Bondage to Freedom to Bondage
Galatians 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty (freedom) by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Paul is correcting error in the Galatian church where Judaizers came in spreading lies. These individuals said you needed to follow the Old Testament Law in addition to God’s grace in order to be saved. Paul pronounces judgment on those who proclaim a false gospel in 1:8-9. Sadly, at least some of these followers of Christ (primarily Jewish) fell back under the burden of the Law, which cannot save and no one can fulfill, Acts 15:6-11. They fell into Legalism or believing one can be right with God through the Old Testament Law in addition to God’s grace. Paul urged them not to fall back into bondage, but to stand fast in the freedom Christ had bought for them.
They forgot what grace was and attempted to go back to what was familiar and comfortable and binding. Yet, rather than freedom, it put them back into the bondage Jesus had freed them from. We don’t appreciate our freedom because we don’t remember our bondage. They forgot the yoke they bore under the Law and did not appreciate the freedom they had and went back to that bondage. How sad, but Paul boldly spoke and told them of what Christ had wrought at His cross. The curse of the Law is death and when we try to “do” something to “get to God” or focus on externalism, we lose hope because sooner or later we recognize we can’t measure up to the standards, not even our own. Paul uses the phrase “yoke.” No, this is not the yolk of an egg, but a large wooden piece of equipment farmers used to control oxen when they plowed the field. It was a heavy, burdensome weight the animals bore.
Today, many Christians have forgotten the bondage they used to be in when it comes to sin. Yes there are specific sins, but the main thing is most don’t understand the condemnation we were under before we were saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, John 3:18-20. So many who have been freed by God’s grace go back to bondage or legalism, putting a yoke upon themselves or allowing someone else to put a yoke upon them, thinking they have to “do something” to get to God or keep in good standing with Him. This is not grace. This is not the gospel.
The way to freedom is understanding God’s grace and that nothing is required to work for it or keep it. Do we have responsibility? Yes. Is grace a license to sin? Never. Legalism doesn’t mean there are not rules or boundaries, but it is an attempt to gain favor with God somehow by what man says and does in our power. Liberty is the opportunity to live in the joy God has given to us in Christ for His glory and purposes for our lives. Are we living in the grace and freedom of God’s grace in Christ? Do we recognize our utter spiritual bankruptcy, condemnation and damnation we were under because we have broken God’s Law before He in His grace reached down and saved us? Within the commandments of God there is freedom, because we obey Him out of love, because of His grace and love shed upon us out of gratitude and an understanding of what He has freed us from in Salvation. His grace frees us from bondage that we do not have to go back to bondage once again.