It Was For Freedom That Christ Has Set Us Free

Imagine a world in which you were truly free.  Can you see yourself as free?  Often many think of things like – no work, no bills, no hassles, no one to answer to.  I believe the freedom that Paul has in view here transcends our basic thoughts of freedom.  Consider, Adam and Eve prior to the fall.  There was work.  There was relationship.  There was responsibility.

Imagine a freedom that enables you to be fully human as God intended.  Freedom from guilt, fear and completely secure in relationship with God and others.  Freedom from sin – sin like pride that lifts us up against one another and leads us away from God.  It was for this freedom – from sin and shame that enables us to be all that we were intended to be on our own and in community with both God and others.  Imagine going into a conflict and knowing the other person is thinking the best of you and you them. Wouldn’t that be a freeing situation in which to resolve problems and maintain relationships that are healthy?

Galatians 5: 1-13

The apostle Paul makes a summary statement that is radical and has far reaching ramifications; It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.  He continues, Therefore stand firm or take up a position to hold your ground; much like a military unit that has come under attack.  He warns them not to slip back under the yoke (teaching) that is slavery “again” – Galatians were about to exchanged one form of slavery (Paganism) for another (Judaism).

Here’s the deal; its all of nothing.  You just can’t mix grace and works to achieve or maintain salvation and call it the gospel of grace.  The Galatians were being pressured to receive circumcision as a sign of the old Covenant (with Abraham) because is signified they were “in the family of God” by doing so.  Paul now moves to clearly point out 4 serious ramifications of taking circumcision to being justified with God.

1.    Christ will be of no benefit. 

2.    You’re biting off more than you can chew (Lev 18:5//James 2:10 the whole law is yours now to keep).

3.    You’re severed from Christ

4.    Fallen from grace.

SIDE NOTE:  Nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ (Rom 8).  Secure in Christ; if not – isn’t it performance management all over again and where is grace?  So, what is he writing about?

·       In trying to address people who walk away from the church family, John concluded, those who walk away never truly belonged – 1 John 2: 19 – “they went out from among us because they were not of us.”

·       I’d like to add a little Pastoral counsel here.  Ultimately, we never know the end from the beginning.  We (in the church) must be very careful of making definitive pronouncements regarding people’s ultimate standing with God.  We may find a person who has been walking close with God far from Him due to a blow to his/her faith that was sustained when a loved one died or some other traumatic event.  We might come across the same person years later and find they have found their way back to God.  I caution against rushing to judgment in a person’s life.  We can all go through ups and downs with our faith; therefore, we must exercise compassion and mercy with one another. 

Back to Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  Rather than losing salvation – or apostacy (walking away from the faith) – Paul’s writing is a firm warning to the Galatians – you can’t add anything to grace (makes it no longer a gift –  but a purchase).  Subject at hand isn’t salvation per say – its faith/grace over against works.

·       If you go with anything (circumcision – just the example in our generation we might say baptism) other than grace you have lost everything.

·       To live by faith or live by the flesh is in view – what justifies?  Later in this chapter Paul will continue his thought by comparing the works of the flesh against fruit of the Spirit.

In verses 5 and 6 Paul circles back to his emphasis: The hope of righteousness (aka justification/salvation) is through the Spirit and obtained by faith.  There is no work that we can do including religious rites (circumcision/baptism) that will justify us.  Circumcision or non-circumcision isn’t the point – works (anything added to grace) nullify grace.

It is faith working through love – God’s love for you!  The gospel of grace is God reaching down to mankind and through Christ’s work (life/death/resurrection).  Do you believe He loves you this much?

Verses 7 through 12 form a sober warning for all who would take on the role of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life regarding dictating what save and keeps a person in relationship with God.  4 powerful points flow from this and are fitting for any generation to heed.

1.    This (any kind of works-based salvation) isn’t the message of the Apostles – it is someone else’s gospel.  Could it be yours or mine?

2.    A little leaven leavens the whole lump – leaven – false teaching can spread like a disease.  Especially dangerous when we mean well – when we want to help God and protect people from themselves.  It just isn’t the Gospel of grace that leads to salvation.

3.    Paul expresses confidence they will figure it out. Those who are doing this will answer to God (Luke 17:2 – like millstones around the necks of those who mess with kids!). 

4.    Paul uses very strong words again!  Paul brings the Gospel of grace and this is why he’s being persecuted.  He wishes those who would put these requirements on others would go all the way and mutilate themselves!

Verse 13 Serves as a bridge in thought from those outside threatening our freedom in Christ to us (on the inside) and how we can threaten our freedom in Christ by miss using it. 

This week:

1.    Know the truth.  Know God’s Word and think it through.  When you detect something that doesn’t sound right – question it.  If it is against the Gospel of Grace – act on what you find and confront to correct.  If you have a question about the doctrine of your church and what they are teaching, go to the Pastor and ask clarifying questions.  Talk with the elders of the church and don’t simply let it go.  If they do not turn away from false teaching, leave the church.

2.    Check yourself before you wreck yourself or others.  Honestly ask yourself am I being legalistic?  Do I lead with relationship over rules?  Am I adding anything to the gospel of grace?  If you get things wrong with God more than likely you will bring that error into other relationships in your life. 

a.     Sometimes life is messy, time and study are required in the Christian life.  Don’t check your brain and your liberty at the door. 

b.    Be humble and willing to examine your doctrine (what you are not only believing but practicing).  Be willing to have people in your life who will speak into your life and tell you when you’re moving away from sound doctrine.  It’s possible to believe in grace and live by performance management or inflict that on those closest to us.  It crushes the soul and makes people bitter. 

Christian, you are radically loved.  You are radically forgiven.  You are radically redeemed – down to your eternal soul.  You are beautiful in the sight of your heavenly Father (When God sees you, He sees Jesus).

You have been set free from sin and are free to be fully human showing the world a different way of living!

How can we not share this love?  You have the power to right wrongs, be transformed and change the course of your family, work place and possibly community. 

Do you realize what you have in Jesus?  It isn’t some nice do good religion set up alongside of other religions – you have the power to change the world with your love; the love you have received.

Uncle Ben told his nephew Peter, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  Know what you believe – check what you are being taught and go – make your world a better place by living into it the gospel of grace and set people free! 

It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.

It’s worth the struggle!

Vince Armfield