“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1)
Paul is contrasting true freedom in Christ and being a slave. This means we need to be very clear on what this freedom is. This thought troubled me this week. You see I am not a person that just settles for surface level answers that resemble Christianity-isms. This is a blessing at times and a curse at times. It causes me to lose sleep and to consume a whole bunch of mental energy. You see what was troubling me was how we talk about freedom in Christ and how it naturally leads us to an anti-law position. We say that freedom in Christ has makes us free from God’s law. This statement in one sense is true, but it is wildly misleading. The application most make is that this means I am free in Christ to then do whatever I want. Clearly, the testimony of the Scripture rejects this position. We end up talking in circles when we don’t properly define what it means to be free in Christ.
As I was praying through this and thinking through this it became clear to me that there is a better way to biblically communicate what it means to be free in Christ. Through faith we are free in Christ and we are granted the ability to be self governing in our lives. We now have the ability to make choices that either honor God or dishonor God. The essence of true freedom is self governance. Without the gospel we have no ability to be self governing.
"The essence of true freedom is self governance. Without the gospel we have no ability to be self governing."
Slaves to Sin
You see without faith all people are enslaved to sin. Paul talks about this slavery in writing to the church at Rome, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (Rom. 6:20). You see the unbeliever is unable to be self governing, as they are a slave. A slave cannot be self governing. A slave has a master over them who claims ownership over their life, liberty, and property, thus preventing a person from being self governing. A slave works day in and day out and never sees a personal reward for his effort. So, to the unbeliever they can work and work but no personal reward will ever be gained as they are still a slave. They are still in bondage. They are not free. The unbeliever is a slave to sin. Just recently my wife and I watched a movie about Ray Kroc. We have always been admirers of the system that was created by him. Watching the movie was very troubling though. You see most people would say that he was a self governing person as he built such a large business. In reality the movie proved that he was a slave. The love of money was his god and as a slave he could not control his temper, his manipulation, his fidelity, or his drinking. He was in bondage. He was not free.
The Pathway to Self Governance
The pathway to self governance is only found in the gospel. The essence of the gospel as Paul has been contending for is that the just shall live by faith. We are celebrating 500 years of the reformation which set forth one of the Sola’s of the reformation: Sola Fide, which means faith alone. You cannot add to this. Faith plus anything is a false gospel.
"Faith plus anything is a false gospel."
Since, the Bible clearly spells out that faith is a gift, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9) then that means that in order to obtain faith regeneration is needed. Man is not only a slave to sin, but is found dead in those trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Man must be made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit before he can receive the gift of faith. He must be changed at the core. He must be made new. When this does take place only then can he receive the gift of faith, otherwise he will choose to simply remain in slavery. Man must be born again, which is a work of the Holy Spirit by grace alone.
Why Would You Give Up This Freedom
Paul is so troubled. His question is why would you give up this freedom that you now have which was given to you as a gift. Why would you trade that back in for slavery? If you accept this circumcision that is exactly what you are doing. You are asking for the chains to be put back on you. The only difference is that you have a different slave master. Christ is everything or Christ is nothing. If you submit to this circumcision then Christ is of not advantage. He is nothing. Circumcision and the law that comes with it is everything. You have fallen from grace then. Don’t give up this freedom. My friends, we must be careful to never give up this freedom to be self governing to any religion based on externalism.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.