Christ Gives Freedom
1Christ has set us free! This means we are really free. Now hold on to your freedom and don't ever become slaves of the Law again.
2I, Paul, promise you that Christ won't do you any good if you get circumcised. 3If you do, you must obey the whole Law. 4And if you try to please God by obeying the Law, you have cut yourself off from Christ and his gift of undeserved grace. 5But the Spirit makes us sure God will accept us because of our faith in Christ. 6If you are a follower of Christ Jesus, it makes no difference whether you are circumcised or not. All that matters is your faith that makes you love others.
7You were doing so well until someone made you turn from the truth. 8And that person was certainly not sent by the one who chose you. 9 A little yeast can change a whole batch of dough, 10but you belong to the Lord. This makes me certain you will do what I say, instead of what someone else tells you to do. Whoever is causing trouble for you will be punished.
11My friends, if I still preach that people need to be circumcised, why am I in so much trouble? The message about the cross would no longer be a problem, if I told people to be circumcised. 12I wish everyone who is upsetting you would not only get circumcised, but would cut off much more!
13My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don't use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love. 14 All the Law says can be summed up in the command to love others as much as you love yourself. 15But if you keep attacking each other like wild animals, you had better watch out or you will destroy yourselves.
What is the true meaning of freedom? Is it a right, the absence of constraints, or liberation from moral absolutes? For the Christian, it’s none of these. Freedom isn’t entitlement or self-indulgence. Nor is it a license to sin. Rather, it’s a sacred trust—a responsibility of the highest order. It’s doing what we should, and not what we want. It’s living within God’s righteous constraint (v 13b). And, all told, it’s something that isn’t selfish—it’s serving others with an attitude of love (vv 6b,13c-14).
“Man is … everywhere … in chains” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778). In the Galatians story the chains were legalism in the guise of circumcision. Our chains are different. We’re limited by problems, constrained by pettiness, shackled by pride, and locked into daily struggles for prosperity.
So who can set the captives free? Is there a politician, a multi-national businessman, a general of a powerful army, a philosophy, an ideology or a religion that can guarantee freedom? Is there anyone or anything that can break the shackles that constrain us? No, prisoners can’t release prisoners.
But that’s not the end of the story. While the door to freedom can’t be opened from the inside, it can be opened from the outside. There is One who holds the key to our freedom—Jesus Christ. If we want to be free, really free, then we must ask the Liberator to release us (see John 8:36, Luke 4:18, Romans 8:2, Galatians 5:1).
Here’s the rub: Real freedom only exists in Christ. All “freedoms,” outside of Christ, eventually turn into a new servitude. For freedom to endure it must begin through faith in Christ, continue through obedience to Christ, and reach its greatest heights through the love of Christ. Why? Because freedom isn’t independence, it’s interdependence with Christ.
Lord, we confess that our self-sufficiency negates everything you have done to set us free. Help us to find our sufficiency in Christ alone. For we know that when Christ gives us freedom, we are free indeed! Amen.