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The Perfect Law Of Liberty

Peter L. Meney | Added: Oct 19, 2022 | Category: Theology


Today, there seem to be very few people who will simply acknowledge that all our righteousness must be in Christ, and from Christ, because outside of Christ we have no righteousness at all. This is the clear teaching of the Scriptures. Many of us give assent to the doctrine of total depravity but continue to harbour strange notions of there being yet something good within us. Sure, we are totally depraved, but we are not as bad as we could be! Hmm. How does that work? 

Awful good

The whole of the Bible tells us differently. Jeremiah understood, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ Isaiah knew, ‘Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations’. Paul tells us, ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’ and says further, ‘I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing’. Thus we learn that in heart, soul, mind and flesh the Bible says there is no good thing in a man or a woman. 

A law to ourselves

Yet how we delight in our own carefully crafted religious systems with their patterns for living and expectations for conduct. Our denominational groups set down the boundaries of faith and practice and tell us if we please our pastors and elders and fellow church members we are pleasing God. The older this writer becomes the more he realises people have constructed every imaginable variation of religious activity to suit their own measure of acceptable righteousness. We can always measure up to a standard we set for ourselves.

Something for everyone

Recently, I have encountered Amish, Mennonite, Lutheran, Reformed Presbyterian, Reformed Baptists, as well as other Baptists of the Primitive, Particular, Sovereign Grace, Freewill, General and Landmark sort. All have peculiar doctrines and distinguishing practices encompassing how to live, what to believe, and how to worship. It is a crowded field. All suppose themselves better than the other for their purity of life, doctrine and worship. 

Old man, new man

But better in whose sight? In their own maybe, but surely not in the sight of God? We can never be justified before the Lord God by works we do. We shall never be righteous for the way we live in the outward man of the flesh. Our very nature fights against us. The flesh wars against the spirit. It struggles and opposes the spirit of Jesus Christ created anew in every quickened child of God. It will not lie down, it will not be expelled, and we deceive ourselves if we imagine we can beat our flesh into submission by what we eat, drink, wear or otherwise do and don’t do. ‘They that are in the flesh cannot please God’, says Paul.

The condemning law

Returning to the apostle’s words in Romans 7, he says, ‘I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing’. This revelation granted to Paul is equal parts condemning and liberating. It shows we are nothing, and have nothing in ourselves to recommend us to God, yet at the same time frees us from continually trying to be something we never can be: namely righteous in our flesh. God’s law is the highest standard of holiness known amongst men and women. It always will be, yet righteousness in the flesh never yet came by it, only condemnation. For ‘by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified’.

I am holier than thou

Legalism, in whatever form, is so difficult to break down because the legalist assumes he has the moral high ground in any discussion. He aspires higher, he does more, he lives better and by his service and worship pleases God more. Having attained to greater levels of holiness and spirituality he has little or nothing to learn from the uninitiated and ill-informed. If you are not in the club you are to be pitied, if you persist in your stubbornness you are to be despised. All who seek righteousness by their works must inherently look down upon any who do not. That is the spirit of legalism. 

Outside the camp

Sooner or later all who look to Christ alone for all their holiness, sanctification and righteousness realise they cannot find a home within traditional religious structures and are compelled with the writer to the Hebrews to declare, ‘Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach’.

Free in Christ

A believer’s liberty in Christ is the liberty of resting in the imputed righteousness of Christ. Our justification is full and complete in Jesus Christ and every child of God is perfect in the inward man having been made righteous in the sight of God. This is the new man, a new creation which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Our fitness for God’s presence is an altogether derived holiness from THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. 

Honouring God’s law

Yet, the Lord never leaves Himself without a witness and the role of the church in the world is to be that witness. Such a witness, like the gospel itself, is a two-edged sword. It will cause division amongst professing Christians because many will say those who wield it are opposed to the law of God, Antinomian and careless about godly living. Nothing could be further from the truth. We honour the law of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who fulfilled it. We wish we could live more like Him and lament our weakness every day. 

No progressive holiness

The true gospel does not promote self-righteousness, it slays the proud in heart and brings those who are Christ’s to a greater understanding of Him. John the Baptist said, He must increase but I must decrease. Only under the perfect liberty in the gospel do we begin to learn about our own heart and our innate bias to self-righteousness and the subtilty of fleshy pride. As our Lord Jesus Christ is lifted up we should expect to be ground down. John did not believe in progressive holiness but he did believe in progressive self-deprecation. Greater views of the Saviour tend to diminish our view of ourselves.

Standing fast

The gift of perfect righteousness, divine righteousness imputed and imparted to sinners by the Lord Jesus Christ is the message of the gospel. Knowing our old man can never be improved and the new man needs no improvement is our gospel liberty. Paul tells the believer to, ‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage’. May we have grace to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and faith to rest in His righteousness, and having done all, to stand.