Commentary on "Freedom in Christ"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, December 3, 2011 - Introduction
Overview: Gal 5:1-15
The memory text takes a point that receives little emphasis with the overall passage covered by the lesson and places the focus here:
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13, ESV).
While an important point, and certainly one worth meditating upon throughout the week, this verse was not the central point of this passage. Most of the verses were a warning not just against legalism but against a return to the Law.
This lesson overview uses a clear truth in order to obscure an even more important truth taught in the passage. The start of this chapter builds on what has already been written regarding the Law. Paul plainly spelled out in the last chapter how the Law (symbolized by Mount Sinai and Hager in 4:25) was opposed to the promise (4:29) and instructed believers to cast it out (4:30). Paul continues with his discussion of the Law in Galatians Chapter 5 where he points out the ultimate consequence of living by the Law instead of by the promise; the follower of the Law is "severed from Christ" (5:4). Instead of addressing this hard truth, the lesson artfully redirects the reader in several ways. First the lesson places an emphasis on the dangers (albeit real dangers) of abusing freedom to the point of licentiousness. This is seen in the choice of memory verses and in the commentary provided about the memory verse. Second, the lesson repeats a subtle shift that "re-interprets" the hard words about the Law into much easier to accept teachings about legalism.
The lesson assumes that the Law is the barrier that prevents a believer's freedom from becoming licentiousness. That is seen in the statement "Those who hold this view mistakenly assume that freedom is antithetical to the Law". But this is not the mistaken assumption that leads to licentiousness; that mistaken assumption actually comes from failing to understand why we were set free and how God wants us to use that freedom (see for example Romans Chapter 6). The freedom we have been granted is a freedom to serve God and each other, not for serving ourselves. We have been given the Spirit to not only guide us towards this freedom but to produce the fruit of that freedom in our lives.
This week's lesson again points readers to look at the "connection" or relationship between the Law and the believer's life. That relationship should be just like Abraham's relationship with Hagar, we have been commanded to cast it out. Trying to create some ongoing relationship would be analogous to Abraham continuing to see Hagar behind Sarah's back. This is why Paul has such harsh words for those promoting the Law among the Galatians here in the first 15 verses of Chapter 5.
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