Galatians 2:1-5

Sermon preached on November 14, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

On the night of May 28, 1971 sixteen year old Donald Marshall Jr. and his friend Sandy Seale were walking through Wentworth Park in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Marshall was a Mi'kmaq Indian and Seal was a black youth from Whitney Pier, the suburb of Sydney where my grandparents lived. As they went through the park they met two men and they stopped to talk to them. I think Marshall and Seale were begging for money. In a sudden fit of rage, one of the men took out a knife and stabbed Seale in the stomach. Seale died the next day. Even though he had nothing to do with the death of his friend, Marshall was arrested a few day later and charged with murder. Today in Nova Scotian his name is synonymous with, "wrongful conviction". He was railroaded because he was an Indian. At every point the justice system failed him. His was convicted because of, (according to a later report)

'police and prosecutorial misconduct, the incompetence of his defense counsel, perjured testimony, jury bias and judicial error'.

It took 12 years for his wrongful conviction to be overturned and nearly 20 years to be exonerated. It was interesting that when his wrongful conviction was overturned, the presiding judge placed some of the blame for his wrongful conviction on Marshall himself, calling him,

"the author of his own misfortune."

Poor Donald Marshall. He had his freedom taken away. For 11 years he was behind bars for a murder he didn't commit. It basically ruined his life. He never got over it.

As a Christian you need to make sure that doesn't happen to you. By that I'm not referring to physical imprisonment, but to the freedom that you have in Christ. In Galatians 5:1–2 the apostle Paul wrote,

"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."

You Christians are free. One of the great things that Christ has done for us is to purchase your freedom. In the passage before us Paul shows how important your freedom is. It is something you should never let go of. That's one of the main things we see from our text.

Why should you hold on to your freedom? One of the things our text shows us is that

when you let go of your freedom you may be letting go of the truth of the gospel.

There is a relationship between Christian freedom and the truth of the gospel. In verses 4 & 5 Paul told why he refused to let Titus be circumcised. He wrote,

"[This matter arose] because
some false brothers had
infiltrated our ranks
to spy on the freedom we have
in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.
We did not give in to them for a moment,
so that the truth of the gospel
might remain with you."

If Paul had let Titus be circumcised the truth of the gospel would have been compromised. As Paul declared in As he wrote in Galatians 5:2,

"Mark my words! I, Paul,
tell you that if you
let yourselves be circumcised,
Christ will be of no value to you at all."

If you add anything to grace, if you add anything to faith in Jesus Christ, you are going against the truth of the gospel.

Donald Macleod comments on the freedom that we have in Christ—and how important it is. He says, (A Faith to Live By, p. 233)

"our liberty is not something peripheral or secondary; it is one of our most basic privileges in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was, in fact, to secure this freedom that our Savior died. Christ shed His blood to redeem us, that is, to set us free; and that means that our liberty is something that is quite fundamental to our whole position as the people of God. It is something to hold fast, to cling to, to cherish for ourselves and others and to respect in others. It is not something we can negotiate on or dispense with. It is not something that lies on the margins of Christian privilege."

Our freedom in Christ is an essential part of the gospel. In Jesus we have full and free salvation. He has done it all for us. In Him we have the forgiveness of sins. As Paul wrote in Colossians 1:13–14,

"For he has rescued us
from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom
of the Son he loves,
in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins."

The gospel is all about God's work on our behalf. He has saved us. The redemption that we have does not come to us through the law. As Paul wrote in Romans 3:28–29,

"For we maintain that a man
is justified by faith
apart from observing the law."

But how can it be apart from the law? In Romans 3:21–24 Paul wrote,

"But now a righteousness from God,
apart from law,
has been made known,
to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness from God
comes through faith in Jesus Christ
to all who believe.
There is no difference,
for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God,
and are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption
that came by Christ Jesus."

What is the truth of the gospel? It is that Jesus has saved us and set us free. It's all of grace. It's not by our works or anything in us. God has done it all and He deserves all glory and honor for it. He has done it all. For salvation we are to look to Him and Him only.

The second thing we see from our text is that

if you let go of your freedom in Christ, there is a tendency to stop serving Him and the danger of serving someone else.

Paul wrote,

"some false brothers
had infiltrated our ranks
to spy on the freedom we have
in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves."

The Judaizers wanted to make Christians slaves, not to Jesus, but to themselves. They wanted Christians not to be bound only to Jesus, but to their false teachings.

But the thing about the status that we have in Jesus is that we are free from every other type of bondage—we are free to serve Jesus as He sees fit. He alone is Lord.

For example, we are no longer under the law or bound by it. Of course we are to love God's law and try to live for His glory by obeying it. But we are no longer under the curse of the law. It not longer has the threat of death for us. It no longer has the authority to accuse us or instill in us the fear of final condemnation.

