Taken and adapted from, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom
Written by Samuel Bolton
The Nature of Christian Freedom.
There are four kinds of freedom – natural, political, sensual, and spiritual.
Natural freedom is that which is enjoyed by everything in nature, but this is not the freedom intended in the text. Political freedom pertains to a Nation, a State, a Commonwealth, a Corporation, and it was of this that the Jews understood Christ to speak. They were Abraham’s seed, and therefore free. But Christ did not speak of this. Again, there is a corrupt and sinful freedom which we express under the name of Libertinism. To this the apostle refers in Gal. 5. 13: ‘Brethren, ye are called unto liberty: but use not liberty as an occasion to the flesh’, that is, as an occasion to sin. It is a fearful thing when men turn the grace of God into wantonness. Such men are spoken of in the fourth verse of the Epistle of Jude: There are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness ‘. Perhaps they reasoned thus: ‘Let us abound in sin because God has abounded in grace’ (Rom. 6), which is fearful reasoning, not that of a child of God. Of the same sort of men, the apostle Peter speaks (1 Pet. 2. 16): ‘As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness ’ (that is to say, as a pretext or a colour to sin), ‘but as the servants of God’. It is evil to sin, to do any act of maliciousness, but much more so to cloak or cover it; and much more again to make Christian liberty the cloak of sin: that is most damnable. To make religion, to make the truth of God, to make Christian liberty so dearly purchased, a cloak or pretext to sin, or to take occasion to sin by it, is a fearful sin. But of this Christ does not here speak. This is our bondage, not our freedom, as I shall show later.
It is a spiritual and heavenly freedom of which our text speaks…
…a freedom purchased by Christ, revealed in the Gospel, and conveyed to the saints of God as the great dowry of Christ to His Church and Spouse. Two great things Christ has entrusted into the hands of His Church – Christian faith and Christian liberty. Just as we are to contend earnestly for the maintenance of the faith (Jude 3), so also for the maintenance of Christian liberty, and that against all who would oppose and undermine it: ‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free’ (Gal. 5. 1). Very like this is the exhortation of the same apostle: Ye are bought with a price: be not ye the servants of men’ (1 Cor. 7. 23). But of this I shall say more hereafter.
In general, then, I say, the freedom into which Christ brings believers is a spiritual, a Divine freedom, a freedom contrasted with their former bondage. If this is clearly understood it will explain what Christian freedom really is.
The Quality Of Christian Freedom
We come next to inquire what is the quality of this freedom.
First, it is a real freedom, not an imaginary or fancied freedom. Too many imagine themselves to be free who are really in bondage. But this is no imaginary freedom; it is a freedom indeed, a true and real freedom. Whom the Son makes free are free indeed.
Again, it is a universal freedom, a freedom which does not leave us partially in bondage. Christian liberty frees a believer from all kinds of previous bondage. But we must beware of taking any part of our liberty for our bondage, or of our bondage for our liberty. Too many do so. We were, then, in bondage to Satan, to sin, to the law, to wrath, to death, to hell. By this privilege we are freed from all. It is a universal freedom, universal in respect of persons – believers; universal in respect of its parts. We are free from all that was, or is any way part of our bondage; free from Satan, from sin, from the law, as I shall show later.
Then, too, it is a constant freedom; a Christian is brought into a condition of freedom, a state of freedom, as previously he was in a state of bondage. Wherever the Lord’s jubilee is proclaimed and pronounced in a man’s soul, he will never hear again of a return to bondage. He will never again come under bondage to Satan, the law, or aught else. This is implied by ￼Christ in the words: The servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the Son abideth ever’ (John 8. 35). The apostle expresses the same truth under the figure of an allegory when he says: ‘Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman’ (Gal. 4. 22). Here he distinguishes between those who are under the law, and those who are under the Gospel, the children of the bondwoman and those of the free, the heirs of promise and the servants of the law. The one must be cast out, says Paul. Likewise Christ speaks here: The servant abides not in the house for ever’ (they shall not inherit), but the Son abides in the house for ever. ’ The sons shall inherit, shall enjoy a perpetual freedom, and shall never again return to bondage.