Monday, September 19, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Word 10: Freedom


Galatians Words ~ Word 10: Freedom

This word is at the heart of the conflict between the Judaizers and Paul. The Gospel of Christ enables those who put their faith in Christ to live free from the burdens that the law placed on men. They are able to live as ‘free men’ because they are no longer enslaved by the law and are free from the guilt of sin.

In chapter 3 Paul used the example of Abraham and the promise of God as our example of becoming children of God through faith. In chapter 4 he now uses the examples of the two women who gave Abraham sons to illustrate two covenants, one represents slavery and the other freedom.

Hahar was a maidservant of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Sarah grew impatient waiting for God to fulfill His promise that she would bear a son. So, Sarah convinces Abraham to have a child through Hagar.  Later, at a very old age, as God had promised, Sarah has a child, Isaac. Isaac is the promised child through which Abraham’s offspring and God’s promise would be fulfilled. You can read the story in Genesis 16.

Paul uses Hagar, the slave woman, to represent the old covenant made at Mt. Sinai with Moses and to represent the Jerusalem of his day, or the Jewish people, who try to gain their righteousness with God through works of the law. Paul says these people are in slavery. Earlier in the book Paul had warned the Galatians that the Judaizers came “to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves” (Galatians 2:4).

Sarah, the free woman, represents the new covenant – the Messianic covenant – in which God provides us the gospel of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He promised this new covenant in Ezekiel 36:27.

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Now through faith in Christ, we can be free from the requirements of the law, no longer slaves to it, and we can follow God’s ways through the guidance of His Spirit in us. And so, in the last verse of chapter 4, Paul reminds us that we, who put our faith in Christ, are children of the free woman. Our heritage of righteousness by faith comes to us through Abraham, his wife Sarah, and their son Isaac, and then, through the generations to Christ. You can read this genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17. Christ is the source of our faith.

Now, in Chapter 5, Paul, referring to what he has shared about Hagar and Sarah, reminds the Galatians that 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.” (5:1)  The law leads to slavery, or bondage, and grace leads to freedom. This was the goal of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, freedom from bondage to the law and freedom from our guilt as a result of sin. For the Galatians to return to works of the law is to “fall away from grace” (5:4).

In the modern church we call this legalism, and while we no longer try to require circumcision as a means to salvation, legalism is still a very real threat to us today. Any time we try to turn faith into manmade religious laws and rules we are turning away from grace. This does not mean we don’t follow God’s ways, such as the 10 commandments and the ways we are called to live for Christ throughout the Bible. The difference here is that once we have put our faith in Christ, we live for Christ in a manner that reflects His ways because of our love for Him and our gratefulness for His grace. Living life by God's ways is not a means of earning our salvation, but a response to His love and grace. But when we try to clean people up – what they do or say or how they dress or act – in order to make them good enough to come to Christ, we create legalism. We become just like the Judaizers, trying to make people earn God’s favor.

When we, who have put our faith in Christ, begin to fall into thinking that we must do a morning quiet time, or practice this or that spiritual discipline, or be good enough, or pray enough, in order to be good enough to please God then we have shifted in our minds into legalism, and we turn away from grace. Please don’t hear what I’m not saying, these things are good things, good practices that help us draw near to God and to know him and His Word better. We speak and act and behave in God honoring ways as a response to grace, not to earn God’s grace.

When we have a conviction from God that something is right or wrong for us individually, and then we try to make it right or wrong for everyone else, we slip into legalism. Grace encourages us to commune with God, to hear from God, to repent if necessary, and then to turn or return to His ways. But grace does not make us the police of others behavior or beliefs. And different opinions should not make us view each other as unholy. Read Romans 14 for a fuller look at this.

Our response to the freedom we have as a result to God’s grace to us through Christ is to be extenders of grace. Paul sums it up with a reminder and a call.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.Galatians 5:13

We were called to be free - this is a gift of grace.  A gift we should celebrate, but be wary of misusing or taking advantage of. Our freedom in Christ both enables and calls us to serve others in love, which we will dig into in our next word.

Share how you respond in the Words Challenge Facebook group. You can also share on social media using #galatianswords.

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