Summary: As Americans we enjoy specific liberties associated with being a citizen of this great country. Believers also enjoy great liberty in Christ. Such liberty requires restraint and comes with great responsibility.
Abiding in Liberty
Galatians 5: 13-18
Tomorrow we celebrate a special day in America – Independence Day. While many may not pause to reflect on the significance of the holiday, it stands in remembrance of a special event that separates America from other nations. We celebrate the day we declared our independence from Great Britain, becoming a free and sovereign nation.
As you consider the character of our great nation, you might hear a term known as American Exceptionalism. This is the idea and belief that the United States possesses a unique character – being a free nation based on her democratic system of government and the personal liberties of every citizen. This exceptionalism has drawn countless immigrants to America since her founding. No doubt we all enjoy the liberties we have as American citizens.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that many of the liberties we once enjoyed are now in danger of disappearing. Many in positions of leadership and authority have begun to question the long held principles of the Constitution that shaped this great nation. Liberty in America is changing, and those changes have consequences for all who live within her borders.
As I considered the liberties and privileges we enjoy in America, I was reminded of the great liberty and blessing the saved by grace have in Christ. Many today will disagree, but I am convinced the believer enjoys Christian Exceptionalism. Those who are in Christ have been set apart from the rest of the world spiritually. There is none who compare to our Savior and no other means of redemption and reconciliation to God. He alone has the ability to set people free from the bondage and death of sin. Genuine liberty is obtained in Christ alone.
Paul understood the liberty available in Christ, and he also understood its neglect and abuse. The believers enjoyed something very precious, but like many in our day, some had begun to question the sovereign principles related to Christian liberty. Paul knew if they were to enjoy and exercise Christian liberty, they had to possess a proper understanding. I want to examine the insights of Paul in the text as we consider: Abiding in Liberty.
I. The Restraint through Liberty (13-15) – While Christ affords great liberty, Paul also knew that measured restraint was necessary. Being in Christ was not a license to live as one pleased. These principles remain true for our generation as well. Consider:
A. Our Calling (13a) – For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty. Notice Paul referred to the hearer as brethren. He is speaking to those who are saved by grace, those in Christ. They were not called to live a life of bondage, but to liberty in Christ. Many of the Jews continued to teach a doctrine of legalism under the law. Paul reminds them that they are no longer under the law, but under grace. Salvation in Christ set them free from the bondage of the law.
As believers in Christ, we too have been called unto liberty. I am thankful for liberty in Christ, being set free from the demands of the law. The law declared that man must do something for God while grace reveals what God did for man. I have been set free in Christ, no longer bound or condemned by the law. My righteousness and acceptance to God is dependent upon the sacrifice of Christ, not in my ability to keep or conform to the law. John 8:36 – If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
B. Our Constraint (13b) – only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Paul knew there had to be balance in the Christian life. While some became legalistic, holding to the demands of the law, others became very liberal and lax in their walk with the Lord. They viewed their liberty in Christ as a license to indulge the flesh and live as they pleased. He reminded them that although they were no longer in bondage under the law, they must not use their liberty as an occasion to sin. The grace of God is no license to indulge in sin.
Even in America, as many ignore the Constitution and long held principles, sin abounds. Many of our laws have legalized behaviors and actions that are contrary to the Word of God. Just because something is permissible by man’s laws doesn’t make it right according to the Word.
This attitude and behavior has crept into the modern church. Many feel as if they can do as they please as long as they seek forgiveness. They use grace as an occasion to sin and indulge the flesh. This is dangerous. Salvation was obtained with a great price. Jesus offered Himself on the cross to purchase our redemption. He gave His best for us. Those who are genuinely saved will have a compelling desire to live in a way that pleases and honors the Savior! We cannot live above sin, but we must never actively seek to indulge the flesh simply because we feel it is permissible under grace.