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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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LIBERTY. Moralists are accustomed to distinguish between formal freedom, or man’s natural power of choice, and real freedom, or power to act habitually in accordance with the true and good. Scripture has little to say on the mere power of choice, while everywhere recognizing this power as the condition of moral life, and sees real liberty only in the possession and exercise of wisdom, godliness, and virtue. Where there is ignorance and error, especially when this arises from moral causes ( Romans 1:21 , Ephesians 4:18 , 1 John 2:11 etc.) subjection to sinful lusts ( Romans 7:14-23 , Ephesians 2:8 , 1 Peter 1:14 ; 1 Peter 4:2-3 ; cf. 1 Peter 2:16 etc.), fear and distrust of God ( Romans 8:15 , Hebrews 12:18-21 etc.), bondage to the letter of the law ( Galatians 4:24-25 ) there cannot be liberty. Sin, in its nature, is a state of servitude ( John 8:34 ). Spiritual liberty is the introduction into the condition which is the opposite of this into the knowledge and friendship of God, the consciousness of cleansing from guilt, deliverance from sin’s tyranny, the possession of a new life in the Spirit, etc. Even under the Law, saints could boast of a measure of liberty; God’s commandment was found by them to be exceeding broad ( Psalms 119:46 ; Psalms 119:96 , cf. Psalms 51:11-12 ). But the gospel gives liberty in a degree, and with a completeness, unknown under the Law and unthought of in any other religion. It does this because it is the religion of reconciliation, of the Spirit, of sonship, of love. Jesus already teaches that His yoke is easy and His burden light; this because He inculcates meekness and lowliness of heart a spirit like His own ( Matthew 11:29-30 ). His religion is to St. James ‘the perfect law, the law of liberty’ ( James 1:25 ). The instrument in freeing from bondage is ‘the truth’ ( John 8:32 ); the agent is the Spirit of God. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there,’ of necessity, ‘is liberty’ ( 2 Corinthians 3:17 ). As the result of the reception of the truth of the gospel, the believer knows himself justified and saved ( Romans 6:7 ), knows God as Father, and is assured of His love ( 1 John 4:14-16 ); receives the spirit of adoption, in which is liberty ( Romans 8:15-16 ); experiences deliverance from the dominion of sin ( Romans 6:17-18 ; Romans 7:25 ; Romans 8:2 ); is set free from the yoke of outward observances ( Galatians 4:9 ; cf. Galatians 5:1 ‘with freedom did Christ set us free; stand fast, therefore,’ etc.); has victory over the world ( Galatians 4:14 , 1 John 5:4 ); lives in the power of the Spirit ( Galatians 5:16-18 ; Galatians 5:22-25 ); has release from fear of death ( Hebrews 2:15 ), etc. On the freedom of man’s will, see Predestination, p. 749 a .

James Orr.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Liberty'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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