Freedom through Christ

Last week in the USA, we celebrated Independence Day. The occasion reminded me of the ultimate freedom we have through Jesus Christ.

Luke 4:18 states of Jesus:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;” NKJV

Jesus attends the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath and reads from the scroll of Isaiah 61:1-2. He is proclaiming His Messiahship and that His mission was to liberate humanity from oppression.

The phrase “to set at liberty” literally means to be released from bondage. To set at liberty is from the Greek άφεσης (aphesis) and is the process of setting free or liberating.1 It also means to release, forgiveness. Indicates the state of having a particular obligation removed or ignored in a given relationship.2

Think for a moment of the burden of sin we have been released from! Think of the forgiveness extended to each of us—He truly has set us free!

According to NT scholar Dr. Craig Keener, the reference to Isaiah in this passage (61:1–2; cf. 58:6) seems to describe Israel’s future in terms of the year of Jubilee, or year of release, from Leviticus 25… Some scholars have suggested that a recent Jubilee year may have made this text fresh in the minds of Jesus’ hearers…3 The year of Jubilee signified all debts forgiven and released—this is what Jesus has done for us through His vicarious death and resurrection!

This week, I want to continue exploring the freedom Jesus has given us. Let’s begin with a passage in Luke 13.

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. 14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” 15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing. Luke 13:10-17 NIV

Jesus is teaching on the Sabbath in a synagogue and notices this woman. He stops teaching and calls her out to minister to her. He frees her from the demonic oppression that is causing the illness. Preaching and teaching of the gospel should also demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom!

Two principles can be gleaned from this story.

First, Jesus frees those who are oppressed.

Secondly, grace is a higher truth than the law.

The ruler of the synagogue is indignant that Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. Why?

The Ten Commandments instructed them to work for six days and keep the Sabbath for rest and worship. The religious leaders of the day thought that no work was to be done on the Sabbath.

Jesus calls him out on it. You’re a hypocrite! You free your animals on the Sabbath so they can get water; what about this woman? Shouldn’t she be free? There are two other similar stories in the gospels.

In Luke 14:1-6 Jesus is in the home of a Pharisee. A man is there with dropsy (swelling of the body), and Jesus asks them if it would be legal to heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus heals the man and once again mentions the freeing of donkeys and oxen on the Sabbath. The religious folks are beside themselves with this act of healing on the Sabbath.

Then, in Matthew 12:9-14, we read how Jesus is in a synagogue, and there is a man there with a withered hand. They ask Jesus, “Is it legal to heal the man on the Sabbath?” Jesus answers by healing the man!

Jews believed healing was not allowed on the Sabbath except when there was danger to life. Even then, measures could be taken only to prevent the condition from getting worse; nothing could be done to improve it.

Jesus countered this error, saying it is lawful! The message of God’s love and grace was inherent in the law and throughout the Old Testament.

Grace is a higher truth than the Law!

In John 1:17, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” NIV

Here, we read how the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled the law, redeemed us from its curse, and gave us His grace!

Paul explains in Gal. 3:24 that the law was our teacher to bring us into grace through Christ. The law declares humanity guilty and imprisons them; grace sets humanity free to enjoy liberty in Christ.

Religion is man’s attempt to be right with God. But religion, apart from the grace of Jesus, oppresses people—God’s grace through Christ frees them.

While the direct oppression this woman was suffering came through Satan, the religious yoke of oppression the Jewish leaders placed upon the people hindered them from experiencing the grace that was in the law.

Only our faith in Christ can make us righteous, not the works of the law, religion, or self-effort.

We begin to experience God’s grace in fullness when we move away from working for grace to simply receiving its power. Religion, apart from operating in God’s grace, oppresses.

Only Christ Brings True Freedom

Remember our passage in Luke 13:12 NIV, “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”

Jesus mentions in his rebuke of the leader how the woman has been oppressed for 18 years by Satan. Shouldn’t she be free—of course she should!

Peter declared of Jesus, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38 NKJV

The English word “oppressed” in Acts 10:38 comes from a compound Greek word that means to “exercise dominion against.”

It is the kingdom of darkness exercising dominion against humanity. Do not ever think for a moment that God doesn’t love or doesn’t care about the oppression of humanity. Christ came and died for our freedom! He has defeated Satan and his demonic forces. The Church then is called to enforce the victory that Christ has already won.

Jesus healed everyone oppressed by the devil!

He never said, “I’d really like to heal you, but the Father is using this to make you a better person!”

The gifts of healing and the miraculous are for today; they never ceased after the apostles’ deaths and the completion of the Bible.

In my book Receive Your Miracle Now: A Case for Healing Today, I discuss the thread of healing from the time of Christ to the present day.

Through Adam, humanity was sold into slavery to the devil and put in bondage to his power under his jurisdiction. But through Christ and the cross, freedom has been provided.

God’s love for us is so rich that he gave His only Son, who paid a great price for our redemption. Jesus assumed our guilt, bore our judgment, and endured condemnation to free us of all debt and obligation to Satan’s kingdom and be brought into God’s.

Matthew records,

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” Matt. 8:17 NKJV

For Christ to free us from this terrible curse of the law, He was made a curse for us; that is, He bore the punishment prescribed by the law.

But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing … “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Gal. 3:13 NLT

The curse of the law included all diseases, every sickness, and every plague throughout the history of the world (Deut. 28:60-61).

He legally rescued us to give us freedom and an abundant life (John 10). Every sort of sin, drug and alcohol addiction, bondage, disease, etc. Eating disorders, sexual sin, pornography, fear, etc. Christ has paid the price for our freedom!

Staying Free in Christ

Salvation is your emancipation from everything outside God’s will for humankind. Now, we can act accordingly and live like free men and women.

Surrendering in faith to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is essential to receiving that which has already been purchased. Believing and acting upon the truth of the gospel of the Kingdom.

When the slaves in the United States were freed, they were still living in slaves’ quarters. They still looked like slaves. They still felt like slaves. But when they heard the Emancipation Proclamation read, they had a legal right to say, “I am free,” and to act on that liberty.

Booker T. Washington in his book Up from Slavery, tells his story as a boy of nine in Virginia, hearing about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. He remembered the day in early 1865:

“As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom…. Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free and could go when and where we pleased.”

You see, through the shed blood of Christ, you are free!

Gal. 5:1 NLT: “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”

Believe in your proclamation of freedom. You are free from the bondage of graceless religion and all oppression of the enemy.

The children of Israel still saw themselves as slaves and couldn’t appropriate by faith what God had done for them in delivering them from the Egyptians. Desired to return to Egypt rather than move into freedom.

Redemption has not become a reality for many. It has only been a theory, a doctrine, or a creed.

Satan has taken advantage of this lack of understanding. We are freed from all the power of Satan—freed—emancipated. Say, “No trespassing, Satan!”

We were captives, but Christ freed us from captivity. We were cursed by sin and sickness, but Christ, our redeemer, has freed us from that curse and loosed us from its dominion. You were subject to Satan’s authority—but now, In Christ, you are free.

You now have Christ’s emancipation proclamation—the Bible—it is yours!

Do not be a slave any longer. Do like the slaves in the USA did when they heard their Emancipation Proclamation read: claim your liberty; act on your deliverance!

You are free in Christ; shout your freedom, confess it, and believe it! Oppression is not tolerated by God and shouldn’t be tolerated by the church.

What are you struggling with today? What has taken you captive? Allow the fullness of Jesus’ redemption to free you.

Bob Sawvelle

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