In my reading this week, I came across the tragic example of a freedman immediately following the Civil War, who, having grown so accustomed to slavery, petitioned a Mississippi court to be allowed to be enslaved again. Unfortunately, in spiritual terms that very same thing can be done by us, as well--we go right back to the things we have been saved from, either for comfort, or out of uncertainty, or because we believe these things somehow to be better than freedom in Christ.
As we have worked our way through Galatians, we have discussed what we have seen of freedom and slavery in these passages. In Galatians 5:1, following his example of being born anew to freedom, as children of God's promise, Paul writes this:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
We were set free for a reason, a cause, and that cause is found in Christ. We were not set free that we might slavishly try to re-accomplish our own salvation, nor were we freed to creep right back into bondage to sin (Rom. 6:16). Both of these make a mockery of freedom.
Some translations render Galatians 5:1 as "in the liberty by which Christ has made us free." This rightly makes us consider: what is the point of this liberty for the Christian? The London Baptist Confession, Westminster Confession, and Savoy Declaration all note the end (or goal) of Christian Liberty as "being delivered out of the hands of all our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our lives." This puts this freedom into perspective. In a day and age where so many have used the concept of Christian Liberty as an excuse to shrug at our sin, we see it is quite the opposite--we are free to glorify the God who saves. Whereas before we were in the chains of our own pitiful works, we have liberated to be willing servants of the Most High. Where before there was only the desire for what our own corrupted hearts desired, we have been set free to pursue and obey the One who bought us at so great a price!
It is one of the great paradoxes in Scripture--only by becoming free in Christ are we to become true bondservants, slaves to Christ (Rom. 6:18). The freed one is a slave, and the slave, free (1 Cor. 7:22). But this is not the type of bondservice that is done begrudgingly, grimacingly. It is done because we wish to serve, as both co-heirs and the dedicated slaves of the One who saved us from deserved hell and damnation. With hearts changed by God, we willingly serve the King who we know is triumphant and reigning over all things.
That is the freedom of Christ--the freedom of being changed by God's love and the working of the Holy Spirit to freely come to Jesus as our Savior Lord, and to be enabled to obey God's Word. It is the freedom that can look back on the slavery of rolling in the muck of our own efforts, the slavery of struggling in vain under a Law we could not keep, of the chains of a heart that only wanted to be its own deity, and know to go back to that is to reject the beauty of Christ for the ugliest bondage. May the Holy Spirit keep us and strengthen us in our sanctified service to Christ Jesus.