Then stand firm in the freedom with which Christ made us free, and do not again be held with a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Freedom – Heinrich Schlier wrote an incredibly insightful article on the Greek word eleutheros. His comments are so good that they are worth contemplating:
The NT . . . realizes . . . that even in the retreat into inwardness man is not free. For in the NT it is evident that freedom is not absent because there is inadequate control of existence but because there is no control at all, and therefore no self-dominion.
Self-preservation by retreat into inwardness is merely a way of losing one’s true self. In the face of lost existence there is only one possibility of coming to oneself, and this is by surrender of one’s own will to the will and power of an external force. Man attains to self-control by letting himself be controlled.
Freedom from the Law thus means specifically freedom from the moralism which awakens hidden self-seeking. It means freedom from the secret claim which man makes on himself in the form of legal demand. It means freedom from the meeting of this claim in the form of legal achievement. It means freedom from self-lordship before God in the guise of serious and obedient responsibility toward Him.
Our freedom, then, is not an existential return to the basis of individual existence, the soul. It is the event of a historical life radically sacrificed for others.
Schlier’s insights are profound. If you want to know freedom from the biblical perspective, you must realize that freedom is not inward release and individual liberty. Freedom is the outward event of denying yourself for the benefit of others. It is exactly the opposite of what the Greeks and the contemporary culture believes. To turn inward is to turn toward the myth, the dangerous deception, that freedom comes from self-control. No! Freedom comes from giving up control, from submitting my will to the will of the external God. Freedom comes from giving myself away.
In relation to the Law, I can never gain freedom if I use the Law as a means of control. When I do that, I intend to obligate God to reward me because I am keeping the Law, and that is another form of self-lordship. The Law was never intended to give me freedom. It was intended to point me in the direction of submission. Yeshua’s act releases me from the obligation (the debt) imposed on me by the Law. I am free from the debt in order that I may now legitimately sacrifice my will to His will. Since I have nothing to gain in terms of salvation, I enter into submission without a hidden agenda. I submit only to please Him, not for the possibility of reward but for the purposes of love. Freedom comes when I care less about myself and give myself to others. Freedom is the direct result of care-less living.
If we are going to talk about freedom – the freedom that comes through and in the anointed one, Yeshua HaMashiach, then we will have to first unhook all that Greek mythology as well as the misconstrued Christian Greek-based idea that the Law is opposed to grace. We will have to see that freedom is the by-product of submission and service to others. It is discovered in the actions of benevolence toward the community, not in the preservation of myself. When we see freedom in this light, we will understand why Jesus said, “If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Now, do you really want to be free?
Topical Index: Schlier, eleutheros, freedom, self-control, Galatians 5:1
We will look at this topic several more times over the next few weeks. Understanding what freedom really means is a very important part of understanding what Yeshua accomplishes on our behalf.