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
Throughout the New Testament we are told about the freedom we can have in Christ. In contrast we are warned about the things that entrap and enslave us. The meaning of Galatians 5:1 follows this same pattern.
This message still rings true for us today. It’s easy to get entangled in something less than what God has for us. And this passage is an encouragement to continue pursuing the freedom that God has for us.
The Context Of Galatians 5:1
Galatians isn’t a book of the Bible as much as it’s a letter. It was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia. Prior to this letter Paul had visited the area and preached the Gospel to them. They had turned from their old lives and started following Jesus. (Galatians 1:6-11)
After Paul left a group of Jewish religious leaders came to town and added to what Paul taught them. They claimed following Jesus was good, but the Mosaic law also needed to be followed to be saved. These false teachers were claiming you needed to be circumcised to be truly acceptable to God.
Now this church in Galatia was in danger of returning to slavery. But not the slavery of their past sinful lives. Rather the slavery of the Law. They were heading in the direction of legalism.
Paul wrote this letter to warn them of the direction they were heading and to remind them of the freedom they had in Christ.
Paul refutes the claims of the false teachers that following the law gives you a superior spiritual status. Instead he reminds this church that they are justified, or made right, by what Jesus has done for them. Faith in Jesus is what makes us righteous, not adherence to the law.
This is what leads us to Galatians 5:1. It is the key verse and a summary for the entire letter. Let’s dive into the meaning of Galatians 5:1 to see what it holds for us today.
The Meaning Of Galatians 5:1
To help us fully see what Paul is saying and how it applies to our life, we are going to break down this verse into several sections. This will help us better understand the meaning of Galatians 5:1.
It is for freedom…
We tend to think freedom is being able to do whatever we want. But that kind of life doesn’t lead to what we hope it will. It doesn’t produce freedom, rather it enslaves us to our desires.
On the opposite end of the spectrum some will enslave themselves to rigorous adherence to religious rules, legalism. They are trying to earn their freedom.
Both of these pursuits enslave us and do not provide freedom.
True freedom is found in Jesus and when we follow him. Freedom is found when we live in the purpose that God has created us for.
This is what Paul is pointing his readers to. Freedom is found in Christ and when we follow him.
That Christ has set us free…
Paul is reminding them of what Jesus has done for them that has allowed them to experience this freedom. Christ has set us free.
Jesus paid the price for our sin and freed us from condemnation and death. We were incapable of living up to the requirements of the law; we couldn’t save ourselves.
Jesus did for us what we were incapable of doing for ourselves. He fulfilled the requirements of the law for us. Therefore we can experience freedom because of what he has done. Our righteousness isn’t dependent on our actions, but rather the actions of Jesus.
Stand firm, then…
Because of this. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we stand firm in this freedom.
The temptations of most Christians is to return to one of the extremes we talked about above. Some choose legalism and start trying to earn their salvation and force others to do the same. Others start living however they choose because God will just forgive them.
But neither of those led to freedom. Paul is reminding his readers to stand firm in Jesus. Only he can provide true freedom.
And do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…
Paul is abundantly clear. Stand firm in freedom and don’t go back to what enslaves you.
The church in Galatia was once enslaved by their sin and now they were on the path to being enslaved by the law, legalism.
Jesus has freed us from those obligations but we must pay close attention so that we do not slip back into bondage.
Rather than being yoked to the things that enslave us we should be yoked to Christ. His yoke is light and is where we can find rest. All the other things we can yoke ourselves to burn us and weigh us down.
The meaning of Galatians 5:1 challenges us to go Jesus to find freedom and remain in him.
Final Thoughts On The Meaning Of Galatians 5:1
This temptation that the church in Galatia had is still one that the modern church faces today. Many Christians turn to legalism thinking they can earn their salvation or at least earn special righteous status because they are better than “those” people.
But that way of thinking doesn’t provide what we think. Jesus has already done the heavy lifting for us. All that legalism does is weigh us down and strip us of our freedom. Rather than trying to earn our freedom, we simply need to go to Jesus.
The meaning of Galatians 5:1 is an incredible verse that has a powerful lesson for us today. Jesus has something incredible for you. When we look elsewhere we end up enslaved. But when we look toward Jesus we can find freedom.
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