For, brothers, you have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
I. THE DANGER. St. Paul was no antinomian. No Hebrew prophet ever insisted more strenuously on the necessity of righteousness than did the champion of justification by faith. With him freedom from the bondage of Law is not release from the obligations of duty. If tedious ceremonial observances are discarded, eternal principles of morality are only exalted into the higher supremacy. If we are not required to shape our conduct according to rigid rules, we are thrown back on principles of wider bearing and more absolute necessity. But there was danger that this should not be fully recognized. New-fledged liberty is tempted to take strange flights. This is an inevitable peril accompanying an undoubted boon. For fear of it many have dreaded to grant the liberty. But such policy is shortsighted and cowardly. The danger is itself the condemnation of the old bondage. The worst indictment against slavery is that it makes men servile. Unwise parents, who impose needlessly irksome home restraints, are preparing for their children a terrible peril when the coveted liberty is at length necessarily attained. The compressed spring is sure to open with violent energy.
II. THE CAUTION. How shall the danger be avoided? St. Paul points out the means.
1. Admonition. Let men see clearly the two sides of life. While some dwell exclusively on Law, others confine themselves too much to the mere fact of liberty. Much gospel preaching is dangerous from its one-sidedness. In preaching "liberty to the captives," let us not forget to preach also that" the kingdom of heaven is at hand;" in offering the blessings conferred by Christ as the Saviour, let us not neglect to set forth claims made by him as the King.
2. Instruction. Liberty requires light. The captive may be led in darkness; the freeman must see where to turn his footsteps. Ignorance may be the mother of the devotion of spiritual slaves, but knowledge is necessary for the devotion of free men.
3. High principle. It is only the spiritually minded who are fit for spiritual liberty. We are only able safely to use our release from the servitude of Law when we willingly put on the yoke of service one towards another. The unselfish man is the one man who can use without abusing the privilege of the free man. He who has Christian charity joined to his Christian liberty will fulfil the essential principles of the Law while exulting in deliverance from its crushing constraints. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.