“Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1 NIV).
Would it surprise us to find that the Apostle Paul’s statement from nearly 2,000 years ago was an emancipation declaration that changed the lives of not only his first century readers, but broke the chains of addiction, servitude, and bondage of untold numbers of readers since then? Is Paul trivializing the magnitude of pain and suffering holding us today? Or, are we reading these statements of Scripture with a hardness of heart and unbelief befitting those further away from the first coming of Christ and nearer still to the second coming of Christ? “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NIV). Is the diabolical genius of the wicked one, simply to desensitize us to the plain meaning of the words of God, hardening us from receiving their simple truth, and barring the work of the Holy Spirit from allowing His straightforward message from having its clearly stated fulfillment in our lives? “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (Matthew 13:19 NIV). If you have the slightest inclination to seek understanding of what the Scripture is saying to you, then the Holy Spirit is still striving to teach you. “2 Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — 3 indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:2-6 NIV).
Q: What is the Holy Spirit striving to teach us about our liberty in Christ?
A: We have been set free from trying to be saved by our successfulness in keeping a set of rules in order to get to Heaven. “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” (Galatians 5:1 NIV).
Q: So, we can do as we like, and we’ll still go to Heaven?
A: No. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV).
Q: Then, what does Paul mean by his words surrounding the statement, “Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1)?
A: Christ did not set us free from obedience to God, but from basing our acceptance with God upon our obedience. The law is the Old Testament (OT) set of rules that Israel covenanted with God to observe. “The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it [merely] says, The person who does these things will live by them” (Galatians 3:12 NIV).
Q: Did God bless Israel for keeping His law?
A: Yes. “Walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:16 NIV).
Q: How then did the LORD save in both the OT and NT?
A: The LORD has always saved by faith, just as He did with father Abraham. “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 NIV, Romans 4:3).
Q: What purpose then was the OT Law?
A: It served as a guardian and guide to direct how we should behave, but it did not justify anyone. “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24 NIV).
Q: Why would God go through so much time and trouble to establish the Law, teach it to a Nation, and devote 2/3 of the entire Bible to a covenant — the Old Testament or Old Covenant — for the purpose of keeping that Law?
A: God knew it would be necessary to make the proper impression upon all of human history, who would be asking this question, “What is the purpose of the Law?” Law demands compliance, but heartfelt agreement is necessary for the compliance not to be forced. Christ has bridged this gap by drawing us into hearty agreement through the highest expression of love by laying down His life for us. “13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command” (John 15:13-14 NIV). And so, “we love because He first loved us” (1John 4:19 NIV), and we trust Him because, well, we love Him! “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6 KJV).
Q: If love, trust, and obey really describes the simple nature of our relationship to God, why is the Church not more successful with its own sanctification or with the evangelism of the ends of the earth?
A: We, as the Professed Church, have not successfully enough understood just how true Christ In Us — “in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 5:6 NIV) — is the all important answer to all questions about life. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV).
Q: Christ Is the Answer is a truth admitted by the Church ever since Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 NIV), but how will that statement resolve all the important questions about life?
A: What we do, based upon our appreciation and understanding of the simple truth of Christ In Us, is the point. The process of our appreciation and understanding of Christ In Us, is the leading of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit ordered the events of Creation, directed the OT Patriarchs, established the Nation of Israel, brought the Messiah into the world, resurrected Christ from the dead, established the NT Church, and continues to direct the Church until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).
Q; How does God lead His people?
A: Suggestions about God directing His people:
First, God cares for His children because He loves us, and we trust Him. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all — how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV).
Second, God provides us “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 NIV), which is His Inspired and Infallible Word, as well as Christ the Living Word (John 1:1), for our continual sustenance.
Third, the Father has given us the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NIV) to His Church, when we were “baptized into Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:3 NIV), who is more than an equalizer for any situation.
Fourth, God intends for us to be in a constant state of communion with Him, so we, as it were, “pray continually” (1Thessalonians 5:17 NIV) about “every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).
Fifth, trust God’s providential ordering of our circumstances as His leading for us. Knowing nothing happens by accident, prayerfully conduct ourselves as Abraham’s trusted servant did, when seeking a bride for Isaac. “And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of His mercy and His truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (Genesis 24:27 KJV).
Sixth, receive every command of Scripture as a promise of God empowering you to keep His commands. “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13 NIV). “This is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome” (1John 5:3 NIV).
Seventh, receive every promise of Scripture as God’s way to make us more like Christ. “3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2Peter 1:3-4 NIV).
To summarize, with our Liberty in Christ, we are to justify God in all that we do, knowing He only “justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26 NIV).
For a further discussion of the limits of our Christian Liberty, see Christian Liberty – Part 2