“If you abide in My word, you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32
Free – Which man is free – the one who exercises liberty to act as he wishes or the one who submits to moral precepts? The question is not trivial so be careful how you answer it. Our culture and the prevailing opinion of the world at large answers with the first alternative. The “free” man is the man who has the liberty to live as he pleases. The “free” man is the man who is not restrained by rules and regulations, by government or convention, by community or commitments. The truly “free” man is Rousseau’s noble savage, acting in accordance with his own desires. This image lies behind much of our political debate and is crucial to the proclamation of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as inalienable rights. Every man wants to be “free.”
But the Bible has a different answer.
“To the superficial observer it seems that men who do not obey the law are freer than law-abiding men, because they can follow their own inclinations. In reality, however, such men are subject to the most cruel bondage; they are slaves to their own instincts, impulses and desires. The first step toward emancipation from the tyranny of animal inclination in man is, therefore, a voluntary submission to the moral law. The constraint of law is the beginning of human freedom, or in Rabbinic phraseology, ‘None is free, except he who acts in accord with the law.’”
Who is free? The man who submits to Torah, says the Scripture. A man is a slave to his own impulses and desires insofar as he has not yet submitted to God’s instructions. If Yeshua came to set us free, then He came to bring us into submission to Torah. There is no other way to understand His rabbinic perspective. For this reason, Watchman Nee’s analysis of the fundamental conflict of Scripture is exactly on target. The big issue isn’t sin. It isn’t grace or love or the blood. Those are all important, but when it comes to issue number one, they pale in comparison. The biggest issue is authority! The biggest issue is who’s in charge. As long as I believe that the objective of my life is my own liberty, I will be a slave to myself, easily manipulated by my current assessment of what is good for me. I will be a child of Havvah’s deception, imagining that determining my own good is a sign of divinity. But the Bible confronts me with a much harsher reality. Liberty is not the same as freedom!
From the moment of our creation, the goal of being human is freedom through submission. Where we have not submitted to the instructions of YHWH, we are deluded slaves of liberty. The truth will make us free because the truth is found in abiding in His words. Do you want to be free? Do what He says. Do you want liberty? Do whatever you like.
Topical Index: free, liberty, eleutheroo, John 8:32
Isidor Grunfeld, The Jewish Dietary Laws
, Vol. 1, p. 11.