University Bible Fellowship of
Toronto
           
 
           
 
 
Bible Search 

STAND FIRM IN THE FREEDOM OF CHRIST

Galatians 5:1-5:15
Key Verse: 5:1

We thank and praise God for blessing 2016 SBC so abundantly, giving us great victory, joy and vision through the cross of Christ. Jesus crucified for our sins and raised from the dead is the Christ of God. He is our Saviour and Lord, Lord over each one’s life and Lord over all people and everything. He wants us to follow him, denying yourselves and taking up our cross daily. The only way to follow him is through self-denial and cross-taking. Following him is the way of life and eternal glory. Practically, we may follow him by obeying his great commission, “Go and make disciples of all nations” especially serving campus students one by one with faith in Jesus’ authority.

We return to the study of Galatians. We studied up to chapter 4. Chapters 1-4 is the doctorial teaching and 5-6, the application. The most important doctrine is justification by faith in Christ Jesus that encompasses Christ’s redeeming us from the curse of the law and our becoming children of God. Those who believe in Christ Jesus are children of God, children of promise born by the power of the Spirit. They are children of the free woman, not of the slave woman. One important characteristic of God’s children is that they have a glorious freedom. Living in Christian freedom is like walking a golden road leading to the celestial city. But on both sides of the road are ditches that must be avoided. If we fall into either ditch, we get sidetracked and become bound and miserable. Let’s learn how to live as God’s children with this freedom.

First, stand firm in faith (1-12). When God created men, he endowed men with the gift of freedom. They had the freedom of choice. God wanted them to choose to love and obey God. He wanted them to serve God with a willing heart. But they chose to disobey God through disobedience to his command. Then they were in slavery to sin and Satan. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 430 years. Those long years they groaned in their slavery day and night. God heard their groaning and remembered his promise and liberated them from the bondage of Pharaoh with his mighty power.

Look at verse 1a. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” This can be a declaration of Christian liberty. As we learned, Christ redeems us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. He was hung on a tree to redeem us and thus set us free. The price he paid to set us free was his own life. And the reason to set us free was so that we might live a life of freedom, not of slavery. Since we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus and have become his children, we have the freedom to have access to the holy and loving God and have fellowship with him, calling him “Abba, Father.” This is a truly amazing freedom. All other freedoms stem from this freedom. They are by-products of this freedom. No one or nothing can take away this freedom from God’s children, even imprisonment or poverty, illness, or any human system unless one gives up the freedom. If this freedom is lost, all other freedoms are virtually not freedoms.

Then verse 1 says continually, “Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Here Paul did not say, “Relax and enjoy freedom,” but he said, “Stand firm.” The picture seems to be of an ox bowed down by a heavy yoke. Once it has been freed from this crushing yoke, it is able to stand erect again (Lev. 26:13) Believers returning to the law or the basic principles of the world, trying to attain their goal by human effort, is letting themselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. In order to keep freedom given to us, we should stand firm. We should especially stand firm on our confession, “The Christ of God” at any cost. It is to confess, “O Jesus, you are my Saviour and Lord through your death and resurrection; you are the solution to any human problem.” In the context of Galatians it is to remember and hold on to the gospel that Christ Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age (1:4). Standing firm is a spiritual battle in this world.

There was a young man named Martin Luther. He studied well and earned a bachelors degree in just one year. Shortly after, he earned a masters degree, and enrolled in law school. He wanted to succeed his father in his copper mining business. But one day as he walked home, a bolt of lightning struck near him. He realized the importance of his eternal destiny, vowed to be a monk, and entered the Augustinian order. To be right with God he did everything the church demanded, and more. He devoted himself to fasts, long hours in prayer, self-flagellation, pilgrimages and constant confession. Yet the more he did these things, the heavier the burden of sin weighed upon his soul. He felt tormented constantly. An advisor suggested that he study hard to take his mind off of himself. For the sake of academic pursuit and to prepare Sunday sermons, Luther studied the Bible deeply. The words of God began to come alive in his soul, especially Romans 1:17: “The righteous will live by faith.” With joy, Luther believed and taught that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received by faith. He taught that faith is to trust in Gods promise to forgive sins through Christs death on the cross. He believed that salvation was Gods work from beginning to end. He found true peace and freedom in Christ. Having obtained this freedom, he had to stand firm in it. He was assaulted by corrupted church leaders who profited from legalistic practices. They put him on trial at an official meeting called the Diet of Worms. They demanded that he renounce his teachings and planned to take his life if he refused. He replied: “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” We can learn from Martin Luther how to stand firm in Christian freedom. In the following verses we can think more about how to stand in the freedom of Christ.

