From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

The theme of freedom rings loudly in one of the most crucial sections of Scripture, namely the narrative of the exodus. Already when establishing his covenant with Abraham, God had predicted the bondage and suffering of the Hebrews in a foreign land ( Genesis 15:13 ). That long period of Egyptian slavery became a powerful symbol of oppression, and so the deliverance of the Israelites through Moses spoke to them of freedom in a more profound sense—indeed, of spiritual redemption. It should be noted, moreover, that this liberation had as its purpose serving God and obeying his Law ( Exodus 19:4-5; cf. also  Exodus 20:2; as the introduction to the Ten Commandments ). In other words, from the very beginning God's people were taught that the alternative to servitude was not freedom in some abstract sense, but rather freedom to serve the Lord.

It is not surprising that built into the very fabric of Israelite society was a constant reminder of God's deliverance and its significance. The fourth commandment, for example, had reference not only to God's resting on the seventh day of creation ( Exodus 20:8-11 ), but also to the liberation of Israel from the hands of Egypt ( Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ). Israelites who sold themselves because of poverty were to be freed after six years and to be given a generous supply of food. "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today" ( Deuteronomy 15:15; cf.  Leviticus 25:42 ). Every seventh year the debts of all Israelites were to be canceled ( Deuteronomy 15:1-2 ). Clearly, God was showing his people the greatness of his forgiveness and the implications of that forgiveness for their own behavior. In addition, the fiftieth year (i.e., after seven sets of seven years) was consecrated as a year of jubilee, in which the Israelites were to "proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants" ( Leviticus 25:10 ).

The ensuing history of the Israelites was one of repeated disobedience to their God. By their actions they indicated that they had forgotten his liberating work. Not surprisingly, they were given over to destruction and captivity. Now their exile in Babylon, as well as their subsequent submission to various powers, including Rome, became a reminder of their sin and fueled their longing for God's final deliverance. For many of them, however, freedom came to be seen more and more as a political hope. The very concept of Messiah was widely understood against the background of earthly kingship.

It was into this setting that Jesus' proclamation came. Although the Synoptic Gospels do not treat the theme of freedom in an explicit way, Jesus' message as a whole must be understood as a response to Jewish aspirations for deliverance. The Gospel of Luke in particular grounds the coming of Christ in the promises of divine liberation. Mary's Magnificat stresses God's power and justice in bringing down the proud and mighty from their thrones while exalting the humble and oppressed ( Luke 1:51-53 ). Then, in celebration of the birth of John the Baptist, his father Zechariah sees the promises of God beginning to be fulfilled. Remembering the covenant to Abraham, the Lord is accomplishing "salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us" ( Luke 1:71 ). Moreover, Luke introduces Jesus' public ministry by relating the visit to the synagogue in Nazareth. There Jesus announced the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, proclaiming "good news to the poor" and "freedom for the prisoners" ( Luke 4:18 ,; citing  Isaiah 61:1 ).

In the Gospel of John there is only one passage that makes an explicit reference to freedom, but this passage is of special significance, because it contrasts the political or external concept of freedom with the "spiritual" or theological work of salvation. According to  John 8 , Jesus made the claim that truth was to be found in his teaching; then he assured his hearers that his truth could make them free (vv. 31-32). This claim drew a sharp response from the audience, who appealed to their kinship with Abraham and deduced that they had never been slaves (v. 33). In view of their long history of subservience to other powers, this response was probably an appeal to a sense of spiritual freedom that transcended the political situation. Their notion that physical descendance guaranteed their place as the people of God was a fundamental mistake, and Jesus proceeded to disabuse them of their pride: "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family [because his descendants have no claim to the household], but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (vv. 34-36). One can hardly imagine a more powerful critique of misconceived ideas about freedom.

The notion of slavery to sin is especially prominent in Paul, who writes to Gentile audiences against the background of Greco-Roman thought. Undoubtedly, Paul's writing parallels some ideas current in his day, such as the emphasis on internal freedom even in the midst of social slavery (cf. the long discussion of freedom in Epictetus, Discourses 4.1). It is just as clear, however, that the apostle develops his teaching in distinction fromeven in opposition tocontemporary thought. Hellenistic philosophers, for example, tended to place considerable emphasis on the concept of natural human freedom, but Paul appears to reject any such idea. Writing to the Roman Christians, he reflects Old Testament teaching when he argues that freedom and slavery are simply relative to whatever it is that has our allegiance (  Romans 6:15-23 ). If I render obedience to sin, I am a slave to sin and lawlessness but I am "free" with respect to righteousness (cf.  2 Peter 2:19 ). If, on the other hand, I render myself as a "slave" to righteousness, I become free with respect to sin.

