Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Vision (2.20.14): Stand fast in liberty

Note:  We returned to our Galatians series last Sunday, as I preached on Galatians 5:1-6.  Galatians has been called the “Magna Carta” of Christian liberty.  Here are some of my notes from the exposition of Galatians 5:1:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

Notice first that Paul is offering an exhortation to stand fast.  The Galatians have already proven that they were capable of slippage (cf. Gal 1:6:  “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel”).  Now, he exhorts them to hold their ground.  He wants them to be spiritually rooted and grounded.  Grounded in what?  In liberty (eleutheria:  freedom).  We need to be careful here, because our democratic, egalitarian culture can cause us to misunderstand Paul’s sense. 

Paul was not speaking here about political liberty.

He was not talking about psychological or emotional liberty.

He was not talking about libertinism or spiritual anarchy—nobody can tell me what I ought to think or believe.

He was talking about the ultimate spiritual liberty that comes through the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is what he means when he speaks of this liberty “wherewith Christ has made us free.”  What is the emphasis upon?  It is upon the work of Christ.  He is the Liberator.

The language here is that of the slave-market (cf.  1 Corinthians 7:21:  “Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free [eleutheros], use it rather.”).  Christ has ransomed you who used to be slaves to sin and who were also slaves to the burden of works righteousness.

So, Paul exhorts the Galatians to stand fast in liberty, “and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [douleia]” (v. 1).  Notice the continuation of the slavery metaphor.  You have been liberated.  Why would you go back to bondage?

There is a popular film based on the Solomon Northup book Twelve Years a Slave.  It is about a free black man who was illegally sold into slavery where he suffered for 12 years till he escaped and won again his freedom.  How would it be in the book or film if after gaining back his freedom this man had given up his liberty and returned to his suffering enslavement?  That would be nonsensical would it not?  But this is what Paul is saying that the Galatians had done by abandoning the gospel and going back to the beggarly “Christ plus” religion.  Paul is wanting to make them come to their senses.  To think clearly and soberly.  To stand fast in liberty.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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