Christian Freedom and the Law of God (Galatians Sermon 18 of 26)
May 04, 2014 | Andy Davis
Christian Freedom, Works of the Flesh
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on Galatians 5:13-18and how Christian freedom relates to God's Law.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
This past week I watched a powerful movie for the second time. I've seen it years ago, but just came across it again and wanted to see it. That movie is Amistad, it's based on a true story. It’s the plight of some Africans who had been abducted from their villages by slave traders and then illegally shipped to Cuba, the year is 1839. And during the voyage from Cuba in July of 1839, one slave named Cinque managed somehow with his fingernails ripping and his fingertips bleeding to pry out a single nail that began to set him free. He was able to use the nail to pick the lock and to basically lead an onboard insurrection or battle for their freedom. They kept alive the captain and his mates so that they could sail them back to Africa, but the captain fooled them through the navigation and they ended up in Long Island, it's a true story, New York. The ship was impounded by the US Navy, brought to New Haven, Connecticut where the 53 Africans were taken into custody and they were charged with leading a murderous slave insurrection. The movie unfolds powerfully, revealing intense political wrangling over slavery that were going on obviously, in 1839, threatening to rip this country apart. The legal drama was a focus on the rights these Africans had to regain their freedom from vicious men who had stolen it from them.
At one very moving point in the movie, Cinque, who's the focus, stands up. He didn't know a word of English when he came but he was a very, very intelligent man and he's got chains on his wrist and he just cries out in broken English, "Give us, us free," over and over. It's just... He doesn't know what's going on in the court proceedings, can't understand a word, but it's clear what he wants. He's yearning for freedom. Pleading with it. And I thought about it, just in terms of so many scripture verses were flooding in my mind. That's how I watch movies. Just, what verse does this make me think of? And so just... And I was just thinking about the yearning that we have to be free from the chains that bind us. And how we can't be free and how Jesus looked on us with compassion and he saw that we were harassed and what, helpless. It says in Isaiah, "The Lord looked and saw that there was no one to work righteousness" and we needed a savior. Jesus is the savior. Well, I'm getting away from the movie which is fine but let me finish the idea.
So the court trial goes on eventually to a hearing in the Supreme Court. The case is argued by former President John Quincy Adams. One of the most compelling movie moments I've ever seen. He stands up to make his closing argument, soliloquy and he said, "The center of the case comes down to the basic, the true nature of man." And he cited an article written at that time by pro-slavery senator John Calhoun which asserted that slavery had been woven into the very nature and fabric of human society from ancient history, even back to the beginning of biblical times. And therefore slavery was an essential part of man. Well, Adams strongly disagreed and this is what he said in the movie. He said, "I know this is a controversial idea but the nature of man is freedom. Is freedom. And the proof is the length to which a man or a woman or a child will go to regain it once it's taken. He will break loose his chains, he will decimate his enemies, he will try and try and try against all odds, against all prejudices to get home."
Well, I don't watch movies and just take even powerful soliloquies at face value either. So I thought to myself, "Is that true?" I didn't intend to couple the watching of this movie to preaching through Galatians 5, but here we are. And it struck me, they do connect. A major theme in Galatians 5 is the theme of freedom. Right from the beginning in verse 1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm then and don't let yourself submit again to a yoke of slavery," Galatians 5:1. So, Christ has died and risen again and the gospel has come to us by his spirit so that we can be set free. And that freedom is fragile and it needs to be protected and it's misunderstood and it can be abused. And we can take this freedom and use it for flesh and for sin and that's the opposite of what Christ intended. But I was led again to think about what is the true nature of man. Is it freedom or is it slavery? Now, we said only God alone has absolute freedom, because this is his universe and we are all creatures in it. It says in Psalms 115:3, "Our God is in heaven. He does whatever pleases him." Our freedom is controlled by God's pleasure. It's controlled by God's will. It's controlled by God's purposes for us. Our freedom has boundaries.
"Only God alone has absolute freedom, because this is his universe and we are all creatures in it."
There are walls around the freedom that Christ shed his blood to purchase for us. Are we free to do whatever pops in our minds to do, to go anywhere we want to go, anywhere the wind blows? Are we free to do that or are there boundaries? Right from the beginning Genesis 2:16-17, it says, "The Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free... '" These are the first words God speaks in quotation in the Bible to man. "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden." Here's your freedom. "But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." There are your boundaries. "For when you eat of it, you'll surely die." You're free to eat but you must not eat, so it's freedom within boundaries.
