Freedom in Christ
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (v. 1) - Galatians 5:1
With his argument that the people of God were slaves to sin and death under the old covenant concluded (Gal. 3:21–29; 4:1–7, 21–31), Paul in today’s passage begins to transition to his exhortations regarding the Christian life in Galatians 5 and 6. The whole point of the new covenant, he says, is to provide liberation through the work of Jesus for those formerly under the curse of sin (3:10–14): “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1).
This encapsulation of Galatians’ entire message highlights the interplay of the indicative and the imperative in sanctification (growth in holiness). God does not command His people to possess certain qualities before He recognizes those qualities in them; rather, He declares that we are something (the indicative) prior to ordering us to do or be that something (the imperative). In sanctification our Father declares us “saints” or holy ones in Christ (Eph. 1:1), and then He exhorts us to be holy (2 Tim. 1:9). Christian maturity is living out what our Creator says that we are positionally in His Son. In Jesus we have been freed; therefore, we must live as free people, not taking up the yoke of the Law as a means to secure our own righteousness lest we be reenslaved to sin (Gal. 5:1).
Freedom from the Law’s supervision can be abused, so let us never believe that God wants less of us now than under the old covenant. The Torah does not pass away entirely, for Paul commends its fulfillment through love (v. 14). Still, we are now free from the paralyzing burden of our failure to “cross every t and dot every i” when it comes to keeping the Law — being forgiven in Christ, we need not suffer an accusing conscience without relief, nor need we give into sin any longer. True, in this life we will transgress our Father’s will (1 John 1:8–9), but we are now able by the Spirit not to sin (Rom. 6: 1–11, Gal. 5:16). We are also liberated from the distinctions the Law introduced and able to fellowship with one another and serve others without the ceremonies and regulations of Moses as barriers between us. All of this is enabled by our union with Christ and life in the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16). This reality shall be our focus in the weeks ahead.
It can be easy to forget the freedom we have in Christ and let our fear that we will never serve God as precisely as He desires keep us from serving other people. We are covered with Christ’s blood and must not let such fears paralyze us. By the Spirit we can attempt great things for the Lord with the knowledge that our failures cannot destroy the kingdom and that God has provided for our forgiveness and will restore us as we turn to Him.
Passages for Further Study
- Leviticus 25:8–22
- Pss. 102:18–22; 118:5
- Matthew 17:24–27
- 1 Peter 2:16
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