Acts 26:32, “Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.”
Last week was a time when our nation remembered and celebrated Independence. I woke up on Thursday morning to watch the news and learned of some arrests that were made by law enforcement because of actions against local and federal laws. Some of the individuals who were arrested claimed they were exercising their liberty, but civil authorities thought otherwise. The individuals arrested and some who witnessed were angered, but their emotions did not change the minds of the civil authorities. Why? Because the actions, even though they were claimed in the context of liberty, were against the law.
In our study verse, we read when the Apostle Paul was being held in bonds (Acts 26:29) and, as a Roman citizen, had asked that his case be heard by Caesar (Acts 25:11). After Herod Agrippa and Festus (a Roman governor) heard Paul speak, they concluded that he would have already been set at liberty if “he had not appealed unto Caesar.” But does this mean that Paul, if he had been set at liberty, could have departed doing whatsoever he pleased? Or does this mean that Paul would have been freed from the bonds to live and act as a Roman citizen? Without question, the second is our answer. When we consider the subject of liberty, we should contemplate the following: from what is one set at liberty; to what are they set at liberty; and the parameters of the liberty given.
Liberty is a Bible subject that deserves our study attention. The Bible declares that God’s children have been set at liberty from the condemnation of their sins by the death of Christ on the Cross (Romans 6:7). The family of God looks forward to the day in anticipation when we all will be freed from the bondage of the corruption of this world (Romans 8:21) and I’m assured that each precious little child of God who has heard and believed the Gospel is thankful for the liberty from the experiential bondage of the law. But this does not mean that we are set free to go forth doing as we please, ignoring God’s commands.
Several years ago, a friend of mine sent me a video of a religious group here in America. The music being played sounded more like a rock/country concert and the pastor was dancing around the pulpit and they very well could have claimed they were enjoying their liberty. Although I do agree that this group was acting within the parameters of their liberty as American citizens, in a Biblical context, I cannot help but believe that they were abusing the word. Why? Because the New Testament does not authorize the people of God to worship in such a manner.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, liberty is a beautiful subject. I’m so thankful for my American citizenship. Yet this does not give me freedom to neglect to stop at red lights. I’m even more thankful for the liberty I’ve experienced in the Gospel truth. I was not raised a Primitive Baptist, and in my younger years, experienced the condemnation of the law in many ways. What a precious day it was in my life when, through the truth of salvation by grace and grace alone, I was set free from the experiential condemnation. Yet, this did not give me authority to build my own church and worship how I please. Yes, I was set free, but the Bible gives me specific parameters concerning the Lord’s Church and by laboring to obey His Word, I will be blessed to enjoy more fellowship with the One Who loved me before the world began (1 Timothy 4:16). Amen!