Summary: In Galatians 5:1-6, the apostle Paul continues his passionate plea for freedom. So, he begins with the thesis concerning our freedom, and then continues with four consequences of embracing works.
About seventy years ago a poor prospector named Jakobus Jonker worked tirelessly searching for fortune on his small farm in South Africa. After a typical, sudden, frightening thunderstorm, Jakobus walked out onto his land to see if the rain washed up anything. Eventually, he came across an unusual stone, the size of a hen’s egg. He picked up the stone, wiped off the mud, and gasped. It looked like a diamond! Trembling with excitement, he rushed home to show the stone to his family. A few days later he sold the “stone”—a 726-carat diamond—for an incredible $315,000.
What would you do if you were in Jakobus Jonker’s shoes? Would you do everything you could to protect that stone? I bet you would! You would probably find the most secure vault you could to safeguard the treasure.
But what if you found something even more precious than a huge diamond? Suppose you discover the priceless gift of freedom in Christ? Through Christ, and only through Christ, you realize that you can be free—really free. So you reach out your empty hands and receive this precious gift. Would you guard this treasure? Would you do all you can to keep thieves from breaking in and taking it away?
The Galatian Christians did have this precious jewel. It is called the gospel. Yet, they allowed thieves—legalists—to break into their lives and rob them of their freedom in Christ. Shocked, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Galatians, defending the gospel of grace and urging them to protect what was rightfully theirs.
Let’s see how the apostle Paul put it in Galatians 5:1-6:
"1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
"2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:1-6)
The movie "Gettysburg" brings to life the three bloodiest days of American history. The first scenes take place a couple days before the epic battle at Gettysburg. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Regiment learns that his regiment is going to receive 120 Union soldiers who mutinied. Chamberlain is given permission to shoot any of these mutineers who don’t cooperate.
Chamberlain tells the men that he’s been told about their problem. He admits, “There’s nothing I can do today. We’re moving out in a few minutes. We’ll be moving all day. I’ve been ordered to take you men with me. I’m told that if you don’t come, I can shoot you. Well, you know I won’t do that. Maybe somebody else will, but I won’t. So, that’s that.
“Here’s the situation,” he continues. “The whole Reb army is up that road a ways, waiting for us. This is no time for an argument. I tell you, we could surely use you fellows. We’re now well below half strength. Whether you fight or not, that’s up to you. Whether you come along is. . . .” He pauses and then continues, “Well, you’re coming. You know who we are. But if you fight alongside of us, there are a few things you must know.”
Matter-of-factly, he states, “This regiment was formed last summer in Maine. There were 1,000 of us then. There are less than 300 of us now. All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you did. Some came mainly because we were bored at home. . . thought this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. And all of us have seen men die.
“This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history, you’ll see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king leads them, or just because they like killing. But we are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free.”
The church is also a different kind of army. We are an army out to set other men free by the gospel of God’s grace.