Spiritual Liberation

by Dr. D. W. Ekstrand


Printable pdf Version of this StudyPrintable pdf Version of this StudyThe gospel is a message of freedom and liberation — the ministry of Jesus was that of liberating captives.  Prior to becoming believers in Christ all people are enslaved to sin.  The Lord Himself quoted this Messianic prophesy from the book of Isaiah (Is 61:1) – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners” (Lk 4:18).  By the power of the Spirit, Jesus went about preaching the “good news” of salvation through His name.  Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus “went through one city and village after another preaching and bringing glad tidings of the kingdom of God” (Mt 4:23; Lk 1:10-11; 8:1).  Those who responded to Him in faith were forgiven of their sins, set free from the bondage of guilt and sin, and their broken hearts were mended — further-more, a growing liberation from all that bound them was now available to them in Christ.  God’s desire is to increasingly liberate believers from bondage to their flesh, ungodly thinking and worldly living.

Liberation or freedom is an excellent description of the biblical idea of salvation.  In the Bible the word “salvation” means the action or result of deliverance from danger.  In the Old Testament it tends to refer to the escape of God’s people from their enemies, and in particular the escape of the nation of Israel from the bondage of Egypt and Babylon.  In the New Testament it refers to deliverance from the power of evil — from sin and death.  In the ministry of Jesus He announced the good news of liberty for the captives — and He achieved that liberty.  It is not a liberty from political oppression, as liberal Christianity teaches, rather it is liberation from a far more sinister bondage — the demonic powers of darkness (Eph 6:12); they are our real oppressors.  It is not without significance that Jesus’ first miracle recorded in the gospel of Mark is “the casting out of an evil spirit” (Mk 1:21-28).  Calvary was to be the crucial confrontation against the powers of evil for the release of the prisoners — it was there that the strong man would be bound, his house plundered, and his possessions removed (Mk 3:27).  Paul restates this truth thus:  “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2:13-15; Heb 2:14).  Paul tells us this liberating struggle continues in the lives of believers —  “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual powers in heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

This “spiritual liberation” comes through the ministry of the word into people’s lives.  Jesus declared the grand reality: “You are truly My disciples if you abide in My word; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (Jn 8:31-32).  The key word here is “abide” — in this verse, Jesus tells His followers precisely in what discipleship consists: abiding in His word.  Jesus said He is “the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).  Paul says, “The word of God (truth) effectively works in those who believe” (1 Th 2:13; Phil 2:13; Col 1:24).  When people consistently ingest the word of God into their lives, it goes to work effectively in their hearts, liberating them from that which has bound them.  Remember, “the word of God is living and active” (Heb 4:12)… it is “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17)… the Spirit guides believers “into the fullness of truth” (Jn 16:13). The apostle Paul says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).  God’s word is unique and powerful; it is not merely the religious words of men.  Through the cross Christ brought about our redemption (which is liberation in the strongest sense of the word); it has freed us from the most radical evil — the tyrants of sin and death.  The result of sin is guilt, shame, alienation, depression, emptiness, loneliness, pain and death.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil;” it is here we petition the Father to act with power over evil in our daily lives.  Bob Hoekstra, the son of Chaplain Ray, says: “Those who earnestly get into the word become gloriously liberated” (Hoekstra).  The truth of Christ is the only path to spiritual freedom — it delivers us  from the debilitating chains of evil and darkness.  Someone once described it this way:

Our selfish ways imprison us — we cry out to be free;
But if we will obey God’s Word, we’ll find true liberty. (Yoder)

Sincerity is a necessary requisite for acquiring spiritual wisdom — earnest, sincere inquiry leads to successful investigation.  Learning is the beginning of freedom and godly behavior; conversely, knowing the truth and practicing it is the key to freedom.  Unless we know the truth and apply  it, the knowledge we possess is useless and worthless (it accomplishes absolutely nothing in us).  Knowing that a particular medicine will cure you of some illness, essentially is worthless if it is not taken or swallowed.  Truth must be learned and applied.  So the key is to not make “learning” the supreme objective, but “living the truth.”  Sadly, many Christians have accumu-lated large amounts of “spiritual knowledge,” but have not acted on that knowledge… acting on knowledge is called “faith” — “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6).  Therefore, those who fail to walk in faith do not enjoy the freedom they have in Christ; rather, they remain enslaved to their own sinful desires, the fear of guilt, condemnation and death.  Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of sin and death.  James, the blood brother of Jesus, tells us in his letter that “it is the practice of God’s perfect law (faith) that gives us freedom” (Jam 1:25). 

