Living out the Freedom of the Gospel

Trey Garner June 30, 2019 Galatians 5:1-15
Outline

3 decisions that must be made by every follower of Christ

I. Choose to Stand Firm in Your Freedom

Galatians 5:1 - It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 3:23 - But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Galatians 4:3 - So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.

Galatians 4:9 - …how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

Galatians 2:21 - … if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.

Galatians 3:22 - But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Galatians 3:13 - Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”…

A. By refusing to be yoked to slavery

Galatians 5:2-4 - Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Galatians 1:6-7 - I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

Galatians 3:1-3 - You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you…This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

B. By trusting in Christ’s work

Galatians 5:5-6 - For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

II. Be Careful Who You Listen To

Galatians 5:7 - You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Galatians 2:4 - But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

A. Ensuring a deep knowledge of the gospel

Galatians 5:8-10 - This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.

B. Understanding the danger of bad teaching

Galatians 5:11-12 - But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

“If the Judaizers are so insistent on circumcision as a means of pleasing God, why don’t they go all the way and castrate themselves as the supreme act of religious devotion? If, like the pagans, they believe human achievement can earn divine favor, why don’t they go to the pagan extremes of self-mutilation, like the Cybelene priests?” John F. MacArthur Jr., Galatians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 142.

Acts 16:1-3 - Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

III. Live Out the Purpose of Your Freedom

A. Serve one another

Galatians 5:13-14 - For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

B. Refuse to bite and devour one another

Galatians 5:15 - But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Imagine for a moment that you have borrowed a large sum of money. Now, this money you borrowed was not the good kind of borrowing like a house or a car. It was more like credit card and medical debt. You can’t really sell an asset or watch it appreciate. You had to borrow the money to keep going, but the debt itself was not exactly something you were happy about.

The payments are doable, but they are crippling. Your family has had to live under the weight of this loan and its payments for years and years. Month after month you have sent in your payment to the loan and because the loan was so large, you barely were making payments on the principle.

In fact, each month that you checked on your balance and the progress you had made on the principle, things were getting worse and worse.

The harder you tried, the more it almost seemed that you could not make up the ground. Eventually you were resigned to the fact that you just could not get ahead of this debt. You were done trying.

You were going to make you minimum monthly payments if you could, but you resigned yourself to being under the burden of that debt forever.

Then, one day, a member of the church hears your story. He hears how you are being crushed under the burden, he hears how you have struggled and tried to no avail. He has watched with tender care and has decided to take action.

One Sunday, he tells you that because he loves and cares for you and your family, he wants to erase your debt. It is an action you can’t even comprehend. You can barely make the minimum payments, and he plans to sit down in a few moments, take our his checkbook and pay off the entire debt, and keep going about his day.

You had no idea that a person could have such tremendous wealth—and that a person with such incredible wealth could be so generous. You are overwhelmed with joy, with thanksgiving, with love for this person.

In a moment of joy you hug him and words of thanks over and over.

You ask, rather abruptly, is there any way you can pay back suck immense kindness as you look in his eyes rather sheepishly. Of course you know that there is no way to pay back such a large sum. In fact, to attempt to pay back in dollars such a large sum, you conclude, would actually be insulting to the giver.

He didn’t buy your loan as an investment. He wasn’t looking to take over your payments. He was looking to save you from them.

In response to your question he just says, “Live the way you are supposed to live. Love those around you and use your newfound financial freedom to serve God and others.”

You blurt out that of course you will and leave the congregation in just simple amazement and awe at what has happened.

But then a few weeks go by and you are really enjoying this freedom that you have. You begin to consider, “Can I get a new car?”

Perhaps I can get a bigger house?

Should I consider that vacation that I have always wanted?

What about going to the concert that is coming up?

How about eating better? I’ve always enjoyed lobster.

Now that you are free, you feel like you have the world before you. You feel that you can do anything. Finally, you don’t have that horrible, awful debt lingering over you—and you are going to enjoy this!

Night after night, you poor over your computer, clicking on amazon and buying things. You hunt for the best deals, the greatest experiences, the greatest house. And when you find what you long for in your heart—you make the purchase.

