In Galatians 5:1 Paul wrote: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Another way to say that is “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.”
Paul was writing to the Galatians because some other preacher types had come along teaching a different “message” about Christ. Essentially these other preachers were telling the Christians their new found faith was a “religion” still based upon living under the law i.e., how good a person you could be living by all the rules.
This is something we all struggle with in life. Many of us are driven by the need to “do everything right.” We take great pleasure in following the rules, being good…enough, so that we can feel in right standing with God. In other words, we want God to be proud of how good a Christian we can be. Most of us grew up wanting to please our parents. Same thing, we want to please God.
There are a few important things that we learn from this verse. First, God’s heart for us in salvation is “true freedom.” In other words, God isn’t some cosmic killjoy trying to cheapen our lives, but quite to the contrary. God’s concern for those who love His Son Jesus is their joy, freedom and experience of the abundant life.
Second, to NOT find this “freedom” in Christ leads to a life of bondage, a “yoke of slavery.” And finally, if we’re going to experience the kind of freedom that God has purchased for us in Jesus we have a role to play, namely, we must “stand firm.”
While salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, our experience of this freedom is contingent upon fighting those things that lead to bondage: false gospels, false saviors and everything in this world that parades under the banner of “freedom” but in actuality places us firmly in the grips of a “yoke of slavery.”
Of course, we may be free to do as we choose, but we cannot be foolish enough to believe we can choose the consequences of our actions. When we function in life under this type of “freedom” without the thought of consequences…this leads to death. One modern sage has quipped: “it’s true that man has freedom of choice, but man is not free to choose the consequences of the free choices.”
There are “natural” laws that govern all aspects of life. If you have a poor diet then it will adversely affect your health. If you treat people in anger it will damage your relationships. If you dump toxic waste into a river it will destroy the environment. This is true of every aspect of life. Thus we see freedom of choice and not freedom of consequences. The same is true when it comes to our spiritual lives. God clearly tells us that the pathway to freedom and joy is through the gospel, and in no uncertain terms, He communicates that there is only one gospel that leads to life.
The heart of the gospel is that it deals with the chief problem of all men, women and children without exception. Namely, we are out of a “right” relationship with God, our Creator and Redeemer, and in order to experience the life that we were created for we need to get connected to God. We need to be made “right” with God.
Unless we’re in a right relationship with God we cannot ultimately be rightly related to anything else, including ourselves. And, it’s only the Gospel of Jesus Christ that gives us access to this freedom. The point: you have the freedom to mess up. You have the freedom to fail. This is not the same as freedom to live like you want without any concern for the consequences. Elbert Hubbard said: “”A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in the experience.”
In our text we find Paul calling out those people who were telling the church in Galatia that in order to be right with God, they had to really toe the line on a whole set of rules. Paul said no; we are right with God by virtue of living in relationship with Him, accepting the gift of life and forgiveness He gives in Christ.
Truman Capote said: “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” Let me say that Grace is the condiment that gives life is flavor. You have the freedom to fail. “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.”