Freedom in Christ
(read Part I here)
But with Christ, the presupposition is different. The “Law of Christ” is in fact, in some sense, the true “Anti-Law”. It is the true “Anti-Law” because it presupposes that it must not be set as “barriers” or “bounds,” but instead as “freedoms”. It does not express the limits to which humans may conduct themselves, such as “Thou Shalt” but instead, it expresses the uninhibited expression to which humans may freely conduct themselves, such as “Be Free”. The Law of Christ functions not as constraint on human desire (presupposing evil nature) but as a releaser of human desire (presupposing good nature).
This can be the case because in Christ, we are a “New Creation” – the old has passed and the new has come. Hence Paul’s consistent declaration to “become what you are – created in Christ Jesus for good works”. The essential quality here though for true freedom is unification to Christ. It is only in unification to Christ that the nature is renewed, or else even the “Law of Christ” becomes one more tool in the hands of a rebel to destroy.
Human attempts at legislating Law to effect goodness in fact will always, ultimately fail. The degenerative state of human desire is always toward evil. Though a Law may be effected which, for a period, brings about good (read: positive), because the internal state of human desire is inclined toward evil, Law will always ultimately be subverted. (Because of this, there are only to results that can happen – (1) the multiplication of laws: because humans are incessantly looking for ways to avoid, subvert, distort, and undermine those laws (2) the destruction or overthrow of the legislative government)
Therefore, Law, this side of the final redemption and judgment, is necessary yet futile. This may give the impression that Law is flawed, but, as the Apostle Paul argues, the problem is not with Law, but instead with those whom Law is placed upon. Though Law may fail in its purpose of achieving true human obedience, this cannot be seen as the ultimate purpose of Law. Law must be understood as witness against human nature, not as something to excite human obedience (at least not immediately, though mediately it can be said so). The ultimate purpose of Law then is its Revelatory nature. By the very existence of expressed Law (as opposed to unexpressed Law, which does exist but does not presuppose rebellion), that is to say, written, carved and “oathed” Law, it can be seen that it stands against humanity to show them what they are – evil. This demonstrates why Law “fails”, or rather, is unable to achieve the reformation of human nature. The very thing it demands it cannot effect. Law only stands to demonstrate the state of human nature, not to provide the avenue for changing human nature.
Ultimately, Law must be done away with because it stands diametrically opposed to a “Good Nature”. Since it cannot reform, it must be abolished. Law is indifferent in the sight of the New Creation, for what bounds can it set upon those who obey it from the heart? Imposed Law may even be considered an insult to the New Creation, for imposition suggests rebellion, but the New Creation in fact can only obey, therefore Law is futile to impose. What would be the purpose of setting a command upon a person who is unable to do anything other than obey you? The Law and its Commandments must be done away with in order that true freedom might reign.
In the Christian life, therefore, it is essential to use the Law in its appropriate dispensation. The goal of the Christian life is not “abiding by rules” but living freely. “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free”. We are only free when we realize that the Christian life does not consist in conformity to external demands, but in conformity to the image of Christ. The more Christlike we become, the freer we are. But, ironically, as Christ clearly demonstrates, the more we become like Christ, the more subject we are. Conformity to Christ is a surrender of all rights. It is the true “Anti-Autonomy”. Freedom, for the New Creation, is lost in Christ, and yet it is only truly found in Christ.
But freedom is not the primary object. Freedom is not obtained by seeking it, but only by relinquishing it. Such is what Christ demonstrates. True freedom is the relinquishing of all rights and prerogatives for what is truly Good. This is true obedience, and this is the very thing that Law commands but cannot bring about. This is why, in Christ, we fulfill Law, even though we yet are not immediately in obedience to it (though we are mediately). It is only Christ who has and can truly relinquish all rights and prerogatives for the sake of what is Good. Rebellious humans cannot, in fact, will not of their own accord do such an action. Christ, in his relinquishing (read: oblation) fulfills all Law. The whole of the life of Christ, including his death and even resurrection are all included in his relinquishing (I say “even his resurrection” because even though Christ has now been given all authority, power, and glory, these he does not use for his own sake but for the sake of his brothers, the children of God, to the glory of the Father). And so it can be seen that in order to fulfill Law we must be attached to Christ.
The central facet of Christian spiritual life – yea, Eternal Life – is unification to Christ. This is only brought about through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, granting Faith unto the person. Unification is principally, in this life, found only through Faith, because only in Christ is all commendation and in us is only damnation. It must be through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit because, without the Holy Spirit, rebellious man will use even Christ himself as a tool and agent of rebellion. Without the New Creation brought about by the Holy Spirit, man is helpless before God to reform. And so, when man is regenerated, Christ is beautiful, for in Christ is seen all goodness, obedience, righteousness and holiness – the very thing that man has none of. In that moment (all of which is singular) faith is present, for man looks away from self-effort and looks upon Christ. He sees in that moment that unless he is attached to Christ, yea, unless he and Christ are united to become the New Man, he is hopeless. The man’s only true beauty is found when he becomes one with Christ.
“I have been Crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and life which I now live in the flesh, I live by Faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”
And so the Christian life is best described as a Marriage – the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. We are his bride and his our Bridegroom, for we have become on flesh – one man in Christ.
In Christ alone, through faith alone, is obedience to Law only to be found. But in Christ, Law has been fulfilled, and therefore is no longer “binding” upon the New Creation – Christ has “put away” the law and commandments. The New Man hasn’t superseded the Law, as their prior attempts sought to do, but in wholly being subject to it through Christ, they are free from it. The Christian life, in attachment to Christ, is now free to carry out the Law of Christ – namely, that of Love. Love is itself most expressly found in the free giving of oneself to another for the other’s benefit and joy. Though it be a command unto the New Creation, it is not a command of “Thou Shalt” but now it is a command of “Be Free” – more truly, “Be as I am” – “Love one another as I have loved you”. The command of Christ effects freedom, it does not constrain freedom.
So in Christ is true freedom only to be found. And only as we see Christ and his perfections as more and more beautiful than our efforts to attain them, will we find ourselves more and more free to carry out the Law of Christ, to Love.