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].