Choices, choices, choices. In America we pride ourselves on the number of choices we have and the freedom we have to make them. The truth of the matter is, this is just a myth. The freedom to choose was given away a long time ago, and only a certain few understand the true concept of freedom. If you are a Christian you need to realize and have a deeper understanding of true freedom. If, on the other hand, you are not a Christian, then to experience true freedom, you need to know the source of that freedom. The bottom line is this; the choices we make today can and will effect our future into eternity.
The text that I want to concentrate on is found in 2 Corinthians 3:17, where Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” In and of itself this statement is fairly self-explanatory, but I want to give you some background so as to keep this scripture in context. I’m going to share with you some of what Paul had been discussing with the Corinthians, leading to this statement. Keep this scripture in mind as we unfold God’s plan for true freedom.
Since he had last been to Corinth, and since his first letter to them, Paul had heard some good news and some bad news coming out of the church at Corinth. The most troublesome to his heart was the fact that false teachers had crept in trying to “peddle the word of God”, as he wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:17. These false teachers were trying to profit from the word of God as well as diminish it by adding their own slanted doctrine. An example of what they were doing would be a wine merchant adding water to wine to increase its volume for greater sales. The problem with this widespread practice is that it not only weakened the wine, it watered it down, thus increasing the volume and allowing them to charge for more. For instance, they sought to mix law with grace to make it seem attractive to more people; thus compromising the word in the process.
Continuing on with 2 Corinthians 2:17, Paul reminded them that he taught, ”as from sincerity, as from God, speaking in Christ in the sight of God.” He then proceeded to contrast the Old and New Covenant. A covenant is a promise, an agreement or testament, thus the terms, Old Testament and New Testament.
The Old Covenant was the legal system delivered by God to Moses, whereas a blessing was conditional upon obedience. It was in essence, an agreement of works. If man does his part, God will do His. The New Covenant, by contrast, was the Good News to man or the gospel. In it God agrees to bless man freely by His grace through the redemptive work of One, that is His Son, Jesus Christ. In this agreement, everything depends upon God and nothing depends upon man. Even the faith to accept this agreement would be given by God.
Paul goes on to further contrast the Old and New by showing that the real purpose of the Law was to show our inability to be obedient to God in all things, and thus recognize the need for a savior. In Romans 3:20 Paul writes, “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His (God’s) sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Furthermore in Galatians 3:10 Paul says, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, to perform them.”‘
Paul calls the Old Covenant the ministry of death, and the ministry of condemnation, for that is exactly what the Law brings. But the New Covenant he calls the ministry of the Spirit, and the ministry of righteousness, for that is what it accomplishes. Paul continued to comment that even to the time of his written letter, many people were still blinded concerning the real significance of the Law when compared to Jesus as Messiah. Only when one turns to Christ Jesus is the evil of darkness lifted and the types and shadows of the Old Testament are finally revealed in the being of Christ, the Anointed One.
This is where the significance and importance of the scripture in 2 Corinthians 3:17 comes to play. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” That liberty is the freedom from the chains and shackles of the Law, which couldn’t save us from sin, but only revealed sin to our eyes as well as in us. That freedom also released us from our lack of understanding scripture. Our eyes were spiritually opened. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”–1 Corinthians 2:14. A further benefit of that liberty in the Spirit is our freedom once again to make right or righteous choices.
You might be asking, “Wait a minute, when did we lose our right to choose? I thought we had that right all along.” The truth is, we lost our right to choose a long time ago, and the Law, in reality drives home the fact that we haven’t been free at all, but in actuality have been in bondage, a slave to our natural tendency to sin. Man actually started in the beginning with two choices, to be obedient to God, or disobedient. Man made the choice to be disobedient and all of mankind has suffered the consequences since.