No doubt we have all learned from our own personal experience that walking according to God’s Word takes practice, and that it is not something that comes without internal opposition; as such, it requires an earnest, steadfast yielding of oneself to the direction of the Holy Spirit.  The bottom line is this: it is the believer’s daily walk with Jesus wherein he experiences freedom.  Though we are sinners (saved sinners), we don’t have to sin… we can choose to walk with Christ instead… we can live in the truth… we can listen to the Holy Spirit… we can be faithful.  Pastor and author Keith Andrews reminds us that though we all repeatedly stumble because of our sin disposition (that’s what our flesh is), nevertheless, “while we walk with Him we are truly free!” (Andrews).                                                                                                                                                          

In John chapter 8, Jesus addressed two classes of Jews who heard His words:  those who chose to follow Him and embraced the truth… and those who were entrapped in their religious formalism and false beliefs and rejected Christ’s words (they chose religion over truth).  These two groups of people characterize the entire world — there are the faithful followers of Christ, and those who through ignorance and willful disobedience choose to reject Christ, and follow another path; therefore a person is either a believer in Christ or an unbeliever.  Jesus tells us that the true follower will “continue obediently in His word” and “continue to experience a life of genuine freedom” — because of the indwelling presence of the Spirit in our lives, we cannot continue to steadfastly live a life of sin (Ps 32:3-5; 38:2; 39:10; Phil 2:13).  What are the effects of “truth” in the life of the believer?  Pastor and author Henry Jaegers offers the following considerations (Jaegers) — 

1.  Truth gives true security without our having to understand or make sense of everything.

2.  Truth helps us understand even if we don’t agree; we know we may be wrong in the matter.

3.  Truth makes us flexible and willing to change our position on an issue.

4.  Truth gives us credibility as our godly lifestyle conveys truth to others.

5.  Truth is patient with others; it waits for God to convince in His time and in His way.

6.  Truth is faithful; it always comes through on its promises.

7.  Truth is always consistent with the intended meaning of Scripture.

8.  Truth is consistent with the Word and is confirmed by the indwelling presence of the Spirit.

The Liberating Business of the Church

As followers of Christ we need to see that we are in the business of liberating captives, of setting people free from sin and death through the gospel (Rom 8:1-4), and thus reconciling them to God (Rom 5:11).  The liberation of captives proceeds as we recognize and apply the following truths (lectionarystudies.com):

1.  Spiritual warfare.  The liberating business is a “spiritual business;” spiritual powers have  to be confronted and demolished to gain freedom for those held captive (Mt 12:29; Eph 6:12).  The truth, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, destroys the enemy’s captive power over a person.

2.  Gospel proclamation.  The liberating business proceeds as the “strong man is bound” through the proclamation of the gospel.  “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16).  Though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does, the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world; on the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Cor 10:3-5; Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12). 

3.  Deeds.  The liberating business proceeds not just by words but also by deeds.  Not only can our lives witness to the reality of the gospel message, but through a renewed life we are able to weaken the hold of the evil powers over lost humanity.  A holy, Christ-like life divests the evil one of his power (Jam 4:7).  When we live a life shaped by the reality of the Kingdom of God, we display the gospel message in such a significant way so as to promote belief.  As believers, we are to be the “presence of God” in a broken world — this means caring for those in need, feeding the hungry, meeting the needs of distressed widows and orphans, encouraging the faint-hearted and the despairing, and showing love to all.  Remember, we are to be “servants” in this world.  Did not Jesus Himself come to serve?

