Based on: Galatians 5:1-6
Were you ever a slave? The Israelites knew what slavery was like. They were slaves in Egypt, but the Lord set them free with some awesome miracles. Can you imagine the rejoicing that went on the day they became free? After generations of slavery the taste of freedom must have been sweet! Yet, it wasn’t long before the Israelites were complaining, "If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted.” They even said, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt." How ungrateful! After all God had done to free them from slavery they wanted to go back! We can’t understand how they could say that . . . or can we? Isn’t there a part of us, the old Adam, the old man, the sinner in us that wants to reject the freedom Christ won for us and go back to slavery to sin and follow that cruel slave master, Satan? Brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ made you free. Remain free in Christ! Slavery destroys our freedom and this freedom we have is good.
Now we are free. Christ set us free so that we would remain free. This freedom is not a simple trinket. It cost God dearly. It cost God his own blood. He willingly paid this price for us to be free and he does not intend for us to become slaves again. Obvious? Yes, but “going back to slavery” is exactly what we along with the Galatians Christians are tempted to do. As former slaves we are still burdened by that slave mentality that wants to reject God’s gift and find our own way to heaven – to do it ourselves.
As Paul says, "stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." The sinner in us wants this slavery. It doesn’t want God’s help in gaining salvation. Instead, this part of us wants to earn God’s favor by obeying rules and regulations. As evidence of this, look at any other religion. They all tell you what you must do to get to that better place after death. Because each of us is born sinful, we just naturally think this way: “To get a reward I need to do something.”
In the time Galatians was written some of the Jews said that “something” we need to do is circumcision”, but the “something” we need to do might come in other forms such as a church that tells you what you can eat. It could also come in the form, “invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior and you will be saved.” Even this suggests that you must do “something.” If you don’t do that “something” – if you don’t invite Jesus into your heart then you will not go to heaven. Here is another statement that works the same way, “If you are really sorry for what you did then you are forgiven.”
This attitude also shows up in the thoughts we have when we compare our level of Christianity with others. “Why is she wearing that to church?” or “At least I don’t do what he did.” Our sinful tendency is to rank ourselves and try to see ourselves as a little closer to God because of the way we act or what we say. But does God look at those things and think one of us is more deserving than the others? No. When we allow those thoughts to influence us, we are not thinking in terms of “in Christ we are all free and have heaven as a gift.” Instead, we are thinking “we must earn heaven and some of us have a little more in our bank account than others.” I have news for you; none of us will never have enough in our bank account. But why try? Christ has filled our bank account for us.
When we reject the full bank account God has given us, we throw Christ out the window. As Paul says, "I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all." Again, Paul is talking of circumcision, but the principle is universal. Even one rule or regulation is enough.
In fact, not only do you throw Christ out, but now that you let go of Christ and held on to your own good deeds you are obligated to obey all the rules and regulations. You obligate yourself to keep the 10 Commandments perfectly. You can’t have a little of each. Either you obey the law all by yourself and live your life perfectly, or you trust that Jesus has done it for you. And you can certainly trust that he has done it for you. Christ has obeyed the whole law for you. When he was a boy in the temple, when he obeyed his parents, when he resisted Satan’s temptations, when he helped the sick and fed the hungry, when he taught his disciples and others the truths of God’s Word he was leading the perfect life we are not able to lead. That perfect life is now a gift to us. Jesus has done everything for you – you don’t need to do a thing. He set you free from obeying the law to earn heaven.
Through Paul, God tells us just how serious it is when we reject this gift, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” This is serious. If you want to contribute to your salvation you are separated from Christ. Before faith you were Christ’s enemy, by trying to add to what he has done for you, you become his enemy again. “You have fallen away from grace.” What horrible words to hear. You have excluded yourself from God’s eternal blessings. You have excluded yourself from heaven.
This slavery is not good. It leads us to hell, but what should we do instead? Do nothing, of course, and remain free! Leave the chains and shackles behind. The freedom we already have is good!
To remain free, don’t try to add to what Christ has done for us. Instead, trust that Christ has done it all for us. “By faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” Christ gives us his righteousness – his perfect life. It is already perfect and complete and we can not add anything to it. It is given to us. It is free. Not in the sense the world thinks of free – “buy two, get one free”. We don’t have to buy or do anything – no purchase necessary, no strings attached, we are not obligated to do anything.
This righteousness is ours and our hope – our sure hope – is that it will be made plain to us. We wait eagerly for the last day when it will be obvious we have this righteousness. On that day each of us will see ourselves clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. We will see that our bodies have been made holy and perfect. We will be able to look at the face of our savior and our conscience will not trouble us in the least.
When it comes to salvation, it doesn’t matter what rules and regulations each of us have kept or not kept. It doesn’t even matter whether we have murdered, stolen, lied or committed any other sin. So what does matter? What really counts when it comes to our salvation? Our Lord speaks through Paul, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Faith matters – faith in Christ – trusting that he has done everything for us. He lived the perfect life for us and then suffered the punishment we deserve for all of our sins. Through this faith God gives us Christ’s perfect life – exactly what we need to get into heaven. We don’t do anything – even this faith is a gift of God.
Here we see the proper connection between what we do and what Jesus has done for us. We will go to heaven because Christ has died for us, not because of anything we do. The faith God gives us wants to express gratitude for this wonderful gift. The way faith expresses this gratitude is through love – love for God and for others. This love shows itself in actions that please God because they are done out of thankfulness. They don’t help us get to heaven in the least, but they come because heaven is already ours.
Once, each of us were slaves, but now we are free because Christ has set us free. Remain free in Christ. Hold on to this freedom. Cherish it and enjoy the blessings of freedom.