by Mike Ratliff
Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν· στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε. (Galatians 5:1 NA27)
For this freedom, Christ freed us, therefore, stand fast, and be not held again by a yoke of slavery. (a personal translation of Galatians 5:1 from the NA27 Greek text)
In Galatians 5:1 (above), the reference to the freedom for which Christ freed us is refers to Paul’s arguments from Galatians 4. Never forget the purpose of this letter to the Galatian churches. They were being attacked by “Judiazers” who were attempting to get these Gentile believers to look to keeping the Jewish ceremonial law and regulations because they were saying the atonement bought for them through Christ’s blood was not sufficient for their justification. Paul’s argument is exactly the opposite. In Galatians 5:1, he makes it clear to them that Christ freed us through His atoning death especially for this freedom and those who have it must stand firm and not submit again to a yoke of legalism or slavery.
Ἴδε ἐγὼ Παῦλος λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν περιτέμνησθε, Χριστὸς ὑμᾶς οὐδὲν ὠφελήσει. μαρτύρομαι δὲ πάλιν παντὶ ἀνθρώπῳ περιτεμνομένῳ ὅτι ὀφειλέτης ἐστὶν ὅλον τὸν νόμον ποιῆσαι. κατηργήθητε ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ, οἵτινες ἐν νόμῳ δικαιοῦσθε, τῆς χάριτος ἐξεπέσατε. ἡμεῖς γὰρ πνεύματι ἐκ πίστεως ἐλπίδα δικαιοσύνης ἀπεκδεχόμεθα. ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ οὔτε περιτομή τι ἰσχύει οὔτε ἀκροβυστία ἀλλὰ πίστις δι᾽ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη. Ἐτρέχετε καλῶς· τίς ὑμᾶς ἐνέκοψεν [τῇ] ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι; ἡ πεισμονὴ οὐκ ἐκ τοῦ καλοῦντος ὑμᾶς. μικρὰ ζύμη ὅλον τὸ φύραμα ζυμοῖ. ἐγὼ πέποιθα εἰς ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ ὅτι οὐδὲν ἄλλο φρονήσετε· ὁ δὲ ταράσσων ὑμᾶς βαστάσει τὸ κρίμα, ὅστις ἐὰν ᾖ. Ἐγὼ δέ, ἀδελφοί, εἰ περιτομὴν ἔτι κηρύσσω, τί ἔτι διώκομαι; ἄρα κατήργηται τὸ σκάνδαλον τοῦ σταυροῦ. Ὄφελον καὶ ἀποκόψονται οἱ ἀναστατοῦντες ὑμᾶς. (Galatians 5:2-12 NA27)
Behold, I Paul say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man being circumcised that he is a debtor to do the whole law. You are estranged from Christ who would be justified by the law have fallen from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly await the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision is of any force nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not of the one who called you. A little leaven leavens the entire lump. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will think as I do, but the one troubling you will bear the judgment whoever he may be. But I, brothers, if circumcision is still proclaimed, why am I still being persecuted? If so, the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I would that the ones troubling you would even emasculate themselves.! (a personal translation of Galatians 5:2-12 from the NA27 Greek text)
Paul knew perfectly well that no one can perfectly keep the law. Only Jesus Christ could and did that. That is why He is our propitiation. For anyone to claim that we must add anything to Ephesians 2:8,9 like works or keeping the law in order to be justified before God shows that they have no understanding whatsoever of grace or the Gospel. In fact, Paul says that anyone taking that road becomes a debtor to the whole law and that means they take on a debt they cannot pay. How are we justified? Paul makes it clear that all who are in Christ are so through faith working through love.
Now, for a little commentary on my part. I know that we must charitable and loving as Christian, especially those of us with the gifts of discernment and wisdom given to us to edify the Body of Christ. When we see problems we should, in the power of the Holy Spirit, learn as much as we can about it, and follow Biblical guidelines in making things right for the good of the Body. However, many people in our time think that is just mean. They want us to never confront anyone about anything. Look what Paul says about the person or persons who are teaching this false gospel to the Galatians. He claims that those who are doing so persecute him and then he wants them to go καὶ ἀποκόψονται or “and emasculate themselves.” The verb ἀποκόψονται is the future tense, indicative mood, middle voice case of ἀποκόπτω or apokoptō, “to mutilate (the privy parts): – cut off.” I’ve never gone that far, but I have taken people’s comment privileges away and I have told you exactly what they teach and why it is unbiblical. We must never stop doing this as long as there are wolves in sheep’s clothing attacking the flock.
