Summary: A message in an expository series on the Book of Galatians.
“Understanding Freedom in Christ”
In our text Paul is continuing to craft his argument to call the Galatians back to the freedom of the Gospel. As we saw in the very first message Paul was greatly alarmed at how easily the Galatians had allowed themselves to be led back into slavery. 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. The question is who are the Judaizers in today’s church? The role is filled by those who introduce rules, policies and extra steps that they claim are necessary for salvation or full participation in the Christian life. They often have developed their own list of “dos and don’ts”. Often they are motivated by a desire for power or to maintain an image of moral superiority. The diligently work to promote their own agenda, vision and purposes. They often elevate nonessentials 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. 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.
I. We are free from those who seek to enslave us.
A. Paul uses three very unusual words to describe the Judaizers’ activities.
1. They are all words derived from the world of political and military espionage but applied to the conflict raging in the early church.
2. 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.
3. Peter penned words describing a situation very similar to the one Paul describes.
4. “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)
5. The objective of Paul’s opponents was not to honor Christ, but to “reduce to slavery” their brothers. They insisted on the right to judge the actions and consciences of those they could dominate.
B. People that are enslaved are there by their own choice.
1. The Judaizers did not see themselves as trying to enslave anyone, but they were requiring obedience to all the Jewish laws and traditions.
2. We learn a principle from this Scripture: Nobody threatens those who are in slavery more than the person who truly has been reborn into freedom.
3. The truth is that man is not born free; he comes into the world helpless, ignorant and dependent and a slave at the mercy of the powers that be.
4. If we live to God, it is only because we have been united with Christ crucified (see also 6:14). 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.
II. We are free from the fear of important people.
A. 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.
1. Paul approached the Jerusalem leaders with the attitude of a man who has little to fear from a close inspection and thorough testing.
2. Paul spoke privately to those who were the apparent leaders of the Jerusalem church, for he wished to avoid public remarks or a decision, whether valid or not, that could harm the work he had already done or was planning to do among the Gentiles.
3. Paul recognized that the decision reached could have terrible consequences for the church’s missionary outreach—if the doctrine of grace were not boldly and clearly upheld.
4. Paul felt that the greatest need was for the people of God to stand united as one church.
B. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem set an excellent example building partnership in ministry.
1. Those in the role of leadership have the great responsibility to glorify God, not to make ourselves look more important.
2. Any position in the church we hold is to be for the forwarding of the Gospel of Christ.
3. The moment we start living a message that say faith “plus” the authority vanishes and we are running the race in vain.