So, what is the true nature of man? Are we both created... Are we created to be free or are we created to be in boundaries? The answer must be both. Jesus, when he was born as a human being, it says in a very powerful passage in Philippians 2:6-7, "Jesus who being in very nature God," it's an expression used in the Greek, very strong expression, "Being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing; taking the very nature of a slave." That's the Holman Christian Standard translation for that word. "He was as much slave as he was God," it's the exact same Greek expression. He didn't just play at being a slave, he was one even to the point of dying on the cross right to the end of his life.
In the same way at the end of this whole story, at the end of everything in Revelation 22, we have this beautiful picture of the new Jerusalem and the new heaven and the new earth in all this glory and beauty. And it says there... This is Revelation 22:3. "There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and his servants will serve him." Interesting though, Holman Christian Standard Bible likes to translate one Greek word to be slaves when it can. A couple of verses later, it says in Revelation 22:8-9, John, he says, "I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown them to me but he said to me, 'Don't do that, I am a fellow slave with you.'" Not I was a fellow slave, I am one right now. "And with your brothers the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book," keep means obey, worship God. And it says in Romans 6:22, "You have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God." And Paul isn't ashamed of it. Paul a bondslave of Christ, etcetera. So, what is the true nature of man? It's both, dear friends, it's both. We were created to serve and we are created to serve in freedom, in absolute freedom.
"What is the true nature of man? ... We were created to serve and we are created to serve in freedom, in absolute freedom."
Now, this morning I want to look more deeply into the boundary lines of Christian freedom. I want to talk specifically about this deep and weighty topic. I'm going to ask a lot of you as hearers of a sermon today, okay? I'm going to lay some heavy ideas on you but you will find them almost indispensable going forward in terms of your Christian life. Not so much that the sermon is indispensable or even the questions I'm asking, but these ideas are going to come up again and again and again.
II. Free From the Law… or Free To the Law?
What are the boundary lines of Christian freedom? What specifically is the role of the law in the Christian life? Post justification, what is the role of the law for us now? As we are justified. We're going to try to answer the questions: In what sense a Christian is free from the law? And in what sense is a Christian still connected to the law? Now, this is a very weighty debate, it's been going on a long time. I'd trace out the history of it but I don't have time. Moving on, you want to know some of the history of the debate? Come and talk to me, but you probably don't. So let's just move on. There are clear assertions in this chapter concerning our freedom and its boundaries. Again, look at verse one, "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free," set us free. "Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Then again in verse 13, "You my brothers were called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love." And then the last verse that Tom read a moment ago verse 18, "If you are led by the spirit, you are not under law."
So earlier also in Galatians, Paul has been asserting the freedom that all Christians have from the law. He did this because these churches he had planted in Galatia, Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, after he left, false teachers came in preaching a false gospel. And it was a gospel of a mixture of Christ's work on the cross plus their need to obey the law of Moses in order to be saved. And the best summary of their teaching I found is in Acts 15:1 in which they said, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." And then a few verses later in Acts 15:5, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." Required for salvation. Paul said this is a false gospel, it's no gospel at all. And he said clearly in Galatians 2:16, "We are justified by faith apart from works of the law." Very plainly, we've been justified, that is forgiven of all of our sins by simple faith in Jesus Christ, not by your obedience, not by your good works, not by your efforts, or by your striving but by simple repentance and faith in Christ are you saved from sin.
And then he starts talking about the law and says, "We're free from it." In Galatians 2:19 Paul says concerning himself, "For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God." So I have died to the law now. The law brought me to the point where now I've died to it. And then Galatians 3:24-25 it says, "The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we're no longer under the supervision of the law." Galatians 4:4-5, "But when the time had fully come, God sent his son born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law so that we might receive full rights as sons." And then at the end of Galatians 4, he talks about this image of Hagar and Sarah. Sons of Hagar are sons of the Old Covenant born for slavery. They are born in slavery, but we are children of the freed woman, the Jerusalem that's above and she is our mother and we're free.
Sinai equals slavery, law equals slavery, we're free now. Free. And this is also taught in many other places especially in the Book of Romans. Romans 6:14 says, "For sin shall not be your master because you're not under law but under grace." Many other verses in Romans teach us. So the summation of all of this is powerful. In some very real sense, Christians are no longer under the law. We died to the law, we're free from the law, the law has ended in reference to us in some sense. But other verses seem to teach the opposite. Like Romans 3:31, he says, "Do we then nullify the law by this faith? Not at all, rather we uphold the law." Alright, how do I understand that? Or even Jesus saying very plainly in the Sermon on the Mount, "Do not think that I've come to abolish the law or the prophets. I've not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them." He says, "I tell you the truth until Heaven and Earth pass away, not the smallest letter or least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever loses even the smallest of these commands will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven." Huh, what do we make of that? Or even right in the chapter we're looking at here, look at verse 14. He says in verse 13, "Serve one another in love," and in verse 14 he says, "The entire Law is summed up in this one command, to love your neighbor as yourself."
