Many Christians underestimate the impact that
Adam and Eve have on our understanding of the Bible. Their
behavior teaches the Christian that there is a third answer to
the question: “Just what is the nature of man?”
Man is good
A Christian can tell you right away that this is
not the case. If it were, there would be no need for repentance. But
that’s not the way some in the world see it. For example, the great
myth of the “Noble Savage” quickly unravels. Thoreau, Gaugin and
others have given us the picture that the noble savage, unspoiled by
the horrors of western civilization (like Jesus), is in his native
state one whose character is marked by a pure, unshackled goodness.
Gaugin in particular moved to Tahiti to live among such people. He
returned to France a few years later, after discovering that
Tahitians share all the vices that civilized man cherishes. Original
The idea is not new; one of the continuing
efforts of Christendom is the monastic movement, or its cool
counterpart, the commune. Simply, you enter into this heaven on
earth by voluntarily committing to obey the rules. The failure comes
when you need to kick someone out of the commune. Where can they go?
Back to those naturally good people you’re trying to avoid by living
in the commune?
The usual answer is, “Come the revolution…” All
we need to do is overthrow the government, take over and then peace
and freedom will blossom. Of course, in taking over, you become the
Man is evil
If the noble savage has no need to repent, this
view will tell you that repentance is of no use. People are going to
fail again. Indeed, “There but for the grace of God go I” fits
nicely here. This view holds that you are the product of your
heredity and environment completely. Therefore a strong hand
Heaven on earth can be achieved in this view. The
“right” people take power and rule with an iron fist. Strict
discipline and swift enforcement are the tools needed for the job.
The method has seen several implementations.
Religions which base themselves on works (Mormonism, for example)
use this method. One might also recall the Knights of Malta and
other military orders of monks; indeed, much of the autocracy of old
was based upon this thought.
One serious problem of this view is this: Who
watches over and corrects the faults of those holding the bull whip?
Man is fallen
This view holds that God created us as very good
– but our sinful nature has degraded us. In this view, repentance is
not only useful – it’s essential. Failure is always with us, but we
know that we are not designed to fail.
Heaven on earth? There is no such thing, but for
our comfort and assistance we have the church. We are accountable to
As we shall see, this view of human nature gives
us a point of view regarding our freedom.
Nature of Freedom
Gal 5:1-15 NASB It was for freedom
that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be
subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ
will be of no benefit to you.
And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he
is under obligation to keep the whole Law.
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be
justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means
anything, but faith working through love.
You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
This persuasion did
from Him who calls you.
(9) A little leaven leavens the whole
lump of dough.
I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other
view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment,
whoever he is. (11)
But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still
persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been
I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only
your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love
serve one another. (14)
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the
"YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not
consumed by one another.
Freedom in Christ
Paul makes three main points concerning freedom
1. This freedom is obtained through
Christ – the gift of God, not the gift of revolution.
2. This freedom will be assaulted – from
many directions. It is contrary to the way of the world.
Therefore we are to stand firm in that freedom.
3. It can be lost. You can fall from
grace; the way mentioned here is by going back to the Jewish
law. But there just might be other ways, as well.
The inner nature of freedom
Freedom proceeds from within. How often have you
seen someone who is a prisoner of their past? Someone who is “locked
up” by the behavior of their parents, perhaps? You can chant freedom
to such a person over and again – but until freedom grows within,
they are still prisoner. To them, the bonds of time are real; all
they can see ahead is more bondage.
For the Christian, freedom is “faith working
through love.” Take this step by step:
· To begin, there must be faith.
Our past holds us captive when we feel that we cannot change
the future. But faith steps in and tells us that God has the
future in His hand.
· It must be a “working” faith. We
see no change if we do no work. If you won’t commit to God,
will you see faith at work?
· It is done “through love.” We
cannot continue to work through agony and hatred. The free
man works this way; the slave cannot.
You are free if…
Pardon the repetition, but the point bears it.
