Good morning to everyone who is listening or watching remotely. This morning we will be looking at Galatians chapter 5 versus one through 15. In particular will look at the first verse and the last few verses. Straight up Paul says, “it is for freedom that Christ set us free, stand fast therefore do not submit again to yoke of slavery”. To get an accurate picture of the main themes of this passage I did a word study and I looked at keywords found in this text and the keywords were “freedom”, the “Lord Jesus Christ”, “stand” is also a keyword even though it’s only mentioned once ,the “law”, “circumcision” or circumcised and throughout this passage there is a contrast between the freedom that is in Christ and the bondage of slavery through the law and in particular the law of circumcision.
Just to recap, the Law of circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of the covenant that was enacted by God while Abraham was placed in a deep sleep. So it was an intrinsic sign of belonging to God.
It is important for us to look at the pilgrimage that the Galatians have been on. You may be aware that Galatia is between Cappadocia and Asia Minor in what is today the country of Turkey. The book of Acts tells the story of Paul’s missionary journeys to this region and in particular to the towns of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. During these visits Paul and Barnabas came across a variety of people who had been involved in pagan worship. There were also God fearers, that is, Greeks who would adhere to the law of Moses and Judaism and then Jews themselves. During this time in which Paul and Barnabas travelled around Galatia they preached in the local synagogues and found favour with the Gentiles and while in Antioch almost the whole city turned out to hear Paul. Well you can imagine how that went down with the leaders of the synagogue. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of the city. It was during this time a great deal of persecution rose up against the fledgling Christians or followers of the way and to be colloquial the Jews wanted them to obviously follow Jewish stuff. (Act out the conversation) but the Jews wore them down: and then a delegation who claim to have come from Jerusalem preached a gospel of circumcision which is no gospel at all. This new message suggested that to be complete in Christ you needed to be circumcised.
That’s when we find ourselves listening to Paul writing to the Galatian to correct their theology. For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by yoke of slavery. It’s interesting to unpack this sentence because in the original Greek it says for freedom Christ freed us. So if you are prepared to accept an English lesson for me even though I’m not qualified I’d say freedom is the noun and free is the verb and in the middle is Christ. The beginning is freedom and the end is freedom. The beginning of the gospel is freedom and the end of the gospel is freedom. And there is a completeness in this sentence structure which tells us that this work of bringing freedom was begun and ended by Christ on the cross, the Greek aorist tense renders it complete. This is a remarkable statement by Paul. And I would argue that this is actually a key verse of the whole Bible. I know that there are other key versus that people like in this book and it would be great if we were arguing over who’s key verse is right because it’s in wrestling with the text that we learn. Freedom is the purpose Christ came into this world, to set the captives free. Now these Galatians were in bondage to the elemental spirits of the universe, God’s that were no gods. They were pagan worshippers and so Paul compares these pagan spirits to the law. Stand fast therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Paul is saying that these Galatians were under a hideous demonic yoke, and that yoke was the law. Believers need to stand firm and to stand firm is essentially a military word which mixes together the ideas of keeping alert, being strong, resisting attack and sticking together. In short, despite the fact that we have already been saved by Christ we must be continually diligent to- remember, preserve, rejoice in, and live in accord with our salvation and not return to a yoke of slavery. Paul goes on to say if you let yourself be circumcised Christ will be of no value to you at all again, “I declare that every man who lets himself be circumcised, that he is obligated to obey the whole law”. When Paul says again he wants to emphasise this point.
From verse seven his tone changes. “You were running a good race who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth. This kind of persuasion does not come from the one who called you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. I’m confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will have to pay the penalty who ever that may be” and you’ll notice the text says “that kind of persuasion does not come from the one who called you” being Christ: and down in the second half of verse 10 we’ve got “the one throwing you into confusion” so there’s this comparison between Christ “who calls us” and the one who “throws this into confusion”. Brothers and sisters if I’m still preaching circumcision why am I still being persecuted. This is the whole thing that the Galatian church wanted to avoid. Brothers and sisters you were called to be free but do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature rather serve one another humbly in love. Paul explains the purpose of being set free and that purpose is to serve one another humbly in love, for the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command love your neighbour as yourself. Paul says if you want to obey the law obey this law, “love one another as yourself”
This is a challenge for us at this time. In this world, at this point in time, we are suffering under the effects of a global pandemic. So what can be learnt. Are there things that we have added to Christ? We will see a stripping away of the things that we have held dear as far as our worship is concerned and as far as our interaction as the family of God in Tregear. We will be restricted more and more by this Covid 19. I guess the challenge will be how will we handle having things stripped away and will what remains be the bare essentials of Freedom in Christ. This virus will teach us what is important and what isn’t. Once the virus is past will we be patient to apply the lessons learnt during this time or will we simple fall back into the past? Some of the lesson, due to our isolation won’t be able to be applied immediately, so we will have to remember what God is teaching us during this time and bring them like treasures when our community is together again. In the meantime, let’s do what we can to maintain our family, especially through prayer and checking on others well-being as we are able. Will we be free at the end of this time or will we be in bondage, will we learn how to serve one another and will we remain free from fear. We need to stand firm, keeping alert, being strong, resisting attack and sticking together as much as we are creatively able to do and demonstrate that Christ has set us free.