In verses 2-4 Paul warns against legalism strongly with repeated expression. He said in verse 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.” If Christ is of no value to me at all, what a terrible thing it is! For certain people Christ’s death and resurrection are of no value, no benefit, no advantage and no use at all, causing definitely no salvation. And verse 3 says, “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.” It is impossible for anyone to obey the whole law. And as we studied, those who cannot obey the whole law are under God’s curse (3:10). And in verse 4, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ, you have fallen away from grace.” As for us, what can be a more dreadful thing than being alienated from Christ and falling away from grace! Being alienated from Christ means eternal condemnation. This is unthinkable. Yet this state comes to those who try to live by their own human effort and righteousness relying on their flesh.

There was a man who said he believed in Jesus for salvation. So he went to a church every Sunday morning. But in the afternoon, he went to the Buddhist temple and worshiped Buddha. Someone asked him, “Why do you do that?” He said, “I want to be right with Buddha, too, just in case.” Like him, some people have “just in case” strategy. Such people have been alienated from Christ, fallen away from grace.

Look at verse 5. “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit, the righteousness for which we hope.” Here the righteousness for which we hope is the future hope which our justification brings, namely spending eternity with Christ in heaven including the redemption of our bodies. For this future salvation we wait (Ro 8:24-25). The hope of righteousness is our glorious hope. We do not work for it; we wait for it by faith. We do not anxiously to secure it, or imagine that we have to earn it by good works. Final glorification in heaven is as free a gift as our initial justification. So by faith, trusting only in Christ crucified, we wait for it. And we do so through the Spirit who dwells in us, and helps us and intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Ro 8:26).

Look at verse 6. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Again, Christian life starts from the inside. External things, such as circumcision, methods of baptism, or other ritual ceremonies, have no value at all, if they are not the expression of one’s inner faith. And one’s faith inside is to be expressed and shown to others. Faith produces good acts in love, not vice versa. As for Abraham “he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” according to Galatians 3:6. Faith in God was produced in him first. Then his faith was expressed in his life of serving. He welcomed guests in his house and served them with his best and also prayed for perishing souls in Sodom persistently. Paul had faith in Christ Jesus, and his faith was expressed through his love for Galatians. So he wanted to bear again the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in them, although he was astonished and perplexed about them. As we studied in Luke’s gospel, Levi was a tax-collector, a terribly selfish man. He only knew how to get (receive/take). Nothing could change his selfish and stingy lifestyle. In such a life he was not free. Rather, he was a slave to his selfishness and materialism. But when faith in Jesus was produced in him through Jesus’ words, “Follow me,” he immediately opened his house and served others freely and sacrificially. He came a sacrificial servant of God, who could write Jesus’ sermon on the mount in his gospel, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…Do not worry about your life…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:19-33). On the contrary, James 2:17 says, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

In verses 7-11 Paul again deals with the Judaisers. Paul loved to liken the Christian life to a race. Galatians were running a good race, having accepted and preserved the truth of the gospel and living a life of faith in obedience to the gospel truth. But some people cut in on them and confused them with a different gospel, which would a terrible bad influence to the whole community like a yeast working through the whole batch of dough. Paul believed that Galatians would have the same view as his toward the gospel enemies. And he wanted them to know that God would judge such people.

