We hear the phrase all the time, even sing it aloud in church and on the radio — “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” It’s catchy, and it feels good to say it. But is there truth to this statement, or is it merely a feel-good platitude?
Is ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord Is There Is Freedom’ in the Bible?
The statement, “where the spirit of the lord is there is freedom,” is indeed in the Bible. The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the early church in Corinth, wrote about how, with the precious gift of the Holy Spirit, we now have a new covenant with God. That covenant is a truthful, honest, open connection to the Living Lord that brings liberty like nothing else.
As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (NIV).
What Does This Phrase Mean?
To understand the full meaning of the phrase, we need to look at the full context of what Paul was writing about. The essence is that, because we have absolute access to the Holy Spirit when we become believers in Christ Jesus, we get the opportunity to enjoy the full freedom of intimate, close connection with God.
We didn’t always enjoy such a connection. In the past, God’s people required an intermediary between them and the Lord. While we know God spoke directly with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other chosen ones, there were typically firm boundaries between God and human beings. Often, He chose to communicate through angels and prophets.
Some, like Moses, He was so close to that He spoke with Moses one-on-one, like a friend (Exodus 33:11). But even that strong relationship had limitations. For example, when Moses begged God to show him God’s glory, God refused to show Him his full face — that is, His full glory — and Moses had to hide in the cleft of a rock until God passed by, revealing only a glimpse of His back (Exodus 33:18-23).
But Jesus, the link between God and humanity, changed everything. And when Jesus rose to heaven after His resurrection, He left behind a gift for the people: The Holy Spirit, whom He called our “advocate” (John 14:15-31).
That advocate, a word also translated as our “helper,” is our agent of truth. The Holy Spirit is not a power or force but a person, one with both the Father and Son, who authored the Scripture and created the world. And in Him, we find freedom.
What Is the Holy Spirit?
Also called the “Holy Ghost,” the Holy Spirit is considered by most Christian denominations to be the third person in what is known as the Holy Trinity, comprising God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Spirit comes from the Greek word pneuma, which means wind or spirit. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word comes from the root pneó, which means “to blow,” much like the wind blows like a breath upon the earth. The person of God’s Spirit, then, blows the breath of life that animates all living creatures.
Jesus promised that the Spirit would come to live in all His people after His resurrection. And as we see in the Book of Acts, that promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, when all the believers were gathered in one place and heard a sound much like a violent, rushing wind.
As Scripture describes, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Act 2:3-4).
The Spirit, alive in each of them, enabled the apostles to be witnesses for Jesus, able to fulfill what Jesus commissioned them to do in Matthew 28:19-20:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
What Did the Holy Spirit Do Through the Apostles?
The Book of Acts contains many examples of the Holy Spirit filling God’s people — those who chose to believe in Christ, repent of their sins, be baptized, and follow Him as the “way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
Filled with the Spirit, the apostles were able to perform signs and wonders. Peter, John, and others were able to speak eloquently about the Bible as if they were educated men when in reality they were not — rather, it was the Spirit speaking through them.
The Spirit led the Apostle Philip to bring the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8:29), and the eunuch became a believer.
The Spirit also directed the Apostle Paul’s travels, including steering him from where not to go — throughout the province of Asia (Acts 16:6) — and preparing him for the prison stays and other hardships awaiting him in various towns (Acts 20:23). So many examples abound.
What Kind of Freedom Does the Spirit Offer?
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul reminds the early church that they are walking embodiments of the Holy Spirit. He calls them “a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).
This Spirit does a number of things: He makes us competent, able to do God’s work, and He also gives us life (2 Corinthians 3:6). As Paul explains, in Moses’s time, we were given stone tablets engraved with our ministry instructions. These were indeed glorious, but they led to death. However, now we have the ministry of the Spirit within us, engraved not on stone but upon our hearts, lasting forever (2 Corinthians 3:7-10).
Now, in the Spirit, we have hope, Paul writes. Before, there was a veil between the people and God, but because of Jesus Christ, that veil — that barrier — is gone (2 Corinthians 3:14).
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
We have free, complete, unfettered access to God thanks to the liberation of the Holy Spirit, who comes upon us when we accept Christ as our savior.
As the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible explains, “The Spirit gives believers freedom of access into God’s presence without fear, as well as freedom from bondage to sin, to death, and to the law as a means of acquiring righteousness.”
What Other Bible Verses Mention Freedom in the Spirit?
Many verses throughout the New Testament echo this similar point about freedom in the Spirit. In addition to the above, here are a few others:
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12).
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Romans 6:22).
But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:25).
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).
The Spirit can do so much when we are willing to let Him use us fully. Paul’s reminder, that the Lord is the Spirit and in Him, we find ultimate freedom, is perhaps the most hopeful. For in a life filled with prisons — self-imposed and otherwise — only Jesus brings real freedom.
And that freedom lasts forever.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.