The Definition of True Independence – What July 4th Meant to Our Founders

John 8:36 “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

We celebrate our 243rd Independence Day this week. America is the longest running Constitutional Republic in the history of the world. Our freedom to live as we choose are not by some lucky break – they come from the God of the Bible and the foundational principles of Christianity.

John Adams, one of the Founders and the 2nd President of the United States (1797-1801), explained how they could gain their freedom from Great Britain: “The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.”

In fact, at one point during the Revolutionary War, a British governor wrote back to Great Britain that these Americans are refusing to return to British rule because of one overwhelming fact: “If you ask an American who is his master, he’ll tell you he has none. And he has no governor but Jesus Christ.”

This spirit of the American Revolution, based on a firm stand on the lordship of Jesus Christ, was again reinforced by John Adams as he wrote that July 4th needed to be a religious holiday, to “commemorate the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

John Quincy Adams, our 6th President (1825-1829), delivered a July 4, 1837 speech where he declared why Independence Day and Christmas are America’s top two holidays:

Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [the 4th of July]? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?

As David Barton of Wallbuilders explains, “According to John Quincy Adams, Christmas and July 4th were intrinsically connected. On the Fourth of July, the Founders simply took the precepts of Christ which came into the world through His birth (Christmas) and incorporated those principles into civil government.”

What are these “precepts of Jesus Christ” that David Barton mentions? Our verse this week comes the 8th chapter of the Gospel of John, where Jesus says to be truly free means to follow Him as Savior and Lord: “You shall know the truth, and the Truth shall make you free” (verse 31). This confused those listening, as they completely misunderstood His meaning of true freedom: “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” (verse 33).

Jesus explains the freedom He offers is greater than physical freedom from the tyranny of others. He is offering spiritual freedom from the guilt of sin: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (verses 34-36). This is the same message He gave at His first Scripture reading in a synagogue when He began His ministry. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus read a section of the Old Testament book of Isaiah the prophet, which prophesied of the coming Messiah’s mission on Earth.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

Christ’s declaration in the synagogue that day explained God the Father’s purpose for sending His only Son to Earth, to first be born in a manger (John Adam’s reference to our Christmas holiday), and then to die on the Cross (Adam’s reference to July 4th), and finally to be raised from the dead (Easter).

First, Christ came to preach the good news of forgiveness of sin to those who would receive it – the poor in spirit. Secondly, Jesus came the heal the effects of our sin – our broken hearts. And thirdly, Jesus came to set us free from the penalty of our sins through His voluntary death in our place, which would secure a way for all to be forgiven: “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

These are the precepts of Christianity our Founders fought for, which we are blessed to live under in the greatest nation in the history of mankind: the birth, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #354

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