Theology Tuesday – Describe “Freedom in Christ”

I am attempting to start a new series on my blog called Theology Tuesday.  Having attended undergrad at the Preacher Prep School of the South, I have many friends who are pastors, who are training to become pastors, friends who are married to pastors, ministers, and missionaries alike. 

I am hoping and praying that on Tuesdays, we can come together to consider a theological question and that these friends of mine will take time to think through and weigh in with responses. It will be an interesting experiment to see how God will use this online space to build community and help us become more fully devoted followers of Christ. 

The Rules:

1. Don’t Hate.   We will not all agree, nor did the preachers and apostles of the early church.  No Personal Attacks. 1 Peter 3:15

2. Keep it Real.  Provide the scriptural basis for your comments so we can all refer back to the Word as we consider the various responses. Hebrews 4:12

My disclaimer: I am not schooled in theological studies, however, my good friend Justin once told me that theology is simply the study of God, so all with a thirst to know more and who actively pursue this study of God are theologians at heart. 

So without further adieu, let’s begin. 

Here is my journal entry for today.  Its in the form of a prayer to God as a result of some internal battles I’m fighting.  I would love to hear your responses to these questions:

Dear Lord:

Convict and convince me of my sin.  Reveal the boundary lines of freedom.  A legalistic past and a cunning enemy leave be suspended between lies and truth.  I need to know the boundaries of my freedom.

And what are the consequences of crossing the boundry lines of freedom?

Is it a condradiction in theology and though to think that there *is* in fact a boundary to freedom?

There are most certainly consequences to sin, we have physical evidence of that fact.

Even Scripture says:  “The wages of sin is death…” but those who have eternal life still sin. 

If it is for freedom that Christ has set us free; how is freedom defined?  Paul addresses this in Romans 6; saying:

1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. 15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The question is this:  How are we to understand our freedom in Christ in relationship to these Scriptures and live out that freedom to the Glory of God?

Follow up questions: If Christians sin in their freedom; and are repentant, what are the consequences to their crossing the boundaries of freedom?  Is there a difference between consequence and punishment? Are Christians punished for their sins? 

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Karin says:

    ” How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:14

    The great news of Freedom in Christ.
    And remembering that God is Holy and Righteous.

    “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” Hebrews 10:26

    “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” vs 31

    “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap desctruction.” Gal 6:7

    Freedom in Christ is the most amazing thing in the world. To be set free from my fleshly nature (it is so ugly and heavy and burdensome) brings joy and hope and peace. Freedom gives me life. Christ’s life brings me freedom. I don’t fully understand it all but in it all we cannot forget who God is. It is really about God and who he says he is.
    Our freedom is by Christ’s spirit living in us (Gal 5:16). More of Christ, less of us (John 3) It is about Jesus.
    So much time and energy spent on us and thinking about ourselves, our baggage and stuff. Let’s get over ourselves.
    It is about Jesus.

    Just my thoughts. Thank you Christ for the freedom you give.

  2. johntalks says:

    You started off with a biggie! Not sure if I have enough time this week to write a decent response.

    I do know that fatherhood has taught me more about God’s love than any other single thing, sermon, book, or what have you.

    Romans 8:16-17

    Since we are adopted sons and daughters I believe there are consequences to sin, but eternally speaking we have already been justified by Christ’s death and one day we will be glorified.

    If you rob a bank…you will probably go to jail, but you if you are saved by Christ…you won’t end up in hell.

    That is short, sorta sweet, and all I got time for. And it almost addresses your question(s).

  3. Jessica says:

    Freedom in Christ is not something we attain, but it is something we have. Our righteousness is in Christ and NOTHING we do or don’t do will change that. I think the consequence to our sin (crossing the boudries of Freedom) is something we can compare to the Israelites wondering in the desert. When we are disobedient to God our journey to maturity takes longer and we will probably find ourselves in the valleys of life until we have fully devoted ourselves to Christ. God wants our eyes on HIM. He wants us to “…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philipians 3:14

    Philipians 3

    1Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
    2Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
    If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

    7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

    Pressing on Toward the Goal
    12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

  4. Jessica says:

    Just wanted to add one thing. Here is a quote that I think is very though provoking about mankind NOT experiencing freedom in Christ that is a FREE GIFT to us.

    “we are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. we are far too easily pleased.” — c. s. lewis, the weight of glory

  5. Angel says:

    I am currently in Galatians…they were struggling with the living under the law instead of under grace. Paul addressed this issue. We are sinners and the law was given as our tutor to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24). I love Gal 3:23 “But before faith came, were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.” In light of your thoughts AL, we do have freedom IN CHRIST…through faith. We are no longer in custody, Christ has the keys, we need to trust Him with each area of our lives and walk out into the freedom He has granted us. Yes, we are human…we will still sin and have consequences, but we are no longer bound by sin.

