“Freedom in Christ” Sunday School Lesson, Galatians 5:1-17

Freedom in Christ

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“Freedom in Christ”

Galatians 5:1-17

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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. As always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well.  Blessings!)

Introduction:

Symbols of freedom can be seen throughout the world.  They come in various forms such as flags, statues, insignias worn or displayed, marches, protest, chants, hand symbols, paintings, powerful pictures, and more.  Whatever makes an impact on a particular entity can be used in one form or another to declare and display their idea of freedom.

As Christians, our symbol of freedom is the very source that has provided our ultimate freedom, our salvation: Jesus Christ alone.  The greatest way we can display Him as ours is to wear Him in our lives and in our hearts through faith and love.

Galatians 5:1-6 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.  For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.  For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh through love.”

Through this current series of lessons, Paul has been defending his stance on the gospel and reeducating the church at Galatia on the importance of their life of faith through Jesus Christ outside the constraints of the old Jewish law.  Through circumcision, observance of days, and the like, the people were being convinced by false teachers who came into the church and infected it with false ideologies that they too needed these provisions and rituals of the law to truly be a child of God.  Such teaching strips away at the grace one receives through their faith; the freedom they have in Jesus Christ, and replace it with a “yoke of bondage.”

The words “entangled, yoke, and bondage” are all the exact opposite of what freedom means.  Freedom speaks of being unconstrained, release, liberty, and unhindered.  Whereas, the above-noted words all give the impression of captivity, snared, shackled, and bonds.  Returning to the worship of false gods or the basics of the law, Paul identified their spiritual lives as being bound up in that which does not profit.  But, one’s true relationship with Christ through faith equals the spiritual freedom the soul truly desires.

Referring back to some of those basic elements of the law such as “circumcision,” Paul taught if this was their reliance; if this is what they depended on as a mark of a new and changed life; if this is what their hope and confidence was in – then, “Christ shall profit you nothing.”  The basis for this thinking is this, things such as circumcision, obtained through the following of the law, are things or works performed in the flesh, not by faith in Him.  And, if one is basing their salvation on works of the flesh, then where does Christ fit in?  But, for the life that is hidden in Christ Jesus; for the soul that trust in the grace that His wonder working power doles out in a believing life, that one shall reap the benefits found in a life that is transformed from the inside out, and not from the dependence and reliance on rituals performed on the outside to change and work for the inner man.

Paul warned that if one subjects themselves under one aspect of the law, then they were held under obligation to be “a debtor to the whole law,” (compare Galatians 3:10).  This was something in times past that mankind was not able to do in its keeping.  His flesh; his human nature often got in the way of successfully adhering to and living up to all of those holy pronouncements.  Thus, God remedied the situation by sending Jesus Christ to die on Calvary’s cross to redeem mankind not only from sin but “from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” (Galatians 3:13).

Things accomplished through the law are not based on faith (see Galatians 3:12), they are based on works.  But, as a child of God, we read in his letter to the Galatians, “The just shall live by faith,” (Galatians 3:11).  Thus, those whose insistence is on being “justified by the law;” (made right in the eyes of God by the law), Paul states, “ye are fallen from grace,” and “Christ is become of no effect unto you.”  This stands as a stern warning, for following that way one would lose out on the beautiful that Christ died to secure for those who would trust in Him alone.

How can one rely on grace and the law at the same time?  If one finds their strength in one, then the other takes a back seat and becomes less powerful in the individual’s life.  For the Galatian church, to embrace the adherence of following rituals over faith in Christ, then they have given what Christ did and all His saving work a back seat and they have pushed to the forefront of their lives the importance of said rituals and laws over Him.  Therefore, in the issue of dealing with law versus grace, we see a dependence on one means a reduction in the other.  And, if one is depending on the works of the law as opposed to grace, then the power of grace is not able to work as effectively, or is in a fallen state from their lives instead of being the whole power Christ has offered to them through it.  It’s as if what He did has “become of no effect unto you.”

I believe we have all tried at one point or another in our lives to be right in the eyes of God through our own effort and actions; by crossing every t and dotting every i.  But it wasn’t until through Christ, we were endowed with the “Spirit” that was able to do the work on the inner man that transformed us and became our “hope of righteousness by faith.”  We now have a blessed and secured future obtained by faith.  It’s not what we can do for ourselves, but what He already did for us.  “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why does he yet hope for?” (Romans 8:24).

