Vol. 6, No. 8
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Often we hear the argument (and see the results) that Christianity does not exist by the keeping of law but by applying the principles of law as one personally sees fit and more fully appreciates. This allows for all kinds of activities foreign to the New Testament pattern for worship and personal conduct. This belief and practice is argued by misapplication of such Scripture as Galatians 5:1: "For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage" (ASV). So, the conclusion is drawn that a Christian is not under law, but is free to live, act and worship in principle according to his/her freewill choice.
The results of this false concept of "under no law in Christ" is seen in loose living that differs little, if any, from many non-Christians, and accentuates the current philosophy that allows one to do as one pleases. It is the idea that "If it feels good it can't be wrong." So, sexual immorality, divorce and remarriage for any cause, drinking, gambling -- you name it -- occurs, often with impunity, among those professing to be Christians.
Another result of this false concept of "under no law in Christ" is the common engagement in worship activities that titillate feelings and desires far more closely connected with the "outward man" with its appetites and passions than with the "inner-man" (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16). This comports with the current desire to be entertained in worship, to "get something out of the worship service" that makes for a good feeling. The desire is the same as those of whom Isaiah wrote about: "Who say to the seers, 'Do not see,' And to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits'" (Isaiah 30:10, NKJV). Today, there are many "hirelings" who are willing to do just that and glory in large audiences. And audiences they are -- not worshipers in the sense of the New Testament meaning, when one "bows down and kisses toward God."
All of this and more results from a misapplication of what "freedom in Christ" means. It does not require a great amount of "gray matter" to observe that the context of Galatians 5:1 specifies what is this freedom. The thrust of the Galatians epistle is to affirm that the Law (of Moses) has been superseded by "the faith in Christ" (the Gospel of Christ) -- a fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham 430 years before the law was given. As long as the law was in force, all who lived under it were in bondage, "under the curse" (3:10), and unable to obtain "life" by it (3:21). All who lived under the Law are likened unto the "heir" as a child under "guardians and stewards" and "in bondage" (4:1-3). But in Christ, they "are no longer a slave but a son" (4:7). In addition, the apostle formed a unique allegory to depict those under the Law as children of "Hagar" who represents "Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children"(4:25), whereas Christians (those under the faith in Christ) are children of promise, citizens of the Jerusalem that is above and free (4:26-28). At this point, the inspired apostle makes this application: "So, then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free" (4:31), and then said, "For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage"(5:1). The context demands us to understand this: Christians have been set free from the "yoke of bondage" (the Law, cf. Acts 15:10). That is all this text will allow and it may not be applied in fact or in principle beyond this! -- especially to suggest that Christians are not now under law and therefore free to act by principles devised from New Testament teachings.
The whole spiritual realm (the kingdom of heaven), like any kingdom, is constituted of law, to which all men are obligated to comply if they wish to have entrance into it, live therein and gain an entrance into "the everlasting kingdom" (cf. Matthew 7:21-23). Only the person who has and keeps the commandments of Jesus is the one who loves him (John 14:21). John also wrote, "He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him'" (1 John 1:4).
Freedom in Christ is not to be construed as a release from law under God (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:21), allowing action under the claim, "It's the principle of it."