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For freedom Christ has set us free

Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 in discipleship, scripture, service | 27 comments

For freedom Christ has set us free

Yes, it’s Independence Day in the United States of America. But, I’m not writing about our political independence from Great Britain. Instead, like many Christians, I’m writing about our freedom in Christ.

But, my take on this freedom we have in Christ may be a little different. You see, according to Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, Jesus has set us free from our slavery to sin and the law so that we now have the freedom to make ourselves slaves to one another.

That’s right… we are now free for ourselves; we are now free to become slaves.

There are two key verses in the last chapter of Galatians:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:14 ESV)

Between these two verses, Paul explains that those who are in Christ are no longer slaves to the law and sin. Christ has freed them. And, just as they trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation, he exhorts them to continue to live by “faith working through love” – not through any kind of law-keeping. Paul is concerned that someone is telling the Galatian believers that they must continue to keep the law to remain in God’s good graces, and he reminds them that this teaching does not come from him.

But, on each side of verses 2-13, there seems to be contradictory statement.

First, in Galatians 5:1, Paul tells his readers that since they are free in Christ, they should never again submit to a yoke of slavery. Then, just a few sentences later in Galatians 5:14, he tells them to use their freedom to serve one another through love. Interestingly, the verb “serve” in Galatians 5:14 is the verb form of the noun slave (which Paul condemned in Galatians 5:1).

So, which is it Paul? Do we never submit to a yoke of slavery? Or do we make ourselves slaves to others? The answer is, “Yes.”

When Paul wrote, “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” context tells us that he was talking specifically about the law and the false hope that is found in trying to keep the law in order to be right with God. He goes on to say that the real hope of righteousness in found in the Holy Spirit by faith. (Galatians 5:5)

However, while we are free – and should never again make ourselves slaves to the law or sin – we are not freed for ourselves or to fulfill our own desires. We are free to make ourselves slaves of other people. And, again, the context tells us exactly what Paul means by “serve one another” (i.e., make ourselves slaves of one another):

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14 ESV)

When we serve one another, we are demonstrating God’s love to one another, and thus keeping the Great Commandment (as Jesus might say) or fulfilling the Royal Law (as James might say).

So, yes, yes, yes, we are free indeed… For freedom Christ has set us free. What kind of freedom is it? Freedom to make ourselves slaves to others so that we can demonstrate that we love others more than we love ourselves… which is the best demonstration of our love for God. (For a parallel to this freedom and slavery analogy, see Romans 6:15-23.)


27 Comments

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  1. 7-4-2013

    My dear father , Mr. Knox , please allow me to enter into a conversation with you about THE LAW , by asking you some few question ; you can also ask me some questions since its a conversation. I am doing this so I get to understand GOD’S WILL for man. I believe that the Laws of God are misunderstood by a larger part of Christendom.
    1. Mr. Knox can you tell me the author of THE LAWS ?

  2. 7-4-2013

    “Do we never submit to a yoke of slavery? Or do we make ourselves slaves to others? The answer is, “Yes.”

    There you go, making us do all that exercise of judgment again. It’s so much easier if you will just make it “A OR B” instead of “A AND B”. Then we can pick sides, only do half, and fuss about those “wrong” people doing the other half.

    For Franklin: (from earlier in the same letter by Paul)

    Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

  3. 7-4-2013

    I don’t think we grasp this idea of freedom in Christ very well. Look around the Christian Web and it seems like site after site can’t stop talking about sin. Now part of this is because those of the Reformed/Calvinist ranks pretty much own the Christian Web, but still.

    If we are freed from the power of sin, how is it that some many of us are not freed from the power of accounting for sin? Yet sin management seems to own some people.

    To me, that’s trading one bondage for another. Sure, we need to test ourselves now and then, but “now and then,” not constantly. It’s as if we forget the agony of perpetual sin checks that drove a certain monk named Luther to commit the spiritual treason he did in starting the Reformation.

    We’re either free in Christ or we’re not. I’d love to see more Christians who lived as if they were truly free.

  4. 7-4-2013

    Mr. Knox your answer does not address my question…”who is the AUTHOR of THE LAW(S).
    Alright what is the difference between THE LAW and THE COMMANDMENTS.

    Dan , can you explain further our freedom in Christ? You sounded quite vague on that one. What does it take to be FREE in Christ?

  5. 7-4-2013

    The American gained his freedom through wars etc but STAYED FREE through the constitution, rule of law , sound instruments of governance etc, but what EXACTLY makes a Christian STAY FREE in Christ? Freedom from what?

  6. 7-4-2013

    Franklin,

    I haven’t replied to your question yet. I think you misunderstood someone else’s response as being from me.

    To answer your specific question: I believe that God gave the law.