Clearly, Paul doesn't think the Galatians are done with thinking about that or obeying it. He commanded it of them, that they should love their neighbors as themselves. Why would Paul write that if the Law had nothing to do with this whatsoever? Seems to me then, that the law shows us that we're sinful and wicked. We do not obey what God's told us to do, it brings us as broken, helpless sinners to the cross. There we find forgiveness, there we find simply by faith total forgiveness and reconciliation with God and we're given the gift of adoption as sons and daughters and the gift of the indwelling Spirit of Christ who then brings us back to the law and says, "Now obey this." But not for the forgiveness of sins, but so that you may live the most beautiful, fruitful life you can possibly live as a child now of the living God. That seems to be the rhythm that we have here.
III. Six Vital Questions
The essence of our salvation is justification apart from any transformation in us, just by faith, leading to a continual transformation in which we become more and more obedient to the law by the power of the Spirit. And it's not easy to understand that sometimes. We struggle understanding that. So I wanted to ask some questions and I had a helper in asking these questions. A Puritan pastor who lived in the 17th century, Samuel Bolton. And in 1645 he wrote a little booklet by the title, 'The True Bounds of Christian Freedom.' What are the boundary lines around Christian freedom? The true bounds. And he asked six questions and they became kind of the outline that's going to carry us through the rest of the message. Six really probing questions and these are going to lead us to some very practical important issues in the Christian life, things that you probably asked yourself.
This sermon is pretty dense. It reminds me of, I was saying it to my wife, it reminds me of this shipping crate that we paid for with our own money to ship stuff back from Japan and it wasn't by the weight, I don't think, it was by the volume. And I was taking cases off the cassette tapes so that we could get all of them in there. We used cassette tapes back then, some of you don't even know what those are. But anyway, and just things that we've just... I was looking at paperbacks and I didn't like the first half of the book, so we'd rip that and the second half we'd keep. It was that bad. We were just whatever... I mean, that's what this sermon's like. So I guess what I'm saying is, there's going to be a lot of truth that's going to fly by you. I would recommend you go back to the website and listen to it, slow it down because these are weighty questions. And I've summarized basically a 300-page book in the sermon that's about to follow. So yeah, it hasn't even started yet. That's all intro.
- Question 1: Does our being made free by Christ deliver us from the law?
- Question 2: Does our being made free by Christ deliver us from all punishments for sin?
- Question 3: Is it consistent with Christian freedom to perform duties because God has commanded them?
- Question 4: Can those freed by Christ come into bondage again through sin?
- Question 5: Is it consistent with Christian freedom to perform duties in order to be rewarded for our obedience?
- Question 6: Does the freedom of a Christian free him from all obedience to other people?
Question 1: Does our being made free by Christ deliver us from the law?
Question number one: Does our being made free by Christ deliver us from the law? But what is the law? The word is used in a variety of ways in scripture. Sometimes it refers to the Old Testament like Moses, Psalms, Prophets, the writings, all of that together called law. Jesus called Psalm 82, "It is written in your law, 'I have said you are Gods'", that's Psalm 82, but he calls it law. Sometimes the word is used to refer to just the first five books of the Bible, the Books of Moses. So Moses equals law, that happens a lot. Sometimes it's just the word of God, in general, just anything spoken by God is law. Isaiah one speaks of it that way, "Hear now the law of our God," etcetera. Just anything that God says is law. So that would extend even into the New Testament, any of the gospels, Paul's epistles, Peter's, all of it, law.