4.  Strategy.  The liberating business proceeds by a battle plan.  As Paul stated, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly, I do not fight like a man beating the air” (1 Cor 9:26).  When the strategy is God’s strategy, Spirit empowered ministry will build-up the body of Christ (Eph 4: 1-16), and the church will break down the gates of hell (Mt 16:18-20).  At the basic level, the plan simply details the requirements for a holy, Christ-like life lived in the power of the Spirit — love is the sum of it, particularly demonstrated in forgiveness, mercy, and acceptance.

5.  Suffering.  The liberating business proceeds through cross-bearing.  Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it” (Lk 9:23-24).  As Joe Trembly puts it, “Suffering and death are God’s chosen instruments of renewal and resurrection.”  To be sure, he says, “God pushes us to the brink; but it is in this hour of darkness that purification reaches the depths of the soul.”  We are forced to respond to the same question Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” (Jn 21:15).  Being given the opportunity to love God for His own sake, and not for the delight we take in His gifts, is what prepares us for great spiritual achievements.  As Nguyen Van Thuan concluded during his eight years of imprisonment in Vietnam — “A light will pierce the darkness and this light will be the key to peace and happiness even in a Vietnam prison.”  No doubt while he was in the wine-press of suffering, he was tempted to blame God for the suffering he had to endure; but ultimately he discovered God’s liberating power in it, and it “totally changed his way of thinking.”  Though he was no longer privileged to serve the congregation he once served, he now recognized that the prison in which he now lived was “the cathedral in which God had now placed him” — “Here are the people God has given me to care for, here is my mission: to ensure the presence of God among these, my despairing miserable brothers” (Trembly).  In short, the liberating business involves a struggle against spiritual powers.

6.  Promise.  The promise of God’s Word is that the liberating business cannot fail.  The enemy cannot stand against us (1 Jn 4:4), for our Master has broken his back.  “Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions (the symbols of the evil one) and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Lk 10:19).  The powers of the evil one are unable to stand against the Church of Jesus (Mt 16:18); he can no longer hold his prisoners.

7.  Faith.  The liberating business is only limited by the limit of our faith.  Remember, the measure of God’s acting is the measure of our faith (Mt 17:20-21).  Mastery is promised over   the forces of evil — it simply depends on us believing the truth.  “This is the victory that overcomes the world — our faith” (1 Jn 5:4).

The Dangers of the Modern Liberation Movement

The modern “liberation movement” of liberal Christianity has set for itself a political and social objective — its goal is to put an end to oppression and the domination of man by man, and to promote the equality and brotherhood of all.  Though these are noble goals, they are not the foundation stone of the gospel message; as such, they are not an “acceptable substitute” for the message — at best they are a “by-product” of the gospel message.  Obviously, the advances of freedom and equality in many societies is undeniable; legal slavery and human bondage have been abolished; in many countries the law now recognizes the equality of men and women,      the participation of all citizens in political life, the rejection of racism, and equal rights for all.   The formulation of human rights implies a clearer awareness of the dignity of all human beings.  The majority of these advances are the result of Christian initiatives over the years.  Contrary    to what its adherents claim, however, the social gospel does not bring man “inner freedom.”  Prior to his being elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote a work titled Instruction of Christian Freedom and Liberation.  In it he said: “[The liberation movement] sought to free man from superstition and atavistic fears, regarded as so many obstacles to his development.  It proposed to give man the courage and boldness to use his reason without being held back by fear before the frontiers of the unknown.”  The truth is, the “liberation movement” did not fulfill its original ambitions — “serious ambiguities concerning the very meaning of freedom have from the very beginning plagued this movement from within” (Ratzinger, points 8-10).  