I’m free…why not?

But the reality is—you have not lived the way the generous man asked you to live. He wanted you to use your freedom in a particular way. He wanted you to use your freedom to love God and others.

You have started to use your freedom to love yourself.

So, let me ask you this question as we consider this made up story this morning—what do you think it will be like when you encounter the generous man and he asks how you have used your freedom?

Will he be overjoyed at how his gift was used? Will he agree with the decision you have made? Will he say, “I totally understand why you needed all those things you could never afford?”

Or will he ask you why you didn’t do what he asked you to do?

Will he wonder why it was so hard for you to use the freedom that the gave you for the mission?

With that in mind, please turn in your Bible to Galatians 5 beginning in verse 1.

This year we have been thinking through the Growing what God has given us. God has entrusted this congregation, this campus, and you personally with so much. And with that stewardship, he wants us to grow what it is that what given.

Now, when we say grow, we don’t just mean grow numerically, although that is an important metric for sure. We mean grow in the sense of becoming…growing to be more like Christ. We want our church to look like the way that Christ wants it to look. We want to value what he values, we want to think about things the way that he thinks, and we want to act and function the way hat Christ wants us to act and function.

So we need to grow to become more like him.

And right now we are in the middle of our series on Growing by Overcoming Bitterness. This series has been helpful for so many of us because the reality is we have either struggled with bitterness, are currently struggling with it, or will very shortly struggle with the temptation to grow bitter at another person and ultimately at God.

So, if we want to be a congregation that grows to become like Christ, one of the most important things we can do this year is ensure that we are handling the problem of bitterness.

Think of it this way. If I am building a new house, but part of my house has mold on it, I really should stop building for a moment. I need to handle the mold that is taking root. If I don’t, all the work that I am putting into growing my house (i.e. building) is going to either be severely tainted or eventually destroyed.

Handling the sin of bitterness is vital, then, if we want to grow to become like Christ in all that he has entrusted to us.

However, for this Sunday we are taking a break from that series and considering the idea of freedom. It is a natural time of the year to study this idea since the 4ht of July, Independence Day, is coming up. There are just natural times in our cultures whoop and wharf that allow for us to consider certain ideas. That doesn’t mean we have to, but it is a great time to highlight this point.

So today, we are going to be considering Living out the Freedom of the Gospel.

I would invite you to follow along with me as I read from Galatians 5. Try to trace the argument of the passage as we work though it.

Today, with the time that we have remaining, we are going to consider Three Decisions that Must be Made by every follower of Christ

And the first decision that must be made is…

I. Chose to stand firm in Your Freedom (V. 1)

Galatians 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Just as in the opening story, for those who have trusted Christ, you are free. But you say, free from what? Well the book of Galatians early said it this way:

You were a captive

Galatians 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Or later it says

Galatians 4:3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.

And later as Paul is asking a question he asks, “

Galatians 4:9 …how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

So the book of Galatians talks about a time when we were captives, slaves, and in bondage, and the question is to what?

The answer of course is SIN! We all were (or are) slaves to sin. Meaning, sin comes calling, and you have to obey. It calls the shots in your life and you have to do what it says.

Now, a moment ago I tried to draw a distinction between two classes of people. There are those who were enslaved to sin and those who ARE.

I did that because scripture teaches us that if you have not asked for Christ to set you free from your sins, then you are still enslaved. You still have your old, cruel task-master who is keeping you in bondage and what the scripture tells us is that if you want to be free, all you must do is ask to be set free.

All you must do is admit you are a sinner and that there is no way you can help yourself, there is no way to get yourself out of the problem.

You say, I’m not sure I like this helplessness. This is America. This is the land of the free, home of the brave. But scripture tell us that.

Galatians 2:21 “… if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

The point being that if you could save yourself through obedience to the law, then you would not need a savior. You would not need Christ…but you can’t and no one can.

You say, “That is not me!”

Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

So you need to admit your need and you need to ask Christ to meet that need. He met that need by living a perfect life, and then dying on the cross in your place—he took the punishment that was for you or as Galatians says it

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—

And so if you have not done this, placed your faith in Christ’s work on the cross to solve your problem of sin, I would invite you today to consider that.

However, if you have done that, then scripture says that you are free from sin. That sin is no longer your master. But sadly for many of us that is just not true.

Sadly for everyone who has been set free, we see our old master and we consider going back to him.

And so, as the point says, “we must stand firm in our freedom.” And we do that

A. By refusing to be yoked to slavery (v. 2-4)

Now I am taking the words “yoked to slavery from verse 1” but Paul explains what he means by that concept in verses 2 and following. He says…

Galatians 5:2–4 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Now, let’s pause for a moment and ask, “What is going one?” Why is Paul saying that if you are circumcised, then Christ is no benefit to you?

Scholars believe that Paul is writing this letter to the church at Galatia because someone has been peddling a gospel that is contrary to the gospel that Paul had preached.

That is why he opens his letter with this sad declaration.

Galatians 1:6–7 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

The church had begun to entertain the idea that they could save themselves by obeying the Law of Moses and that part of what was required was that the men be circumcised as part of the observance of that law.

And what Paul says is that if you are going to try to put yourself under the law, then you have to do it all the way. You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.

But trying to earn your salvation, just like in our introduction, is not insult to the giver of gifts but is TOTALLY IMPOSSOBIE.

God and Paul refuse to allow this in the church, so he does what any good counselor would do, he tosses out some rhetorical questions to make the point 😊

Galatians 3:1–3 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you…This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

His point is, do you really think that you can be perfected by the law? NO! Can you really please God to earn you way to heaven by obeying the law? No!

But then I can hear you saying, “How is it that we can be saved? How is it that we are to use our freedom? What does it mean to stand firm in the gospel?

Our text tell us we can do this…

B. By trusting in Christ’s Work (v. 5-6)

Galatians 5:5–6 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

We stand firm in the gospel; we stand firm in our freedom that we have from sin by trusting in the work of Christ—not in our own good deeds. Christ’s good work on the Cross.

If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and savior, the good news of Christ is that you are free. You are free from sin and you do not have to call it master any more.

You are free and one day you will be with God in Heaven because Christ paid your penalty. And what Paul wants us to do is to remember that we are free.

To stand firm in our freedom and refuse to subject to the yoke of slavery—the yoke of trying to earn our own way into Heaven.

But our passage and our exhortations about how we use our freedom do not end there.

There is also a warning to…

II. Be Careful who you listen to (v 7)

Paul asks,

Galatians 5:7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Now, I tend not to think that Paul is writing for them to answer the question literally. He is making a point that they were doing so well at standing and living out the gospel when he was there…he is pulling out his hair going, WHAT HAPPENED!

And part of what happen is that it seems they listened to some other teachers, and these other teaches tried to lead them down a different path.

Now this was not something new that had happened, in fact Paul had witnesses a similar thing happen and he recounts that in Chapter 2 and Paul gives us a brief personal history lesson to make the point. He has seen this craziness before and he dealt with it, and he will deal with it again.

It is interesting to not that he actually gets to the motive of some of these men and why the sneak into the congregation, Paul says,

Galatians 2:4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

And so, knowing that there are such evil men out there, who want to bring people back to bondage, who want to spy out the liberty that those who are in Christ have, he says we need to be so very careful to who you listen to when it comes to truth.

So Paul gives us the means to do that very thing by…

A. Ensuring a Deep Knowledge of the Gospel (v. 8-10)

Galatians 5:8–10 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.

The reality is that the church was led astray by this new/false gospel because they did not have a deep knowledge of this gospel. They allowed a little leaven in…and that little bit of wrong false teaching…just be circumcised…that little bit leavened the whole lump.

The reality is, it is so easy to allow false teaching in. It is so easy to just let one little thing slip in. Who knows what was going on in the minds of the church?

Perhaps they were thinking practically—why not just cover our bases?

Perhaps they were thinking lazily—what is the big deal?

