Our lesson this week is the fourth lesson in the second unit of lessons which is titled – Blessing of the Gospel. Thus far, we have seen that through the gospel there is reconciliation; we have an advocate and an intercessor in Christ. In our lesson this week, we take a look at the liberty that we have through Christ. We learn that we should not abuse this liberty but that we should put our liberty to good use by loving those around us.
Made Free by Christ
Again, over the past few weeks, we have seen that we are blessed – made happy in our soul – by the Lord through Him giving us His only begotten Son. So, our lesson opens this week with Paul encouraging the Galatians to “stand fast” in the liberty by which Christ has made us free. Paul encourages us not to be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (v.1).
Free from sin
“Made free,” should quickly imply that at one point in time we were not free. Paul even brings up the yoke of bondage to make it very clear that we certainly were all in bondage at one point in time. What were we in bondage to? What held us captive? Who or what freed us?
Well, we already have answers to these questions, right? Paul makes it clear that we were freed from this bondage by Christ. In John 8:31-36, we will see Jesus talking about the bondage that we were once in.
We will say that Jesus stated to the Jews, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Now, when Jesus made this statement, the Jews were adamant that they had not been in bondage to anyone.
This was quite the statement that the Jews were making. If they were speaking of themselves at that time, they weren’t necessarily living in bondage but they were definitely living under the authority of the Romans. History wise, we also know that there were times that they lived in bondage: first under the Egyptians and then at a time they were held captive by the Babylonians.
Now, Jesus was not talking about them being in bondage to a group of people. No, the bondage that Jesus was speaking was spiritual bondage. Jesus said to them, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” So, to be clear, Jesus was speaking about the bondage of sin. Now, with the bondage of sin, Jesus said that there was a way out from that bondage by abiding by His word. Jesus said to the Jews, “if you abide in My word … you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
So, liberty (freedom) comes to us by Christ and believing in His word – the truth. Paul, therefore, was encouraging the Galatians to stand fast – be obedient/firm – in the truth. This encouragement is an encouragement that we should stand by today as well; we should stand fast in the truth.
The Test of Your Liberty
So, why was Paul having to give the Galatians this encouragement? What was it that they were facing that could cause them to be entangled by the yoke of the bondage of sin?
Standing fast against false teaching
There was much false teaching, and actions that were taking place at that time that were putting the liberty of those Galatian believers to the test. We will see Paul begin to speak of circumcision in the next few verses as this was a subject that had become very burdensome for the early church of genuine believers.
In the book of Acts, you can find the conflict that those who were Jews raised because Gentile believers (Greeks at that time) weren’t being made to circumcise themselves as was tradition according to the law for the Jews. In Acts 15:1, we are told that certain men came from Judea and taught the brethren (believers), “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
So, this is what many Gentile believers faced and it became a burden to many of them. Paul contested that circumcision was of no profit to anyone (v.2). Paul concluded that those who were beholden to solely live by the law would only push themselves further away from Christ (vss.3-4).
Paul was not the only one to ever express this thought in scripture as his teacher, Gamaliel, expressed the same thought when the Jews were arresting the apostles. Gamaliel warned the religious leaders that if the apostles’ work was of God, there was nothing they could do to stop it (Acts 5:35-39).
The writer of Hebrews also pointed out that the law was a shadow of the good things to come; those that offered up sacrifices by the law could not be made perfect (Heb. 10:1). Why could those that live by the law not become perfect? Well, the sacrifices were being made because of their sins. Their animal sacrifices were not enough to atone for their sins, so they need a much better sacrifice. Just from our recent lessons, we know that Christ was and is the far greater sacrifice they would need in order to atone for their sins.
So, Paul said to his readers to stand fast and not give consideration to what the opposition was saying; he said the opposition’s words of circumcision were meaningless (v.6). What would truly profit the Galatian believer was their being obedient in their faith. Again, this same thing holds true for all of us who are of faith today. When your liberty through faith is being tested by opposition, pay them no attention.
Standing fast by remember our call
The meaningless argument and contentions of the opposition does no good for the believers, so we should not give in nor let their arguments become a burden to us. In the face of opposition, Paul says that our obedience avails much and moving in our faith avails much.
Something I have said before in the past is that the first thing the devil will attack is your faith; he wants you to be burdened and stressed in your faith. Paul made it known to the Galatians who it was that was hindering them in their faith (v.7). Paul said to them, “This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you (v.8).”
You see, the Galatian believers were called by the same one that called us – Jesus Christ. What do you think the gospel was given for? As we have seen, the gospel is God’s work of reconciliation and His call to repent. As Paul said in his first letter to Timothy, God gave Christ to abolish death and bring life and immortality through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10).
The Lord wants you and I to live forever with Him. Satan, our great adversary, on the other hand, does not want you to live with the Lord, ever. Those that were calling on the Gentiles to be circumcised don’t realize that they were taking on an effort that would please the devil. They may have even felt that they were doing the right thing, but truly they were doing nothing but being a hindrance. In the face of their opposition, when they were being hindered, Paul encouraged the Galatians to keep the faith; this is good advice for us as well today.
To the Galatians, we will see Paul explicitly tell them, “you have been called to liberty (v.13).” While the opposition was trying to hinder them with lies and false teachings by telling them they could not be saved, Paul told them to remember the one who called them to be saved. We must remember God did not call us to be in the bondage of sin, He called for us to live freely under His care.
Standing fast moving by love
Liberty, freedom, is often misunderstood; we see this is true both in our society and also in the church as well. What do I mean by this? Well, the blessing of liberty in Christ is that we are free from sin. However, some begin to believe that this blessing means that they can go around and do whatever they want to do. Freedom in our society is often misunderstood by people who believe they can do whatever they want without there being any consequences to their actions.
The truth of the matter about liberty (freedom) is this: it comes with rules as there is an authority over liberty. We say that America is the land of the free, but that freedom does not mean you can go out and do whatever you want to do; there are laws here that we must obey to ensure and enjoy our freedoms. Believers should understand that yes, we may be free from sin, but we still live under the eye of God.
You and I live under the love of God, but we were commanded by Christ to love the Lord and then to love our neighbors as we love ourselves – these are rules. The last thing we should do is abuse our liberty through Christ by being disobedient to His rules. How would one be disobedient?
Paul writes, “do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (v.13).” Essentially, Paul is saying to the church of true believers to be obedient to the Lord. We are obedient to the Lord when we love Him and when we love our neighbors. The moment that we become a hindrance to them, we become one that has abused their liberty. In other words, we would become like those who tried to use circumcision as a means to say others could not be saved.
The blessing of liberty is that it should uplift those that are around us rather than be a hindrance to them. Paul warned, “if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another (v.15)!” God did not put us in this world to destroy each other. God especially did not set us free from the bondage of sin to destroy each other.
Walk in the Spirit
When our liberty is being tested, Paul encouraged us further to “walk in the Spirit (v.16)”. You see, when we walk in the Spirit, Paul said that there is no way we would fulfill the lust of the flesh; we would not act in a worldly manner. It is impossible for the Spirit to move as the world does – the Spirit is of God and God is beyond flesh and the world. Just as we see Paul conclude, the Spirit and the flesh (the world) are contrary to one another.
So, we learn today that the liberty we have has been given to us by Christ. This liberty that we have received is going to be tested, always. Yet, even though our faith and liberty is going to be tested, we can overcome the test by standing fast. Let us remember our calling – who we were called by and what we are called to do. And again, when we walk in the Spirit we will not only keep ourselves uplifted but we will keep all of those around us uplifted as well.