Ὑμεῖς γὰρ ἐπ᾽ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἐκλήθητε, ἀδελφοί· μόνον μὴ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν εἰς ἀφορμὴν τῇ σαρκί, ἀλλὰ διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης δουλεύετε ἀλλήλοις. ὁ γὰρ πᾶς νόμος ἐν ἑνὶ λόγῳ πεπλήρωται, ἐν τῷ· ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. εἰ δὲ ἀλλήλους δάκνετε καὶ κατεσθίετε, βλέπετε μὴ ὑπ᾽ ἀλλήλων ἀναλωθῆτε. Λέγω δέ, πνεύματι περιπατεῖτε καὶ ἐπιθυμίαν σαρκὸς οὐ μὴ τελέσητε. ἡ γὰρ σὰρξ ἐπιθυμεῖ κατὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα κατὰ τῆς σαρκός, ταῦτα γὰρ ἀλλήλοις ἀντίκειται, ἵνα μὴ ἃ ἐὰν θέλητε ταῦτα ποιῆτε. εἰ δὲ πνεύματι ἄγεσθε, οὐκ ἐστὲ ὑπὸ νόμον. φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινά ἐστιν πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθεῖαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, φθόνοι, μέθαι, κῶμοι καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις, ἃ προλέγω ὑμῖν, καθὼς προεῖπον ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες βασιλείαν θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν. ὁ δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἀγάπη χαρὰ εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία χρηστότης ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις πραΰτης ἐγκράτεια· κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος. οἱ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ] τὴν σάρκα ἐσταύρωσαν σὺν τοῖς παθήμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις. Εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν. μὴ γινώμεθα κενόδοξοι, ἀλλήλους προκαλούμενοι, ἀλλήλοις φθονοῦντες. (Galatians 5:13-26 NA27)
For freedom, you were called brothers, only use not the freedom for a pretext for the flesh, but through love, serve one another as slaves. For the entire law has been summed up in one word, love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest by one another you are destroyed. But I say, walk by the Spirit and the lust of the flesh you could by no means perform. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and Spirit against the flesh. For these things oppose each other so you cannot do as you desire. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, divisions, sects, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these of which I told you beforehand as I said before that those practicing such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, against such things there is no law. But those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with it passions and lusts. If we live by Spirit, with the Spirit we should also walk. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (a personal translation of Galatians 5:13-26 from the NA27 Greek text)
Serving one another in love fulfills the law. Look at the chaos eating up much of the visible church right now. There are heresies to be sure, but there is also a lot of people in leadership who are in it for all the wrong reasons. The reason Ulysses S. Grant was able to subdue Robert E. Lee and eventually cause the Army of Northern Virginia to surrender where his predecessors could only eek out small victories here and there was he understood what war was all about. He understood his role. He was not confused about it at all. His job was to lead his army into battle to kill the enemy and bring about its destruction or surrender. Those who came before him lost sight of that and had other agendas. As Christians, especially Christian leaders, there is a tendency to forget why we are here. We are not here to create our own empires. We are not here to get rich off of the Gospel or our ministries, et cetera. Nope, we are here to obey our Lord in all things even if that means standing firm and enduring the hatred and persecution coming from those who hate God and His truth.
We are strong in Christ as our assurance is strong. Assurance of salvation is also a strong motivating factor for holy living. When our love for Christ is strong and growing we are also assured that He calls us His own. This love causes us to keep His commandments. This, in turn, helps us advance in holiness.Our assurance is grounded in the person and work of Christ, not our feelings or circumstances. His life, death, resurrection, and intercession reveal His full ability to save those who trust in Him. Our confidence in our redemption is rooted in His perfect and effectual work.As Paul stated in those passages above about the fruit of the Spirit, our works reveal that the Spirit is working within us to make us bear fruit. Over time, this fruit, in the form of our dispositions and deeds, is increasingly manifested in our lives. As we progress in holiness, this fruit will grow and mature, and will become more and more like Christ Jesus.Sinless perfection is impossible in this life, so we will never exhibit any of the fruit of the Spirit flawlessly on this side of glory. Nevertheless, there is a difference between those who do not exhibit the fruit at all and those who exhibit the fruit intermittently, between those who want to bear fruit and those who do not care at all about the work of the Spirit. If we are bearing spiritual fruit in any way, we belong to Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria!