For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:1-6 ESV)
The churches in the region of Galatia had started off by believing in Jesus by grace through faith for their salvation. Then a group of legalistic Jewish Christians came into the region and began preaching a different Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). A gospel based on works through keeping the Old Testament Mosaic law. Paul’s letter to these churches was written to refute this legalism and should be studied by many churches today.
The freedom or liberty that Paul is speaking about is more than the freedom of the law. Its about what comes with knowing Jesus Christ. It’s a freedom from law because of the knowledge of God’s grace. It’s a freedom of the law because of the knowledge of Jesus’ totally atoning sacrifice for us upon the cross. It’s a freedom of the law because of the knowledge of the Holy Spirit living inside us, making us new, making us more like Jesus, and guiding us into truth — the truth that the promise of God’s salvation through Christ’s perfect sacrifice is better than the law. Relying upon all that we know regarding the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is so much better than cheating ourselves of God’s work for us, in us, and through us by taking on the works of the law. It’s so much better to have Jesus in your heart than to have the law hanging over your head!
Paul starts this section off by clearly stating that returning or adding the law to grace is a yoke of slavery! He refutes the the teaching that we need to uphold certain sections of the law because we are those who have been reborn in Christ Jesus. He goes so far as to say if we intend to keep certain aspects of the law with the intention of winning over God then we need to complete the entire law or suffer the fires of hell. This is a very interesting because it seems to reverse what we typically think of when we think about falling out of grace. We usually think that falling into sin is falling from grace, but that’s not what the verse teaches, is it? No! As a matter of fact the verse says that when we decide to live according to the law instead of living by faith we no longer experience the fellowship with Jesus that He paid to gain for us. Not having that intimacy with Jesus because of our choice to be made right based on our own righteousness is what falling away from grace is about. Remember that grace is God’s undeserved, unearned favor. Can we have grace if we are trying to earn it and therefore think we deserve it? — Certainly not!
We don’t wait or rely upon keeping the law to please God and to be accepted by Him. We rely solely upon Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice made for us because of the incredible grace of God on our behalf. This is what we place our faith in, never upon ourselves. You see God’s grace has nothing to do with our goodness or badness, but wholly upon His sovereignty. So now that we have that straight its time to lovingly live out our faith before God and man. I do not say we are to be lawless or reckless. No, we are to prove our position as Children of God in Christ Jesus through loving faith.