Galatians 5:1-15 – Freedom
As we continue to look and digest Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we must again define some terms. Specifically, what is freedom? I’m sure many of us have had discussions about the word, heated debates with parents or teachers about our right to be free and be who we are and pursue what we want. This is not what Paul is referring to. Paul is not an advocate for American democracy, personal freedom or your right to pursue your own happiness. Freedom, as it would be defined by Paul, is our ability to walk in how God has created the universe to be. Freedom is our ability to abide in Him (John 15) and in Him find Life. So when Paul says it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, it is not a pass that allows us to pursue anything we want to do but rather an opportunity to pursue Christ unfettered by our own attempts at righteousness.
Here in America, we have made Galatians 5:1 this really goofy thing. We have used this verse to justify not reading our Bibles, not going to church, not serving or loving others, and not feeling obligated to share the Gospel because our personal freedom allows us to interpret the Bible how we want and only do what we feel like doing. This is completely contrary to Paul’s use of the word “freedom.” Let us refresh on the context of that leads us to Galatians 5:1. Paul has been contrasting the slavery of the Law to the freedom found in faith in Christ. Paul uses slavery as an analogy for man’s effort to save himself, in essence of earning his own salvation. The “freedom” then comes only through faith in Christ who has done the work of salvation on the Cross and offers us Life in Him. The slavery in it’s context means slavery to the Law, but the application of the text would allow this “slavery” to apply to any type of man-defined salvation, like the one described above. The moment that we believe that we can define for ourselves what is necessary for us to do or not do in order to be saved is the moment that we allow ourselves to be made slaves to the flesh. Scripture, through the help of the Holy Spirit, defines salvation for us and what we are to do and not do. Many Jews in this period in history had the Scriptures but did not allow the Spirit to define the truths in them. Instead, they used their own intellectual abilities to reason with the Scriptures and in doing so misinterpreted them believing the Law to be a means of salvation. So the Jew believed that it was through our own effort that we are saved. Paul is calling the Galatians back to the freedom that is in Christ. Freedom to follow Him without the weight of the Law bearing down on you. For in Christ there is grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. With the Law, one misstep would bring condemnation, shame, guilt, and ultimately death.
Paul sums up his thoughts on freedom in Christ by pointing us back to the Law. An interesting alignment. Paul always points us to our faith as what saves us and then to obedience as assurance for our salvation. John does the same in 1 John. Peter does it in 1 Peter. You would be hard-pressed to find a teaching passage in the Bible that does not align faith with obedience. Christ always points us back to obedience in His teaching. This for many seems contradictory, but that’s because people either want to find something wrong with the Bible or simply don’t want to be obedient to the God. For as we pursue Christ and experience the freedom that He brings, we will find ourselves following the Law of God. We cannot help it. Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, not the destroyer of the Law. Obedience is how we know we are loving Him as we ought. Our motivation for that obedience is what changes with faith in Christ. We no longer obey because we want to be accepted by God. We don’t obey to earn His love. We don’t obey so that He will be nice to us. We obey as a response to being accepted by Him. We obey out of love for Him. We obey because there is no greater joy that we find in this world then loving Him through our obedience. Now let me be very clear, I am not saying that obedience is easy or that having faith in Christ makes everything warm and cozy. It goes much deeper than that. It goes beyond our feelings and emotions and cuts to the core of who we are. Obedience is found in the heart of a person, in the very essence of who they are, not in the outward actions. It all begins with faith. Through faith we love and begin to know God. When our hearts are changed and He shows us how to love Him through His Word, we begin to obey Him. That is what freedom in Christ is all about. We are made free to love Him unrestrained by our brokenness, and in loving Him we obey Him. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,