Galatians 5:1

It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free; continue to stand firm, therefore, and do not be loaded down again w/ a yoke of slavery.

In the previous section of Galatians that we looked at together we saw the Holy Spirit’s insistence that as Children of the promise we are born of the Free woman (30, 31) — born of the Spirit and we stand in contradistinction to those who belong to the bondwoman and who are enslaved to the law.

In this next section the Apostle emphasizes that difference again by explicitly stating that the consequence of being released is Freedom accompanied with the injunction to not go back to those things that scream bondage and will, if returned to, deliver one back to that former bondage.

Now as the issue of Freedom has come front and center here we would do well to ask just exactly what kind of ‘Freedom’ is spoken of here. What does the Holy Spirit mean here when He speaks of Freedom?

To answer that perhaps we would do well to explore what it is we are Freed (delivered) from and what it is we we are delivered to.

In the context of this letter to the Galatians clearly Freedom means first to be delivered from the vain attempt to use a law system, that is absent of proclaiming Christ, as a means of salvation. The Judaizers were insisting that the ceremonial law that had been fulfilled with the coming and faithfulness of Christ remained in effect. They insisted on circumcision and many other of the Jewish accouterments that the death of Christ had made obsolete and retrograde.

The Galatians have peace and access (Romans 5:1-2) with God only because of their union with the Christ and His finished work (Romans 6). They are free from the wrong use of the Law that the Judaizers are seeking to foist upon them.

We have said repeatedly that the problem here in Galatians is with the desire to embrace a obviated ceremonial law. But we should hasten to add that we move back to bondage anytime we try to use God’s law in any of its senses as a means to catapult into God’s presence and favor apart from relying on His introduction on our behalf (forensic righteousness) and without our union with our ascended Lord.

In this Freedom that comes from the deliverance from the law we have a freedom from the nagging fear and accusing conscience that our performance is not what the law requires. As the Galatians were delivered from a salvation that was connected with their personal adherence to the ceremonial law so when we consider the implications of that truth we realize that, being completely and irrevocably saved, we are free from seeking to acquire a salvation based upon a performance that isn’t exclusively based upon Christ’s performance for us.

As Freemen we are not awake with night sweats that our performance is inadequate to what is required. Correspondingly, as freemen we no longer try to deceive ourselves that our lack performance really provides an obedience that measures up to God’s standard apart from Christ’s righteousness. We have been set free from both the despair that comes with the realization that our performance is not adequate (There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus) and the self-righteous delusion that our performance is adequate.

However not only is it the case that we have been freed from, but it is also the case that we have been freed to. The freedom is not only negative but it is also positive.

As the Apostle will go into a bit later in the letter we have been freed to walk and live in the Spirit, and so produce the fruit of the Spirit. Having been covered with Christ and united to Christ we are free from the compulsory service that comes from being a slave and delivered to the delight that comes from cheerful service that issues from a son. We have been set free from trying to use obedience to attain an uncertain salvation and set free to serve in gratitude from a salvation that is already present and can’t be recalled.

We might also say here that because of this deliverance that has issued in freedom that Christians should be people who do not carry the kind of psychological baggage that comes with being in bondage. Having been set free we are free from guilt and having been set free from guilt we no longer live our lives trying to alleviate ourselves by self-atonement that expresses itself in a host of different ways, nor do we allow ourselves to be manipulated by guilt that we no longer have. Having been set free by Christ we no longer do shame, or alienation or despair or fear, or any number of the other psychological consequences that come with not yet being freed from our sin and united to Christ. These things no longer should master us. All of these things belong to the children of the bondwoman. It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free.

From what we see from the Galatians though we understand that retaining this unbridled freedom is work. We must be constantly reminded that ‘we are not to be loaded down again with a yoke of slavery’ (5:1b). We must persevere in the fight against spiritual re-enslavement.

As Calvin said, the heart is an idol factory and each one of those manufactured Idols seek to enslave again the person who creates them. There is something about the fallen human creature that he fears the kind of freedom that Christ offers. Perhaps it is the fear that comes with the realization that this master cannot be manipulated. The spiritual slavery that comes with other false gods can be alluring if only because in all of these bondages there is a false sense that the Idol that is holding the keys to the slaves bondage can be manipulated by certain behaviors, incantations, or ritual. In the Christian faith we are spiritually free but that brings with it the reality of a God that cannot be manipulated. In our Christian freedom we must be satisfied with a free God who cannot be manipulated and who is free to do with us as He desires.

We still find that kind of thinking today in Evangelicalism. There is still a sense that by pursuing certain behaviors, incantations, or rituals we can manipulate God into doing what we want. As freemen we are not satisfied with a free God.

Of Pietistic Ghettos, Intellectual Confrontation, & Hurried Calls For Spiritual Decision

“Yet twentieth-century evangelicals have been unable rationally to lift this generation to a clear vision of the reality of the supernatural, not simply because of human unregeneracy but because of their withdrawal into pietistic ghettos and their hurried call for spiritual decision which often leaps over an effectual intellectual confrontation.”

