We find the law of liberty first mentioned in James 1:25, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James here refers to the gospel, which, although it is called here a law, is not, strictly speaking, a law comprised of requirements and enforced by sanctions. Rather, it is a declaration of righteousness and salvation by Christ, an offer of peace and pardon by Him, and a free promise of eternal life through Him. The juxtaposition of the two contradictory terms—“law” and “liberty”—made the point, especially to the Jews, that this was an entirely new way of thinking about both. Paul uses this same technique when he refers to the “law of faith” in Romans 3:27.
The perfect liberty found in Christ fulfills the “perfect law” of the Old Testament because Christ was the only one who could. Those who come to Him in faith now have freedom from sin’s bondage and are able to obey God. Christ alone can set us free and give us true liberty (John 8:36).
The phrase “law of liberty” is found again in James 2:12. In this portion of his epistle, James is discussing the sin of showing partiality within the church. He reminds his hearers that to show favoritism toward others is a violation of the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus Himself reminded us that all of the Law that God gave to Moses could be summed up into one concise principle—to love God with all the heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–40).
God’s Word teaches plainly that all have sinned and stand condemned before God (Romans 3:10, 23; 6:23). No one but Jesus Christ has ever fully obeyed the law of God. He who knew no sin became sin for us (Isaiah 53:5–6; 2 Corinthians 5:21)! Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has redeemed from the curse of the Law all who trust in Him by faith (Galatians 3:10–14). Believers have been justified (declared righteous) by His grace (Romans 3:24–28) and are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1). All who have trusted Christ have received the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). It is His power in us that gives us the ability to please God (Galatians 5:13–16).
Christ’s perfect sacrifice brings release from the eternal death sentence that the Law brings upon all sinners, and it gives believers the ability to please God as we put off the works of the flesh (Colossians 3:1–9), put on love (Colossians 3:12–17), and walk in (or by) the Spirit day by day. It is by the Spirit’s filling and control (Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 5:17–21) that we can walk in love and please our Heavenly Father.
What perfect liberty we now enjoy! What a blessed privilege to have received mercy, to be redeemed (liberated) from the bondage of sin, and to be empowered for service by our Creator! Our love for others proves the reality of our faith (1 John 4:7–11). Let us love one another even as He has loved us (1 John 4:19).