Man and Freedom
Reformed Free Publishing Association
What follows is an excerpt from Knowing God and Man, by Herman Hoeksema, chapter 10, pages 104-106.
The Son who is able to make one truly free is Christ, the Lord. He is free himself, for he is the eternal Son of God, coequal with the Father in the divine nature, dwelling in infinite perfection and in the sphere of divine love. As the Son of God he loves the Father, even as the Father loves him, from eternity to eternity. As such he is absolutely free. He is free, too, as the Christ, the Son of God in human nature who came in the likeness of sinful flesh. He united himself with our nature and sojourned among us. Even in that human nature, the Son was, and always remained, perfectly free. Constantly his whole being and life were in perfect harmony with the will of God. It was his delight to do the will of God. He was free in the highest sense of the word. He could not sin, for he was the Son of God in human nature; he became like us in all things except sin. Christ, the incarnated Son of God, is the Son who abides in the house of God forever.
Therefore, Christ alone is able to liberate the sinner from the bondage of sin. Because Christ is free, he was able to pay the price for our liberation. Let us remember that we are the legal slaves of sin. Our bondage to sin is our punishment, for our sin incurs guilt. We are children of wrath by nature. The just wrath of God keeps us confined to the prison of sin and death, from which we have no right to be delivered. Only if someone pays the price for our redemption, which we ourselves can never pay, can we rightfully be liberated. This price is stipulated by the justice of God alone. His justice must be satisfied: our sins can be atoned for only by an act of freedom, love, and perfectly free obedience. Even as sin is wanton transgression of the law, or willful rebellion against the Most High, so atonement must be a free act, characterized by the obedience of love. And that free act must consist in the bearing of the punishment for sin: death, eternal death, the full wrath of God. To atone in this way, one must voluntarily descend into the depths of death and hell in perfect freedom, in the love of God. He must be able to suffer all the agonies of hell, and in the midst of those agonies—conscious of the fact that these agonies are inflicted on him by the wrath of God—he must be able to say, “I love thee, O my God! Even now it is still my delight to do thy will.”
Such must be the price that is to be paid for our liberation from the prison of sin and death. And this price Christ paid. He could pay that redemption price, for he is the Son, and even in his human nature he was free. He could pay the price for his people in their stead and in their behalf because he was anointed to do so as the head of the church, representing all whom the Father had given him from before the foundation of the world. He could die in freedom. And so he did. Voluntarily he came into the world, taking the place of his people in the judgment of God. Freely he took their sins upon himself and bore them before the face of God. In perfect freedom he traveled the way of the cross, and as an act of free and loving obedience to the Father, he shed his lifeblood and descended into the depth of hell on the accursed tree. He said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:17, 18). And so he descended into the pit of darkness. When billows of death swept over him, and when waves of wrath and desolation engulfed him, he was still free. On the very bottom of hell, he stood before the face of the Father and said, “Here I love thee for thy righteousness’ sake; it is my delight to do thy will!” Such is the price the Son paid for our freedom.
Even as Christ obtained the right to deliver us from the prison of sin and death, so he received the power to liberate us. The Son himself must make us free; he must not merely merit the right for our liberation and then leave the rest to us. He must not merely merit the right for our liberation and then leave the rest to us. He must not merely merit the right for our liberation and then leave the rest to us. He must not stand outside our prison doors and tell us that we have the right to be delivered if only we will open that door of our prison. That would be vain. Never could we, never would we, open that door of our cell, for our will is in bondage, and we will to sin. We are foolishly content with our slavery. But he, the Son, makes us free. He received the power to free us, for he was raised from the dead and lives forever; death has no more dominion over him. He was exalted at the right hand of God, and he received the promise of the Spirit. By that Spirit he enters irresistibly into our very hearts, dethrones the power of sin, enthrones himself, and sets us free forevermore.
Yes, and he calls you to leave that prison. When he calls you, and when you hear his word, you cry out, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” That is the first cry of a sinner who has been truly liberated from the bonds of sin. It is the cry of a free man for freedom. It is the first cry of the love of God spread abroad in our hearts. And in that state of freedom, you will continue to hear his word, love it, keep it, continue in the truth, and fight the good fight, even to the end, so that no one takes your crown. No one and no power of darkness will ever be able to imprison you again, for by grace and through faith you are united with the Son of God, from whom no one is able to separate you. If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed, and free forever!