There is freedom in Christ Jesus
The thought of spiritual freedom was a new concept to all mankind, when introduced by Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Each ethnic and national group had developed its own set of rules for living. The confusion within the various societies seemed to center on the “superiority” of one set of rules, in contract to some other line of thinking.
The Jewish believers knew that the Old Testament law was superior to all other sets of societal rules. These Commandments were given by our Heavenly Father — the creator of the universe. Thus, all other systems would need to bow before this eternal system.
One of the difficulties in the early church came as confusion developed regarding the temporary nature of the law. The purpose of the Law was for showing the inability of humans — by selfeffort — to holy. These individuals equated holiness with the keeping of the rituals and ceremonies. However, the divine purpose was to point all mankind to the need of a savior. When this Promised One was introduced, he was rejected by the Jewish religious leaders, and, ultimately by the nation as a whole.
Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to his hearers of a “freedom” that had become available to all who would accept it. He declared, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36. This freedom from the bondage of sin was a completely new idea to those first hearers.
The divine provision can be abused. However, the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 2:21) inspired the Apostle Paul to encourage the faithful believers to continue steadfast in their new position in Christ. He wrote, “Stand fast (still; firm) therefore in the liberty (freedom) wherewith Christ as made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1.
These false teachers with their “new revelation” had developed a doctrine that placed their followers in bondage to their “new system,” ignoring the divine provision. The enemy of the soul of mankind is concerned with the means of ensnaring the innocent and unlearned, the fact is sufficient for his plans. The “yoke” is seen as any kind of hindrance that can be the oppressive agency in each life that is willing to yield to these tactics.
The act of circumcision, as interpreted by some of the Jewish believers, was seen as the necessary action for accepting the divine plan of salvation. Since the Old Testament system of worship was centered on the males, the head of the household was seen as the “family Priest.” This concept pictured all members of the household as coming under the “spiritual umbrella” of the father. Our Lord did not take this attitude. He declared that “whosoever believeth in him, should not perish.” John 3:16. No gender distinction is ever mentioned in his teaching.
The ritual of circumcision — as a means of salvation — has no place in the New
Covenant. “Behold, I Paul say unto, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” Galatians 5:2. These first readers needed to understand that the plan of eternal salvation was a single way, only, not on either/or set of conditions. “For I testify again unto every man that is circumcised (as a means of personal salvation), that he is a debtor to the whole law. Christ is become of no effect (i.e., destroyed) unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law...” Galatians 5:3, 4a, b. The assessment given by the apostle should cause one to consider seriously their change in attitude — “ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 4:4c. The Greek word translated “fallen” means “to drop away; be cast away; failed, driven away.” These conditions are quite frightful!
Through exercising faith in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, one need not fear the difficult conditions that the apostle described. “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Galatians 5:5.
The divine plan does not depend upon the fickle philosophy of some charlatan, posing as a teacher sent from God. The apostle declared, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 5:6.
The Galatian believers had begun their spiritual race, as faithful servants of Jesus Christ. These charlatans had twisted the simple word of truth, and persuaded some of these people to follow their gross spiritual error. The apostle declared, and asked, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” Galatians 5:7
Paul pointed these first readers to the source of their twisted “new theology.” He declared, “This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.” Galatians 5:8. Any tiny bit of error can cause damage to the whole of the body of teaching. The Apostle used the same an analogy that had been used by our Lord — “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Galatians 5:9; see Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:21. We must heed this warning in our day!
The apostle wrote to these believers with a confidence in their spiritual desire, and spiritual maturity. He declared, “I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.” Galatians 5:10.
These false teachers seemed to have spent much time in attacking the teachings of Paul. Galatians 5:11. His desire was stated, “I would (wish) they were even cut off that trouble you.” Galatians 5:12. He reminded these first readers, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty (freedom)...” Galatians 5:13a. He gave these faithful ones a warning, “only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13b, c.
We, obviously, live in a body of flesh. The fleshly nature is always present. Galatians 5:17. However, the Holy Spirit lives within all believers. May our lives always show the love of God.
Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. Rev. Temples can be contacted at P.O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478, 299, 2068. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.