God is a great God! In fact He is the only true, righteous and holy God. It is He who, when Israel was starving and without food, provided by sending Joseph to Egypt with the ability to interpret Pharaoh’s prophetic dream. It is He who fought for the survival of many in Egypt, and when Egypt profaned His name and His people, it is He who ended the tyranny, bringing His own people out of Egypt so that many would recognize Him and worship Him.
Israel’s freedom, in the most literal sense, did not last. Moses ascended Mount Sinai and God gave him the Law to which the Israelites would be wholly subjected. I suspect that, in our lives, many are surprised when they are freed from the bondage of sin and then given a new law and a new ethic: one based in Christ and founded upon God’s very character. Still we have Christians using their “freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.”
Are we free?
First of all, I consider the creation. I consider that Adam was forged in God’s perfection and in godly wisdom. Though his knowledge was incomplete (he did not know evil), God made him absolutely free. In fact, God even provided the opportunity for Adam to rebel. Adam had absolute freedom and perfect wisdom, but he fell because his knowledge was incomplete.
Secondly, I observe promises that are given within the holy and truthful scriptures:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 ESV).
“And, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18 ESV).
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ESV).
Though there are many more, these will suffice. The point is that God not only created humankind in freedom, but desires freedom for him. Why, then, does God choose to give laws so that we might be “slaves of righteousness”?
God set the people free, He brought Israel out of Egypt, and after a small time of worship the people began complaining against Moses (and against God).
- They complained of thirst (Ex. 15:24), and the Lord provided for them.
- They complained of hunger and did not trust God to provide the life that He had already provided from the time of Jacob (Ex. 16:3), and the Lord provided for them and reveals His glory to the people by providing meat the next morning.
- Sabbath was reluctantly observed (Ex. 16:30), indicating that the Law preexisted its formal introduction.
- They complained again of thirst (Ex. 17:3), and God provided.
In some ways, the knowledge of the people had a fuller potential than that of Adam, but they were unable to recognize God. Since the fall, the wisdom of man has been incomplete. With an incomplete wisdom, the people did not recognize their own shortfalls and did not trust God even though He had proven His trustworthiness over and over again. Only after we witness the shortfall of God’s people in this fallen world, we are introduced to the Law. This seems to indicate that the reason for the Law in this fallen world has something to do with humanity’s fallen nature and his lack of wisdom, for God did not create Adam in the Law and God desires people have freedom. For the sake of freedom, then, I become a slave to righteousness: for I am still bound in sinful flesh and ruled by a wisdom that is incomplete.
Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands. Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work — you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy. Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false testimony against your neighbor. Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance.
Freedom in the Law
The very first thing God does is remind the people that He brought them out of Egypt, “the place of slavery”. This indicates that there is a great degree of freedom found in the Law. When we obey God, we obey Him 1) because He is God and 2) because our obedience to God is actually freedom for us. Consider the following:
- Adam was not created as a figure bound by the law and freedom is God’s ideal for humankind.
- The Law was given as a result of humanity’s fallen nature and incomplete wisdom.
- Therefore, the purpose of the Law may be to make humanity’s wisdom complete and qualify him for the freedom that God desires.
When we choose to obey God’s law, we are literally being sanctified, or prepared for a life with God, who desires freedom for us! So, we become slaves to righteousness so that our wisdom may be complete and that we may be able to discern life’s actions well.
When Jesus Christ came and died and was risen from the grave, He claimed to have fulfilled the law. Romans 10:4 states that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” As God revealed Himself, and His perfect wisdom, in the Law, it was revealed in Christ. In that wisdom Christ gave His own life for the sake of the world, that everyone who simply believes in Him would receive righteousness from God. This means that freedom is only accomplished in Christ. It means that, even if I fail to be a slave to righteousness, I am seen as righteous because the blood of Christ has covered me. Because I am still bound by sinful flesh, I should have a Christ-centered ethic. Because my wisdom is not complete, I should submit myself to the authority of scripture; but life and freedom are given directly by Christ, not by the Law (even though the Law directs people to Jesus Christ).
In this life, everyone is a slave to something. I would rather be a slave to something that will culminate in freedom and in perfect wisdom than to something that will not. This can only be found in Christ. The thought that people could ever be absolutely free on this earth is a lie that people have believed in for centuries. We are sinful. Our punishment is bondage. There is hope! If you would like to experience freedom, it can only be found in Christ. To those who have freedom in Christ I ask, for what will you use your freedom?
 Galatians 5:18 (HCSB)