This conception explains why Paul characteristically refers to himself as a servant (Gk. doulos [   1 Corinthians 9:19 ). Moreover, when addressing the controversial problem whether Christian slaves in Corinthian society should seek to become free, he appeals to the higher principle of spiritual freedom: anyone who is in Christ and bears the label of "slave" is in fact the Lord's freeman, while the one who bears the label of "freeman" is truly Christ's slave ( 1 Corinthians 7:22; cf.  Galatians 3:28;  Colossians 3:11 ). It appears then that Paul was not comfortable with the popular notion of freedom as "being able to do whatever one desires" (there are various references to this view, such as Aristotle's objection to it in Politics 5:7.1310a; and Epictetus's nuancing of it in Discourses 4.1.1-5 ).

Among Paul's writingsindeed, among all the books of the Biblenone addresses the topic of freedom more forcefully than Galatians, a letter sometimes described as the Magna Charta of Christian Liberty. Interestingly, the central concern of this letter parallels the issue reflected in  John 8 : What is the relationship between freedom and being a descendant of Abraham? The Gentile Christians of Galatia were being persuaded by some Judaizing groups to adopt circumcision and other distinctive Jewish ceremonies. Apparently, these Judaizers argued that such conversion to Judaism was necessary to participate fully in the blessings God promised to Abraham. In other words, if the Galatians wanted to be truly part of God's people (and thus spiritually free?), they must become descendants of Abraham by submitting to the Mosaic law.

Paul had little patience with this type of thinking. In his view it was "another gospel" that did not really deserve the name "gospel": those who proclaimed such a message were perverting the true gospel and deserved God's curse (1:6-9)indeed, they were false brothers whose real purpose was to undermine the freedom that believers have in Christ (2:4-5). In developing his theological argument against these Judaizers, Paul points out that the function of the Mosaic law was that of a temporary guardian (the Greek word used  Galatians 3:24-25; is paidagogos, which ironically was itself used of slaves who had the responsibility to look after children and discipline them ). In 3:22-23 the language of "imprisonment" and "confining under sin" is used to describe that function.

The apostle's negative remarks about the Mosaic Law raise a difficult question. After all, God had given that law precisely in the context of liberation from bondage. In a very profound sense, the Law was both a symbol of freedom and even the means of enjoying that freedom in the service of God. James goes so far as to speak of "the law of freedom" (1:25; 2:12). The problem is that, because of sin, the law was impotent to grant life and freedom; instead, it cursed and killed ( Romans 7:9-11;  8:3;  Galatians 3:10 ). Christ, however, came specifically to redeem, that is, to liberate those who were under the law by delivering them from its curse ( Galatians 3:13-14;  4:4-5 ). Through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit we are freed from the law of sin and death ( Romans 8:2 ); we are no longer slaves, but childrenand not merely children of Abraham ( Galatians 3:29 ) but children of God ( Romans 8:15;  Galatians 3:26;  4:6-7 ). Truly where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom ( 2 Corinthians 3:17; cf.  Galatians 4:28-5:1 )!

Paul, however, makes clear that this freedom is not license to do whatever we want. On the contrary, it leads to moral transformation ( 2 Corinthians 3:18 ) and even to the fulfillment of the law, which tells us to be slaves to one another in love ( Galatians 5:13-14 ). Paradoxically, the life that comes from the Spirit and frees us from the enslaving power of the law ( Galatians 5:18 ) produces in the believer the very conduct that the law calls for ( Galatians 5:22-23 ).

Finally, we should note that the believers' experience of the Holy Spirit is only a down payment, a foretaste, of their inheritance (cf.  Ephesians 1:13-14 ). Our final liberation is yet to come, when we receive the full adoption of sons, when even our bodies are redeemed, and when the whole creation will be freed from its bondage and decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God ( Romans 8:18-23 ).

Moisé Silva

See also Redemption Redeem; Salvation

Bibliography . E. M. B. Green, Jesus Spells Freedom  ; P. Richardson, Paul's Ethic of Freedom  ; E. Kä emann, Jesus Means Freedom .

