Summary: The epistle to the Galatians deals with the matter of justification. This leads to a life of Christian freedom- or should.
We come this morning to the third of our mini-series on Galatians.
Two weeks ago we thought about ’Living for God’. Philip led our thoughts on how the Jews had got it all wrong, and that we are put right with God, not by keeping every detail of the Law, but it’s all though grace, it’s all through faith. Only this way can we be right with God; only this way can we have access to him.
The Jews really thought they were living for God and that they were doing it by law-keeping, but Paul is saying here in Galatians we can never live for God by the Law. That way we only become a slave to the Law. The promise of God, the promise of grace came before the Law. It’s Christ who frees us to live for God, and this is simply a matter of grace and of faith.
Then last week Fred led our thoughts about being God’s children, his sons and daughters, and how can anyone who truly understands a father-child relationship ever imagine that God wants to relate to us through law. The blessing are ours, and received not by earning them but by faith. Grace and faith have been the dominant themes. We receive our adoption into God’s family and in doing so we are feed from the slavery and tyrrany of the law.
The big thing that Paul has been saying is that only a change within, only a change worked by God in our hearts can free a person to live for God; to live a righteous life; a life that is pleasing to God, and a life in which we are accepted by God.
In chapter five of Galatians, from which our reading is taken this morning, Paul goes on to talk about our freedom in Christ, and that it is only in Christ that we are free; free from the law to which we were formerly enslaved and imprisoned. God looks on those who believe, those who have put their faith in Jesus- as Fred reminded us last week, as righteous, for he looks not at us, at all the sin and filth in our lives, but looks at the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
Paul begins chapter 5 by saying It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. And how fitting would one of Paul’s big ’therefore’s’ have been here (Therefore, since it is for freedom that Christ has set us free...), for Paul is now going on to spell out what it mean to be free in Christ; set free by Christ.
This first verse of chapter five has been called ’Galatians’ key verse’. It sums up what has gone before and then turns us into a new perspective, a new follow-up and aspect of our Christian freedom.
For the Jews, for the legalistic person today, the heart of religion is keeping the law, and is thus a burden- â€™the yoke of the lawâ€˜. But to his contemporaries, burdened by the yoke of the law and its slavery, Jesus said Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.(Matt 11:28-29)
Paul is here showing that not the law and its burden is central to God’s revelation, but that Jesus has died to set us free from sin and from the law, which merely makes us aware of sin. That’s all that law\can do. The question to which Paul is going to turn us in chapter five is: Is is a freedom FROM or a freedom FOR? First, of course, it has to be a freedom from. A freedom from the yoke of the law; from the slavery of the law and the slavery of sin, from which the law can never set us free. But- when we’re free, for what do we use that freedom? Yes, paul is saying, don’t go back to the old slavery. But he is saying law has no place in the Christian life. In fact that he says in chapter five.
In verse 18: we are not under law
In verse 23: against such things there is no law.
What Paul is at pains here to say is that that freedom is not a freedom to do what we like or want.
To move from verse 1 to verse 13 (as our reading does) Paul says You, my brothers, have been freed. Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, but rather serve one another in love. This really is the heart of freeom. It is not a freedom to ’indulge our sinful nature’. The word ’indulge’ really implies that we would use that sinful nature as a base of operations. No! Our freedom in Christ is NOT to live as our human nature desires; what our human nature tells us; not to live just according to what "I want".It’s a freedom to launch out on a completely new way of life; a life of love and service. As one commentator (Lawrence Richards) put it