“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage”
Paul now focuses on the practical appeal of living by the grace principle (Galatians 5:1-6:10). The last two chapters challenge the believer to practice the principle of grace.
First, he says that legalism enslaves the believer (Galatians 5:1-2). The whole epistle argues grace more from the Christian viewpoint than the non-Christian. Liberty characterizes the Christian life. But just not any kind of liberty. Christians have liberty in their position with Jesus Christ. Jesus gave them a life that sets us free from sin and the responsibility to gain God’s forgiveness for their sin.
It is important for believers to take a firm stand on the grace principle. It is not enough to float along. Christians must persist in their understanding and application of grace. It takes attentiveness to sustain our freedom in Christ. Legalism will creep back into our Christian lives if we are not on our toes spiritually.
The “therefore” harks back to chapter 4 where Paul used the word “free” in relation to Sarah the freewoman. We take our stand in liberty in view of our freedom in Christ.
in the liberty
“Liberty” is our license to walk with God freely (Galatians 5:13). The Christian has manumission from the bondage of trying to measure up to God’s standards. In the Roman Empire, slaves could not purchase their freedom. Their masters paid for their freedom to the temple treasury. A god then set them free. No one could enslave them again for they were the property of the god. Freed slaves received a document to certify their liberty. Christians have their certification of liberty by the cross of Christ.
The word “liberty” is first in the sentence making it very emphatic. The gospel of grace brings the Christian into new privilege and position before God. The emphasis in this chapter is living the Christian life by God’s grace.
by which Christ has made us free,
The combination of “liberty” and “free” (from the same root) stresses the completeness of our authorization to walk with God. The Greek tense (aorist) indicates the totality of our liberty. We owe our liberty to Christ’s finished work on the cross. He did all the suffering necessary to forgive us and place us in a position of rights with God. We cannot add to that suffering by feeling guilty for our personal sins. Christ made us free from the penalty of sin at the cross.
The principle of liberty is our right and pass to access the presence of God.
The liberty that Christ gives is not civil liberty but personal liberty from paying for our sins. Christ acquired a liberty of the soul for us. We no longer fear God’s wrath because Christ took that wrath, already for us. It cost Him His human life.
Christians should stand on their liberty. They should hold to God’s grace. If they do not stand on the principle of grace, the Christian life falls into legalism, a self-effort approach to gaining God’s favor. That is why we must come to grips with the fact that we have God’s favor already. The principle of grace can slip from us very easily; it is necessary to hold it fast.
Christian liberty is not liberty to sin or to indulge selfish desires. It is a liberty to live in a life of godliness.
“But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
The liberty of being right with God is the greatest liberty of all. When our heart possesses assurance with God, our heart is free to live with God forever. We are free to serve the Lord without compulsion. We serve Him because we want to do it. This is the polar opposite of serving the Lord in a straightjacket of legalism that throttles our walk. We do right because it is right, not because of some extrinsic reason.
God saves us by grace; we live by grace and we will die in God’s grace. One day God will free Christians from the very presence of sin.
The basis for all freedoms is grace. Grace is the provision God makes for us on the basis of His Son’s person and work. Jesus provided a way that we might have eternal salvation, power to live the Christian life and be in the presence of God eternally. God provided these things totally by Himself. We did nothing to get them or earn them. We cannot add anything to get them or do anything to take away from them.