Freely BoundMarch 4, 2023 Gospel Connections
Have you ever noticed that Paul often calls himself a “servant of God” (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1)? In Galatians 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Christians are called bond-servants of Christ. Yet, the Bible calls those who are in Christ “free people”. We, who were once slaves to sin, are now free people living for Christ as His servants. Paul explains that we were slaves to sin and have become slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). In this way, we are “freely bound” to Christ. But, what do we do with this? Is this just some extreme oxymoron?
A main idea that seems to be put forth throughout the Bible is the fact that we truly never are our own. We, as humans, are always influenced and are under some kind of authority. Negatively, we are influenced by the flesh, the evil one, and the world. Without Christ, we are under the “authority” of sin and the evil one who tell us we are condemned and who enslave us to an eternity without God. Once we are in Christ (that is once we believe and trust in His life, death, and resurrection on our behalf and completely surrender our life to Him), we are free from the chains of sin and the evil one (John 8:32-36; Romans 6:6, 17; 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:17). So what does being freely bound actually mean and look like
1. We are free to love and serve Christ, resulting in striving to follow His commands
Because of Christ, we’re totally free to act how we desire without the chains of sin and evil desire, right? No, not exactly. But this is not an “unfortunately, no” type of deal, rather it is a “fortunately, no” type of deal. We have been freed from sin, but for whom or what purpose?
Several passages in Scripture answer this question. Paul, in Romans 6:17-19, states it very bluntly (a very Paul thing to do) when he says,
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (Romans 6:17-19).
The sense that Paul is communicating is that salvation has a particular purpose. That is: freedom from sin is not abstracted from the personal work of Christ. We are freed from a poor master for the very purpose of coming under the loving lordship of the master who we were always meant to love and serve gladly. We were once slaves to sin and are now slaves to righteousness. Just as we once were tied to sin (impurity and lawlessness as Paul words it), we are now tied to Christ and to righteousness. Our identity is no longer tied to sin, but tied wholly to Christ. Paul calls us to action by telling us to pursue righteousness and sanctification in the same way we previously pursued our fleshly desires. Let’s look deeper at what this means, starting in 1 Peter 2:16:
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16).
We have the ability now to use that freedom to voluntarily follow Christ and submit ourselves to Him fully. We are freely bound to Christ. We are able to use our freedom to live “as servants of God,” as 1 Peter says, rather than using it to continue enjoying our sin and “pretending” we are free by abusing grace and discrediting the gift grace truly is.
2. We are free to love and serve others, resulting in viewing them as more significant than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4)
Another Scripture which is closely tied to 1 Peter 2:16 is Galatians 5:13:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
What does this verse add to our understanding of freedom in Christ? Well, here we are again called to be careful not to use our freedom to continue serving ourselves and fulfilling our evil desires but instead to serve others. The phrase “opportunity for the flesh” means to have the “opportunity to follow your fallen, sinful desires and act contrary to God’s moral laws” (ESV Global Study Bible). Here, the focus is on serving others rather than explicitly on serving Christ, but, remember, that which we do to others is what we do to Christ (Matthew 25:31-40). We are free people with the ability now to use that freedom to voluntarily serve our brothers and sisters and commit ourselves to honor others. We are “freely bound” to others.
We were created to have relationship and to have an authority rule over us. Thus, we will always find those through something, whether it’s the right place or not. We find a sort of relationship in sin and darkness. We find authority by looking within ourselves (autonomy) or by listening to the voices of the world. Since we’ve been set free, now we can find real relationship with God (which is the ultimate relationship we were made to have) and with other believers. We can find authority in the one sovereign and gracious God - who is our real and ultimate authority whether we live like it or not. We are “freely bound” to Christ and this should produce joy in us and cause us to act in certain ways.
3. We are free to align our actions with that which we were created for since we can now freely pursue our purpose (Eph 2:10)
What are we truly free from through Christ?
- You are free from sin
- You are free from shame (1 John 1:9)
- You are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
- You are free from worry (Phil. 4:6)
- You are free from people-pleasing (Gal. 1:10)
- You are free from fear (1 John 4:18)
- You are free from death (1 Cor. 15:55-57)
- You are free from a “wasted life” (Prov. 16:9)
- You are free from the Law (Rom. 7:6)
- You are free from earning righteousness (Gal. 5:4)
Live a life that is clearly different from those around you who are not in Christ. Maybe that means you will feel uncomfortable or lose friends, but that is the sacrifice that we are called to when we are told to live as “servants of Christ.” Being a servant never sounds easy, but the one we serve is a gracious, loving, and caring master who desires our good.
Practically living “freely bound” looks like stewarding your finances in order to serve others and not be mastered by money. It looks like speaking truth and calling out sin. It looks like worrying about what Christ has called you to do rather than what people think of you. Being “freely bound” means you are courageous and bold in the face of something trying or scary because you know Christ is your master who protects you and cares for you. You are freed to enjoy God and doing that alongside fellow believers.
We were given freedom so that we could freely pursue the purpose for which we were made. Paul tells us in Ephesians that we were created for good works (Eph. 2:10). So here we are, free and in Christ - what a joyous truth worth celebrating! We were created for more than being enslaved to sin and darkness. Let’s not take advantage of that, but instead pursue living “freely bound” to Christ and the higher calling He has placed on our lives.