July 6, 2014

Galatians 5:1-15



Intro:  On Friday, we celebrated the 238th anniversary of our country’s independence.  The freedoms celebrated on Independence Day are centered around the idea of getting out from under a rule of law that was corrupt and no longer working.  The king was not playing fairly with those in the new land.  The king sent out his men to make sure that British law was abided by, even as the new Americans were finding a new way to live, out from under the kings law.  Their proclamation went as follows:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—

_That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving

their just powers from the consent of the governed,—

_That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


Similarly, at the church in Galatia, there were those who were trying to hold the new Christians – especially those who were Gentiles – to the old law of the Jews.  They were trying to convince these new believers that if they really wanted to be true Christians, they had to be true Jews first and do everything the OT Law commanded.  All of this was symbolized by circumcision. 


Paul caught wind of this wrong teaching and took the church at Galatia to task.  That’s what the letter to the Galatians is focused on.  The point Paul is trying to make, and the place we will focus our attention today, is that when Jesus came and died on the cross, he set people free from the OT Law and made them subject to his grace.  This does not mean there are no longer “rules” to follow, but it does declare a freedom from the OT Law.  No longer does living by the OT Law make you right with God, the only thing that makes one right with God is the grace of Jesus Christ.


With that in mind, let us read together Galatians 5:1-15


Verses 1 and 13-15 contain our theme of freedom and we’ll get to that. 

Verses 2-14 contains Paul’s warning to the Judiazers (those wanting to make the Gentiles Jewish before they can be Christians).  And his explanation for why this is not the right course of action.


Paul’s main concern is that the church is getting side tracked from the simple message of the Gospel.  It is Jesus Christ who came to save sinners, not the laws of circumcision, or cleanliness, or rituals, or tithing, or worshiping.  None of those make a person free of sin.  Not then and not now.


The law did have it’s place before Jesus came.  It was given by God to His people, Israel, to show them how to live in relationship to a Holy God.  But it was a part of the journey to God, not the end of the journey.  The law was intended to lead people to receive the Messiah when he came.  The Messiah, Jesus came to set all of mankind free from a ritualistic faith so that we might all live in the gospel of grace. 


This does not mean that we get to do whatever we want because “Jesus loves me this I know” but the shift is that our being made right with God comes not through how well we keep the rules but how well we know Jesus and live in obedient relationship to him.


So when Paul says in vs. 1, 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.  He is telling the church that there has been a shift and they need to embrace it. 

Most of you good people have grown up in the church.  Was there ever a time when you got caught up in believing that you were right with God because you were here every Sunday and you taught Sunday School and you always remembered your offering envelope?  Do you understand those aren’t the things that make you right with God?  That’s the tyranny of the Old Law.  The only thing that makes us right with God is the grace that comes to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In v 7.  Paul says to the church, You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? I would like all of us to sit with that question for a bit.  Chances are that all of us get distracted in our spiritual journey from time to time.  We forget what God’s priorities and desires are for us and we go off on a different path until we are called back to the center, back to the cross, back to Jesus.  These things that distract us may be occasional or they may be habitual.


It is important for us as the Church of Jesus Christ to keep running the race together.  If one of us is weak, we all suffer so lets be honest with ourselves about where we are weak, what we need to stop doing, quit seeking, what we need to turn away from so that we can once again fix our eyes on the cross.


As you’ve been running a good race, who or what has cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth.  Can you name it?  It may be subtle like holding a silent grudge against a spouse or friend.  Or it may be a glaring diversion like stealing your neighbors cow.  But think about who or what has cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth.


In vss. 13-15 Paul tells the church how they are supposed to live with one another.


You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.

What does that mean for you?  What does Jesus’ death and resurrection set you free from on a daily basis?  What do you need to be set free from right now?  Know this:  you were called to be free!


But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh;

It is always possible to abuse freedom.  Paul is aware of the culture he is speaking into which was not unlike our own.  We can get it in our heads that because we are freely forgiven in Christ, giving into that addictive behavior is not that big a deal, because we’ve been forgiven.  We can talk ourselves into believing that it doesn’t matter how we treat our spouses and children, our co-workers, employees, students, neighbors, because God forgives our weaknesses.  Freedom in Christ is not permission to do whatever we want, it is freedom from being controlled by those things that distract us from obedience to Christ our King.


rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

This is what we are meant to be known for as the church and as individual Christians.  We are the ones who love one another.  We love each other in our strengths and when we are weak we help each other up to a restored relationship to God and His church.  Wouldn’t that be something to be known for?  A community that truly loves one another and builds each other up?  Accepting one another right where we are but gently encouraging one another to grow deeper in faith, more consistent in obedience, until we all attain to the likeness of Christ.


As we prepare to receive the communion meal, which commemorates all that Christ did so that we could have this life, examine your hearts and minds and be set free.