Free Grace Resources
 Home. About Us. Bible Studies. Links. Misc..

III. The Believer and Sin -

D. Liberty to Serve

1. Liberty In Reference To Salvation

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).

God’s Word has much to say concerning the area of liberty. The Biblical teaching of liberty in relation to salvation and to the Christian life is an important concept for us to understand and to apply. There has been a lack of teaching and much improper teaching on this Biblical subject.  This confusion has, no doubt, been an occasion for some to reject the Gospel of Christ and has been a hindrance to the growth of some believers.

For the purpose of this study, we have divided the topic into two categories: “Liberty In Reference To Salvation,” and “Liberty In Reference To Service.” Salvation must come before service. We cannot be expected to grow before we are born. For our primary text on this subject, let us use Galatians 5:1-9.

Liberty In Reference To Salvation (Gal. 5:1-9)

The Epistle of Paul to the Galatian church was written primarily to combat two major errors: the teaching of obtaining salvation by the works of the law and of maintaining salvation or Christian life by the works of the law (2:16; 3:1).

Galatians presents an authoritative and emphatic statement for salvation by faith alone and is a defense of Christian liberty against any form of legalism. The understanding of the concepts presented in the Epistle should help to remove much of the “burden” of Christian service from many believers; a burden that we have placed there against the wishes of the One Whom we serve. Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. See Matthew 11:28-30.

A brief outline of the Letter

I. A curse pronounced on those who proclaim a false gospel (1:1-6)

II. A defense of Paul’s apostleship and authority (1:7-2:15)

III. A proclamation of the doctrine of justification by faith (2:16-3:16)

IV. The purpose of the law (2:17-3:29)

V. An illustration of law versus grace (4:1-4:31)

V. The application of liberty (5:1-5:16)

VI. A presentation of liberty leading to a Spirit-controlled life (5:16-5:21)

VII. Examples of the Spirit-filled life working out in our ministry with the fellow-believer and the sowing/reaping concept (5:22-6:18).

Galatians, Chapter 5

Verse 1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Stand fast; persevere, be stationary or immovable. This is the same Greek word as:  “Stand fast in the faith.” (I Cor. 16:13). “Stand fast in one spirit” (Phil. 1:27). “We live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” (I Thess. 3:8). In other passages we are urged to maintain unity among the brethren. That means that we have to tolerate some things. There will be differences of personalities, opinions, and doctrines. Peripheral doctrinal differences are acceptable. We are all in different stages of growth. One open-minded Bible student can learn from another if the attitude is right, i.e. divine love.

What is not acceptable is the compromise of the fundamental doctrines of the faith (See Jude 3). God tells us to “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,…” If God thinks that this is a major issue, I also should. It seems that Satan gains great victories among both the saved and unsaved by warping this doctrine to unbiblical extremes. (Standing fast in our liberty does not mean to flaunt our freedom in front of a weaker brother to his detriment. It means to stand fast in the Biblical teaching, and apply it in love to our lives. See Gal. 5:13).

Therefore:” If we see a “therefore,” we should look to see what it is there for. Paul had just spent four chapters presenting arguments why we are; “justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law” (2:16), to beware of the false gospel and those who propagate it (1: 6-9), and of false brethren who would spy out our liberty in Christ to bring us into bondage (2:4), to be aware of the purpose of the law, which is to show us that we are sinners and then to be justified by faith in Christ (3:19-24), and finally, to be knowledgeable of the illustration of Sarah and Hagar which illustrates to us that the two systems, of law and grace, cannot coexist (4:22-31; also Rom. 11:6).

Liberty:” freedom. John 8:32, 36 tells us that when we know Jesus and continue in His word, we “shall be free indeed.” II Cor. 3:17 states “...Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” When I visit a Church, Bible College, Bible study, etc. where a spirit of legalism or bondage prevails, I have to seriously question whether God’s Holy Spirit is in control, regardless of how entertaining the speaker is, or how many Bible verses that they quote.

A major ingredient in the effective Christian life is the understanding and proper application of the principle of liberty. James 1:25 urges us to continue in the “perfect law (principle) of liberty” and to “be a doer of the work” in order to be blessed. James 2: 12 exhorts us to pattern our actions as “they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”

Both of these verses make a clear statement not only that we are to pursue Biblical liberty, but that the end result is for believers to effectively serve God, i.e. obey God. Galatians 5:13 sums up two important factors in understanding the Spirit controlled life. It emphasizes both our liberty in Christ and that we do not have a license to sin. We have freedom to serve by love. (, agape, the divine kind of love).

This is the liberty in which we are to be immovable.  Conversely, if we do not stand for this liberty, we will become  entangled in “the yoke of bondage.” Hardly a less healthy and less productive atmosphere could be imagined for those of us wanting to become effective servants of Christ (Bondslaves, Greek, doulos, a servant set free but serving his master out of love. Rom. 1:1; I Cor 5:14).

Acts 15:6 mentions false teachers who were requiring the keeping of the Mosaic law. In verse 10 it is presented that teaching that doctrine would be tempting God, and would be putting “a yoke upon the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” Why do some Bible teachers place unscriptural requirements for salvation on others which they themselves have been unable to obey, such as “turn from sin to be saved?” Acts 15; 11 (The Apostolic council at Jerusalem) concludes that “…through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, …”

A yoke was a bar of wood which served to couple two draft animals together in order to pull an agricultural implement or a cart. It allows two animals to share the load and it implies union. It is used metaphorically here as in other places in the Bible. Another improper yoke mentioned in the New Testament is the unequal yoke of a believer and an unbeliever (II Cor. 7:14).

A yoke that is commanded for us as believers to take is Christ’s yoke (Matt. 11:28-30). Jesus says that His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. If Jesus is our partner in this yoke, guess Who is pulling most of the load (Phil. 4:13). This is not a yoke of bondage. It is a yoke of joyful service.

V2. “Behold I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

What does it mean, “if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing?” Does it mean that a Jewish male cannot be saved? Of course not. There are many Biblical examples of those who were. Paul is not speaking specifically of the physical act of circumcision but of what it represents. I Cor. 7:19 tells us that “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Physical circumcision was given as a sign of the covenant given though Abraham from God to the nation of Israel (Gen. 17:9-27), and apparently, carried with it the obligation of obedience to the God of Israel. It signified subjection to the Jewish “yoke” — the economy of the law.  (See Rom. 2:17-29, concerning “circumcision of the heart)

Paul is saying that if you are trying to keep the law to be saved, Christ’s payment is of no profit to you. We are “justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Any of our “good” works added to Christ’s perfection would just pollute the whole thing (Isa. 64:6).

V3. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

If a person is trying to keep the law to obtain the righteousness necessary for entrance into heaven, not only is Christ’s payment of none effect, but the requirement would be to keep the law completely and perfectly (See James 2:10). Jesus is the only one to have done that so far.

Some people state that they are trusting in their keeping of the Ten Commandments in order to gain eternal life. It is ironic and tragic that most of these cannot even name the Ten Commandments and none of them are able to keep them. This is tragic because the payment has been made and the free gift of eternal life is offered to all (Rom. 6:23).

V4. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Is it possible to “fall from grace?” This is the verse that shows that it is possible. Is it possible to fall from salvation? Absolutely not! This verse does not say that. I John 5:13 is written to us who believe on the name of the Son of God that we may know that we have eternal life. If our salvation depended in any way upon our faithfulness, rest assured that we would eventually mess up and lose it. The reason that we can know that we have eternal life is because it depends upon God’s faithfulness, not upon ours.

I Peter 1:3-5 says that God has “begotten us again… to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” My place in heaven cannot be corrupted, it is holy, and it endures forever. If God is not being truthful about our place being reserved in heaven, there will be a lot of “vacancy” signs hanging in front of the mansions that he has prepared for us (John 14:1-3). Peter then goes on to say that we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation…” Please note that we are not being kept by our power, effort, continued faithfulness, etc. but by His power. That is all the assurance that I need.

Just what does it mean to fall from grace? The context reinforces the meaning: In verses 2, 3, and 4 Paul repeats the folly of trying to keep the law in order to be saved. You must choose between your works which will not save and Jesus’ finished work which is the only way of salvation. If you choose the way of the law, you have “fallen from grace.” You have not lost your salvation. You have not even been saved. By rejecting the “grace” system and choosing the “Mosaic Law” system, you have chosen a way of salvation that is unworkable and have chosen to accept “the reward not reckoned of grace but of debt” (Rom. 4:4; See vs 1-6). Unfortunately, we do not want what we are owed (Rom. 6:23). God’s grace is the answer for our need (Eph. 2:8,9).

