Summary: What does freedom mean for the Christian?
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
July 4, 2004 Why Freedom?
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
INTRODUCTION: Today, the 4th of July, our country celebrates its 228th birthday. That’s 228 years of freedom. Freedom from what? Most of us probably don’t think much about it. We take too many things for granted. We can think of lots of things that we are free from such as oppressive government, freedom from religious persecution, freedom from slavery, and from censorship. Sometimes when we try to describe what freedom is we run into difficulty. We’re ready to accept freedom from things, but we have a hard time accepting freedom to things. There are two sides to freedom--freedom from and freedom to. If you look at freedom only as from things you might say that we’re free to do anything we want to do. No boundaries, no laws, no responsibilities and no accountability. Our culture celebrates freedom to choose and do whatever you want to do even if your choice affects someone else’s freedom You see this in the news media all the time where to impose limits or responsibilities upon us is to limit our freedom. But freedom brings with it responsibility and accountability as well.
The idea of freedom has even affected our understanding about what it means to be free people of God. Paul addresses this problem in the Galatian church. Paul had been fighting a battle with traditional teachers who wanted to have the new Gentile Christians placed under the strict requirements of the old Jewish law. Some Christians at that time were celebrating their freedom from the coercion, threats and punishment of the Law, and they threw out the Law altogether. No limits or boundaries. They said, “We can live like pagans now and do as we please.” They never even considered what they were free to in Christ. The problem in the Galatian church was that certain Jewish Christians were telling the Gentile Christians that their right standing before God depended in part on their Keeping the Law. They had to live up to this rule or that rule. As a result, they gave up their freedom in Christ and became enslaved all over again by trying to live up to impossible standards of “shoulds” and “oughts.” They were trying to gain God’s favor by doing good works or by observing certain rituals and ceremonies in addition to trusting Christ alone for their salvation. It is no different today. Are there things you think you “should” do or “ought” to do in order to gain God’s approval? Things that you think will give you an “edge” over other people?
Paul deals with this concern by using terminology and illustrations that they all understood in their day.
In the first verse he says, “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” I didn’t understand the term for freedom. when I first read it. As I did some research I found some interesting things. The words for freedom was actually a common term in the ancient world and was referring to the freeing of slaves. To be set free for freedom was understood as being set free for God. It has been found in numerous documents. The procedure called for a slave to save up enough money and then have his master pay it into the temple or church treasury in the presence of the slave. A document was written up containing the words for freedom. The local church would use the money to buy him from the owner. The slave was then the property of God and no man could lay any claim against him. On the walls of some early temples and churches is recorded for freedom God has purchased such and such a slave. No one could ever enslave him again because he was now the property of God.