Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 29, 1970
NUMBER 38, PAGE 2b-3

Liberty Or License?

Vaughn D. Shofner

When divine love stooped to this lowly earth and revealed to its inhabitants the alphabet of salvation from the bondage of sin, man immediately began using this liberty as license to fulfill many lusts of the flesh.

The glory of the Mosaical ministry, which was in contrast with the law of liberty in Christ, had shone in rays of visible light from the countenance of the great law-giver as he came down from the mount of Revelation. "The children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance" (2 Cor. 3:7). Yet this glory was far inferior to the glory of the New Covenant. It had been destined to die at the appearance of the anti-type by which it was fulfilled. It contrasted disadvantageously with the New Testament, which was endowed with perpetuity and a ministration of spiritual righteousness. Therefore, Moses had veiled his face because "when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw that his face shone, they were afraid to come nigh him" (Ex. 34:30). But according to Paul the immediate motive of this act did not exhaust its future significance. The veil not only shrouded the "glory" of the law from the eyes of the terrified Israelites, but it wisely thwarted the purpose of revelation in the very history of its introduction of an object higher than itself. Moses "put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished" (2 Cor. 3:13).

More than fifteen centuries had passed since the scenes of Sinai, but in the days of Paul the face of Moses was still shrouded from the eyes of Israel. The reading of the Law perpetuated the symbol in every synagogue, and that which met the eye graphically pictured the spiritual fact which the eye could not reach. "Even unto this day when Moses is read the veil is upon their hearts" (2 Cor. 3:15). But this darkness was not to last. "When it (the heart — V.D.S.) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:16, 17).

The practical and consistent conclusion is, that those who are converted to Christ have lifted the veil which darkened the spiritual intelligence of Israel. The revelation of the Spirit is a source of illumination, enlightening all who flee from the prejudice and predilection which deny the profound sense of the scriptures to those blinded by Jewish ideas. That deeper sense is seized by the Christian student of the ancient law, because "where the Spirit of Christ is, there is liberty."

This liberty which is given to all who live according to the Christian dispensation, is often spoken of by designing preachers and other church members as a means to justify positions and practices unauthorized by the perfect law of liberty. Much emphasis is placed on the liberties that are claimed to justify the means by the end, and those who call attention to the tendencies and trends toward apostasy are branded "legalists," "strict ritualists."

This liberty does not describe freedom from an earthly tyrant. It is not an external, political, social liberty. It is not the freedom of man's outward, individual action. No political or social emancipation can liberate an enslaved soul, and no tyranny of state and society can enslave a soul that has been freed. This freedom comes with faith in Christ which continues in his word and knows the truth. "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jno. 8:31, 32). It gives freedom from error for the conclusions, freedom from restraint for the affections, freedom for the will from the tyranny of evil, human wills, freedom from sin for the servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:18), and the children of God alone enjoy it.

The school of the "Liberal" is the hotbed for thoughts which produce the mistaken idea that Authoritative laws are the real enemies of religious freedom. Holding to the tenets of Christ's doctrine as binding is described as "slavish," "overlays the spirit of Christianity," and is "arrogant." To value authoritative means of doing all good works is invidiously declared to be setting a value on the way above the soul and life of man; as though the persons who care for one must perforce neglect the other.

These liberals take pride in emphasizing that authoritative edicts are restraint upon thought, but their notion of liberty is impossible. An intelligent being is free when he moves without difficulty in the realm assigned him by makeup. Truth is originally the native element of thought, and Christ's Will prescribes the direction and limits of truth, concerning God and his relations to man. Being true, the New Testament should be stated authoritatively. To accept Christ's word as being truth, one is not at liberty to deny it. One cannot accept it as truth and desire such liberty. Nor can you be loyal to truth, and at the same time ignore or defy it. When one has discovered a fact of experience, he is not at liberty to deny it; and concerning it he forfeits his intellectual independence by the discovery. The religion without restraining laws is infidel, if not atheistic.

Submission is not slavery. Obedience is the school of freedom. In obeying the conditions of Christ's will we are freed from cruel yet petty despotisms which enslave the rebel heart. In obeying the revealed laws of God to man we obtain freedom, and also moral royalty. If man is royal in his rule over the things about him, his highest exercise of sovereignty is over himself. The liberal who imagines freedom to consist in repudiation of all authority destroys the fountain of moral and spiritual greatness by destroying its very fundamental law. The liberals teach a doctrine which is inconsistent with the first condition of the greatest liberty enjoyed, because in effect they proscribe the privilege of a free submission to truth.

Gentle reader, free indeed are those liberated from the shame of sin. They are free from slavish fear of the wrath of justice, free from current prejudice and human opinions, free from the haunting fear of death. This is freedom in time and eternity. In the eternal realm, in the presence of the Lord, soul-slavery is unknown, for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

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