Summary: About Paul’s definition of "freedom."

With each passing year in which our country celebrates it’s independence.. it’s freedom… a

cry intensifies for the current generation of citizens to not take their freedom for granted.

It’s noted that those who have come to enjoy freedom… can fall back to enslavement and

tyranny because they don’t recognize it’s subtleties… or that those who enjoy freedom all too

easily forget that freedom comes with responsibility.

> It shouldn’t surprise us that the reality of spiritual freedom cries out in a similar way.

The Apostle Paul had come to know true spiritual freedom… and didn’t want to see it lost by

any. Among the New Testament writings in which he addresses this is the letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-23


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.


You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful

nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command:

"Love your neighbor as yourself."


So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the

sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful

nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you

are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious….22 But

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness

and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Begins with a call to freedom…

Paul begins by explaining our calling: we are called to freedom. Christ came to set humans free.

Our most fundamental condition is that of shame… for the flaws and failures that we carry… and

Christ came and ‘bore our shame’ upon the cross… so that we could be free from carrying the

deep sense of being broken. We can be free from the guilt and consequences of sin because

Christ bore those consequences… the death and separation…. when he hung on that cross. And

through the power of the Spirit whom Christ sends, we can become free from the ultimate power

of sin in our daily life.

But Paul now sees a dual tension…one that I believe runs through us all… the tension

between a spirit of legalism and a spirit of license.

When issues of sin arise, there is a common feeling of tension between "legalism" and "license".

At times a part of us feels a fearful sense of being legalistic and at other times of compromising

our convictions.

It’s like a spiritual schizophrenia… double bind that can make us crazy.

Often within we swing between the two powers of thought that each of these represent … a

process of reaction… and re-reaction.

Let me offer a little definition to these two dynamics….

Legalism – In it’s broader use, ‘legalism’ refers to the tendency to try to control sin

through an overly prescribed approach to moral behavior or an inappropriate sense

of controlling such behaviors in others.

License – In it’s spiritual use, license refers to the tendency to control permission

for pursuing the fulfillment of inappropriate or destructive desires for perceived

pleasure… often based upon a construed sense of pleasure (that ignores ultimate

good) and freedom (that ignores responsibility.)

Both the spirit of legalism and the spirit of license are rooted in a false sense of control…. a

control rooted in fear.

A part of us wants to do the right thing… but it can become more out of fear of our failures…

and a concern for outward appearance… And then another part wants to be free to do what one

wants… afraid of what one might miss in terms of pleasure and happiness.

> Both of these tendencies reveal how confused our view of sin and salvation are… why

‘religion’ may not always sound so good…. may seem to complicate life.

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