    Now, here’s a more full answer: I believe that God gave the law to the Israelites as a nation for several reasons, including 1) to differentiate them from the other nations around them, 2) to show them the extent of their sin, and 3) to encourage them to trust God for righteousness instead of their own works.

    In Christ, we are free from bondage to sin and reliance on our own abilities to be righteous (which can never make us righteous. We becomes free and remain free in Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    -Alan

  7. 7-5-2013

    Dear Alan,

    A wholehearted Amen to this post!
    Yes, we are free to serve. God freed us from ourselves, from self-love, because our old man died on the cross in Christ. That’s a fact. But do we grasp the reality of this? Is it our own, or just “bible truth”?

    Why is it hard to serve? (We don’t even like the word servant or slave) Because when you are a servant you have to put the needs and benefit of your Master before your own, you are not the person who is in charge, you just lay down your life, and do what you are told.
    Can I put the needs of others (needs for encouragement, for love, for help, etc.) always before my own? Well… our Lord did so! And he poured out His love into our hearts – that’s encouraging, isn’t it?

    I think (and maybe I’m wrong) the difference is this: when we are under the slavery of sin, we cannot help it, like it or not we are born this way. And God liberated us from this bondage! But the “slavery of love” is voluntary. We have a choice to enter into this slavery or not.
    So yes, we are free (from the law and sin and ourselves) to choose to be slaves (to Christ and our brethren) – which would be the will of God in our life.

    With love in Christ,
    Eszter

  8. 7-5-2013

    Thanks Mr. Knox for your brilliant answer. Now from your three brilliant points I would ask you this; When Israel followed THE LAWS of God were they following their OWN works?

  9. 7-5-2013

    Sorry Mr. Knox I mistook brother Holcombe’s reply as coming from you.

    Now , brother Holcombe you gave a good quotation regarding the Law with respect to Jesus…”the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ , that we might be justified by faith”.
    So then my question is , if the law pointed or LED to Jesus, why did He LIVE the Law of God?

  10. 7-5-2013

    Eszter,

    I love your explanation of why it’s hard to serve other.

    Franklin,

    Keeping the law is not the point. No one can be righteous by trying to keep the law – which cannot be done. God told them that they would not be able to keep the law in the law itself. (Which means that from the beginning God wanted them to trust his grace, not their own ability to keep the law – because they had no ability to keep the law.)

    The question is this: were they keeping the law to make themselves righteous by their works (in keeping the law), or were they trusting God for their righteousness and keeping the law in response? See Romans 9:30-32 especially.

    -Alan

  11. 7-5-2013

    Franklin,

    I believe He lived the law because that was prior to His death. An example there is the leper He healed and told to go to the priest to be declared “clean”. That was Jesus asking the man to follow the law at that time (Leviticus 14) but for a purpose (and I think the best answer to your question from the Scripture):

    “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” Matthew 8

    Everything changed with Jesus’ death. The New Covenant. So these statements written after the testator has died and resurrected (all of Paul’s writings) are in that sense in a completely different context. That is why I pointed to Galatians 3. It is the best synopsis of this change that came to mind.

    Much of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is imploring them not to fall back under this keeping of the law, sacrifice of bulls and goats, circumcision in the flesh – because that is not the path to salvation. It is not a salvation earned by works, for God desired circumcision of the heart – even before Jesus was on earth in human form. Going through the motions of the Law – or most of it – was not enough. See Hophni & Phineas and God’s words to Eli, Saul, David, the prophecy of Micah for example.

    Is there wisdom in the law? Yes. Was it given by God? Yes. Is keeping much of it even profitable? Yes. But what was the great commandment named by our Lord when asked? Why did He expand the list to greatest and second greatest? And did He not say ALL the law AND prophets hang on those? Matthew 22

    Yet, we still cannot keep those two without the grace (strength) of God. I cannot keep the entire law. I fall short in one part, I violate all. I have given up. I have learned the lesson from my schoolmaster, and am ready to enter in to my Sabbath rest:

    “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

  12. 7-5-2013

    Hi Mr. Knox you said “keeping the law is NOT the point…..NO ONE can be righteous by trying to keep the law…..which cannot be done”. Does this mean Jesus did not LIVE THE LAW? This is what I wa, my elder.nt to know from you. Now if Jesus was not MADE RIGHTEOUS by living the law( you said “NO ONE” can be made righteous by the Law), what EXACTLY IS IT, that made the first begotten of God a righteous and Holy Lord?
    1. If Israel had “no ability” to live the law, as you suggested, then, why did God give it to them anyway, and even punished them when they left off living the Law?
    2. Elder Knox, what is the “Grace” of God and what does it LEAD to?