He did what we couldn’t do.  Because we are in Him alone, and He dwells in us personally, we are now made righteous before the eyes of God.  Nothing else can add to or take away from what He does in the life of a believer.  This is a faith walk that has been made manifest and will continually to be made manifest by love.  “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”

Galatians 5:7-12 “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?  This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.  I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.  And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.  I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”

I believe the apostle Paul, though a preacher was an Olympian or the like at heart.  Often, in getting a spiritual point across, he referred to our Christian life as some sort of sports competition (see 1 Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1; 2 Tim. 4:7 just to name a few).  In this section he knows in the beginning of their faith they ran well.  Their faith was strong as they pushed on in their belief in Christ Jesus.  Before the entanglement of the yoke and bondage the Judaizers attempted to place on them, they adhered to the truth of the gospel.  They knew with assurance that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  They knew, with a believing heart, their salvation was not bound up in the letter of the law but in the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  “Who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” he asked.

That word “hinder” means something got in the way of their initial belief.  Something or someone was preventing them from experiencing the fullness of joy they have in the Savior.  As Christians, we should always be moving forward and growing in our Christian race, yet the Galatian church has been sidetracked by these false teachers and their spiritual progress has been impeded.  Paul assures them, “This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.”  God doesn’t put obstacles in the path of His people.  God is your biggest advocate for making it through this race.  God wants to meet you in the winner’s circle to award to you a crown of victory in heaven.  Anything or anyone who stands in the way of you receiving the glories He has stored up for you in that heavenly place is a lie; is a robber of your reward, and is not from “him that calleth you.”

Switching from a racing analogy to that of baking, Paul teaches it doesn’t take much to mess up the whole thing.  A little false teaching here and there can infect and disrupt the whole spiritual life of an individual and the community of believers therein.  He said, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  In baking, it only takes a little yeast to make a big ball of dough rise.  Once that yeast gets kneaded and worked through the dough it spreads its ability to infuse itself into every bit of the dough that it might increase its effect on it.  The false teachings of the Judaizers were having the same effect on the church of Galatia.

But, Paul believed more for this struggling church.  He didn’t look at their mistake of giving the false teachers an ear to listen to and wipe his hands clean of them.  As their spiritual father, he wasn’t soon to give up on them or throw in the towel and decide the struggle wasn’t worth it.  They were a work in progress and Paul just knew in his heart if they listen to him and accept the correction he sends their way through this letter that they would have a mind to do what was right.  He said, “I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded.”  Paul gives leadership an example to follow when dealing with people struggling in their faith: don’t be too soon to give up on people.

What Paul also knew was the outcome of those who try to sidetrack and hinder the faith of others.   God doesn’t like His people of faith being messed with.  Often the enemies of Christ think they have the upper hand in their sinful ploys to disrupt the gospel message, but in the end, God is going to require “judgment” from these troublemakers, “whosoever he be,” (see Philippians 3:18-19).  Regarding these false teachers, Paul said, “I would they were cut off which trouble you.” 

Backing up to verse 11, regarding circumcision, Paul plainly lays out that if it was a requirement; if it was something necessary that needed to be added to their salvation in Jesus Christ, he could preach circumcision and be done away with the suffering he was facing because of his stance in the cross being enough.  He wouldn’t have to face ridicule and such because of the idea of just the blood of Jesus, the cross of Christ, is an offence to those who don’t believe.  He said, “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.”  But, as many of Christians have found out through the centuries, from the first martyr Stephen on down, persecution comes with the territory of defending our faith in the Lord.  Some areas see this demonstrated in a rougher manner than others, but anytime someone takes a solid stand for Jesus Christ there will be enemies that come and try to thwart the work and progression toward mature faith.  If Paul would but compromise a little bit it would save him a world of trouble.  But, the Bible tells us we are to, “Earnestly contend for the faith,” (Jude 1:3).  The truth we have in Christ; the truth Paul is trying to express to the Galatian church is too precious to let go of or compromise on.  Press on in the fight, he must.

Galatians 5:13-17 “For, brethren, ye have been called into liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  For flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

“Ye have been called into liberty,” Paul stated.  In Christ Jesus, we are made free.  The bonds of our previous sinful life have been loosed.  The bonds that hold one captive to a state of legalism through avenues such as the law have been broken and release has been granted to the true believers of Jesus Christ.

Now, it’s what we decide to do with that freedom that makes a difference.  Freedom does not gain one access to have free license to do as he or she will or act in a selfish sinful manner.  At one point Paul taught, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid,” (Romans 6:15).  Instead of using our freedom as “an occasion to the flesh,” Paul expressed in our freedom we should be able to look beyond ourselves and “by love serve one another.” 

Jesus Christ, Himself said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another,” (John 13:35).  Many look at a lot of other markers to determine if one is in Christ.  Much of what they look for is outward symbols to verify their status as a Christian but here we see the inward working of the heart, the love that we show toward one another shows to whom we belong; it shows that we are truly free in Him.

