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Freedom and God’s Kingdom

The Christian’s Freedom

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31,32,36).

Just how, though, does Christ and the truth make us free? We would seem to be bound in many ways. Don’t we need to obey those that have the rule over us? Yes, but we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), which means we must disobey anyone and everyone that tells us to do anything contradictory to God’s law. The truth that makes us free is the truth that the God that created and controls all things is our only true master. We obey others only in obedience to God. Our actions are governed by God and we have no masters in this world. Christians are the only truly free people in this world! With this extensive freedom, though, as we will see presently, comes significant responsibility.

God’s Kingdom

Jesus commanded His disciples and all Christians to make the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth the highest priority in their lives. In Matthew 5:33 we are told that this goal should come even before concerns for food, clothing and shelter. The Lord’s Prayer places God’s name, His kingdom and worldwide obedience to His law before personal petitions for daily bread, forgiveness and our susceptibility to temptation (Matt 6: 9-13). Jesus, in The Great Commission instructs us to teach the nations of this world to obey all His commandments (Matt. 28:18-20). The establishment of the kingdom of God was clearly foremost in Jesus’ message to His followers. Christians, made free by Christ, were given the responsibility to carry out this kingdom-building program.

This message though has been played down and its true intent distorted. The outward focus on the nations and the world as a whole has been redirected inwardly to relate to personal instead of worldwide salvation. The “God so loved the world” of John 3:16 has become God so loved me that He sent His Son to die for me. Yes, Christ did die for individual believers but what was in view was much greater. It was the kingdom of God and the salvation of the entire world. This broad perspective of the Gospel message has been all but lost. It has been narrowed down to the salvation of individual souls. The salvation of the world at large has been abandoned and the world has been left to the Devil and his children. Christian responsibility has been reduced from “seeking first the kingdom of God” to living a godly life, setting a good example for others, and telling people about Jesus. These are all good deeds but to reduce the Christian message to such things is only partial obedience, which is disobedience. Even more, it represents a focus on self instead of on God, which borders on the kind of idolatry we see in humanism.

The consequence of this diminution of Jesus’ message has been the abandonment of Christians from public life and the rise of humanistic power throughout the Western World. America in particular, once a strongly Christian nation, is now dominated and ruled by unbelievers and atheists. Its government, its schools, its media, indeed almost every aspect of its public life can no longer be called Christian but is rather, anti-Christian in character.

The Church

Scripture uses the word “church” as a reference to the entire Body of Christ, all born-again believers (Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:3) or to groups of believers in various places (e.g. the church of God which is at Corinth: 1 Cor. 1:2). The word ecclesia, translated church, never refers to an institution; this is in keeping with its meaning in the original Greek, “a body of men.” Where Scripture speaks to the church, it addresses the entire assembly of believers (the ecclesia). Its instructions are not given to an institution of which the believers are members but rather to the believers themselves. They, God’s freemen, not an institution above them, are held responsible for interpreting, understanding, and carrying out God’s instructions.

Over the centuries, though, the meaning of the word “church” was changed; it gradually came to be associated with an institution, the Roman Catholic Church. God’s word was twisted and the institution called the “Church” effectively interposed itself between Christ and His Body. This corruption of God’s word was not corrected by the Reformers, whose expressed intent was not the overthrow but the “reformation” of the then existing church.

Christians may and, in fact, are told to form institutions (governed by pastors, elders, deacons) in keeping with God’s instructions for them. But, as God’s freemen, they are not permitted to absolve themselves of the responsibility for any actions these institutions may take. They are free under God and must obey God rather than men; this includes pastors as well as civil magistrates. They may not hide behind their pastor’s skirts; God holds Christians responsible regardless of what they were told or taught by their leaders. That this is the case is well evidenced by God’s judgment of the people, and not just the rulers, of Israel, even though it was those rulers that led the people into their apostasy. God’s commandments, God’s law, and all of God’s word are given directly to His people and never to or through an intermediate institution.

Now What?

So where are we now? We Christians have been given the responsibility to implement God’s plan for a Christian world (Matt. 28:18-20). Instead of obeying His command, we listened to our church leaders who countermanded God’s word and told us that this was not possible and not really God’s plan. If, as true believers, we wish to obey God and not men, we must disassociate ourselves from such teaching begin to take corrective action.

We should, first of all, study the Scriptures to make sure we understand just what is expected of us. Then, whenever we see God’s law violated in any area where we have authority or influence, we should take appropriate action to correct it or prevent its recurrence. It is the cumulative effort of many believers, each working in a particular sphere, that will one day tip the scales in favor of God’s righteousness.

In addition and perhaps more importantly, we should do whatever we can to convince other Christians of their responsibilities in this regard. This would include correction of false teaching in the churches. The more pastors and elders that can be brought to realize their error, the more rapidly the Christian population can be alerted and our national culture be redirected toward a biblical society. One day “the kingdoms of this world [will] become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ” (Rev. 11:15) and it is the efforts of Christians like you that will bring it about.