Now, theologians talking about Old Testament, especially the books of Moses, the law of Moses divided into three categories: Ceremonial law, civil law, and moral law. Now examples of ceremonial law are circumcision, dietary regulations, sacrificial system, worship, annual feasts, clothing regulations, other things like that, things to do with the beards, all those things, ceremonial law that set the Jews apart as holy and enabled them to worship in that pattern. Civil law was the laws by which the nation of Israel were run and operated: Kingship, taxes, property issues, things like that. Scholars tell us that Christians are freed from any observances of those. We don't need to make three times a year pilgrimages to Jerusalem, we don't have to offer bulls or goats or sheep or any of those things, those days are over, we are free from that. But the moral law is different, it seems different, it feels different. If you look at the 10 Commandments, You shall have no other Gods. You shall not make any idols. Remember the Sabbath day. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder or commit adultery or steal or bear false witness or covet. These things seemed timeless and generally are called 'moral law'. Remember that Jesus's summary of the law, I think tends to point toward the moral law, although it does include the ceremonial and civil law too. But he said, "The first and greatest commandment is this: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you strength and with all your mind. [He said] The second commandment is like it; 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Very thing Paul quotes in the same text.
So I guess I'll just make a simple assertion to answer the question. The moral law, the moral law remains a rule of daily life for God's people, for Christians. We are still obligated in some sense to follow it. When Paul says, "We are free from the law," he clearly doesn't mean we don't need to love God or love our neighbor anymore. Clearly, he doesn't mean that. I can't imagine any Christian teaching that that's true. The New Testament epistles make it clear that the moral law still binds Christians today. For example 1 John 4:21. There the apostle John says, "He has given us this command 'Whoever loves God must love his brother also.'" That word "must," does that bother you? Christians must love God and love neighbor. So the moral law is still binding on us. The very own passage we see that Paul's enjoining the Galatian Christians to serve one another in love on the basis of the fact that the law says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And so that's still binding on our consciences. We still must do it.
Second assertion though, and this is key in understanding the New Covenant. God's grace continually works in us to enable us to keep the moral law. That's the essence of the New Covenant, that's the essence of the salvation. We are free from the law as it condemns our souls to hell. We are free from the compulsion and the fact that the law doesn't lift a finger to help us. Instead now in the New Covenant, we have been empowered from within by the Spirit to keep it and we're being transformed by that. I love what it says in Ezekiel 36, and this is so beautiful, verses 25:27, there God says to the prophet centuries before Christ what he's going to do in the New Covenant. He said "I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols."
"God's grace continually works in us to enable us to keep the moral law. That's the essence of the New Covenant, that's the essence of the salvation. We are free from the law as it condemns our souls to hell."
That is justification, forgiveness of all of our sins. "I will sprinkle water on you and you will be clean. And I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you" that's regeneration. He's changing us from within. "I will remove from you your heart of stone and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you. And I will move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Do you see it? It's a whole different stance that we have now. Having been forgiven completely of all of our sins, past, present, and future we do not ever earn forgiveness by future obedience, that never happens. But now having been transformed, heart of stone out, heart of flesh in, yielded and submissive now to God, by the Spirit, we obey God's law. How beautiful is that? And so it says in Hebrews 8:10, "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their heart."
So does being free from the law, does that mean being free from the daily need to obey God's moral law? No, it does not mean that. But it does mean being free from needing to obey it on our own, left to ourselves without the law lifting a finger to help us, only telling us what's right and condemning us if we don't do it, that's what the law does. We are not on our own, we are aided by sovereign grace. And it does mean that we are free from the moral law's power to send us to hell. Amen? Sent to hell because we don't love God and sent to hell because we don't love our neighbors as ourselves, we're free from that. Amen? Instead, now we are commanded to live it out. The moral law, loving God with all your heart, loving your neighbor as yourself, describes the most beautiful, the most peaceful, the most fruitful possible life a human being can live. It describes it beautifully, it is the life that Jesus himself lived every moment. It is the very life the Holy Spirit of God within us is working in us more and more, and it is the life we will live forever in heaven, Amen. We will live the love of God and love of others in heaven forever.
Jonathan Edwards preached a great sermon called 'Heaven is a world of love.' Heaven is a world of love. And in it part of the message he proclaimed that since 1 John 4:8 says, "God is love," it follows that, "God is an infinite fountain of love, seeing that he's an all sufficient being, and it follows that he is a full and overflowing and an inexhaustible fountain of love, seeing he is an unchangeable and eternal being. He is an unchangeable and eternal source of love. There, even in heaven dwells that God from whom every stream of holy love, yea, every drop that is or ever was proceeds. The source of all love there has ever been will be right there in heaven." So I couple that statement from Edwards with the beautiful verse in Revelation 22 describing the new Jerusalem. Remember how it talks about that in Revelation 22:1-2, "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, flowing clear as crystal from the throne, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb down the middle of the great street of the city and on each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing 12 crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Well, there in Revelation 22, it just says it's the river of life but Edwards just says it... We could also say it's a river of love and it flows into us and forever we'll be drinking that healing water and we will bear fruit of love. Love to God and love to neighbor forever. Now, what I'm saying is, that that is the kind of life we can increasingly live here and now by the Spirit. Love for God by the power of the Spirit, flowing from the throne of God and love for neighbor flowing from the throne of God and that is awesome.
