1 Peter 2:16
As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
The change was great which even an enlightened and pious Jew passed through when he received Jesus as the Messiah. Finding in Christian doctrine and privilege the substance of which he had so long been conversant with the shadow, his mind expanded and his best feelings were touched with a brightness of joy and hope. The moral horizon widened around him. Human life must have seemed a grander and more glorious thing. Much more must this have been the case with a heathen, who, if sincere, had been encompassed with the chains of a ceremonial religion. Both to the Jewish and the Gentile convert the predominant experience in Christian faith and fellowship must have been an experience of liberty. It was a justly founded delight which they thus came to share. Yet it was not without its dangers, as the Apostle Peter well knew. Hence his admonition to his readers to take and practically to adopt a fair and balanced view of the new liberty upon which they had entered.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S SPIRITUAL FREEDOM.
1. He enjoys freedom in relation to God. Apart from the great redemption, man is, as sinful, exposed to the Divine displeasure and righteous condemnation. From this he is delivered, i.e. set free; and that by an act of God's own clemency and interposition.
2. He is emancipated from the slavery to which sin formerly subjected him. The Scriptures everywhere represent the service of sin as serfdom, not as honorable and worthy of such a being as man. And experience shows that this view is just, that the servant of sin is the slave of sin. Now, from this bondage Christ liberates his people. Sin has not dominion over them. No created power could effect this great enfranchisement; it is the work of the Divine Savior clothed with the omnipotence of Heaven.
3. He is also freed from subjection to the authority of man. As the soul recognizes the right of Deity, the power claimed by humanity recedes and diminishes. Another and a higher standard than human authority claims profoundest reverence; and, where there is a conflict, the Christian spirit realizes freedom from the created yoke.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S RENUNCIATION OF THE COUNTERFEIT OF LIBERTY. No doubt many, under the guise of Christianity, have adopted antinomian principles; it was so in apostolic days; it is so now. Against this error Peter faithfully warns those lately emancipated from bondage to sin and death. We are warned in this language:
(1) that it is possible for men nominally Christian to be in bondage in respects in which they ought to be free; and
(2) to be exercising freedom where they ought to submit to restraint. The history of Christendom assures us that there is a tendency, on the part of those who realize their new and sacred privileges, to despise the safe way of scrupulous and watchful obedience. And on the other hand, it is found that traditional chains are retained and cherished which should be cast off with indignation and hatred.
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S SPIRITUAL BONDAGE. All the while that he is free, the Christian is the true servant and bondman of the Lord Christ. Of this service it may be said that it is:
1. Voluntary, because adopted and accepted deliberately, upon a consideration of the claims of Christ, and the true duty and interest of his emancipated ones.
2. Practical, being the service not only of the heart, but of the bodily nature and outward life.
3. Honorable. In the slavery of sin is disgrace; but to serve Christ is higher honor than for a minister of state to serve a good and mighty king, than for a pupil to serve a master of power and genius.
4. Happy and advantageous. The Christian does not serve for the sake of the reward; but he does not serve without a reward. Christ has it in his power to recompense, and he exercises this power for the benefit of his faithful adherents and friends. There is no joy like that of serving Christ, and no recompense such as that which he does and will confer. In a word, it is the experience of the Christian that true service and true liberty are united in his life, and in his life alone. - J.R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.