The Expository Files

Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5:1

"Give me liberty or give me death!" Patrick Henry evidently placed a high value on freedom. Often, it is for "freedom" that soldiers fight on the battlefield, sometimes to take it away from others or to protect it, or to restore it to those who have lost it. In the United States, we generally think of such freedoms as the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.

But there is more to freedom than simply civil laws protecting such. There are some freedoms that civil law cannot give and armies cannot secure. We have to look elsewhere for certain freedoms, and they are extremely important ones. Freedom from sin, freedom from sin's eternal consequences, freedom from hopelessness and despair, and ultimately, freedom from death.

Liberty In Christ
"Jesus was therefore saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,'" (John 8:31,32).

When Christ came, the whole world was lying in the power of the Evil One. In the context of Jesus' promise to "know the truth and the truth shall make you free" is an objection of some who heard Him. They countered that they had never been enslaved to anyone. Besides being historically inaccurate (they had, indeed, served as slaves in Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and many Jews were slaves in Rome as they spoke), they were missing the point. Jesus explained He was talking about their being enslaved to sin (John 8:33-36).

There was pride and pretentiousness; hypocrisy and greed; hatred and selfishness. They held to outward religious form and pomp; self glory and human tradition, often setting aside God's commandment in favor of their traditions. They were self-righteous and often hard-hearted. Jesus came to free them from such, and us as well. Sin is a cruel slave master which will always kill its faithful servants in the end (Romans 6:23; 5-7; 12-14).

While the Jews dealt with these things, the Gentiles were no better off. They were enslaved to false gods (Galatians 4:8). Their degradation seemingly knew no limits (Romans 1:28-32).

Jesus came to set us all free. He was the only One who could do so. We could not free ourselves, neither could any other force in heaven or on earth. It had to be Jesus. In Him we are set free as we are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Remember Jesus' own words about it; this freedom is related to and dependent upon "abiding in (His) word" (John 8:31).

Be Not Subject Again
"... and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1b).

The specific danger Paul addresses in the above passage (cf. Galatians 5:1-15) is a return to or dependence upon Judaism for salvation. Paul has many fine things to say about the Law of Moses. It is good; it is righteous; it led us to Christ as a schoolmaster, it spoke of the Christ to come; it is profitable for study and learning from its examples, and so forth. But it could not justify, and returning to it for justification would only result in enslavement.

False teachers were demanding the continuing observance of the Law; and even that the Gentiles, to whom the Law was never given, subject themselves to its ordinances. Paul writes, "Therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day..." (Colossians 2:16).

Additionally, there were false teachers of other sorts trying to adulterate the gospel with human philosophy and traditions (Colossians 2:8-10). Paul's answer: "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 6:8).

The Answer To A Present Danger
"For sin shall not be the master over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14).

We must stand guard over our freedom in Christ, else we may well find our liberty eroded and ourselves enslaved again. Peter warns that the final state of enslavement can be even worse than the first so encourages the faithful not to allow themselves to be led astray by false promises (2 Peter 2:18-22).

Even as Jesus referred to the Pharisees of His day as being enslaved, there are those today who think like the Pharisees thought. They are prideful and hypocritical. They look for a physical kingdom of silver and gold instead of a spiritual kingdom of truth and righteousness. They are steeped in human religious tradition and creeds, while setting aside the doctrine of Christ. Do not let the modern version of the Pharisee rob you of your freedom!

Neither let empty human philosophy take your freedom away. The names of the philosophies may have changed (now we have humanism, modernism and so forth) but the effects are still the same. They cannot save. Only the gospel can do that (1 Corinthians 1:18-22). The world is constantly bombarding us with words to entice us away from our salvation. Our answer: "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1).

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 8.1; January 2001