Voices from the Past
"The Perfect Law of Liberty"

Cecil Willis
Truth Magazine, Vol. XVI, No. 3, November 18, 1971

The New Testament writer, James, said, "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing" (James 1:25). There are several important lessons to be learned from this passage.

(1) IT IS A "LAW." This body of truth which is the source of all pure religion is here called a "law." There are some who would have us to believe that the Old Testament had law, but no grace; and that the New ,Testament has grace, but no law. They therefore teach that we should preach "the Man" but not "the Plan," else we become legalists.

However, a law is simply a "rule of action." If there is no prescribed rule of action (i.e., no law), then it would be impossible to sin, since sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). The body of truth that guides us is elsewhere called the "law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21), the "law of the Spirit of life" (Romans 8:1,2), and here it is called "the law of liberty" (Jas.. 1: 25; 2:12). It is true, however, that we are not under the law of Moses (Romans 6:14), but this does not mean that we are under no law at all.

(2) IT IS "THE PERFECT LAW." It is the only "perfect law." The law of Moses had some imperfections, the Hebrew writer says (Hebrews 8:7, 8). The law of Moses could not take away sins (Hebrews 9:15; 10:1-4). But the gospel is "the perfect law." There will be no other law like it given forever (Matthew 24:35).

"Perfect" means "completeness," "fullness," or "wholeness." In this gospel "all truth" for all time was revealed (John 16:13). Jude taught that the faith was "once for all" revealed (Jude 3). Thus this "perfect law" cannot be amended, improved, or transcended by man. Any tampering at all by man, whether to add to it or to take from it, will destroy its perfection. It must be left just as it is to maintain its perfection.

(3) IT IS "THE LAW OF LIBERTY." The law of Moses constituted an unbearable yoke (Acts 15:10). When the gospel was inaugurated, the "yoke of bondage" was removed. Jesus taught, "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Paul taught the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death" (Romans 8:2). The power of the gospel to liberate one from the tyranny of sin is another mark of its perfection. The gospel is God's only power unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

The fact that the gospel is "the law of liberty" does not mean that one is free so that he does not have to obey the gospel. Some teach that since the gospel is a liberating gospel, one does not necessarily have to obey that gospel; he does not have to believe and be baptized, we are told. But the only way we really can honor "the Man" is to obey "the Plan." When one is baptized "in the name of" Jesus Christ, he shows his faith in the saving power of Christ. It is only when one has obeyed that this "perfect law" becomes to him "the law of liberty" (Romans 6:17).

Editor's Comments


Too many who profess to be Christians have never known, or have forgotten, that the gospel of the grace of God is a law. It determines what is right and wrong religiously and morally (Colossians 2:6-8; 3:1-11). When you abide in this law, the words of Christ, you will be fruitful and in the love of Christ (John 15:7, 10). When you do not abide in this law, you will be fruitless and wither outside the love of Christ (John 15:6). All this points to the fact that there is a knowable, definite right and wrong which has been revealed by God. His will is not ambiguous, or He is to blame. Men can understand God's will, His law as revealed through the Savior and Spirit, and they can understand it alike (Ephesians 3:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-2; John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 1:10).

Now, being the "perfect law" means, as the article noted, that nothing need be added. The blessed gospel of the glorious God contains all that is needed to be saved (2 Peter 1:3). We need nothing else--at all! Men today do not need latter-day revelations as the Mormons claim. Men of the 21st century do not need to be guided by their own wisdom--and cannot be (Proverbs 14:12). What we need is the pure, simple gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). Who dare thinks he can improve upon what the apostles and prophets revealed by inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16-17)? Who dare thinks he can escape the wrath of God by attempting to add, subtract, or change the gospel of Christ? "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:6-9).

Finally, it is a wonderful and blessed thought to know that we can be free from bondage to Satan and sin. When one obeys from the heart "that form [pattern] of doctrine," then he will no longer be a slave to the devil, but a servant of Christ (Romans 6:16-17). Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). That truth is the "perfect law of liberty"--"the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" when it is received meekly (James 1:21). Praise be to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ for the message of the cross, for revealing unto men plan of salvation, which will liberate our souls and give us eternal life (1 Corinthians 1:18; John 5:24).

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