Dr. Carl F. H. Henry
God, Revelation and Authority Vol. 1 pg. 114

Actually, since the problem that Henry cites continues in the widespread double whammy ‘success’ of the Pentecostal (Charismatic) / Church Growth ‘gospel’ the worse thing in the world that could happen would be for these ‘converts’ to move out of their pietistic ghettos. The ‘Gospel’ continues to go forward and the Church continues to be built by ‘the hurried call for spiritual decision’ and by ‘leaping over an effectual intellectual confrontation.’

Anecdotally speaking, I saw this again, up close and personal when attending a ‘Promise Keepers’ conference several years ago. The first night was dedicated to a ‘gospel presentation’ and when the altar call was extended the front was wall to wall people presumably ‘giving their hearts to Jesus.’ The only problem was that their was no gospel in the gospel message that was preached. These people couldn’t give their hearts to Jesus because Jesus was nowhere to be found.

Likewise, in our Churches today there is very little ‘intellectual confrontation.’ To be perfectly honest, you would face mammoth difficulties by trying to build a self supporting Church with an ‘intellectual confrontation,’ approach. The last thing our culture wants is to be confronted. Better to emotionally manipulate people into getting saved, then to spend the intellectual effort, and the time required to articulate the wonder of God and the prevalent and deceptive nature of sin. You see, if you leap over effectual intellectual confrontation to emotional manipulation you avoid the heavy lifting that intellectual confrontation requires of the speaker and the requirement of real change (repentance) demanded upon those who listen.

As long as the Church continues to operate this way we need to sincerely pray that God would keep us in the ghettos because the damage we could do if we get outside the ghettos and into the mainstream would be devastating both to the mainstream and to the reputation of the Christian faith. Contemporarily speaking, a guy like Mike Huckabee is a perfect example of the embarrassment accruing to Christians when somebody gets off the reservation.

I am not arguing for an hyper academic Church. People like me, who are not particularly sharp knives, would be lost in that kind of setting. What I am arguing for is a Church that is willing to think through both how sin subtly manifests itself and how Christ’s redemption should be a cure and reversal of that. I am arguing for a church that quits with the emotional propaganda in order to make headway among people. I am arguing for a Church that realizes that the Gospel has a trajectory that requires Christians to have the ability to be vigorous thinkers — even and especially among the ‘rank and file.’

Lord Christ, grant us Reformation in head and members.

Chistopher J. H. Wright — On The Law

“The motivation for God’s people to live by God’s law is ultimately to bless the nations. After all, what would the nations actually see? The nearness of God is by definition invisible. What, then, would be visible? Only the practical evidence of the kind of society that was built on God’s righteous laws. There is a vital link between the invisible religious claims of the people of God (that God is near them when they pray) and their very visible practical social ethic. The world will be interested in the first only when it sees the second. Or conversely the world will see no reason to pay any attention to our claims about our invisible God, however much we boast of His alleged nearness to us in prayer, if it sees no difference between the lives of those who make such claims and those who don’t.”

Christopher J. H. Wright
The Mission Of God — pg. 380

If we stipulate that the motivation for God’s people to live by God’s law is ultimately to glorify God and then penultimately to bless the nations we would heartily endorse Wright’s words here.

There are those who insist that God’s law is not abiding as it pertains to the ‘laws of nations’ believing instead that we should look to natural law for the establishment of law. Those who reason this way look to the Old Testament laws and insist that if we are to properly read the Scriptures in a redemptive-historical fashion we will see that the covenantal ethics that were established for the nation State of Israel fall under a rubric called ‘intrusion ethics’ and are no longer applicable today. This is a kind of Reformed dispensationalizing of the law texts in the Old Testament with the result that the greater but temporary fullness of the consummational Kingdom that was represented by the laws that governed National Israel in the Old Testament is withdrawn in the New covenant age only to await their re-implementation in the fullness of the Christ’s Kingdom that appears with the second advent. There is a GREAT deal wrong with this view but the most obvious seems to be this revisionist Reformed theology ends up making the Old Covenant a better covenant then the New Covenant. Also there is the problem that in relation to the ‘now, not yet’ of eschatology what this theology ends up doing is reversing what we would expect to find. What this theology does is that it front loads the ‘now’ in the Old Covenant choosing to emphasize the ‘not yet’ in the ‘age to come’ which Christ has brought in with His birth, death, resurrection, advent and session. In short, this theology under-realizes severely the reality that with Christ’s coming the Kingdom is present.

Obviously such people would strongly disagree with Dr. Christopher J. H. Wright’s quote above. While these radical two Kingdom types agree that the law applies to a personal ethic what they disagree with is the idea of a Biblical social ethic that is informed and governed by the Old Testament case law. Such Theologians can and have ended up suggesting that the Church should not speak out against matters like Homosexual marriage since that is an issue that belongs to the common grace realm. Ideas have consequences.

I will have more to say about the idea of the revisionist ‘intrusion ethic’ in my next post. Also I haven’t forgotten that I need to finish the Dr. J. P. Moreland paper on the problem of to many Christians taking the Bible to seriously.