Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery [NRSV].”
He wants to tell them, “Stand firm.” Peter urged the same: “Be alert and of sobermind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8). He said, “Don’t be careless. Don’t budge. Be consistent.” Don’t lie down to sleep but stand up. It’s as if he had said, “It’s better to be alert and unwavering so that you may keep and retain that freedom with which Christ has liberated you. Those who think they are safe get careless and cannot keep their freedom. That’s because Satan hates to death the light of the Gospel—that is, the doctrine of grace, freedom, confidence, and life. Thus as soon as he sees, it is surging, he springs into battle against it utilizing all his strength and power, stirring up storms and hurricanes to obstruct it and at the end overthrow it altogether.” That is why Paul now admonishes the faithful not to sleep or get careless. Instead, consistently and courageously resist Satan so that he will not strip them of that liberty with which Christ has purchased them.
Christ has made us free not politically, nor in the flesh, but theologically or spiritually—that is, we are free because our conscience has found peace and freedom, without fear of the wrath to come.
Here, every word manifests a striking passion. “Stand firm,” he said. It’s as if he had stated, “In this respect, you stand in great need to be alert and vigilant.”“In the liberty.” What liberty? Not in any of the freedoms granted by the emperor but in that freedom by which Christ set us free. The emperor has given, or rather was pressured to give, the Roman bishop a city, free of charge, and other lands. He also granted immunities, privileges, and prerogatives, among others. This is also liberty, but it is respecting civil liberties, by which the Roman Pontiff together with all his clergy are exempt from all public taxes. There is also a freedom of the flesh, or rather a diabolical liberty through which the devil reigns practically throughout the world. Those who enjoy this freedom do not obey either God or God’s laws but instead do whatever they please. This is the freedom that people seek and embrace today. It is the same with the sectarians, they see themselves at liberty to give their opinions and display all their works so that with impunity they may teach and do whatever they imagine is right. All these stand firm in the liberty with which the devil has made them free. But here, we’re not talking about this freedom, although the entire world doesn’t care one bit about any other freedom, neither are we talking about the liberty granted by civil law. We are talking about another freedom that surpasses it, which the devil hates and resists.
This is the liberty that Christ has given to us. It is not from an earthly yokenor from the Babylonian captivity or the tyranny of the Muslims but from God’s eternal wrath. And where is it given? In the conscience. There is where our freedom rests, there’s no need to go any further. Christ has made us free not politically, nor in the flesh, but theologically or spiritually—that is, we are free because our conscience has found peace and freedom, without fear of the wrath to come. This is that great and priceless liberty. If we compare its magnitude and majesty with all the rest (political freedom and freedom of the flesh), they are but a drop of water in the endless sea, for, having such confidence within the heart, who can adequately describe how wonderful it is that they are not nor ever will be objects of God’s wrath? Instead, because of Christ, God will be a merciful and loving Father toward them. This is indeed a marvelous and incomprehensible freedom that the most exalted and sovereign Majesty would show us such favor! In this life, God not only defends, sustains, and comes to our rescue but also, with respect to our body sown in corruption, dishonor, and illness, will set it free, resurrecting it incorruptible, in power and glory! Therefore, this is a priceless freedom that we are forever freed from God’s wrath. It is a freedom that surpasses heaven, earth, and all creatures.
From this freedom follows another in which Christ has freed us from the law, sin, death, the power of the devil, hell, and more. Just as God’s wrath can no longer distress us for Christ has delivered us from it, so also the law, sin, and thelike cannot accuse and condemn us. Although the law may accuse us and sin perturbs us, they cannot plunge us into desperation, for faith, which overcomes the world, appears immediately and says, “These things no longer belong to me, for Christ has freed and delivered me from them all. Death, the most powerful and fearful foe in all the world, has been defeated and cast out from the conscience by the Spirit’s freedom.”
Thus the majesty of this Christian liberty needs to be held in high esteem and carefully considered, for it is quite easy to say, “Freedom from God’s wrath, sin, and death” and so on, but in the battleground of temptation, when the conscience agonizes, it is much more difficult to put into practice.