Free at Last

 Title: Free at Last

Text: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1).

Scripture Reading: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1).


11-04-03

 


Introduction

 

The Magna Carta of spiritual emancipation, the Declaration of Independence from salvation by works, and the Manifesto of Gospel Liberty are only a few of the phrases we could use to describe the main theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. 

But if we were to reduce the 149 verses of this letter to just three words, those words would be “Free at last.”

Freedom is generally thought to be a right of birth for all people, yet people are anything but free. 

Bondage is more likely to be their lot in life. 

Some are in bondage for psychological reasons, while for others their bondage is economic, and still others live in political bondage. 

But Paul, who had a deep insight into people’s most basic needs, makes it clear that only in Christ Jesus are people truly free.

For this very reason, Paul is determined that every obstacle should be removed between the people and God. 

Nothing—not legalism, not moralism, not ritualism—will be allowed to prevent people from experiencing the freedom that comes from Christ. 

Like the Galatians, ours is the happy experience of knowing that because of Jesus Christ, and Him alone, we are made free.

 

First, I want to say that we are FREE TO BE SAVED BY FAITH.

In Galatians 2:16, Paul had this to say to the believers there in Galatia, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” 

Here Paul is saying, “We are free at last from all bondage to the law and to works.” 

For the first time in this letter, the word justify occurs. 

Yet, it is one of the most important terms in what Paul believes and teaches. 

It means, “To pronounce righteous.” 

He is talking about the kind of righteousness which makes a person acceptable to God. 

And that righteousness doesn’t come from anything we do, but it comes only by faith in Jesus.

Faith in Jesus does two things. 

First, it liberates us from bondage to the law, and second, it brings to us the saving grace of God.

Let me ask a question, “If the law cannot save, then what is its purpose?” 

“Clearly, no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’…Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:11, 13). 

The law tells us what sin is, but even more important, the law drives us to the grace of God. 

It shows us our own weakness and makes us see that we can do nothing but throw ourselves on the mercy and love of God. 

Even the Old Testament taught that we are saved by faith. 

And it doesn’t say that anyone was ever saved by keeping the law. 

If you find that somebody living back under the law was saved by keeping the law, let me know. 

I have never read of anyone who was saved by keeping the Mosaic Law. 

As you know, the heart of the Mosaic system was the sacrificial system. 

Moses rejoiced that God could extend mercy and grace to people even under the law—that is the reason his face shown as it did. 

In Habakkuk 2:4 it says that “the just shall live by His faith.”

Paul wrote, “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.  Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:23-25). 

God gave us the law to prepare us for Jesus’ coming.

“Before faith came” means, of course, faith in Jesus Christ who died for us.

Until the Lord Jesus Christ came, the law had in it mercy, because it had a mercy seat. 

It had an alter where sacrifices for sin could be brought, and forgiveness could be obtained. 

Mercy could be found there. 

All the sacrifices for sin pointed to Christ. 

Before faith came, Paul says, we were kept under guard by the law—“kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.” 

Paul confessed to the Galatians, “…it was through reading the scriptures that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favor by trying—and failing—to obey the laws.  I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ” (Galatians 2:19). 

Paul was certain that, through faith, Jesus Christ had done for him what he never could have done for himself. 

Only when we stop struggling against the Holy Spirit can the saving grace of Christ be ours. 

You see, Paul could say, “When Christ died, He died for me.  He died in my place because the law had condemned me.” 

We can say the same thing, if we have been saved by God’s grace through faith in His Son.

My friends, we are free to be saved by faith.

 

The next thing that I want to say is that we are FREE TO GROW IN GRACE.

Our text tells us to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

We no longer serve God as slaves to laws and ceremonies. 

Rather, we serve Him as people free to grow in grace.

Unfortunately, some people today have reverted back to teaching the error of the Galatians. 

They teach that we are initially “saved by grace” but that we remain saved and that we grow through our “good works.” 

In other words, Christ makes the “down payment,” but we must make the “monthly installments” or suffer a divine foreclosure and repossession of our salvation

Here, Paul declares that nothing could be further from the truth. 

We have a liberty in Christ. 

He does not put us under some little legal system. 

We do not use the Ten Commandments as a law of life. 

I don’t mean we are to break the Ten Commandments—I think we all understand that breaking most of them (i.e. thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not kill, etc.) would lead to our arrest by the local authorities. 

Certainly, Christians do break the Commandments, but we are called to a higher level to live. 

That level is where there is liberty in Christ. 

I have a liberty in Jesus Christ, and that liberty is not a rule, but a principle. 

It is that I am to please Him. 

My conduct should be to please Jesus Christ—not to please you. 

Not to please any organization, but only to please Him. 

That is the liberty that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage”

In Philippians 1:6 he says with conviction, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

We are free to grow in grace for several reasons.

First, we grow in grace because of the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul asks the Galatians “Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”  (Galatians 3:3).

What Paul is asking is this, “If the Holy Spirit is the one who converted you, brought you to Christ, and now you are indwelt by the spirit of God, are you going to turn back to the law (which was given to control the flesh) and think you are going to live on a high plane.”

The prophet Zechariah said, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (v. 4:6). 

We may not be able to accomplish the task by our own strength and knowledge, but we can do anything that is in line with God’s will for us, because His power is available to us through the Holy Spirit within. 

Our rate of growth in grace is in direct proportion to the degree to which we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us. 

Often we leave areas of our lives off-limits to the Holy Spirit, thereby choking our growth in grace. 