  6. Matt says:

    Continuing in Galatians

    Gal 5:1 So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law

    Now what to do with this freedom

    Gal 5:13-15

    For you have been called to live in freedom not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up by this one command Love your neighbor as yourseslf. But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! beware of destroying one another.



    Hebrews 12:5-6

    And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes those he accepts as his children

    Proverbs 3:11-12

    My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

  7. Rob says:

    Wow… great questions. …but very complex…

    First, I would insist that you get a copy of The Mortification of Sin by John Owen. This is a great exposition of Romans 8:13 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” John Owen, in my opinion, is one of the greatest theological minds in church history. You can get an abridged version that will make it easy to read.

    “Do you mortify;
    do you make it your daily work;
    be always at it while you live;
    cease not a day from this work;
    be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
    -John Owen

    My simple answer to your question would be that “true regenerate believers” have no boundary to their freedom.

    However, I would like to caveat that answer because unfortunately I believe that there may be many “professing Christians” in our churches today who are not regenerate believers.

    For example, I do not like it when a speaker gives an altar call and states, “all you have to do is say this prayer…” In my opinion, that is not biblical and that could create a false sense of security. Jesus did not say all you have to do is come forward and repeat this prayer after me…

    Jesus said, “…let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

    John Piper writes, “These are just some of the conditions that the New Testament says we must meet in order to be saved in the fullest and final sense. We must believe in Jesus (Acts 16:31) and receive Him (John 1:12) and turn from our sin (Acts 3:19) and obey Him (Hebrews 5:9; John 3:36) and humble ourselves like little children (Matthew 18:3) and love Him more than we love our family (Matthew 10:37), our possessions (Luke 14:33), or our own life (Mark 8:34-35). This is what it means to be converted to Christ. This alone is the way of life everlasting. (Desiring God pp. 69-70)

    John’s first letter provides a good argument that the person who continually sins with reckless abandon may very well not be “born of God.”

    1 John 2:29: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

    1 John 3:9: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”

    1 John 5:4: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

    1 John 5:18: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

    So to answer your question, “How are we to understand our freedom in Christ in relationship to these Scriptures and live out that freedom to the glory of God?”

    If we continually give in to our fleshly desires without conviction then we really need to re-evaluate our heart condition and be reminded of the words of Christ, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:18-23)

    However, when we are regenerate, born-again, believers… We know that there is freedom in Christ (Gal 2:4; Gal 5:1) and that there is now no condemnation (Rom 8:1). We will all stumble and fall. Hopefully our heart of stone (or callous heart) has been replaced by a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) and we will be deeply grieved by our sin so that we continually draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace (Hebrews 4:16).

    My response to your follow-up questions would be that forgiveness of sins does not take away the serious consequences for sin.

    Hebrews 12:4-11 would be my reference for this…

    “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
    “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
    For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”
    It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

    John Piper puts it this way, “…our sins are forgiven and forgotten in the sense that they no longer bring down the wrath of a judge, but not in the sense that they no longer bring down the painful spanking of a Father.”

    Psalm 99:8 states, “O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them,
    but an avenger of their wrongdoings.”

  8. suzanne mosley says:

    okay, i think i would ditto what Rob said above. just finished a study this spring w/college & post-college women @ our church. we read “the pursuit of holiness’ by jerry bridges. had never read it, and it was very helpful to me regarding the question that you’re asking. the book was formative for me regarding MY responsibility to pursue holiness. at the beginning of this year, i began praying Romans 6:12-14 in my life.

    “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

    whoa…it’s blown me away. the Lord has been gracious to reveal my sinful heart in SPECIFIC ways. the study w/these girls was another way of Him answering this prayer in my life. one of the examples related to sin that Bridges used in the book that has been SO helpful to me is this…

    he explains our battle w/sin as an illustration of war. there are 2 sides and 1 side has clearly one/ however, there is on-going guerrilla warfare by the losing side upon the winner. so, the winning side still experiences victory in the war, but the guerrial warfare continues. this is like our lives. we are FREE from sin through Christ. He paid the price, and if we are His child, we’ve received forgiveness from ALL sin (that we’ve committed thus far and future grace for future sin–wow–amazing!!). however, as sinners, our entire lives have gotten us in the habit of sin. so, there are certain sins that are SO habitual that they, in guerrilla-warfare-like fashion, will continue to war against our souls. so, we continue to need His grace and strength in this life, and thankfully, He continues to conform us to the image of His Son. however, we need to be actively pursuing holiness by being in the Word, recognizing or sin & repenting of it, etc. thankfully, as we are becoming more holy and more like His Son, we will not succumb to sin as we’ve done in the past.

    not sure if that is helpful or even really answers your question, but it’s been a helpful insight to me into our on-going struggle with sin. so, yes, we’re free from sin…it’s a state of being. thankfully, we aren’t made to EARN this. thankfully, also, as we enjoy this state of being free from sin, we also are given grace from Him to NOT let sin reign in our mortal bodies.