Incidentally, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had a long distinguished career as an academic, and was a highly regarded university theologian in Germany, prior to being appointed Pope.  He served as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Catholic Church, the highest position for the defense of Roman Catholic doctrinal beliefs.  Though conservative evangelicals do not agree with several Roman Catholic doctrinal positions, those stated in this study do align with a literal interpretation of Scripture.  Much of what Cardinal Ratzinger has written in this work is highly respected throughout the believing Christian community.  I think you will find   his thoughts not only biblically accurate, but insightful and well-articulated.  It might also be remembered that his thoughts (as expressed in the following paragraphs) are a “translation” of another language.  With that said, let’s reflect upon his words —

With reference to the modern liberation movement within man himself, it is for man to become “his own master.”  For many — namely atheists — there is said to be a radical incompatibility between the affirmation of God and of human freedom, therefore they conclude “by rejecting belief in God man will become truly free” (cf. Gen 3:4-5).  Writes Ratzinger, “When man wishes to become independent of God, far from gaining his freedom he destroys his freedom.  Escaping the measuring rod of truth, he falls prey to the arbitrary… fraternal relations between people are abolished and give place to terror, hatred and fear.  Because it has been contaminated by deadly errors about man’s condition and his freedom, the deeply-rooted modern liberation movement remains ambiguous.  It is laden both with promises of true freedom and threats of deadly forms of bondage” (Ratzinger, points 18-19).  When men reject the “moral code of God” (as atheists do) and construct “their own moral code,” they violate God’s law and reap accordingly — remember, man is not God; he is not free to do as he will; as such, he experiences the painful consequences of his sinful (self-centered) choices.  Outside of allegiance to God, one is left with an “inner compass” that points due south rather than due north (Jn 3:19; Rom 8:5-8); his sin disposition (flesh) guides his choices.  Try though as he may, man cannot reap as he will — peace and joy alone come from God; in and of himself, the best man can do is be at war with himself and the world.

Man’s Vocation to Freedom

By opening oneself to “divine truth,” man experiences a blossoming and a perfection; such are the eminent products of true freedom.  Man was not created to be a selfish, autonomous being;     he was created in the image of God to reflect Him and to glorify Him.  By aligning one’s life to the moral law of God (divine truth) man experiences true freedom.  Living with the understand-ing that we are truly “objects of God’s infinite love,” and that we were created to “love and serve Him,” makes us free to be the people we were created to be.  When we are truly free, we will echo the words of the apostle Paul:  “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20) — such is the liberating presence of joy in the believer’s soul.  Knowing that we are indeed loved by God, we will live in the freedom which flows from that truth  and love.  As Ratzinger says, “The first and fundamental meaning of liberation which thus manifests itself is the salvific one:  man is freed from the radical bondage of evil and sin.  In    this experience of salvation, man discovers the true meaning of his freedom, since liberation is the restoration of freedom.  [It should be noted], the salvific dimension of liberation is linked to its ethical dimension” (Ratzinger, point 23).

The spontaneous response to the question “What does being free mean?” is this — a person is free when he is able to do whatever he wishes without being hindered by an exterior constraint and thus enjoys complete independence (that’s the way Webster’s Dictionary defines it).  Thus the opposite of freedom would be the dependence of our will upon the will of another.  It should be noted, having freedom to do good opens the door to having the freedom to do bad, or to waste one’s life entirely.  Such is the nature of freedom.  Freedom, then, allows us to decide who we are and what we do — we are free to accept or reject Christ’s message — by rejecting His message man chooses to remain enslaved to his sin disposition.  As Christians, however, Jesus sets us free to trust in God’s unconditional love — when we fail to do so we inhibit our understanding and appreciation of God’s grace.  Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words to him: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9) — so when we ignore the reality of God’s grace we limit our spiritual freedom.  Pastor Bob Burton of “All Saints of the Desert Church” in Sun City, Arizona, says, “The freedom to which Jesus calls us is not a mindless superficial optimism, but the responsibility of daily decision making… it is to be free from mindless worry and anxiety over that which is beyond our control.  Ultimately, it is the freedom to offer to God everything we are and everything we have.”  That is the essence of spiritual freedom. 