This is why Paul says to born-again believers, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). 

The command to be filled applies to all believers.

But this is not an experience that we manufacture. 

Rather, it is the Holy Spirit which fills us and controls us. 

So, growing in grace is a continuing work of the Holy Spirit.

But there is another reason that we are free to grow in grace.

It is because of the indwelling presence of Christ.

Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Paul was dead; his old self was in the bonds of sin, unsuccessfully striving for righteousness by observing the law. 

In other places in God’s Word, the change that occurred in Paul and in us is called the new birth or regeneration. 

But here Paul says, “Christ lives in me.”  

Paul has the life of Christ living in him, and so does every child of God. 

But what kind of life is this? 

It is a life of faith—saved by faith, live by faith, and walk by faith. 

This is what it means to walk in the Spirit. 

Yielding our lives to the indwelling presence of Christ is not a once-in–a-lifetime experience. 

Instead, it is something that we must do every day. 

Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and here (Galatians 2:20) he says “I am crucified with Christ.” 

You see, the law executed us. 

The law could not give us life. 

Ask yourself, “Who gave us life?” 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live.” 

It’s Jesus who gave you life!

How do you live? 

“Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” 

My friends, that’s the important thing. 

He died for me down here, so that I might live with Him up yonder, and so that He might live in me down here.

When Christ is in control of our lives, we will naturally want to read our Bible, witness to others, and fellowship with other Christians and we will grow in grace.

 

Finally, I want to say, we are FREE TO LIVE AS MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY.

Paul told the Galatians that they were privileged to have a very special relationship to God. 

He said, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). 

We are God’s children and therefore we have a very special place in His family. 

So, let’s consider five characteristics of God’s family.

The first characteristic is that we are all equal. 

But what does this mean to the church today? 

It means that none of us have vested rights—no one is above or better than others. 

It means that the opinion of each person is of great value, but it has no more value than the other person’s opinion. 

It means that the congregation is to be the church. 

(Those in this room are the church.) 

It means that as members of the family of God we are more concerned about our responsibilities to other members than our own individual rights.

It means that because we are members of God’s family, we are to love the other members of the family. 

Paul said, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10). 

Paul is saying that they are to love one another. 

That means, as we reach out to others, as witnesses to them and lead them to Christ, we do so regardless of their past, or their personal history, or their social standing. 

It means that when they become members of God’s family, we accept them as our equals.

Love is the primary motivating factor in Christian living.

Christlike behavior or character includes showing genuine love.

A genuine relationship with Christ will be evident in our personal relationships with others.

The second characteristic of God’s family is that we are heirs. 

Paul wrote in Galatians 4:7, “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” 

Every member of a family is an heir to the father’s wealth. 

We are not servants, laboriously striving to keep the law. 

We are sons and daughters of God, born into His family by grace through faith, and therefore, we are full heirs of His riches. 

There’s a song called “A Child of the King,” which expresses this truth very well. 

It goes like this:

My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full, He has riches untold.

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth.
But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,
An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.

I’m a child of the King, A child of the King:
With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.

Are you a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ?

Then you are also an heir, and all of Christ’s riches are yours!

A child must wait until maturity to inherit the family wealth, but God’s children can have His wealth now.

The third characteristic is that we care for one another.

Paul says that when our fellow Christians slip into sin, we are responsible for helping them get back on their feet again. 

This is what he wrote in Galatians 6:1-3.

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”

Your response to another’s fall reveals your own walk, whether it is spiritual or not. 

We are to restore one who has fallen to the fellowship of believers.

The word translated “restore” means “to set a broken bone.”

How gentle and loving we must be when we seek to help fallen brothers or sisters, for what we do will affect them and the body of Christ.

Another characteristic of a Christian is that we bear the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23. 

There it says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” 

The “fruit” of the Holy Spirit refers to the godly qualities of those who “walk in the Spirit.”

The proof of the Holy Spirit at work in a believer’s life is that the believer becomes increasingly more like Christ in their character and actions.

The fruit of the Spirit should characterize the life of every believer, not just the spiritually mature.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit affects the believer’s relationship with God, and others, and himself.

As Christians grow in their relationship with the Lord, they develop unselfish love, true joy, and lasting peace.

As they build relationships with others, they are led by the Spirit to reflect His patience, and His kindness, and His goodness.

As they mature spiritually, Christians discover an inner strength which results in faithfulness, and gentleness, and self-control.

While the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not necessary for salvation, these godly virtues are evidence of salvation and the genuine work of the Holy Spirit.

The life of Christ within us is revealed by the fruit of the Spirit. 

And the ministry of Christ is accomplished by the gifts of the Spirit.

Followers of Christ not only receive the blessings of God but also reflect His character to all whom they encounter.

The last characteristic of those who are members of God’s family is that we are productive.

Paul said, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). 

Salvation by grace does not mean freedom from service, but freedom to serve. 

The more we realize that we are members of God’s family, not through any merit of our own, but solely through the grace and love of God, the harder we will work and the more productive we will become. 

We don’t work to become a member of God’s family, but we work because of the thrill of being a member of His family.

 

Conclusion

There is an old African-American spiritual that captures the spirit of Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia. 

Let’s end by reading the words to that song.

Way down yonder in the graveyard walk,
Me and my Jesus goin’ to meet and talk.

On my knees when the light passed by,
Thought my soul would rise and fly.

One of these mornin’s bright and fair,
Gonna meet King Jesus in the air.

Free at last, free at last,
Thank God, I’m free at last.

Amen.

 

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