Summary: The Magna Carta of spiritual emancipation, the Declaration of Independence from salvation by works, and the Manifesto of Gospel Liberty are only a few of the phrases we could use to describe the main theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
Title: Free at Last
Text: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1).
Scripture Reading: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1).
The Magna Carta of spiritual emancipation, the Declaration of Independence from salvation by works, and the Manifesto of Gospel Liberty are only a few of the phrases we could use to describe the main theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. But if we were to reduce the 149 verses of this letter to just three words, those words would be “Free at last.” Freedom is generally thought to be a right of birth for all people, yet people are anything but free. Bondage is more likely to be their lot in life. Some are in bondage for psychological reasons, while for others their bondage is economic, and still others live in political bondage. But Paul, who had a deep insight into people’s most basic needs, makes it clear that only in Christ Jesus are people truly free. For this very reason, Paul is determined that every obstacle should be removed between the people and God. Nothing—not legalism, not moralism, not ritualism—will be allowed to prevent people from experiencing the freedom that comes from Christ. Like the Galatians, ours is the happy experience of knowing that because of Jesus Christ, and Him alone, we are made free.
First, I want to say that we are FREE TO BE SAVED BY FAITH.
In Galatians 2:16, Paul had this to say to the believers there in Galatia, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Here Paul is saying, “We are free at last from all bondage to the law and to works.” For the first time in this letter, the word justify occurs. Yet, it is one of the most important terms in what Paul believes and teaches. It means, “To pronounce righteous.” He is talking about the kind of righteousness which makes a person acceptable to God. And that righteousness doesn’t come from anything we do, but it comes only by faith in Jesus.
Faith in Jesus does two things.
First, it liberates us from bondage to the law, and second, it brings to us the saving grace of God. Let me ask a question, “If the law cannot save, then what is its purpose?” “Clearly, no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’…Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:11, 13). The law tells us what sin is, but even more important, the law drives us to the grace of God. It shows us our own weakness and makes us see that we can do nothing but throw ourselves on the mercy and love of God. Even the Old Testament taught that we are saved by faith. And it doesn’t say that anyone was ever saved by keeping the law. If you find that somebody living back under the law was saved by keeping the law, let me know. I have never read of anyone who was saved by keeping the Mosaic Law. As you know, the heart of the Mosaic system was the sacrificial system. Moses rejoiced that God could extend mercy and grace to people even under the law—that is the reason his face shown as it did.
In Habakkuk 2:4 it says that “the just shall live by His faith.” Paul wrote, “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:23-25). God gave us the law to prepare us for Jesus’ coming. “Before faith came” means, of course, faith in Jesus Christ who died for us. Until the Lord Jesus Christ came, the law had in it mercy, because it had a mercy seat. It had an alter where sacrifices for sin could be brought, and forgiveness could be obtained. Mercy could be found there. All the sacrifices for sin pointed to Christ. Before faith came, Paul says, we were kept under guard by the law—“kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.” Paul confessed to the Galatians, “…it was through reading the scriptures that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favor by trying—and failing—to obey the laws. I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ” (Galatians 2:19). Paul was certain that, through faith, Jesus Christ had done for him what he never could have done for himself. Only when we stop struggling against the Holy Spirit can the saving grace of Christ be ours. You see, Paul could say, “When Christ died, He died for me. He died in my place because the law had condemned me.” We can say the same thing, if we have been saved by God’s grace through faith in His Son. My friends, we are free to be saved by faith.