Living Free and Standing Firm
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Far too often is the Christian tempted to take the absolutely stunning message of the gospel and contort it in to a list of do’s and don’ts. The scripture is full of direction for godly living, but we face a grave problem if we take those instructions and force the gospel to submit to our own “good” deeds. Consider the church of Galatia. Paul writes to a body of believers who are setting forth relics of the Jewish law, namely circumcision, as not only good for daily living, but necessary for salvation. In other words, the church was suggesting that if a believer did not participate in circumcision, he would not be saved. Look at how Paul responds in Galatians 5:2: “[If] you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” Those are strong words. Why was Paul so severe in his rebuke? Consider that in coming to the cross, a believer must recognize that his or her salvation is completely and entirely dependent upon Christ and Christ alone. We can do nothing to earn the grace of Calvary. When we add to Calvary and put forth our own actions as requirements for salvation, we are essentially debasing the very foundation of salvation, the foundation that removes all personal responsibility and places us completely at the mercy of Jesus Christ. What’s more, Paul says that if we put forth one portion of the law as a requirement for salvation, we are now responsible for the whole law. We know that is a standard we are completely and utterly unable to meet.
Let’s bring this closer to home. What if we were to examine our own lives more closely? Would we find evidence that we are adding to the gospel of Christ? There are two tell-tale signs that we are using our own actions to justify our salvation: pride and insecurity. The first might make a bit more sense than the latter. If we are burgeoning with pride at our own good actions, we have taken our filthy rags and lifted them up as worthy of honor before the Lord (Isaiah 64:6). But what about insecurity? Insecurity tells a person that he or she isn’t or can never measure up to some standard. The beauty of the gospel is this: while we will never be able to fulfill the demands of the law, the righteousness of God has been fully imparted to us through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Insecurity flies in the face of that truth, still placing a burden upon ourselves that tells us that though we feel we are failing, we have a personal responsibility to earn our salvation. That whisper is a sham and should be condemned with an equal tenacity with which we seek to root out pride.
Paul likens this recognition that we can do absolutely nothing to earn our salvation to freedom. That is a beautiful word. We are now free from the bonds of a law that we can never fulfill, never satisfy. No longer do we have to rely upon our actions to justify ourselves before God. What a wonderful calling that is! But Paul goes one step farther. He not only assures us we are free, he tells us to claim that freedom! “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1b). In other words, never again make yourself responsible for your own salvation in any capacity. Boldly stand in awe and wonder of the Lord and what he has done for you. You are free from your own inability to reach righteousness because righteousness has been bequeathed to you through Jesus Christ. Praise be to his great name! Any temptation to add to our salvation, rendering the cross of Christ invaluable, must be driven out of our hearts.
Lest we believe this gives us a license to sin, hop over to Galatians 5:16. While we can never contribute to our salvation through our own good works, we are still called to obedience. This life of obedience is motivated in joyful worship unto the Lord. Because we have been set free, we worship and obey. We live fully unto Christ. While slavery to the Law tells us that our salvation is contingent upon our action, freedom tells us that our salvation is placed in the unfailing hands of Christ. In that truth, we walk freely in obedience, submitting daily to the Holy Spirit that produces good fruit within those whom he dwells (Galatians 5:22&23). This kind of obedience produces neither pride nor insecurity, but humility and gratitude before Jesus Christ, who took a slave that was flailing under the burden of condemnation and set him free under the banner of grace.
Questions to Ponder:
- Am I adding to or taking away from my salvation by my own pride or insecurity?
- Are my actions motivated out of love and adoration of Christ or by my feeling of obligation to be “good enough”?
Prayer to Pray:
“Lord, I praise you for imparting to me that which I could never earn on my own. Thank you that before you, I stand robed in the righteousness of Christ. Teach my heart to worship you continually, in thought and in action. Help me to have full gratitude for what you have done for me. Please forgive me for any way that I have tried to take credit for what you have done so completely and fully for me in granting to me salvation.”