by Frans Bakker
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. —2 Corinthians 3:17
2 Corinthians 3:12–18
Liberty is a word we all like. We do not like to be bound. We like to do our own thing. To be tied down can severely limit man’s independence and can cause him to be weary. God did not create man in a straitjacket or as a puppet. God created man in such a manner that he could be himself. He had a free will. If there ever was liberty, it was in Paradise. Nothing was compulsory there. Everything was voluntary. God wanted to be loved on a voluntary basis. That is why He gave one command to test man.
But then sin came. A voice spoke to man, saying, “You are not free; you are tied down by the fetters of God’s law; and that is why you are unhappy. Break the bond with God, for then you will be really free.” That was the voice of the devil, and man listened. But instead of acquiring liberty, man was bound to the chains of hell. He became a slave to the spirit of the pit and a slave to sin. Then he belonged to a taskmaster who would whip him and send him on his way to further punishment— eternal chains, and weeping, and gnashing of teeth.
Without the light of God’s Spirit we think we are free although we are bound by sin. We consider God’s laws to be a heavy burden and we think we have to deal with a God who imposes unbearable demands, who would even want to chain us in iron bonds and fetters. We think His service is death, and therefore we have become haters of God. But in reality, we are bound to the service of hell. And the service of hell really means we serve ourselves. We glory in our independence. This is our imagined liberty. We think we can be ourselves, while we don’t realize that we are powerless and lost in the chains of death and hell. Nothing is worse than when prisoners only think they are free.
But when the Spirit of the Lord comes, He sets us at real liberty. The first work of the Spirit is that He opens our eyes to our bondage. Through the Spirit we learn to complain, “The cords of death held me in deep despair.” The Spirit shows us that we are sold under sin, and that we desired this bondage ourselves. Then we are enlightened to who we were and that we were created in a service of love to God. We are shown what we have become and why we chose the slavery of sin. God’s Spirit causes us to feel the chains in order to deliver us from them. And He stirs up a desire within us to live according to God’s law and to act according to His will. He unites us to the Lord, to His commandments, and to His service of love. The Spirit leads His creature back to his Creator.
The ties to God and His law become true liberty. Just as a fish can only live when it is confined to water, likewise a creature can only live when confined to God’s laws. All man is he is because of God. Man has simply no independence in himself. He is only God’s creature. He realizes this again by the working of God’s Spirit. That is why we must experience Pentecost in our lives. We have to go back to God. That can only be because of God’s everlasting kindness. He poured out His Spirit upon all flesh. And the Spirit sets free from the bondage of sin and death. What a wonderful gift of God, rich and free!
From The Everlasting Word by Frans Bakker, compiled and translated by Gerald R. Procee. Reformation Heritage Books and Free Reformed Publications, 2007. Used by permission. For further information, click here.