Freedom. It is an important word. It is something that we in the United States take for granted. After all, we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Our forefathers lived and fought and died so that we might be free. Every fourth of July we celebrate INDEPENDENCE DAY - a day in which we celebrate our freedom. We are called upon to remember the price for which that freedom was purchased and to resolve to preserve that freedom for the next generation.

It was on July 4th, 1776 that a group of men signed their names to the Declaration of Independence. By those signatures, they were declaring themselves to be free of what they considered to be the tyranny of England.

Paul's epistle to the Galatians gives such a declaration. It is the Christian's Declaration of Independence - his Magna Charta - his call to Freedom.



It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1).

Notice that for the Christian, freedom is an established fact. If you have come to Jesus Christ in faith, trusting in Him as your Lord and Savior, then you have been set free. This verse says three things:

1. Christ set you free.

This is what we call REDEMPTION. When you redeem something, you are purchasing it. The Bible says that you have been bought with a price. The purchase price was God's own Son. His life was given so that you might be purchased and set free.

Do you remember Barabbas? We don't know much about him, but what we know is all bad. He was a robber and a murderer. In the course of time he had been caught and sentenced to death. He was on death row awaiting his execution - death by crucifixion. And then, through an amazing twist of providence, he found himself released from prison and set free. Someone else had taken his place, being nailed to the very cross which had been destined for him.

You are Barabbas. You were destined for a cross, but a Galilean Rabbi took your place. You were under the sentence of death, but He took your death upon Himself and died in your place. He became your substitute. And then He set you free.

2. Christ set you free that you might BE free.

That is what the passage says: It was for freedom that Christ set us free. This brings up a question. From what have you been set free? What were the chains which bound you and from which Christ loosened you?

(1) The chains of your sin.

Sin is addictive. The Bible says not only that we have all sinned but that we all continue to increase in our sinfulness. Sometimes that sin becomes socially acceptable and sometimes we find creative methods of covering it up, but we are nevertheless bound by sin.

(2) The chains of guilt.

Guilt is not always a bad thing. There is both legitimate guild and illegitimate guilt.

Legitimate guilt is the thing that drives us to the throne. That is why we need to preach the Law. The Holy Spirit uses that to convict and to bring us to the throne of God. This is a legitimate use of guilt. But if we remain living in unresolved guilt, it will kill us.

The feelings of guilt are the same, no matter whether it is true or false guilt. The difference is that false guilt is not attached to a violation of God's Law.

There is a cycle that we naturally go through:

(1) You do something bad.

(2) You feel guilty.

(3) You get punished.

(4) You are set free.

Here is the point with regard to false guilt. If you did not do something bad to bring about the guilt, then you cannot be released from your guilt. These people feel guilty and punish themselves and feel more guilty and punish themselves some more and go round and round and never get any better. They bounce back and forth between #2 and #3 and cannot break out. If you don't have #1, then you cannot ever have #4.

The remedy for healthy guilt and for unhealthy guilt is the same. It is the gospel.

(3) The chains of the law.

Paul has already spent two chapters to show that you are free from the Law, not only for salvation, but for spirituality.

Now at this point, you might be thinking, "Wait a minute, John. Wasn't the Law given by God to show His people how they ought to live? I thought that the Law was a good thing. How can it be a bondage from which I need to be released?"

The truth is that the Law was given to stop people from sinning. This is always why laws are given. I am told that at Bob Jones University there is a rule which says that students are not permitted to fly a kite from the roof of the dormitory. How do you think that rule came about? It was because some student did exactly that!

Our jails are full of people who have broken laws. The effect of prison is to stop their continued law-breaking. A bank robber does not rob any banks while he is in prison. A car thief cannot steal any cars while he is making license plates in prison.

In the same way, the Law was like a prison. It was given to stop people from sinning. But now that you have been released from that prison, you are not to try to return to it.

  1. A Call to Stay Free.

If Christ set you free and He set you free that you might be free, do not become UNFREE - do not become subject again to a yoke of slavery.

We have a problem. It is the problem of the "good old days." Have you ever longed for the "good old days"? Our problem is that the good old days were never so good as you remember them now.

The Israelites had that problem in the wilderness. As soon as things started to get a little difficult, they began to long for the good old days of Egypt. After all, in Egypt there was good food and plenty of water - things you miss in the desert. It wasn't long before the Israelites were wondering whether it might not be better to return to Egypt.