Perhaps they were thinking wrongly—you can and should do both!

But however they were thinking, the point is, that little bit of error quickly began to pollute the true gospel.

So the question is then, “How do we protect the gospel?” How do we prevent this from happening?

Some would want to build fences around it. Make up all sorts of other rules and regulations to follow. But beloved, that is not how we ensure that the gospel remains pure.

The best way to protect the truth…is to know the truth. It is the job of everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ to know the gospel in and out. To know how to defend the gospel and to know how to share the gospel.

So can I ask you, brothers and sister, do you have a deep knowledge of the gospel? Do you have at least an elemental knowledge of the gospel?

Could you lead a person through the story of salvation…in the Bible? Could you answer basic question, from scripture, about how to be saved and why I can’t save myself?

My goal is to not beat anyone up here, but to remind you that if you don’t want to experience what the church at Galatia experienced, then you must know the truth.

A little leaven…it will leaven the whole lump!

But if you have a elementary knowledge, I would encourage you not to settle there. Keep pressing deeper and deeper into the truth of God’s word. Seek to know it more and more.

And what you will find as you dig deeper and deeper into God’s word…is that he is AMAZING!

You will find that he is sooooo satisfying. You will find that there is immense joy in knowing more and more of him.

So let me challenge you today to consider if you need to gain more and more knowledge of God. Not so that you can be a Mr. smarty pants, but so that you can love God more, and ensure that the truth is protected and preserved.

Because as you do, as well all do, we need will grow in…

B. Understanding the Danger of Bad Teaching (v. 11-12)

Galatians 5:11–12 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

Now, sometimes our translations obscure what might be happening in our text for the sake of decency. But I’m not sure that it is always clear what Paul is saying.

Paul is saying, you know what I really wish—and I have to believe that he is speaking hyperbolically here for a moment—Paul says, “I just wish they would literally “cut themselves off”

Now, I’m not going to draw a picture for anyone here, but if you think about what is happening in male circumcision and then Paul says, “I wish they would cut themselves off” I think you can get what he is saying.

I really like how John MacArthur paraphrases what Paul is saying,

“If the Judaizers are so insistent on circumcision as a means of pleasing God, why don’t they go all the way and castrate themselves as the supreme act of religious devotion? If, like the pagans, they believe human achievement can earn divine favor, why don’t they go to the pagan extremes of self-mutilation, like the Cybelene priests?” John F. MacArthur Jr., Galatians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 142.

There is a real danger in allowing bad teaching to exist in the congregation, and Paul says that they should not allow it.

In the opening part of the verse cited above, Paul says, “if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?”

Some may have leveled that charge at Paul because Paul had his son in the faith, Timothy circumcised

Acts 16:1–3 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Paul did this, however, because Timothy was going to minister to the Jews, and it was clear to everyone that he was a Greek. For many Jews, that would have stopped the conversation. Game over.

Paul is willing to do this, not because him or Timothy believe that it will save, but because they can see this will be a stumbling block. They are going to use their freedom to chose to act this way so as to save some.

So Timothy’s circumcision, at Paul’s hand, was an evangelistic effort…not one of salvation.

But now, folks are slinging mud at him for it. So he is getting pressed on both sides of the argument.

The point that he, and I am trying to make, however, is that we stand firm in our freedom by understand how dangerous bad teaching is, and then rejecting that bad teaching.

And so, for anyone here today, my exhortation to you would be to get how dangerous bad teaching really is.

To see that there are so many false ideas that are floating around right now and we must know God’s word in order to reject these dangerous teachings.

We have highlighted works righteousness as being back then and now one of the most dangerous teachings, but another equally dangerous teaching today is that of the prosperity gospel.

While we do not have time to go into that today, one of the most dangerous things that anyone can believe in this room is that if you accept Jesus as Lord and savior, that your life is going to be amazing from a worldly standpoint.

The prosperity gospel teachings health and wealth if you just believe. The more faith, the more you have. Brothers and Sisters, this is true evil!