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger adds a number of other important elements to this matter of freedom.  He begins by affirming the fact that we were not created to be selfish, autonomous beings — we were created to need the company of other people and to live in orientation toward them.   Thus, he says, it is only by learning to unite our will to the will of others, for the sake of the common good, that we will learn moral integrity of will; such requires the criterion of truth and a right relationship to the will of others.  Truth and justice (doing right) are therefore the measure of true freedom.  Therefore, far from being achieved in total self-sufficiency and an absence of relationships, freedom only truly exists where reciprocal bonds, governed by truth and justice, link people to one another; and for such bonds to be possible, each person must live in the truth.  Freedom is not the liberty to do anything whatsoever — it is the freedom to do good and in this alone happiness is to be found.  The good is thus the goal of freedom.  In consequence, man becomes free to the extent that he comes to a knowledge of the truth, and to the extent that this truth (and not any other forces) guides his will (Radzinger, points 25-26). 

Freedom which is “interior mastery” of one’s own acts and self-determination entails a relationship with the ethical order — it finds its true meaning in the choice of “moral good,” and manifests itself as emancipation from “moral evil.”  By his free action man must tend toward      the “supreme good” which conforms to his divine vocation.  Radzinger says, “This truth shows by contrast how profoundly erroneous are the theories which exalt the freedom of man by making it the “absolute principle” of his being… such expressions are expressions of atheism     or tend toward atheism by their own logic…. deliberate agnosticism goes in the same direction (Radzinger, point 27).  By creating man in His own image, God imprinted His likeness on him — as such he hears the call of his Creator toward the good.  It is revealed to man that God created him free so that by grace he could enter into friendship with God and share His life.  Radzinger adds, “Man’s capacity for self-realization is in no way suppressed by his dependence on God.  It is precisely the characteristic of atheism to believe that the affirmation of God means the negation of man.  In reality, it is from God and in relationship with Him that human freedom takes its meaning…. By his free will, man is master of his own life.  By obeying the divine law inscribed in his conscience, and received as an impulse of the Holy Spirit, man exercises true mastery over himself and thus realizes his ‘royal devotion’ as a child of God.”   The late pope John Paul II said, “By service of God man reigns.”   Authentic freedom is the “service of justice,” while the choice of disobedience and evil is the “slavery of sin” (Rom 6:6; 7:23; Radzinger, points 28-30).

To reiterate, God did not create man as a “solitary being,” but made him to be a “social being” (Gen 2:18, 23; Lev 19:18); as such he can only grow and realize his vocation in relation with others  (Gen 4:9; Mt 22:39; Lk 10:30-37).  Since man belongs to different communities (family, professional, political, and social), it is inside these communities that he must exercise his responsible freedom.  The social dimension of the human being is meant to find its accomplishment in the Body of Christ — this is why social life, according to Augustine, when it is in conformity with the divine law, constitutes a reflection of the glory of God in the world (AD Macedonium, II, 7-17).  Writes Radzinger, “By reason of his freedom man remains the master of his activity.  The great and rapid transformations of the present age face him with a dramatic challenge: that of mastering and controlling by the use of his reason and freedom the forces which he puts to work in the service of the true purposes of human existence.  It is the task of freedom then, when it is well ordered, [to subordinate all activity and work to divine] moral principles” (Radzinger, points 32-36).

Radzinger says that God calls man to freedom, and that there is a desire in every person to be free… yet this desire almost always tends towards slavery and oppression.  The tragic paradox that must be faced is this: “Man’s sin, that is his breaking away from God, is the radical reason for the tragedies which mark the history of freedom…. In man’s desire for freedom there is hidden the temptation to deny his own nature… [in forgetting] that he is finite and a created being, man claims to be a god — ‘You will be like God’ (Gen 3:5) — these words of the serpent reveal the essence of man’s temptation, and imply the perversion of the meaning of his own freedom.  Such is the profound nature of sin: man rejects the truth and places his own will above it.  By wishing to free himself from God and be a god himself, he deceives himself and destroys himself…. By seeking total autonomy and self-sufficiency, man denies God… and by denying  or trying to deny God, who is his Beginning and End, man profoundly disturbs his own order  and interior balance as well as that of society…. Scripture shows that [throughout] the whole course of [human] history, man has abused his freedom by setting himself up against God and  by seeking to gain his ends without God…. Human beings deprived of divine grace have thus inherited a common mortal nature, incapable of choosing what is good and inclined to covet-ousness (read  Gen 3:16-19; Rom 5:12; 7:14-24)…. Culpable ignorance of God unleashes the passions,  which are the causes of imbalance and conflicts in the human heart” (Radzinger, points 37-38). 