Question 2: Does our being made free by Christ deliver us from all punishments for sin?
Alright. Question number two: Does our being made free by Christ deliver us from all punishments for sin? And we would add, here and now on earth. There will be no punishments, no suffering, no chastisement in heaven. No. But here on earth are we free from all punishments and chastisements for sin? Is it possible, that God can completely forgive us for all sins past, present, and future, cover us in the righteousness of Christ, promise us heaven when we die and still chastises us and punish us for sins that we commit now contrary to his law here on earth? And the answer is, Yes! Absolutely. Not only it is possible, if you're truly a child of God, he will do that for you. It's part of his fatherly love for you to chastise you and to discipline you when you break his laws, when you violate his commands.
Alright, there's lots of scriptural support for this. We'll get to one very clearly in Galatians 6:7. It says, "Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked, a man reaps what he sows." So the law of sowing and reaping points toward punishments for sins. We'll get to that in a minute, and I'm not going to unfold that fully because we'll get a chance in the future, God willing, to talk more. Then there's the clear teaching in Hebrews 12 on God's fatherly discipline. It openly says, "The Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son," Hebrews 12:6.
Christ himself makes this clear statement in Revelation 3:19, "Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline, so be earnest and repent." That's the loving language of your Savior. He says, "If I love you, I'm going to rebuke you and discipline you, so be earnest and repent, when you need to repent, repent." There're many examples from scripture, like David and Bathsheba. David was forgiven over his sins but really the rest of his life was impacted by what he did with Bathsheba. We have the Corinthians at the Lord's Supper, where it says that many of them were weak and sick and a number had even fallen asleep because of their sins with the Lord's Supper. That's pretty strong fatherly chastisement. Why did God discipline his forgiven children? Well, he disciplines us, it says in Hebrews 12:10, "For our good that we may share in his holiness." So in order that we may share in his holiness, he is going to discipline us and chastise us for sins.
"Why did God discipline his forgiven children? ... So in order that we may share in his holiness, he is going to discipline us and chastise us for sins."
Well, what disciplines may we expect? Well, let's start with the law of sowing and reaping. Okay? Perhaps a Christian couple may have premarital sex. It is possible they may have to face the challenging circumstances of premarital pregnancy as well. Just because we're free from the law doesn't mean that we're free from consequences for sin. Alright? Perhaps a Christian may stray into internet pornography, he may lose his job as a result. Perhaps a Christian may get into habits of overeating, he may gain a lot of weight as a result. Perhaps a Christian may get angry and say some very unkind thing to a friend, that relationship may be damaged severely because of that statement that was made. A lie may deeply damage trust. A pattern of laziness can come in resulting in someone failing to do preventive maintenance on the car and not changing the oil, running out to 12,000, 14,000 miles, 16,000, until suddenly, you're hearing some strange sounds from under the hood and you're not quite sure why. The mechanic will tell why. It's like, "I just think to remember putting this decal up here four years ago, what happened?" So law of sowing and reaping, you reap what you sow. We'll talk more about that when we get to, God willing, Galatians 6.
But then there's also disconnected fatherly discipline where he sees spiritual attitude, some pride, some spiritual laziness, some other things, and he'll just bring a different unrelated chastisement in your life, like a health issue or a financial issue, and he's just disciplining you. And we should learn to walk in the fear of our father's discipline. You should fear sin and its consequences. That's not a bad thing to do, and just because you are no longer under the law, doesn't mean that you don't need to fear what sin can do to you and what God's fatherly discipline can do.
Question 3: Is it consistent with Christian freedom to perform duties because God has commanded them?
Question number three: Is it consistent with Christian freedom to perform duties because God has commanded them? Friends, I hope so. How many commands are there in the New Testament? Isn't it nice to know you don't have to obey any of them? That doesn't make any sense! Of course, we must obey God. Being free from the law doesn't mean that we don't obey God, still. Paul is continually giving commands to the people he's writing to. There are many commands in Galatians, like right here in verse 13, "Serve one another in love." That's a commandment. Okay? At the end of the chapter he says, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." That's a command. "Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." There are some commands.
