22 Feb 2023
In Galatians 5, the subject of ‘freedom’ is introduced by Paul:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).
Freedom is a worldwide passion – longings for freedom from restrictions, from control, from unwelcomed pressures, obligations, systems – for many people, this is a strong driving force in their life. Even in the current viral pandemic, various ones in different parts of the world insist on their ‘freedom’ not to adhere to controlled preventive measures, proclaiming their institutional ‘rights’.
However, freedom exists when not only have we been freed from whatever oppressed us, but we are also now enjoying the state of dignity, happiness, fulfillment and contentment we were freed for.
The Lord Jesus, in John 8:31-36, explains that the freedom He gives His followers as they engage with His Word, is freedom from sin’s dominion for life as a child of God, to be at home and in fellowship with the Father. Freedom is hence a supreme gift from God as it covers both our forgiveness and acceptance (which include justification, adoption, and freedom from final condemnation), and also the anchoring and deepening of us in the life of enjoying, serving, and pleasing our heavenly Father.
The constant batterings and ‘storms’ from external circumstances, and the fears and temptations from within, make the life of freedom a struggle; but if our anchor holds, our freedom remains, and our deep joy and contentment in the knowledge of knowing and being limitlessly loved by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit continue within us as we labour to hold steady. This is the quality of life and freedom that only genuine believers know and experience.
But in the book of Galatians, we learn that Christians have been set free from the law as a system of salvation. Being justified by faith in Christ, we are no longer under God’s law, but under His grace.
Our standing with God rests totally on the fact that we have been accepted and adopted in Christ. As long as we are in this world, we live not by being perfect, but by being forgiven.
The world prescribes the establishment of one’s own righteousness – but Paul’s experience had taught him that this is a hopeless enterprise and pursuit. No human performance is ever good enough, for there are always wrong desires in the heart along with a lack of right ones – and it is at the heart that God looks first. God sets us free from the bondage of the law and sin, and the fear of death.
True freedom is only ever found under God’s authority – and it is only ever found under the authority of Scripture, through which God’s authority is mediated to men, and Christ by His Spirit rules His people’ lives. The man or woman who trusts his/her Bible knows what God did, does, and will do, what He commands, and what He promises.
We need to stand firm in our freedom and not submit to the yoke of slavery. Paradoxically, freedom from God makes us slaves of God and righteousness, whilst freedom the devil and the world offer makes us slaves to sin and evil.
When we study the book of Galatians, it is interesting to note that even though Paul reminded the believers not to be in bondage, but to be free in Christ, he often began his epistles, addressing himself as a bond servant or slave of Christ. He even declared himself as a ‘slave’ to all for the sake of the gospel, although he also affirmed his freedom as a child of God and as an apostle.
In the previous sharing, we noted that freedom in God paradoxically means slavery to God and righteousness.
The Christian freedom is in fact the basis for self-sacrificial service of others. Such a freedom is of course painful. It hurts because it involves esteeming others more highly than one esteems oneself; it hurts because because it involves freedom in the setting aside of our rights and privileges to allow us to serve others for the sake of Christ and the gospel; it hurts because it is similar to the freedom Christ Himself demonstrated in HIs own life and death, as a result of absolute obedience and submission to His Father and of mutual infinite love between Father and Son.
Real Christian freedom realises that we can do nothing to effect our own salvation; that Christ has done it all for us; and that we are therefore able to give ourselves freely and unconditionally in sacrificial service of others. This explains what genuine Christian discipleship looks like; it explains how Apostle Paul lived and served the way he did; it demonstrates what the ministry of the Holy Spirit gives birth to, in our lives – the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, humility (meekness), faithfulness and self-control.