Then Paul said of himself: “Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.” Here circumcision is the symbol of the law, while the cross, the symbol of the gospel. The message of circumcision is “salvation through human achievement.” It is expressed as salvation through human willpower, science, medicine, technology, education, psychology, military power and so on. This is a very popular message. On the other hand, the message of the cross is that all people are helpless sinners condemned eternally and only Jesus’ sacrifice can save them from our sins; so each one should repent. The message of the cross hurts human pride. So it is not popular. As we studied in 1 Corinthians 1:23, the gospel of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. The gospel is countercultural in any generation. So those who preach the message of the cross are persecuted, particularly from those who have strong humanism. Yet, the gospel of Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God for the salvation of mankind. God works in people through gospel preachers. We should always know that they are remnants. Paul was happy to be persecuted for the gospel of the cross. And he had a clear attitude toward the false teachers, saying “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves.”

In this part that in order to stand firm in Christian freedom, we should watch out against all legalism, await the hope of righteousness, know that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love, be ready to be persecuted for the gospel of the cross, and have a clear view toward the gospel enemies.

Second, serve each other in love (13-15). There are people who assume that freedom meant doing whatever one felt like or desired. This misunderstanding leads to self-indulgence, which is equivalent to licentiousness. So in this part Paul seems to warn against licentiousness, which is opposite to legalism. Look at verse 13. “You, my brothers, were called to be free…” “You were called” indicates God’s initiative as Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you.” “You were called to be free” or “…called to freedom or liberty.” What a calling! People may wonder how “to be free” can be a calling. Yet God wants us to accept it as calling. We were born as slaves in, but in Christ’s redeeming grace we were called to be free. Then what does it mean to be free?

Verse 13 says continually, “…you were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” This freedom is not to enjoy the life of sin. If so, we become slaves again, losing the precious freedom. Christian freedom is not freedom to sin but freedom from sin. And from one point of view freedom in Christ is paradoxically a form of slavery—not slavery to our flesh, but to our neighbor. It is a remarkable paradox. We are free in relation to God, but slaves in relation to each other. We are free in God but to serve each other in love. And there are people who serve for human recognition, according to their feelings and desires. That’s not serving in love. To serve in love is to serve knowing what others need.

In view of God’s creation God did not create man as a selfish being, but as one who serves. When he created male and female, he blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Ge 1:28). When God took the man he made as a living being and put him in the Garden of Eden, he wanted the man to work it and take care of it (Ge 2:15). God wanted men to be care-takers and live a life of serving. Christians, as ones created in Christ Jesus, are never to be self-centred, but God-centred and others-centred. Again Christian freedom is to serve others in love. In that we can keep the precious freedom and become truly free with inner joy. This is truly a blessed life. In Luke’s gospel at the last supper Jesus said to his disciples who wanted to be like worldly rulers, slaves to their selfish ambition, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves…I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:25-27). Serving others in love is a truly free life and the life of enjoying one’s freedom given in Christ. This is the reason Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow” (Lk 9:23). And also this is the reason Jesus said, “Do you truly love…?...Feed my lambs.” And Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We thank God for our 2016 SBC, which is an excellent example of serving each other in love. Each of our members took each one’s cross with willingness and self-denial together to serve each other at this conference. Then all could have inner freedom and joy and rest and refreshment in Christ Jesus our Lord, and God’s glory was revealed. We should also know that serving others in love can include a spiritual fight. May we prepare ourselves to serve coming U of T freshmen in love. May God establish serving families of God in Christ beginning with Ian and Jemmie’s family this fall, up to 12 families by 2020.

Look at verse 14. “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” So when we serve each other in love with the freedom in Christ, amazingly it turns out that we keep the entire law. This is the reason Paul said in Romans 3:31, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” Faith in Christ enables us to keep the law of love and uphold it. Then Paul said in verse 15. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Surely biting and devouring each other freely is the life of destroying each other.

We thank and praise God for the glorious freed we have in Christ Jesus, who paid the price with his own life. May we stand firm in this freedom by keeping our faith against all legalism and the message of the law and by cling to the message of the cross and serving each other in love to build up others and God’s community for his purpose and glory.

UBF headquarters | Chicago UBF | UBF TV | Northwestern UBF | Washington UBF | New York UBF | Europe UBF  | Email Us | Site Admin
Home