In Genesis 2:16-17 it says, “And the Lord God commanded the man saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” I want you to see two very important things about this scripture. First, God commanded the man, Adam. Where there is no freedom to choose, there doesn’t need to be commands, authority has no need to be present. A person without the freedom to choose is under no authority because in essence he is no more than a slave or robot. Directions, or commands are given and they are just carried out. There is no questioning, no hesitation because the capacity to question is just not there. But God created Adam with the ability to choose! To paraphrase this verse, you could say, “Adam, when you eat of this tree you will die, so don’t eat it.” Or another way could be, “Adam, the choice is yours, here’s the terms.” At this point in his relationship with his Creator, Adam had a choice, he was given the RIGHT to choose. To eat of the tree meant death, and conversely, to not eat of the tree meant continued life as he knew it.
Now another aspect of this scripture; God said. “For in the day you eat from it—“ He didn’t say. “If you eat from it.” We have a tendency to believe that God is not aware of what is going on in our lives. In fact there are teachings today that say God did create man but then stood back to see where he would go and what he would do. How much farther from the truth could that be?! We serve a God Who is neither asleep, blind nor ignorant. In fact God’s very nature and character is to know all, see all, and be all. God fully knew the capabilities of man. He knew what Adam would do all along, it didn’t catch Him by surprise, but —- in His infinite Wisdom, Love and Mercy He had a plan!
God created man to love Him, by choice. Not as the angels do, where they were created each with a purpose, but freely and fully, and not out of coercion, but out of a genuine desire to have the Father’s love returned to Him freely, unconditionally. Man in and of himself does not have this ability, he never did, otherwise the goal of our Father for unconditional love could never happen. Adam proved that. But what greater love can we give, than the recognition that we are unworthy and incapable of that kind of love, outside of the Lord’s help. The only way to give that kind of love back is through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, the ULTIMATE EXAMPLE of God’s Love! Only when we recognize our great need for Him in all things, then submitting to His ability and will, can we freely return God’s love back to Him. Adam chose not to love God through his act of disobedience, thus relinquishing his freedom to choose right over wrong, as well as his ability to love God, as he was meant to, from that time on.
Up to this time, keep in mind, man talked with God, he literally walked with Him one on one. God created man in His image. God is Spirit. Man is a spiritual creation. It was only logical that a loving God would want to communicate with the creation that He loves. Adam, through his unloving act of disobedience, severed the spiritual side of that relationship. Because man chose to allow his flesh dominance over his spirit, and because disobedience is sin, and God cannot be in the presence of sin, man’s attempt to hear God as well as talk to Him and walk with Him became less and less. This is evidenced in the scriptures as you see that fewer and fewer people were hearing the Lord.
Notice that at the time of Noah and the flood, only Noah and his family were saved. It stands to reason that if others were talking and listening to God, Noah would not have been the only one saved. Even after Noah and up to the time of Jacob (Israel), God chose to reveal Himself to His people. But soon after Jacob’s death, at least as revealed in scripture, the Lord did not communicate directly with man again until He called Moses. This appears to be more of man’s doing because of his continued disobedience, than God’s will. God has always desired relationship with mankind.
God called Moses and gave him the Law for mankind and especially His chosen people, to show them their inability to reach a just God who is incapable of associating with sin. Because of his self-centered nature and carnal dominance, man could no longer commune with God as was his God created ability in the beginning.
The Law had now become God’s words to man and the few chosen prophets spoke to the nations as God spoke to them. Man as an individual was now obligated to reach God through ritual and sacrifice. Man’s only hope was his trust in the precious promises of a redeemer that God promised to and would send.
Paul tells us that the Law was given not to put trust in our ability, but to recognize that we can’t make it on our own, thereby making it easier for us to have faith in God’s promises to redeem us. In Galatians 3:11 he says, “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.”‘ Paul goes on to state in verses 12 and 13, “However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, ‘He who practices them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law,— “
The sacrifice that Jesus made has purchased for us so much more than just redemption alone, and that is not belittling the gift of salvation by any means. The very word, salvation has so much more meaning than just redemption. Jesus fulfilled the terms of the agreement, the Old Covenant. He bought back for us, at great price, that which we had so carelessly given away. He completed the terms of the contract which allows us the ability to regain what we lost, plus so much more!
END OF PART ONE