It’s amazing to see how often the imagery of slavery vs. freedom is used in the Bible.
When Paul was writing to the church in Galatia, he was responding to what he had learned about false teachings infiltrating through the church. The traditional Jews where still in bondage to their old Law, specifically the Law of circumcision. They were insisting to these new gentile converts, that in order to be truly like Christ, they needed to become circumcised. Although they never worded it like this, they were actually saying… ‘In order to be FREE in Christ, you must bond yourself to the Law’.
What’s amazing about his response is that he goes back to the foundation of the faith, back to Abraham. “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.” (Gal 4:22-23)
The son who was born through slavery was Ishmael, father if Islam. The son born through a promise became the line to Christ, who gave us the ultimate freedom. This freedom in Christ is what Paul was ultimately addressing in Galatians 5.
” Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” (Gal 5:2-3)
We have a choice on how we are to be judged before the throne of God. Those turning to the law, relying upon the ‘good’ they do, place all judgement upon themselves. Unless they can keep the law perfectly, they will be liable for the due judgement for failing to keep the law, that is death. However, those accepting the free gift of grace from Jesus Christ are no longer in judgement. Christ has taken our punishment on the cross, and then rose from the grave to defeat death.
No to those who would see to abuse this freedom and see it simply as a “Get out of Hell FREE card”… Paul has another warning. “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13)
All of this fits perfectly in line with what Jesus himself said was the greatest commandment. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)
So what does all this mean? Accept the gift of freedom from sin, be bonded to your sin no more. Then use that freedom to love others.