It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
― Galatians 5:1
The freedom about which Paul writes is the freedom of being a full citizen in God’s Kingdom; an adopted child with full family rights, privileges, and responsibilities. It is not unlimited freedom to do as I please for my own sake. When “I” is at the center of my understanding of freedom then I have become the object of my own self-focused idolatry. The nature of sin, in fact, can be defined simply as the heart of a person turned in toward itself.
One of the most dangerous and most difficult obstacles to the life of holiness is the obsession and exaltation of “I.”
…If you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all… For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
― Galatians 5:2,6
Circumcision, the male-only symbol of inclusion in God’s covenant, was a painful cutting away of something that seems natural. It was an outward mark that bound a man (and his household) to the entire Law of Moses. By the grace given by God in Christ, we are set free from the Law and outward circumcision (and along with it any outward sign, mark, or symbol) no longer has any meaning or value.
Our identity as a child of God is inward and the circumcision we receive—not reserved only for men—is a circumcision of the heart. This inward circumcision is also a painful cutting away of our natural selves—our “I”—
…that leads to a transformation of heart and mind that takes us on a journey of grace, re-creating us in Christlikeness as the image of God is revealed in us with increasing clarity.
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
― Galatians 5:14
Our freedom in Christ—symbolized by the inward circumcision of our hearts—compels us to love beyond the boundaries of “I” and, in doing so, fulfills all the requirements of the law and more. We are made free in order to follow the example of Christ, who “emptied himself” and made himself a slave (Phil 2:7), who turned his focus from “I” in order to touch those who were sick, do good on the Sabbath, share a table with sinners, and forgive and welcome those that the Law had seemed to forget. We are called to do the same (Rom 6:22).
…Walk by the Spirit…if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
― Galatians 5:16, 22-23
Walking by the Spirit in freedom is a far different thing than walking in bondage to the Law. The focus shifts our lives in a most unexpected way:
Living under the Law:
A life burdened by the weight of meticulously doing all that our traditions, denominational standards, and self-imposed expectations demand.
Evaluated by the question, “What is the minimum that must be done?”
Walking in the Spirit:
A life set free to live fully in Christ.
Evaluated by the question, “What is the most that can be done?”
We know we are walking in the Spirit when our lives become spiritually fruitful, with limbs and branches willed with the ripe fruit of God’s love.
So, in Christ, we are free to be fruitful in the Spirit, free to be a fully functioning part of Christ’s body, and free to engage the world around us with…'
These are the evidence of the Spirit-filled life of the church; of a growing-in-Christlikeness community of God-worshipping-Jesus-followers fully engaged in the purpose and mission to which they have been called.
Go…and live in freedom!