“It was for freedom that Christ set us free....” (Galatians 5:1, NASB95)
On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States of America.
Conflict between the colonies and England was already a year old when the Continental Congress was convened in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. In a June 7th session in the Pennsylvania State House, later known as Independence Hall, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution with these now famous words:
"Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
Many events led up to what we now call the American Revolutionary War. Many battles were fought - thirty-six battles beginning with Lexington and Concord (1775) and ending with the Battle of Yorktown (1781). Innumerable lives were lost. Much blood was shed. In the end, the colonies declared their independence.
“It requires efforts, it presupposes mental and moral qualities of a high order to be generally diffused in the society where it exists. (John C. Calhoun, speech, U.S. House of Representatives, Jan. 31, 1816).
Freedom is not free. It comes with a cost.
The Apostle Paul says in his epistle to the Galatians, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free….” This freedom involved the loss of life. This freedom involved the shedding of blood. Christ has set those who by faith trust in Him free from the yoke of slavery, the bondage of the law. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NASB95). Jesus was not speaking of political freedom. He wasn’t speaking merely of a freedom by which we are relieved from physical bondage. He was speaking of true freedom to serve God, to fulfill the purposes of those who are created in God’s image.
Sin deprives us of this fulfillment because sin clouds our minds, degrades our feelings, and enslaves our wills. This is what the Reformers called “total depravity;” its only remedy comes by the grace of God through spiritual rebirth (3:3), regeneration, faith and repentance.
During the days shortly after the abolition of slavery, many who were formerly bound by strict rules and regulations, found themselves totally free. Without the enforced boundaries of their taskmasters they soon found themselves wanting to go back to their old positions. Within those boundaries they felt secure. Ironically, within those same boundaries they would never be truly free.
It is within this context that Paul speaks to the church in Galatia about freedom; freedom from the binding nature of the law.
“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed” (Galatians 3:23).
There were people during Paul’s time, as there are people now, who would tell you that the way of righteousness and salvation is by strict observance to a set of prescribed rules and regulations. Paul says this is nonsense. “May it never be (Gal. 2:17; 3:21; 6:14)! These ‘laws’ were intended to be tutors, teachers, to guide its pupils in the way of righteousness, not to be their righteousness, so he says, “do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”
Don’t discount the heavy price, loss of life and shedding of blood it took to give you freedom.
Jesus Christ has set us free from the curse of the law. He has freed us so we might have full access to the throne of grace and all its benefits: righteousness, sanctification, redemption, forgiveness of sin. He has freed us from the condemnation of the law.
The believer in Christ becomes one with Him. And now, one with Him, having died to the law, not under the law, but under grace (Rom 7:14), the believer no longer needs the external force of the law to keep him righteous before God. Jesus Christ redeems his people from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13).
If Christ died to set us free – not to make us slaves to a list of do’s and don’ts’s then why would anyone want to abandon spiritual adulthood and go back to being a child. Would we ever want to go back to living as it was before the American Revolution, subjecting ourselves to the laws, taxes and restrictions that led up to the Battles of Lexington and Concord? I think the answer would be a resounding, “No!” May it never be!
It is who Christ died to set us free.
Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, said,
“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all” (On Christian Liberty).
The deeper we all understand the ‘law of liberty’ that has set us free in Christ, the more free each of us will become in Christ.
It is my hope that you will have a wonderful time of celebrating our upcoming Independence Day, July 4th, this year. As you observe this day with family and friends may you also remember,
“It was for freedom that Christ has set you free” and in Him you are truly free indeed!