person freed from chains November 20 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Galatians 5, 6

Freedom in Christ

Jesus Christ can make people spiritually free from the bondage of guilt and sin. Some, however, misinterpret their freedom. “Because we are free in Christ,” they say, “we can do as we please.” Those who say such things, however, are looking for a license for their behavior, and they do not understand what freedom in Christ really means.

In the first century A.D., after Jesus ascended to heaven, there arose a controversy in the new Christian churches springing up in the Middle East. Many Jewish Christians in Jerusalem wanted to avoid being persecuted, so prominent church leaders instructed all believers everywhere to become circumcised, obey the laws of Moses, and observe the traditions of the Pharisees, a leading religious group. Meanwhile, other followers of Jesus Christ were enjoying the liberty they found in him. They paid little heed to their old Jewish traditions, if they had any (many were not Jewish).

Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey when they heard of this controversy. In response, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Galatia (modern Turkey), instructing them not to turn back to those weak and miserable elements of the Mosaic Law, which cannot make a person righteous (Galatians 1-4). When Jewish or Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians turned back to the prescriptions of the Law and Jewish traditions, they lost their joy. This can happen to us as well. Do we live for Christ or live for rules and traditions? Do we want to appear righteous or be righteous?

In today's Bible reading, we look at what freedom in Christ means. The Apostle Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 NIV). It is important that we understand that our relationship with Christ, not the keeping of religious rules, brings us righteousness and joy. We should not let others steal our joy by spiritual legalism. Paul tells the Galatians, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5: 6, NIV). This verse provides the key to understanding our freedom.

Living for Christ does not give us license to sin. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13, NIV). In the same chapter Paul describes the fruits of Christian love:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (5:22-23, NIV)

Paul explains our new spiritual nature and how it should affect our behavior.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other, (5:24-26, NIV).

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:7-10, NIV).

Christ set us free from sin to live a life of joy. That joy is found in pleasing Christ and serving others, not by following our own selfish pursuits. Because we have his Spirit within us, we desire to please him, and he gives us joy. As the Christian chorus says, “There is joy in serving Jesus.”

Lessons to Live By

  • It is a relationship with Christ, not the keeping of religious rules, which brings us righteousness and joy (more...).
  • How we live should not be motivated by how we appear to others but by love. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6, NIV).
  • Freedom in Christ means freedom from sin to live to please God. There is joy in serving Jesus.

Sin can be defined as all wrongdoing or failure to do what is right

Focus Verse: Galatians 5:13 (NIV) “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”

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A Look Ahead: We make a decision to follow Christ and not the traditions or legalism of others, but sometimes this causes conflicts. Our Next Lesson in Acts gives us principles for Conflict Resolution in many situations.

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