The Law of Liberty
The Perfect Law
The Law of Liberty... Isn't that oxymoronic? How can a law be liberating? And yet, those are the words ‘Ya'aqob the Just’ chooses to use when he describes the law the faithful are to abide by in his epistle to the 12 Tribes dispersed amongst the people.
"But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." (Ya'aqob 1:25)
What does Ya'aqob know that we don't? Are we missing something here? Notice Ya'aqob also refers to the 'law of liberty' as 'the perfect law'! What is 'The Law of Liberty'?
Questions... so many questions! Is there a single truth which answers them all? Ah! Another question!
In the year gone by I was asked to do a peer review of an article written by a good Brother titled "The Law of Liberty". In the article, which was well thought out, he drew conclusions that I didn't completely agree with and I offered my own thoughts on the subject. In hind sight I now think we both missed the mark ever so slightly.
Since then I've written the article titled, 'Under the Law?’, what I am writing today is an outgrowth of that article and it would be good for the reader of this to also read the article, 'Under the Law?’.
In that article I concluded the phrase 'Under the Law' was a reference to keeping the Law of Moses, specifically 'The Book of the Covenant', as a means of justification (salvation). In other words, people keeping the Law of Moses to earn their way into the Kingdom. Such Torah observance leads to bondage, the more work you do the more work you think you have to do! Before you know it you have 1500 manmade traditions to guard against breaking the Sabbath! This understanding has led me to consider 'the law of liberty'. Are the two related? Yet another question!
Liberty of course is synonymous with freedom, right? But freedom from what? Does 'the law of liberty' set us free from the 'Law of Moses'?
At this point I need to make something clear, in The Book of the Covenant written by Moses we find The 10 Words Covenant which is divided into two distinct bodies of law. The first body of law is The 10 Commandments which can be kept anywhere, at anytime. The second body of law consists of those commandments which were designed and intended to be kept only in the Promised Land. This division in The 10 Words Covenant is easily seen between Exodus 19-20 vs. 21-24 as well as in the amendment to The 10 Words Covenant which we find in Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy we find the same division between chapters 1-5 and 6-28. When I speak of the 'Law of Moses' I am speaking of the only covenant terms that I understand to be applicable to those of us living outside the Promised Land in exile today and I don't think anyone from the 12 Tribes of Israel should be living in The Promised Land today, the Jews have pre-empted the exile in my opinion. That covenant contained in 'The Book of the Covenant' is 'The 10 Words Covenant' (The 10 Commandments), nothing more, nothing less.
So then are we free to choose what commandments we keep and what commandments we don't keep? Are we free to nail the commandments to the cross and keep none of them at all? What are we free from? What is this 'law of liberty'? Ya'aqob helps us to understand the extreme position of throwing the 'Law of Moses' out the window altogether as Roman Catholic Christianity has done is definitely not what he is talking about. He writes in his letter;
"So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty." (Ya'aqob 2:12)
He then follows that up with this;
"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (Ya'aqob 2:17)
"You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." (Ya'aqob 2:24)
"For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." (Ya'aqob 2:26)
The 'works' spoken of in the verses above should be understood to be the keeping of the law in Ya'aqob 2:14 which directly follows Ya'aqob talking about The 10 Words Covenant in verses 10-12. Connecting the dots we can see the 'works' spoken of above are a reference to keeping The 10 Words Covenant.
"For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty." (Ya'aqob 2:10-12)
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" (Ya'aqob 2:14)
While Ya'aqob is the only Apostolic Writer to make mention of 'the law of liberty' the Apostle Paul uses the word 'liberty' a number of times. Of those occurrences there are a few which relate to Ya'aqob's 'law of liberty'.
"And that because of false brothers unawares brought in, who came in privately to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:" (Galatians 2:4)
Here the Apostle Paul juxtaposes this 'liberty' with 'bondage'. And then again;
"Stand therefore in that liberty with which The Messiah has set us free, and do not be yoked again in a yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)
The Apostle Paul then switches gears and says;
"But you have been called to liberty, my brethren, only let not your liberty be an opportunity of the flesh, but you should be serving one another by love. For all of The Written Law is fulfilled in one saying, by this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
Here the Apostle Paul is cautioning the Brethren not to allow their 'liberty' to become an opportunity to the flesh and is then connecting this 'liberty' to 'love'. Interesting!
Another interesting point in regard to what the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:13-14 is that it parallels what Ya'aqob says in 2:8 just before he speaks of The 10 Words Covenant in 2:10-12 posted above. Here Ya'aqob refers to this 'Perfect Law of Liberty' as 'The Royal Law' and it too refers to The 10 Words Covenant.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (Ya'aqob 2:8)
Is there anything else that can help us connect the dots to draw a picture of what 'the law of liberty' is? The Apostle Paul overturns one last stone to reveal this;
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17)
Understanding that the 'liberty' spoken of here is a reference to 'the law of liberty' or 'liberty in the law' I am reminded of Ezekiel 36:26 which reads;
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."
Which is of course a parallel verse to Jeremiah 31:31-34 which reads;
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
When I first wrote this article I now realize I cherry picked 2 Corinthians 3:17 out of its context which would have given me a much more complete view of what ‘the law of liberty’ is. So let’s put 2 Corinthians 3:17 back into its context and see what we gain.
