Commentary on "Freedom in Christ"
Day 2: Sunday, December 4, 2011 - Christ Has Set Us Free
Overview: Gal 5:1
This lesson focuses on the phrase within verse 1 that "Christ hath made us free". What a wonderful and amazing truth to focus on for the day. The other verses cited in Galatians help to paint a beautiful picture of this truth.
The lesson is strong and accurate in everything that it covers. The discussion about our position as slaves and Christ's purchase of us, freeing us from condemnation is worded beautifully. The comparison and contrast to the ancient practice of manumission is handled well.
With as much as this lesson did well, it fell short in discussing to what the "yoke of bondage" refers. This yoke of bondage is critical to understanding what "liberty" we should be standing firm and what actions we are being instructed to avoid.
We could assume that the "yoke of bondage" is the same "slavery" being discussed in the previous Chapter, which is the Law. But it is important to consider the verses that immediately follow this passage as well to verify that we are understanding the phrase within the complete, immediate literary context. What we see in the verses that follow are "circumcision" (v. 2), "the whole Law" (v. 2), and "the Law" (v. 3). Clearly the yoke of bondage is the Law. This was also seen in Acts 15:5-10 where some Jewish believers wanted Peter to "order (the Gentiles) to keep the law of Moses" and Peter responded by asking "why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the disciples (Gentiles) that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?"
The quarterly lesson does a nice job of discussing the freedom that Christ gave us through His purchase of us accomplished on the cross. But the lesson avoids the very important point of what the "yoke of bondage" referenced by Paul means. If we are warned to avoid be entangled in this yoke, understanding what it is seems rather important.
This issue with grace in Seventh-day Adventism has never been about whether man could save himself. Everyone agrees that this isn't possible. The issue in SDAism, as it appears to have been with the false teachers in Galatia, is whether once a person has been saved from their sins, do they now have a list of rules to follow or works that they must perform in order to stay saved (or as a necessary demonstration of the effectiveness of their salvation). The question about works in salvation is not just whether works could save us initially, but whether ongoing works are a necessary "upkeep" that maintains the salvation. Or stated in the negative, whether a lack of sufficient works causes the person to lose the salvation that they once had.
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