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The meaning of Liberty in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

lib'-er-ti (deror, rachabh; eleutheria): The opposite of servitude or bondage, hence, applicable to captives or slaves set free from oppression (thus deror, Leviticus 25:10; Isaiah 61:1, etc.). Morally, the power which enslaves is sin (John 8:34), and liberty consists, not simply in external freedom, or in possession of the formal power of choice, but in deliverance from the darkening of the mind, the tyranny of sinful lusts and the enthrallment of the will, induced by a morally corrupt state. In a positive respect, it consists in the possession of holiness, with the will and ability to do what is right and good. Such liberty is possible only in a renewed condition of soul, and cannot exist apart from godliness. Even under the Old Testament godly men could boast of a measure of such liberty (Psalms 119:45, rachabh, "room," "breadth"), but it is the gospel of Christ which bestows it in its fullness, in giving a full and clear knowledge of God, discovering the way of forgiveness, supplying the highest motives to holiness and giving the Holy Spirit to destroy the power of sin and to quicken to righteousness. In implanting a new life in the soul, the gospel lifts the believer out of the sphere of external law, and gives him a sense of freedom in his new filial relation to God. Hence, the New Testament expressions about "the glorious liberty" of God's children (Romans 8:21 the King James Version; compare Galatians 2:4; Galatians 5:13, etc.), about liberty as resulting from the possession of the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:17), about "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25). The instrument through which this liberty is imparted is "the truth" (John 8:32). Christians are earnestly warned not to presume upon, or abuse their liberty in Christ (Galatians 5:13; I Peter 2:16).

James Orr


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