Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the book of Galatians Paul presents a number of contrasts between things that are superior and things that are inferior. In a foregoing message we pointed out the contrast between God’s Son and man’s religion. In this message we shall consider another contrast: freedom in Christ versus slavery under law. Christ is versus law, and freedom is versus slavery. When we come to chapter three, we shall see the contrast between the Spirit and the flesh. To touch the depths of this book, we need to keep in mind the writer’s practice of making contrasts.
In 2:4 Paul says, “And it was because of the false brothers, brought in secretly, who stole in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into slavery.” The King James Version renders the Greek word for slavery as bondage. Although this is not wrong, the root word in Greek means to be a slave. Hence, the thought here is not simply to be in bondage, but to be enslaved, to be held in slavery.
If we would understand the contrast between freedom in Christ and slavery under law, we need a proper definition of the terms freedom and slavery. As we read these terms in the Scriptures, we may take them for granted without having a proper and adequate understanding. In 2:4 Paul speaks of false brothers who stole in to spy out our freedom. Such strong negative terms as “false brothers,” “stole in,” and “spy out” should impress us with the fact that freedom in Christ is a great matter. Otherwise, the Judaizers, the false brothers, would not have crept in to spy out this freedom.
What is this freedom in Christ? First, freedom in Christ implies liberation from obligation. Because we are free in Christ, we are no longer obligated to the law and its ordinances, practices, and regulations. Anyone who tries to keep the law makes himself a debtor to the ordinances, practices, and regulations of the law. Hence, if you try to keep the law, you will place yourself under slavery and you will serve the law as a slave. Freedom in Christ, however, liberates us from all such obligation.
Second, freedom in Christ includes satisfaction with a rich supply. If we are free outwardly but do not have anything to support us or satisfy us, this freedom is not genuine. Proper freedom is not only liberation from obligation; it is also full satisfaction because of an adequate supply and support.
Third, to be free in Christ is to enjoy rest. Those who still observe the Sabbath day do not have true rest because their efforts to keep the Sabbath place them under a heavy burden. But in Christ we have true rest.
Fourth, freedom in Christ implies the enjoyment of Christ. Because we are free in Him, we enjoy all that He is. Real freedom in Christ is the full enjoyment of the living Christ.
If we would have a proper definition of freedom in Christ, a definition that matches our experience, we need to see that such a freedom involves liberation from obligations, satisfaction through the Lord’s rich supply, genuine rest, and the enjoyment of Christ. Those who have this kind of freedom are not enslaved by anything. Although Satan may sometimes put us into a difficult situation, we can still be at rest. We need not be enslaved by any situation. Instead, we can enjoy the Lord. This means that we are free in the depths of our being. This is our freedom in Christ.
As you consider this description of freedom in Christ, you will find that it corresponds to your experience with the Lord. Our experience may differ in degree, but it does not differ in nature.
Freedom in Christ is a treasure. Satan, the subtle one, sent in the Judaizers to spy out this freedom and to deprive the Galatian believers of this treasure. He wanted to take away their liberation from obligation and their satisfaction, their rest, and their enjoyment of Christ.
Once we have a proper understanding of freedom in Christ, it is easy to understand what slavery is. It is the opposite of freedom. Slavery under law obligates us to the law with its commandments, ordinances, practices, and regulations. However, no one can fulfill the requirements of the law. Most of the Ten Commandments control people outwardly. But the commandment related to coveting exercises an inward control. We may be able to keep the other commandments, but not this one. We simply cannot escape the greediness within us. For example, we may see someone with a new pen that is better than ours. Deep within, we desire to have a pen just like it. This is covetousness.
Because we all have human shortcomings, we cannot fulfill the requirements of the law. Throughout history, only one person—the Lord Jesus—has kept the law. The requirements of the law are too heavy for us to fulfill. If we try to keep the law, we come under the yoke of the law. In Acts 15:10 Peter said, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Slavery under law is this yoke.
To be enslaved under the law also means to be without satisfaction. Under the law there is no satisfaction because there is no supply. The law makes demands, but it offers no supply to meet those demands.
Furthermore, with slavery under law it is not possible for us to be at rest. In Matthew 11:28 the Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” This promise was spoken especially to those who were trying to keep the law. It refers in particular to the labor of striving to keep the commandments of the law and religious regulations. To have rest here means to be set free from labor and burden under law and religion. In making this declaration, the Lord Jesus seemed to be saying, “Come to Me, all who are burdened under the law, and I will release you. I will set you free from the yoke of the law. Under the law, you have no rest. True rest is found in Me.”
Finally, with slavery under law there is no enjoyment of Christ. Those who place themselves under obligation to the law have no satisfaction, rest, or enjoyment.
If we consider this contrast between freedom in Christ and slavery under law, we shall be full of praise to the Lord. In Christ we have been liberated from all manner of obligation. In Him we also have satisfaction, rest, and enjoyment. This freedom in Christ is versus slavery under law. Many of us can testify that we have such liberation, satisfaction, rest, and enjoyment.
Concerning New Testament truth, Galatians is a more basic book than Colossians. Colossians deals with Christian experience, but Galatians touches the basic truths of the New Testament. Galatians is even more basic than Romans. Galatians is the most basic book with respect to God’s New Testament economy. This book is unique in its revelation of God’s economy.
The slavery under law spoken of in Galatians is not the same as the slavery of the children of Israel under Pharaoh. These two kinds of slavery should not be confused. Egypt was satanic, whereas the law is spiritual and was given by God. Realizing this distinction will help us to be impressed with the fact that no other New Testament book presents the basic truths in the way Galatians does.
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