And just as we reject the message that says you can earn your way to Heaven, we must reject the message that says, “If you have faith, God will give you all the treasures of this world”.

Lastly then, how do we live out our freedom that we have in the gospel? We do so by choosing to…

III. Live out the Purpose of Your Freedom

We have been set free from the enslaving power of sin but that freedom that was given to us was not just given without a purpose.

Remember the story we stared with…the person who paid off the large debt…he wanted you to do something. He wanted you to live some way.

And the same is true for us. God has set us free from the saving power of sin and what he wants for us to do with that freedom is not serve ourselves.

He does not want us to look to make our life easier and better, rather…he wants for us to use our freedom to…

A. Serve One Another (v. 13-4)

Galatians 5:13–14 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The point of your freedom is not that you would use it to love you, but to love God and your neighbor. God did not set you free so that you could make your life great.

God set you free so you could make his name great.

So can I ask you to wrestle with this point this morning with me?

Do you use the freedom that you have in Christ for yourself or for God and his glory?

For example, if we looked at the freedom you have in your calendar, how are you using that freedom? Are you using your time to serve you or serve God and others?

Or, if we look at the freedom that you have in your finances, do you use your freedom to serve yourself or others?

How about your freedom in your talents? Do you just use the gifts that God has given you to enrich your own life? Or do you ask, “God has given me this great ability, how can I use it to serve him and others first” Then, after I have done that, I’ll use my gifts to earn a living.

How about, as we consider the 4th of July, how are you using your freedom of speech in this country? I’m not arguing for a patriotic version of Christianity where we are dedicated to the state, but all of us are in a country that allows for freedom of expression.

Do you use that freedom to share the good news at work? When is the last time you used your freedom and told someone that they were a sinner and that they needed to repent and trust Christ for the forgiveness of their sin?

One week? One month? 6 months? A year? Longer?

If you are free, why are you not using your freedom? Surly it is not because you can’t find unregenerate persons in your life is it?

If it is, then I tell you what, I have the solution for you…come serve in our community centers this summer. Come work in a number of ways here and we will bring you up close and personal with all sorts of person that don’t know Jesus Christ.

My point is, how are you using your freedom? You were set free from sin. You were set free from darkness, and how are you using that freedom.

Spending it on your own pleasure?

Building up more and more wealth?

Or serving hard for God?!

It would be so amazing if we had a congregation that saw the freedom that they have in Christ and they used it for God and for others. Think of how different our community would be if we were all using our freedom the way that God intended for us to use it!

Lastly then, how do we live out our freedom in the Gospel by living out the purpose? We must…

B. Refuse to Bite and Devour one Another (v. 15)

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

With all this freedom that we have, we will all have the tendency to become me-monsters. We will want to love ourselves.

And if we do that, if we feed that me-monster that once he gets a taste of something good only wants more and more…if we do that, we will eventually consume one another.

So Paul warns us. Be careful, if you bit and devour because you are all about using your freedom for you…you might just end up consuming one another.

Of course, the way that we prevent that from happening is by being focused on loving one another…by serving one another, by protecting and proclaiming the gospel.

And when you live this way, when you use the freedom that you have in Christ the way he wants you to…you will know unparalleled joy, unhindered security, and bottomless satisfaction.

Lastly, let’s point to Christ for a moment.

Christ was the one who was totally free from sin and totally able to live how he wanted. And how did he use his freedom? He used it to serve others. He did not have to come and save us, but he did. Why? Because he loved his Father and he loved us. Christ was truly and completely free…and he used that freedom to love God and love others.

So follow him. Use your freedom, the freedom that he secured for you…to love him and love others.


Trey Garner

B.F.A. - Musical Theatre, Texas State University
M.F.A. - Acting, Purdue University
M.Min. - Grace Theological Seminary

Pastor Trey Garner joined our staff in 2001. He and his wife Deb were married that year, and they have two children. Trey oversees our Children’s Ministries, which serves infants, toddlers, and K-5th grade students. He also provides pastoral care for our 8:00 a.m. worship service.

Read Trey Garner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Garner to Faith Church.