Called to Freedom

Introduction: This wonderful teaching from Galtians 5 about freedom is a great and necessary understanding for us as believers.

Context: Converted Jews were being challenged by false teachers and teachings that they still needed to fulfill the law despite their conversion to Christianity.

Chapter 5 is still connected to this teaching that Paul gave at the end of the previous chapter 4:21-31 about who’s children we are.

The Scripture speaks about the Galatians being ‘parented’ or ‘fathered’ by one of Abrahams two sons.

Son of the ‘slave’ son – Hagar – human effort

Son of the ‘free’ son – Sarah

We (the Galatians) are children of the ‘Promise’

Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.

5:31, ‘So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.’

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In an awkward but memorable phrase, the Apostle Paul declares:   “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

The story of Jesus Christ, as it comes to life in his followers, is a story of freedom, to    be sure, but a freedom constrained by the Cross and deeply at odds with individualistic notions of liberty. Prayer Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-15 Reflection

  • Though we immediately resonate with Paul’s reminder to the Galatian Christians that they “were called to freedom” (5:13a), it is easy for us to misunderstand the Christian liberty that he commends to them.

  • Today many people often think of freedom “as the maximum ability to choose whatever life I want to live with a minimum of external attachments,” Will Willimon observes. “A person who is externally determined, who lacks freedom of choice, who has succumbed to any limitations upon self-expression is hardly a person.” But can this self-determining individualism be what the Apostle had in mind for the Galatians?
  • Bruce Longenecker explores Paul’s gospel of freedom, especially in his letters to Christians in Galatia, Rome, and Corinth. Returning each time to Galatians 5:13, Longenecker uncovers three levels of meaning in the Apostle’s teaching.   
  • 1. Freedom is not Self-Indugence.

Paul was urging the gentile Christians in Galatia to resist “enslavement” to certain applications of the Torah—like the rules for food or requirement of circumcision that had caused a rift in Antioch (Galatians 3).

By their faithful obedience to Christ, they were already heirs of Abraham (3:15-18), like children of the “free woman” Sarah instead of the “slave woman” Hagar (4:21-31).

Some of Paul’ teaching was misinterpreted.

  • Paul’s teaching on freedom was misinterpreted. Christians in Corinth concluded “I have the right to do anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23).
  • Some believers in Rome slandered Paul by claiming he taught “Let us do evil that good may result” (Romans 3:8; cf. 6:1, 15); these ethical libertines presumed on God’s grace toward sinners—“We can do anything we want, because God will forgive us.”

    • Paul says about people who misrepresent the gospel this way: “Their condemnation is deserved!” (Romans 3:8). Notice how Paul includes his response in Galatians 5:13, where he warns “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence.”

2. Freedom is not Independence for self-interest.

Paul puts this condemnation of libertinism into cosmic context in Romans. Adam’s act of sin opened the door for suprahuman powers of Sin (Romans 3:9) and Death (5:12-21) to wreak havoc in God’s good creation. These powers hijacked the God-given law to serve their purposes (7:7-25; cf. 8:2). Though we were “slaves of sin” (6:20), through baptism we are “freed from sin” (6:7, 18, 20, 22). This does not mean we are free to commit sins; rather we are to be “slaves of righteousness” (6:18; cf. 6:20, 22). “Although Christians do not observe the law,  4there is a sense in which the law itself is fulfilled in Christians Christian Reflection A Series in Faith and Ethics Robert B. Kruschwitz, the author of this study guide, directs the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. He serves as General Editor of Christian Reflection. through the Spirit, who brings alive loving patterns of life within Jesus’ followers,” Longenecker writes. Sin can externalize and twist God’s law into temptations to “all kinds of covetousness” (Romans 7:8), but the Spirit inspires patterns of love that (inadvertently) fulfill the law. Notice how Paul includes this idea in Galatians 5:13, saying “through love become slaves to one another.” In sinful coveting the Galatians might “bite and devour one another” (5:15); the gospel frees them for self-giving. 4

  • Enslavement to one another. Paul’s image of our becoming “slaves”  is startling, but essential.

It corrects the moral chaos that Paul encountered in Corinth. “Over and over, [the Corinthian Christians] interpreted their freedom in Christ along individualistic lines, without regard to the health of the Christian community,” Longenecker notes.

They employed spiritual gifts for personal advantage (1 Corinthians 13) and ate meat from pagan rituals without regard for how this practice influenced other believers   (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). Yet after the Corinthians allowed God to align their practices with the gospel, Paul praises their transformation into self-sacrif icing Christlikeness through the Spirit of freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Likewise, he commends this renovation of the heart to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (2:20). As they are crucified with Christ, they become the means for the self-giving Christ to live through them, serving others. Paul’s strange claim that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” is clarified by this relationship between salvation and ethics. “The phrase ‘Christ has set us free’ pertains to the salvation of Jesus’ followers, while ‘for freedom’ pertains to the ethical lifestyle of Jesus’ followers,” Longenecker concludes. “Christians have been set free from the enslavement of chaos-inducing self-interestedness in order to allow the self-giving Christ to become incarnate within their own self-giving way of life.”

So What have I just stated about our Freedom?

  1. It’s for the purpose of growing in our faith in relationship to what God gives us and blesses us to be.
  • It is for the purpose of serving God and others through our intimacy and relationships to one another.

Conclusion: Let’s fight for our freedoms spiritually! (1) Let’s free ourselves from the sense of our own deeds / works as positioning us in God’s favor; (2) Let’s fight for the right to remain free from the guilt / shame / condemnation of our sinner nature / person; (3) Let us free ourselves of the accountability of living righteous / honorable before the Lord; (4) the fight for the purpose of using our God given rights to be free to teach / support / encourage others to live in the freedom that Christ so richly supplies!

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