What do we mean by Freedom?

It is true that, in New Testament times, in Greek society, the word ‘eleutheros’ primarily meant, ‘freedom from restraint or obligation’ and this is how many use it even today.

‘It is my life! I can choose for myself’, says the drug, alcohol addict! ‘It is my body! I can decide to have an abortion!’

No one has the degree of freedom that is implied in such statements, as John Donne said a long time ago, ‘No man is an island. Everyone is part of the Main’.

This recognises that in order that we may live in a well-ordered society, rules and regulations, limits and boundaries, have been set on personal ‘freedom.’ We cannot behave as though there is no one else to consider but ourselves.

When an individual refuses to live according to the rules of society and becomes a ‘law-breaker’, he is removed from society for a time, in the expectation that a period of exclusion will help him to see the need to respect those rules.

But in the New Testament itself, in Christian society the word ‘freedom’, never refers to the right to please oneself, but relates, rather, to the right to be the best one can be, and the right to forgo one’s liberty for the sake of a weaker person.

Paul explains that we have obtained freedom ‘in Christ’, but we should refrain from doing things which are perfectly legitimate if our actions would give offence and cause harm to someone immature in the faith, who he describes as a ‘weaker brother for whom Christ died.’ 1 Corinthians 8:11.

A friend of mine recalls that, in 1941, when he was beginning his evangelistic ministry, during the dark days of the Second World War, in a widely publicised message to the American Congress, President Theodore Roosevelt presented the definition of ‘freedom’ to which all who believe in Democracy would readily subscribe.

He said, ‘We look forward to a world founded upon four great, essential human freedoms’.

The first is Freedom of Speech and Expression, everywhere in the world. The second is Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, everywhere in the world. The third is Freedom from Want, everywhere in the world. The fourth is Freedom from Fear, everywhere in the world. This is the politician’s definition and like a great many political utterances, it fails to mention the inescapable limitations of such Freedoms. For instance

Freedom Of Speech

Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean that we possess the absolute liberty, or the right, always to say whatever we please. Society acknowledges and has recognised this by the enactment of laws which control slander and libel!

Freedom To Worship

Freedom to Worship God must be exercised within the bounds set by God Himself. We aren’t free to worship ‘in our own way’. We are free to worship Him in the way that He requires and has revealed. Jesus spoke of worshipping God ‘in spirit and in truth’, John 4:23 and He said, ‘You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.’ John 8:32

Freedom From Want

Freedom from Want is an unattainable state because all human beings have ‘wants’ which are unrealistic and never likely to be realised. We live in a gambling age, when, each week millions ‘want’, to win the National Lottery, and when it is literally impossible to switch on commercial T.V. without being bombarded by a daily stream of ‘Bingo’ adverts! Only to be disappointed, again.

This Freedom would be more accurately defined as ‘Freedom from Need’, the state in which every human being is provided with the food, shelter, security and all those conditions which are essential to a stable, healthy life.

Freedom From Fear

Freedom from Fear, again, needs to be defined. Mankind should be able to live in security and safety, but there are many in our world, living in what we would describe as politically secure. Enlightened, democratic societies, live stress-filled lives because they are burdened with the fear that is caused by the guilt of sin.

We cannot overlook what for many is the greatest fear of all, to which the letter to the Hebrews points.

‘Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.’ Hebrews 2:14-15

When the slave awakens to his condition, he longs for freedom, when the soul, awakens to its condition, it longs for forgiveness.

This is the difference between physical, political, and spiritual freedom.



"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."