I remember hearing about freedom in Jesus, but even after having that first major experience with him, I still felt like I was in bondage. I tried doing more, but this approach just made me more encumbered. It seems as though we are told that Jesus sets us free, but only if we bind ourselves to rules and regulations. One day about a year ago, I came across a verse I had heard several times, but never knew the context of:
Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.–Galatians 5:1
As I read the next few verses after this, I saw Paul was talking about circumcision and the old laws. Further, he goes on to state that if these people obligated themselves to this one rule, they would have to uphold all of the law and were alienated from Christ (v2-4). It seems there were Old Covenant followers within this congregation who were trying to keep their traditions and laws from being made obsolete. Likewise, comments of this same effect were made in Acts:
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”–Acts 15:5
Peter’s response however again affirmed that these ways had been set aside:
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”–Acts 15:10-11
Peter too was still trying to hold on to some of the old ways prior to this. First, we see him baptizing new believers in water. Ironically, John the Baptist, who was using water baptism to symbolize what was to come, stated this wasn’t to be the New Covenant way:
I indeed baptize you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.–Matthew 3:11
Jesus later repeats this same statement in Acts 1:5. Peter however goes on to baptize in water until Acts 11 where he is corrected.
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said,‘John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave to them the same gift as us, when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?”–Acts 11:15-17
This states it plainly, the New Covenant way is baptism into the Holy Spirit by Jesus. On a related note, Peter is also corrected about the old Jewish dietary requirements in the same chapter (v4-9). Jesus states in verse 9: “‘What God has cleansed, don’t you call unclean.” To me, this is saying that once we are freed from sin, we are truly cleansed:
If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.–John 8:36
All my life, I never truly felt free because I was made to believe I had to fight vehemently for it while also struggling to maintain all the Christian standards. “Freedom isn’t free” is one of the phrases we often here in America. This leads us to believe we have to uphold freedom by our own means, which isn’t freedom at all. No, freedom wasn’t free, Jesus paid for it. However, there is nothing we can do to earn or maintain this freedom. Our only task is to trust in God. How many today do we truly see living in the freedom that Jesus describes?
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”–Matthew 11:28
Our prison door has been opened and we are free to walk out. It is us who insist that we have to stay in the cell, when the price has already been paid.