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech - unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testment, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:5-18 NKJV)
Here in 2 Corinthians 3 we see the Apostle Paul calling The 10 Commandments chisled in stone ‘the ministry of death’ and ‘the ministry of condemnation’ which is passing away! At the same time he calls himself and others ‘ministers of the new covenant’, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. So what is passing away and what remains? Has the law contained in The Book of the Covenant been nailed to the cross of Messiah Yeshua? No, Brothers and Sisters, it most certainly has not! The Mount Sinai Covenant is passing away but the terms of that covenant remain as the terms of The New Covenant which are written upon the heart of those whom the Father has indwelt with His Spirit. The veil that kept the Israelites from keeping the Old Covenant is lifted once the promised Spirit of The New Covenant is supplied. They never had it, they never had a chance to keep the laws contained in The Book of the Covenant, it can’t be done without the Spirit of YHWH who gives it to whom he chooses!
So what can we conclude from the verses we've seen so far? Here's my take;
The Perfect Law of Liberty, partially summarized by The Royal Law - 'love thy neighbor', is The 10 Words Covenant kept via the Ruach haKodesh. The Law of Liberty is the Law of Messiah, The Law of Liberty IS 'the terms' of The New Covenant kept via the Spirt of love provided by the Father! That's the short and sweet of it... But where's the 'liberty'?
What does a Spirit led observance of The 10 Words Covenant set you free from? How does a Spirit led observance of The 10 Words Covenant set you free? Are we set free from the law?
Or... are we set free within the law? There's just no end to the questions!
Here's more of my take.
In a few of the verses quoted above the word 'bondage' is used. Bondage of course is the antithesis of freedom and liberty. In fact this word and its use in Scripture gives us a strong clue as to what we are being set free from by The Perfect Law of Liberty which is led by the Spirit. In the verse below the Apostle Peter also mentions 'bondage'.
"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." (2 Peter 2:19)
Who are these 'servants of corruption' who promise 'liberty'? Actually the Apostle Paul spoke of them often in His letters and the conference amongst the Apostles including Ya'aqob, Peter and Paul in Acts 15 was all about these 'servants of corruption' who promise liberty but deliver those whom they overcome into bondage. Let's take a look at a few key verses in Acts 15 to get a feel for who these culprits are.
"But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. (Acts 15:1-2)
"But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5)
"Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:10-11)
"Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:19-21)
After Ya'aqob had drawn his conclusion of the matter he drafted a letter and had it delivered by hand by chosen men to the disciples in the Gentile churches. Here is that letter…
"Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:22-29)
Here's the bottom line, the Apostles, and especially Paul, were shadowed wherever they went evangelizing the nations by Jews who had come to faith in Messiah Yeshua but still depended upon their legalistic observance of the Law of Moses including their oral law for their salvation. This legalistic observance of the Law of Moses is of the flesh, it is not Spirit led and leads to bondage. The more laws you keep the more laws you think you have to keep! These men followed after the Apostles teaching their false beliefs of legalism and oral law. These are the very 'traditions of the elders' which Yeshua so vehemently condemned as nullifying the gospel.
The Perfect Law of Liberty which is led by the Ruach haKodesh sets you free from a dependence for your salvation upon the legalistic observance of the Law of Moses and the oral law (traditions of the elders) which men built upon and beyond the Law of Moses, it was a burden no man can bear.
The Perfect Law of Liberty is The 10 Words Covenant being observed because of your faith in Messiah Yeshua, you keep The 10 Words Covenant out of your love for Messiah Yeshua and what He has done for you. You keep the commandments because you 'want to' not because you 'have to'.
Do you believe Yeshua is the Messiah? If so answer His call in John 14:15 where He says,
"If you love Me, keep My commandments."
Here is what Ya'aqob, the half brother of Messiah Yeshua taught...
"...being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts..." (Ya'aqob 1:25)
And what the Apostle Paul taught...
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: (Colossians 2:16)
Does The Perfect Law of Liberty set us free from The 10 Words Covenant?
No!!! But we are set free from having to keep it perfectly. If we love Yeshua we will strive to know and apply whatever laws are applicable to our situation. We do the best we can in the stituation we presently live in and do everything we can to change the stituation we presently live in to allow us to keep those commands of The 10 Commandments which we presently cannot. Living in exile we can only keep The 10 Commandments but it should be our heart’s desire to know the laws that apply to living in The Promised Land and prepare ourselves to keep those laws once our Shepherd gathers His flock to Himself to live in The Promised Land.
Just don't let your liberty give opportunity to the flesh.
The Spirit will NEVER lead you against the Law of Moses!
The Perfect Law of Liberty 'IS' the terms of The New Covenant and is founded upon 'faith in' and 'love for' Messiah Yeshua. It is The 10 Words Covenant kept via the leading of the Ruach haKodesh. The Perfect Law of Liberty 'IS' The Book of the Covenant which contains The 10 Words Covenant which 'IS' the terms of The New Covenant of Yeshua's marriage proposal kept via the Spirit of the Father!
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10)
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