Political liberty is a tremendous social good. But it can only work when there is restraint on our appetites, and when we put limits to our cravings.
Freedom, in the biblical understanding, is much different than what most folks think when discussing freedom. They believe that freedom means being able to do whatever you want to do. The biblical view says that freedom involves doing what is right. And it involves the idea of being free to serve.
Most folks do not think of servants or slaves as being free. But paradoxically, the biblical notion of freedom has to do with being a slave – a slave to Christ and a servant to others. That is why 1 Peter 2:16 says the following: “Live as people who are free, . . . living as servants of God.”
Paul also speaks in such terms. In 1 Corinthians 7:22 he says: “the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.” And in Romans 6:18 and 22 he says similar things: “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
Three general things can be said about the biblical view of freedom and serfdom. First, there is a marked contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian. The non-believer might think that he is free, but in reality he is a slave. He is a slave to sin and self. The above passages from Romans makes this clear, as do others.
Acts 26:18 for example speaks about how the unsaved are bound by “the power of Satan”. Galatians 4:8 speaks of how non-Christians are “slaves to those who by nature are not gods”. And Hebrews 2:15 talks about the unconverted as those who are “held in slavery”.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way: “We are never free. Everybody in the world today is either the slave of sin and Satan or else the slave of Jesus Christ.” Or as R. C. Sproul has said, “The only freedom that man ever has is when he becomes a slave to Jesus Christ.”
And again: “If ever there is a genuine paradox to be found in Holy Writ, it is at the point of freedom and bondage. The paradox is this: When one seeks to rebel from God, he gains only bondage. When he becomes a slave to God, he becomes free. Liberty is found in obedience.”
James Montgomery Boice put it as follows: “The only real freedom you are ever going to know, either in this life or in the life to come, is the freedom of serving Jesus Christ. And this means a life of righteousness. Anything else is really slavery, regardless of what the world may promise you through its lies and false teaching.”
So the non-believer can carry on all he likes about being free – especially being free of God and his requirements. But he is a slave nonetheless. He is a slave to his own sin, to his own selfishness, to his own lusts, and to his own desires. As John Piper says: