The Freedom that we have as American’s is a great blessing that comes with a great responsibility. That responsibility is to do our part and preserve the freedom we’ve been blessed with.
Former President Ronald Reagan said it well when he said,
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Maybe like me when you think of preserving freedom you think of defending our nation from outside attacks by military action. This is true, its important to support those who protect us and pray for them and their families.
But also as American’s we must also preserve our freedom from within, by voting for leaders who hold to the traditional values established by our forefathers. For example we should not vote for a person who is a marxist or an antinomian because those philosophies are the root of communism and lawlessness which leads to the lack of freedom and a lack of value for human life and morality.
I point these things out tonight not because I’m feeling extremely patriotic. But because Paul in our text writes to the Christians in Galatia about their freedom. Not national freedom but spiritual freedom in Christ. As we see Paul is going to encourage the believers in Galatia to stand fast in their liberty as a Christian.
The main focus of Paul in instructing these believers to stand in freedom is to tell them and us to abide in grace by rejecting any teaching or philosophy that denies the liberty that we have through faith in Jesus Christ.
Tonight as we look at Paul’s statutes of liberty we’ll focus on two teaching to beware of and reject. Those two things are:
- Beware of legalism which destroys your liberty as a Christian.
- Beware of license which destroys your liberty as a Christian.
First in verses 1-12 we are warned to beware of legalism which destroys your liberty as a Christian.
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
The Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C has above the many engraved names, “Freedom Is Not Free.” This memorial serves to honor those who have sacrificed for our freedom.
That memorial also serves as a reminder to all future generations who enjoy freedom, that liberty comes at a great cost and with a great responsibility.
The same is true when thinking about the fact that through our faith in Jesus we are free from the law and sin. This freedom was not free God had to send His own Son as the ransom for the sins of the world.
We have a responsibility in light of our freedom and that is to stand fast in liberty. Like the Statue of Liberty, which shines unmovable, even so we as believers are to abide in grace and shine the light of God’s word, so all who are outside of Christ can see.
The way the Galatians were to abide in Grace was to trust Christ alone for salvation and not go back to a work based religion. Paul warns them if they did turn to the law they would be putting themselves under a back to a yoke of bondage.
Paul and Peter both taught believers that turning to the law was bondage, Peter in Acts 15:10-11 said,
10Now 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? 11But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Both Paul and Peter and knew that departing from grace to the law is a yoke of bondage. A yoke was a tool to bind two oxen together so they could plow.
The law with all of it’s rules and regulations was like this. In Christ that yoke has been broken, now we are yoked with Jesus who promises us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
What would it say to the many men and women who have died for the cause of freedom if our nation turned from our freedom and elected a communist dictator?
Even so Paul in a since says to turn to the law from the gospel of grace is to make Christ profit less.To once believe that they were justified by faith in Christ alone to now thinking that they had to add works such as becoming a proselyte of Judaism denies the very sacrifice that Christ made on the cross.
Not only does it deny the work of Christ, but trusting in your own works is profitless because blessings of God come upon those who are in Christ as Ephesians says. The only way you can be in Christ is by grace through faith alone.
The false teachers were promising the blessings of God by being circumcised and coming to God by works. Paul said don’t listen to them those checks will bounce. “Their ego was writing checks their body can’t cash” (Top Gun).
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
Paul gives a great reminder to the Galatians in this verse, he says, “you get what you pay for.” Or be careful what you ask for.
This bad chose reminds me of when back in 1 Samuel when Samuel warns Israel about wanting a king, he told them what the result would be and yet the people still wanted him.
Even so Paul tells the Galatians that if they chose to go the route they are going and abandon their liberty in Christ for seeking righteous through the law, then they are required to keep the whole law. A person who is under the law can’t pick and chose which laws they want to keep, they must keep all the 613.
Not only that but that person is a debtor to keep the whole law. Paul is addressing the impossibility of being made righteous by the law. In order to be made righteous by the law, you must continually keep all the law perfectly, any failure brings sin and the curse of the law which is death.
4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Another bad result of embracing the law to be made righteous is it will estranges them from Christ. Put another way they have fallen from grace
Often when reading this verse we think of the lose of salvation, there is no evidence for this in this text or the Bible. I don’t believe a genuine believer can be unborn again.
What I believe Paul is saying is they are hindering the blessings of God in their lives and their spiritual growth. We grow through grace and by abiding in Christ. But to seek the law is to turn from Christ and His word, thus the source of blessing is cut off from our lives.