The Christian tradition sees sin ascontempt for God.”  As Radzinger says, “It is accompanied by a desire to escape from the dependent relationship of the servant to his Lord, or still more of the child to his Father.  By sinning man seeks to free himself from God.  In reality, however, he makes himself a ‘slave.’  For by rejecting God he destroys the… vocation to share in the divine life” (Radzinger, point 40).  Sinful man who refuses to accept God, of necessity then develops an inordinate attachment to “created goods” — since created goods are limited, his heart rushes from one thing to another, always searching for that which is satisfying and humanly impossible.  A disordered love of self is the other side of contempt for God.  Essentially, writes Augustine, “When man tries to rely on himself alone, he wishes to achieve fulfillment by himself and be self-sufficient in his own immanence” (De Civitate Dei, XIV, 29).  Radzinger writes: “Dependence of the creature upon the Creator, and the dependence of the moral conscience upon the divine law, are regarded by man as an intolerable slavery; thus he sees atheism as the true form of emancipation and his own liberation…. Man then wishes to make independent decisions about what is good and what is evil, or decisions about values; and in a single step he rejects both the idea of God and the idea of sin.  [Therefore] it is through the audacity of sin that he claims to become adult and free” (Radzinger, point 41).

Liberation and Christian Freedom

Human history, marked as it is by the experience of sin, would drive us to complete despair if God had abandoned His creation to itself.  But the divine promise of liberation through the cross of Christ is the basis of the joyful hope that gives us the strength to act resolutely and effectively in the service of love, justice and peace.  The gospel is a liberating message of freedom in the life of the believer.  In His plan of salvation, God gave the Law to Israel — it contained both religious and civil norms that were to govern the life of the people… [the Jewish people] were to be God’s witnesses among the nations.  Of this collection of laws, love of God above all things (Deut 6:5), and of neighbor as oneself (Lev 19:18) constitute the center — it is in this context that one should appreciate the biblical law’s care for the poor, the needy, the widow and the orphan.  As Rad-zinger notes, “[The poor] have a right to justice according to the juridical ordinances of the people of God (Ex 22:20-23; Deut 24:10-22).  The prophets vigorously condemned injustice to the poor… Yahweh is the supreme refuge of the little ones and the oppressed… and the Messiah’s mission was that of taking up their defense (Is 11:1-5; Ps 72:4, 12-14).  The law of God reflects the attitude of God when He liberated Israel from the slavery of Egypt (Ex 23:9; Deut 24:17-22).  Injustice to the little ones and to the poor is a grave sin — the just and the poor of Yahweh offer up their supplications to him in the Psalms (Ps 25, 31, 35, 55).  They endure persecution and martyrdom,    but they live in hope of deliverance.  Above all, they place their trust in Yahweh, to whom they commend their cause (Jer 11:20; 20:12).  As Radzinger notes, “The ‘poor of Yahweh’ know that communion with Him (Ps 73: 26-28) is the most precious treasure and the one in which man finds his true freedom (Ps 16, 62, 84).  For them, the most tragic misfortune is the loss of this communion.  Hence their fight against injustice finds its deepest meaning and its effectiveness in their desire to be freed from the slavery of sin” (Radzinger, points 46-47).   

