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"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Galatians 5.1

I recall hearing the late Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message, speak about being traumatised when a conference at which he was speaking descended into hyper-spiritual chaos. He restored his personal equilibrium through a week-long immersion in the works of Karl Barth "because Barth only talks about God"! He might have been even more specific and added: Barth only talks about God in Christ.

Despite being the outstanding theologian of the 20th century, with an extraordinarily prodigious output and an enduring influence, Karl Barth's achievements seem to lend themselves to pithy summary. Another example is his famous response, when asked about what special knowledge his great learning had gained him. He is supposed to have replied: "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Yet behind the apparent simplicity lie profound insights. Associate Professor Ross Hastings draws attention to Barth's unique slant on the doctrine of Election (the belief that, in his sovereignty, God determined the eternal destiny of all people, even before they were born). Barth does not deny this but insists that this doctrine is fulfilled through Jesus, who was destined to achieve our eternal salvation, thereby setting us free to be the people God created us to be. In his grace, therefore, and through his beloved son, Jesus, God gives us this freedom in 3 ways: Freedom for; Freedom from; Freedom for freedom.

Freedom for is the reassurance that we have the potential to fulfil God's purpose, both in creating us and in redeeming us through Christ. Freedom from amounts to God's declaration that everything that would hold us back has been dealt with by Jesus and therefore is no obstruction to living faithfully. Freedom for freedom celebrates the reality awaiting those who embrace this gift of God's grace. It is entirely free, it has been ours since the beginning of time and it is what we were made for.



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