In Gal. 1:6-9 we see God’s curse pronounced upon those who would proclaim “another gospel,” one which is perverted. What is the criterion for determining a false gospel? Verse 6 contains the answer, just as the rest of the Epistle confirms. “The grace of Christ” is the criterion. If we try to add man’s effort to Christ’s finished work, we have spurned His gospel and have “fallen from grace.”

v5. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Some commentators have indicated that the term “by faith” does not modify “the hope of righteousness” but modifies “we waiting by faith.” It is not necessary to seek dogmatism as it seems that both interpretations agree with other Scripture. The meaning of the word “hope” is slightly different than in English. We tend to think of “hope” of indicating desire but with some doubt as to the outcome. The Greek indicates a joyful and assured expectation. I will stand before God with His righteousness (II Cor. 5:21). This is truly a “grace” operation.

V6. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

It makes no difference in the sight of God whether a believer is a circumcised Jew or an uncircumcised Gentile. They are both on the same footing with God in regards to justification. The purpose of the Law was to show us that we were sinners and to bring us to Christ by faith (Rom. 3:19-28; Gal. 3:19-29). Keeping the law is not the issue. “…For ye are no longer under the law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14). Faith which works by love is what is important. Faith should work itself out in a manifestation of love in the believer’s life. This concept is described so aptly in verses 13 and 14.

v7. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

v8. This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

Paul warned the Galatian Church about those who taught a false gospel (1:6-9), of false brethren who came in privately to spy out their liberty in Christ (2:4), and that they were in danger of straying away from God’s grace and toward false doctrine (3:1-3 and much of the epistle).

When Paul mentions that they had “run well,” perhaps he was referring to the metaphor of a race that the Christian is running in order to win a prize as mentioned in I Cor. 9:14-27. (This is referring to Christian service and rewards, not to salvation.) They had started off well but were being wrongly influenced by the legalist teachers. This persuasion was not from God.

V9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

This was likely a proverbial saying which was universally understood. The leaven represented evil, either in action (I Cor. 5:6) or in doctrine (Matt. 16:6, 12). The pervasive­ness of leaven is also emphasized in Scripture (Matt. 13:33). We are being told that a little bit of evil doctrine can cause much damage.

Leaven in dough does the following to bread and does much the same to the Gospel:

1. Puffs it up

2. Sours it

3. Makes it full of holes

4. Raises the dough

When we add just a little bit of man’s righteousness (Isaiah 64:6) to God’s righteousness, this “leaven” of bad doctrine produces similar results. We cannot improve on God’s finished work of the Gospel by adding to it. We can only pollute it and damage its effectiveness (Gal. 1:7).

There are well-meaning Bible teachers who are legitimately distraught over our churches which are full of long-term spiritual babies. These teachers are sometimes tempted to change their salvation message to that of requiring some sort of good works, turning from sin, or making Jesus Lord of their life in order for them to gain eternal life. The result is not better-living Christians but confused Christians who do not reproduce as well. These teachers are included in the curse of Gal. 1:6-9.

The answer to this dilemma is not found in teaching more error, but in teaching and applying God’s truth. Two of the doctrines that would help in this area are the teaching of God’s chastening of every believer (Heb. 12:5-11), and the teaching of the Judgment Seat of Christ for eternal rewards (I Cor. 3:11-15; II Cor. 5:10-11).

II Cor. 11:3 warns us of one way we may be seduced by Satan, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” We should become specialists in presenting the Plan of Salvation in a simple and understandable manner (II Cor. 3:12). The world is blinded to the Gospel by Satan (II Cor. 4:3,4). Let us not fall for his treachery.

One of the Devil’s tricks is having his ministers posing as Christ’s ministers and then teaching a false gospel, one of man’s righteousness. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (II Cor. 13-15).

The following are some practical consequences that result from perverting the Gospel message by adulterating the grace aspect as mentioned in Galatians 1:6-9:

1. It calls God a liar.

2. It makes man’s righteousness part of salvation.

3. It causes the lost to be blinded by something that cannot save.

4. It causes the saved to be confused.

5. It causes compromise and keeps Christians from a clear testimony.

6. It causes the world to think that works is the Bible way of salvation.

7. It brings persecution to the saved who are clear on the Gospel.

8. It robs the Church of power in its goal of carrying out the Great Commission.

If we are to be effectively fishing for men as we are told to do (Matt. 4:19, 20; Luke 5:10), and if we are to be glorifying God by bearing much fruit (John 15:8), we will need to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). This includes standing for the liberty that we have in Christ (Gal. 5:1). The truth will have be understandable (I Cor 14:8). “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (II Cor. 3:11).

The context in Galatians which claims the importance of the clarity of the Gospel and liberty in reference to salvation, also launches us into the study of liberty in reference to service: Gal. 5:13, 14.

  Back                             Index                            Home                       Forward