True Freedom… in Christ (Hoekema)

Anthony Hoekema’s Created in God’s Image is an excellent Reformed resource for the study of biblical anthropology (the doctrine of man). I’ve enjoyed this book for quite a few years now. In my studies last week I was reading chapter twelve, which has to do with human freedom. In a helpful way, Hoekema explained what true freedom is, how it was lost in the fall and restored in Christ. It’s a big discussion, for sure, but Hoekema explained it in a biblical and readable way. Here are a few paragraphs from the chapter that make for edifying Christian reading:

Man’s true freedom, which he lost in the Fall, is restored in the process of redemption. When the Holy Spirit regenerates a person, renews the image of God in him or her, and begins in him or her the work of sanctification, that person is enabled to turn to God in repentance and faith, and to do what is truly pleasing in God’s sight. The state of the regenerated person is now, as Augustine put it, one of “being able not to sin” (posse non peccare). Redemption therefore means deliverance from the “bondage of the will”; the regenerated person is no longer a slave of sin.

That true freedom, the freedom to do God’s will, is restored to man in the redemptive process is taught in many passages of the New Testament. We turn first to the words of Jesus. After telling the Jews who were arguing with him that everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34), Jesus went on to say, “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (vv. 35–36). We may infer from this that the freedom Jesus is talking about is freedom from the enslavement of sin. It is only through Christ that we can receive this freedom….

…Calvin describes true freedom as consisting of three aspects: (1) freedom from the need to keep the law of God in order to earn our salvation; (2) freedom to obey God’s law voluntarily, out of thankfulness; and (3) freedom with respect to external things that in themselves are indifferent. Note that the first and the third of these freedoms are freedoms from certain things, whereas the second is freedom to something else….

…Since true freedom means the joyful keeping of God’s law, and since love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10), this freedom will express itself in love for God and for others. We may say, in fact, that true freedom, as the fruit of God’s redemptive work, is identical with the renewal of the image of God in us. The more we exercise this freedom, the more our freedom will resemble that of God himself, who is love.

George Matheson has said it unforgettably: Make me a captive, Lord, / And then I shall be free; / Force me to render up my sword / And I shall conqueror be.

 Hoekema, Anthony A. Created in God’s Image. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994, chapter 12.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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