Freed to Obey

In his sermon on John 8:36, John Flavel distinguishes between the freedom that Christ gives in redemption (spiritual liberty) and the freedom that Christ does not grant in redemption (absolute liberty). In particular he makes a number of helpful distinctions between the way in which the law of God is no longer binding on believers and ways that believers are still required to keep it, especially as the law relates to the gospel. He notes:

“Christ doth not free believers from obedience to the moral law: It is true we are no more under it as a covenant for our justification; but we are, and must still be under it, as a rule for our direction. The matter of the moral law is unchangeable, as the nature of good and evil is, and cannot be abolished except that distinction could be destroyed, Mat. v. 17,18. The precepts of the law are still urged under the gospel to enforce duties upon us, Eph. vi. 12.[sic][1] It is therefore a vain distinction, invented by Libertines, to say it binds us as creatures, not as Christians: or that it binds the unregenerate part, but not the regenerate: but this is a sure truth, that they who are freed from its penalties are still under its precepts. Though believers are no more under its curse, yet they are still under its conduct: The law sends us to Christ to be justified, and Christ sends us to the law to be regulated. Let the heart of every Christian join therefore with David’s in that holy wish, Psal. cxix. 4, 5. “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently; O that my heart were directed to keep thy statutes.” It is excellent when Christians begin to obey the law from life, which others obey for life; because they are justified, not that they may be justified. It is also excellent when duties are done in the strength, and for the honour of Christ, which is evangelical; and not in our own strength, and for our own ends, which is servile and legal obedience: Had Christ freed us from obedience, such a liberty had been to our loss.”[2]

1. I am assuming that this is a misprint and that Ephesians 6:2 (“Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) was the actual scripture reference in the mind of the author.
2. Flavel, John. The Works of John Flavel, Volume II. “Sermon XVIII: The Liberty of Believers Opened and Stated” (John vii. 36) Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968, page 271.

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