Galatians 5:1 “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” (The Message)
There is a song by Casting Crowns that describes our topic today. Here are two verses from the song:
It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls’ teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know
A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances
Are better out on the road
When have you felt pressure to “be a certain way” to others? Have you ever felt that being a teen mom “eliminated” you from certain situations, even when it shouldn’t? In what ways might the people in the church described above be judging the visitor? Have you ever felt this in a church/youth setting? What kinds of rules do Christians put on others that aren’t necessarily a sin to disregard?
Reading and Questions
Read Galatians 5:2-6 in your own bibles.
In Eugene Peterson’s “The Message,” he interprets verses 2 and 3 as follows:
2-3I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.
I know this whole passage can sound very confusing, so let’s look at a few key points:
- In reference to the Discussion questions above, could any of the rules you discussed be a part of a “rule-keeping system?”
I’d like to point out a few harmful rule-keeping systems that I’ve seen. In some churches, it is considered a sin to dance. In others, it is a sin to use playing cards. There are churches that require a certain clothing style, hair length, or even translation of the bible. These are all examples of rules that, while they may be good moral guides and beneficial to follow, are used legalistically and do not allow room for grace.
- When Paul, who wrote the book of Galatians, talks about “circumcision” and “the Law” he is referring to Old Testament times.
First we will look at God’s covenant with Abraham: Circumcision. God wanted to set his people, Abraham’s descendants, apart from all others on earth. So he required that they be circumcised. It was a covenant—a binding agreement, between God and his people. Read Genesis 17:10, and fill in the following:
“This is my ___________________ with you and your descendants after you, the ____________________
you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.”
Second, we will look at the law. After Abraham lived, Moses came along and God used him to establish a law with his people. Among many other things, it involved sacrificing animals for their sin. It was a temporary solution to an eternal sin problem: Sin separated them from God. After they were given all of the rules to follow, Moses spoke to them. Read Deuteronomy 29:12-13 and fill in the following:
“You are standing here in order to enter into a ____________________with the LORD your God, a
_______________________ the LORD is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, to confirm
you this day as his people…”
- Sounds like a lot of rules we should be living by, right? But when Jesus died on the cross and came back to life, he became the New Covenant. In Luke 22:20, Jesus is quoted: “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ’This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you,’” (emphasis mine). Jesus came to get rid of the old Law! And not only for the Israelites, but for ALL people, including you and me. In Mark 16:15, Jesus says, “…Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.“
I wanted to point all of this out for one main reason: We cannot understand God’s grace until we have understood the consequence of our own sin. If we have sin in us, which we all do, we cannot be near God. Jesus died on the cross, and rose three days later as the forever sacrifice for our sins, allowing us to have salvation. Without Jesus, we cannot be near God. Without Jesus, we don’t have salvation. Without Jesus, we cannot go to heaven. The old law was temporary, and even though it served a purpose, people were constantly failing at the law.
Jesus abolished the law. With Jesus, we have grace. With Jesus, we have forgiveness for our sins. No amount of rule-following or animal sacrificing can help us achieve salvation, it is something we can only receive through believing that Jesus is God, died on the cross in place of us for our sins, and came back to life and currently lives in heaven, waiting for us.
Here is Galatians 5:6 in the “The Message”:
-6I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
I know you’ve made mistakes. I know you’ve been judged, have judged others, and felt judged by God. But the Bible is very clear that his GRACE allows us to be free. That’s right, regardless of your sin—past, present and future—if you have accepted Christ as your savior, you are free! You are no longer bound by your sin. If God doesn’t hold it against you, then neither should you hold it against yourself.
If you haven’t accepted Christ as your savior, know that you can only find peace through doing so. Live joyfully in the freedom of Christ!
There are two ways to respond to this message:
- If you have a relationship with Christ, be aware of rule-keeping systems that attempt to keep you from living free in Christ. Make it your focus to please God, rather than men. And also be sure not to hold anyone else to your own rules, unless, of course, they are acting in direct opposition to the bible. Christ’s death and resurrection should not be used as permission to sin: Instead, it is a gift of freedom and power to move past our sin.
- If you do not have a relationship with Christ, consider the freedom that you could have by starting this relationship. Pray today and confess your sin to God, tell him you believe that Christ died and rose again to take away your sin, and Christ will enter your heart. Then celebrate your new-found freedom. Talk to your leader, mentor or youth pastor about this great decision you have made.
Read all six chapters of Ephesians…but just one chapter per day. Each day, journal about what caught your eye during the reading, and how it applies to your life.
Do a web search for the song “I Am Free” by Ross Parsley. This is a great song about our freedom in Christ.
Casting Crowns. “If We Are the Body.” Casting Crowns. Reunion Records Inc., 2003.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
To download or print this study, click: Freedom PDF.