They had forgotten. They had forgotten their slavery. They had forgotten the taskmaster's whip. They had forgotten their dreary toil. They had forgotten that they were a people under the sentence of death.

Don't you forget. You are sometimes tempted to go back to Egypt - to go back to a pagan lifestyle. You are tempted by the delights of the world. And you are tempted to forget about the slavery of that lifestyle. The world says, "Take a drink and forget!" The Lord says, "Come to My table, eat, drink and remember."



Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.

And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.

You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:2-4).

The Galatians were facing a danger to their freedom. It was a danger of going back to the Mosaic Law as a means of trying to approach God.

The number one issue was that of circumcision. This was more than a mere surgical operation to the Jews. Each newborn Jewish male was circumcised on the eighth day following his birth. This circumcision identified him as a child of Abraham and a keeper of the Law. A Gentile who converted to Judaism was also required to undergo this operation. It was only after he had been circumcised that a man was considered to be a keeper of the Law.

Paul had come to Galatia preaching the good news that Christ died and rose again and that He saves both Jew and Greek, both circumcised and uncircumcised.

The Galatians initially believed this message. They turned to Christ in faith. They trusted in Him as their Lord and Savior. But now a group of self-appointed law-keeping legalists have come to town. They see these Christians who have turned from their idols to serve the living God. And they say, "Hold it! You people can't really be Christians unless you are circumcised the way Jesus was circumcised." After all, Jesus was Jewish. All of His disciples were Jewish. Perhaps trusting in Christ is not enough.

The first church council had met in Jerusalem over this very issue. There had been those who maintained that you must be circumcised and keep all of the Mosaic Law in order to become a Christian. Paul says, "Not so!" Indeed, he points out that such a stance actually has the opposite effect of cutting you off from the benefits of Christ. If you are returning to these rituals as a means to please God...

Don't miss this! The only way that Christ will save you is if He is the only way. If you try to trust in Christ AND in something else, then Christ becomes of no effect. The theological term for this is sola fide - that is Latin for "faith alone."

Circumcision is a non-issue for most people today. But ask 9 out of 10 people how why they are going to heaven when they die, and out comes a list.

Those are not bad things. But it is possible to do ALL of those things and to still be lost. None of those things will save you. Only Christ can save you and the only thing that you can do is to trust in Him.



For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:5-6).

Notice that phrase: "The HOPE of righteousness." When you speak of HOPE, you are speaking of something that you do not yet realize. That is the difference between faith and hope. Faith looks to the past and to the present. Hope is merely faith in the future tense.

When you come to Christ, you TRUST in Him as your Lord and Savior. You BELIEVE that what He did upon the cross was sufficient to satisfy the just demands of God. And as you have FAITH in Him, you become the present possessor of eternal life.

But there is something else that you do not yet possess. It is the realization of righteousness. This is different than justification. Paul already said back in chapter 2 that we are not justified, that is, declared righteous, by the works of the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Justification is when you trust in Christ and the very righteousness of Jesus Christ is credited to your account. It is not that you BECOME righteous. Your salvation does not depend upon how good you can become. Rather, it is that the complete and total and infinite righteousness of the holy Son of God is reckoned to you. And on that basis, God makes a legally binding declaration about you. He declares you to be righteous with that same complete and total and infinite righteousness.

You have your justification as a present possession. But that is not the end of the story. And wondrous as is your justification, it is only the beginning. You also have a hope of righteousness. This is called "sanctification." It means that God not only makes some legal declarations ABOUT you, He also does a real work IN you.

So how do you get there from here? How do you tap into that "hope of righteousness"? I can see some of you getting ready to take notes on four points that you can write down and follow on "how to be holy." You are already thinking, "Okay, I can discipline myself to do these four things and I will become righteous." No! No! NO!

This illustrates our problem. It is that we are legalists at heart. We think to ourselves, "If I can just try a little harder and do a little better." But Paul offers quite a different approach. Notice what he calls you to do in verse 5.

a. Wait.

b. Through the Spirit.

c. By Faith.

Do you see it? Our Christian growth takes place in the same way in which our entrance into salvation took place. It is through faith and it is as HE works through you and in you.

