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    Jul 23, 2017

    Galatians 5:1-25- "Freedom and Life in the Spirit"

    Passage: Galatians 5:1-25

    Speaker: Scott Jeffreys

    Series: Galatians

    We have a long text before us this morning. It’s all interconnected but let us work our way through it in two sections.

    First Section- v. 1-12

    Our first section is v. 1-12 and it contains Paul’s closing exhortation to embrace the freedom that we have In Jesus Christ. This church in Galatia has gotten off track and has fell for the lie that we so easily fall for. The lie that our salvation is dependent upon our ability to be good people. If we keep the rules we’ll make it, if we don’t we won’t.

    This kind of thinking leads people to say what Michael Bloomberg said on a recent interview in 60 Minutes. He was asked why he thought he would go to heaven when he died and he said he thought he would because he had given away a lot of money to charities. In short, I have been a good person and I have helped a lot of people so yes I think I will go to heaven.

    This was the kind of thinking that the Christians Galatia started to fall for and their problem was even greater than Bloomberg’s. Why? Because these Galatians are Christians! They have been given more revelation than Bloomberg. They have been born again and Jesus Christ has saved them by his mercy and grace and they, like a dog returning to its own vomit, have gone back to the old days before they had been saved by Christ and started to believe that their salvation was dependent upon keeping God’s laws.

    The chief way this manifested itself in the churches in Galata was in their insistence that one must be circumcised in order to be a Christian. Circumcision is not really an issue for us today when it comes to things people think they got to do in order to be made right with God, but to these Christians in Galatia it had become a really big deal.

    Circumcision was the outward sign given to God’s people in the OT to show that they were a part of God’s family. The promise that God made to Abraham to bless the world through his offspring and ultimately save the world through the coming of a Savior was what the sign of circumcision stood for. Since the promise of God to Abraham was procreative in nature it made perfect sense that circumcision would be given to him as the sign to remind him that yes God would bless him and given him offspring “as numerous as the stars in the sky.” This sign was never given for the purpose administrating salvation to God’s people but rather it was given as a sign of the salvation that would come. None the less, by the time we get to the setting of this letter we find that some people in the church had taken this sign that stood for our salvation and had turned it into a requirement that one must do in order to be saved.

    There is something funny about all this because in one way Paul didn’t really have a beef with anyone getting cirucmsicied. He himself was circumcised. Every male Jew, whether he was a Christian or not, was circumcised. What Paul had a big problem with was people in the church teaching that circumcision, an act of keeping the law, was necessary for a person to be saved, and he had a huge problem with imposing this sign on Gentile people who were coming to faith in Jesus Christ, as a necessary requirement for salvation.

    So the real reason Paul had such a problem with imposing circumcision on the people was because he knew that if it became a necessary requirement for salvation then the whole law would have to become a necessary requirement! “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised (for justification) that he is obligated to obey the whole law.” (v. 3) And if the whole law becomes a necessary requirement for our salvation then no human being will ever be saved because no one can keep it perfectly. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have been fallen away from grace.” (v.4)  

    It is an understatement to the highest order to say that Paul was bothered by the church turning salvation into keeping the works of the law. Look at v. 12.

    We will not be saved by keeping the works of the law.

    If you are not in Christ then I can understand why you might think people go to heaven for being good. The reason I can understand is because that is what unconverted people think! But if you are in Christ don’t ever say “I hope I was good enough to make it!” Or even more brazeningly, “I will make it because I was a good person.”

    Because when you do that you “abolish the offense of the cross.”

    Don’t ever abolish the offense of the cross!

    What is the offense of the cross?

    The offense of the cross is that you are not good enough and you never will be good enough, and because you are not you deserve God’s condemnation for your sin and the only way you can escape it and be saved is for the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, the sinless one, to step between you and a holy God and bear upon himself God’s judgment for your sins so that you can be saved and set free by his mercy and grace!

    This idea, this truth, is offensive to the deeply engrained sinful nature that is always screaming out in us “God is nice, I am good, and I deserve no judgment!

    So I say to you as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, away with such foolish talk and run back to the good news of the gospel!

    The good news that Jesus Christ has set you free from the power of sin, death, and condemnation by his life, death, and resurrection. Christ alone is the one who has saved you! This is good news and it is why Paul is so strongly urging the church to repent and stand firm in the freedom of their having been set free from having to brownie points for their salvation. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!

    Second Section- v.13-26

    Ah, but here is the great danger and this takes us to the second portion of our text, which is v. 13-26.

    Just because we have been set free from the law as a means of justification does not mean that we have been set free from the law to do as we please as Christians.

    The law still has a role to play in our lives, especially the moral law, and the role it has to play has nothing to do with our salvation and everything to do with our sanctification. The law of God still expresses to us in an objective kind of way how God wants us as Christians to live our lives. Our behavior matter to God.

    Paul does not trash the law in his letter to the Galatians, as some people have tried to say.

    In the second half of our text Paul tells that we were called to be free but we are not to use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature, but rather serve one another in love. This would not be the kind of laissez faire love that is so popular today, doing and approving of anything we want all in the name of love.

    No this is a love that is summed up in a single command. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That command to love your neighbor as yourself comes from Leviticus 19 and is quoted in the NT and what that command sums up is the second is the second table of the law, from the 10 commandments. Do you want to love your neighbor as yourself? Then honor your mother and father. Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not lie. And do not covet. And then go and read the Sermon on the Mount and listen to Jesus teach on how these things in the Law have to be at the inner level as well.

    Being saved by grace does not give us a license to sin.

    Paul says to the church “the acts of the sinful nature are obvious (it still is today but to many in our world it is not): sexual immorality (any form of sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman), impurity and debauchery (sexual connotations. Vogue magazine), idolatry (there is the first table of the law and it is also subtle reference to sexual immorality) and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions and factions, envy, and drunkenness, orgies and the like.” (v.19-21)

    We do not in the name of freedom have a license to sin and Paul tells us that those who do such things “will not inherit the kingdom of God” and the reason they will not inherit the kingdom of God is not necessarily because they have done them , for we have all sinned, and at the very minimum we know that David is in God’s Kingdom and he broke several of these, but rather the reason we won’t be in the kingdom of God if we do these things is because we have not trusted trusted in Christ to forgive us of our sins and set us free from such destructive behavior. None the less, the point still stands we do not have a green light to sin just because we have freedom in Christ.

    So the question now becomes how do we walk in this freedom that Paul is calling us to walk in as sons and daughters of God who have been set free to no longer indulge in the sinful nature?

    First let us first consider what can’t empower us to such change. While the moral law does help show us changed life that Christ is seeking to work in us, the law does not have the power to elicit the change. In fact, the law is powerless, utterly powerless, to change our lives. What can change our lives is the Holy Spirit who lives inside of our hearts! It is the Spirit who empowers!

    Remember earlier in the letter where Paul got rough with the church and said think back to when you had your life changing encounter with Jesus Christ? Did you receive the Spirit of God in your heart when kept the law or when you believed in Christ for your salvation? Which was it? It was when you put your trust in Jesus! That’s when you got the Holy Spirit and it is only the Spirit of God living in your heart that can bring about the change! (Gal. 3:1-14)

    Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, we can only make headway in the process of our sanctification, growing in holiness, becoming the new creation that Jesus has saved us to be, by the power of the Holy Spirit living in our lives. The law is powerless to do this but the Spirit is not! So let us as saved followers of Jesus seek to “live by the Spirit” and “keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25) so that in the strength of the Spirit, we can flee from and mortify the acts of the sinful nature in our lives and give birth to “the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (v. 23)

    It is for freedom that Christ has set you free!

    Amen.