Author: Charles Hegwood
When I was a student, I thought of the word ‘freedom’ as that one moment on the last day of school as I walked out the door. The promise of summer and all of the fun that it would bring could be felt riding on the breeze. I could wake up late with no real schedule. The chains of study and homework were at least temporarily loosened and I was free. Well, mostly free. Temporarily free. Thanks to God that freedom in Christ is much more permanent and much more valuable than a brief reprieve from schoolwork. Paul talked about freedom from sin and death. He talked about freedom in Christ. Hear the words of Paul as he pleads with his readers to stand firm in the freedom Christ gives and avoid placing the law’s yoke back around our necks.
What is Freedom
There is beauty in the freedom we have in Christ, but what does it mean to be set free? Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin. We are not to think of being free as an excuse to sin and do whatever we want, all the while waving around the credit card of grace. Far from it. Paul’s definition of freedom is wrapped up in the context of Galatians chapter 5.
The issue in the Galatian church was that they wanted to place the yoke of the law back on their shoulders. They wanted to be circumcised because they thought that circumcision would grant them favor in the eyes of the law and the eyes of God. Verse 2 helps the reader to understand the mindset of those seeking circumcision. Paul stated that “Jesus would be of no advantage.” This should alert us that these men were trying to obtain or add to their salvation in another way apart from Christ. The cultural law was familiar and therefore comfortable. Paul, however, relates their previous state to that slavery. Freedom was new and scary for these men. They were quick to retreat to what they knew. They wanted circumcision as a “faith and…” This desire displayed a lack of faith in Jesus according to Paul.
For us today, it is not a question of circumcision. It is about us chaining ourselves to other practices with the hope of obtaining salvation or holiness apart from Jesus. The add-ons are often the former things we left behind before submitting our lives to Christ. Those things are comfortable and easy. These add-ons could also be extra behaviors too. We may feel insecure about our faith in Jesus and therefore try to add qualifications on top of Jesus’ sacrifice. This is an attempt to further be justified, which is our way of telling God, “you are not enough to save me, let me help.” This is textbook legalism, obsession over obedience apart from faith in Jesus.
What Freedom Looks Like
The freedom in Christ that Paul speaks of, frees us from sin and from trying to earn God’s favor. Paul said in many other places that we are not to crawl back to our sinful lifestyles. Some in the church at Galatia thought the blood of Christ was not sufficient for them and therefore they must do more to earn their own righteousness.They then crawled back to their old beliefs and practices. Paul called for freedom from the chains of earning God’s merit because the reality is you cannot. Freedom in Christ is the knowledge that because of Jesus, God is pleased with us. God sees the righteousness of Christ when he looks at us. This is great freedom. Freedom is the grace of God poured out on us. Do not throw extra steps into salvation. In verse seven, Paul called this action disobedience to Christ.
Where Freedom Is
Freedom in Christ is found in our daily lives. As I mentioned earlier, freedom from doing things to earn salvation does not equal doing nothing. A believer who is enjoying true freedom in Christ still lives an obedient life to Christ. This believer does not go through life uncaring about what they do, say, or think. Freedom manifests itself in your interactions with people and when no one is looking. Paul was saying that freedom in Christ was the freedom to obey Christ. This means we do good things to please Christ. Doing good things to please God is far different than doing good works to earn God’s favor. Do you see why this is freedom? We never have to wonder if we have done enough good to be righteous. So do not do what the believers in Galatia were doing. They were trying to add extra works to earn God’s salvation in their lives and in the lives of others. Be free to obey Christ because you love Him, and not to earn His love for you.
3 Important Questions to Ask of Freedom and Grace
As we wrap up this discussion of freedom in Christ, we must ask ourselves how we apply this text in particular and the freedom of Christ in general to our lives.
- What freedom in Christ truly looks like?
We have to be aware of the patterns in our lives that we tend to fall back to. If you are like me, a result-oriented person, your temptation might be to add results as a measure of salvation. This is folly and sinful according to Paul.
- Where is freedom in Christ in our lives?
We need to see this freedom in the good things that we do. It is refreshing to think that as believers, God already loves us . Doing good works is but the icing on the cake of our relationship with God.
- Have I added works and actions to earn faith or call others’ to do so?
Do good works as an outpouring of your love for God. Help your brothers and sisters embrace their freedom in Christ, breaking free of the shackles of legalism. It is after all, for freedom that Jesus set you free, so be free to live for Christ.