On July 4, 1776 our forefathers published a document that they called a Declaration of Independence. It represented the collective dreams and aspirations of a loosely confederated group of English colonies stretched along the eastern seaboard of North America. The signatories of this document could not have envisioned how great this new nation would one day become. In fact, at the time it was signed there was considerable doubt if this new nation would indeed become independent of Great Britain.
Independence is an idea that is almost revered in our country. As a child grows up he is taught to be independent, that is, to learn how to subsist on his own and to care for himself in every aspect of life. Those who refuse to do so are typically looked down upon with scorn for their refusal. Those who are physically or mentally unable to be independent are looked upon with genuine pity. Generally speaking, we want to be independent, especially with regard to the decisions we make about our lives.
This spirit of independence pervades virtually every area of our thinking, including our spiritual pursuits. We sometimes hear professed believers refer to themselves as “free men and women in Christ.” Typically, this declaration is made as a justification for proposed changes to the faith and practice of the church. Such men and women use this statement to declare their independence from spiritual leaders who do not share their views on some matter of faith. Interestingly, the phrase “free men and women in Christ” appears nowhere in scripture. This omission is significant.
The closest reference to such an idea is found in Gal. 5:1, where Paul said, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free”. If this is where the idea of “free men and women in Christ” originates, it is interesting to see that in the context Paul was not talking about the kind of freedom that many assert today. He was instead speaking of freedom from the slavery of the Mosaic Law. The Christians of Galatia were not subject to that law, and no one could make them subject to it without severing them from Christ (Gal. 5:4).
When we consider the biblical concept of freedom in Christ, we discover that it is freedom from slavery to sin. Paul spoke of this in Rom. 6:16-18. He said that we are slaves of the one we obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness. He also said that when the Romans had become obedient from the heart to the gospel, they then became freed from slavery to sin. They did not, however, become free and independent of any moral or spiritual constraints.
In v. 22 Paul said, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” Here is the fundamental truth of our relationship to God through Jesus Christ. All Christians are slaves God. They are also slaves of Christ (Eph. 6:6) and slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18). They are, therefore, bound to the dictates of their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. The bottom line is that we are not “free men and women in Christ” as some use this phrase today. Instead, our freedom is a very specific thing.
Those who are Christians have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). We have been set free from the power of the evil one. Our independence day is the day we obeyed the gospel. This is the day we were set free from the consequences of our sins. This is the independence that we should celebrate and honor each day, even as we daily bow the knee as slaves to the Lord of lords and King of kings.