What is Freedom?
The idea of freedom, or liberty, might be one of the most confused — and confusing — concepts in the modern liberal world. Most think of freedom in terms of self-expression, that is, their ability (or lack thereof) to express and pursue their individual desires and whatever path of self-fulfillment they think will make them most happy. But that’s not true freedom.
A more appropriate definition of freedom is this:
Freedom is the ability to act or change without constraint or to possess the power to fulfill one’s true purposes, according to their nature, unhindered.
In order to truly understand freedom, then, we must first understand our purpose and our nature as humans. And we cannot do this rightly without reference to God. For while there is a natural political component to all freedom, freedom is, first and foremost, a spiritual principle.
Paul once wrote to the church at Galatia, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). This means that true freedom comes from Christ — but what did Paul mean by this freedom and slavery?
It is important to understand that all people are born under the condemnation of sin and death (Rom 3:23). This is our spiritual bondage and slavery. We are born in sin and we are in need of rescue.
Scripture tells us that when the law of God came, it did not come to save us, but to show us our wickedness and our need of forgiveness. It might seem like “freedom” when we can do whatever we want, with no reference to God and His Word, but when we run after sin, it shows us that we are nothing more than slaves. That’s because the Law of God serves as a spotlight that reveals to us the chains of sin we all suffer under (Rom 7:13). We are not only held by the power of sin but we are sentenced to the just penalty for our sin — death and damnation. This paints a stark picture. Much of what mankind thinks is the exercise of freedom is instead nothing more than the actions of enslaved sinners sentenced to death. As Jesus Himself stated in John 8:34, “…everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
In order to be free, we need salvation. We need forgiveness. The Law of God drives us to the Gospel and the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Forgiveness always came in the way of atonement or sacrifice — a substitute. Christ came as the Lamb of God, “to be sin on our behalf” (2 Cor 5:21). Thus, our forgiveness and ultimate freedom from the bondage of sin and death comes from Jesus Christ, who has “canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (2 Cor 2:14).
John 3:16 promises us that spiritual freedom begins by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The grace of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification helps reorder and restore our broken nature — not perfectly, but truly (2 Thes 2:13, 2 Cor 5:17). When we begin to follow Christ, we are now free to obey His commands. None of our work saves us; only Christ’s perfect work and sacrifice saves (Eph 2:8). But our freedom sets us free to follow Him because we are no longer under that yoke of slavery.
It is necessary, then, that we understand freedom, first and foremost, as a spiritual principle. No one who is in bondage to their sinful nature can be truly free. But “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Our political freedom is inextricably linked to this first principle. It always required faith to have freedom. The Founding Fathers of the early American republic understood this principle. No, they were not all men of extraordinary faith, but they understood that freedom required self-governance and a religious people who feared God first.
John Adams underscored this connection in his address to the Massachusetts Militia when he reminded them that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
America has forgotten this principle. Today, the majority of our major institutions — universities, corporations, and the media — peddle and push a vision of political freedom that is entirely untethered from, and in opposition to, the freedom found in Christ.
The embrace of an unbound, un-Christian freedom is tearing our country apart. It’s enslaving us, undoing the Revolution of 1776. Except this time the master won’t be the British, but the woke tyrants who think marriage is meaningless, men can be women, speech is violence, and unborn babies are killed at whim.
Our culture is shackling itself back into political slavery through a moral devolution. When the foundational rock of God’s Law is rejected, when the Ten Commandments are torn down, and when Christianity is banished from the public square, our country will not be freer but rather it will be one step closer to true mass incarceration.
When the spiritual element of freedom is forsaken, our political freedom will fall as well. And that is what we see happening today.
In order for the political freedom of America to be renewed — of life, liberty, and happiness — we need a spiritual revival.
But while we pray for revival, we must also work for renewal. We must use the law, yet again, as a teacher. Showing men and women what true freedom looks like by closing off avenues of personal and political destruction.
Christ is the One who sets us free. But as 2 Corinthians 3:17 warns, we should not use that freedom “to submit again to the yoke of slavery,” neither personally nor politically. Our national motto is, “In God we trust” — it’s time we actually mean it. Anything short of that is just slow-motion chain-making.
This is why everyone in America who longs to be truly free must first repent of their sins and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On the cross, Jesus Christ took our sins upon Himself and bore “the wrath of God” that we all deserve (Rom 5:8-9). In our place condemned He stood, and by doing so, He has freed us from both the power and the penalty of sin (Rom 8:1-2).
The Gospel is the declaration of the victory of a conquering King — King Jesus — who has come “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” by sin (Luke 4:18). How? By breaking the chains of sin, sickness, death, and the devil. This freedom is available for all who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
That’s right: Since freedom is spiritual, it begins with salvation. It begins with redemption. Romans 8:1-2 explains that “the law of the Spirit has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death,” while Colossians 1:13 assures us that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
If we want to see a recovery of true freedom in America, it begins with the message of the Gospel. We need a critical mass of converted, redeemed, freed people — Christians — to order our laws and our public life in America according to the true definition of freedom. 1 Peter 2:16 commands us to “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” In other words, not just doing whatever you want but living in accordance with your true nature and purpose as a redeemed child of God. That true nature and purpose is to love God and love others.
This is freedom. Let’s pray that we find this freedom again in our country. We can start by looking for it in the only place it can be found — at the foot of the cross.
Start your voter registration
is a nationwide project of Liberty University under its Freedom Voters initiative. As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, Liberty University does not endorse any candidate or political party.