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

Old Testament Teaching In the Old Testament, “freedom” is used to describe what God desires and grants to Hebrew slaves. According to the law, no person is to have complete mastery of another. Consequently, the Law stipulates that a person can only be used as a slave for six years. Even so, if they are mistreated during that time, they are to be released. Also, every fifty years, all slaves are to be freed, regardless of how many years of their slavery they have served ( Exodus 21:2-11 ,Exodus 21:2-11, 21:26-27;  Leviticus 25:10;  Deuteronomy 15:12-18 ). In the example of the Exodus and the preaching of the prophets, whoever is oppressed is viewed as a slave, and God desires that the oppression stop. He not only makes it the task of His people to stop oppression, but even says that if they don't, He will do it Himself ( Isaiah 58:6;  Isaiah 61:1 ,  Jeremiah 34:1 )

Throughout the Old Testament, freedom is predominantly used to express control over the physical circumstances of life. By the time of the New Testament, it was widely recognized that no persons are free to such an extent that they have control of their physical circumstances. Even the rich are subject to war, drought, and other calamities. Nevertheless, an influential group called Stoics believed that anyone could still attain true freedom, because no person or force of nature can control the inner life. Thus, the individual is ultimately in control of self, though not of the environment.

New Testament Teaching In contrast to the Stoics, the New Testament recognizes that no one has such absolute control. Everyone is considered to be a slave in some sense. But being a slave in the first century world did not mean being without freedom.

Slaves during the New Testament era had much freedom of choice in daily affairs, and their decisions were not just trivial. They served in every position in society, including being the emperor's advisors and filling other government positions. They were allowed to conduct their own personal affairs, earn and save money for themselves, own property, and even own their own slaves. Just as Roman slaves usually had much control over their daily affairs, every time the New Testament commands us to do something, it implicitly affirms that we have control over our daily decisions.

Most slaves of the first century were slaves from birth. They were children of slaves, and they served their parents' owners. But few remained slaves for life. They were usually freed when their owners died, or after ten to twenty years of adult service to their owner. They also had the opportunity to buy their freedom if they could save or borrow the money their owner charged for freeing them. In fact, before the New Testament era was over, a large percentage of the free population of the Roman Empire had either been slaves at one time or had parents who were slaves. The New Testament depicts all persons as being in slavery—the slavery of sin ( John 8:34;  Romans 3:9-12;  2 Peter 2:19 ). Just as Roman slaves usually had the opportunity to gain their freedom, so all people have the opportunity to obtain release from bondage to sin by choosing to follow Christ ( Romans 6:12-14;  Romans 10:9-12 ). Though slaves, our free will is intact, and our decisions are real and meaningful.

The New Testament also affirms that we are not our own rulers. We do not have ultimate control of our lives. Just as we are not in control of our physical circumstances because nature or some other person is more powerful than ourselves, so we are not in full control of even our inner selves because the powers of sin and grace are stronger than ourselves ( Romans 7:15-25 ). Just as the slave's master determines the service that the slave is to perform, since the master is more powerful than the slave, so it is our master, not ourselves, who determines the general direction of our life ( Romans 6:16 ).

When we yield to sin as our master, sin uses the law to deceive us into thinking that we are so in control of ourselves that by our own works we can save ourselves by obeying the law. In reality, on our own we do not have the power, the freedom, to live righteously. Indeed, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” ( Romans 7:18 NRSV). So our attempts to fulfill the law by ourselves simply increase our pride, thus strengthening the control of sin over us. As we continue to live under the rule of sin, the daily choices we make become more and more consistently obedient to sinful purposes and lead to death.

If, however, we yield to grace, given through Jesus Christ, the Spirit has the power to lead us into life and truth ( Romans 6:19;  Ephesians 1:11-14 ). As we continue to live in Christ, He uses His power to mold us more and more into His image ( 2 Corinthians 3:18;  Philippians 1:6 ).

Since Jesus established His church, some people have always thought that we are no longer bound by the law but are “free” in Christ to act however we like. The Scriptures constantly remind us that following our every desire is not what freedom is. We are free from our former master, sin; but we are still servants. As servants of Christ, though we have the freedom to disobey our master, it is our responsibility to direct our actions to fulfill the purposes of Christ ( Romans 6:1-2 ,Romans 6:1-2, 6:15 ,Romans 6:15, 6:18 ,Romans 6:18, 6:22;  1 Peter 2:16 ).

