Liberty of the Sons of God

“Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” —Romans 8:21

ONE of the outstanding characteristics of the era through which the world is now passing is the almost universal clamor for liberty. This urge to be free was given impetus through the dissemination of knowledge made possible by the invention of the printing press. As the masses of the people become enlightened they are unwilling to remain slaves to overlords, whether economic, hereditary, or ecclesiastical. The march toward liberty began when the early reformers started to protest against the evils of the Catholic Church, and to break away from the restraining cords of its papal edicts.

But this was only the beginning. The discovery of America and the coming to this country of men and women in whose hearts the flame of liberty had begun to glow, gave hope and courage, and added zeal to the promoters of liberty everywhere. America was looked upon as the land of the free. But not all, even here, were free. There were thousands of slaves in the south, and Abraham Lincoln realized that as long as this traffic in human souls continued, the United States had no right to be called a haven of refuge for the lovers of liberty. As a result of a bloody war these slaves were set free.

The example of progress that could be made by a free people here in America stimulated the desire for liberty in other countries, and much has been done in many parts of the earth to set the people free. There have been reactionary movements such as represented in dictatorships, but in some instances even these have now been brushed aside and the people given a measure of liberty where almost no liberty has existed for centuries. In Italy, for example, while economic conditions there are now horrible, the people do have more liberty to think and to act than they have ever enjoyed before.

Proper Liberty Only Relative

All right-thinking persons rejoice in the measure of progress the world has made in getting free from the shackles which throughout the ages held all but a favored few in abject slavery to state, or to church, or to the tyranny of ruthless kings and potentates. At the same time it is well to recognize that the mere idea of being free is not in itself a goal which, when reached, results in human happiness and the stability of a world order. It is all right to be inspired by the slogan, “Give my liberty, or give me death,” but those who insist that they must be free to think and act just as they prefer, with no restraints whatever, will find that the exercise of such liberty results in death.

Freedom, then, can be only relative. A man may be free to ride in his automobile. The highways are free for him to use. He is free to drive fifty-five miles an hour, because the law says the maximum speed allowed on the highway is fifty-five miles an hour. This and other laws governing motoring were made for the protection of the motorists. If he insists on being free to the point of exceeding the speed limit, or driving on the wrong side of the road, or ignoring other rules, he is liable to lose his own life and also may kill others.

Turn in any direction we will, and we find ourselves hedged about by restrictions. We cannot be free to do as we please even in our own homes. There are certain unwritten laws governing home life. To disobey these would mean the breaking up of the home. When we analyze the situation we find the whole creation of God is subject to laws. Even the inanimate works of creation are not ‘free’. The countless millions of heavenly bodies which comprise the universe are governed by inflexible laws. If it were not so, there would be a terrible crash of worlds. The rose develops into a thing of beauty only because the bush which bears it obeys the laws by which it lives and functions.

It is essential to recognize that there must be certain curbs on liberty if we are to find our own proper place in the plans and purposes of God. The great hue and cry for liberty which has been heralded throughout the world during the last century is in some respects bearing bitter fruit today. It has resulted in a spirit of individualism which is wrecking homes and destroying society. It is leading in the direction of anarchy. Thus fertile soil is being prepared in which new dictatorships arise to re-enslave the people, the excuse being that it is the only way that civilization can be saved.

But all of this is in the divine providence. We are living in the last days, the prophetic time of the end, in which, according to God’s plan, there has come a great increase of knowledge. This knowledge, as we have seen, has awakened the people to a realization of the bondage in which they had been held and has created the desire in them to be free. But to break away from the tyrannies imposed by unscrupulous human overlords merely to be free from all restraints, is leading to chaos, to a “Time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1-4) It was essential that man’s superstitious reverence for man, and for unjust, man-made cords of bondage should be broken in preparation for the acceptance and obedience to the laws of Christ’s kingdom. At the same time it is being demonstrated that human beings cannot be absolutely free and continue to live in peace and happiness.

Subject to Divine Law

The human race has experienced six thousand years of suffering and death because it wanted to be free. Just as the orderly functioning of all the inanimate things of creation is dependent upon obedience to divine law, so is the well-being of God’s human creatures. The stars can express no choice in the matter, however. They must obey. But not so with man. When our first parents were created there was set before them the privilege of obeying or of disobeying divine law. They were told that disobedience would result in death, but despite this they chose to disobey. Consequently, the penalty of death fell upon them. They exercised their freedom, but it brought death.