The basis of a believers standing before God and our hope of awaking in the likeness of Jesus in heaven has never been nor will ever be on the basis of the law,, but by our faith alone in Christ.
Paul also taught this in Romans 5:1-2 when he said,
1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
The basis of a believers standing before God and our hope of being with Christ in heaven has always been grace and always will be grace.
7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
The Christian life is described in the New Testament as a race. Paul draws their attention to this illustration and says that their embracing false teaching is like a person seeking to hinder you in your race. False teachers are like those sand people in Star Wars 1 who try to shot at the pod racers.
Legalism does not help you in running the race for God’s glory, it only hinders you.
8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.
This teaching did not come from God, who called them in His grace through the gospel. Rather their teaching was like an evil persuasion. Legalism is very persuasive, it is does not lead to blessing but bondage.
9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Jesus called the legalistic teachings of the scribes and Pharisees in the gospels the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees. Even so Paul said the teachings of the Judiazers were like leaven. The teachings of the Judiazers spread and was corrupting that whole church.
10 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.
Paul had confidence in two things because of the Lord. First because the Galatians were God’s children they would have no other mind than, than what Paul is teaching. In other words they would repent when they received this letter.
Second Paul was confident as he said in chapter one that false teachers who preach a different gospel will be judged by God. Notice regardless of who they are God will judge, God honors His word above His name, they would be judged.
11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.
The Judiazers claimed that Paul still taught that circumcision was essential for salvation. Paul said that he did not based on the fact that he was persecuted for teaching that salvation is by grace through faith alone apart from the law.
12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
Paul uses a little sarcasm in this verse. The judiazers thought they were righteous because of the cutting away of the flesh in circumcision, Paul says they should just go all out and castrate them self.
The waring of Paul is clear in these verses for believers to stay away from legalism. Just as communism has shown may sad affects on formerly free countries even, so legalism Paul says bears horrible results in the lives of those who are free in Christ.
Paul says legalism brings the believer into bondage, it makes Christ profitless, it makes us a debtor to keep the whole law perfectly, it severs us from Christ and His grace, it hinders us in our races that God has called us to run, it is an evil persuasion, it is a corruption that spreads like leaven, those who preach this message are going to be judged.
Now we come to our second point in verses 13-15 we are to beware of license which destroys your liberty in Christ.
The question now arises, if believers are free in Christ and not under the law, does that mean that we can do whatever we want? The answer as we will see is no, but we are under the law of love.
13 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.
The believer was not saved to serve themselves and the flesh, but we have been called to freedom to love and serve one another. Peter says the same thing in 1 Peter 2:16-17 said,
16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
We as believers are not to use our freedom in Christ as an excuse to live however we want, rather we are to remember that we are bondservants of God. A bondservant was one that was free but who willingly surrender their life and will to their master. Even so we are free but we have surrendered our lives and will to our good and faithful master Jesus Christ and His word.
The believer is no longer under the law of Moses as seen in the previous verses, but we are not lawless. The believer is under the grace of God and the law of Christ. The law of Christ are those principles that are expressed in the New Testament. Some of these principles are seen in the Old Testament because God has a moral law that never changes through out history. The way we now which laws from the Old Testament we are to keep and which are part of God’s moral law are those that are reiterated by the Apostles and the writers of the New Testament. For example nine of the Ten Commandments are reiterated in some form in the New Testament. The only command that is not is the Sabbath command.
When the Bible does not specifically speak about an issue, then the law of love still applies. The law of God is fulfilled through the law of love. God the Holy Spirit will give you the wisdom and power to fulfill the law by loving others.
This being the case walking in freedom is not walking in license but love and obedience to God. As we love God we will love others and notice Peter even says that we will honor the king. Peter is talking about giving the due respect the leader of Rome at that time.
How can we love others and represent God as free citizens of heaven? God’s calling is His enabling, because we are children of God who is love God will give us the power to love one another.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
As the believer walks with Christ we will walk in love and in so doing we will fulfill the law, because the law is summed up and fulfilled by loving others as ourselves.
15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
Just as the believer must stand fast in the liberty and not give into legalism which leads to bondage, even so we not give ourselves over to sin. Sin leads to quarreling and division, which has a negative affect on the believer and the body of Christ just like legalism.
In closing the believer who is free by faith in Jesus Christ is not to move to the right hand or to the left. But we are to abide in so we can enjoy the life, liberty and joy that God has promised to His citizens through Jesus Christ.