I have often been asked why men and women who are careful students of the Word of God and have a correct understanding of many of its truths cannot see other truths in Scripture that are plainly revealed: truths such as recognizing only one Name in which to gather, the priority of the breaking of bread, the priesthood of all believers, the plurality of gifts and overseers, separation from the world of sports and entertainment, the silence of sisters in an assembly and their modest dress, long hair and covered heads, to name only a few. I have been unable to give any satisfactory explanation for this riddle. I think I have a partial answer now.
A prominent evangelical publication recently had an article that claimed that there is a “redemptive freedom” that exempts believers of this day from having to obey plain precepts of the New Testament. This writer claimed that restrictions about where we go, what we do, how we appear, and with what or whom we associate do not apply to us. Some of the ceremonial and dietary laws given to Israel were used as examples of Scriptures that do not apply to us. This is certainly true, but from this it was then deduced that truths found in the NT also do not apply to us. The writer then makes the common error of interpreting many practical passages by a cultural method that limits them to the people to whom they were immediately addressed. So “redemptive freedom” is really only a very clever form of cultural interpretation.
The language of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is crystal clear. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect (complete), throughly furnished (completely supplied) unto all good works.” Scripture is all sufficient and has relevance to us today. While the ceremonial laws for Israel are past because they were fulfilled in the coming of Christ, the moral principles of both Testaments are still relevant.
Freedom and Liberty
But doesn’t Galatians 5:1 say, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” What is this liberty? Every believer is free from the condemnation of the law and free from its bondage (Gal 5:18), but does this mean we have liberty to break its moral commands? Paul answers, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (Rom 6:14-15). “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Gal 8:4).
What is our “freedom” under grace? Is it freedom to please self? This is terrible bondage. Is it freedom to say what I please, go where I want, and do what I like? Is it freedom to be like the world that is perishing? The plain answer is “No”. It is freedom to please the Lord and obey His Word. This is the only true freedom. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… Whosoever committeth sin is the servant (bond slave) of sin. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:32, 34, 36).