    “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 11:33

    love you, ALCW 🙂

  9. Karin says:

    So I had said earlier, we need to look at who God is. This is my husband’s reply to this which answers it more directly than I do and with so much more love. Its so important to look at all of scripture, all of God’s character, we can’t pick and choose the parts we like.

    Anyway, he says: Do we have any idea the grace we live by? In Romans it says everything that is not by faith is sin. That means when we live by the flesh, make decisions and act without consulting God, it is sin. Hi, that is all the time for me, do I see the consequences for that? NO WAY! I have no idea the grace that is lavished upon me. Wow.

  10. so I waited until the last day (before the new topic) and I apologize for that.

    I absolutely love getting to read the thoughts and mind-sets of other Christians because it broadens my mind to the world of Christ as well as encourages me in knowing that others face the same struggles and questions that I do.

    As for this topic of freedom of Christ, I really have nothing new to add when it comes to ‘crossing the boundaries of our freedom’ and ‘forgiveness vs. punishment’. I really like what everyone is pointing out.

    The only thing I’d like to add concerns the area *within* our freedom, namely the differences allowed Christians in the details of theology, such as foods to eat, etc.

    Being the naturally selfish, prideful humans that we are, we way too often see ourselves limiting the very freedom that God has given us. I know that I’ve done it to myself. I look at the Absolute Boundaries of our behavior/freedom laid out in Scriptures (Mark 12:28-31, 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:16-26 being three that stand out for me):

    -Mark 12 tells us of first importance is to love God, everyone else and ourselves.
    -1 Cor 13 defines exactly what it means to ‘love’.
    -Gal 5 specifically tells us what behaviors lay outside our freedom in Christ (acts of the flesh) and what behaviors are allowed in the freedom of Christ (living in the Spirit).

    and I see that living in the Spirit and obeying God’s Commands, while they do set boundaries, still offer us a LOT of freedom. And yet we see in our Christianity a much more limited version of that (in the early Church- what meats to eat; in today’s Church- can we drink alcohol or not). What a dichotomy we are in that we love to rebel from rules and yet at the same time find comfort in them! I’ve found that I put so much pressure on myself to live how I think Christ would want me, to only find out that I’m not living exactly in line with Scriptures and thus setting myself up for failure and despair. I sometimes think it makes sense to see what the Scriptures say regarding our behaviors, and then limit it even more because that would somehow be “even more Scriptural”. How crazy I am to think that!

    And so I’m trying to fully understand the freedoms I have in Christ, and that the boundaries that He has set for us are far greater than I often realize. This also has a major impact on how I interact with my fellow Christians. In the past (and regretfully honest, even today), if I see Christians hanging out in a different area of the Courtyard or Corral of Christ (ie within His boundaries of our freedom), I find myself judging them or rebuking them b/c they are not standing exactly where I’m standing. I must cease this! If someone else is avoiding the sins of the flesh and instead living in the Spirit (as laid out in Gal 5), within the freedom boundaries set by our LORD, I MUST accept them and encourage and love them and felllowship with them, EVEN IF the details of their lives are unsimilar to mine. God truly does set out a huge area for us to live within and enjoy our Christianity, and we should explore that. And if we choose not to, we must still allow for others to do so.

    And again, I’m not preaching a freedom that crosses Biblical boundaries (such as a homosexual priesthood or consistent drunkenness followed by half-sincere repentance or sex before marriage; all these are clearly defined as outside our rights as Christians and must be resisted and held accountable). And while we need to stay far away from such unBiblical freedoms, at the same time, we must be very careful that we don’t go to the opposite extreme and limit our God-given freedoms (ie, setting extra requirements for Salvation that are not laid out in Scriptures).

    I apologize if this got off a little topic from the main stream of comments; it was just an issue that struck a chord with me when I first read the question.

    Thanks, Annie-Laurie, for setting this up!!!!!


  11. cloaca says:

    Cloaca says : I absolutely agree with this !

  12. Neocolonialism says : I absolutely agree with this !

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