The Lord Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom to the poor (Mt 11:5) — He manifests His messianic action in favor of those who “await God’s salvation” (deliverance).  Radzinger writes, “The Son of God who made Himself ‘poor’ for love of us (2 Cor 8:9) wishes to be recog-nized in the poor and in those who suffer or are persecuted” (Mt 25:31-46; Acts 9:4-5 – Radzinger, pt 50).  Said Jesus: “In as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Mt 25:40).  By means of our service and love, as well as the offering up of our trials and sufferings, we share in the one redeeming sacrifice of Christ, “completing in ourselves what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body (which is the Church)” (Col 1:24). It should be noted, this verse is not saying that Christ’s death in and of itself was insufficient to procure our salvation, or that we are in some way “co-redeemers” with Christ.  Paul had just demonstrated that Christ alone is sufficient to reconcile us to God (Col 1:20-23; also cf.  2:11-15).  As the NKJV Study Bible notes, Paul here is simply making the point that a Christian will endure sufferings that Christ would be enduring if He were still in the world (see 2 Cor 1:5; 4:11).  Jesus told His disciples that if the world hated Him they would also persecute them (His followers – Jn 15:19-20).  In effect, Paul said his suffering was that which was directed toward Christ — those who “hate Christ” simply direct their hatred to those who preach His gospel (NKJV Study Bible, p. 2429; cf. Mt 25:45).  In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said “the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance” (2 Cor 1:5) — he bore in his body the marks of the blows intended for Christ (Gal 6:17; 2 Cor 11:23-28).  Paul not only suffered for Christ, but also for the sake of the Church (2 Tim 2:10); he was also mindful of   the fact that his sufferings were producing an eternal reward (2 Cor 4:17; Rom 8:18). 

The freedom brought by Christ in the Holy Spirit has restored to us the capacity (which sin had taken away from us) to love God above all things and remain in communion with Him.  Radzin-ger states, “We are set free from disordered self-love, which is the source of contempt of human relationships…. however, until the Risen One returns in glory, the mystery of iniquity is still at work [in us and] in the world.  Paul warns us of this: ‘For freedom Christ has set us free’ (Gal 5:1).  We must therefore persevere and fight in order not to fall once more under the yoke of slavery.  Our existence is a ‘spiritual struggle’ to live according to the Gospel and it is waged with the weapons of God” (Eph 6:11-17; Radzinger, point 53).  The writer of Hebrews says “we are to run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb 12:1-2).  The path of genuine freedom on our part requires faith, commitment, endurance, intentionality, determination and discipline.

God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), so Christian love is to be the hallmark of the believer — the blood brother of the Lord Jesus (James) reminds the rich  of their duty (Jam 5:1-4), and the apostle John says that a person who possesses the riches of this world, but shuts his heart to a brother in need, “cannot have the love of God dwelling in him”  (1 Jn 3:17).  Fraternal love is the touchstone of love of God (Radzinger, point 56):  “For the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).  The people of God of the New Covenant is the Church of Christ, and her law is the command-ment of love — all those found worthy before Christ by the grace of God, who made good use  of their freedom, will receive the reward of happiness (1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 5:10)… and ultimately they   shall be made like Him, for they shall see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2).


In addition to the various individuals stated in the foregoing material, some of the themes of this study were taken from the following authors and sources — 

         Joe Tremblay A Bishop Experiences God’s Liberating Power
                           Website:  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com

         Henry JaegersThe Liberating Power of Truth
                         Website:  www.faithwriters.com

         Keith Andrews The Liberating Power of Truth
                        Website:  http://titus345.org  

         Joseph Ratzinger Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation
                      Website:  http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congreations/cfaith/documents/ 

         Bob HoekstraJesus Liberating Captives by His Word    
                    Website:  http://media.chaplainray.com  

         Joanie YoderTruth is Liberating — 
                    Website:  http://odb.org/2003/09/18/truth-is-liberating/ 

         Lectionary Studies The Gospel and Liberation —  
                 Website:  www.lectionarystudies.com/parish/evangelism4.html    

         Earl RadmacherThe NKJV Study Bible.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.