Summary: The Apostle Paul cherished the fact that his spiritual liberty in Christ. For Christian unity it is necessary that Christian believers be united through their relationship to Christ. The Christian life is not about working as hard as we can.
THE FREEDOM WE HAVE IN CHRIST JESUS
Freedom is a word that Americans cherish. Slogans like this abound: “This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave ."
The Apostle Paul cherished the fact that his spiritual liberty in Christ was worth far more than popularity or even security. He was willing to fight for that liberty.
The fact that the church leaders in Jerusalem extended to Paul the “right hand of fellowship” is remarkable considering his past. With his past resume, I’m not sure congregations today would accept him!
In our text today, Paul is continuing to craft his argument to call the Galatians back to the freedom of the Gospel. Paul patiently builds a case to prove that the doubts the Galatians had about him had been planted by the Judaizers who had less claim to authority than Paul did.
For us today, the question is who are the Judaizers in the church? The role is filled by those who introduce rules, policies and extra requirements in non-essentials that they claim are necessary for salvation or full participation in the Christian life. They often have developed their own list of “do’s and don’ts”. Often they are motivated by a desire for power and control or to maintain an image of moral and religious superiority.
They diligently work to promote their own agenda, vision and purposes. They often elevate non-essentials and traditions to the same level as Scripture. They relish the opportunities to expose others when they violate the principles that these modern Judaizers promote. Paul shows very clearly that grace gives us freedom from the law as a basis of salvation and Christian growth.
A few weeks ago, a congregation in a neighboring state decided not to assemble for worship on Sunday morning, but rather go out in groups of 10-12 to minister to those who were homeless, helpless or hurting. A self-appointed ‘watchdog’ in our brotherhood unleashed a venomous attack on this congregation for “forsaking the assembly” and not coming together as a body on the first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper, using the ‘slippery slope’ argument.
The best news is that there are no human standards that should enslave us. Paul believed that we should guard this freedom at all cost. In this passage, Paul makes four very important statements in regard to the freedom that Christ gives. Let’s take some time today to examine these.
We are free from those who seek to enslave us. Paul uses three very unusual words to describe the Judaizers’ activities. Each of these words are derived from the world of political and military espionage but applied to the conflict raging in the early church.
The idea is that of a conspiracy of error, a secret plot concocted by enemies of the faith, informants, and double agents deliberately planted to ferret out confidential information.
Peter penned words describing a situation very similar to the one Paul describes. He said, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” - 2 Peter 2:1 NIV.
The objective of Paul’s opponents was not to honor Christ, but to “reduce to slavery” fellow Christians. They insisted on the right to judge the actions and consciences of those they could dominate. Even in modern culture many, many people have been enslaved by the teachings of others.
We marvel at how someone like Jim Jones a few years ago could enslave people to such an extent as to get 918 people to drink poisoned Kool-Aid. And even in our very own fellowship we have seen churches and Christians become self-appointed ‘cult leaders’ to preserve a certain line of beliefs and practices that cannot be defended scripturally.
Just as in Paul’s day the Judaizers did not see themselves as trying to enslave anyone, but they were requiring obedience to all the Jewish laws and traditions. From this letter we learn: Nobody threatens those who are in slavery more than the person who truly has been reborn into freedom. The truth is that we are not born free; we come into the world helpless, ignorant and dependent and a slave to the mercy of our parents or guardians.
If we live to God, it is only because we have been united with Christ crucified. He gave himself for us, and he makes possible the life of faith.
If the Judaizers were right - if we could receive righteousness by observing the law - there would be no need for grace, and Christ’s self-giving would have been a waste. We are free from the fear of dominant people.
Paul himself felt no compelling need to obtain the approval of the Jerusalem apostles; the Gentile churches had no need to be confirmed by the Jewish believers. Paul approached the Jerusalem leaders with the attitude of a man who has little to fear from a close inspection and thorough testing.