Ring the Bells of Freedom

gospel song written by Captain Casey
commentary by:
P.B. Mistretta III

In the Old Covenant, under the Mosaic Law, the people would observe a year of jubilee. This would occur after 49 years, where in the fiftieth year, on the Day of Atonement, they were to “…make the trumpet sound throughout the land…and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Leviticus 25: 9-10) Among other things, it was a time where slaves were free to go, where possessions were restored, debts were cancelled, families were re-united, and people could not “oppress one another.”

As one can imagine, this was a time of great joy in the land for many. Now we know that the law was a shadow of better things to come. The year of jubilee, in the Old Covenant, was a type of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and what those who believe in what he accomplished for us at the cross would partake of under the New Covenant.

The songwriter, even though he does not mention the Old Covenant Jubilee, seems to be making the connection to it. In the Old Covenant they were to “make the trumpet sound throughout the land.” In this song, the songwriter exhorts to, “Ring the glad gospel bells, sound the message of peace.” The difference between the two, however, is natural blessings in the Old Covenant, and spiritual blessings in the New Covenant. In the Old, there was freedom for the few that were in natural servitude in national Israel. In the New, there is a freedom from sin for the whole world. In the Old, there was a release from the natural chains of slavery. In the New, there is a “blessed release” from the chains of sin. In the Old, there was a restoration of earthly possessions and families. In the New, there is a reconciliation of man back to his Creator with all of the blessings that it contains.

The exact date of this gospel song is unknown to this writer. What is known is that the writer of this precious gospel song knew the gospel of Jesus Christ. He speaks of deliverance for the captives, of seeing and hearing the gospel, of being made free from sin, and finally an exhortation to those who have been made free to “sound” this glorious message so that others may believe also. Let us take a look at this old-time gospel song verse by verse.

 

Vs.1     I was once bound in chains as a captive I lay ‘Neath the snare of the tempter Under sin’s mighty sway, But the Lord, bless his name, spoke deliverance to me, Ring the glad gospel bells, I am free, I am free.

Every person born into this world is born in sin and has a sinful nature. He is a captive or a slave to sin. Jesus spoke of this to the religious people of His day in the temple, in a discourse that is recorded in 8th chapter of John. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (vs. 31, 32) The Jews responded, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage (slaves) to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free.” (vs. 33) Now of course we know the Jews were lying, because they were slaves at different times in their history. However, Jesus was talking about spiritual slavery. Jesus goes on to say, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant (slave) of sin,” and “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (Vs. 34, 36) By the end of his discourse, those that “believed on him,” (vs. 30) “took up stones” to try to kill him. (Vs. 59)

The Jews in that day rejected the good news of freedom from sin. They were so blinded by their religious pride that they refused to believe that Jesus Christ was their Messiah. The call of redemption has now gone out to the whole world. John records, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:11,12) How do we become a son of God? The next verse explains it; we are “born… of God.” When one truly believes on him (not as those Jews did), but believes in the truth of the gospel that can make one free from sin, he is born of God and thus a captive no more to sin. He is “free indeed.” He is no more a servant of sin, so he no longer commits sin. This is the good news (glad gospel bells) of the gospel.

The Apostle Paul speaks of this in the sixth chapter of Romans. Three times he uses the term “free from sin.” In verses 6 and 7, he writes, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Remember, Jesus said that knowing the truth shall “make you free.” Now Paul says, “knowing this.” Know what? The truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ! The truth that Jesus not only died on the cross, but that our “old man,” or our “body of sin,” died “with him.” Why? - That our sinful nature would “be destroyed” so that we no longer would “serve sin,” or in other words, no longer a slave to sin.

Notice the absoluteness in the speech of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul. Notice the term “make you free.” Make is a word that does not signify a process, but rather a creation. Our God is a creator. Webster defines “maker” when referring to God, as, “Creator: one who brings something new into existence.” We are “created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works…” (Ephesians 2:10) Freedom from sin is not attained through a lengthy process, but instantly as we believe the truth of the gospel. We grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We learn more of His love that sent Him to die for us. We become rooted and grounded in the faith. We bear more and more fruit and good works unto God as we grow in Him. He may give us certain spiritual gifts to edify one another. As we spend time in his presence, we become better witnesses for Him and of Him. But, according to the abundance of scriptures written for us as a witness of what a child of God is, we never grow into holiness. Thank God it is not our work, but our faith in His complete and finished work at the cross, that frees us from our captivity to sin and “makes” us a child of God. We can rejoice along with the songwriter, “I am free, I am free!”

 

Vs. 2      I was once strayed away on the mountain so cold, Far away from the Shepherd far away from the fold, But the Lord, bless his name, sought the mountain around, Ring the glad gospel bells, I am found, I am found.

In Luke 15:4 –32, Jesus spoke three parables concerning his love for and the joy in heaven over the one lost soul who returns to Christ. In the first parable a man has one hundred sheep, but loses one. He leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one and upon finding it, calls for his friends to rejoice with him over his found sheep. Jesus says that likewise, there is joy in heaven over the “one sinner that repenteth.” The second parable has a woman with 10 silver coins. She loses one of them and lights a candle and sweeps and searches her house diligently for that one lost coin. When she finds it, she also calls on her friends to rejoice with her. There is joy in heaven. The third parable is what is known as the prodigal son story. When he finally comes to his senses, he is welcomed with open arms by his father who calls for a great celebration because his son is “alive again.”

