“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen
may cry, peace, peace -- but there is no peace. The war is
actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will
bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are
already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that
gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so
sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it, Almighty God! -- I know not what course others may
take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” On March
23, 1775, Patrick Henry addressed the Second Virginia Convention
as they debated whether they should form an army in response to
England’s military oppression. Henry’s speech convinced the
convention and the military was funded in the Virginian colony.
But Henry’s speech took on a life of its own. His concluding
words became a rallying cry for all patriots stirring them to
fight for freedom, even in the face of what seemed like certain
defeat. His words have lived on even to our present day. Most of
us, even if we did not know who said it or when, have heard the
phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
In Henry’s mind there were but two choices, freedom or
death. The Bible presents these same two choices. Did Henry
realize the Biblical ring of his statement? I think perhaps he
did. His entire speech is so filled with biblical allusion it is
almost overwhelming. But while he used his statements to promote
liberty from governmental oppression, the original biblical
sentiment is about something far greater. Henry was trying to
convince a colonial legislature to fund an army, God is trying to
convince Christians to obey Him. In either case, the options were
the same—Liberty or Death.
Death through sin, the tyrannical destroyer.
The tyranny all mankind has faced is the tyranny of sin. Romans 3:9-18, 23 describes our state of sinfulness. The first three
chapters of Romans is
devoted to proving that all men, whether Jews or Gentiles, have
Like all tyrants, sin is a liar (Hebrews
3:13). Sin promises great things and feeds on our strongest
desires—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the
pride of life (I John 2:16). Sin tells us it will bring us peace, happiness,
contentment, wealth, glory and fame. But in the end, sin only
brings death (Romans
6:20-23; James 1:14-16).
Paul describes the wretchedness of the sinner’s life in Romans 7:14-24. Because we have sinned, we have developed habits of
sin. In fact, it is as if sin has taken over. The pathway of sin
has become so worn in our minds and lives that despite our desires
to take a different path, we, almost naturally, walk down the path
of least resistance. Thus, despite our great intentions we find
ourselves in the midst of sin over and over again. While we may
not fully understand all of Paul’s statements in this passage, I
believe we all know the feeling. We have all seen the wretchedness
of sin and want to know how we can be free from this sin and
death. How can we have liberty?
Liberty through God’s grace.
First and foremost, we must understand that liberty will
come through God’s grace. Our sins have already separated us
from God and we do not deserve to have any relationship with Him (Isaiah
59:2). But God’s grace through Jesus Christ provides liberty
from the law of sin and death that has plagued us from the time we
first sinned. Paul demonstrates that in Romans
8:1-4. Jesus came as one of us to condemn sin in the flesh and
to provide an offering for sin so our sins could be forgiven.
Again in Romans
3:21-26, we see God’s grace demonstrated by His Son’s
sacrifice. He was offered as a propitiation, through which we
might be redeemed and justified. He paid the penalty for our sins.
Ephesians 2:8-9 nails
it down. If we are to be saved, it will be by God’s grace.
Liberty through faithful obedience.
Having said that, however, we must not feel that we can sit
back and do nothing. According to Romans
6:1-2, we are not allowed to simply continue in sin because of
God’s grace. Rather, we are to die to sin. According to Romans
6:8-11, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to
God in Christ Jesus. That is, our lives are now devoted to a new
master. Our new master is God. His will must govern our lives.
continues that we are now to be slaves of righteousness, being
obedient to the teaching which freed us from sin. In Roman
8:5-8, we learn that we must set our mind on the things of the
Spirit. That is we must learn to value what the Spirit values. We
must learn to love what the Spirit loves. We must learn to think
as the Spirit thinks. Again, in Romans 8:12-14, Paul says that we must live by the Spirit, putting
to death the deeds of the body, being led by the Spirit. Despite
what proponents of modern error teach, this does not happen by the
Spirit taking over and forcing us to obey His will. This happens
by us volunteering ourselves to His service. If we wish to have
liberty we must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God.
Liberty through baptism into Christ’s death.
We cannot close our lesson without learning how we first
gain the victory of liberty in Christ. We know we must be in
Christ to have freedom from sin (Romans
8:1). But when is that freedom first enjoyed?
provides the abundantly clear answer to this question—baptism.
Pay careful attention to these verses regarding all that happens
in baptism. We die to sin (vs. 2). We enter Christ (vs.
3). We enter into His death (vs.
3). We are made alive in Christ (vs.
4). Our old sinful self was crucified with Christ (vs. 6). Our body of sin was done away with (vs. 6). We are freed from sin (vs.
Where does the liberty begin? It begins when we submit to
Christ in baptism, participating in the likeness of His death,
burial and resurrection. Interestingly, many today look at this
passage and claim baptism is nothing more than a symbol. However,
this passage declares far more than that. Is baptism symbolic? It
certainly is. It is symbolic of us following in the footsteps of
Jesus, dying, being buried and then being raised to walk in
newness of life. But as we go through that symbolic act, very real
salvation takes place. We must not discount baptism because of its
symbolism. Rather, we must go through the symbolism to gain the
“Give me liberty or give me death” was Patrick
Henry’s plea to the Virginia Convention. God’s statement to us
is that we will either have liberty or we will have death. Which
one do you want? The choice is yours. When Henry made his plea,
the convention was swayed to enter the fight for freedom. God has
made His plea to you, will you be swayed to resist the devil and
die to sin, being made free in God? Why not begin that battle for
freedom from sin right now? Why not obey God today in baptism for
the remission of your sins?
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