#177 “STANDING FIRM IN GRACE” (GALATIANS 5:1)
- For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. As Paul transitions into his third section, the practical and fruitful application of living in the freedom of Christ, he interjects 5:1 as a summary verse that captures the entirety of his letter to the Galatians. The first part of the verse, “For freedom Christ has set us free,” summarizes chapters 3 and 4, while the last part, “stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” acts as a transition into chapters 5 and 6. Moreover, Paul will continue defending against the misunderstanding of antinomianism. A belief that rejects any view that Christians are under the law or legalism and free to sin at will. In 2:17-20, Paul addressed this false belief, “But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
- Freedom—The Greek word is eleutheria, “the state of being free from an oppressive force.” The word was used to contrast those in bondage as slaves. The same word is used in 4:31, “So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.” Thus, we have freedom because we come from the free woman. Eleutheria describes the new life that comes in Christ and living in accordance to his will.
- Christ has set us free—The phrase is written in the aorist active indicative signifying the past action of Christ’s death and resurrection is what gives us freedom now and forevermore. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, “The word free of 4:31 is the translation of the same Greek word rendered liberty in this verse. The word is dative of advantage. The teaching is that Christ died on the Cross to give us the advantage of having this liberty or freedom. This liberty consists of the Christian’s freedom from the law. Under the law, the person has no more liberty than a child in its minority under a guardian. The child has no freedom of action nor right of self-determination. He must move within a set of rules prescribed by his guardian. He is not old enough to act alone. He must always act under the restrictions of his guardian. So is it with the person under the law. Here were these Galatian Christians, free from the law, having been placed in the family of God as adult sons, indwelt by the Holy Spirit who would enable them to act out in their experience that maturity of Christian life in which they were placed, now putting on the straight-jacket of the law, cramping their experience, stultifying their actions, depriving themselves of the power of the Holy Spirit. They were like adults putting themselves under rules made for children.” Jesus said in Jn. 8:36, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Paul writes in Rom. 5:21, “as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
- Stand firm—Paul follows up with an imperative, “stand firm” to encourage the Galatians to be immovable. To not be swayed from leaving salvation in Christ for the Law. However, this is only made possible by what God has done for us. There are many passages where Paul commands the church to be strong in their faith (see 1 Cor. 16:13; Phil. 1:27; 4:1; 1 Thess. 3:8; 2 Thess. 2:15). IVP New Testament Commentary,“Paul illustrated in his autobiography how he stood firm in his freedom against “false brothers” who “infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves” (2:4). He did not give in to their pressure to make Titus, a Gentile convert, a Jew by circumcision. Now similar false teachers have infiltrated the ranks of the Galatian churches with the same demand. They have been putting the Galatian converts under intense social pressure to become Jews by being circumcised. Stand firm, Paul says. Do let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (v. 1).” In essence, it is the duty of every Christian to defend the freedom that Christ has given each one of us.
- Submit—A better translation is “to be burdened or oppressed by.” Many of Paul’s readers were slaves or had relatives who were slaves, so they would have understood the weight of what Paul was saying to them. It would make no sense to them to revert back to slavery after experiencing freedom.
- Yoke of slavery—Up to this point, Paul has illustrated the Law as a guardian (3:24; 4:2) and a slave woman (4:22). In 5:1, Paul now compares the Law to a “yoke of slavery.” In Jewish literature, the Law was honored as a yoke to all those who obeyed it. However, yoke also symbolized bondage or slavery. Which explains why Paul chose the phrase “yoke of slavery.” It not only captures the essence of religion under the Law but relates to his previous analogy regarding Ishmael (the slave son) and Isaac (the free son) in 4:22-31. Keeping the Law was an unbearable burden and an intolerable task for anyone to fulfill. Martin Luther writes, “Like oxen that toil in the yoke all day, and in the evening are turned out to graze along the dusty road, and at last are marked for slaughter when they can no longer draw the burden, so those who seek to be justified by the Law are ‘entangled with the yoke of bondage,’ and when they have grown old and broken-down in the service of the Law they have earned for their perpetual reward God’s wrath and everlasting torment.”
- 11:28-30: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
- 15:6-11: The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.