Law and Liberty

In all kingdoms and nations, there are always certain similarities.  There has never been a nation without laws, and within those laws there are always certain liberties. The kingdom of God also has its laws and liberties, and its citizens need to understand the differences between the two.

A law is a rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority.  With reference to natural, moral, and spiritual laws, the authority which establishes them is God Himself.  Those who are bound by the laws of God are all of those who are under his authority.  Psalm 24:1 explains exactly who is under the authority of God: "The earth is the Lordí s and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.Ē  In other words, the laws of God bind every man and woman in the world.

Godís laws are now universal and constant for all people, and there are no exceptions.  In fact, if there was an exception to any law, then it could no longer be a law, for that would violate the definition of law.  For example, the gravity of earth is a natural law that affects all things and people on earth in the same way.  If there was ever an exception to the law of gravity, then it could no longer be considered a law.  Likewise, any moral or spiritual law stated by God must have the same application for all people.  For God to bind his moral and spiritual laws on some and not on others would violate his own character, for he is absolutely just and fair in all things (Rom. 2:11).

This aspect of law is often argued and denied with regard to Godís law on marriage.  The argument is that alien sinners are not subject to Godís law on marriage because they have not subjected themselves to Him.  This argument is quickly dismissed by again considering that all people are under the authority of God whether they admit it or not.  The law of marriage (Matt. 19:9) or any other law cannot change from person to person or else it cannot be a law.  In fact, Godís law of marriage has bound every married person in the history of the world, for God ordained marriage from the beginning (Gen. 2:18-25).

There are always laws for all people, but within those laws there are liberties.  Liberty is not an exception to law, but rather it is the condition of being free from restriction or control.  Where there is liberty, there are choices, and wherever there are choices, there is some degree of liberty.

No one has absolute liberty, for laws bind us all. However, we often have choices within a law about how we may comply.  For example, the pattern revealed in the New Testament shows that the early church assembled on the first day of the week for the purpose of breaking bread, i.e., partaking of the Lordís supper (Acts 20:7).  That pattern establishes a divinely ordained tradition, but it also allows for some liberty.  The period of time spent in the assembly is not specified and is therefore a liberty.  The time of day for the assembly is not specified and is therefore a liberty.  Whether a sermon is given before or after observing the Lordís supper or not at all is not specified and is therefore a liberty.

Again, let it be emphasized that liberty is not an exception to law.  Liberty is not license for one to do whatever he pleases.  In fact, there are some laws regarding the use of our liberties stated in Romans 14 and 1Corinthians 8.  Paul wrote those words in regards to things such as the eating of meat, the drinking of wine, and observation of days, but the principle applies to any liberties.  "But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.Ē (1Cor. 8:9)

Space does not permit any detailed discussion about Romans 14 or 1Corinthians 8, but let our understanding on this issue be clear.  We must not bind as law where God has given liberty nor take liberty where God has bound by law.  To do either is to defy the will of God.

The greatest of all liberties is liberty in Christ.  Notice Romans 8:1-2 Ė "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.Ē  We no longer are bound by the control of sin because Christ has liberated us. Let us not do anything to forfeit the liberty from sin that Christ died to give us.

Stacey E. Durham


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