Do we have freedom? Yes. Are we free? No. The Bible affirms that our choices are not determined; we make them ourselves. But it also demonstrates that we are not in total control of ourselves. We live under the ultimate control and direction of a power greater than ourselves. The comforting thing about this is that “in everything, he (God) cooperates for good with those who love God” ( Romans 8:28 REB). See Election, Slavery.

Steve Arnold

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

Sinful human beings are likened in the Bible to slaves, those who are in bondage to sin, Satan, the law and death. When by faith they receive God’s salvation, they are freed from this slavery ( Luke 13:16;  John 8:31-34;  Romans 6:17-18;  Galatians 4:5-7). This is an act of God’s supreme grace that has as its basis the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ( Luke 4:17-19;  John 8:36;  Romans 7:4-6;  Romans 8:2;  Hebrews 2:14-15).

Christian living

Although Christians are free from the law to which the ancient Israelites were bound, they are not free to do as they like. They have been saved by God’s grace so that they might be free from sin, not so that they might fall under sin’s power again ( Romans 6:6-14;  Galatians 5:13;  1 Peter 2:16;  2 Peter 2:19). They must live as those who, through their union with Christ, have died to sin and received a new life where righteousness dominates ( Romans 6:16-19;  1 Peter 2:24;  1 Peter 4:1-2).

Even when they are exercising their freedom correctly in relation to themselves, Christians must still consider whether they are exercising it correctly in relation to others. By controlling their freedom out of consideration for others, they demonstrate true Christian love ( 1 Corinthians 9:19-23;  1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

Personal sacrifice is necessary, but Christians must resist the pressure to submit to any set of moral or ceremonial laws that other Christians might try to impose upon them. Such laws may aim at controlling natural sinful tendencies, but in the end they will not be beneficial. They will lead only to frustration and renewed bondage ( Galatians 2:4;  Galatians 5:1;  Colossians 2:23). Laws might aim at righteousness, but Christians cannot achieve righteousness by keeping laws. They can achieve it only by exercising true freedom under the control of the indwelling Spirit ( Galatians 5:14-16; cf.  2 Corinthians 3:17).

Freedom in the Spirit does not mean that Christians need no self-discipline. On the contrary, self-discipline is an evidence of the Spirit’s work in them ( Galatians 5:22-23; see Self-Discipline Though free from sin, Satan, death and the law, they are not free from God. They are slaves of God, because God is the one who has bought them. They belong to God ( 1 Corinthians 6:19-20;  1 Corinthians 7:22-23; see Redemption ). As God’s slaves they have a responsibility to live righteously ( Romans 6:17-22).

Besides being servants of God, believers are sons of God, and they enjoy the full liberty of sonship ( John 8:35-36;  Romans 8:12-17;  Galatians 4:1-7; see Adoption ). They accept the authority of a loving Father, and respond with loving obedience. Their new ‘law’ of life is one that they obey because they want to, not because they are forced to. It is the law of Christ, which is a law of liberty and a law of love ( 1 Corinthians 9:21;  Galatians 5:13-14;  Galatians 6:2;  James 1:25;  James 2:12; see Obedience ).

Wider responsibilities

Having experienced God’s freedom, believers should then desire it for others. They should see that God wants people to have freedom from sin and all its evil consequences: freedom from disease and suffering ( Mark 5:1-6;  Mark 5:18-19;  Luke 13:16;  Acts 10:38); freedom from hunger and poverty ( Deuteronomy 15:1-11;  Deuteronomy 24:19-22;  Matthew 25:37-40;  Acts 11:27-29); freedom from the domination of foreign nations and oppressive rulers ( Exodus 6:6;  Nahum 3:18-19;  Zephaniah 3:19;  Revelation 19:20); freedom from human slavery and social injustice ( Exodus 22:21-27;  Deuteronomy 23:15-16;  Luke 4:17-19;  James 5:4-6); in fact, freedom from every kind of bondage, even the bondage in the world of nature ( Romans 8:21-24).

