America is known as the land of the free. When people speak of this great country it seems that freedom is the number one attribute that this country possesses that makes this country so wonderful to live in. While that may be true, have you ever thought about what it means to be free? Not just freedom in America, but freedom in a biblical sense? I have been studying Galatians this semester and the theme of the book is simply you are not a slave to the law, but you are free in Christ. This, to me, sounds wonderful because this means that I am no longer under the law that was condemning me for my sin, but what about the other side where I am free. What does it mean to be free?
After studying more of Galatians I have realized that freedom in Christ means exactly what it says it means. That I now have the opportunity, the ability, and the desire to what I want to do. This may sound extreme, but what other definition of freedom is there? Christ says that we are no longer slaves but we are free. “For freedom Christ has set us free”, if we are Christians then we are no longer under the law (Romans 2:15).
I would like to unpack this a little bit more to make sure that there is no misunderstanding of what I mean when I say that I have freedom in Christ. Most people when they think of Christianity they think of rules and regulations that one must follow and if we follow the rules then we prove ourselves to be Christians and everything is fine and dandy. But I would argue that is not Christianity. Christianity is not about rules and regulations, it is not about what you do. We get so caught up in what our actions and mouths say and not what our heart says. I know people who are really religious, they go to church anytime the doors were opened, they went on mission trips, they volunteered throughout their community, they shared their faith, they were apart of their youth group, they even memorized Scripture, yet in light of eternity that does not mean anything. You may be wondering how I could say such a thing when the Bible does make a big deal about works (more on this later). However, the truth of the matter is when we look at the Bible and how the Bible defines Christianity we see this idea of freedom. Let me use the picture Paul paints in Galatians 4:21-31 to explain what I mean.
If you remember the story of Sarah and Hagar, great! If you don’t allow me to refresh your memory. God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son. This son would have many descendants and God would make a great nation out of Abraham. However, after waiting for a long time Abraham and Sarah began to weaken in their faith and they devised a plan. This plan would involve Abraham sleeping with Sarah’s maid servant, Hagar. So Abraham did and they conceived a son, Ishmael. Now God was not to pleased with this and He comes to Abraham and says that I will still give you a son through Sarah and it will be this son that I will make you into a great nation. Abraham’s reaction to this is one of laughter, he laughs at God! But God still brings them a son, Isaac, born according to the promise. Even though Sarah and Abraham are over 100 years old God still shows them His power by allowing them to have Isaac (which means “laughter”).
Now that we understand the story, Paul then compares the two to say that Ishmael and all of his descendants are slaves and Isaac and all of his descendants are free. What is Paul trying to say here? He is trying to compare two types of people, those who rely upon their own efforts and those who rely upon God and His promises. Ishmael represents human effort and Isaac represents God’s effort. Those who rely upon their own effort to save themselves are in slavery. They are in bondage to their own hands, their own performance, and if they slip up in one area they have failed. We can see many examples of this in our own world. Just look at the coaches for some very prestigious football teams. Many coaches are on edge because if they have a few bad seasons then they are usually forced to resign. This performance mentality is not true in the eyes of a Christian. Because a Christian has put faith in Christ and the Christian is now relying upon the promise of God. So we are free in regards to performance. We are not forced to do what the law says and so now we are free.
Now some will hear that we are free to do whatever we wish and say that this means that Christians can go on sinning willfully without consequence. While Christians have the ability to choose to follow righteousness or even perform sin (whereas when we are lost we will only choose to sin), they will not want to sin anymore. Because when God saves us He changes us. He transforms us by giving us His Spirit, which then begins to change our desires. Our whole heart changes from hating God to loving God. In Christ we become lovers of God. The sweet thing about Christianity is that we are free and our freedom is used submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Christ not because we have to, but because we want to. We now delight in God! He is our treasure! We love Him! And when this takes place there is no law, there is no performing. We are free to love Him, serve Him, glorify Him, because we are content in His love and mercy! We can finally rest in God’s promise of salvation through Christ. We are finally free! For this is the reason Christ came to set us free!
“For freedom Christ has set us free…” (Galatians 5:1)