Summary: The message explores some of the implications of our freedom in Christ, encouraging believers to walk as free people.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
Freedom is never free. The Declaration of Independence of the United States declares profound truth when it states that certain truths defining man’s condition are self-evident: “all men are created equal” and all men “are endowed with certain unalienable Rights,” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” However, not all people are free, for slavery and thraldom have marked humanity since the fall of our first parents. Therefore, wars are fought, and will continue to be fought, to secure freedom for populations and to depose tyrants. Securing political freedom entails great costs; maintaining freedom demands perhaps still greater sacrifice. Living as free people requires the acceptance of immense responsibility.
What is true in the political world is equally true in the religious world. Man is either free, or he is a slave; either he is held in bondage, or he enjoys liberty. The Word of God is unsparing in its declaration that mankind is enslaved. Believers were “once slaves of sin” [ROMANS 6:17, 20], though they are now said to be “slaves of righteousness” [ROMANS 6:18]. People who live in fear of the opinion of others are identified as “slaves of men” [1 CORINTHIANS 7:23]. Tragically, many religious people become slaves to their religion [see 2 CORINTHIANS 11:20]. The Apostle says that those who live by the Law are held captive [see ROMANS 7:6]. Outside of Christ, people are “enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” [GALATIANS 4:8]. We Christians were “once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing out days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” [TITUS 3:3]. There is the very real danger of being snared by the devil—“captured to do his will” [1 TIMOTHY 3:7; 2 TIMOTHY 2:26]. The minds of unbelievers have been blinded by the god of this world [2 CORINTHIANS 4:4]. Thus, “they are darkened in their understanding [and] alienated from the life of God” [EPHESIANS 4:18].
It would be appropriate to entitle the Letter to the Churches of Galatia as “The Gospel of Liberty.” In this letter, Paul stresses the liberty of the child of God. It is appropriate on this day in which the American states celebrate their independence from the old feudal system of tyranny that we who are Christians should consider the freedom we are given in Christ the Lord. My sincere prayer is that as this message is delivered, those who have yet to discover the freedom we enjoy in Christ will be encouraged to consider the freedom that attends the life that He offers.
Let me say at the outset that the message is not meant to be a political polemic, though it must, of necessity, address the freedom we enjoy as citizens of this great land. Perhaps I should address the subject of licence since it undoubtedly has touched the lives of many of the professed saints of God; and I shall speak of this subject if time permits. My primary concern is to speak to the matter that compelled the Apostle to speak pointedly as he did. The Galatian Christians were being infiltrated by individuals that had the appearance of godly men. However, they were enslaving the saints through restricting the freedom that they had previously enjoyed in Christ the Lord. Tragically, believers in the Risen Son of God are susceptible to voluntarily turning away from the freedom they have known in Christ, embracing chains and bonds even while imagining that they are serving the Son of God.