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Galatians 5:1-6. Free at Last

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In Galatians 5:1-6, we see Liberty 1) Defined (Galatians 5:1) 2) Defended (Galatians 5:2-4) and 3) Described (Galatians 5:5-6)

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 Galatians 5:1-6 “Free at Last” Safe Haven Worship Centre. Sunday January 13, 2019 Galatians 5:1-6 [5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. [2] Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. [3]I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. [4] You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. [5] For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. [6] For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (ESV) In 1963 American civil rights proponent Martin Luther King said: "So let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, let freedom ring. But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. And when this happens, when we let it ring, we will speed that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last/Thank God Almighty, we're free at last." http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/mlk/9.html This is a sentiment that almost everyone desires, but people disagree on the means of obtaining freedom. The Judaizers in Galatia called Christians to return to a way of life under the covenant of Law after they had Christ fulfill that covenant, thereby abandoning the freedom that Christ secured for believers. There is a bondage to law and a bondage to sin—both of which are spoken of in terms of ‘flesh’. Christ sets us free from both, by his cross and by his Spirit. Paul is now moving into dealing primarily with how Christians should live.(Barnes, P. (2006). A Study Commentary on Galatians (p. 221). Darlington, England; Webster, New York: Evangelical Press.) People define freedom in several ways, some see it in political terms, social, psychological or personal: being left alone by others and not having other people’s values, ideas or styles of life forced upon them. If any of these become the methods of defining freedom, they result in bondage: Bondage to a political system, group or sinful licentiousness. True freedom is liberation from the sins that so easily ensnare us. Jesus Christ is the true liberator and conversion is the act of emancipation to the Christian life of freedom: Freedom from the shackles of sin (Gal. 3:22), works righteousness from the law (Gal. 3:23) and satanic dominion (Gal. 4:3). Christianity not only represents freedom from something, it results in freedom to something: Eternal life, power, protection and hope. The last verse of Galatians 4 (Gal. 4:31) describes the believer's position-Freedom. This first verse of chapter 5 refers to the believer’s practice-The believer should live as someone who is free. Paul had just finished explaining that the Galatians were not children of Hagar, the slave woman, but sons and daughters of Sarah, born again free by the promise of God. Now that they needed to do was to live free in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Philip Graham Ryken. Galatians: Reformed Expository Commentary. P&R Press. 2005. p. 192). Galatians 5:1-6 begins the third, and final section of the letter. After defending his apostleship (chaps. 1-2) and his message of justification by faith (chaps. 3-4), Paul now applies that doctrine to practical Christian living (chaps. 5-6), emphasizing that right doctrine should result in right living (ethics). His subject is that sanctification that should result from justification. The life of genuine faith is more than the belief in divine truth; it is also the bearing of divine fruit. In Galatians 5:1-6, we see Liberty 1) Defined (Galatians 5:1) 2) Defended (Galatians 5:2-4) and 3) Described (Galatians 5:5-6) To live a life free in Christ we must have: 1) Liberty Defined (Galatians 5:1) Galatians 5:1 [5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (ESV) Throughout the scriptures, including here, the author often links facts with appropriate actions. They link an indicative (what God has done) followed by an imperative (what we should do in response). Since Christ has set us free, from Jewish ceremonial laws and regulations (cf. Gal. 2:11–12) but not from obedience to God’s moral standards (Gal. 5:14–6:1) we must stand firm in that freedom. This freedom, as the whole Epistle and this context make plain, is not primarily a freedom from sin, but rather from the law (as a means of salvation) (Stott, J. R. W. (1986). The message of Galatians: Only one way (p. 132). Leicester, England; Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.). Please turn to Romans 6 In light of what Paul has been saying throughout the letter, he also here implies a disturbing question: "Why, then, do some of you want to go back to being like Ishmael, who was a slave, an outcast, and separated from God?" It makes no sense at all. Paul exclaimed to the Roman church: Romans 6:17-19 [17] But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, [18]and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. [19]I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (ESV) Paul says emphatically that God's stated purpose for redemption was for freedom of the believer. As we have seen, Christ set us free from 1) The Curse of the law (Rom. 3:20), 2) The Curse of Adam (Rom. 5:12), 3) Spiritual death (Eph. 2:1-6), 4) the Fear of Death (Heb. 2:14-15) 5) From Condemnation (2 Cor. 5:21), 6) The Power of Sin (Ro,. 