The Difficulty with Preaching Gospel Freedom

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Sometimes when people hear passages like this, we want to put a million caveats around it. We want to make it known that Christ has not given us freedom to be unholy. We want people to understand that we are not free to live any way we want according to our sinful heart. We want people to know that we have not been given a free pass for lawlessness.

That’s all true, but we also want to take the spirit of the text that is being preached. Paul is writing a letter to a group of churches in Galatia who are being led astray on the gospel. They are not running toward lawlessness but are desiring to live by the law for both favor with God and growth as God’s people (justification and sanctification). The problem for Galatia is that they are seeking to be governed by something that can only show them how sinful they really are and place them under the bondage of living in condemnation. They are chasing a gospel without freedom – a gospel that is not a gospel.

Sometimes we need to understand this same reality and it doesn’t always mean that the emphasis of a disclaimer is helpful. Of course, we need to define what true freedom is. It is freedom from the curse of sin and slavery to this world. It is freedom to know the saving work of Christ in our life. It is freedom to rely on what has been done for us in comparison to the unachievable standard of what we must do. The problem is that sometimes it’s only the disclaimers that people remember. The disclaimers that emphasize, “We must not be lawless.” We love the disclaimers and want to hold on to them. But how does that help us when we are sitting under the accusation and condemnation of our own consciences?

Gospel freedom reminds us of who we are in Christ. We know that for freedom, Christ has set us free and for Jesus, it came at great cost. The penalty of our sin paid on the cross is something none of us can even imagine. Jesus became the curse of sin in our place so that we might be freed from condemnation we deserve. This freedom must be the ringing message in our hearts and minds. If we are in Christ, it does us no good to live in a disclaimer that says, “but you must still abide by the law.” If this is all we hear from our conscience, we will only ever live in condemnation and hopelessness. When we are struggling with sin and fighting to live according to God’s holiness, we must remind ourselves first and foremost of who we are. We are people who are in union with Christ because he has defeated sin on our behalf. Through Christ we have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. The law in our conscience may want to condemn us but we must, every time, preach the gospel to ourselves so that we understand the forgiveness in the cross and our identity as a new creation in Christ. The more we preach the powerful message of gospel freedom, the more we live in it and look like Jesus. We must remind ourselves that while the law will convict us of sin, it can never save, and it can never transform. Our hope is as always in Gospel Freedom! Therefore, do not submit to the yoke of Slavery. The yoke of Christ is easy, and his burden is light!