Next chapter, Galatians 6:6, "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor." That's a command. It says in Hebrews, in... Sorry, in Galatians 6:10, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who are of the family of believers." There are all kinds of commands. There are many commands in the epistles, many commands in the gospels. It's so clear that Christians must still obey Christ and Christ's message to the apostles even though they are not under law, but under grace.
Now, obedience comes from love. Jesus said it very plainly, "If you love me, you will obey what I command," John 14:15. Also, obedience comes from faith. The more you believe in Jesus, the more you'll obey him. Because it says in Romans 1:5, Paul speaks of the obedience that comes from faith. So, a heart filled with love toward Christ and filled with faith in Christ will be an obedient heart. That's the clear teaching of the New Testament. And what will we obey? Obey God's word. Obey God's commandments. Can we call that God's law? Yes, we must obey God's law. But not for the forgiveness of our sins, that's been settled. We are not justified by obedience to the law. It's so that we can live a life pleasing to the Lord, so that we can have fruit for him, so that we can stay away from those wicked moral, immoral things that God says he hates. That's why, we have to be so clear about that.
Now, we are free from obedience as if it's a burdensome duty. It says in 1 John 5:3, "This is love for God to obey his commands and his commands are not burdensome." We're free from duty as some kind of a trade by which we earn things from God. We're not workmen; we're sons and daughters. We're not hired hands and we're free from duty as if done by slaves. We don't have the spirit of slavery, but the Spirit of sonship by which we cry out, "Abba, father." So Christian obedience becomes Christian delight.
Question 4: Can those freed by Christ come into bondage again through sin?
Well, in order to answer this, it's not a simple yes or no. In order to answer this, we have to understand two different kinds of bondage. There is a universal bondage to sin and to Satan as a tyrannical principle, and then there is a partial gradual temporary bondage that comes through false doctrine, believing false doctrine or false living, living in license. We have to make a distinction between those two. Now first and foremost, let me tell you the good news. If you are justified now, you are a Christian. You can never ever sin your way back into Satan's kingdom again. Isn't that awesome? Just think about that. You will never sin your way back under Satan's dominion again. You're free from him, and you'll never sin your way back into condemnation or sin your way back into wrath again. We are free from those forever. Jesus rescued you and he will never give you up, so you cannot sin your way back into that kind of bondage, ever, but you can sin your way into habitual temporary bondage. There are two ways to do it right in Galatians 5. Alright. Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free, stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Clearly, it's talking about the Judaizers, their false doctrine. Don't listen to legalistic doctrine, whether from false teachers that come from the outside or from your own legalistic heart from the inside and you have one. You really do and so do I. We all struggle with legalism, all of us.
And so through false understanding of the gospel, you can behave like a slave when you're really a son or daughter. And that's very tragic. You don't need to do it but it can happen. And so you are trying to break free of certain things in your life and you're thinking like a slave, and you're acting like a slave and you're forgetting the cross of Christ and the grace of God and the in-dwelling Spirit and all that, and you're trying to do it on your own. You're acting like Jesus never came. And that's the very danger that Paul wrote to Galatians about. Don't do that. You're free. You are free, so live like it. So don't act in a legalistic way. The proof of the pudding is, what do you do when you sin? And you're convicted by the spirit of sin, what do you do?
Now, the two wrong things you can do at that point, legalism or license are both wrong. Okay? What He wants you to do is humble yourself before him, confess your sins honestly and completely to him, be honest with him in what you did, go in your heart again to the cross. Say, "Christ died once for all, he doesn't need to die again, it's sufficient. His blood has been shed, I am forgiven, I am covered by faith alone, by grace alone. Thank you, Jesus." You may need to grieve, and mourn and wail, and deal with the depths of it, that's all fine. But ultimately what you do is you trust in Christ alone for forgiveness. But so many of us are tempted to try to earn our way back in. Try to earn our way back in. Don't do that. So legalism, is one way you can start just acting like a slave, you put chains on yourself through legalistic practices. Don't do that.
The second way you can do it is by the bondage of license of sin. Sin is so tricky, and so entangling. It's a net, this big billowing net and you're trying to walk through without getting tangled up, and it's just so easy for sin to entangle you through habit, habitual sin. You get drawn in, you do something once, you jump out, but then you go back in and pretty soon you're just there all the time. A lust can deceive you and surprise you into some sin. Some internet site visited or some movie watched, something like that. Or spiritual laziness can trick you into skipping your quiet time once and then maybe a couple times a week, and then more and more. Or skipping church a little bit more and more just so nice to have Sunday morning to ourselves. And just little by little you're just in bad habits. Proverbs 24, says, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a bandit, and scarcity like an armed man." You just give yourself a little leeway, a little license, just a little extra sleep and pretty soon you're enslaved. Some excess enjoyment of various pleasures, not sinful in and of themselves but soon you've built up the habit, living for pleasure, living for things to watch or places to go, or fun things to do, or foods to eat, or for sleep. Paul's clear warning in verse 13 is, "You, my brothers, are called to be free but do not use your freedom for the flesh."
