It is doubtful if any nation on earth has ever been as freedom conscious as the United States of America. During two world conflicts we listened to our orators, and to others, declare the advantages of freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. In a vague sort of way we believed what we heard, though few of us took the time to dig deep enough into the matter to learn what we really meant when we spoke of the basic "ideals of freedom." We were fairly well-fed, we had enough clothes and fuel to keep us warm, we attended church services when and where we felt like it and we expected the cop on the beat to protect us and our property from burglars and thieves. Nearly everybody in America seemed satisfied that they had a pretty good idea of what the nation stood for; but even so, most of us sort of took things for granted.
It has long been the opinion of this writer that the Ivory Soap percentage (99 and 44/100) of the people of this nation have a poorer conception of CHRISTIAN freedom (which was the basic reason for the founding of this nation) than they do of the meaning of American freedom! It is my ambition, therefore, to point out the real meaning of freedom as the focal point of the Christian religion, not as it is worded in denominational theology, but as it is revealed in the New Testament.
Freedom From Ignorance
The first of these we shall call Freedom From Ignorance, and it is based upon two statements which were made by Jesus. He said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Jno. 8:32) And, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."(verse 36)
The goal of secular education is to train man to become an asset to self and humanity. Without education man gropes in- darkness for the lines which tie him to the fields of real usefulness. He cannot know how to properly use the multitude of things which God has enclosed in natural laws unless be is trained in the various sciences. He is helpless in the vast fields of electronics, medicine, archaeology and dozens of others, if he is ignorant of the principles by which they move. His mind must be properly developed to use the rules and apply the formulas which bring into being plastics, sound and pharmaceutical supplies, An ignorant mind is helpless in all but a few of the many fields of work which have contributed so much to the peace, comfort and development of man.
But there is something more tragic than an ignorant mind: an intellectual mind and an ignorant soul! It was this that Jesus had in mind: educating men in the field of spiritual development. This is accomplished by "the truth" by which the Son of God proposes to "make you free." Free from the shackles of spiritual ignorance; free from bias of prejudice and error which are tools of the devil to keep men in bondage (2 Tim. 2:25, 26) The average man knows little or nothing of the issues which involve his eternal welfare, though he may know by heart the issues which concern his business and politics. Many children (some, whose parents are members of the church) can tell you the names of every movie star in Hollywood and how many adulterous marriages contracted, who can't name the books of the New Testament. Ignorance of the simple story of the cross is responsible for millions being lost, when all could know the truth, the truth which makes man free from sin.
Freedom Of Faith
Freedom of faith is an important plank in Christian freedom. This gives us the right to believe and practice exactly "the faith" of the New Testament, for which Jude says we are to contend earnestly, (Jude 3). In spiritual things we are not under this freedom-ham strung by the human creeds, human traditions and the doctrines of men, We are free under God to practice the things for which we have commands and examples in the Word of God. Here we are free from human opinion, being supplied by the Holy scriptures, that which perfects us in all good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Some have contended that freedom of faith means freedom to believe what one pleases. This isn't true—either with regard to things material or spiritual. The laws of our land prohibit us from believing anything we please in material matters, and the laws of God prohibit us from believing anything we please in spiritual matters. The bank robber makes his calls after hours, because he believes in that kind of program. But there are policemen and guards whose business it is to prevent him from practicing his faith in such matters. There are a million men in our penal institutions who were once rudely awakened to the realization that they could not believe what they pleased, or practice what they believed.
Freedom of faith simply means that man is free to believe and practice what God teaches. Realizing that he will some day be judged by the things written in the books, (Rev. 20:12-15) he is not scared by the pompous claims of ecclesiasticism. He is free from the bonds of denominationalism and from the dead bones of church traditions. He doesn't have to wear a sectarian name, be guided by a denominational creed and led around by the nose at the hands of some man. In brief, he is free under Christ, the Captain of his salvation, to be just a Christian, a member of the church he can read about in the Word of God.
Freedom Of Speech
Another important item is freedom of speech. God tells us to "speak the things which become sound doctrine," and speaks of "sound speech which cannot be condemned." The free speech of Christ will not turn one person against another; it is the authority of human opinion that does this. Human documents, human creeds, human councils—speaking by no higher authority than their own little minds—are the flies in the ointment which generate the seeds of religious prejudice. When we speak the words of the Lord, we are speaking the truth, but when we speak the concoctions of our own minds (even though we may try to dignify the same by references to scripture) we speak the language of Ashdod. No speech is free spiritually and scripturally free when it must feel the pulse of human councils and creeds before speaking.
Most readers of gospel literature remember the case of the Baptist preacher who went fishing with his non-Baptist friends. Evidently the conversation was on religion, during the course of which the non-Baptist asked the preacher, "See, here is the water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Evidently the preacher remembered the case of the eunuch in Acts 8, and without any formality or voting, he immersed his friend in the creek. Later, when the matter was brought to the attention of the governing body of the Baptists who had jurisdiction over this particular preacher, he was warned never to let such a thing happen again! The reason given was that the thing wasn't carried out according to Baptist custom. Well, this is certainly true; but it definitely was New Testament custom to do it as described in Acts 8. But this preacher and thousands of other denominational constituents are not free under God to speak the truth in Christ. Really, it is a delightful experience to have freedom of speech in spiritual matters, ruled only by the inspired mandates of a divine lawmaking body, unhampered by the unscriptural paraphernalia of denominationalism's lower court.
Freedom From Spiritual Want
The true Christian also has freedom from spiritual want. Jesus says something about this in the sermon on the mount. "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Being "filled" involves more than escape from sin (though this is certainly sufficient reason for hungering for righteousness); it is the sum of all the Christian graces which come as a result of true spiritual hunger. The man who desires to obey the gospel of Christ can. He doesn't need to agonize for years, trying to get religion or come through some sort of an experience which is "better felt than told." There are numerous examples of what to do to be saved in the book of Acts of Apostles. When one's soul is really hungering and thirsting for salvation, it can be easily satisfied by following the examples of primary obedience suggested. In order to live the Christian life and worship God acceptably, one has but to "walk the new life" as this life is described in the rest of the New Testament. There is no excuse for starving to death (spiritual want) on a diet of sectarian lectures. New Testament Christianity makes one free from spiritual want.
Freedom From Fear
There is a final, but most important freedom, which Christianity alone can give: freedom from fear. Human religions, human traditions and principles of pure morality, can take one no farther than the grave. From a purely human point of view much good is performed upon the bodies of men by organizations which are purely human in name, origin, doctrine, and practice. In the name of everything, from the Grand Order Of So-and-So to the Council of the P. D. Q., human bodies are helped by other humans more fortunate than the sufferers. Such work has merit, whether organized or unorganized, but the advocates of such doctrines of human mercy can proceed no farther than the point where the beneficiary dies. Not so with Christianity. Christ proposes to make men FREE, free from fear of the unseen. David expressed it in these words: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" Dozens of passages express the same sentiment. Jesus tells us that He will come for His faithful, and adds, "Where I am, there ye may be also… " May God help us to appreciate the real meaning of this, so that we may prepare for the inevitable appointment which we all have with death, and be free from fear—realizing the helping hand of Christ.