6:17-18) and 7) The Authority of Satan (Col. 1:13) God here in Galatians 5:1 calls Christians to stand firm in their liberty (cf. 1 Cor. 16:13; Phil. 1:27; 4:1; 1 Thes. 3:8; 2 Thes. 2:15). Stand firm/fast is a term borrowed from the battlefield (1 Cor. 16:13). Implicit in this warning and command (for it is a PRESENT IMPERATIVE) is the fact that our freedoms in Christ are constantly under attack. Freedom has an enemy. His name is Legalism, and he’s a tyrant who would love nothing better than to have you bend your neck to his enslaving yoke. What is legalism? A simple definition would be this: Legalism is treating that which is good as though it were essential. Whenever Christians turn something valuable into something ultimate, legalism is at work and freedom is forfeited.( Wilson, T. (2013). Galatians: Gospel-Rooted Living. (R. K. Hughes, Ed.) (p. 171). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.) Paul’s response to this threat is for believers to: “Stand Firm is the positive, "do not submit/be subject again (lit., "do not subject yourselves") “to a yoke of slavery”. Although bother are PRESENT IMPERATIVES; do not submit/be subject again has the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which means to stop an act which is already in process (Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians (Vol. Volume 11, p. 54). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.). Paul bluntly points out that the ordinances of the law as demanded by the Judaizers constitute a slave’s yoke, so that he uses the word in the bad sense of an imposed burden, like slavery. Like an animal loosed from pulling a plow, we should not seek to be hooked up again. (cf. Acts 15:10; 1 Tim. 6:1). (Fung, R. Y. K. (1988). The Epistle to the Galatians (p. 217). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) • One of the purposes of incarceration, besides punishment, is to be a deterrent to commit further crimes, lest the newly freed person be convicted of a new crime and be sent back. One of the greatest tragedies is for someone who cannot adjust to life outside of bars committing a new crime with the desire to return to the only life they know behind bars. • Christ redeems people from sin in order that they not fall back into old patterns of sin. Christ talks about a very different kind of service: Matt 11:29-30 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV) Illustration: Imagine a prisoner who is suddenly surprised to find out that he has been pardoned and set free. He did nothing to accomplish this. He was not even aware that it had happened. But there he stands outside the prison walls, a free man. Now it is his responsibility to live as a free man. Charles Wesley captures the Christian experience of this liberation in one of his great hymns: “Long my imprisoned spirit lay Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth, and followed thee” .( Charles Wesley: AND CAN IT BE THAT I SHOULD GAIN?) To live a life free in Christ we must have: 2) Liberty Defended (Galatians 5:2-4) Galatians 5:2-4 [2] Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. [3]I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. [4] You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. In the Galatian situation, circumcision to Paul was not a surgical operation, nor merely a religious observance. It represented a system of salvation by good works. It declared a gospel of human effort apart from divine grace. It was law supplanting grace; Moses supplanting Christ; for to add to Christ was to take from Christ. Christ supplemented was Christ supplanted; Christ is the only Savior—solitary and exclusive. Circumcision would mean excision from Christ. (Jack Hunter, What the Bible Teaches, Galatians – Philemon, p. 78.) Look: I, Paul, say to you undergirds the apostolic authority (cf. Gal. 1:1) by which Paul makes this serious assertion. He may also have been emphasizing his own Jewishness, indicating that he, Paul, a former Pharisee and "Hebrew of Hebrews" (Phil. 3:5), was obviously not speaking against trust in circumcision because of any personal or racial bias against Jews. Both as an apostle and as a circumcised and redeemed Jew, he declared that to receive circumcision, if you accept circumcision is in the present tense indicating, not one act, but a practice for the purpose of gaining merit before God was to make Christ … of no advantage/benefit The atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect and complete though it was, cannot benefit a person who trusts in anything else, because that something else, whether circumcision or any other human act or effort, then stands between him and Christ. (KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1994, S. 2395). • The reason people who have previously genuinely repented of sin and trusted Christ for salvation, most often doubt that salvation, is that they misunderstand the nature of Salvation. If the understanding of your salvation was based on a profession you made or action you took, then it is natural to think that perhaps you could be wrong or weak. But if the assurance of Salvation rests on the work of Christ alone, whose strength and promise cannot waver, then you can have eternal security of Salvation. Please turn to Romans 9 A person becomes acceptable to God only by placing their full trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, and after one is saved people persevere in living a life acceptable to God only by continuing to trust in Christ alone. Whether before or after conversion, trust in human works of any kind is a barrier between a person and Christ which results in