Notice also in verse 6 that this faith works through love. Faith isn't much good by itself. In fact, you could have enough faith to go into the mountain-moving business and if love is lacking, you have absolutely nothing.

Jesus never said, "They will know that you are My disciples because you have the theologically correct ordo salutis." He said, "They will know that you are My disciples by your LOVE."



You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.

I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. (Galatians 5:7-10).

There is a battle going on. It is a battle of persuasions. It is a battle of the mind and a battle for your soul. And the temptation is that you might be hindered.

Verse 7 says that you are running a race. You would think that guilt makes you run faster. But it isn't so. Guilt actually hinders you from running the race. Laying a load of guilt is like putting a heavy yoke on someone.

Imagine the Olympic Races. The stands are filled with spectators. The runners are at the starting gate. And here is one runner who is carrying an 80 knapsack on his back. "What is that?" asks one of the judges. "That is all of my instruction manuals on how to be a good runner." Silly, isn't it? It is equally silly to try to run the Christian life while lugging around the burden of legalism.

Furthermore, it doesn't take a lot of legalism to weigh you down. That is what Paul means when he says in verse 9, A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. Leaven always speaks of influence. It can be a good influence or it can be a bad influence. The Law becomes a bad influence when you attempt to use it either for salvation or as a means to achieve spirituality through rule-keeping. At such a time it becomes pure poison.

Winston Churchill was noted for his exchanges with Lady Astor. During one heated argument, she quipped: "Winston, if I were your wife I'd put poison in your coffee." Winston replied, "Nancy, if I were your husband I'd drink it." Legalism is pure poison - and a little bit goes a long way.



But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. (Galatians 5:11-12).

People who are free will always be attacked by people who don't want anyone to be free. Legalism cannot stand freedom. That was one of the things that made the Pharisees so angry with Jesus. He was free to...

"But Jesus, don't you know that you are not portraying a good testimony by associating with such people?" I love His answer: "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matthew 9:13).

Paul uses some very strong language. He makes a play on words. It is like saying:

Why does he use such strong language? Because we are speaking of eternal realities with eternal consequences. And such things will evoke a passionate response.



For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:13-14).

Freedom means opportunity. That is why the United States has for so long been known as both a land of freedom and a land of opportunity. When you come to Christ, you find that a vista of opportunities open up to you.

But there is a warning in this. It is a warning that you do not use your freedom to make an opportunity for the flesh. That is one of the dangers to freedom. It is that you will try to utilize that freedom in the wrong way.

In the year 2000, I made my first trip to Moldova. This was a country and a people who had just recently found their freedom. Until 1991 they were a part of the USSR and were under the suppressive bondage of a communist regime.

But then they were free. And in their new found freedom, they found a pitfall. It was related to me how that the children under the old regime were afraid to misbehave in class because misbehavior could result in both you and your entire family being shipped off to Siberia.

But then they became free. There was no longer that threat of a repressive punishment. And with that threat also went an understanding of personal self-discipline. The children were no longer under a repressive law, but they had not learned that freedom brings with it a corresponding responsibility to utilize that freedom in a responsible way.

Here is the principle. Freedom doesn't mean no more responsibility. Freedom means a willingness to be a servant for Christ and for others. That is WHY you were made free. You have been set free to serve. But it is not a service of bondage. Rather it is a servitude of LOVE.

Elizabeth Elliot wrote a book entitled: "The Freedom of Obedience." She is a wonderful Christian, but she is wrong. There is no freedom in obedience. But there is obedience in freedom. The only way that people ultimately become obedient is by realizing that they are loved.

This is more than mere serving out of gratitude. There is nothing wrong with gratitude and we should be grateful to the Lord, but to serve only from gratitude can become burdensome. It can be taken to imply that we are repaying a debt of gratitude and we can never repay the cross.

Paula and I often go to the beach in our free time. We find it relaxing to sit and to read and to talk under a couple of palm trees by the ocean. On one such visit, I turned to her and I asked her, "Why do you love me?"

I knew what her answer would be even before she gave it. After nearly 27 years of marriage, that happens a lot. Do you know what she said? She mentioned a number of things, but she said, "The main reason I love you is because you love me."

That's Biblical! 1 John 4:19 says "we love because He first loved us." And when you really love someone, then service is not servitude, but a manifestation of that love in action.

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