Tuesday, July 04, 2006


What is freedom?

Paul the Apostle had a conversation with a Roman soldier who was about to scourge him in order to find out who he really was and why he was causing such a public tumult in Jerusalem. The Word of God records it thus:

Ac 22:24 The chief captain commanded him (Paul) to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.
25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?
26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.
27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
29 Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. (KJV)

We observe a very interesting account of the reality of Paul’s earthly citizenship and how it came to his aid; by Paul asking a simple question. Paul was free born within the Roman Empire, therefore, with Roman citizenship he was free, and it was forbidden to scourge a Roman citizen unless they had already been condemned. The actions of the Romans indicate that they feared that this may bring them under condemnation, for they had already bound him.

God has given us all an earthly citizenship as it has pleased Him. Paul could have been born somewhere else than Tarsus. Paul made use of his Roman citizenship on this occasion and on other occasions as well. He had that privilege by birth.

Paul enjoyed another birth blessing which he described in his letter to the Philippians:

Php 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (KJV)

Quite a pedigree, however, notice how he finishes this rehearsal of his heritage:

Php 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (KJV)

It is apparent that his Roman citizenship was of more use to him with the Romans than his Hebrew faith/nationality. Paul was a dual citizen; a Roman and a Hebrew. I find this interesting that God would give such a mixed citizenship to one like Saul who became known as Paul, for the two are so opposite each other. But there is the crux of the issue, we see through human eyes and God sees the end from the beginning of time, and God gave Saul/Paul exactly what he needed to be His servant and builder of Christ’s church among the gentile nations. Paul inherited the wisdom of a Hebraic identity and education along with a Roman citizenship that allowed him to freely travel within the Roman Empire. Paul was free; or was he?

Paul also had another reality gained by birth, he was a sinner. Paul even mentions this fact in one of his letters to his spiritual son, Timothy.

1Ti 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (KJV)

Saul was a dedicated Hebrew Pharisee; trained at the feet of Gamaliel the greatest Rabbi of his day. Yet, Saul was also lost to God “in unbelief” not accepting the witness of Jesus Christ, or the prophecies about Him. This lack was literally illuminated to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) as Saul traveled to imprison and kill more followers of Christ. Saul was a sinner, and by his own testimony, the chief of sinners.

What does all of this have to do with freedom? After coming to salvation in Christ, Saul, now called Paul, found true freedom for the first time in his life. Try to grasp this situation; Paul is a man who possessed the single most desired citizenship in his day, he had Roman citizenship and gained it by being free born to its possession. The Roman chief captain came to Paul and noted that Roman citizenship had cost him a “great sum” of money, but Paul was free born. However, Paul was not “free” in truth; Paul was under bondage to sin. Neither his Hebrew heritage, nor his Roman citizenship made him truly “free.” The only freedom Paul had, before coming to Christ, was freedom to sin; he enjoyed no righteousness apart from his obedience to the Law and he wrote later:

Ga 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law..............for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (KJV)

Paul’s earthly citizenships, Jewish and Roman, were only tools for the spread of the gospel of Christ, a provision from God. Beyond that, Paul’s citizenships were but fleshly realities which Paul gained by no merit of his own.

We Americans celebrated our Independence Day today. A day we set aside to remember our nation being separated from the British Crown in 1776. In that declaration our founding forefathers proclaimed to be “free” from the ruler ship of the King of England. Free from England we became in fact; but were/are we truly “free?” Do we truly have true “freedom” and/or “liberty?”

In a secular sense we do, we have the right of assembly, free use of speech, religion, use of the press (media), and other rights most of us take for granted. In all of this we are still in bondage; no citizenship apart from a heavenly citizenship will ever bring true freedom.

How does one obtain this heavenly citizenship and true freedom? Jesus Christ read this passage from Isaiah in a synagogue about His ministry:

Lu 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel (good news of salvation) to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (KJV)

Christ came that we may truly be at liberty, whether as a free man or a slave, no matter nationality or gender, all that come to Christ can be truly “free”.

Joh 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (KJV)

Free to live and serve God, free to inherit eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ; free of the curse of sin, truly and actually free.

Ga 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Ga 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty;

I return to Paul as he continues his statement in Philippians chapter 3:

Php 3:9 And be found in him (Christ), not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

Php 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (KJV)
No matter our citizenship in this world, we can be free and have our eternal citizenship in heaven through Christ.
Ac 16:30 And (the jailer) brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (KJV)