“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV)
There is a strange idea that is prevalent in our society today that freedom gives men license to do whatever a person believes is correct. We see it in the political wrangling that is going on today. We see it in the moral relativism of our world. It was evident in national activities such as ethnic cleansing and territorial expansion. We can look back and see it in the slave trade. Today, sexual boundaries are being removed, life is being devalued, rioting is justified, divorce is commonplace. Man has become the moral determiner and there is no absolute supreme authority. The ultimate end of such is one of two things. It will either be complete anarchy or a godless totalitarian rule. Yet, in both cases, there will be a loss of true freedom.
True freedom is not being able to do whatever you want. True freedom is to be found only in the Spirit of the Lord. This is Paul’s point here. Israel under the Old Covenant was bound by the constraints of the Law. Yet, the Law only revealed the impossibility of man being able to justify himself through legalistic obedience. Thus, every person was subject to the Law and the penalty of death for sin. Those under the Law were not free. They were bound.
Considering this, it might seem paradoxical to think that those set free from the Law might then live in moral disregard. However, this is not the case, for to do so, is not true freedom either. True freedom is that which comes by faith. It is that which is provided in the New Covenant. Paul wrote about it to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, ESV). Yet he also cautioned them not to abuse their freedom, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13, ESV).
This freedom that we have in the New covenant is in a way license to do whatever we want, but it is not license to do whatever the flesh desires. I know this sounds like a paradox, but it is not. To understand it, we must look at the New Covenant working of the Spirit. Ezekiel recorded the Lord’s words pertaining to the New Covenant.
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27, KJV)
The writer of Hebrews quoted the prophet Jeremiah further clarifying this work. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Hebrews 10:16, KJV).
There are many glorious blessings in the New Covenant. Here we see the work of the Spirit in regenerating the believer. This is a work that gives the believer a new nature. While the old nature is still at work, the believer has a new divine nature. With this new nature, the believer has new understanding, priorities, and desires, ones that align with the those of God. Thus, true believers now have an inner desire to seek the righteousness of God and live according to His will.