Home Articles Site map
by Jacob Ninan
The crafty devil sometimes uses the very thing that sincere, wholehearted disciples are seeking for, to deceive them and lead them off the track. He saw that Jesus wanted to live by every word that proceeded from the Father (Mt.4:4), and came to Him with another word from the Father to tempt Him with (v.6). But Jesus recognised that even though it was a word the Father had spoken, it was not the right word for that situation. He heard the word that proceeded from the Father right there that He should not put God to a test (v.7). We will be led astray if we hold on to some word of God obstinately without listening to what the Lord is trying to tell us in each situation.
Similarly, when we are keen to have a righteousness that comes by faith in God and not one that comes by works, we can fall into the trap of the devil to receive a faith that does not have any works (Php.3:9:Jas.2:17).
Closely following the desire for righteousness from God in contrast to our own righteousness is the desire to be free from living according to the law, in order to live in the freedom Christ has purchased for us (Ga.5:1). This freedom is to walk according to the Spirit (v.18) in contrast to walking according to the flesh (v.17). When it says that those who are being led by the Spirit are free from the law, it means that those who are walking according to the flesh are not free from the law. Here it is not a matter of whether Christ has completed His part in setting us free from the bondage to the flesh, but whether we have come into the enjoyment of that freedom. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but very few in the world have actually come into the experience of having their sins forgiven, because it takes more than just Jesus doing something. We have to receive the forgiveness of sins by repentance and faith in Him. Jesus has finished His work for setting us free from the bondage to the law. But now we have to enter into its enjoyment.
Just as the devil puts up before people's eyes a faith that merely accepts facts about Jesus which they can have without any repentance and personal trust in Jesus, he tries to sell a freedom from the law that does not proceed from a freedom from the flesh. He wants people to throw away the law, or in other words, throw off all restraints, believing that they are not under any law. But Paul, who preached vehemently to the Galatians about freedom from the law, was himself under the law of Christ (1Co.9:21). We can say, taking the analogy of faith without works, that those who claim to be free from the law without being under the law of Christ are only deceiving themselves.
What is it to be free from the law? It means, first of all, that we do not imagine that we can become acceptable to God by keeping the law, whether it is the Old Testament law or laws that we make for ourselves based on New Testament standards. Even if we have broken only one law in our whole life, we have sinned and we deserve death, and nothing we do afterwards can make an atonement for that sin (Ro.3:20).
It is also foolish to imagine that after we have received forgiveness of sins by faith through His grace, our current standing with God is based on how well we have kept the law (Ga.3:3). We can only stand in His mercy because even if we managed to keep the whole law and failed in just one, we would still be guilty before God (Jas.2:10).
The second way in which people can be under the law (this is the danger believers are in), is to make life consist of keeping a whole lot of rules about what is permissible and what is not. The more we read the Bible, and the more we hear sermons, the more sincerely we can try to restrict our life to what is lawful or permissible. Inevitably. our life becomes more and more restrained as our understanding increases, and it also becomes more and more miserable and depressing. To be free from the law is to be free from this way of life and to be led by the Spirit (Ga.5:18). Then it becomes, no longer a question of whether something is right or wrong, but of what God wants us to do.
Jesus is the perfect example of One who was free from the law and led by the Spirit. He could denounce the Pharisees in no uncertain terms, but He had no problem going for dinner with Pharisees. He was absolutely holy and pure from sin, and yet He could eat and drink with the worst type of sinners. He never sinned once Himself but He had no stone to throw on fallen sinners. He did not heal everyone He saw and He did not attempt to meet every need He saw. He never pleased Himself (indulged His fancies). He could spend whole nights in prayer and fast for forty days, and yet He could sleep peacefully at other times and enjoy feasts too. He told His disciples to offer the other cheek when someone struck them, and yet He did not do that when struck before Pilate because it was not the letter that He followed but the spirit. We can see that a life in the spirit is full of apparent contradictions in the sight of those who understand things only according to the letter or in a legalistic manner.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit gives us power to live this life (Acts1:8), but does not automatically free us from the law. The law has rule over us as long as we are 'alive' and it is only when we die to the law that we are freed from it (Ro.7:1.4). To be alive here means to live according to the flesh (v.5), and when we die, our flesh ceases to have power over us. When we are under grace, sin does not have dominion over us and we are not under the law (Ro.6:14).
We can say this in simple words like this: When we come into grace, we no longer want to sin (1Jn.3:8,9). Then we do not need a law to tell us that we should not do a certain thing, whether it is plain sin or something worldly, because we ourselves do not want to do it. We are free from the law! If any desire has power over us in such a way that we are indecisive about it, we need the law to restrain us in that area because that law has not yet been written on our heart. We have not yet come to experience grace in that area. It is foolish to claim that we are free from the law and be careless. While we are in the process of development, we may have some areas where we have begun to taste victory, while there are other areas where we see how we are still failing. It is foolish to claim freedom from the law and expose ourselves to unnecessary temptations.
If our eye causes us to sin, we are to pluck it out (Mt.5:29). In other words, if we are defiled by what we look at or read, it is better to avoid such things altogether and be under the law there, than to imitate someone who is free in that area, take liberties with the flesh and end up in sin. If we are faithful here, a time will come when we are not provoked even if we happen to see something that would have tempted us earlier. Then we have no need for the law. But we will never reach there if we throw away the law and seek to enjoy a freedom that we have not yet attained to. But if we submit to the law, it will be our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, His grace and the resultant liberty (Ga.:24).
If this is important for us, it is far more important when it concerns children. It is the responsibility of parents (especially of fathers) to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ep.6:4). Children are ignorant of spiritual values and do not even know what is right and wrong. It is foolish to give them freedom and to expect them to make the right choices. Worldly psychologists who have advocated giving freedom for the children to develop their own personality have caused much chaos in society. Parents have the responsibility to restrict their children's freedom with suitable rules and boundaries about what they should do, who they should make friends with, what they wear, etc. Fathers should not neglect this responsibility and pass it on to mothers.
We are tempted to impose on others (at least in our heart) the boundaries we have fixed for ourselves. The result is that we judge them whenever they do something we have no freedom to do. There may be many situations where we cannot understand how another believer can do the things he is doing. If he is a carnal believer, it is possible that he does not yet understand that what he is doing is wrong. If we judge him, we are being unreasonable. On the other hand, if he is a spiritual believer, there is a possibility that we are not mature enough to understand his motives and reasons.
The opposite danger is that in avoiding judging the others we may lower our own standards. For example, if we do not judge others who dress in a worldly way, it does not mean that it is all right for us to dress in the same way. If we are carnal, we will also be tempted to take advantage of the 'liberty' we see in others, and start doing what we always wanted to do.
Freedom is not something that we can boast about (Ro.14:22). There is a danger that our example causes a weaker person to imitate us, and fall into sin because he has not grown into that freedom himself.
The spirit of faithfulness is a spirit of discipline (2Ti.1:7). Grace is never meant to be a license (Jude4), but to discipline us to godliness (Ti.2:11,12). We can examine ourselves to see in which spirit we are taking it. May the Lord help us to stand out in contrast to the spirit of indiscipline that is rampant in the world.
Table of articles