The Paradox of Freedom

Freedom may not be what you think it is:

Freedom, in the biblical understanding, is much different than what most folks think when discussing freedom. They believe that freedom means being able to do whatever you want to do. The biblical view says that freedom involves doing what is right. And it involves the idea of being free to serve.

Most folks do not think of servants or slaves as being free. But paradoxically, the biblical notion of freedom has to do with being a slave – a slave to Christ and a servant to others. That is why 1 Peter 2:16 says the following: “Live as people who are free, . . . living as servants of God.”

Paul also speaks in such terms. In 1 Corinthians 7:22 he says: “the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.” And in Romans 6:18 and 22 he says similar things: “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.”

Three general things can be said about the biblical view of freedom and serfdom. First, there is a marked contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian. The non-believer might think that he is free, but in reality he is a slave. He is a slave to sin and self. The above passages from Romans makes this clear, as do others.

Acts 26:18 for example speaks about how the unsaved are bound by “the power of Satan”. Galatians 4:8 speaks of how non-Christians are “slaves to those who by nature are not gods”. And Hebrews 2:15 talks about the unconverted as those who are “held in slavery”.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way: “We are never free. Everybody in the world today is either the slave of sin and Satan or else the slave of Jesus Christ.” Or as R. C. Sproul has said, “The only freedom that man ever has is when he becomes a slave to Jesus Christ.”

And again: “If ever there is a genuine paradox to be found in Holy Writ, it is at the point of freedom and bondage. The paradox is this: When one seeks to rebel from God, he gains only bondage. When he becomes a slave to God, he becomes free. Liberty is found in obedience.”

James Montgomery Boice put it as follows: “The only real freedom you are ever going to know, either in this life or in the life to come, is the freedom of serving Jesus Christ. And this means a life of righteousness. Anything else is really slavery, regardless of what the world may promise you through its lies and false teaching.”

So the non-believer can carry on all he likes about being free – especially being free of God and his requirements. But he is a slave nonetheless. He is a slave to his own sin, to his own selfishness, to his own lusts, and to his own desires. As John Piper says:

There is an irony that God aims to expose, namely, that self-exaltation is, in fact, dehumanization. God is adding to the all-important truth that self-exaltation dethrones God. He is revealing the additional truth that self-exaltation dehumanizes man. The irony is that human autonomy feels like we have gained significance, when in fact we have lost sanity. Freedom from God feels exhilarating. But it’s the exhilaration of skydiving without a parachute.

Secondly, we have the paradox noted above that while a Christian is set free indeed – set free from the power of sin and death and the devil – he does not become an autonomous creature who now happens to be a Christian. He is still subject to another. He is now a servant of Christ.

But this of course is a good and healthy servanthood. It is good to allow God to be our rightful Lord. He should be our boss, calling the shots, as he knows what is best for us. So we are freed by Christ, but not freed to just do our own thing. We have had a change of ownership – a change of allegiance.

I quite like how John Goldingay has put it in his new book, The Theology of Jeremiah (IVP, 2021). He discusses the covenant or pledge Yahweh had made with Israel, and says this:

In light of the way the pledge worked, it might be misleading to say that Yahweh was liberating Israel from Egypt. He wasn’t granting them their freedom, and Jeremiah doesn’t talk in those terms. As would be the case when Jesus died in order to get people out of servitude, Yahweh was actually removing them from service to one master so that they entered the service of another master. If this relationship was to work, they had to listen to his voice; “listen” (shama) denotes listening that issues in obedience. When one enters into this pledged relationship, one makes up one’s mind to give up making up one’s own mind about some basic things.

Image of The Theology of Jeremiah: The Book, the Man, the Message
The Theology of Jeremiah: The Book, the Man, the Message by Goldingay, John (Author) Amazon logo

Yes, even the glorious exodus event which freed Israel from Egyptian servitude did not mean the Israelites were fully free to just do their own thing. They were set free in order that they might now serve the Lord, and that included keeping the covenant requirements. Obedience to their new Lord was paramount if they were to enjoy the blessings found in the covenant.

The Israelites were freed to serve. They were freed from servitude to Pharaoh and the Egyptians in order that they might serve the one true God. Christians are in the same position. We were freed from sin and self in order that we might now serve the one true God.

And that is true freedom indeed. Real freedom is not doing what we want to do. It is doing what we should be doing. Real liberty is not doing whatever we please, but doing what we should. As A. W. Pink said, “True liberty is not the power to live as we please, but to live as we ought.”