Peter tells us that God is “…not slack concerning his promise, … is longsuffering…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 2:9) His love and call goes out to all men through Jesus Christ, even to the backsliders. They are unquestionably accepted back in the fold, and there is great rejoicing in heaven over their repentance back to Him.

I would like to talk about Roman’s chapter seven now.  Many today are being taught that Roman’s seven is the normal experience of a child of God.  It is unclear from the scriptures if it is talking about Paul, or man in general in a backslidden state, or just talking in general about the state of man before and after the law was established in the Old Testament.  It is clear, however, that this is not the normal experience of a child of God.  Verse nine encapsulates the whole experience in one verse. Paul says, “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Verse 11 is similar. It states, “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”   This man was deceived by something good in the commandments.  That was the “occasion” that sin needed to “deceive” him, until he found that sin had “revived” and he then “died.” He found himself wanting to do good, but “evil is present with me.” He comes to the realization that it is, “sin that dwelleth in me.” He finds himself a slave to sin.  He said he was brought “into captivity [slavery] to the law of sin.” (Vs. 23)  In this horrible state, he cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Vs. 24) He finds his answer “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul received the knowledge of the gospel by the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:12, Ephesians 3:3-5) No man taught him for he was taught of God. God revealed to him the “mystery of Christ.” God revealed to him the purpose of Calvary. It was in the light and knowledge of this gospel that Paul is freed from sin (body of this death), and goes on to write over one quarter of the New Testament.

A fallacy proclaimed by the modern church is that this is the normal state of a “struggling” Christian.  They say that if Paul was in this state, then where does that leave us? They use this for justification to continue in their sins.  This cannot be a Christian in Romans seven.  It is directly contrary to everything that the New Testament says that a child of God is – righteous, holy, without spot or blemish, and free from the bondage of sin.  If this was the apostle Paul in this situation, then he was in a backslidden state.  In his own words, he said, “sin revived…I died… it slew me…into captivity.” If one gets saved and does not know the truth of the gospel, he is in danger of losing his soul. Hosea says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6) Many find themselves in a struggle with sin because they are not hearing the truth of the gospel of freedom from sin. Many are even told that it is normal to sin, and that they will sin every day or at least occasionally, and that the sin nature will stay with them for all of their lives.

You may have found yourself in this condition. After you were saved, you may have found yourself in a struggle with sin. You may have been discouraged to the point of even giving up totally. I can tell you that it is not too late. He can restore you, and you too can be “alive again” and rejoice in Christ Jesus, knowing that there is rejoicing in heaven also.

 

Vs. 3     I was once very deaf to the call of the Lord, I was once very blind to the light of His word, But the Lord, bless his name, touched my eye and my ear, Ring the glad gospel bells,  I can see, I can hear.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus spoke in parables? Why did he use terms and stories that often rendered a vague interpretation to his hearers? His apostles wondered the same thing. After Jesus spoke the parable of the sower, his disciples asked, “Why speakest thou in parables?” Jesus answered, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to them it is not given… Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”(Mt. 13: 10,11,13) In order for one to understand the mysteries of the gospel, he has to want it. God told backslidden Israel, in Babylonian captivity, through the prophet Jeremiah, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all of your heart.” (Jer. 29:13) He spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “…but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Is. 66:2)

If you do not understand the gospel, ask God to reveal it to you. Pour out your heart to him. Not fifty percent, or eighty percent, but one hundred percent (all) of your heart. It is the seedbed of the heart that has to be prepared for the receiving of the gospel. Jesus said that the seed that fell on good ground are they that have “an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” Ask and seek and knock until he opens the truth of the gospel to you, and you will rejoice along with the songwriter, “I can see, I can hear.”

 

Vs. 4      Ring the glad gospel bells, let the music resound Far and near in the darkness where a soul may be found, Ring the glad gospel bells, sound the message of peace, Tell the world that from sin there’s a blessed release.

“And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight.” (Colossians 1:20-22)

The songwriter exhorts us to “sound” the “message of peace” to the world. It is a message of reconciliation that upon believing brings man back to his Creator in a holy state. Those of us who were once enemies of God because of our sin nature, which separated us from Him, have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son. This is the “message of peace” that brings a “blessed release” from sin.

Chorus: Ring the bells of freedom from the power of sin, Ring the bells of freedom from its stains within. Ring the bells of freedom, ring the bells of freedom Freedom from the pow’r of sin.

“And now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12: 31,32)

“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus prophesied of Satan being cast out of heaven when he would go to the cross. Paul speaks of what was also accomplished against Satan at the cross. Satan has no more power against the child of God. The power of sin was broken when the Son of God was lifted up at the cross and shed His blood for our redemption and for Satan’s defeat. He said that if He be lifted up (crucified) He would draw all men unto Him. It is in his death that we have freedom from sin. It is at the cross that we are to go for our redemption.

Thank God that it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that still frees those that believe “from the power of sin,” and that is the message that we are to proclaim to those who would have “ears to hear” and a “heart that understands.”

That is the “bells of freedom” that we “ring.”