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The Perfect Law of Liberty

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The Perfect Law of Liberty

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On our Church logo we have two commissions given by Jesus Christ: preaching the gospel and preparing a people (Mark 16:15 Mark 16:15And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
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; Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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).

Whether the world believes it or not, as Peter said, God has called us to be a “chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God , who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
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, Good News Bible, emphasis added throughout).

Whether the world believes it or not . . . God has called us to be a “chosen race . . .

How can we carry out these tasks Jesus has assigned us? Certainly, there is a work of God to do while we are alive on this earth, and that is why we are not only to prepare a people, but also to preach the gospel to the entire world.

Since we are God’s representatives as a “holy nation,” one way to do so is to teach and defend a core concept of that Kingdom, what James calls “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25 James 1:25But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
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). It is crucial to preserve God’s righteous way ever before us and to help others who show interest through God’s calling in how to walk in it.

Notice that God’s law is described here as having two wonderful descriptors: “perfect” and giving “liberty.” They resemble two shields, one guarding the front and the other the back, protecting the valuable contents inside. They guard God’s law from those who would try to slander or abolish it. They are two beautiful and powerful expressions defining and ennobling His law. Let’s carefully study each one.

The “Perfect” Law

God’s law is described as being “perfect.” As we know, only God can create something absolutely perfect. Human creations, though some are remarkably well done, still contain some flaws.

Interestingly, it was David, a man after God’s own heart, who first described God’s law as being “perfect.” He said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul . . .” (Psalms 19:7 Psalms 19:7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
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).

The Hebrew term for “perfect” is tamim , which means without blemish, complete and perfect. The Complete Word Study Dictionary mentions this about tamim : “An adjective meaning blameless, complete . . . this word described the blamelessness of God’s way, knowledge, and Law (2 Samuel 22:31 2 Samuel 22:31As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.
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; Job 37:16 Job 37:16Do you know the balancing of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?
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; Psalms 19:7 Psalms 19:7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
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).”

In the New Testament, the word James used for “perfect” is in the Greek teleios , the equivalent term of the Hebrew tamim . It also means “having attained its end or purpose, complete, perfect” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament , 1979, p. 809).

If we are preparing to become kings and priests in God’s Kingdom, we must deeply cherish and respect this perfect law of liberty. Once Jesus sets up His reign on earth, He says of those having priestly functions: “And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments. They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths” (Ezekiel 44:23-24 Ezekiel 44:23-24 23 And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. 24 And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all my assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths.
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).

What a contrast with so many in the world today who consider God’s law obsolete!

The Law “of Liberty”

The second term to describe God’s law is “liberty.” Remarkably, it is David again who first wrote about this concept. He stated, “And I will walk at liberty , for I sought thy commandments ” (Psalms 119:45 Psalms 119:45And I will walk at liberty: for I seek your precepts.
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, Jubilee Bible). Here the Hebrew term for liberty is rachab , which means, “broad, wide, spacious, large . . . It refers to the broad freedom or openness of God’s Law or to be walking in it ” ( The Complete Word Study Dictionary ).

To the Hebrews, liberty meant freely moving about in open spaces where no one would threaten them and they could live in peace.

“Liberty, as the O.T. conceives it,” notes The New Bible Dictionary , with surprising candor, “means, on the one hand, deliverance from created forces that would keep men from serving and enjoying their Creator, and on the other hand, the positive happiness of living in fellowship with God under his covenant in the place where he is pleased to manifest himself and to bless . . .

“In its continuance, liberty is a covenant blessing, something which God has promised to maintain as long as his people are faithful . Liberty does not mean independence from God; it is precisely in God’s service that man finds his perfect freedom . . . The divine law, as interpreted and exemplified by Christ himself, remains a standard expressing Christ’s will for his own freed bondservants (1 Corinthians 7:22 1 Corinthians 7:22For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.
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)” (1982, pp. 695-696).

If we are preparing to become kings and priests in God’s kingdom, we must deeply cherish and respect this perfect law of liberty.

The term “liberty” in the Greek is eleutheria , and is similar to the Old Testament concept of freely moving about without oppression.

For us, liberty means gaining the freedom from the oppression of sin and joyfully living within the broad spaces of God’s laws in a balanced manner, since they are liberating instead of enslaving. It means living within God’s law that produces inner peace and an uncluttered and an unpolluted mind.

It is quite the opposite of what so many preachers teach today—that it is God’s law that enslaves and that we need to be liberated from it. How utterly false! We have seen in the Bible that God’s law is described as being the perfect law of liberty —it is not defective nor is it enslaving. After all, Paul called God’s law “holy, and the commandment holy and just and good . . . and the law is spiritual” (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
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, 14).

As Peter pointed out to the brethren about the false teachers enticing them to sin under the pretext of being free from God’s law, “While they promise them liberty , they themselves are slaves of corruption ; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:19-21 2 Peter 2:19-21 19 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. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
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).

One day, people will truly appreciate all the dimensions of “the perfect law of liberty” when God’s Kingdom is established.

In this respect, Micah 4:1-4 Micah 4:1-4 1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it. 2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it.
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describes so well the results of following that perfect law of liberty: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore . But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”

Conclusion

Once we understand the concepts of the perfect law of liberty, we can readily defend it and apply it in our lives. Remember, there is perfect freedom when living within God’s laws.

Moreover, in its context, James described it as a spiritual mirror that shows us our flaws and how to remove them. As He pointed out, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:23-25 James 1:23-25 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like to a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was. 25 But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
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So in our mission to preach the gospel and to prepare a people, let us never forget how important it is to exalt that “perfect law of liberty.”