Thirdly, this paradox of freedom can even be extended to the nations – to politics and public policy. It is the same here as in our personal lives: genuine freedom should mean doing that which is right. Freedom, as Lord Acton stated, is “not the power of doing what we like but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

Os Guinness put it this way: “First, freedom is not the permission to do what you want, but the power to do what you ought. And second, such freedom is not individual only. Each person’s freedom is free only to the extent that each one respects the equal freedom of all others too.”

Many of the American Founding Fathers spoke of gaining political independence in these terms. They knew that freedom could not last – liberty was not sustainable – unless under-girded by a commitment to faith and virtue. They never sought an anything-goes sort of liberty, but ordered liberty, based on religion and doing what was right.

Just a few quotes of many can be offered here:

“If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.” William Penn

“Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint.” Daniel Webster

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” George Washington

“Without virtue, there can be no political liberty.” President John Adams

Yes political liberty is a tremendous social good. But it can only work when there is restraint on our appetites, and when we put limits to our cravings. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offers a concluding comment, which nicely ties together these thoughts, and helps convey this biblical paradox of freedom:

“After the Western ideal of unlimited freedom, after the Marxist concept of freedom as acceptance of the yoke of necessity—here is the true Christian definition of freedom. Freedom is self-restriction! Restriction of the self for the sake of others!”

[1356 words]

6 Replies to “The Paradox of Freedom”

  1. The difference, as I understand it, between a freeman and a slave is that the freeman chooses who or what he serves whereas a slave does not have that choice.

    If a freeman chooses to serve himself that makes him part of a democracy which provides the pursuit of happiness. Communism does not allow for individuality but the collective.
    John Abbott

  2. To paraphrase a founding father: true freedom is for a moral and religious people it is whole incompatible with any other.

    Slave and slavery have become “triggering” topics to this generation yet everyone is a slave to something spiritually but we can choose who we are slave to which is quite unique in slavery and Jesus himself said his yoke is easy. But yes it is a yoke as no-one is yokeless though many yokes are not visible. Often the “hidden” yokes (porn, lust, envy, greed, hatred) can be the heaviest. Satan has thousands of yokes he puts on people, at THEIR choosing, but everyone has a lock Jesus can open. If we are to be slaves anyway let us choose the best slavery with the easiest yoke and lightest burden.

  3. Here is the tyrannical toxic Thursday Report:
    September 2 2021 COVID-19 vaccine weekly safety report – 02-09-2021 | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
    9 reports of thrombocytopenia (blood clots with low platelets – TTS) this week.
    2 deaths from TTS – 59 yrs woman and 54 yrs man – after 1st dose of AZ
    5 suspected cases have been deemed not TTS due to ’insufficient medical evidence’
    New reports – women 27 yrs, 34, 67, 68, 73,74,75 and a 83 yr old man.
    Total – 125 cases of TTP
    In the last week the TGA has received 2,167 reports of serious injuries post vaxx.
    Total serious injuries: 55,016
    To the 15th of August 495 post vaxx deaths have been reported. The TGA has decided that only 9 of these are due to vaccination.
    Tasmania continues to have the highest rate of ‘adverse events’.
    ATAGI recommends vaccination for all adolescents from 12 years of age with Pfizer.
    Quote – ‘In making this decision, ATAGI reviewed the safety and protective benefits of vaccination for adolescents. ATAGI also considered the benefits for the broader population as vaccinating adolescents is anticipated to reduce community transmission. Other indirect benefits such as adolescent wellbeing and education were also considered.’
    This is pure evil! Young people do not need protection from something that is extremely unlikely to harm them. No healthy children have died from covid! Only those with serious co-morbidities (e.g. cystic fibrosis) are at risk.
    Pfizer is known to cause heart inflammation in young people especially young males.
    Adolescent well-being? Only if you define illness and death as well-being.
    Education? You mean in life long toxic jabs?
    Quote – ‘Data from the NSW outbreak (link is external) demonstrates that vaccination protects people from infection and in the small number of vaccinated people who become infected it significantly reduces the severity of disease.’
    Covid vaccines do not protect against the virus and do not contain infection. In a recent Massachusetts infection, over 75% of patients had been vaccinated. CDC study shows 74% of people infected in Massachusetts Covid outbreak were fully vaccinated ( Israel has 78% of the population vaccinated yet has one of the world’s top rates of infection.
    TGA continues to encourage pregnant women and nursing mothers to get the jab.
    Dr Elizabeth Lee Vliet ( who specialises in hormonal healing states that:
    • There is no safety data available for pregnant or nursing women as they were not included in trials.
    • Spike proteins trigger antibodies to the placental protein and the lipid nanoparticles from the jab are concentrated in the ovaries. This negatively affects the production of hormones for life and the ability to sustain a pregnancy.
    FB message ; ‘My friend has been a triage nurse at Westmead Hospital in Sydney and in the last few weeks has seen a number of women come in with severe menstrual issues that started post vaccine. I noticed yesterday of over 300 cases reported to the TGA, they have found no link.
    Apparently women don’t know their bodies and coincidentally are all suffering so soon after their “jab” but it has no link?
    My friend has had to step aside till she gets vaccinated but is terrified with all the serious admissions she has dealt with post vaccine. ’

