In this chapter, Paul looks at the ideas of freedom in Christ and life in the in step with the Spirit.
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.Galatians 5:1
I love the repetition in the first part of this verse (I can’t help it; I’m an English teacher). It’s simultaneously no-nonsense, simple and yet profound. Of course the desire for setting someone free is for freedom. That seems obvious. But also, Christ set us free so we could experience the wholeness of freedom. We’re not just free in one aspect; he freed us so we could be free in everything.
But we’ve also been tricked into thinking that freedom is easy and freedom is natural. We think of free-spirited people, those who go around, untethered and unchained by society, doing what they want and experience what they want. But it turns out, actually, that in a world of sin, freedom is hard. It’s something you fight for. Freedom is something you take a stand for.
It reminds me a bit of Loki’s speech in the Avenger’s movie. Loki states that it is “the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation”.
In a way, Loki is right. We do need to choose which masters we serve. I like the fact that the old man doesn’t say he won’t kneel; he simply won’t kneel to a man like Loki. The old man is right, there are always men like Loki.
Romans 1:25 talks about what humanity chooses to serve and worship:
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen.
The worship of created things is slavery. The Law was a created thing.
However, when we worship Jesus, through whom all things were made, we experience true freedom. We are free to be who we are created to be; we are free to know God and to know love and to know truth and to know life. It is for freedom that we are free.
Sometimes, we believe that freedom means doing whatever we want and whatever we feel. This isn’t the case
You, my brother and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.Galatians 5:13
Freedom is a glorious gift. We shouldn’t squander it and spoil it. We should cherish it and use it for good.
With Christ, we are also promised another gift: the Holy Spirit with us. This Spirit brings three things: faith, righteousness and hope.
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.Galatians 5:5
It’s interesting that the righteousness is a hope. It’s something that is being worked in us and is not quite a present reality. Paul speaks about this a bit in Romans:
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.Romans 7:19-20
We have been made righteous; we are currently justified. But we are also sinners that need the work of the Spirit in us daily to renew us and transform us. We have faith and a hope that the Spirit is changing us and will continue to change us and when we are in glory we will be made righteous. We read about this on-going glorious process in another of Paul’s letters:
I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1: 5-6
We have the hope of righteousness and that one day there will not be an inner battle for which we have to make a stand. We will no longer have the passions of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19; we will have the pure fruit of the Spirit. Freedom and righteous will be our natural state. But what do we do until then?
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.Galatians 5:25
We daily crucify the flesh’s desires and passions and we submit ourselves to the Spirit. It is by this submission that we can be set free.