That's wonderful freedom. To be free from the condemnation of the law. To know that Jesus took the curse that was due to us by becoming a curse for us. To know that God's wrath for our sins was totally satisfied in Jesus—what relief that brings. What freedom that brings. For a Christian to go back under the law, to think that He is subject to the curse of sin and its condemnation—what a travesty it would be. Such fails to honor Jesus and shows a total lack of appreciation for His work. It takes honor and glory from Jesus and replaces it with fear and horror.

One of the saddest things to read in the biographies of Christians is of them being subject to fear and damnation. William Cowper, the great Christian poet and hymn writer—had great bouts of depression, even mental illness, and at times thought he was lost, separated from Christ and subject to eternal damnation. He spent great parts of his life, not praising God for His goodness and grace, but in terrible fear of suffering God's wrath.

We see the same thing in the husband of Lucy Maud Montgomery. She wrote the wonderful children's books, the most famous being Anne of Green Gables. She was married to a Presbyterian minister. He would have spells where he was convinced that he was going to be subject to the fires of hell. It as a great hardship for Lucy Maud to be married to him. Her husband knew nothing of the freedom that comes from being in Christ from not being under the law.

You Christians are free from the curse of the law. As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:13,

"Christ redeemed us
from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written:
'Cursed is everyone
who is hung on a tree.'"

What freedom that brings. What relief. It enables us to praise God like we should—with great joy and happiness.

But the particular problem Paul and Titus faced from the false brothers was from the ceremonial law.

You Christians are free from the Mosaic ceremonial law.

The Judaizers wanted the Gentile Christians to be circumcised. They were saying that faith in Jesus wasn't enough—that we had to add certain ceremonies to it. Paul would have none of it.

Christians, aren't you thankful that you aren't an Old Testament Christian? Do you praise Christ for that?

The Old Testament law was so very burdensome. Donald Macleod writes, (p. 228)

"The Old Testament church could hardly move without falling over some legal trip-wire. When they ate food, when they sowed their seed, when they made their clothes, when they went to war, when they sold, when they bore children, they were for ever falling over rules. The effect of all this was to heighten the sense of sin."

Besides all the regulations found in the Old Testament, there was a great body of Jewish law that came from the rabbinical tradition. It was called the Talmud. It wasn't from God, but it was a human commentary on and expansion of the law that God had given to His people. It was a grievous burden. Donald Macleod writes, (p. 221)

"it is difficult for us today to imagine just what a relief it was the for the people of the New Testament age to be given this great deliverance both from the Mosaic law and from Rabbinical regulations. It was a yoke they were unable to bear."

We Christians are free from the Old Testament ceremonial law and also from the commandments of men. Titus was under no obligation to be circumcised or to obey any of the regulations that these false brothers laid down for him.

Remember what Jesus said about the rules that men make up? In Matthew 15:8–9 (ESV) Jesus quoted from Isaiah and said,

"'This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines
the commandments of men.'"

Following the commandments of men is false worship. It's not the worship that God desires.

No human being has the right to say to you,

"This is not expedient for you."

Some people want to set themselves up as judges in that way. They will set up all kinds of rules for you to follow in order to be a better Christian, but none of them are in the Bible. The overall tendency of their rules will probably take you away from Christ.

Always remember that Jesus is your Lord. He knows what is best for you. He has made you free. You have a great obligation to use your freedom to serve Christ in the very best way. As Paul said in Galatians 5:1–2 the apostle Paul wrote,

"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."

Christ wants you to be free. Donald Macleod writes, (p. 233)

"'the price of our freedom was nothing less than the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.' That means that when we begin to behave as slaves instead of sons (Galatians 4: 5ff.) we are expressing contempt for redemption and for the blood of the Lord."

It is so important that you be free. Jesus does not want you to be burdened by someone else's yoke of slavery. You are free to serve Him, remain that way. You are to decided the best way to apply Paul's words in Galatians 5:13,

"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."

You are to take your freedom and apply it to that end. You'll have to make tough decisions. They won't be easy to apply, as the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12,

"'Everything is permissible for me'
—but not everything is beneficial.
'Everything is permissible for me'
—but I will not be mastered by anything."

You have to make those decisions. You will be the one to stand before the great throne on the last day and give an account for how you have used your freedom for the glory of Jesus Christ. Use it well.

Consider the privilege that is yours. You are free. You are free from the bondage of sin. You are free from the curse of the law. You are free from the Old Testament ceremonial law. You are free from the traditions and commandments of men. What is stopping you from serving one another in love? Nothing. Do it. Do it well.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. What this means for you is that

you are not free.

You are in bondage to your sin. Sin has you and you are not strong enough to break free of it. You are not free from the curse of sin. The curse applies to you. Death, in all its fulness, spiritual, physical; death in all its horror, separation from God, exposure to His wrath—is your lot. Satan has you in chains. He is desiring with everything in him, to cast you into hell.

There is only One who can save you. That's Jesus, who loves sinners. It's Jesus, who died for them. As Him to save you. As Him to forgive your sins. Ask Him to set you free. Only He can do it.