the gospel of FREE
“Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:25-26 CSB).
I have been highlighting the meaning of the gospel by focusing on key words suggested in each chapter of Galatians.
For chapter 1, the key word was DIFFERENT. The troublemakers were tempting the Galatians to reject the true gospel, and substitute a different one.
For chapter 2, the key word was GO. The gospel is good news for all nations, and so it comes with a mandate for us to go to others and share it.
For chapter 3, the key word was IN. The gospel invites us to put our faith in Jesus, and find our unity and equality in him.
For today’s chapter, the key word is FREE. The gospel offers freedom as opposed to slavery.
I want to concede some things from the get go. I am not suggesting that the gospel guarantees freedom from physical suffering.
Take a look at what Paul says in verses 13-15.
“you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a weakness of the flesh. You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself. Where, then, is your blessing? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.”
Paul actually came preaching the gospel to the Galatians while he was suffering from a physical problem. He wasn’t preaching a gospel of health and wealth. The freedom he was talking about was something different that freedom from illness or injury.
I am also not suggesting that the gospel frees Christians from stress. Take a look at these texts in today’s chapter:
“You are observing special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted” (10-11).
“My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you”(19-20).
It sounds like Paul was going through a stressful time. His concern and love for the Galatians made him worry about them. It is wise to not worry about things, but it is heartless to choose to not worry about people. Love worries.
I am also not suggesting that Christians will be free from opposition. Note verse 17:
“They court you eagerly, but not for good. They want to exclude you from me, so that you would pursue them.”
Paul had opponents in Galatia, and if we are serious about living the gospel message, we will have enemies too.
So, what does freedom mean for Christians?
Look at verses 4-5:
“When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Christians are free to reject the law as a means of salvation.
The law is holy and righteous and good, but the law did not bleed for us on Calvary. It can make us wise to salvation but it cannot save us itself. The purpose of the law of God in the Old Testament was to show us our need for God’s Son. Jesus redeemed those who were under the law by fulfilling the law’s demands for them. He turned them from slaves to sons, not because they obeyed the law, but because they put their faith in him.
That means that you and I are free to seek deliverance from our sins through Christ without first going through law school. God’s law can be many things for us, but it can never be the means of our salvation.
Christians are also free to receive the Holy Spirit, who testifies of our new relationship with God.
My friend Mark Wolfington wrote this comment a few years ago:
“Some friends of ours recently welcomed their first child into their home. Instead of the usual nine months, the parents had waited nearly 10 years for the day to arrive. Their son joined their family through adoption. It was a long and costly journey for them, involving a lengthy application process and costing tens of thousands of dollars. The look on their faces when they brought their son home told the story: their long struggle was worth it. They loved their little boy long before they ever held him, and they’d do it all again. The little boy that now has a home was born in a part of the world where children have virtually no value, and child-labor laws are non-existent. If not for the intervention of parents that he’d never met, he may have ended up as little more than a slave. That would-be slave is now a son.”(Maranatha Daily Devotional – Wednesday, June 7, 2017).
Paul told the Galatians that because they are sons, God gave them the Holy Spirit (6). They have a new relationship, adopted into God’s family, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to that fact.
The Bible encourages us to receive the Holy Spirit, and we should expect power from God. But the focus here is not empowerment as much as relationship. The Holy Spirit assures us that we always have access to our heavenly Father. Knowing the Father’s love encourages us to invite others into his family.
I’m reminded of that song “Big House”
“I don’t know if you got some shelter, Say a place to hide
I don’t know if you live with friends, In whom you can confide
I don’t know if you got a family, Say a mom or dad
I don’t know if you feel love at all, But I bet you wish you had
Come and go with me To my Father’s house
Come and go with me To my Father’s house
It’s a big big house, With lots and lots a room
A big big table, With lots and lots of food
A big big yard, Where we can play football
A big big house, Its my Father’s house.”
Christians are also free to rejoice by faith in the future we are promised regardless of the barrenness of the present.
Note verse 27:
“For it is written, Rejoice, childless woman, unable to give birth. Burst into song and shout, you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate woman will be many, more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband.”
The prophet Isaiah was talking about a time in the future when Israel would begin producing sons of God again. He called on God’s people to begin worshiping and rejoicing now because of that glorious future. That’s what God’s people do. We worship in anticipation of future blessing.
Christians are also free to repent of anything that keeps us in bondage.
One of the greatest freedoms anyone can ever experience is the freedom to change. Paul told the Galatians that they were getting off track, but they could get back on the right track. What they needed to do was:
“Drive out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave will never be a coheir with the son of the free woman” (30).
God had told Abraham that there were too many women in his house. He had to let Hagar and Ishmael go.
Brothers and sisters, we might need to do some housecleaning too. We are called to be free, and to share that freedom with a world in bondage. Freedom is contagious. People everywhere want it, but they are not going to look for freedom in a house of slavery.
Lord, thank you for our freedom you gave us, bought by the precious blood of Christ. Show us how to live in that freedom, so that others can find it through our witness.