannot look for something tangible related to this liberty

The world has gone after this empirical freedom

The world has left off the true freedom.

It goes like this:

  • “Pastor, here's what I want to know, can I go shopping or out to eat after church.”
  • The follow up is this: “If I cannot, then you are restricting me. That is bondage.”

This is what we are up against. today.

  • We are up against an empirical freedom

Treating Christian Liberty as an empirical freedom is really no freedom at all.

It misses the mark to say:

  • Well, can I just go out to lunch or do some quick shopping on the Lord's Day?”

It is not like that at all.

Christian Liberty is not a license to do what you want.

Christian Liberty is not a physical activity – it is something that is believe and held upon mentally.

  • They are filled with propositions
  • They are filled with truth statements.
  • They are overflowing with concepts.
  • They are filled with implications.

If we understood them, we would not be asking the questions about license, would we?

If we were as wildly impressed with the freedoms that we enjoy under Christ, as we ought to be,

  • Then we would no longer be saying things like
    • Well, it is just a restaurant
    • I am just picking up a few things
    • You do not understand, I am just….

Rather, we would be saying things like

  • What will my Lord have me to do?

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