unacceptable legalism. ‘A Christ supplemented is a Christ supplanted. (William Hendriksen, Galatians, p. 112..) Paul explained to Roman believers Romans 9:30-32 [30] What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; [31] but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. [32] Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, (ESV) • The Gentiles who were not seeking righteousness nevertheless found it when they believed in Jesus Christ, whereas the Jews who were zealously seeking righteousness did not attain it, because they were seeking it in themselves. The believing Gentiles gained Christ's righteousness, which is perfect, whereas the unbelieving Jews had only their self-righteousness, which was worthless. A second consequence mentioned in verse 3, of trusting in works (circumcision) for eternal life is that the person who does so obligates themselves to keep the whole law. To live by part of the law as a means of attaining righteousness demands living by all of it.James noted that: James 2:10 [10] For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (ESV) Legalism requires people to keep the whole law. People under law cannot accept the easy commandments and reject the others. With the situation in Galatians 5, if a person attempts to please God by being circumcised, then he is under obligation to keep the whole law. Thus, someone is either entirely under law, or not under law at all. Obviously, if one is entirely under law, Christ is valueless to this person. The Lord Jesus is not only a complete Savior, but also an exclusive one. Paul is not referring in this verse to any who might have been circumcised in the past, but only to those who might undergo this rite as a necessity for complete justification, to those who assert the obligations of law-keeping for their acceptance with God Because God’s standard is perfect righteousness, fulfillment of' only part of the law fails short of His standard. Hypothetically, even if a person were somehow able to keep all of the law for all of his life, if he broke a commandment during his last minute on earth, he would forfeit salvation. (MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Ga 5:3). Paul stated previously: Galatians 3:10 [10] For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." (ESV) In Deuteronomy 27, Moses gave a sample of 12 curses culminating with Deuteronomy 27:26, which Paul quotes here in Galatians 5:3 Deuteronomy 27:26 [26]"'Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.' (ESV) • Because God's standard was so obviously impossible to attain, that truth quoted from Deuteronomy 27:26 should have driven every Jew to seek His mercy. Illustration: People often think that works they do that they think are righteous are going to outweigh any faults they do? Imagine a motorist driving down a city street and deliberately driving through a red light. He is pulled over by a police officer who asks to see his driver’s license. Immediately the driver begins to defend himself. “Officer, I know I ran that red light—but I have never robbed anybody. I’ve never committed adultery. I’ve never cheated on my income tax.” The police officer smiles as he writes out the ticket, because he knows that no amount of obedience can make up for one act of disobedience. It is one Law, and the same Law that protects the obedient person punishes the offender. To boast about keeping part of the Law while at the same time breaking another part is to confess that I am worthy of punishment (Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Ga 5) A third consequence in verse 4, of seeking to be justified by circumcision or any other form of the law, is that it causes a person to become severed from Christ and thereby become fallen from grace. Severed is from katargeo, which, when followed by the preposition, means to be separated or loosed from (cf. Rom. 7:2, 6). Link this in with circumcision: Circumcision involved cutting off the male foreskin. In the old covenant, this was a way of saying that a Jew was separated from the world. But it was also a way of saying that if he ever rejected God, he himself would be cut off from God’s people. Since Christ fulfilled the works of the Law, for the Galatians to go back to a relationship with God through Old Covenant ceremonies and symbols, they were cutting themselves off from the work of Christ The result would be as Paul describes her in Galatians as Fallen, is from ekpipto, which means to lose one's grasp on something. Simply stated, a person cannot live by both law and grace. To attempt to be justified by law is to reject the way of grace. ((Philip Graham Ryken. Galatians: Reformed Expository Commentary. P&R Press. 2005. p. 201). Paul is not dealing with the security of the believer but with the contrasting ways of grace and law, works and faith, as means of salvation. He is not teaching that a person who has once been justified can lose their righteous standing before God and become lost again by being circumcised or otherwise legalistic. The Bible knows nothing of becoming unjustified. The working of salvation is promised and accomplished through the work of God: Romans 8:30 [30]And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV) Paul's primary point in this passage, as throughout the letter, is that law and grace cannot be mixed. As a means to salvation they are totally incompatible and mutually exclusive. To mix law with grace is to obliterate grace. To try to work to earn God’s favor, it is like the men at Babel who were “building a tower to reach heaven” (Gen 11:1–9). Although they did