Summary: We were all born in bondage to our sinful nature, but there is something within each one of us that longs to be free from the guilt and shame of our past.
A lot of attention was given to the death of Steve Jobs on October 5. All the attention surrounding his death probably caused most of us to miss the fact that just three days later another American creative genius also died of pancreatic cancer. His name was Roger Williams, a brilliant pianist. His 1955 recording of “Autumn Leaves” is the only piano solo to reach #1 on the Billboard charts. He played in the White House for every President from Harry Truman through George W. Bush.
In 1966 he recorded the Academy Awarding winning song, “Born Free” from the movie by the same name. The movie was based on a true story of Elsa, a lion cub raised in captivity by Joy and Gorge Adamson. When Elsa was full grown, they released her back into the wilds of Kenya. A year later the Adamson’s returned to Kenya and wondered if Elsa would remember them. Elsa, now with three cubs of her own, recognized the Adamson’s and joyfully played with them.
It’s a great story, and the song only added to the emotion of the movie. Those of us from that generation can still remember the beautiful melody: “Born free, as free as the wind blows; as free as the grass grows; Born free to follow your heart.”
Although Elsa was raised in captivity, she would never have been happy in a zoo or an enclosure; she was born with a desire to be free. That’s a great point of comparison to the Christian life. We were all born in bondage to our sinful nature, but there is something within each one of us that longs to be free from the guilt and shame of our past. Nicodemus asked Jesus how he could have eternal life and Jesus told him if he ever wanted to enter the Kingdom of heaven, he had to be born again. When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus it’s like being born again, and He sets us free! We aren’t born free, but, thank God, we are born again free!
In his letter to the Galatian churches, Paul wrote about the spiritual freedom we find in the gospel of grace. We’re in a section of the letter where Paul is giving his personal testimony. In the last message we saw how God turned a terrorist into an evangelist.
In this section we’ll see how Paul defended the gospel of grace.
Galatians 2:1-10. “Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”
In this section, Paul fast-forwarded his testimony past his first missionary journey and recounted the time when he went to Jerusalem to debate over whether Gentiles had to become Jews before they could be Christians. This debate is described in Acts 15. “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’ This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.” (Acts 15:1-2)
The issue was settled once and for all that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works. It was a victory for truth, and a victory for the gospel of grace. In Paul’s comments we learn three important things about what God’s grace can do.