He also says very clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:12, "Everything is permissible for me," it's usually in quotations, like, "What you're telling me, everything's permissible for me, right? I can eat anything I want now. Alright, fine, let me go with it." "Everything's permissible for me," as you say, "but not everything's beneficial." "Everything is permissible for me" as you say, "but I will not be enslaved by anything." Are you enslaved by anything right now? Have you enslaved yourselves by bad habits? Are you enslaved to food, or to drink, or to fun, or to sleep, or to things you're looking at? Are you enslaved?
Now, these forms of bondage, both the legalism and license bondage, are temporary. And the beauty of the gospel is that any time, you can get out, anytime. That's what it means that you're not a slave. You can walk away. Like Christian and Hopeful, in "Pilgrim's Progress," you have the key right here, pull it out, put it in and walk out of doubting castle. You can do it any time. Those of you that know "Pilgrim's Progress," you know that story, the rest of you don't worry about it. Anyway, you can get out any time. You are free, you don't ever need to sin that sin again, you don't have to work your way back, just stop sinning. By the power of the Spirit, you're free, at any time. So keep in mind, Galatians 5:1 and 5:13, and stay away from those guardrails. And don't go into bondage anymore.
Question 5: Is it consistent with Christian freedom to perform duties in order to be rewarded for our obedience?
Question number five: Is it consistent with Christian freedom to perform duties in order to be rewarded for our obedience? Are there conditional blessings in this life? And are there conditional rewards in this life and the next life that are based on your obedience to God's laws? The answer is yes. there are. There are some blessings that will only come to you if you obey him. And all rewards are conditional, all of them are conditional on you doing the works that cause the reward. You have to do them to get rewarded.
Now, the rewards are a very big topic in the New Testament. Probably the best chapter on rewards, I think, is the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Chapter 6. Jesus teaches us very plainly and in detail about rewards. He says, "Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them. If you do, you'll get no reward from your father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, don't announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues, in the street corners, to be seen by men, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. [Why Jesus?] So that your giving maybe in secret and your father who sees what is done in secret, [what?] will reward you."
"And when you pray, don't announce it, and be on the street corners like the hypocrites. But when you pray go into your room, close the door and pray to your father who's unseen, and your father who sees what is done in secret, [what?] will reward you." And when you fast, don't disfigure your face and say to everyone, 'Hey, I'm fasting, I'm fasting all day, but no, it's good, I'm fine, it's all good.'" Don't let anyone know you're fasting. So that your fasting may be in secret. "And your father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." That's three times Jesus has told you, how you're going to be rewarded for giving to the needy, and for praying, and for fasting, extend that up to all Christian duties, you will be rewarded for whatever good you do in the Christian life by faith for the glory of God, out of love for others. He will reward you, but you have to do those things. He doesn't give the rewards for nothing, they are conditional. There are no rewards for prayer given to people who didn't pray. There are no rewards for Christian giving, given to people who didn't give. There are no rewards for evangelism to those that didn't evangelize.
The rewards are conditional, and so Jesus then goes beyond, and this is the clearest statement you can find on this, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Let me ask you, you study with me the book of Galatians. Can you store up justification by your works in heaven? Please shake your head no, everybody no, no, we can't do that. Can not earn justification. Can you store up righteousness in standing with God by your good works? No. Can you store up enough points so he'll adopt you as a son or daughter? No, all of those things are given by grace. Then what are you storing up so you will be rich in heaven? Rewards. It's the very thing he is talking about all chapter, rewards. Be rich in good works. Be rich in courageous opportunities to share the gospel. Be rich in missions, rich in prayer, rich in generosity to the poor and needy, rich in acts of service to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be rich, and on the other side of judgement day, you'll spend eternity enjoying those rewards. But they are conditional. The more you do, the more you'll get. The measure you use is the measure you will receive.
