The call of freedom
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.
You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.
Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”
(Galatians 5:1–15 NLT-SE)
These are perhaps some of the most quoted verses in the Galatian letter, arguing in the New Testament letters.
If you love the message of the Gospel with its emphasis on the freedom we have in Jesus, then you will be able to tell me about this verse without even looking at your Bible.
The first verse says it all, “for freedom, Christ has set us free”. There isn’t any other way. This is what Jesus came to do! This is not just a Bible verse; it is a declaration. It is more than a vision statement, and it is the reality of those who are children of God.
“He says: “For freedom Christ freed you”. Both the noun and the verb are the words “freedom”; freedom is both the means and the end of the Christian life! Everything about the Christian gospel is freedom. Jesus’ whole mission was an operation of liberation. And the verb translated “has set us free” is in the aorist tense. In Greek this refers to a single, past action that is now completed.” (from “Galatians For You (God’s Word For You)” by Timothy Keller)
This freedom is final. It is the reward of Christ’s death and resurrection. There is no other freedom that can compare to the freedom that we have in Christ.
Freedom, according to the Cambridge Dic. : “is the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, to think, etc., whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited.
We have freedom of speech
Freedom of religion
Freedom of thoughts
Freedom of information
Freedom of choice
We also have
Even the word free or freedom is mentioned in more than one national anthem: “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
What does Paul mean when he says, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free.”
Paul means that we are free from death, condemnation, and free to be us, this new humanity in Christ Jesus. But above all, it is freedom from those who preach another Gospel. which is no Gospel at all, freedom from Religion and law observing.
“ Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:2–4 ESV)
Just imagine that, that you and I are severed from Christ! That is being cut off from his Spirit, from his love. While all the time you and I think we are serving him. But because we have chosen to follow and obey the law, something that no one can accomplish, we are cut off from him.
This does not mean that we lose our salvation, not all. It means that we have chosen to be influenced, manipulated and chosen a life of following Christ by observing religious practices. In doing so, Christ effectiveness in changing our lives does not have the same effect. We have added to other things, and we have elevated them to the place where Jesus can only be Lord. The false teachers were teaching Jesus + law = salvation.
Jesus is enough. He does not need our best efforts to be saved.
This is why Paul says that freedom in Christ is so important. He has set us free to live a life guided, directed, motivated by the Spirit of the Living God, the Holy Spirit.
Paul said this in another letter but with the same force as this declaration:
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4–6 ESV)
How do we keep on living in Freedom?
Paul encourages his people to stand firm.
How do we keep on living in freedom? The answer that we find in Scripture is very consistent, and it may surprise you!
Why? Because as people of God, sometimes we get confused with trying to be and do good, which is also very biblical.
Yes, we please him with our worship, and we please him when we walk according to the Faith that we profess.
Yet, by being good and by doing good, the Bible is pretty straightforward in terms of salvation. We can’t be saved by trying to do or to be good. The Bible says that no one is good, and because of that, we need a Saviour. A Saviour is the only one, and nothing can be added to the Saviours’ message that can bring salvation to us from the dominion of darkness to the light. To set us free from the claws of sin and death!
How do we keep on being free?
That is interesting and perhaps surprising! The only action that we are asked to perform is to Stand Firm.
This imperative command has a military connotation! Stand Firm! Do not move! Do not engage! Do not blink!!
I know what it is to Stand Firm for a military parade! When I was growing up under the Pinochet regime, every celebration of the arm forces, our school, just like the arm forces, needed to parade in front of the Military Commander, Police Governor and other authorities. It was a whole morning and afternoon affair, and all the community came to see the school parade. We were drilled to march, left, right, left right!! And we were made to stand under the banner of our school and the Chilean flag! So naturally, our school took pride in all this. We were representing our school, our values, and good discipline.
You see, I understood that even though it was a military exercise, I marched because I believed the values of our school, which is the equivalent here of a grammar school.
When it was our turn, we Stood Still. We Stood Firm, looking and holding to our banner, the best of us. We did not move till we were introduced, and the sound of the local Navy Band signalled that it was our time to march.
Paul is saying to the Galatians to Stand Firm “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)
So, what are we standing on?
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV)
We stand firm in the Faith!
“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” (Galatians 5:5 ESV)
We stand firm in the Spirit, by faith in the Gospel, which is the Hope of Righteousness, the hope that we are eager to meet face to face and this same hope that lives in us, who is Christ in us, he is our righteousness.
We Stand Firm in the Gospel of grace, and there is nothing more powerful than this solid foundation.
He is our solid foundation. He is our banner.
Don’t be a slave!
I have said it before; God has sons and daughters, Satan has slaves!
“For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)
Paul is saying that we do not submit again to a yoke of slavery!
I want to be clear and transparent as I can and tell you a submission is an act of the will. Whether this is a voluntary act, or coercion and manipulation, it is still an act of the will.
The yoke of slavery is the law. It is a heavy burden that we may choose to carry, and even though it looks attractive and religious, it leads to slavery.
But Paul goes even more profound and tells this as it is:
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:7–12 ESV)
Leaven is a perverted influence that modifies something.
There are well-intended Christians that believe that they are doing God’s will, but they teach and live Jesus + religion!
There are well-intended Christians who believe the latest conspiracy theories believe that the Covid vaccine is not from God! You are deluded! You need to wake up! But, unfortunately, they are leading other people to stray.
How do we keep ourselves from this slavery?
” For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:13–15 ESV)
We are called to live in freedom and use our freedom to set other people free and use our freedom to love and serve one another. If we don’t, we are in danger of biting and devouring each other. When we do that, we represent our Father of lights, but another, the father of lies.