In Romans 1:21-25 the Apostle Paul gives us a comprehensive picture of the terrible conditions into which uncurbed freedom from the restraints of God’s laws had led the people even in his days. The universal wickedness of the world today is merely a further extension of this picture. But how sad is the plight of the human race. They do as they please, or try to, but the cup of nearly all, overflows with bitterness. Just a glance at the experiences of a race that has tried to get along without, and to be free from, the restraining influences of God’s laws should be sufficient to convince any right-thinking person that it will not work, that there is no true way of happiness except God’s way, which is the recognition of his right, as Creator and Life-giver, to be the sovereign Ruler of our lives.

In our text Paul speaks of the bondage of corruption, which is a reference to the slavery of sin and death. Those who are under a prison sentence are certainly not free, and the Scriptures depict death as a prison-house into which all mankind are being herded because of sin. The race is corrupting and dying, thus entering the prison of death. The way that leads thereto is likened to a broad road which ends in destruction. Besides, it is a downhill road, slippery with the slime of sin, and on it the people have no real freedom except to slide ever onward toward their destination of death.

Only the Lord can set free those who are thus in bondage to sin. His plan through Christ calls for the great emancipation of the race. Some even now are made free. This is on the basis of faith in the atoning work of Christ, but the vast majority must wait until the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, when, through the process of restitution, they will actually be restored to life, provided they accept the gift of God through Christ, and obey divine law. We can even now rejoice in this glorious hope on behalf of all mankind, that through the manifestation of the sons of God in kingdom glory they will be set free from their own false sense of liberty and given life on the basis of obedience to the Creator.

In advance of these marvelous blessings which are coming to the world of mankind, God is even now offering the opportunity of repentance and obedience to those who hear the Gospel. Paul speaks of these as being “justified by faith,” and says that upon the basis of this faith relationship they enjoy “peace with God.” (Rom. 5:1) Paul explains further that the objective of this restoration to harmony with God is that we may “have access … into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”—vs. 2

This glorious hope, many scriptures reveal, is that of joint-heirship with Christ in his kingdom which is to bring freedom from death to all mankind. This is the glorious hope of the sons of God during the present age. Paul writes, “If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”—Rom. 8:17

What this means in plain language is that if our eyes are enlightened to see the plan of God, we are invited upon the basis of faith in Christ to surrender ourselves fully to do God’s will. It is his will that we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, inspired by the hope that if we are faithful in this we will have the privilege in the first resurrection of living and reigning with him in his kingdom. It is a return to the status of allegiance to God through the absolute surrender of our wills to do his will. The whole world is adrift from God, alienated from him through their desire to be ‘free’.

Often when one sees the privilege of renouncing his own will to do God’s will, the question arises, “What is God’s will?” It is important that we find the proper answer to this question. Millions have thought they were doing God’s will when in reality they have been blindly following the dictates of some earthly potentate who claimed to speak for God, but did not. It is laudable that we struggle to be free from the bondage imposed by ecclesiastical overlords. It is wrong for human beings to surrender their wills to other human beings; but it is right, and the only way to life and true happiness, that we surrender our wills to do the will of God.

Taking Christ’s Yoke

Jesus, the Prince of Life, did this. He bound himself to do the will of his Heavenly Father, and invited his followers to take his yoke upon themselves: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. 11:29) From this we see not only that Jesus was not absolutely free, that he bore a ‘yoke’, but also that he invited his followers to wear the same yoke.

And what was the yoke which the Master wore? It was his covenant to do the will of his God. It was prophetically written of Jesus, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me to do thy will, O God.” (Ps. 40:7,8; Heb. 10:7-9) This prophecy reveals that the will of God for Jesus had been written in the Book, that is, in the Old Testament. Jesus voluntarily bound himself to do whatever had been written concerning his part in the divine plan. It had been written, for example, that he was to be “brought as a lamb to the slaughter,” also that “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,” so he would not protest against being put to death.—Isa. 53:7

Jesus surrendered his will to his Heavenly Father so completely that he could and did say that the words which he spoke were not his but the Father’s, and that the work which he did was his Father’s work, not his own. “I and my Father are one,” he declared. (John 10:30) He was at one with the Father because his will had been given over wholly to doing the Father’s will. Thus we see that Jesus was free to do only what his Father wanted him to do. The will of God was his yoke, the yoke which he invited his followers to share with him.

There is no true happiness, and no hope of everlasting life for anyone, apart from this full surrender to God’s will. The doing of God’s will is a matter of obedience to the directives of the Word of God. It was in the Word of God that Jesus found the divine will for him expressed, and it is in that Word that we will learn what God wants us to do and to be. When we consecrate ourselves to do his will, the spirit of that consecration will impel us to search the Scriptures, to study them, in order that we might show ourselves “approved unto God.”—II Tim. 2:15

An Easy Yoke

Jesus said of the yoke which he invited us to share with him, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:30) The pathway of absolute liberty is a most difficult one to follow, for it means that one is guided only by the dictates of his own desires. He alone is responsible for the course he takes and for the outcome of his decisions. Such a course involves the assuming of tremendous responsibilities, a burden, indeed, which not many are willing to assume.