Now here's something that will blow your mind. All Christians in heaven will be perfectly happy but not all Christians will be equally happy. Work on that one. Alright. Your circuit-breakers are tripping and I see it now... I see some smoke coming up from ears. Alright. Our happiness in heaven will be unmixed by any poison at all. It will be pure. Pure happiness, but some people will have smaller cups and others bigger cups. And the size of your cup is dependent on how you live right now. You live... The measure you use is the measure you'll receive. So be generous now and you'll have lots and lots of commendation and praise from your father in heaven. Those things are conditional.
"All Christians in heaven will be perfectly happy but not all Christians will be equally happy."
And earthly blessings are also many of them conditional. Some blessings he gives you and you don't deserve it. We don't deserve any of them. All of this is by grace. That's all a sermon for another day. But all of the rewards and blessings are grace but there's some blessings he will only give to people who meet the conditions. Let's take assurance of salvation for example, that's a blessing, to just know, just really know that you're forgiven. But if you're just living in sin as a justified Christian and you're just violating your conscience all the time, God will withhold the blessing of assurance from you, and you won't be sure that you're born again. Conversely, somebody who is sacrificially by the spirit putting sin to death they have a vibrant, a vigorous assurance. Lots of earthly blessings are conditional on your obedience, okay? Lots of verses I'm skipping them. Let's just go on.
Question 6: Does the freedom of a Christian free him from all obedience to other people?
And then question six: Does the freedom of a Christian free him from all obedience to all other people? No it doesn't, okay? We are commanded to submit to God-ordained authorities. So just because you're under the law, doesn't mean you don't need to obey the civil government, or that you don't need to obey the TSA at the airport. Try that one out, okay? Go ahead and try it; no don't try it! "Hey I'm free from the law, happy condition and right through." Alright, we'll see how long you're happy okay. They [TSA] will make sure you're not. You're going to be spending a lot of time with them that day. So yes, we must submit to God-ordained authorities. We must submit to the government. We must submit to the President and to the senators, and to the lawmakers, and to the state police, and to people who have the right to command us.
Wives must submit to their husbands as to the Lord. Children must submit to their parents. Okay? These things are true. Church members must submit to their spiritual leaders. Hebrews 13:17, "Obey their authority," that's what it says. So, yes, we must submit. It says very plainly in Romans 13, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authorities, rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves." Okay. But, obviously, we don't have to obey our human authorities when they contradict the word of God as it says in Acts Chapter 5, "We must obey God rather than men."
VI. Application to Unbelievers and Believers
So finally, I just want to take a moment and apply these things. If you came in here as a non believer, you are invited here, you've never been. This is a heavy sermon, mostly meant for those that have been thinking about these things for a long time. But there is something here for you. And what I want to say to you is all of that freedom, I've been talking about, it doesn't describe you right now. If you're not a Christian, you weren't a Christian when you walked in here, you're not a Christian now, you're actually a slave of Satan, you're a slave to sin, you can't help but sin. But here's the good news. Jesus Christ Son of God died on the cross in the place of sinners like you and me to give you hope of eternal life. Trust in him. That's all. And as soon as you trust in him, your invisible chains will fall off, and you will be free, as free as any veteran Christian has been in here who's been a Christian for 50, 60 years. You'll be free immediately. Free from all these things.
And then you can understand these six questions, and the rest of you look at them. You know how to answer them now. Does being free from the law mean that we no longer have to obey it in any form? No, it doesn't mean that. We still have the moral law. Does our being made free by Christ deliver us from all punishments for sin? No, God may still chastise us and punish us when we violate his law.
Is it consistent with Christian freedom to perform duties because Christ has commanded them? Yes, you have entered a kingdom, and there's a king there, and he will command you. But his commands are not burdensome. And he doesn't leave you alone but by the Spirit he enables you to obey them. Can those freed by Christ come into bondage again through sin? No, if that means you're back in Satan's kingdom; but, yes, if you're talking about temporary chains you put on yourself through foolishness, bad doctrine, and willful sin. You can enslave yourself. Cut free. Step out.
Question five: Is it consistent with Christian freedom to perform duties in order to be rewarded for our obedience? Yes, all of God's rewards are conditional given to those who obey. Judgment day is clearly a time in which God will give to each person according to what he has done, and that's by God's law. And finally, does the freedom of a Christian free him from all obedience to other people? No, we must still submit to God-ordained authority.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for these things we've discussed today. I pray that these weighty questions and their weighty answers would rest on our hearts that we would understand what kind of life we may now live by the spirit in order to be maximally fruitful, maximally pleasing to you, and bring great joy to our own hearts in Jesus name. Amen.