What is Freedom?

Paul is continuing to try to convince the Galatians that they have been set free from the law. They no longer need to continue to obey each of the tenents of the law that God gave to Moses to lay out to the Israelites. They no longer needed to do this because God has given them freedom through Jesus Christ because they now have the Spirit of God living within them.

Paul starts chapter 5 saying this:

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 sentiment of that first sentence. I think it speaks to something deep within me. Freedom. Yeah, that sounds good. I don’t always feel free, so the offer of freedom sounds amazing. It is for freedom that Christ has set me free.

But exactly what are we talking about there? What do we mean when we say the word freedom?

Oxford says this:

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.
“we do have some freedom of choice”


the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
“the shark thrashed its way to freedom”

Let me test those quickly: It is for “the right to act, speak, or think” as I want that Christ has set me free.

Hmm… no, that doesn’t really fit what we would think of in a Biblical sense. I need to put on the mind of Christ, not my own mind.

Another test: It is to not be “imprisoned or enslaved” that Christ has set me free. Yeah, that’s getting closer. The scriptures most certainly talk about not being a slave to sin or being imprisoned by sin. So, Christ has set me free so that I will no longer be enslaved.

So, we’re close, but I’m not sure that we’ve completely captured it yet.

But I noticed, as I looked down further in the chapter, a connection between how Paul started the chapter saying that Christ gave us freedom, and potentially a definition of what he means by that. Paul draws a comparison between the acts of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. He says that the acts of the flesh are obvious, and of course, that is true: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

And if we think about it, those things are obvious to us, not only because we not only inherently know that each of those things are not good, but we also have laws from God against each of them, not to mention laws from man against several of them as well.

But then Paul goes on to speak about the fruit of the Spirit, meaning that if we live according to the Holy Spirit that God has placed in us when we live for Jesus, we inherently do these things: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And Paul, of course, points out that against such things there is no law.

Typically when I write, I don’t like to use examples of other people to show a bad example, but I had something happen yesterday that is relatively benign, yet a good examplar of what I think we’re talking about here.

I had to take my son to another city for a practice for his sport, so we drove on a 4-lane highway down to the other city. It was about an hour away and we were already running late, so admittedly, I was already going a little faster than I should have been. I was in the left lane and passing someone when I look in the rearview mirror and see a car come screaming up behind me. I couldn’t tell you how fast he was going, but he was swerving through traffic.

He came up very quickly behind me, flashing his lights, riding on my back bumper, etc. I continued to pass the car that was in the right lane and then moved over to the right. However, in some sort of strange demonstration to seemingly show me his dominance of the road, he swerved over behind me, drove up on the right shoulder, and then swerved over right next to our car, as if he was going to broadside us on the right side, swerving back over at the last second to avoid hitting me. My wife was screaming. I was “exclaiming”, let’s say, and it was chaos for about 2 seconds. All of this at about 130km or 80mi per hour. In the end, he just kept going, flying down the road ahead of us.

Whew… So, that made me think this morning. There are laws, of course, against what he was doing. No one should ever drive in that way. It was super-dangerous, to say the least.

But then I also thought, those laws didn’t necessarily stop him from driving in that way. He didn’t seem to mind breaking the laws.

Yet, if he had driven, and if we all drove according to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, there wouldn’t need to be any laws. If we drove with love, joy, peace, etc… no laws required. Yet we don’t. Our egos, our pride, our own desires all get in the way.

This is that from which Christ has set us free. We have freedom from the law and from the punishment that would come from breaking the law because we have the Holy Spirit. Let us live according to the Spirit as a free people, those that have been set free to live according to the leading of the Spirit.

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