Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Set Free (Galatians 5:1-9)

Set Free

What an amazing statement, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free" (Galatians 5:1). The statement for freedom  was extremely well known in the ancient world, for it is found in numerous documents for the freeing of slaves. The procedure was that a slave would save up enough money, and then have the local temple use the money to buy him from his owner. The slave then became the property of the god served in such a temple, and no man could lay any claim upon him. Of course we could never purchase our own salvation (1 Peter 1:18-19), yet Jesus did purchase us when we obeyed Him in baptism (Revelation 1:5-6). 

For Freedom

As Christians we are called servants and yet God wants us to be servants who enjoy freedom. God does not want us being in bondage to:

  • Human opinion, popularity, the praise or fear of men: Galatians 1:10
  • Sin, addiction, guilt: Romans 6:14
  • Worry and anxiety: 1 Peter 5:7
  • Superstition, our own arrogance or ignorance: 1 Timothy 2:4
  • The dread and terror of death: Hebrews 2:14
  • Our own selfishness and demand for instant gratification: Philippians 3:19
  • Being possessed by our possessions: Luke 12:15
  • Being our own worst enemy, the bondage of self-destructive behavior: 1 Peter 4:3; Titus 3:3.

Jesus said that if we follow Him, we will be free indeed (John 8:36). It is a sad fact, that many people, even some professed Christians view Christianity as a restrictive and burdensome lifestyle. Actually the complete opposite is true (1 John 5:3). Christ has set us free from a guilty conscience, superstition, myths, fables, wrong ideas. He has set us free from peer pressure and following the crowd. We have been set free from many damaging and ignorant ideas concerning human relationships, and from sinful and addictive habits that were harmful. We have also been liberated from bitter, resentful, angry and feelings of self-pity (1 Peter 3:10-12).

Keep Standing Firm

That is, value and appreciate your liberation! Determine to remain free and never allow yourself to become a slave of sin and men again. The present tense is used emphasizing the need of continuing to hold on to our new freedom. “Do not be subject again": The term again clearly teaches that Christians can lapse back into sin, and Christians can exchange one former yoke of slavery for either the same yoke or another yoke of bondage. More than one "yoke" of bondage exists in the world. In the context the "yoke of bondage" that these Christians are starting to put their necks under is the Law of Moses (Acts 15:10).

If You Receive Circumcision

There is nothing wrong with circumcision per se, i.e. as a surgical procedure. Yet being circumcised in the attempt to gain acceptance or favor with God, is the type of circumcision being condemned in these verses. 

From this statement some logical conclusions must be drawn: If adding circumcision to the gospel, cuts one off from Christ, then most certainly adding the observance of the Sabbath day would. The same language found in reference to the Sabbath Day, is equally used with the practice of circumcision, both are called everlasting covenants (Exodus 31:16; Genesis 17:9-13). Some argue that the Patriarchs observed the Sabbath Day prior to the Law of Moses (in the attempt to prove that it is an eternal law since Creation) which is incorrect (Nehemiah 9:13-14). Yet we know as a fact, they did observe the practice of circumcision, which was commanded of them (Genesis 17). Yet Paul says accepting circumcision as a condition of salvation, cuts one off from Christ. Paul never says, “If you receive repentance as a condition for salvation, Christ will profit you nothing”. Or, “if you receive baptism, as a condition for salvation, Christ will profit you nothing”. Why? Because those things are conditions for salvation (Acts 2:38).

Under Obligation to Keep the Whole Law

Observing circumcision as a condition for salvation does not make one "better", it actually makes one a "debtor". Paul does not divide up the Law given at Sinai into "the law of Moses" and "the law of God" or "the ceremonial law" and "the moral” or “eternal law". The Law was a complete package. “The law of Moses was never presented as a legal smorgasbord from which its followers could make their selections according to personal preference (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26). The law pronounced a curse on those who did not uphold all the commands, all the time” (H. Leo Boles).

You Have Fallen From Grace

Can a Christian lose their salvation? Absolutely yes. We can lose our salvation by going back into sin (2 Peter 2:20-22), and simply not serving God anymore. Yet we can also lose our salvation by adding human commandments to the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). The gospel is not a message that we are allowed to customize to fit our own individual preferences. It may be considered cool and trendy to add various observances from the Law of Moses to the gospel, like adding the practice of observing the Sabbath, tithing, or observing various Jewish feasts, but the Holy Spirit is clear. Such cuts a person off from Christ and equally demands that they observe everything commanded in the Law.

Faith Working Through Love

"In Christ Jesus" is a relationship that one enters through faith and baptism (Galatians 3:26-27). "Through love" is defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Many people claim to have faith, but their faith results in excuses, immorality, and the addition of human rules and traditions to Christianity. The only faith that is worth anything to God is a faith that results in loving obedience to Him (1 John 2:4-6). The following verses (Galatians 5:13-26) precisely define what is not and what is a faith working through love. Christians who cause selfish divisions in the church, do not have such a faith (5:15). Christians who engage in immorality do not have such a faith (5:19). Christians who place themselves and their own selfish desires over the needs of their brethren (5:20). Christians who lack joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are lacking such faith as well (5:22-23).

You Were Running Well

At one point in time the Galatians were doing great in living the Christian life. They were growing and they were faithful. 

Who Hindered You

If we find that we are no longer running well, we need to ask a very specific question. "Who" is hindering me? "Who" am I listening to and following right now? "Whose" message am I putting ahead of the gospel? "Who" am I trusting instead of God? The word hindered “seems to have been used also in an athletic context, as one runner might ‘cut in on’ another runner, making the runner break stride and even fall” (Boles). Paul is not afraid to put the spotlight on someone teaching error. Who hindered you, is intended the focus the Galatians attention on the false teachers among them.

From Obeying the Truth

Which is equivalent to saying, “That ye should not obey the gospel” (Romans 10:16). The gospel must be obeyed (Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 1:22-25).

This Persuasion

That is, this desire to avoid obeying the truth, this desire to return to the Law of Moses. The Holy Spirit is clear, this movement or desire is not from God. So seeing that this teaching did not come from God, where did it come from? If God did not advocate this teaching, "who" started it? False doctrine originates in the realm of evil (John 8:44). We cannot allow people to attribute all religious doctrines to God. We must have the courage, like Paul to plainly state that certain teachings have their beginnings in evil (1 Timothy 4:1ff).

A Little Leaven, Leavens the Whole Lump

False teaching, unchallenged will always spread (Titus 1:9-11). A seemingly small "error" can cause a tremendous amount of damage. No error is truly insignificant. Paul places false doctrine on the same level with immorality, neither can be tolerated among God’s people, and both spread like leaven: Compare 1 Corinthians 5:6 with Galatians 5:9. Thus the very beginnings of religious error must be resisted. "This proverb should be death of doctrinal indifference. But many still imagine that a little deviation from the truth of the gospel will do no harm to them and to those who hear them. They even pride themselves on harboring at least some deviation” (Galatians, Lenski, pp. 266-267). Therefore, we should be determined to remain free men and women in Christ. Everyday let's appreciate the fact that we are not slaves of sin, slaves to our own worst impulses, and slaves of men.

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017