King James Dictionary [4]


1. A state of exemption from the power or control of another liberty exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. Freedom is personal, political, and religious. See Liberty. 2. Particular privileges franchise immunity as the freedom of a city. 3. Power of enjoying franchises. 4. Exemption from fate, necessity, or any constraint in consequence of predetermination or otherwise as the freedom of the will. 5. Any exemption from constraint or control. 6. Ease or facility of doing any thing. He speaks or acts with freedom. 7. Frankness boldness. He addressed his audience with freedom. 8. License improper familiarity violation of the rules of decorum with a plural. Beware of what are called innocent freedoms.

Webster's Dictionary [5]

(1): ( n.) The state of being free; exemption from the power and control of another; liberty; independence.

(2): ( n.) Frankness; openness; unreservedness.

(3): ( n.) Improper familiarity; violation of the rules of decorum; license.

(4): ( n.) Exemption from necessity, in choise and action; as, the freedom of the will.

(5): ( n.) Privileges; franchises; immunities.

(6): ( n.) Ease; facility; as, he speaks or acts with freedom.

(7): ( n.) Generosity; liberality.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [6]

Free, Freedom

The Scriptures considering our whole nature by the fall under the vassalage of sin and Satan, represent our deliverance from both by grace under the character of spiritual freedom. And Jesus, in a very striking manner, represents the greatness of it by a contrast, drawn to a state of slavery. "Whosoever committeth sin (saith Jesus,) is the servant of sin; and the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever. If the son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." ( John 8:34-36)

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 Exodus 21:2-4,7,8 Leviticus 25:39-42,47-55 Deuteronomy 15:12-18 Acts 22:28 Acts 16:37-39 21:39 22:25 25:11,12

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [8]

Freedom —See Free Will and Liberty.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

( חֻפְשָׁה , Chuphshah', Manumission,  Leviticus 19:20; entirely different from Πολιτεία , citizenship,  Acts 22:28; "commonwealth," i.e., Polity,  Ephesians 2:12). Strangers resident in Palestine had the fullest protection of the law, equally with the native Hebrews ( Leviticus 24:22;  Numbers 15:15;  Deuteronomy 1:16;  Deuteronomy 24:17); the law of usury was the only exception ( Deuteronomy 23:20). The advantage the Hebrew had over the Gentile was strictly spiritual, in his being a member of the ecclesiastical as well as the civil community of Jehovah. But even to this spiritual privilege Gentiles were admitted under certain restrictions ( Deuteronomy 23:1-9;  1 Samuel 21:7;  2 Samuel 11:13). The Ammonites and Moabites were excluded from the citizenship of the theocracy, and the persons mentioned in  Deuteronomy 23:1-6. (See Foreigner). The Mosaic code points out the several cases in which the servants of the Hebrews were to receive their freedom ( Exodus 21:2-4;  Exodus 21:7-8;  Leviticus 25:39;  Leviticus 25:41;  Leviticus 25:47-55;  Deuteronomy 15:12-17). (See Slave). There were various modes whereby the freedom of Rome could be attained by foreigners, such as by merit or favor, by money ( Acts 22:28), or by family. The ingenuus or freeman came directly by birth to freedom and to citizenship. The libertinus or freedman was a manumitted slave, and his children were denominated libertini, i.e., freedmen or freedmen's sons. (See Libertine). Among the Greeks and Romans the freedmen had not equal rights with the freemen or those of free birth. The Roman citizen could not be legally scourged; neither could he be bound, or be examined by question or torture, to extort a confession from him. If, in any of the provinces, he deemed himself and his cause to be treated by the president with dishonor and injustice, he could, by appeal, remove it to Rome to the determination of the emperor ( Acts 16:37-39;  Acts 21:39;  Acts 22:25;  Acts 25:11-12). Christians are represented as inheriting the rights of spiritual citizenship by being members of the commonwealth or community of Jehovah ( Ephesians 2:12;  Philippians 3:20). (See Citizenship). The Christian slave is the Lord's freedman, and a partaker of all the privileges of the children of God; and the Christian freeman is the servant of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:22;  Romans 6:20-22). Paul acknowledges that freedom is worthy of being eagerly embraced; but the freedom which he esteemed most important in its consequences was that which is given through our Lord Jesus Christ ( 1 Corinthians 7:21-23). The Jews, under the Mosaic law, are represented as in a state of servitude, and-Christians as in a state of freedom ( John 8:31;  Galatians 4:22-31). (See Slaery).