Summary: This is an installment in the continuing series on Galatians.
The Triumph of Grace
¡§Freedom & Responsibility¡¨
July 30, 2000
This Morning¡¦s Text ¡V Galatians 5:1-15
¡§It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
¡§Behold I, Paul, say tot you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
¡§You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.
¡§For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn you freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ¡¥You shall love your neighbor as yourself.¡¦ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.¡¨
We call him the Prodigal Son, but he is not a dusty, musty figure from a story told 2000 years ago; he is quite the 21st-century kind of guy! What was on his mind then is on the minds of so many today: freedom! His warped definition of freedom is one which currently holds great sway in our world today: an egocentric, narcissistic, self-centered desire to cast off all restraint and be¡Xan individual! Freedom is for these ¡§individuals¡¨ the absence of limitations, the presence of self-sufficiency and power. ¡§Finally, I¡¦m out from under all of those rules¡¨, is the idea. To be free is to experience individual freedom, in the minds of some.
In the minds of others, freedom is defined in a social sense. To realize freedom is to break down any social structures which would be deemed oppressive. There is a rush to break down all kinds of fences of these types, and while some fences ought to be torn down¡Xsuch as the fence which divides our society on the basis of skin color or ethnicity¡Xothers ought not necessarily be dismantled so cavalierly. Today we are engaged in the wholesale re-definition of the family, the very core unit of our society. A family today is a freeform thing; it is whatever you make it to be, and woe be to the one who would dare censure anyone else¡¦s definition! A man and a woman living together without benefit of marriage¡Xwhat¡¦s wrong with that? Two lesbians pledging devotion to each other and having a child by artificial insemination? Why, that¡¦s just Melissa Etheridge expressing her own decisions¡Xand who are you to say that¡¦s wrong? This is what some would call freedom.
And then there is what we might call ¡§psychological freedom¡¨. This is the freedom just to be your own person, to define who you are by whatever criterion you see fit. It is to ¡§find yourself¡¨. People go to great lengths to do just this, and as of a few years ago, this renegade Supreme Court of ours granted this idea of self-determination the status of a constitutionally-guaranteed ¡§right¡¨, pulling this nonsense out of the same hocus-pocus hat where they found the ¡§right to privacy¡¨ which entails the right to murder your baby. But freedom is for many the right to define your own reality as you see fit: psychological freedom.
What is important, though, is that we understand freedom in the way God does, don¡¦t you think? If we see freedom in one of these ways, we will miss Paul¡¦s point, and we will remain in slavery as a result. Understanding the Bible¡¦s kind of freedom begins with an understanding of the slavery we all find ourselves in: a slavery to sin. There is only one way to real freedom from sin: it is found in a relationship with God as a result of Jesus¡¦ death leading to the reality of a life lived in the Spirit. This is the kind of freedom that Paul is talking about when we look at the most important verse, arguably, in the book:
A transitional verse: Galatians 5:1