Our love is best expressed through service.  In light of all that Christ has done for us, we have a unique responsibility to show one another love through service.  Think about the life of Christ.  He said, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” (Mt. 20:28, KJV).  Here, the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords is found humbling Himself as a commoner and serving.  His focus was never on receiving anything, yet to give it all.  The pattern of the Church; the pattern of those who are free in Him should be likeminded.  The love and compassion we have in us should be poured out to the saints in service.

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”  Love is the realization of all God is and what He calls us to be, feel, and operate in our daily lives.  When questioned by a lawyer whose intentions weren’t right about what is the greatest commandment of the law, Jesus answered that the greatest is obviously to love God with your all, then He proceeded to explain that we are to love each other as ourselves (see Matthew 22:35-40).  Everything the law was intended to teach mankind can be fulfilled in loving God and loving people the right way.

“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”  If love is not working in the life of a Christian then contentions are. Christian battles and disagreements between one another can get quite quarrelsome, ripping away at the very thread of the fabric of that Christian love Christ prayed that we would be known for (reference once again John 13:35).

The only way to remedy this is to “walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”   There has always been a separation of the two: Spirit and the flesh.  The Spirit of Christ in an individual does what the law could never do.  It transforms the human character from the inside out; rather than depending on the outward adherence to rituals to change a man’s inner being.  If our focus is to “walk in the Spirit” then of the Spirit are the things that will be made manifest in our lives (more detail will be given next week in dealing with the examination of the Fruit of the Spirit).  Thus, the people of God are now to be a Spirit-led people and not law led.  In a Spirit-led atmosphere, love within the Christian community is able to blossom, flourish, and spread to the affecting of other lives around them.

Contrary to that, if the “lust of the flesh” is given an uninhibited free course, the result is as the above verse states, consumption and devouring of one another.  Why?  Because in it, they are influenced by this world, they are influenced by that which is false and evil, and they are influenced by self.  Unfortunately, since the Fall, man has sought to be led by his own understanding and everything outside of God.  But God offers us help.  In that help, we find power in the Spirit.  We find that it’s “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts,” (Zechariah 4:6).  Thus, a Holy Spirit driven individual approaches his/her day and life in the power of who He is and what He has done in their life; in the freedom Christ alone provides.  Freedom to look outside of selfish desires.  Freedom to love and serve one another as Christ has done for us.

Conclusion:

Freedom is not free.  At any point throughout history, for any person or persons to be liberated from the bondage they were in, there is always a cost.  I have come to learn in a very personal way to appreciate the liberty that we celebrate in our own country.  But, that liberty didn’t come cheap.  It was secured by the blood, sweat, and lives of our soldiers who put themselves on the line, to fight, so that we don’t have to.

That’s exactly what our Savior did for us.  He went to the front line to fight the enemy for us.  He went to battle and subdued all the forces that try to entangle us in the entrapments of this world.  He put Himself in harm’s way that we might be free; that we might experience what true liberation feels like.  To have the burdens and chains of sin and law lifted off of us once and for all.  Don’t go backward in looking for that which Christ has made us free from.  Live life in the freedom He has already secured for you.

Standard Print PDF: Freedom in Christ Sunday School Lesson Standard Print

Large Print PDF: Freedom in Christ Sunday School Lesson Large Print

Below are activities to support this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!

Word Search: Freedom in Christ Word Search  Answers: Freedom in Christ Word Search Answers

Crossword: Freedom in Christ Crossword  Answers: Freedom in Christ Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Freedom in Christ Word Scramble  Answers: Freedom in Christ Word Scramble Answers

Coloring Page: Freedom in Christ Coloring Page

freedom-in-christ-coloring-page-001

Draw the Scene: Freedom in Christ Draw the Scene

Freedom in Christ Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Freedom in Christ Memory Verse

freedom-in-christ-memory-verse-001

How Many Words: Freedom in Christ How Many Words

Freedom in Christ How Many Words

Paper Chain Craft: For a simple throw together craft, have students make paper chains as a reminder of today’s lesson.  They can even put the chains on themselves, then with the mighty strength of Jesus, break the chains off symbolizing what Christ did for those who believe in Him.  Enjoy!

Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!

“Freedom in Christ”

“Freedom in Christ Object Lesson for Sunday School”

“The Letter to the Galatians”

“Serve One Another Through Love – Galatians 5:13 Printable”

“Galatians 5:14 Coloring Page”

“Living Out Our Liberty”

“Freedom Isn’t Free Group Activities”

Photo Source: Pixabay

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