Summary: In Galatians 5:1-6, we see Liberty 1) Defined (Gal. 5:1) 2) Defended (Gal. 5:2-4) and 3) Described (Gal. 5:5-6)
In 1963 American civil rights proponent Martin Luther King said: "So let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, let freedom ring. But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. And when this happens, when we let it ring, we will speed that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last/Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last." http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/mlk/9.html
This week the world witnessed a historical first. In one of the most significant countries in the world, not that far removed from slavery, a black man became President of the United States. He spoke an historic address in front of the Lincoln Memorial, representing the President who introduced the Emancipation Declaration, declaring the freedom of former slaves. Imagine If Barrack Obama made his first declaration saying that Blacks needed to return to slavery.
This is exactly what the Judaizers in Galatia were calling for. They called Christians to return to a way of life under the covenant of Law after they had Christ fulfill that covenant, thereby abandoning the freedom that Christ secured for believers.
People define freedom in several ways, some see it in political terms, social, psychological or personal: being left alone by others and not having other people’s values, ideas or styles of life forced upon them. If any of these become the methods of defining freedom, they result in bondage: Bondage to a political system, group or sinful licentiousness. True freedom is liberation from the sins that so easily ensnare us. Jesus Christ is the true liberator and conversion is the act of emancipation to the Christian life of freedom: Freedom from the shackles of sin (Gal. 3:22), works righteousness from the law (Gal. 3:23) and satanic dominion (Gal. 4:3). Christianity not only represents freedom from something, it results in freedom to something: Eternal life, power, protection and hope.
The last verse of Galatians 4 (Gal. 4:31) describes the believer’s position-Freedom. This first verse of chapter 5 refers to the believer’s practice-The believer should live as someone who is free. Paul had just finished explaining that the Galatians were not children of Hagar, the slave woman, but sons and daughters of Sarah, born again free by the promise of God. Now that they needed to do was to live free in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Philip Graham Ryken. Galatians: Reformed Expository Commentary. P&R Press. 2005. p. 192).
Galatians 5:1-6 begins the third, and final section of the letter. After defending his apostleship (chaps. 1-2) and his message of justification by faith (chaps. 3-4), Paul now applies that doctrine to practical Christian living (chaps. 5-6), emphasizing that right doctrine should result in right living (ethics). His subject is that sanctification that should result from justification. The life of genuine faith is more than the belief in divine truth; it is also the bearing of divine fruit.
The final two chapters of Galatians are a portrait of the Spirit-filled life, of the believer’s implementing the life of faith under the control and in the energy of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit-filled life thereby becomes in itself a powerful testimony to the power of justification by faith.
Liberty 1) Defined (Galatians 5:1)
Galatians 5:1 [5:1]For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (ESV)
The juxtaposition of an indicative (what God has done) is often followed by an imperative (what we should do in response). Since Christ has set us free, we must stand firm in that freedom. Because of who God is and what he has done for believers in Jesus Christ, Christians are commanded to “become what they are,” that is, to make visible in the earthly realm of their human existence what God has already declared and sealed in the divine verdict of justification. When this indissoluble connection is forgotten or downplayed, the temptation for the Christian to lapse into legalism on the one hand or into libertinism on the other becomes a serious threat to Christian freedom (George, Timothy: Galatians. electronic ed. Nashville : Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1994 (Logos Library System; The New American Commentary 30), S. 352).
Please turn to Romans 6
In light of what Paul has been saying throughout the letter, he also here implies a disturbing question: "Why, then, do some of you want to go back to being like Ishmael, who was a slave, an outcast, and separated from God?" It makes no sense at all.