Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. – II Corinthians 3:17
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, be being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. – James 1:25
When we ask antinomians about the nature of God’s Law, one of the first adjectives we might hear is “harsh” or “burdensome”. However, David said he found liberty in seeking God’s precepts, ie, His Law (Psalm 119:45). Quite a sharp contrast in opinions! Of course, because David wrote under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can confidently side with him. But what does that mean for us today?
It is particularly interesting to note that, in the modern United States, the law is marked by extreme prohibition, and on a much deeper level than most Americans realize. For example, every time we apply for a license or permit, we are seeking permission to do what is otherwise prohibited by law. We cannot drive, hunt, fish, trap, run a business, teach, practice medicine, marry, own a weapon, preach publicly, own a boat, fly a plane, own a dog, or sell food without a license. Permits, a temporary version of a license, are also required to burn, build, dig, or learn to drive. And these lists are very truncated. If we try to do any of these things and more without the license or permit, we either go to jail or pay a fine, or both. The point is that the law of man makes it illegal to do nearly anything without the government’s specific permission. It is a law system that says, in its legalistic language, that it is forbidden to us to live our lives and do what we need to do, unless we obtain by payment of money (a sacrifice) special permission.
In contrast, God’s Law, rather than prohibiting, commissions mankind to embrace his purpose as steward of creation within the light and easy parameters laid out within the Ten Commandments and its statutes. It is a Law of minimal interference, not only allowing us to pursue our lives freely, but encouraging us to explore the very limits of our God-given capabilities. Rather than suppressing us with a system of prohibitions and licenses, it invites us to rule with God, to join the King as helpmeet and Bride, rather than subjects squirming under the heel of tyranny.
In the two examples we see on the one hand a government of license, and on the other a government of liberty. A government of license forbids all things, allowing special privilege to those who meet its demands (namely, license and permit fees), while a government of freedom freely grants its subjects liberty to do what they will, as long as it does not violate the parameters of justice and morality. Government of license forbids freedom to those who cannot or will not accede to its demands, and those to it does grant those freedoms it keeps on a short leash, making that freedom no freedom at all. Government of liberty gives all its citizens all freedoms, without extorting payment, commissioning them to advance that same liberty throughout the realm. One is a government of negativity, the other a government of positivity. One acquires power through constriction, the other distributes its surplus of power to its subjects.
While license may have the appearance of freedom, it is in actuality an admission to bondage, whether to the bondage of sin or the bondage of a tyrant. License is admission that one is living in a system of prohibition, doing what they do, not because it is permitted or even commissioned, but because it has been restricted to those who pay the demanded sacrifice. In the case of sin, we pay the price of our lives (Romans 6:23), being subject to the curse of the law of sin and death (John 7:49, Romans 8:2, Galatians 3:13). In the case of tyrants, we pay the price of extorted fees and taxes, as well as losing our freedom and even our property and lives. Christ can redeem us from the tyrant as well as from sin, freeing us from the curse of the Law so we might enjoy the blessings of the Law. Deuteronomy 28 makes clear that the existence of a tyrant over us is evidence that we have strayed from the Law. If we would but gladly return to the love of Christ (ie, obedience of His law as per John 15:10, we would regain our liberty. When we abandon the Law of God, we abandon God Himself in favor of false tyrannical gods of our own making, rejecting the commission of God for the permission of man. That is the point of the First and Second Commandments:
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I YHWH thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:3-6
By His Law, God seeks to grant us liberty. When we serve the Master who offers the easy yoke and easy burden, we accept the way of life for which we were designed. Within those parameters we truly find liberty to pursue our God-given purpose. A gasoline engine can’t run on diesel, nor can a Mac computer run on a Windows program. Likewise, when we try to run our lives by a law other than the Law of the One True God, who created us to live by His Law, things will turn bad. We will suffer not only under curses sent directly from God, but also from the natural consequences of our sin. Liberty from all these things can be found only in adherence to His Law, through the grace of Christ’s atonement. Salvation is found nowhere else.
The simple fact is that antinomians who condemn Biblical Law as “burdensome” not only have not honestly studied the Law and compared it to other systems, but call Jesus Christ Himself a liar when He announced, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) They eagerly run under the boot of despotism and shun the liberty found in the King of kings. Such utter foolishness is well described in Jeremiah 2:11-13:
Hath a nation changed their gods, which are no gods? But My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. … My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of Living Waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
We live in a dry and parched land, and yet the people continue to go back to the broken, empty cisterns, crying for relief, while only a step away springs up the “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1). May our people wake up, open their eyes, and see that the “freedom” they have been touting for so long has only been a slavery with gilded fetters, and that true liberty beyond imagination is within their grasp!