    Brother Holcombe,

    Truly my kinsman, you have raised issues that tempt me to pour out all that is in my heart concerning the LAWS OF GOD, but I would patiently wait till we get to that point, nevertheless let the following suffice for now.
    In Matthew 22:38-40, Jesus reveals that loving God with our ALL…..AND….loving our neighbour as ourselves are the issues upon which….HANG…..all the Law and the prophets. This suggests that the Lae and the prophets EXPLAIN/SUPPORT or SHOW how to…..1. Love God with our All and…..2. How to love our neighbour as ourselves.

    The point I am making here in this hallowed vineyard of Jesus is that, if we continue to espouse the belief that…..ALL OF GOD’S LAW……was abolished by His only begotten Son Jesus, then there is no way we can search for….HOW…..the law and the prophets teach the followers of Jesus to LOVE GOD with all and LOVE NEIGHBOUR as ourselves.
    Have we sat down to think WHY Jesus and the Apostles appeared to condemn and extol the virtues of the law in one breath? They LIVED the Law alright, but they rejected the mere fleshly forms of it i.e drink offerings, animal sacrifices, making shews of barley etc etc. Why , because this part of the Holy Laws of God were weak and cannot transport a man to heaven. Oh how those blessed goats, sheep and bullocks might have attained heaven……if they were ONLY humans. There are parts of the Laws of God which we CANNOT ignore and this part of the Law takes precedence over the OLDNESS OF THE LETTER OF THE LAW. Upon all that Paul and the Apostles and even Jesus Himself said of God’s Laws……THEY LIVED THE LAW…..and that part of the Law which they Lived (and there are passages to prove that) is the NEWNESS IN SPIRIT OF THE LAW. It is the newness in spirit of the laws of God which Jesus promised that…all would be fulfilled. When Jesus says that all the law must be fulfilled , He was not referring to the weak, fleshly part of the Law which He proved weak by His MORTAL DEATH on the cross.
    If the apostles Lived the newness in spirit of the Laws of God, why did they not introduce it to us GENTILES ? They TRIED, the Perfect On

  13. 7-5-2013

    Franklin,

    No, Jesus did not become righteous by keeping the law. Jesus was righteous, and his ability to keep the law was a result of that righteousness.

    You asked, “If Israel had “no ability” to live the law, as you suggested, then, why did God give it to them anyway, and even punished them when they left off living the Law?” I gave three answers to that question in a previous comment.

    The grace of God is his favor toward us in spite of our sinfulness. We do not deserve his favor because we are not righteous, and yet he gives us his favor and proclaims us to be righteous in Jesus Christ.

    -Alan

  14. 7-5-2013

    Sorry for the interruption brothers and sisters the screen of my phone seem bent on hiding my words as I type them.
    What I was saying was that the Apostles after Christ, TRIED to introduce the newness in spirit of the Laws of God to the Gentile converts but they soon realized that it was better they left it for the Perfect One to co me, to RETURN and complete this most difficult work. They therefore settled in their PROPER ROLE of preparing Gentile hearts towards the RETURN OF THE PERFECT ONE OR THE CHRIST , who was to re-appear AMONG THE GENTILES , even as He first Appeared among the Jews. This fact is as found in St. John 10:15-16…..emphasis on verse 16.

    Oh but I digressed. You see brethren, when Jesus said that all the laws must or should be fulfilled, he was referring to the Newness in Spirit of the Laws of God which He and the Apostles Lived, and for which He was later to return and teach the Gentiles , in order to bring them to the knowledge of Godliness as taught Him by the Father. This GREATER WORK of God would spread from the Gentile part of God’s world to the east…..BY GENTILES. The …..NEWNESS….OF THE LAWS OF GOD among men…..IS GOD.

  15. 7-5-2013

    Franklin,

    I’m trying to connect your comment back to this post, and I don’t understand how it applies. This post was about Paul writing that we are now free from the law and sin. That freedom, though, is a freedom to now serve others without consideration for ourselves.

    I agree that “God with us” – actually “God in us” – is the new life in Christ. But, that’s not really what this post is about. If I misunderstood you, please help me understand what you’re saying.

    -Alan

  16. 7-5-2013

    Dear Alan , the basis of my concern is upon the fact that the majority of Christendom submit to the impression that THE LAW = SIN…..but I am saying that if THE LAW = SIN , why did Jesus and the Apostles LIVE THE LAW? By LIVING THE LAW , were Jesus and the Apostles…..LIVING IN SIN ? Did the Son of God…..LIVE IN SIN ( LAW)?

