Liberty

     Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia because he was extremely concerned about their future. Indeed he said “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). When we read the letter it becomes clear that the specific challenge before these people was the temptation to leave the Christian faith and return to the Law of Moses. This would be spiritually disastrous, so much so that Paul said that whoever promulgates such a thing should be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).

     This is surely the purpose of the letter. Yet we can learn from the principles revealed in Galatians even though we are not at that same spiritual interface of Judaism and Christianity. In a sense we are all at our own spiritual interface. Each one of us is coming from somewhere and going somewhere spiritually. That is to say we are all in the process of growing stronger or weaker in terms of how we are growing in the faith and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). Since this is the case the principles Paul revealed for the Galatians to help them with their struggle can certainly help us in ours.

     The Letter to the Galatians is structured like much of Paul’s writing. There is an initial section where the principles involved are developed and presented followed by a practical section where an application of these principles is found. In Galatians the first four chapters are the principles and the last two are the application.

     It seems to me that Paul makes it very clear that he is calling for action on the part of the Galatian Christians beginning with 5:1. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free. And do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Here we have the word “therefore” which is always a signpost in any sermonic writing and frequently so with Paul. As we have noted, the specific “yoke of bondage” he had in mind was the mutilated form of the Law of Moses specific to the experience of the Jewish Christians of Galatia. This comes clear as a bell from reading Galatians 5:2-6. To go back to the Mosaic covenant in any form would result in a falling from grace.

     What about us? By “us” I mean Christians, today, right now. We all came from something other than being a Christian. Many were raised around the church and thus have the advantage of familiarity and the example of the faith of family members. The journey from “not a Christian” to being a Christian may seem to some in that situation to be a natural and perhaps easy thing. But such a journey is not without its challenges. If our faith is not really our own we may fall to the temptation of leaving the liberty we have in Christ for the siren call of the pleasures of the world (1 John 2:15-17).

     For too many young people who have come up going to church regularly the exposure to the world and all of its niceties can be overwhelming. The world places primary emphasis on material things such as money, beauty and accomplishment. It is easy to get caught up in these allurements. “Entangled” is indeed a good word. Such Christians attempt to justify their compromise with the world, perhaps even fooling themselves. But rejection of Christ is tragic no matter what the cause.

     For those of us who have come from the world to Christ as adults the matter is more clearly drawn. By coming to Christ we have escaped the condemnation that inevitably results from a life given to self, pride and sin. It is easy, however, to feel the pull of a previous life. Old friends, old habits, and old comforts can look good to us, particularly as we go through rough patches in life. But we must not give in.

     We celebrate our Declaration of Independence on July 4. It is still mighty good to be a citizen of this country. But to be a citizen in Christ’s kingdom is better still. That is a liberty we must continue to cherish.