Chapter 21: Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

  1. The liberty which Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the rigour [severity] and curse of the law.1 It also includes their deliverance from this present evil world,2 bondage [slavery] to Satan,3 and dominion of sin;4 from the evil [harm] of afflictions;5 from the fear and sting of death, the victory of the grave,6 and everlasting damnation.7 This liberty also includes their free access to God,8 and their willing obedience to God, rising not out of slavish fear but from a childlike love and a willing mind.9 The substance of all these freedoms was enjoyed by believers under the [Old Testament] law.10 However, under the New Testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged in their freedom from the yoke of a ceremonial law to which the Jewish church was subjected. They also have greater boldness of access to the throne of grace and fuller communications of the free Spirit of God than believers under the law usually experienced.11

1 Gal 3.13 2 Gal 1.4 3 Acts 26.18 4 Rom 8.3 5 Rom 8.28 6 1Cor 15.54-57 7 2Thes 1.10 8 Rom 8.15 9 Lk 1.74-75; 1Jn 4.18 10 Gal 3.9, 14 11 Jn 7.38-39; Heb 10.19-21

  1. God alone is Lord of the conscience.12 He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any way contrary to his Word, or not contained in it.13 So to believe such doctrines or to obey such commands out of conscience is to betray true liberty of conscience.14 Also, requiring implicit faith [unquestioning trust rendered without thought], and absolute and blind obedience,15 is to destroy not only liberty of conscience but also reason.

12 Jas 4.12; Rom 14.4 13 Acts 4.19; Acts 5.29; 1Cor 7.23; Mt 15.9 14 Col 2.20, 22-23 15 1Cor 3.5; 2Cor 1.24

  1. Those who practice any sin on a pretence of Christian liberty, or who cherish [nurture] any sinful lust, do in these ways pervert the main design [purpose or object]of the grace of the gospel to their own destruction.16 In doing so, they completely destroy the purpose of Christian liberty,17 which is that we – being delivered out of the hands of all our enemies – might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

16 Rom 6.1-2 17 Gal 5.13; 2Pt 2.18-21