Scripture Reading: Galatians 4 - 6 ...
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery!" (5:1). With such emphatic words Paul declared freedom in Christ for the Galatian believers and for all who trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Our debt is paid, our sins are forgiven and the gift of eternal life is ours, for the very Spirit of God now lives within us and is working to conform us to the image of Jesus. Such amazing grace must never be compromised or limited or ignored, for doing so leads back to a kind of "works-righteousness" that will never stand before the judgment seat of God. So why did the Galatians go there?
Paul was certainly grieved and tells them that they are being foolish. "After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" he asked them (3:3). Having given them an explanation of God's promise to Abraham, the promise that came by faith, not by keeping the law, Paul goes on in Chapter 4 to give them another illustration, this time from the lives of Abraham's sons: Isaac and Ishmael. This chapter describes the radical difference between Islam and Christianity. It also reveals the sovereignty of God in choosing a people to be His own, both now and for eternity. There is no pride here, no sense that we have made ourselves right before God; but rather, an awareness of the grace of God that reaches down and saves some - a remnant - for His glory alone!! All the praise goes to HIM!!!
It is vitally important that we understand the difference, for it defines who we are as those who believe in Jesus Christ today. Some people, wanting to be generous and loving, reduce the Gospel to an "offer" to all people, but without any power to save. These say that Jesus' death and resurrection make salvation POSSIBLE for all, but it is up to US to believe. And this teaching goes one step further; it declares that we must allow for God to save some through the other religions of the world, too, even if they don't know Jesus, because that's the "fair" thing to do and God is loving and kind and fair to all. This may sound good at the level of human feelings, but it is not truth and it denies the Gospel.
Paul declares FREEDOM only for those who are IN Christ, who have been united to Him by a faith produced through the Holy Spirit and the Word. In Chapter 4 he explains, "when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that WE (who believe) might receive the full rights of sons" (4:4-5). Paul is concerned that the Galatians do not yet understand GRACE! His illustration of the sons of Hagar and Sarah, Ishmael and Isaac, makes the point that it is only by God's promise of grace that believers are redeemed, saved, forgiven, reconciled. "You, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise" (4:28).
All who are saved are saved by GRACE. Those who rest in their works are not trusting in Christ. So Paul says to those who were turning back to the law, believing they had to be circumcised, "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (5:4). Don't DO that!!! You cannot add anything to what Christ has done for you. You don't HAVE to add anything to what Christ has done for you. That's why it's GRACE!!!!
And as if he reads the minds of those who would say, "But then it doesn't matter what we do ..." Paul says, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature" (5:13). This leads to his explanation in verses 16-25: Life lived "by the Spirit" and "in the Spirit" is a life of surrender to God's direction through His Word. The old nature wants what the old nature wants, BUT, there is a new power at work in believers! We are no longer alone to fight against sin. When we see the acts of the old nature, we need to crave the fruit of the Spirit. There are too many people today who give in, who yield, even surrender to the old nature as helpless victims, not understanding that setting their hearts on Christ and praying would enable them to have victory over temptation and sin!!
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit" (5:25). Life in the Spirit is a life focused on Jesus, not trying to be good for goodness sake. It is a life lived in freedom from guilt and fear and doubt because my sin has already been forgiven. It is a life lived in humility, trusting God to continue the work He has begun and giving thanks for His amazing patience and love in Christ Jesus. You can see why it is only those who know Jesus Christ who have this freedom! There is no grace for those outside of Christ because there is no Holy Spirit outside of Christ and no new life outside of Christ. There is only slavery. So why would people choose to be slaves? Because they literally don't know any better. As we would say today, "They don't get it."
So God calls us, those who ARE free in Christ, to patiently seek to guide others to Christ by seeking to restore those who are "stuck" in sin (6:1) and by doing good to all people. Doing good to others opens the door to conversation that leads to Christ. While some say we shouldn't have an "agenda" for doing good deeds, why wouldn't we want other people to be FREE??? Paul concludes his letter with these words of encouragement: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ... what counts is a new creation!" (6:14-15). Those who are in Christ are new creations by the power of the Holy Spirit!
Praise be to God who has made us free in Christ Jesus! To HIM be the glory now and forever!!
"Father in heaven, when I consider what my life would be without Your Spirit living in me I realize the depth of Your love in calling me to be one of Your children. Help me so to live in the freedom You have given me that my life will display the power of Your love and Spirit at work in me. Use me to call others to put their hope in You as I do good deeds to all, especially to my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. You are my hope and my joy! In Jesus' name, Amen"