As we approach Independence Day, this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves as to how this great nation forged its independence from one of, if not the most powerful nation on Earth at that time.
As various conflicts and skirmishes were becoming more regular leading up to the meetings of the Continental Congress in the mid-1770’s, it was the conclusion that the colonists could no longer bear living under the oppressive British rule. They wanted to be free! To make official this inevitable conclusion, they framed the Declaration of Independence. Although most Americans know that the purpose of the Declaration was to announce freedom from Great Britain, interestingly, the signers had several specific purposes in mind which it was intended to accomplish. In fact, one of the key reasons was to state their ardent belief that all men were created equal by God and that they possess certain unalienable rights. That they no longer had to live by the oppressive and unnecessary rules put on them by the British Crown.
It is the same with God’s plan for us. Unlike King George III, God does not want us to live by needless rules. In fact, the apostle Paul wrote about that very thing to a group of churches in the region of Galatia, who were being told that they could have Jesus, but also had to follow all these rules in order to “achieve” salvation. The rules were actually a reverting back to Jewish practices, such as circumcision, dietary restrictions, and other Jewish customs. This group of false teachers that were propagating this to the church were called “Judaizers.” So Paul wrote to the Galatians to denounce this false teaching and to defend the gospel of justification by faith alone.
Commentators appropriately call the Epistle to the Galatians the “Christian Declaration of Independence.” G. Duncan has called it the “Magna Carter of Evangelical Christianity.” In fact, like the Declaration, the apostle Paul is emphatic right at the outset, when he reveals how astonished he was to learn that the Galatians were turning to a false gospel— one that “distorts the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6-7). That they were going back to unnecessary rules which not only puts them back in bondage to the law, but devalues and even attempts to negate the Cross (Gal 2:21; 3:3).
So, on the occasion of our great national holiday, as we commemorate when a loosely knitted band of colonists decided they were not going backwards by having to live in the very bondage they sought to leave behind, we are reminded in Galatians:
That in Christ—there is freedom from the law!
Freedom: from having to follow a list of rules, to just following a Person.
Freedom: from living under the law, to living under grace.
The impact of the truth concerning freedom is staggering—and is played out in chapter 5 (the key chapter in the epistle.) In fact, Chapter 5 records the power of this freedom: “Walking in the Spirit” (5:16) and the results of that freedom, “the Fruit of the Spirit” (5:22).
People sometimes get it in their heads, saying: “I am saved by grace, but, going forward, I will have to depend on my own efforts.” But that’s not what the Gospel is. We don’t receive the Gospel and move on…we go deeper!
That’s what the Judaizers were teaching: The Gospel plus human effort. But Paul speaks out against such thinking, which actually holds us captive when we consider what Jesus has done for all those who believe. “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:23-24).The law showed us the seriousness of sin—so we could appreciate the depths of God’s grace.
As you celebrate the Fourth of July this year, remember that Christ set us free, and like the framers of the Declaration of Independence said, we’re not going backwards! That’s what Paul was telling the Galatians. “You’ve been made free, don’t be enslaved again in bondage of your former lives!”
Live free! Happy Fourth!
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