"For freedom Christ has set us free." More than one commentator has called these words the emotive center, the climax, or the heart of Paul's Letter to the Galatians. For many Christians they have been the proverbial Magna Carta of Christian freedom. Issues of bondage and freedom ran deeply in Paul's world, just as they do in ours. Paul alludes to this early in the letter when he states that the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself "to set us free from the present evil age" (1:4). But such freedom is hard-won and difficult to maintain. In Galatians 5, Paul chastises those who are pushing for circumcision for abandoning the freedom that is their rightful inheritance in the gospel.
The marks of this freedom are not a return to the slavery of the circumcision and the law but rather to the promise of a "faith working through love" (verse 6) that fulfills the law in its free exercise of love for the neighbor. As Paul says later in the letter, "For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:14).
51For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. 4You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working* through love.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011