Summary: Christian freedom is from God’s Law condemning you and freedom from sin’s bondage. But it’s also freedom to receive God’s gifts in worship and freedom to stand in His presence as a sinner, yet fully righteous because of Christ Jesus.
We Americans revel in our freedom. We delight in our freedom to do what we want, when we want. We believe it’s our right to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But of course, we know that political freedom is always conditional.
I am not free to interfere with your life, liberty, and the pursuit of your happiness. And you aren’t free to interfere with mine. I’m not free to scream “fire” in a crowded theater--unless it is on fire! I’m not free to drive as fast as I want. I’m not free to steal something from a store. I’m not free to do whatever I want, if it comes at the expense of your freedom.
The book of Galatians is about freedom, not political freedom, but spiritual freedom. It’s about freedom from God’s Law condemning you and freedom from sin’s bondage. But it’s also freedom to receive God’s gifts in worship and freedom to stand in His presence as a sinner, yet fully righteous because of Christ Jesus!
The threat to spiritual freedom in the Galatian churches was a mixing of the Law and the Gospel. Some false teachers were saying, “Christ isn’t enough. You still have to submit to Moses, get circumcised, and follow the Old Testament dietary laws to be a true follower of God.”
But the Apostle Paul wouldn’t let that teaching stand. He said, “No. It’s either all because of Christ, or His death was in vain, for nothing.” That’s the foundation of our freedom in Christ, and anything added to Christ destroys that foundation. Anything added to the cross of Christ chisels away at the freedom we have in Christ.
As the Apostle says, “Before this faith, we were kept under guard by the Law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so we could be justified by faith.” Before faith in Christ, we were unbelievers. God kept us in something like a house arrest for our own protection.
How so? God gave us His Law--not only to keep us from hurting others--but even to keep us from hurting ourselves. If we are disobedient toward authority, the Law is there, threatening us with justice and even imprisonment. If we’re tempted to kill, the Law is supposed to contain us and stop us before we do something harmful. If we’re tempted to steal, the Law is supposed to restrain those outward behaviors.
So the Law surrounds us with bricks and barbed wire. It hems us in on every side. It restricts us with rules and regulations. It restrains us like an electric fence. Indeed, “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law” (1 Corinthians 15:56). Be careful around that fence of the Law. It’s high voltage. It kills.
But the Law also teaches, rebukes, and corrects us--if we are willing to learn and not think we know more than God. The Law is our teacher and guardian; it teaches and prepares us. The Law is softening the hardpan soil of our hearts, driving us to Christ and His grace.
Think of the best teacher you had in school, the one from whom you learned the most. Most likely that teacher wasn’t a softie. He demanded and expected much. And you did the best you could, learning more and more as you struggled.
Those were the best teachers. You may have hated them at the time. But those teachers didn’t care if you liked them or not. They never let you rest on your earlier glories. It was always another challenge, another hurdle, and another lesson.
The Law is like that--a stern and strict schoolmaster. And the Law has but one lesson to teach us--so learn it well! That lesson is this: You cannot please God with your works; nothing you do can earn God’s favor. The Apostle writes, “If righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2:21). If you could get God’s favor and eternal life by what you do and how you live, then Christ died for nothing. Breathe that in! Let it simmer for a while!
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,” for where faith in Christ is alive, the Law has been silenced. That’s why “Christ is the end of the Law, that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Christ fulfilled the Law. The Law ends in Christ. It’s that way for all who believe that His death is their death, that His obedience is their obedience, that His life is their life.
Well if that’s true--and it is!--then why do we still teach the Ten Commandments to baptized believers? Why don’t we then just trash the Law? It’s because we are at the same time a saint and a sinner, a believer and an unbeliever. And so the Law still speaks--and still needs to speak--to the sinner and unbeliever in each of us!