“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.”
As the Apostle Paul writes this gospel letter to the Churches in Galatia he brings them and us as his readers to the place where we recognise the vital place of an orthodox faith which is living in the grace of the Spirit of God. Too often we content ourselves with a type of dead orthodoxy. We know the doctrines of the faith in our heads but they have not become a living reality in our hearts. It is for this reason that Paul spends such a considerable time applying the doctrines that he teaches in his letters. If we were to look carefully at his letters such as Romans or Ephesians we would see that at some point Paul begins to apply his teaching (Romans 12:1ff; Ephesians 4:1ff). The Gospel has a much bigger purpose than just to inform our intellects. Its purpose is to transform our hearts causing us to be made alive in Christ.
Theological writers often explore this reality by pointing to the fact that the purpose of the gospel is to conform us to the image of Christ. Herman Bavinck puts it this way.
“We are absolutely dependant in such a manner that the denial of this dependence never makes us free, while the acknowledgement of it never reduces us to the status of a slave. On the contrary: in the conscious and voluntary acceptance of this dependence, we human beings arrive at our greatest freedom. We become human to the degree that we are children of God.” ( Bavinck, Herman, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2003, p. 243)
John Miller echoes this by telling the story of Roberta Peace in his book, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church.
“As we prayed together day after day, I began to read Romans 1 to Roberta. I read it to her for ten days in a row! I fully and repeatedly explained free justification by faith and challenged her to make sure that she was in Christ by faith and free from fears about the judgement of God. “You cannot have it both ways,” I said, ‘you are either in Christ by faith or in the world by unbelief.” At the end of ten days she said that her whole life was changed by a simple surrender of her life in faith to Christ and His “alien righteousness.”” (Miller, C. John, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1999, p. 37)
As Paul begins his application of the truth that we have been set free in Christ from the hold that sin has upon us he tells us that this freedom in Christ is something which we must continually stand firm in. Our faith in Christ is a constant, living relationship with Him. Daily we maintain our communion with Him. Such a living faith weans us off of our dependence upon our flesh for the hope that we have. So often our meaning in life, our hope for eternity, our seeking after success and results in life are entirely dependent upon what we can accomplish on our own. Our trust is in what others can give to us, or in what we can accomplish on our own. We find ourselves becoming uncomfortable when we are called to put our trust in the LORD. Paul calls us to look entirely, and only to Christ. Therefore we must become a people who pray with complete dependence upon God. To understand this and to live it means that we become people who are increasingly becoming conformed to the image of Christ in our lives.
What do you depend upon? Is it your flesh, that which you can do for yourself? Or is it the Spirit, that completed work of the crucified Christ in which you have been completely set free?