“Freedom!” It’s often the battle cry of patriots opposing tyrannical rule, children as they run wild from the schoolyard, even adults after leaving a long work week. Today, everyone wants to be free: whether free from debt, free from government oppression, free to speak, think, or act. For Christians, there is a desire to be freed from the bondages of sin. What does real freedom look like, and how is it obtained?
Freedom is a precious gift, yet it comes at a price. In the United States, Independence Day is celebrated as a remembrance of the hard fought freedom from British rule. The Revolutionary War marked a radical change in the course of human events. The Declaration of Independence laid out “inalienable rights” by declaring a complete break with Britain and its King, and claiming the powers of an independent country when it stated:
“That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.” Article
Freedom that has been fought for will always be appreciated more than when it is handed over. Children and teenagers who’ve had to earn independence from mom and dad will cherish it more than a child who has always been given liberty to do as they please. There is an understanding that comes through the hard fought battles of gaining trust, as well as the consequences of breaking those rules. Perhaps that is why we are seeing people all too willing to give up their freedoms. They didn’t actually have to pay the price but have reaped the reward.
How does this fit in with Christianity? There is a deception among the majority of believers that Jesus paid it all on the cross and there is nothing more that has to be done. We are free because Jesus paid the ultimate price of redemption with His blood (Col 1:14). While we know there is no other name in which salvation exists (Acts 4:12), we still have a part to play in our salvation process. Paul tells us in his address to the Philippians that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). He also told the church at Corinth that he had to die daily (1Co 15:31). Jesus Himself said if any wished to follow Him, they would need to deny themselves and pick up their cross (Lk 9:23).
If our work had been finished and done at the cross and freedom was now ours, why did the Apostle Paul say otherwise? In fact, what Jesus did on the cross was the completion of His work, and a pattern for those willing to follow after Him.
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps”(1 Pe 2:21)
In order to obtain freedom, we need to understand it from a Biblical perspective. Typically, we think of freedom as not being under someone’s rule or obligated to anyone or anything. If we were speaking in financial terms, freedom comes when we are no longer in debt. Anyone who has ever wanted to purchase a house, car, or get an education, but didn’t have the finances to do so has to borrow that money from a lender or financial institution. That person has become the ‘debtor’ and is under the burden of the one who loaned the money, otherwise known as the ‘creditor’. Interestingly, one of the definitions of debtor means one who is guilty of a trespass or sin; a sinner.  So a debtor is also considered a sinner, how can this be?
In the Hebrew context, the word free is chopshiy, which means to be free or exempt from slavery, taxes, or bondages.  The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon says it means freedom from a master.  However, when we look at the Greek related words we find the word aphesis, meaning forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), liberty;  as well as eleutheros, one who is freeborn, as a citizen, not a slave. The parent root word is erchomai, which metaphorically means to come into being, arise, come forth, or be established. 
So the definitions of freedom mean one who is free from slavery, bondages, or a master, but also one who has forgiveness or pardon of sins. Usually the term sin brings to mind things such as lying, cheating, or stealing, and while they aren’t traits we should have, these aren’t real sins. In the Hebraic context, sin means to miss the goal, or path of right and duty, to miss the way or the mark.  The ancient Hebrew gives us an even deeper understanding:
“To measure, as in the wrong actions of one are measured against the correct action. Also to miss the target, whether a literal target or a goal that is aimed for.” Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Bible
What is the mark we should be hitting, or goal that we are aiming for?
The Torah is what is otherwise known as the law. It comes from the word yarah, which means to throw, to shoot arrows. It also means to teach, as in pointing the way one is to walk in life.  Jesus said,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life”(Jn 14:6).
The mark we are to be aiming for is the nature of Jesus. If we have a true understanding of His law, and not the letter or literal version of it, we will see His character and be able to walk like Him. However, if we can’t see His nature and character in the law because we don’t understand it, then we have missed the ‘mark’ and therefore are not walking in the way. Simply put, sin is not understanding or having the wrong understanding of God’s Word. This lack of knowledge, or being unable to see the deeper things in scripture, causes us to be in bondage and under a taskmaster. We find ourselves in debt (spiritually speaking) to the enemy and not free in Christ.
“Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness?”(Rom 6:16)
Just as we need finances to pay off our natural debts, we also need to pay off the spiritual debt. Yes, Jesus did redeem us by His blood, but we are not fully free yet. Jesus came to fulfill His portion, now we have our portion to fulfill. Our ‘creditor’ has changed and now our debt is owed to God. He is not a harsh taskmaster who wants us to stay in bondage to our ignorance of His law, rather, He wants us to pay off our debts with right understanding and wisdom of His character and nature- so we can be like Him.
“But thank God, though you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed. And having been set free from sin, you have become the servants of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in thought, purpose, and action)”(Rom 6:17-18 AMP)
Freedom comes through wisdom, knowledge, and the Word of God being revealed to us. It is not a prayer of salvation to obtain the gift of grace to continue to live our lives as we please. The gift of grace is God’s truth, it is Jesus being revealed to us so we can see the scriptures as He came to teach them. These revelations are the riches that pay off our debts of sin (lack of understanding).
“But now since you have been set free from sin and have become the slaves of God, you have your present reward in holiness and its end is eternal life. For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord.”(Rom 6:22-23 AMP)
Real freedom comes at a cost, not because Jesus didn’t do enough for us, but so we can truly appreciate being set free from sin and bondage. Jesus said the kingdom of Heaven is within you (Lk 17:21) and also that the kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt 11:12). That means there is going to be a battle. The kingdom of Heaven will not dwell in us if we aren’t going to fight for it. Freedom will not come until we pay off our debts. God requires a right understanding (righteousness) of His Word and who He is, then we are no longer slaves to the enemy- living in ignorance, but kings and priests and heirs to His glory.
- Brown Driver Briggs Dictionary
- Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Bible
- Thayer’s Bible Dictionary
- Thayer’s Bible Dictionary
- Strong’s Bible Dictionary
- Ancient Hebrew Lexicon Bible