For Freedom He has set us Free. Galatians 5:1
Caveat – Even though I write this out, I am still humbly learning and growing in this by the grace of God.
Free in Christ
Heart of humility
Eager to repent
Everyday we have The Power of Jesus, His Holy Spirit to live in The Light of His goodness, In His forgiveness… tangibly and literally that has a real action to it, and here is just one little example.
I am cleaning off the table from our morning breakfast and Olivia is her usual self, talkative, and starts to sing a song (not sure what it was) in a tone that seemed quite louder than I would have liked. So my patience short, I became irritated, my tone quick and abrupt, “Olivia stop singing”. Without a word, She did. And then she helped me clear the table and clean the dishes. As we are working together, she says “you hurt me”. Someone may downplay her emotions, justify or bring guilt into the situation or someone could hear the honesty of her voice and look at the reality of that situation and what personally I can do to make this right.
In that moment I have 2 choices because by the blood of Jesus He gives me His Power over my desires, which my sinful flesh would be to sugarcoat or justify my irritated, abrupt reaction to her singing, or make some weird guilt/ claim the devil is trying to divide us. These things unfortunately I hear constantly.
I look at her to say thank you Olivia for letting me know my tone hurt you, I’m so sorry I didn’t realize, please forgive me. As I held her, she did and we moved on. Point #1 Both of us were free. Living in the light of your goodness, You have given us freedom. I’m no longer bound by sin and darkness. Point #2 my sweet baby girl remembers how much I need The Lord and so do I. Point #3 she trusts me.
Later on that day, as I pondered that exchange of Grace, I said to her again, “I really am grateful you did that. because I don’t want you to have any bitterness in your heart towards me.” What a Blessing, Freedom Reigned and Reconciliation was Ministered.
In her honest sharing with me, a light bulb went off and I was reminded of Galatians 5:1 and here in lies the foundational root of man’s daily problem. One (or both) of us is not free typically in these situations… Typically one does not feel free to share their hurt for fear of guilt or shame, or because hearing the truth in love is not easily received. And on the other side typically one is not free to admit their wrong doing, laugh it off, excuse making, justification is involved. In that situation both are walking in bondage. I am discontent with this behavior! Because according to God’s Word,
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
STANDING FAST IN THE LIBERTY OF JESUS
A. A final appeal to walk in the liberty of Jesus.
1. (Gal 5:1) A summary statement: in light of all that Paul has previously said, he now challenges the Galatians to walk in the truth he has presented.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
a. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free: The fact is that Jesus has made us free. If we live in bondage to a legal relationship with God, it isn’t because God wills it. God pleads with us to take His strength and walk in that freedom, and to not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
i. Significantly, it is Christ who has made us free. We don’t make ourselves free. Freedom is a gift of Jesus, given to us and received by faith. When we struggle to free ourselves, we just become more entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
ii. Paul also made it emphatic: the liberty. Today, people live in the headlong pursuit of “freedom,” which they think of as doing whatever they want to do, and never denying any desire. This is a kind of liberty, a false liberty; but it is not the liberty. The liberty is our freedom from the tyranny of having to earn our own way to God, the freedom from sin and guilt and condemnation, freedom from the penalty and the power and eventually freedom from the presence of sin.
b. Stand fast means that it takes effort to stay in this place of liberty. Someone who is legally made free in Jesus can still live in bondage; they can be deceived into placing themselves back into slavery.
i. The great evangelist D. L. Moody illustrated this point by quoting an old former slave woman in the South following the Civil War. Being a former slave, she was confused about her status and asked: Now is I free, or been I not? When I go to my old master he says I ain’t free, and when I go to my own people they say I is, and I don’t know whether I’m free or not. Some people told me that Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation, but master says he didn’t; he didn’t have any right to. Many Christians are confused on the same point. Jesus Christ has given them an “Emancipation Proclamation,” but their “old master” tells them they are still slaves to a legal relationship with God. They live in bondage because their “old master” has deceived them.
c. Yoke of bondage: This phrase reminds us of what Peter said in Acts 15:10 about those who would bring the Gentiles under the law: Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? The Jews themselves were not able to justify themselves before God by the law, so they shouldn’t put that heavy, burdensome yoke on the Gentiles.
i. Certain Jewish teachers of that day spoke of the Law of Moses as a yoke, but they used the term in a favorable light. Paul saw a legal relationship as a yoke, but as a yoke of bondage. It is related to slavery, not liberty. This yoke of bondage does nothing but entangle us. We try hard to pull God’s plow, but the yoke of bondage leaves us tangled, restricted, and frustrated.
ii. It certainly was bondage. Jewish teachers counted up 613 commandments to keep in the Law of Moses. “Even to remember them all was a burden, and to keep them bordered on the impossible. Small wonder that Paul referred to subjecting oneself to them all as entering into slavery.” (Morris)
2. (Gal 5:2-4) The danger of embracing the law as a way to walk with God.
Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
a. If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing: When we embrace the law as our rule of walking with God, we must let go of Jesus. He is no longer our righteousness; we attempt to earn it ourselves. For the Galatians in this context, to receive circumcision – the ritual that testified that a Gentile was coming under the law – meant that he no longer trusted in Jesus as His righteousness, but trusted in himself instead. So Paul could say “Christ will profit you nothing.”
i. The legalists among the Galatians wanted them to think that they could have both Jesus and a law-relationship with God. Paul tells them that this is not an option open to them – the system of grace and the system of law are incompatible. “Whoever wants to have a half-Christ loses the whole.” (Calvin)
ii. “Circumcision is the seal of the law. He who willingly and deliberately undergoes circumcision, enters upon a compact to fulfill the law. To fulfill it therefore he is bound, and he cannot plead the grace of Christ; for he has entered on another mode of justification.” (Lightfoot)
iii. How tragic! Jesus, dying on the cross, pouring out His blood, His life, His soul, His agony, His love for us – and it will profit you nothing! Two men died with Jesus; for the one who put his trust in Jesus, it was eternal life. For the one who trusted in himself, it profited him nothing.
iv. This point was so important to Paul that he mustered all the strength he could in a personal appeal: he began with Indeed I, Paul. When he continues on and wrote I testify, Paul remembered his former training as a lawyer – and was deadly serious. “Tongue cannot express, nor heart conceive what a terrible thing it is to make Christ worthless.” (Luther)
b. Every man who becomes circumcised… is a debtor to keep the whole law: When we embrace the law as our rule of walking with God, we must embrace the whole law. We become debtors to keep the whole law, and that is a heavy debt.
i. Again, the legalists among the Galatians wanted them to think they could observe some aspects of the law without coming under the entire law. But when we choose to walk by law, we must walk by the whole law.
ii. If we come to God on the basis of our own law keeping we must keep the whole law and our law-keeping must be perfect. No amount of obedience makes up for one act of disobedience; if you are pulled over for speeding, it will do no good to protest that you are a faithful husband, a good taxpayer, and have obeyed the speed limit many times. All of that is irrelevant. You have still broken the speeding law and are guilty under it.
iii. This does not mean that the mere act of being circumcised means that someone is under a legal relationship with God, and must keep the whole law for salvation. Paul spoke to the Gentile Christians among the Galatians, who were being drawn to circumcision as adults, as evidence that they had come under the Law of Moses as the “first step” to salvation. We will later see that Paul didn’t care one way or another about circumcision (Galatians 5:6). What he detested was the theology of circumcision as presented by the legalists.
c. You have fallen from grace: When we embrace the law as our rule of walking with God, we depart from Jesus and His grace. We are then estranged from Christ, separated from Him and His saving grace.
i. The danger of falling from grace is real, but it is often misunderstood. Most people think of “falling away” in terms of immoral conduct, but we are not saved by our conduct. However, we are saved by our continuing reliance by faith on the grace of God. Someone may fall from grace and be damned without ever falling into grossly immoral conduct.
ii. Boice on you have fallen from grace: “The phrase does not mean that if a Christian sins, he falls from grace and thereby loses his salvation. There is a sense in which to sin is to fall into grace, if one is repentant. But to fall from grace, as seen by this context, is to fall into legalism… Or to put it another way, to choose legalism is to relinquish grace as the principle by which one desires to be related to God.”
iii. Literally, Paul wrote, “you have fallen out of grace,” which is not the same as the colloquial English phrase “you have fallen from grace.”
3. (Gal 5:5-6) The answer of faith to the legalist.
For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
a. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith: Those walking in the Spirit wait for righteousness by faith; they are not trying to earn it by performing good works. No one is a legalist through the Spirit.
i. Wuest on eagerly wait: “The word speaks of an attitude of intense yearning and an eager waiting for something. Here it refers to the believer’s intense desire for and eager expectation of a practical righteousness which will be constantly produced in his life by the Holy Spirit as he yields himself to Him.”
b. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love: Those walking in the Spirit know that being circumcised or uncircumcised means nothing. What matters is faith working through love, both of which were conspicuously absent in the legalists.
i. Each aspect of this verse is precious. It sets us in a place: in Christ Jesus. Morris on in Christ: “Paul never defines what the expression means, but it clearly points to the closest of unities.”
ii. In that place, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything – neither one matters at all. You aren’t better if you are circumcised or uncircumcised. You aren’t worse if you circumcised or uncircumcised. The only harm is trusting in something that is completely irrelevant.
iii. This verse also tells us what does matter in this place: faith working through love. You have faith? Wonderful; but it must be faith working through love. If your faith doesn’t work, it isn’t real faith. If it doesn’t work through love, it isn’t real faith. But your love alone isn’t enough; your love must also have faith: an abiding trust in Jesus and what He did for us.
iv. Faith must work through love. Herod had faith that John the Baptist was a true prophet, but there was no faith working through love, and he had John the Baptist murdered. Real faith, saving faith, will work through love.
4. (Gal 5:7-12) A final confrontation.