  17. 7-5-2013

    Franklin,

    Like Alan, I am having a hard time understanding your approach here. I do not believe the apostles had different teachings for Jews vs. Gentiles that Jesus will correct for us when he returns (if that is what you implied). They acknowledge in Acts 2 that the prophesy of Joel has come through evidence of the Holy Spirit – there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3 again).
    No question there was conflict between certain folks in the two groups. See Galatians again:

    “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”

    We also know of the meeting in Jerusalem accounted in Acts 15 where a letter to the Gentiles is written after counsel with the elders (old men) there because of actions of certain Pharisees. Peter said “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” The letter has a very short list of requests by the Jews. But it begins with this: “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:”

    Commanding them to keep the law was “subverting” their souls, but yet they ask them to keep some of the law:

    “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”

    Why these? Why are they “necessary”? This goes back to Jesus’ 2nd great commandment, yes?

    Our liberty cannot become three things:
    1) A stumbling block to them that are weak 1 Cor. 8:9
    2) A cloak for maliciousness 1 Peter 2:16
    3) An occasion for the flesh Gal. 5:13

    Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.

    The law is written upon our hearts. Whether we listen or sear our conscience is another matter.

  18. 7-5-2013

    Mr. Knox I find your definition for “Grace” quite spot on. You said……”The Grace of God is HIS FAVOUR towards us…..IN SPITE…..OF OUR SINFULNESS. We do not deserve His favour because we are not righteous, and yet He gives us His Favour and proclaims us to be RIGHTEOUS ……IN CHRIST.”

    Now , being “RIGHTEOUS IN CHRIST” means LIVING CHRIST, for the CHRIST-IN US empowers us to LIVE CHRIST through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore if we are declared righteous IN CHRIST, it does not mean we can continue LIVING THE OLD MAN…..and…….still be counted “RIGHTEOUS IN CHRIST”. This makes Grace a CONDUIT to REPENTANCE. Thus , the Grace of Jesus REVEALS what SIN IS , that we may follow Jesus through FAITH in His Father’s Commandments….this is Grace in its TRUEST ELEMENT OF SALVATION.

    Popular Christianity has turned Grace upside down . Grace FREES US FROM SIN , eventually…..if we accept Grace in the Spirit of TRUE REPENTANCE. Grace DOES NOT FREE US….TO SIN….OR…KEEP US….IN SIN, if we keep on living our OWN lives, we live OUTSIDE THE GRACE OF GOD, even though God proclaimed us RIGHTEOUS….IN CHRIST.

  19. 7-5-2013

    Franklin,

    I’m not sure that being “righteous in Christ” is the same as “living Christ.” Instead, I’d say that those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit are righteous in Christ, and they are the ones who are now empowered to live Christ.

    -Alan

  20. 7-5-2013

    Franklin,

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that “the law” = “sin.” In fact, doesn’t Paul specifically say that’s not the case? Instead, he says that the law makes sin more obvious.

    -Alan

  21. 7-6-2013

    All well and good Mr. Knox , you and I agree that being “Righteous in Christ” means “Living Jesus” through the Power of the Holy Spirit.

    Now back to the “main” question which I do not think either you or brother Holcombe has addressed ; DID JESUS LIVE THE LAW ?

    Brother Holcombe and Elder Knox, lets delve into this issue and see if we can come to any conclusion.

  22. 7-7-2013

    Franklin,

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you a question. Did Abraham keep the law? (Genesis 26:5) Did Abraham actually obey everything that God told him?

    -Alan

  23. 7-7-2013

    What a difficult question. Well I believe that THE LAW is God and so far as Abraham believed in God, he Lived the Law…..as was revealed in his particular belief of who God was in Abraham’s time.
    Elder Knox ?

  24. 7-12-2013

    Franklin,

    You said, “… so far as Abraham believed in God, he Lived the Law…” Exactly. As Scripture says, “Abraham believed in (had faith in) God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.”

    -Alan

  25. 10-3-2013

    Mr. Alan Knox, what….defined…..Abraham’s belief in God ?

  26. 10-4-2013

    Franklin,

    I don’t know what you mean by “what…. defined…..Abraham’s belief in God.” Abraham trusted God. He didn’t just “believe in” God. Many people believe in God, but that’s not the same as trusting God. (I think “trust” would be a better translation where the English often reads “believe.”)

    -Alan

  27. 4-4-2014

    Hi brother Knox , its been quite a while since we talked. Our last conversation was curtailed when you went for your annual ‘break’ last year( 2013), but I see you resumed and even penned some answers to my last question, so perhaps its only right that we continued our discussion.
    Now concerning Abraham’s “trust” in God, I wanted to know your thoughts on what separated Abraham from other men at the time- when it came to “trusting” God ? Did God call Abraham “His Friend” based on a mere verbal acknowledgement by Abraham that God existed ?