With few exceptions men and women are guided more or less by the opinions and preferences of others. To this extent they are doing the will of others, and can blame them when things go wrong. In the field of religion, for example, most people would rather help to pay their share of the minister’s salary and let him do their thinking than to be especially concerned themselves as to what is right and wrong in matters of faith and practice. This is a surrender, not to God, but to one who, it is supposed, represents God. It is devotion to men who claim to be servants of God.

Such a course is not following the example of Jesus. Jesus did not devote himself to the scribes and Pharisees of his day. His consecration was to God. He not only did not choose his own way in life, but, renouncing his own will entirely, covenanted to do God’s will. His only responsibility, then, was to carry out what he agreed to do. This simplified life for Jesus. It was a voluntary restraining of his own liberty, but the yoke thus assumed was easy, for the whole responsibility of his eternal destiny was placed in the hands of his Heavenly Father. Jesus needed only to be concerned over faithfulness in doing that which the Word outlined for him to do. The responsibility for the outcome was not his.

This thought is illuminated by Jesus’ prayer on the cross. With almost his last breath he cried to his God, saying, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit,” my life. Jesus had been doing this for the entire period of faithful, sacrificial service, his spirit, his life, was committed to God. And now, when the flame of his earthly existence was about to be snuffed out, he was still resigned, still glad for his Father to direct the issue.

It was this complete abandonment to the will of God, and to the outcome of doing that will, which made Jesus’ yoke easy. This same spirit of full consecration, full surrender to the divine will, is likewise an easy yoke for us, and for the same reason. The whole world is weary with the endless struggle of existence. Life is a problem, and becoming more complex every day as the selfishness of men and nations leads to increasing chaos and instability. There is only one escape from this thralldom of sin and death, and that is to return to God through a full surrender to the doing of his will.

‘Peace’ and ‘Glory’

From the standpoint of rewards, there are two important considerations which Paul presents to those whose wills are surrendered in consecration to God; one pertains to the present, and the other to the future. The present reward is peace, “peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ”; and the other is glory. Through Christ, Paul explains, we “have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”—Rom. 5:1,2

Consecration to God does not mean the end of all our problems. It does mean, nevertheless, that we endeavor to solve life’s problems in God’s way, and the while conscious of the fact that we are in tune with the Creator, no longer being alienated from him through wicked, rebellious works. We thus are not only at peace with him, but because we have left all in his hands, and are seeking to do his will, we enjoy his peace, the peace which is his because there is no question concerning the ultimate outcome of all his purposes. Jesus enjoyed this wonderful peace of heart and mind, and said to his consecrated followers, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27) This peace of God, then, is a part of the present inheritance of those who are fully devoted to the doing of his will.

But there is a future prospect also, the hope of the ‘glory of God’. Writing to the consecrated, Peter said, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” (II Pet. 1:4) To the same class of faithful disciples Jesus said, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”—Rev. 3:21

This is a wonderful hope! It is the hope of “glory, honor, and immortality.” (Rom. 2:7) The fully consecrated and accepted of God are begotten by his Holy Spirit to be his children. These are the sons to which Romans 8:19 refers. They enjoy freedom from the bondage of sin and death. They are free to do God’s will, free to lay down their lives in his service. They have cast all their care upon God who careth for them. (I Pet. 5:7) And while they labor and suffer and die in the divine service, they rejoice in the hope of sharing in the larger service of the next age, when in the kingdom of Christ they will reign with him for the blessing of all the families of the earth.

And it is for this glorious future work of blessing that the whole world is ignorantly waiting—waiting in travail and suffering; waiting in bondage, enslaved by sin and death. Paul designates it as “waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:19) These sons of God are Jesus and his fully consecrated and devoted followers. They are the seed of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed with peace and health and lasting life.

While the reward of these sons of God will be heavenly and spiritual, when through the kingdom they manifest the power and glory of God for the healing and blessing of the world, the life to be given thus to mankind in general will be earthly, the restoration of that which was lost because of Adam’s rebellion against divine law. The kingdom period is described by Peter as “times of restitution.” (Acts 3:19-21) As the hope of life now is dependent upon full surrender to God’s sovereign will, the same will be true then. All will then serve God with “one consent,” and will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world—the earthly dominion given to Adam, but forfeited when he chose to be free from the restraints of the Creator’s will.—Zeph. 3:9; Matt. 25:34

Dawn Bible Students Association
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