Because of God's freedom, we don't need to self-sabotage to cope.
At end of chapter 4, Paul gives the story of Hagar and Sarah and Abraham. He says, “so brothers, we are not children of the slave, but we are children of the free woman", which leads us right into chapter five where he begins by saying "for freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
What a culminating statement. Paul has taken us through this journey. He has shown us all the pitfalls of trying to live a legalistic life, how the law has failed us. That it served a purpose for a while, but Jesus Christ has given us this inheritance, this adoption. He has changed the game and here's why. He says it's for freedom that we've been set free. When I first read this passage, I kind of felt like, yeah, you're repeating yourself. Of course, we've been set free for freedom, but there's a reason that Paul says that when he uses this phrase. He's really taking the Galatians back to something that existed in the Roman culture called manumission. Manumission was if a Roman slave owner or slave master decided to pay his slave's debt, what he would do is he would go down to the temple, whatever that temple was in that particular society, and he would walk that particular slave to the front.
Now, this slave could have been indebted to this master for many different reasons. It's not anything like the slavery that we know in America. It usually was some financial debt. If that master decided to pay that slave's debt, they would take the slave into the temple because this had to be done in the presence of a priest. This would be the choice of the slave owner or the master. He would go pay the slave's debt in full. What the slave would get in return would be a receipt or a medallion. And any time his standing was called into question, he could hold up that receipt, hold up that medallion, that said for freedom to remind everyone and himself that his debt had been paid.
So when Paul uses this phrase for freedom, you've been set free, he is reminding the Galatians of a tradition they were very familiar with. He's saying that there is someone you were indebted to. He has walked through forward in front of the Father. He has paid your debt. You have a receipt in the nail scars in the hands of Jesus, the blood on the cross. Everywhere you go, you should remind others and yourself you've already been set free. Now, why would he say you've been set free for freedom? Well because you could have had your debt paid by a slave master only for that debt to be transferred to another master. So you could have been set free by one master only to be owned by another. Paul is saying that's not the case. You have been set free for complete freedom. He is trying to explain to them that grace, while simple and overwhelming, is real.
He's saying, you're no longer slaves to sin, slaves to the law, slaves to your flesh. You still have a master, but now you're slaves to righteousness. Here are some important things you need to know about this freedom. Number one, it is not circumstantial. It doesn't depend on your environment. It doesn't depend on your good behavior. It doesn't depend on a good day. It doesn't matter how many consecutive Sundays you've attended church, if you have completed all of your Bible studies, or gone through all your curriculum. This is not circumstantial freedom. Faith and grace say, if I believe in my heart, then the freedom is mine.
I think sometimes when we want to feel free or have a good day and we have to try to create the right environment, we want the spa music or an actual spa. We want to be by an ocean or a beach. We need certain environments to make us feel a certain way, but that's not true with the freedom of Christ because even when you don't feel it, it is a fact, it's not circumstantial. Number two, this freedom is not conditional. Here is the beauty. The slave could not say to the master, hey, I'd like you to pay my debt today. I'm tired of being enslaved. It was up to the master. He had to decide that he wanted to set that slave free. We didn't get to say to Jesus, hey, I think I'd like to be free. We didn't even know we were enslaved. This is how we were born. But Christ said I want you to be free. I want to set you free and I want you to stay free.