28 April 2019
Read Galatians 5:1-14
From what have we been set free? 3 things- sin and slavery and death. They go together. Mankind was a slave to sin, and sin made mankind a slave to the Law, the wages of sin are death and I think we can all agree that slavery is not life. The Law of the Old Testament, in particular the covenant laws and practices, and the sacrificial system. In the beginning everything was good. There was no sin or death or slavery. Then Adam and Eve got a bit snackish, so now we form groups to walk our friends home at night. Evil and sin and death entered the world, and we fell. In Top Gun, someone says “your mouth is writing cheques your body can’t cash”, and on that day, Adam’s mouth wrote a cheque that mankind could never ever cash. We were separated from God, and we wrote death in capital letters on our tab. In the Old Testament, God gave us the law, and if we kept that law utterly perfectly, we would not sin, and all would be good. Except we couldn’t meet the standard. And every sin required one death to pay its bill. So God gave us the sacrificial system. And we were slaves to it. Every time a person sinned, a death was needed, and God allowed us to transfer that death to a pure animal. (illustration).
This is not a sustainable system. No one living under this could possibly be free. People were slaves to sin, we just couldn’t not sin, and people were slaves to the law. The law was followed religiously, because people believed that by following it to the letter, and sacrificing to cover the times when they fell short, they could achieve righteousness, they could be justified. Obviously, this is impossible. That’s why Jesus came. One sacrifice, pure and perfect and holy, to settle the tab. John 3:16. Jesus saves us, he redeems us, he justifies us and he makes us righteous. And nothing we can do can add anything on to that. Salvation is exactly 0% our work. No work or deed or prayer can save us or make us more saved. Christ’s work on the cross is fully sufficient. In Philipians 3:8, Paul uses the word Skubalon to describe his works. This translates to something like poo, but harsher. Our works are nothing, and can add nothing.
Galatians. Paul planted a church there, and now there are people going around adding things on to his message. Adding on to the gospel. They’re saying things like “if you believe in Jesus and follow the Old Law, you will be saved.” They’re adding conditions to Christ’s salvation, they’re saying that the work of the cross was not enough, we need to do something more. In particular, they were encouraging everyone to be circumcised. Circumcision was a symbol of the covenant with Abraham, and when Paul is speaking against circumcision, he’s not speaking against the act itself, but rather against the act as an attempt to be righteous, or as a symbol of the gospel additives.
The first verse is a killer verse. The yoke of slavery is a reliance on the law for salvation. Jesus set us free, from slavery and sin and death. And he didn’t do that so that we could go on living as if we were still under them. If you open an animal’s cage, it doesn’t stay in the cage, it comes out, it goes free. Paul is a little bit shocked. There are people going around preaching that yes, the door is open, but we have to stay inside the cage. And I’m sorry to say that people are still preaching this. Faith is enough for salvation. Verse 2-4 What he’s saying here is that if you believe that you need to be circumcised (a symbol for following the law, or modernly- doing good works) then your faith in Jesus is incomplete. You don’t really have faith in the ultimate saving power of the work on the cross. John Chrysostom, an early church father, said “if you are circumcised for justification, it means that you fear the law. And if you fear the law, then you do not believe in the power of grace. If you disbelieve, you can profit nothing by the grace which you disbelieve.” And if you say that you need part of the law, then you have to follow all of it, you can’t pick and choose.
Verse 5- again, righteousness by faith. verse 6- nothing we do has value when it comes to our salvation. Expressing itself through love- I’m going to get back to that. Verse 7-8 you’ve been led astray- it does not come from the one who calls you. This message is not from God. Verse 9- just a classic warning. If you add one iota to the gospel, its purity is corrupted. Verse 11- people were saying that Paul preached circumcision- and he’s saying- then why are the Jews still persecuting me? If I were agreeing with them, they would leave me alone. Verse 12 is a bit crazy- I’m not going to explain what emasculating means; you can go look it up in a dictionary if you want. But basically, he’s being a bit rude, and letting them know what he thinks of them. Under that, he’s also saying if they’re going to go away from the gospel, if they’re going to cut out the fact that Christ is sufficient, then they should just go all the way, and cut themselves out from the rest of the believers completely. If you’re going to alter the gospel slightly, Paul would prefer it if you just removed it from your teaching. Get lost.
Paul is quite upset. These people are leading others astray, they’re preaching a false gospel, and they’re telling free people to live as slaves. God just set these people free, and now you’re convincing them to chain themselves up again. Paul is upset, and I can imagine that God is pretty upset too. Not only in those preaching this, but also in those following it. Like have I not told you? Did I not save you?
Now I’ve gone a very long way around, but we get to freedom now. We’ve been set free for this freedom, and what is it? Very simply, its freedom from death, freedom from sin, freedom from fear. It’s freedom to not sin. It’s freedom to live the life we were meant to. Not big flashy cars and whatever, but life in relationship with God. Life that walks with God. We have been set free by Immanuel, so that He can be Immanuel, so that He can be with us, and we can be with Him. Its not freedom to do whatever we want. Verse 6 and verse 13-14 speak about this. We haven’t been set free so that we can live in fear and under death, we’ve been set free so that we can live as free people. But free people don’t do the things that slaves do. Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh. That’s not freedom, its just slavery with a different face. There’s a scale. Legalism on the one end, licence on the other. Legalism is being bound by the law, and licence is being bound by the flesh. We have not been set free for the middle ground, for liberty. We’ve been set free to love, to live healthy lives in relationship with God. That is ultimate freedom. To be able to walk with Him, to no longer be separated. That was the point of freeing us.
So what do we do? This is the important stuff now. How do we live in freedom? How is it applicable to us that God is with us because of freedom, in freedom and for freedom? Simple- we keep the law. We love God, we love one another. We follow His commands, we walk with Him, but we walk with Him as sons and daughters. There’s not a practical lesson here. It’s a mentality thing; it’s a mind-set thing. But it’s also incredibly important. Jesus set us free to be sons and daughters, to live with the assurance and peace that comes from knowing that our actions do not determine our salvation. And flowing from that, we can do all that we do in love, because we don’t need to be wasting any time on fear.
1 You shall have no other gods before Me.
2 You shall make no idols.
5 Honor your father and your mother.
9 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10 You shall not covet.