The Law of Liberty

Davi Paes Silva
February 7, 2018
The apostle James calls the Law of God “the law of liberty.” How could it be that a law that forbids people to do whatsoever they want, be called a law of liberty?

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.  For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.  So, speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:10–12).


The Law of God is the reflection of His lovely, just, and perfect character. Since God is love, His moral law of the Ten Commandments is based on perfect love. This is its fundamental principle.


Consequently, no one can be happy while at enmity with this law. There is no happiness outside of its principles. There is no justice apart from it. Its principles constitute a protection to those who accept it. There is no freedom outside of its boundaries.


The harmony of the entire universe depends on perfect obedience to God’s commandments. They are as deep and broad as their divine Author. At the same time, all the principles enshrined therein can be summarized in one word: Love.


The apostle James calls the Law of God “the law of liberty.” How could it be that a law that forbids people to do whatsoever they want to be called a law of liberty?


In Romans 13, Paul declares that those who love their neighbors fulfill the Law. And he explains how they do that.


He quotes several commandments related to loving our neighbors: Do not commit adultery. Why not? Because we love our neighbors as ourselves and adultery hurts people. Do not kill. Why not? Because we love people, so we would not want to destroy them. Do not steal. Why not? Because of love. Do not covet. Why not? Again because of love. In verse 10, the apostle summarizes his argument saying that “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).


In 1 Corinthians 13:1–8, he gives a beautiful explanation of love–the fulfillment of the law, explaining how can we love our neighbor indeed.


Ellen White expounds on this:

“No matter how high the profession, he whose heart is not filled with love for God and his fellow men is not a true disciple of Christ. Though he should possess great faith and have power even to work miracles, yet without love his faith would be worthless. He might display great liberality; but should he, from some other motive than genuine love, bestow all his goods to feed the poor, the act would not commend him to the favor of God. In his zeal he might even meet a martyr's death, yet if not actuated by love, he would be regarded by God as a deluded enthusiast or an ambitious hypocrite.   


“‘Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.’ The purest joy springs from the deepest humiliation. The strongest and noblest characters are built on the foundation of patience, love, and submission to God's will.  


“Charity ‘doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.’ Christlike love places the most favorable construction on the motives and acts of others. It does not needlessly expose their faults; it does not listen eagerly to unfavorable reports, but seeks rather to bring to mind the good qualities of others.  


“Love ‘rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.’ This love ‘never faileth.’ It can never lose its value; it is a heavenly attribute. As a precious treasure, it will be carried by its possessor through the portals of the city of God.”1


In Romans 7, Paul says that the law is holy, just, and good. At the same time, he confesses that he was a slave of sin, which is the transgression of the law. If sin is a terrible slavery, then obedience to the Law of God is freedom.


But the Law cannot deliver us from slavery. The main purpose of the Law is to reveal to the sinner his real condition before the Lord. Freedom from sin is possible only by becoming one with Jesus Christ. He said: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).


“Sin can triumph only by enfeebling the mind, and destroying the liberty of the soul. Subjection to God is restoration to one’s self—to the true glory and dignity of man. The divine law, to which we are brought into subjection, is ‘the law of liberty,’ James 2:12.”2     


We must always keep in mind the fact that every commandment of God is a promise. For instance, when God says: Do not kill, do not give false testimony, do not covet, He is saying: I will give you the power to not kill, to not give false testimony, to not covet.


“The conditions of eternal life, under grace, are just what they were in Eden—perfect righteousness, harmony with God, perfect conformity to the principles of His law. The standard of character presented in the Old Testament is the same that is presented in the New Testament. This standard is not one to which we cannot attain. In every command or injunction that God gives there is a promise, the most positive, underlying the command. God has made provision that we may become like unto Him, and He will accomplish this for all who do not interpose a perverse will and thus frustrate His grace.”3


“Those who think that a surrender to Christ means loss of liberty are in bondage to the worst of all tyrants. Satan binds them in chains of darkness, and exults in their ruin. And yet they talk of liberty! Liberty to sin, when the wages of sin is death!”4


“The Scriptures are indeed fulfilled in this, that the blind are leading the blind. For by whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. These deluded souls are under the most abject slavery to the will of demons. They have allied themselves to the powers of darkness and have no strength to go contrary to the will of demons. This is their boasted liberty. By Satan are they overcome and brought into bondage, and the great liberty promised to those they deceive is helpless slavery to sin and Satan.”5   


“We are called into the freedom of the gospel but not into the service of sin. We are called to wear Christ's yoke, which is true liberty, not liberty to sin and disregard the plainest injunction of the Word of God, ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments’ (John 14:15).”6


1. The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 319, 320.

2. The Desire of Ages, p. 466.

3. Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 76. [Emphasis added.]

4. The Youth’s Instructor, August 21, 1902.

5. Redemption, p. 93.

6. Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, p. 317.