    56 reports of Immune Thrombocytopenia after AZ
    89 reports of Guillaine Barre Syndrome (paralysis)
    235 reports of myocarditis and pericarditis have been received – post Pfizer vaxx.
    58 in one week! Are these high numbers due to younger people having the vaxx? These events are more likely in young men.
    Summary – to 28/8/21 COVID-19 vaccine weekly safety report – 02-09-2021 | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
    476 post vaxx death reports
    52,849 serious injuries
    Thrombocytopenia 125 reports – 9 reports this week 23 yrs, 51, 54 62, 66 men and 59, 60, 71, 95 yrs women. 8 cases have been fatal
    Reports of Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) – 61 received

    99 reports of Guillain Barre syndrome (paralysis)

    235 reports of myocarditis and pericarditis have been received – 58 in one week! 9 of these were aged 16 and 17 years old! 8 girls, 1 boy

    The TGA ‘continues to monitor’ yada…yada…

  4. John Abbott ~ “If a freeman chooses to serve himself that makes him part of a democracy which provides the pursuit of happiness.”

    The Greek word that usually gets translated as “happiness” is eudaimonia, which refers to a life well-lived, a life rooted in truth. That is what happiness means, and that is what every man and woman has an inalienable right to pursue—a virtuous life.”

    According to Aristotle:
    Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue.
    Happiness cannot be achieved until the end of one’s life. Hence it is a goal and not a temporary state.
    Happiness is the perfection of human nature. Since man is a rational animal, human happiness depends on the exercise of his reason.
    Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life. These virtues involve striking a balance or “mean” between an excess and a deficiency.
    Happiness requires intellectual contemplation, for this is the ultimate realization of our rational capacities.

    Our American founding fathers were men who publicly and privately affirmed a shared natural theology: that there is a Creator who has imbued the world with discernible natural laws, both physical and moral, and who governs the affairs of men with his sustaining and intervening providence.

  5. To me, far and away the biggest threat to freedom is the worldwide trend we see where power is being concentrated into bureaucracies.

    We see this in the trend of the UN implementing policies that were never agreed on by the member countries, the massive power being wielded by EU bureaucrats, the massive indoctrination emanating from the bureaucrats in our ABC and SBS public media etc. etc. etc.

    These bureaucrats see themselves as not being accountable to anyone except themselves and are now supported and funded by a very few, super-wealthy individuals. This, to me, is exactly in line with what we see in prophecy such as in Daniel and Rev 17 and definitely appears to be lining up for battle against “the Lamb” in a globalist, concerted agenda.

    What we are seeing, worldwide, is a complete undermining of democratic, sovereign and God given rights for the purpose of clearly immoral, undemocratic, unjust and unworkable ideas based on pagan ideologies and fear of what is coming. This is being done without consensus and just process and, fundamental to this undermining of basic human rights, is the eradication of the natural definition of the family which was, in the past, seen as the basis for all human rights. When you undermine that moral foundation it is inevitable that people will lose their basic human rights and we are definitely seeing this worldwide.

    Just one example is how “our ABC” constantly undermines basic property, legal and moral rights in their supposed promotion of Aboriginal rights and the LGBT agendas. You simply would not find one free-market economist who would not tell you that property rights are absolutely fundamental to our current prosperity and, I would have thought obviously, we are seeing, worldwide how the promotion of so-called LGBT rights is now resulting in the sexualization of children and the undermining of the fundamental family based rights using as a basis the obviously perverted ideas of people like Alfred Kinsey.

    We can’t say we were not warned. This is the blasphemous whore of Babylon made manifest before our eyes.

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