Monday, January 2, 2017

A Yoke of Bondage?

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."  Galatians 5:1 

When the Apostle Paul wrote those words, he was not referring to becoming entangled with sin, but rather avoiding becoming entangled with the yoke of bondage because of the law.  His entire warning at the beginning of Galatians chapter five is about going back under the law of Moses.

Paul's great concern is not that the church at Galatia was going back into pagan worship or some other grave sin. Paul's concern was that they might submit themselves to bondage by submitting to the law.  In this case it was the law concerning circumcision.

He tells the Galatians that if they were to follow what some legalists were preaching to them and become circumcised, Christ would have no value.  Why?  Because, as he explains, if they think they must keep just one law (and become circumcised), they become indebted to keep all of the law - all 613 rules, laws, and commandments! Paul calls this the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10).  The curse was that unless you continued in everything the law commanded, you were guilty of breaking it all.   Similarly, James said in James 2:10, "For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws." (New Living Translation)

Paul was adamant that the law was not to have power over the lives of believers in Jesus.  Why was Paul against following the law?  Because the law never had the ability to remove sin!  The blood of bulls and goats never could take away sin.  Jesus shed His blood once for all time, and put away sin forever!

Now, if one adds one thing, just one little law to the finished work of Christ on the cross, that person becomes entangled with a yoke of bondage.  What makes Christ's death, burial, and resurrection so powerful is not just deliverance from sin, but also the fact that Christ Jesus has freed us from the yoke of bondage, and the curse of the law. 

Paul tells the Galatians that if they try to be justified by keeping any of the law, they have fallen from grace.

How often have you heard that falling from grace is trying to follow the law?  Often people are taught that if they sin too much, they might just fall from grace! In no way is that true!

Why? First of all because where sin abounds, grace much more abounds! It is a misinterpretation of what Paul is saying to suggest that any person could sin so much that there is just not enough grace and that person therefore gets cut off from God.  However, Paul is absolutely stating that anyone trying to be right with God by following the law is cut off from God!  Righteousness apart from the blood of Jesus is akin to trying to add one drop of blood from a bull or a goat to the blood of Jesus! That is an abomination!

The church today often tries to mix law with the grace of God.  Perhaps it is because we are afraid that if we don't give people some rules that they will just go right out and sin?  We tell unbelievers that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works. God forgives all of their sin, and offers them the free gift of salvation and eternal life.

However, once someone comes to faith in Christ, we often immediately begin to tell them all the rules of how to remain faithful.  Perhaps we think that giving people rules stops them from falling into sin?  Good luck with that!  Rules have never kept people from sin.  In fact, Paul said that the strength of sin was the rules! (See 1 Corinthians 15:56; Romans 3:20, 4:15, and 5:13)  The rules we give are not bad things to do, but rules do not develop intimacy or actually help a person understand who they are in Christ. 
The condition, punishment and strength of sin were dealt with at the cross when Jesus shed His blood once for all time.  The liberty we have in Christ is not kept by all of us following laws or rules.  In Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, who is the umpire in our hearts (see Colossians 3:15), leading us in peace and away from sin. The liberty we have in Christ is kept by Christ Himself as He rules in our hearts.