FREEDOM IN CHRIST
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The apostle Paul gave instructions to the church in Galatia saying, “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” (Gal.5:1).
The important question is: By what were the church enslaved?
According to the context of Paul’s admonition, and other supporting scriptures, the church was enslaved to:-
- The law of circumcision which was regarded as a yoke which neither the disciples nor the forefathers were able to bear, and it is testified that, “To everyone who becomes circumcised is required to obey the whole law” which is rather impossible (Gal.5:3).
Freedom from the law of circumcision however does not invalidate the obedience to the commandments of God as alluded to by the apostle Paul who said, “Circumcision is nothing and un-circumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters” (1Cor.7:19).
He also stated that, “Although I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law – though not being myself under the law – that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law – not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ – that I might win those outside the law” (1Cor.9:19-21).
The apostle Paul was addressing the situation between the circumcised who were indebted to keep the law, and the uncircumcised who were without the law, and therefore the status now is, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Gal.5:6).
Now the faith which is at work is not a blind nebulous faith, but a faith which comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and applied through love. In other words what really counts is recognize the truth of God’s word, acknowledge it, apply it through love, and become a slave to it.
For example the psalmist David wrote; “Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws. I will always obey your laws for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them. I revere thy commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on thy statutes” (Ps.119:43-48).
True freedom is to walk in harmony with the laws of God.
- Freedom in Christ has liberated us from the letter of the law, but has not invalidated keeping the spirit or the righteous requirements of the law.
God has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. We have been delivered from the ministry of death and condemnation, but have been installed in the ministry of the Spirit and righteousness.
But how do we differentiate the letter of the law from the spirit of the law?
The letter of the law had to do with food and drink, various ceremonial washings and external regulations which were simply a type or a shadow of the real substance which is the body of Christ.
These external regulations were applicable until the time of reformation or the new order (Heb.9:10).
Hence the reason why the apostle Paul instructed the Colossians saying; “Let no one judge you in food or in drink in regards to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col.2;16-17).
The purpose or intent of all these external regulations was to clear the conscience of the worshiper and make perfect those who draw near to worship which was not attainable (Heb.9:9, 10:1).
The Spirit of the law on the other hand is to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law by faith through love, without these external requirements, and a written code, because, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8, 10). And vice versa, “If you love me, keep my commandments”.
And so it is written, “If the uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his un-circumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfilled the law judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not from man but from God”(Rom.2:26-29).
It is conclusive then that our freedom in Christ has not invalidated the law itself, but only its external regulations with its written code.
For example, the apostle Paul wrote; “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. What then shall we say? That the law is sin? Certainly not! He further said, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good” (Rom.7:6-7, 12).
And even though circumcision which indebted one to keep the whole law is now of no value, and the only thing that counts is faith expressed through love, this nevertheless has not make void the law through faith, but on the contrary the law is established
For example, doing away with the letter of the law, and observing the law in the Spirit did not abolished the observance of the Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread, because Paul’s admonition to the church is, “Purge out the old leaven (sin) that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the Feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Cor.5:7-8).
Neither did observing the law in the Spirit abolished the observance of the feast of Pentecost. Because, not only were the disciples of Jesus Christ celebrating the feast of Pentecost when they assembled together fifty days after his resurrection from the dead, and received the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul also made it his duty to keep the feast of Pentecost.
He said, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; and he sailed past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible on the Day of Pentecost” (Acts 18:21; 20:16).
On another occasion we are told that, “He stayed in Ephesus until Pentecost” (Acts 16:8).
It is of importance to note that the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles are interrelated as being ordained times of worship.For thus says the Lord; “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the lord your God in the place which he chooses; at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the lord empty handed” (Deut.16:16; Exo.23:14-17; Ex0.34:18,22-23).
The abolishment of the letter of the law also did not do away with the seventh day weekly Sabbath, nor changed it to another day. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, so the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27).
Now the way one shows reverence, respect, and adoration to the Son of Man as the Lord, is by observing his Sabbaths. The Lord said, “Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary, I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:30; 26:2). He also said, “Hallow my Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God” (Ezek.20:20).
- Freedom in Christ liberated us from the bondage of sin, but again, this did not invalidate the keeping of the commandments.
The apostle Paul wrote; “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. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness.” And, ‘Having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom.6:18, 22).
The bondage of sin from which we have been delivered is our independent sinful carnal nature, which is naturally hostile to God, and does not submit to God’s law, and neither can be.
We have received a new heart and a new spirit of adoption at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and when combined with the Holy Spirit, He will cause us to walk in His statutes and keep his judgments and do them. (Exek.36:26; Exek.11:19-20).
- Freedom in Christ liberated us from all men. As it is written,; “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. And like the apostle Paul said, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all that I might win the more” (1Cor.7:23; 1Cor.9:19).
Our freedom in Christ should not be used as a pretext for evil, or lawlessness; but to live as servants of God, obeying his commandments, and neither should this freedom be used as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (1Pet.2:16; Gal.5:13).
In other words freedom in Christ does not invalidate the keeping of the first and great commandment which is, to love the lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind” as demonstrated by the observance of the first four of the Ten Commandments; and neither the second great commandment, which is to love our neighbor as our selves, as demonstrated by the observance of the last six of the Ten Commandments.
In short, our freedom in Christ is to look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets, but a doer that acts, not under compulsion, or by strict command, but a doer who acts by faith through love, he/she shall be blessed in all his/her doings.(James 1:25).
The difference between fulfilling the law in the spirit, and fulfilling it in the letter, is application. One is applied through external regulations, and strict commands, while the other is applied by faith, through love as a form of gratitude. All we owe is a debt of love, for by the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified in his sight.
Essentials of life Ministry
St. Lucia W.I.
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