Suppose you capture an eagle, and tie it up with
ropes. It is certainly not free, and if you were asked why you would
simply point to the ropes. The ropes cause this lack of freedom. Now
suppose that you take the eagle into a submarine, untie the ropes,
stuff it into a torpedo tube and fire it out into the sea. Is the
eagle free? Not really.
So we might conclude as follows:
· Just because you remove that
which caused the loss of freedom does not mean you are free.
· We need thus to recognize the
difference between “free” and “unrestrained.”
Suppose you inherit a large sum of money. You
never need to work again; and you decide to give your desires free
reign over your life. You will behave however your desires flow.
Don’t you see that you are not free? Your desires are running you.
“I can do anything I want” is thus not a declaration of freedom but
Permit me, therefore, a change of definition.
Freedom means that you have the unrestricted ability to do what God
intended you to do. Eagles must fly; that’s what God designed them
to do. They are free if they are flying. So if we are to know
freedom, we must know what God intended for us. Paul now gives us a
Gal 5:16-26 NASB But I say, walk by
the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit
against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so
that you may not do the things that you please.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality,
(20) idolatry, sorcery, enmities,
strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions,
envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I
forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice
such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
(23) gentleness, self-control; against
such things there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with
its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one
By their fruits you will know them; here are the
outward lists which tell us of the inward man.
Deeds of the flesh
Can we be brief here? Look at this list and see
how many things are still with us today, even inside the church.
Take a look at these:
· Immorality – The word is
the one from which we get our word “pornography.” Also known
as freedom of speech, or “I just read it for the articles.”
· Impurity – actually,
unwillingness to cleanse oneself. It is the negative of the
word from which we get our word, “catharsis.”
· Sensuality – the rule of
· Idolatry – the worship of
something other than God. Modern candidates are money,
science, influence and health clubs. Sometimes this includes
hobbies as well.
· Sorcery – the word from
which we get “pharmacy.” It seems that doing drugs is not as
recent as we thought.
· Factions – the root word
from which we get “heresy.” Who could commend the constant
division of the church to satisfy someone’s ego?
Fruit of the Spirit
It’s a familiar list – and therefore all the more
· Love is agape in
the Greek. This is the commanded, willed love.
It is the act not of passion but of determination.
This is not spur of the moment but planned love.
· Joy is chara from
which we get our word "charismatic." Barclay puts it
this way: "it is the joy whose foundation is God."
· Peace (eirene)
is that tranquility of the heart that comes from knowing
God. The Greeks used this word to mean the serenity
which came from a well governed society. By extension,
it is our peace that comes from knowing that God rules our
· Patience (makrothumia)
means more than just resignation to the facts. It
might even better be translated "persistent waiting."
For that is what it really means; the ability to wait
upon God's time, not idly but also not fretting.
· Kindness (chrestotes)
can also be translated "goodness;" when used of wine,
it means "mellow." This is the word that is used of
Christ's yoke. The basic idea is that of a goodness
which is kind.
· Goodness (agathosune)
is a rare word in Greek; it can be defined as "virtue
equipped at every point." Goodness will clean the
Temple; kindness will forgive the woman taken in
· Fidelity (pistis)
means simply trustworthiness. Is your word your bond?
Does the Spirit convict you of promises made?
· Gentleness (praotes)
is, by Dr. Barclay, almost untranslatable! It is used
in three senses:
submissive to the will of God
(see Matthew 5:5, 11:29, 21:5)
being teachable - not to proud to learn
(I Cor. 4:21, II Cor.
10:1, Ephesians 4:2)
· Self-control (egkrateia)
meaning self mastery. It is used of the disciplined
athlete; it is used specifically in mastery of sexual desire
by Christians (I Cor. 7:9). One major use in political
writings of the time is the idea of an Emperor who never
lets his private interests influence the government of his
Live in the Spirit
It may seem foolish to conclude by recommending
the obvious, but may I point out three advantages of this lifestyle?
· Christ promised that His yoke is
light. It is the lightness of being forgiven, and the joy of
working alongside Him.
· You were designed to love God
and enjoy Him forever – and you are never more free than
when you are doing that.
· This life starts on the inside –
where real change is made.