not know it, what they were doing could not be successfully done. And worse, their attempt to do it was the ultimate insult to God. (Boles, K. L. (1993). Galatians & Ephesians (Ga 5:4). Joplin, MO: College Press.) To try to work to earn God’s favor, it is like the men at Babel who were “building a tower to reach heaven” (Gen 11:1–9). Although they did not know it, what they were doing could not be successfully done. And worse, their attempt to do it was the ultimate insult to God. Illustration: When the Judaizers told the Galatians that they had to get circumcised to become good Christians, they were adding the law to the gospel. They were saying that Moses had to finish what Christ could only begin. To illustrate the problem with this kind of theology, consider the man who had an old baseball autographed by Babe Ruth. The man had heard that the ball might be valuable, so one day he decided to sell it. He was worried, however, because he could see that the signature was badly faded. In order to make it clearer, he took out his baseball and carefully traced over the letters with a marking pen: B-A-B-E R-U-T-H. The effect was to obliterate the real autograph, so that by the time he was finished, he had turned something priceless into something worthless. It is the same with Jesus Christ. His finished work cannot be added to lest it be received as useless. (Philip Graham Ryken. Galatians: Reformed Expository Commentary. P&R Press. 2005. p. 199). Finally, to live a life free in Christ we must have: 3) Liberty Described (Galatians 5:5-6) Galatians 5:5-6 [5] For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. [6] For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (ESV) Here, the apostle shows that the hope of the true believer is far different from that of the legalist. The Christian eagerly waits for the hope of righteousness. This is the hope for the time when the Lord will come, when believers will receive a glorified body, and will sin no more (Rom. 8:18, 21). Notice that it does not say that the Christian hopes for righteousness; for a believer already has a right standing before God through the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). A believer eagerly waits for the moment when he or she will be completely righteous in themselves. This is not a hope to achieve this by anything that he or she can do, but rather through the Spirit and by faith. The Holy Spirit is going to do it all, and the believer simply looks to God in faith to bring it to pass. The legalist, on the other hand, hopes to earn righteousness by their own works, law-keeping, or religious observances. It is a vain hope, because righteousness cannot be achieved in this way Notice that Paul uses the pronoun we in this verse, referring to true Christians, whereas in verse 4 he uses the pronoun “you” when speaking to those who seek justification by works of law. (MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Ga 5:5) Finally, in Galatians 5:6, Paul mentions three characteristics of the godly life, the life that continues to live by the grace through which salvation was received. First of all, it is a life lived through the Spirit rather than the flesh. Second, it is a life lived by faith rather than works. And Third, it is a life lived in patient waiting and hope rather than in the anxious uncertainty of bondage to the law. Nothing that is either done or not done in the flesh, not even religious ceremony, makes any difference in one's relationship to God. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. In terms of standing with God, the outward is totally unimportant and worthless, except as it genuinely reflects inner righteousness. Life in the Spirit is not static and inactive, but it is faith working through love, not the flesh working through self-effort. Please turn to Colossians 1 Believers are "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). But their working is the product of their faith, not a substitute for it. They do not work for righteousness but out of righteousness, through the motivating power of love. As faith is shown in love, believers are called to: Colossians 1:10-11 [10] so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. [11] May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, (ESV) Love needs neither the prescriptions nor the proscriptions of the law, because its very nature is to fulfill the law's demands (cf. Rom. 13:8). • A person does not, for instance, steal from or lie to someone he truly loves. He certainly does not kill someone he loves. Illustration: The story is told of an aspiring artist who was commissioned to do a large sculpture for a famous museum. At last he had the opportunity to create the masterpiece he had long dreamed of. After laboring over the work for many years, he saw it grow not only in shape but in beauty. But when it was finished he discovered to his horror that it was much too large to be taken out a window or door and that the cost for tearing down part of the building in order to remove it was prohibitive. His masterpiece was forever a captive to the room in which it was created. That is the fate of all human religion. Nothing a person does to earn God's favor can leave the room of this earth where self-made works are created. The person who lives by faith works under the internal compulsion of love and does not need the outward compulsion of law. (Format note: Outline and some base commentary from MacArthur, J. (1996, c1987). Galatians. Includes indexes. (131). Chicago: Moody Press.)
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