Have you ever seen someone who was recently released from a long term in prison? Sometimes, although he no longer lives behind the iron doors of a cell, he still looks and act like a prisoner. He walks quickly with his head down so as to not gain unwanted attention. He makes his bed according to the rules of the penitentiary. He may go to bed at a strict and early hour every night. He often hides away his belongings. And he has a hard time making his own choices. He is used to the warden making his decisions and the guards and the telling him what to do. He hasn’t learned that he is no longer a convict, he is a new person, a freed man. There are times when these men actually think they miss incarceration and they will commit crimes just to go back to the familiarity of confinement.
Believer, you are free! You were once a slave but now you are the son or daughter of God. You are a king or a queen. But so many Christians cannot grasp the idea of being free that they are swayed by the people who come in and give them the long list of rules and rituals they must obey in order to be saved. Or others believe the list of rules that don’t appear to be rules, rules that give a false freedom. They still look and act like the slaves they were before. Whether following the teacher of legalism or the teacher of antinomianism (an extreme liberalism in which no laws, ethics, moral codes, or otherwise are followed), these people are not following Christ, they are slaves to the law. Verses 1-6 read,
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
It is not that circumcision is a sin, it isn’t. Circumcision for the sake of obliging religious leaders is saying that we must do certain acts, obey laws to be saved. If we choose to obey the laws for our salvation then we are required to keep all of it. And that is impossible since the Temple in Jerusalem is no longer standing. Today we might change the requirement for circumcision to something else, for instance a requirement to abstain from alcohol.
There are people in our churches who preach that drinking is a sin, that Christians cannot drink. They set up lots of rules like that, no drinking, dancing, cussing, whatever. They teach that Christians must follow these rules and if they do not they are at the least not ‘good Christians’ and at the worst going to Hell because they are sinning. Sadly there are also people in our churches who claim grace, grace and more grace. They say we should not conform to the image of the church, we should drink as much as we like, cuss like sailors, and dance like strippers. They claim that as long as you call yourself Christian you should not have to change and that sin is fine because grace abounds! Slavery is slavery whether to laws or lawlessness.
Both of these sides though seemingly opposite are actually opposed to Christ and for Satan. Conformity to the religion or conformity to the world is not conformity to Christ. Why are we letting people teach these lies and lead people straight to Hell? Paul had some strong words for those false teachers. Verses 7-11 read,
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
If Paul were saying, “Yes, here is the list of requirements for Christians and it includes a, b, and c (anything other than faith in Christ as Lord) then he would not be hated so much by the world. Satan would want him to keep up his work. But He was preaching the whole Gospel of Christ and so he was being persecuted. He even said that he wished the people teaching circumcision would cut off their own penises! Not very ‘Christian’ of him, right? The believers in the church need to get these liars out so that it is they and only they who will face the penalty of Hell and not the many who they would lead or the few who allowed it.
We were made free. Free men do not wear chains. We are free from sin because we are the sons and daughters of God. We have His blood covering us and we have His Spirit indwelled in us. We are new, no longer slaves but royalty. Kings and queens are not slaves, but they do have a responsibility to be Kings and queens. They may be free to do whatever they choose to do but the truly noble do not go slumming. Verses 13-15 read,
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Did you know that for the believer there is no such thing as sin? (1 Corinthians 10:23). I mean nothing counts against us, we’ve already been forgiven and God has given us his grace. For the non-believer everything is sin, meaning nothing he does will earn him salvation (Titus 1:15). But the Spirit within us, God, He is love, He loves and He transforms us to love. We don’t have to be concerned with this rule and that rule. If we live out loving one another and loving the people of this world, then we are living as the image of Christ.
Coming in to a church and trying to teach believers anything other than the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ is not love. I’ve seen both the legalists and the antinominalists criticizing believers for not being the image of who they believe the church ought to be. “Hmmm, don’t you require the women to wear skirts and the men to wear suits? How disrespectful!” “Hmmm, don’t you think that dressing so nicely will turn off people who don’t have nice clothes? Shameful!” Those biting remarks are the beginning of the meal where the church is the main course and ends when only the carcass remains.
Christianity is not proven through the length of the skirt or disproven by the number of tattoos. Faith is not exhibited by abstinence from wine or drunkenness from wine. It is proven and exhibited by the Holy Spirit in us. We either walk according to God’s Spirit or we walk according to the flesh (the desire to gratify the self). We either walk in the Spirit and exhibit His love or we walk by the flesh and exhibit our selfishness. Verses 16-26 reads,
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The love of God in us causes us to live in love of one another and love of our neighbor. That is the law of Christ. The flesh and the Spirit are opposed to one another. God imbued us with His Sprit, His character comes through and we please him by love. We are not slaves to law anymore, we live out His love, love for others not love for us. We exalt God, not ourselves. We glorify the Lord, not ourselves. We serve His will, not ours.
Believer, live free! You are not a slave to the law, you are not a slave to sin. You are free to love, free to be the image of Christ, and free to live as the radiating beautiful child of God He has made you to be. Choose to walk in the Spirit and crucify the flesh.