“As free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.”
Submission to civil law does not cancel our Christian liberty (Jn 8:32,36; Gal. 5:1,18). The Christian should obey civil law from their freedom, not from fear.
yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice
Some Christians use their Christian liberty for license. The word “cloak” means a covering, a means of hiding. We make people think that what we are presenting is something other than what it really is. We do not then know the true nature of the idea. This is a means of hiding or covering up the true nature of the thing. In this case, liberty is a pretext or cloak for sin. God does not want us to use our liberty as a cover for sin.
We can twist any doctrine into some excuse for evil. There is no doctrine easier to distort than the principle of Christian liberty (Gal. 5:13; 2 Pet 2:19; Jude 4).
but as bondservants of God
The word “bondservant” means slave. Note the contrast to the first statement – “As free.” True freedom, ironically, in Christianity comes when Christians live as slaves of God! The context is referring to political liberty. The Christian citizen is free because he is the slave of God. Submission to civil government is an act of a free man who understands the purpose of civil government.
Note pagan thinkers about this issue:
Seneca: “No one is free who is a slave to his body.”
Cicero: “We are the servants of the law that we may be able to be free.”
Plutarch: “Every bad man is a slave.”
Obedience to God’s principles liberates us from slavery to self. God’s Word conditions Christian freedom by Christian responsibility. We are free because we are the slave of God. True Christian freedom is not the freedom to do anything we want. As Christians, we are not free to pursue our base passions. Christian freedom is not freedom to do what we want but what we ought.
Slavery to God is complete human freedom.
Freedom without obligation is anarchy. Freedom is the right to choose between alternatives. The reason we dread liberty is that it means responsibility. The greatest freedom for the Christian is fellowship with God and living under his standards. He designed his criteria for the welfare of the believer.
Some Christians think that if they are fired because they loafed on the job that the devil is after them. If we read the Bible on company time, we should be fired.
God liberates the Christian from sin and Satan (Jn. 8:36). This does not release us from civil duty or obedience to the Word of God. It is easy to rationalize that our liberty in Christ frees us from responsibility to the state. Christian freedom is not license.
Do you pay your taxes? Is your tax report accurate? If not, it is a “cloak for vice.” The word “vice” in Greek is evil.