You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
a. You ran well: Paul remembered their good start in the faith, but he also knows that it isn’t enough to start well. They were still in danger of falling from grace.
b. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? Paul knew that the false teaching came from a person (who hindered you); but it didn’t come from Jesus (This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you).
i. At the root of it all, the Galatians were leaving Jesus to pursue the false and empty teachings of man, in this case legalism.
ii. Lightfoot on hindered: “A metaphor derived from military operations. The word signifies ‘to break up a road’… so as to render it impassable, and is therefore the opposite of… ‘to clear a way.’ ” The Galatians were doing well until someone broke up the road they ran on.
c. A little leaven leavens the whole lump: The warning is driven home – the corrupting influence of legalism and other doctrines that diminish Jesus are like leaven in a lump of dough. A little bit will soon corrupt the whole lump.
i. In the Jewish way of thinking, leaven almost always stood for evil influence. Paul is saying that the legalistic commitment they have right now may be small, but it is so dangerous that it can corrupt everything.
d. I have confidence in you: Wanting to leave the confrontation on a positive note, Paul expressed his confidence in the Galatians (which was really a confidence in the Lord who is able to keep them). Yet, Paul was equally confident that judgment awaits those who lead them astray and away from Jesus (he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is).
i. Remember Jesus’ solemn warning against those who would lead one of these little ones astray (Matthew 18:6-7). The judgment is sure, whoever he is. “It does not matter who he is; he may be highly acclaimed in the community where he teaches, but if he is perverting the gospel he is a guilty person and his rank and reputation will not shield him.” (Morris)
e. If I still preach circumcision: Paul makes it clear that he no longer preaches the necessity of circumcision. The fact that he is persecuted by the legalists is evidence enough of this. Instead, Paul proudly bears the offense of the cross.
i. Someone might accuse Paul of preaching circumcision because he asked Timothy to be circumcised (Acts 16:1-3). But Paul didn’t have Timothy circumcised so Timothy could be saved or “more saved.” He did it so Timothy could more freely evangelize among unsaved Jewish people.
ii. Legalism can’t handle the offense of the cross. The whole point of Jesus dying on the cross was to say, “You can’t save yourself. I must die in your place or you have absolutely no hope at all.” When we trust in legalism, we believe that we can, at least in part, save ourselves. This takes away the offense of the cross, which should always offend the nature of fallen man. In this sense, the offense of the cross is really the glory of the cross, and legalism takes this glory away.
f. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! Finally, Paul wished that those who demanded circumcision among the Gentiles would go all the way themselves, and amputate their genitalia altogether and not merely their foreskins.
i. Sacred castration was known to citizens of the ancient world; it was frequently practiced by pagan priests of the cults in the region of Galatia. Paul’s idea here is something like this: “If cutting will make you righteous, why don’t you do like the pagan priests, go all the way and castrate yourself?” Morris rightly observes, “This was a dreadful thing to wish, but then the teaching was a dreadful thing to inflict on young Christians.”
ii. “This word was habitually used to describe the practice of mutilation which was so prevalent in the Phrygian worship of Cybele. The Galatians were necessarily familiar with it, and it can hardly bear any other sense.” (Rendall)
iii. In writing this, Paul also wished that these legalists would be cut off from the congregation of the Lord as required by Deuteronomy 23:1: He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the Lord.
iv. With such a dramatic conclusion to this point, Paul has made one thing clear: legalism is no little thing. It takes away our liberty and puts us into bondage. It makes Jesus and His work of no profit to us. It puts us under obligation to the whole law. It violates the work of the Spirit of God. It makes us focus on things that are irrelevant. It keeps us from running the race Jesus set before us. It isn’t from Jesus. A little bit will infect an entire church. Those who promote it will face certain judgment, no matter who they are. Legalism tries to take away some of the glory of the cross. In light of how serious all this is, it is no wonder that Paul says he wishes they would even cut themselves off!
B. How to live in the liberty of Jesus.
1. (Gal 5:13-15) Using liberty to love each other
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
a. For you, brethren, have been called to liberty: Paul has made the point over and over again – the Christian life is a life of liberty. Jesus came to set the captives free, not to keep them in bondage or put them in bondage all over again. It is worth asking if people see us as people of freedom and liberty. Often, Christians are seen as people more bound up and hung up than anyone else is.
i. “He is not saying that a certain measure of liberty was grudgingly accorded believers. He is saying that freedom is of the essence of being Christian; it is the fundamental basis of all Christian living.” (Morris)
b. Only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh: The great fear of the legalist is that liberty will be used as an opportunity for the flesh. The idea is that people will just go out and sin as they please, then say to a spineless God, “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” and then go on doing whatever they want again. Paul recognized the danger of this attitude, so he warned against it here.
i. First, Paul writes to brethren. These are those who are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). These are those who were baptized into Christ and have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
ii. These ones have been called to liberty. As Paul put it earlier in the chapter, they have been made free by Jesus Christ, now they are called to stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free (Galatians 5:1). They have been set free; now the question is, “How will they use their liberty?”
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