It’s a great day to think about freedom. In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, the concept of freedom is emphasized (free and freedom are mentioned seven times). In 5:1, Paul explains, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Freedom is obviously important, if Christ set us free for the purpose of our being free. But what does that freedom mean? What are we free from?
The exhortation at the end of the verse helps us answer that question: “Therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” The freedom is from a particular yoke of slavery. Paul tells his readers in 4:8 that before they knew God they were “slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” He questions in 4:9 why the Galatian believers would ever desire to return to “the weak and worthless elemental things.” In short Paul is referring to a specific form of idolatry. As the worship of anything above than God, idolatry was a serious problem then and still is now. We can value things (anything) too much – to the point that we value them above God. And when we do that, we are being idolatrous. Specifically in the case of the Galatians, they were valuing law (and the Mosaic Law) and their pride in keeping it more than they were valuing God’s grace working in their lives. In other words, they were valuing their own efforts over God’s.
In His grace, God had set them (and us) free from the bondage of human effort – from slavery to guilt and self-improvement, because by one’s own works or efforts no one has ever been saved (Gal 2:16). Through Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, He offers all humanity the freedom from the debt that all men must pay, but which none ever can. And the vehicle for that grace is belief in Him (Gal 2:16, Jn 3:16, 6:47, Eph 2:8-9) – nothing more and nothing less.
As we value and celebrate our freedom, let’s consider what freedom really means, and let’s be careful not to value our liberty more than we value our Liberator.