By Leonard Lauriault: QCS columnist
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5: 1). Often when we think of Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth, we concentrate on our sin and the freedom we can have from experiencing its eternal consequences (Romans 6: 23; John 3: 16, 17). This is true freedom; but, it’s not until we become Jesus’ disciples by learning about and striving to adhere to his teachings that we can fully realize its magnitude (John 8: 31-36; Romans 12: 1, 2; Psalm 119: 32).
God actually had set man free from the beginning. In the first command, the one about not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God explained the benefits and consequences of obedience and lack thereof (Genesis 2: 15-17). God did not prevent man from being disobedient; rather, he left him with a choice – the freedom to obey or disobey.
Even after God called the children of Israel to be his special people through whom Jesus would come, he didn’t force obedience; he merely expected it (Deuteronomy 11: 13-28; 30: 19, 20). It’s the same today; the freedom to decide is strictly ours. We have the privilege of accepting or not accepting who Jesus is and reaping the benefits or consequences (John 1: 10-12; 7: 17; 8: 24; 14: 15-21).
In Old Testament times, indentured servants could choose to stay with their master after their period of servitude was complete (Exodus 21: 1-6). This was a voluntary one-time act that became a lifetime commitment (Psalm 116: 16). Becoming a Christian also is a one-time act, or series of events occurring in a very narrow time frame. Conversion accounts from the book of Acts show that the process was completed the same day (2: 36-41), at the next water hole in the desert (8: 26-39), before eating after a 3-day fast (9: 1-19; 22: 12-16), and in the middle of the night (16: 22-34). There are many other accounts in Acts that connect baptism with conversion as well.
The accounts referenced above also show that the Christian teachers were committed to fulfilling what they knew to be necessary and urgent. Paul and Silas didn’t say, “We’ll baptize you later. Right now we’re going to get some rest because we’ve been literally beaten to a pulp” (Acts 16: 22-34). Neither the freedom nor the seal proving our freedom comes without completion of the process (2 Corinthians 3: 17; Acts 5: 32; 19: 1-5; Ephesians 1: 13, 14).
Freedom from sin is not only dependent on our initial obedience, but also on our continued obedience (Revelation 2: 10; 2 Timothy 4: 6-8). Although we’ve committed to a lifetime of avoiding sin, we’ll still do it (Ecclesiastes 7: 20). So, God has provided the means for us to continue receiving forgiveness once we’ve become Christians so we can continue to enjoy the freedom from sin’s consequences through our life in Christ (1 John 1: 5-9).
We must be careful not to come to the conclusion that it’s okay for us to continue sinning because we can continue to be forgiven (1 John 3: 7-10; Galatians 5: 13, 24; Romans 6: 1-11). If we do become deluded by this idea after we’ve experienced the freedom from sin coming to those who’ve obeyed Jesus, we’ll lose that freedom and gain another kind of freedom – freedom to receive the consequences of our sin (Romans 6: 12-22; Hebrews 6: 4-6; 10: 26, 27; Jeremiah 34: 15-17).
Which freedom are you enjoying now, freedom from sin or freedom to sin? In the remainder of Galatians 5: 1, Paul tells Christians to, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”