Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 19, 1957
NUMBER 20, PAGE 8-9a

Liberties In The Lord

Vaughn D. Shofner, Camden, Arkansas

The liberty promised and given to all who live in the Christian dispensation is too often misused in attempts to justify positions and practices not authorized in the perfect law of liberty. This is true even in the church of the living God, and much emphasis is placed on the liberties that are claimed to justify the means by the end. By this liberal thinking, anyone who calls attention to tendencies and trends toward apostasy is branded a "legalist," a "Strict ritualist."

The glory of the Mosaical ministry, which is in contrast with the law of liberty in Christ, had shone forth in rays of light visible to the sense of the eye, from the countenance of the great lawgiver as he descended from the Mount of Revelation. "The children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance" (2 Cor. 3:7). Yet this glory was inferior to that of the New Covenant. It had been destined to die on the appearance of the antitype which fulfilled it. It contrasted disadvantageously with the New Will, which was endowed with perpetuity and a ministration of spiritual righteousness. Hence, Moses had veiled his face, because "when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw that the skin of his face shone, they were afraid to come nigh him" (Ex. 34:30); but according to Paul the immediate motive of this act did not exhaust its future significance. The veil not only shrouded the "glory" of the law from the eyes of the terrified Israelites, it also thwarted revelation, in the very history of its introduction, of a higher object beyond itself. Moses "put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished" (2 Cor. 3:13).

More than fifteen centuries had passed since the scenes of Sinai, but in the days of Paul the face of Moses was still shrouded from the eyes of Israel. The reading of the Old Law perpetuated the symbol in every synagogue, and that which met the eye too truly pictured the spiritual fact which the eye could not reach. "Even unto this day when Moses is read the veil is upon their hearts" (2 Cor. 3:15). But this darkness was not to last. "When it (the heart of the people — V. D. S.) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (Ibid. 16,17).

The practical and consistent conclusion is, that those who are truly converted to Jesus Christ have lifted the veil which darkened the spiritual intelligence of Israel. The revelation of the Spirit is the source of positive illumination, enlightening all who will flee from the prejudice and predilection which deny the deeper sense of the scriptures to those blinded by Jewish thought. That sense is seized by the Christian student of the ancient law, because "where the Spirit of Christ is, there is liberty."

This liberty does not describe freedom from an earthly monarchy; it is not an external, political, social freedom; it is not the freedom of man's outward, individual action. For no political or social emancipation can liberate an enslaved soul; and no tyranny of state and society can enslave a soul that has been freed. This freedom comes with faith in Christ which continues in his word and knows the truth, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31,32). It gives freedom from error for the reason; freedom from restraint for the affections; freedom for the will from the tyranny of sinful and human wills; freedom from sin for obedient servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:18); freedom of religious practices from the trammeling tyranny of human societies, and the sons of God alone enjoy it.

We often hear objections to this from worldlings, and from professed followers of Christ. They say: "Others may speak of liberty, but not you! To preach faith, repentance, confession and baptism as conditions of salvation; to declare faithfulness unto death; to put on the armor of a warrior; to accept the championship of the cause of the church; to try to find today all the identifying marks of the apostolic church — these conditions are incompatible with liberty. They commit you to the principle of dogma!"

The school of the "Modernist" is the hotbed for thoughts which produce the mistaken idea that authoritative laws are the real enemies of religious freedom. The idea finds expression in theology, in the literature of science, political palaver, in fictitious fables designed to interest and entertain, and in bigoted books for Bible study. Holding to the exact tenets of Christ's doctrines is described as "slavish," "arrogant," "overlays the truths of Christianity," is a "hard shell" in which religion is "cased." To value authoritative means of doing all good works is invidiously declared to be setting a value on the way above the soul and life of man; as if all are so thoughtless they believe the people who care for one must perforce neglect the other. The hands that direct the onslaught are the hands of Esau, but the voice gives utterance of no true believer in God's way; it is the voice of the skeptic.

These people take pride in emphasizing as a fact that authoritative laws are restraint upon thought. But their notion of liberty is impossible. A being is free when he moves without difficulty in the realm assigned him by his makeup. Truth is originally the native element of thought, and Christ's Testament prescribes the direction and limits of truth, concerning God and his relations to man. Being true, the Testament should be stated authoritatively. To accept Christ's will as being truth, there is no liberty to deny it. You cannot accept it as truth and even desire such liberty. Nor can you be loyal to truth, and at the same time ignore or defy it. You cannot accept truth without accepting its all-sufficiency, and you deny its all-sufficiency when you go beyond it to carry on the work of the church. When you have discovered a fact of experience, you are not at liberty to deny it; and concerning it you forfeit your intellectual independence by the discovery. The religion without restraining laws governing its every phase knows no God. Religious action without divine pattern denies divinity!

So it is in any realm of thought. Look at the axioms which form the basis of the freest and most exact science. They cannot be demonstrated; they cannot be rejected; but the way reason accepts them is no indication of unworthiness. Faith submits, but her submission to the conditions of truth is guarantee at once of freedom and enduring power.

Submission is not slavery! Obedience is the school of freedom. In obeying the conditions of Christ's will we are freed from cruel yet petty despotisms which enslave the rebel heart. In obeying the revealed laws of God, we obtain not only freedom, but moral royalty; for if man is loyal in commanding nature, his highest exercise of empire is over himself. Those who imagine freedom to consist in repudiation of part or all authority, undermine the source of moral and spiritual greatness, by sapping its very fundamental law. They teach a doctrine which is inconsistent with the first condition of the highest liberty enjoyed for in effect they proscribe the privilege of a free submission to truth!