Galatians 5: 1 – 12 Freedom in Christ
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.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is required to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offence of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
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Well, at last we have a straightforward passage!
Or do we?
This passage has changed my perception of Paul; in fact, it has turned it upside-down.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” In the context of this letter, it is clear that Paul means this absolutely literally. We are no longer required to observe the law; we have been given the Holy Spirit instead.
“For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” What God wants for us can’t be achieved by a ‘one size fits all’ set of rules. He wants us to learn to understand what we need to do by asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit. We are no longer slaves but God’s children, and therefore also his heirs. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
“For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” Our righteousness comes purely as a result of God’s gift of Jesus. As we await, by faith, this righteousness, we strive to do God’s will as it is revealed by the Holy Spirit. This does absolutely nothing to make us righteous; our righteousness comes purely from God’s grace. Our actions are our response to God’s love. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
I had always thought of Paul as being a bit of a legalist, but this passage shows me I was completely wrong. Paul is preaching freedom of the most radical kind – just like Jesus. No wonder the Jews hated him!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Thank you so much for your gift of love, through the ministry, death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.