BONDAGE AND LIBERTY
There is no safety from spiritual bondage but in a clear and continued remembrance of the full liberty which we have in Christ. Believers in all ages have much need to bear in mind the exhortation of the Apostle to the Galatians: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.”
Some are in bondage to the law of God, under self-condemnation, because they see that they are not perfect in righteousness, according to that law, in its spiritual meaning. From this bondage Christ makes us free; for He Himself is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who trusts in
Him. He is its end as to its penal demands, for He died to satisfy them. He is its end as to the perfect righteousness it requires for full acceptance before God, for by His perfect obedience all his believing ones are made righteous with an everlasting righteousness. In this liberty we need to stand fast.
Others are in bondage to religious ordinances. They know that there is no salvation apart from Christ. They know that His death is necessary for their salvation; but they think that ordinances also are necessary. With them salvation is thus partly by the death of Christ, and partly by the due observance of religious ordinances. This was the bondage into which the Balatians had been brought by false teachers, greatly to the dishonour of the finished work of Christ. They did not reject Christ and seek to be saved by works only. They would indeed rely upon Christ, but they would also rely upon their observance of religious rites and ordinances. This the Apostle told them would ruin all. Christ would profit them nothing. They would still remain under the condemnation of the law of God. Alas! this is what many are doing now, to the great bondage of their souls. From this bondage the way of deliverance is to make Christ all. The soul looking to Him and knowing that He is God’s only way of salvation, and that God’s way is sure, and His work perfect, and His word true, ceases altogether from any reliance whatever upon religious rites and ordinances, and is satisfied to rest its security on that way, and word, and work alone.
Others again are in bondage, not because they hope to do anything themselves to honour the law, or to make their salvation more secure by ordinances, for they know that Christ alone is sufficient both for perfect deliverance and for their standing in perfect righteousness before God; but they are in bondage because they look to their doings to find an evidence that they have an interest in this complete work of Christ. This may seem a very humble and God-honouring mode of action, but it is really neither; and besides, it is sure to bring upon the soul increased and grievous bondage. It is not humble, for here is a looking out for self-goodness. It is not God-honouring, for there is dissatisfaction with the sure word of God. It engenders soul bondage, for it can never give a satisfactory evidence to warrant the appropriation of such infinite blessings. Out of this bondage right thoughts of Christ and His salvation will deliver the soul; for in our thoughts of Himself is found our true evidence of having an interest in His finished salvation. His own word being witness: for if our need leads us to Him alone for help; if our sin-sick state leads us to
Him alone for healing; if our lost condition leads us to trust in
His atoning death alone for salvation; we have the sure evidence that we are His. To all such, how assuring are His words: “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.”
Some are in bondage from wrong views of faith. Their cry is, ‘I want faith. I know that salvation is free, and that it is all in Christ; but I want faith. I am wretched because I have no faith;
and my salvation all depends upon my faith. I know it is the gift of God; and I am continually praying to God to give it to me, and I shall never be happy until I have got it.” This also is sore bondage, from which full deliverance is found in looking only to Christ, and thinking only of Him. So many look for faith instead of looking only to Christ. They do not see that in doing this the primary object of their desire is not Christ, but faith. If such an one be conscious that he is guilty before God, and utterly unable to do anything to save himselfÂ—if he knows that God’s only way of saving sinners is through Jesus Christ His Son, whom He sent to be the Saviour by suffering and dying in their stead; and who also was raised again from the dead, and ascended into heavenÂ—if he has no other hope for the
salvation of his soul but in the Lord Jesus thus dying, he already possesses faith, the faith for which he has been so long seeking and praying; and he would have had the full consciousness of this, had not his seeking for faith, and looking for faith, instead of looking only to Christ, brought him into such bondage that his eyes were blinded to his real condition as already possessing faith, and already possessing salvation.
Soul bondage is also caused by relying upon faith as a kind of qualification by which to find acceptance with Christ;
whereas the consciousness of sinnership and need is the only true and scriptural qualification for acceptance by Him, and the only personal claim to His salvation. To those under this soul bondage how welcome should be the words of the Lord Jesus:
‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest.” Yes! it is our burdened, guilty soul that brings us to Jesus for salvation, and it is that only which brings us a hearty welcome from Him.