“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this Man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:37-38
Pythagorus is famous for saying, “No man is free who cannot control himself.” Charlotte Bronte shared, “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.” Thomas Jefferson felt it had to do with having a well-armed militia, “For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.” And I’m not sure who Eryka Badu is, but she also felt she was free on this basis, “I’m free. I just do what I want, say what I want, say how I feel, and I don’t try to hurt nobody. I just try to make sure that I don’t compromise my art in any kind of way, and I think people respect that.” Is this what freedom is really all about?
I know of another man named Jesus, who was more than man. He was God and man. Imagine that! He was the promised Son of God and Son of man. And he made this statement, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Now, I wonder who I will choose to believe? Will I choose to believe the ideas about freedom taught by men or by the One who created us and created the whole true idea of freedom?
What is freedom even? According to Noah Webster’s first definition for freedom it is “a state of exemption from the power or control of another.” Was there ever, or will there ever be a time when a person was or is totally exempt from the control of any other? It also has this connotation of being exempt from things like slavery, servitude, and confinement. So what are we slaves to? What are we confined by?
Well, as we saw, the world has lots of answers for that. But are those the true answers? What if we looked back at the beginning. When Adam and Eve were first created, were they free? “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Did you see that? The first man and the first woman were created to have dominion, “radah.” Do you know what that means? When we were created in the image of God, we were created to rule. We weren’t created to rule God or be equal to Him, nor were we created to rule other men or women, but we were created to rule the other created things. God rules men. He is our only true King. We were to rule the created things on earth under the rule of our Creator. This is freedom.
Now this human rule is designed for us to take the purposes of God for creation and to make them so. Through our rule, creation should be allowed to fill it’s purpose designed by God. We don’t subject things; our dominion brings things into their proper existence designed by God. This is freedom, the freedom to be what everything was purposed to be in God.
But wait a minute. I need to jump back and ask a question? If I am under a King, how can I truly be free? Maybe that has to do with being created in the image of this King, of being created in the image of God. Jesus, who is God, said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” So, here is this Ultimate King, the Only One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Only because of Him is there no more chaos. The path of God is Life. Outside the path of God is chaos. He chooses everything that stands against chaos, death, and destruction. He is Life and He chooses Life. We were created to be choosers of life. We were created to freely follow His path of life and turn from the path of chaos, death, and destruction. We were created to be under His rule yet totally free to choose to follow in His path of life. We have always been free to choose and live in Life and Light.
But our ideas of freedom became twisted. We thought it was freedom to be able to make our own choice, when the freedom is really only in making the right choice. Was it ever freedom to choose chaos and sin over life? Was it lack of freedom to be under a King who gave us absolute life and goodness and joy? Is it freedom to turn down life and goodness and joy just to receive death and tragedy and pain? Is it really about being able to make my own choices or was it always about making the right choice? Maybe freedom has always been about choosing that which I was created for.
Now these verses from Acts, these words spoken by Paul, came about through these circumstances. Paul and Barnabas had left Paphos. And now they have come to Antioch and were attending a synagogue there. The law and the prophets were read. Please, don’t be bothered by that. There is nothing wrong with the law and the prophets, they tell of the coming of Jesus. It is God’s Word. We need them. But we need to interpret them rightly and rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and search them diligently.
So these Jewish rulers in the synagogue asked Paul and Barnabas if they would share something with them. It was normal to ask visiting Rabbis to share encouragement or teaching. So Paul took them through Scripture review from Israel’s time in Egypt through Jesus’ death and resurrection to show that the promise of God to their people was being fulfilled in Christ. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, In Psalm 2, God was identifying Jesus as His Son by birth and by resurrection. Either way, He was born from the Father above. Paul doesn’t even point out His birth in Bethlehem. Paul points to the power of the resurrection. And he’s trying to draw them to find their freedom in it.
He shares more Scripture evidences and then leads them on to where freedom is found. Remember, God’s definition of freedom is Life and the ability to choose it. But because of sin, we lost our freedom to choose life. Yet here, in Christ, is the gift of redemption of our choice, redemption of life! We chose chaos and death, yet here we are being offered the ability to choose Life again! Which means we must choose forgiveness. But to choose forgiveness and accept it, we must first admit that we have made the wrong choice. We must admit that we need forgiveness.
Now here’s the problem. Once we were free to choose Life or death. Once we chose, we lost that freedom. It was gone forever…unless….Unless God made a way for us to rechoose. But You can’t escape the choice of death without experiencing death. Now dying does not free you from death. It just keeps you there. That’s just the price of death. So how do we ever again become free from death once I’ve chosen it?
Someone has to pay the price of death. So Jesus died in my place and your place, to set us free and to offer us again Life in Him. “[B]y Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Only Life can give life again. Only Life itself is more powerful than death. Paul, in Romans 7:24 asked the perfect question, “O wretched man that I am! [after all, I chose chaos and death over beautiful Life in You!] Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” But He gives us the answer in Christ in 1 Corinthians 15, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God always chooses Life. He will never choose anything else. Even in choosing His death on the cross, He was really choosing life. He is Life and He is Everything that Life is and Everything that Life is about. Jesus went through every process of dying. He died. Yet He could not be kept dead. Why? He is Life. And we were created to live, to abide in Him, in this glorious Life that must live on. Freedom is not found in anything else but in choosing Life, in choosing Jesus, and in living in Him. We have freedom all wrong. Freedom is not about the lack of submission. It’s not about self-rule or self-control. Freedom is really understanding Who and what is Best and choosing to come under His care and authority. Freedom is choosing Life in Christ and living in Him. Every other idea of freedom is a lie.
Think about it. If I live in the freedom of the Truth and Life of Christ, if I live in the Character of Who He Is, I would be free to love independent of the actions or beliefs of those around me. I would be free to sacrifice no matter the cost. I would know how to value my fellow men as more valuable than myself. I would be able to love selflessly. I would look to the needs of others. And I would draw others to a Life in freedom. I would join with Christ in setting the captives free. May we realize what our true captivity is and the true freedom that is offered in faith in Christ by the power of His death and resurrection for us, to bring us back into right relationship with Him.
Just an afterthought here but what is good about absolute freedom? If each man were free to make his own choices regardless of the next person, wouldn’t that be chaos? But what if there was One, that every choice made was for the good of all and the good of each individual? I wonder if it would be a more blessed freedom to live under that One than to have all the world’s ideas of freedom or even my own idea of freedom? I think I want to choose Jesus’ idea of freedom. I consider myself joyously blessed to be allowed to be under His authority and knowledge. His freedom is more than enough for me. I can live under that. What about You?