“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
The whole purpose of Jesus’ coming was to set people free.
We’ve seen so far in Galatians how we were slaves to sin. Jesus and Jesus alone (not Moses’ Law, not our own goodness, trying to pull ourselves up by the boot strings) liberates, emancipates a person, and brings us into freedom; a place of sonship, of right standing before the Father.
So what will we do with this freedom?
Paul says “STAND FIRM.” Don’t get yoked in to slavery again!”
Our freedom will come under attack, unless we decide what to do with it.
Life habits are hard to change. They are so ingrained. There are two types of habit that I have discerned:
– the instinctive self-help ones. Ie., our routines. We just do what we do without thinking. These include survival functions. These habits are ones of self-sufficiency.
– the self-serving ones. Habits that we know aren’t good for us, but they FEEL good at the time. There’s always a pay-back somewhere along the line. These are habits of self-indulgence, of the flesh.
Believing the Gospel takes you so far. Jesus brings us to the place of freedom. Out of darkness, to light. He had done that with the Galatians. But they were in danger of slipping back. They did not know how to live free, stay free. They were in danger of being persuaded to revert to human habits.
According to the Proverb writer “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)
In this chapter, Paul describes both of these habitual reactions to the outrageous grace and freedom that Jesus has set us free to experience.
- FREE TO REVERT TO LEGALISM (V2-12) ?
This danger is for those who have been brought up religious, or in church world. Or in contexts where we have had expectations placed upon us, maybe even by parents. Some of us have grown up in ‘church world’ and we know the Gospel, that it is grace, but we have still imbibed a culture of ‘evangelical legalism’. Maybe you have allowed your freedom to be taken away by things you hear, prominent people and voices have made you feel like “I must do more, I must be better, otherwise I am not as worthy as those I see higher in the Christian pecking order.” Or perhaps you have doubts in the back of your mind because you have thought and done some REALLY bad stuff…and that’s since you became a Christian! Things no-one knows about. And somehow you feel you need to do something, add something of your own effort.
Paul, in effect, says to the Galatians, “You think getting circumcised is going to add to your freedom? If you go down that route again… you’re trapped. And Jesus is of NO USE TO YOU! You’re ignoring the liberator.” Are we in danger of falling in to the same legalistic trap today?
2. FREE TO RETURN TO LAWLESSNESS (V13 & V19-21)?
Paul exhorts the Galatians and us today not to resort to indulging our lawless, fleshy instincts again, now that we are free. He gives an in-exhaustive list of what lawlessness looks like. We actually lose our freedom if we go down this path. This is not what we were set free to be. Yet we can choose to go back through the door of freedom and revert to what was killing us in the first place.
Legalism. Lawlessness. Self-sufficiency. Self-serving. Not the life that Christ set us free for.
These are U turns. They are diversions. Paul says “Galatians, don’t be diverted from anything less than the type of freedom that Jesus Christ has set you free for. Don’t be the dog returning to its own vomit! There is a new life for you to live, where the law is a servant not a master, and where self-pleasure is a consequence, not a goal.
There is a third way to live, in freedom.
3. FREE TO RELENTLESSLY LOVE (V6, 13, 14)
V6 ‘For in Christ, neither circumsion or uncircumcision mean anything, but faith working through love.”
V13 ‘For you were called to freedom: only do not TURN your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through LOVE SERVE ONE ANOTHER.’
V14 ‘For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement ‘You shall LOVE your Neighbour as yourself.’
How do we do that ?
How do we move on, out of the prison of our own self-condemning thoughts and religious behaviours? Out of self-justification?
How do we stop the cycle of knowing what is good to do, but just indulging our own desires?
Answer: The Holy Spirit.
We read the list of what the lawless nature wants. We see the things that we feel we SHOULD be doing to make ourselves better. And it is only through the Holy Spirit that we leave those things behind.
Your spirit wants what the Holy Spirit wants, the bit of you that has been made perfect and right with God by faith in Jesus, it is incorruptible (1 Peter 1:23) But the soul, the flesh, is at war with it still, says Paul. Read Romans 6 and 7. Sin was evident in Paul’s life too! He recognised the war zone of his own heart.
But He looks up, sees Jesus and says “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
There is a door to freedom, by the Holy Spirit. It’s a door that leads to a life of love. As Paul puts it in his first letter to the Corinthians “a more excellent way”.
Walk in the Spirit. Give yourself in your minds to the Holy Spirit. He is here with you, in you, ready to restore and renew you.
The result is love.
Instead of wasting our freedom on the desires of the flesh, the Holy Spirit comes to empower us to produce a different life (v16)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (v22-23) There’s no law that will convict you or condemn you of these crimes!
Walk by the Spirit. Walk free from legalism, from lawlessness, from revenge, from hatred. From habits that do not free you, but instead will ensnare you again.
If you live by the Spirit, Paul says, if you have received Christ and had a new birth by the Holy Spirit, then why not continue to live in the Holy Spirit?
(Marcus Mosey, November 2018)