For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
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When we come to Christ, we are set free.
Instead of telling us what we are free from, Paul tells us what we are free for.
We have been freed so that we can experience what freedom is all about.
Many people are like the pharisees in their thinking about freedom.
They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
This was their response when Jesus said you can know the truth and truth will set you free.
At the very moment they said that, they revealed their obstinancy, for they were under Roman rule, not Jewish. They were slaves to Rome.
In our country, where freedom is cherished, exalted and honored, there are still multitudes who are enslaved.
At one level, we can think of those who are enslaved by their addictions. That is a slavery from which it is difficult to extricate one’s self.
There are other forms of slavery though.
Do you remember Dolly Parton’s song “9 to 5”? There is a slavery often—but not always—enforced by our need to make a living.
Many feel enslaved by their job, because they are not doing what they love.
They are just doing.
However, none of this is what Paul was talking about.
He was talking about religious slavery.
And in our country of the land of the free, this type of slavery is all too common.
In fact, many see it as the normal way for Christians to live.
What is religious slavery? And what does the freedom to be free look like?
The churches of Galatia to whom Paul wrote were not made up of Jewish people like many of the other churches.
These people essentially had no religion other than the possibility of the pagan idolatry so often encountered in the Roman provinces.
As these folks responded to the gospel message and churches were established, things began to change.
Jews who had converted to Christianity had a hard time letting go of the way they had been trained to please God.
Rules and Regulations were all they knew about how to live a religious life.
Many of these Jewish converts apparently would go around to other churches and try to introduce their legalistic form of Christianity to any who would listen.
Paul, however, was vehemently opposed to any form of law-keeping for the Christian believer.
His rationale was that you were either justified by faith or you were justified by the law.
He went to great lengths in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians that the law could not bring us to justification before God.
Only faith could do that.
The fact of the matter is that the law produces sin. It is what drives us to sin.
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
Sin produces its own kind of slavery.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Since the law reveals and causes us to sin, we should be aware that any form of legalism is dangerous to the life of faith.
Legalism is the idea that we need to obey certain things in order to be pleasing to God.
We should be doing this and not doing that, and God will be pleased with us.
This is where it gets really sticky and tricky for the believer.
Doesn’t the Bible say that we should not lie, but speak the truth at all times?
Yes. Of course, it does.
Doesn’t the Bible say that we should not get drunk, but be sober-minded?
Yes. Of course, it does.
Well, aren’t these types of things rules and regulations that we should obey?
No, they are not.
I’m going to take a side road here for a moment, or as some of you say, a rabbit trail.
But, trust me, I will come back to this.
The Baptists have a doctrine that many have labeled “once saved, always saved.”
The teaching is called the eternal security of the believer.
Many people object to this teaching not so much from a biblical basis, but from a seemingly logical one.
License to Sin?
They say that this doctrine just gives people a license to sin.
Now, I have only been walking with the Lord for a few short years, but in those 50+ years I have yet to meet anyone—sinner or saint—who needed a so-called license to sin.
The thinking in that objection is that the law will keep people on the straight and narrow.
When was the last time you heard of someone saying, “I was about to steal that car, but then I remembered that the commandments say to not steal.”?
The law—any law—is only obeyed by law-abiding citizens, not criminals—or in our religious sense, sinners.
There is no law that will keep a sinner from sinning or a criminal from crime.
It is a mistake, then, to think that we need laws, rules and regulations to make sure that a Christian remains a Christian.
Laws, rules and regulations are necessary for a civilized society, or to run a group smoothly, but they are of no value to one’s eternal well-being.
You did not become a Christian by trying to obey God’s rules and regulations.
Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
You became a Christian when the Lord opened your heart and mind to receive and believe the gospel.
That’s it. That’s all.
And Paul says that the way you began is the way you continue—by faith.
Anything else will set you up for trouble.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written,
“Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things
written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
If you think that we need to rely on the law to keep ourselves or our loved ones saved, you will find yourself in all kinds of confusion and turmoil.
It is simply not possible to obey the law for righteousness.
We did not follow the law in order to be saved, to become a Christian; and we cannot follow the law in order to stay saved or to please God.
In fact, it is only faith that pleases God.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, …
QUESTION—If all this is true, then why do we have all the things in the NT telling us what we should do and be?
Allow me to use a weak analogy from the sports world.
Running a mile in less than 4 minutes was a goal many runners had.
It seemed to be an impossible goal.
But, Roger Bannister broke that barrier on May 6, 1954 with a time of 3:59.4.
His record lasted only 46 days as other runners were able to remove the mental barrier against a human running that fast.
In order to achieve this goal, there were benchmarks along the way.
How fast would the runner have to be at the quarter-mile mark?
No more than one minute.
How fast at the half-mile mark?
No more than two minutes.
Those were benchmarks by which they were able to measure how they were doing in pursuit of their goal.
All the things we are told in the NT about how to live, how to think, how to be, are just that.
They are benchmarks by which we can measure our progress towards becoming like Jesus.
Jesus is our standard.
He is our goal.
until we all attain to the unity of the faith
and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to mature manhood,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
It is only in Jesus that we find our true freedom.
It is only in Jesus that we are able to live for God.
It is only in Jesus that we are freed from any guilt for our sins.
and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
The law cannot bring freedom. It can only bring us into the bondage of slavery.
Many Christians still think that we are required to obey the law in some form.
There are those who believe we need to pay attention to Moses.
There are those who believe we should pay attention to all the things mentioned in the NT as standards for the Christian life.
They judge others by these standards, and if they see someone not obeying one of them, they question whether they are truly born again.
We are to be those who do not insist on any type of behavior as being necessary for the Christian life, because no specific behavior will either get you in or keep you out.
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
So, when you stand before God and He asks you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”, your only response should be—JESUS.
For there is salvation in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved.”