Friday, October 30, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 5, verse 18

Galatians 5:18 “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

Once again, Paul brings his arguments full circle, returning to the topic of Galatians 5:1. That is, a relationship with Christ means freedom; dependence on the law means slavery.

“If you are led by the Spirit” If you are a Christian – a “son of God” (see Romans 8:14), that is, authentically Christian, in a living relationship with Jesus; if you are truly born again, then:

“you are not under the law.” To the Jew of Paul’s day, it was expected that one would observe and obey all the components of the Old Testament Law for salvation and/or sanctification. One didn’t obey the law as a means to please God per se, but one did so in order to be acceptable to God in the first place. One slip up meant the relationship with God was broken. Freedom in Christ, at least according to Galatians 5:1, frees us from this bondage, and we depend on Christ’s redemption to bring us into right relationship with God. This, of course, horrified both the traditional Jew and the Greek believers of Paul’s day, because they feared that this meant accepting Jesus as the Messiah would result in, according to Paul, Christians being free from all moral authority. That’s ridiculous, of course, but Christians are freed from the law in the sense that Israel had been under the law. The law as practiced before Jesus came to the earth did not provide the means to resist sin, or the power of sin – it only served to condemn the sinner. But the grace of God in Christ – a living relationship with Jesus that miraculously transforms us in our inner man – this enables us to resist sin and the sin nature. (Paul is about to specifically expound on that in the following verses). For the Greeks of Paul’s day, their humanistic philosophers held that the truly wise needed no laws or rules – they instinctively knew what was right. The Old Testament had a parallel for this when it spoke of the law being written on a person’s heart (e.g. Jeremiah 31:31-34). The Jews understood the concept of Israel being “led” by God, especially in its deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Indeed, that is the exact parallel. The law is slavery; redemption in Jesus is freedom. And the parallel in the struggle to resist sin, and the “flesh” is there as well – Israel, as a nation, struggled with throwing off the yoke of slavery and following God into the wilderness. Paul explains here and in places like Romans 7 the Christian’s battle with sin. But unlike the Old Testament story, we, as Christians, have a greater weapon, a clear way to true freedom – the transformational power of a relationship with Christ!

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