Debra Isenbletter, Pastor Christian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free; and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1)
Another translation reads: For this freedom, Christ set us free. Keep standing firm therefore, and stop being held again by a yoke of bondage. (Kenneth Wuest)
There are two admonitions in this verse. Each admonition has two parts. Everything centers around what we see; what we choose to see, what we see by faith, what we see by grace. If we don’t see these things, then we are unable to stand fast, unable to keep standing in the freedom we have through what Christ has done. I have divided the verse in the following way.
The First Admonition asks us to See our Liberty: Stand fast therefore in the liberty and to See our Liberator: wherewith Christ hast made us free. The Second Admonition asks us to See the Trap: and be not entangled again, and to See the Yoke: with the yoke of bondage. If we do not see these things, how can we stand for them and in them? The Apostle Paul knows that if the saints see both the deliverance and the danger that they will be equipped to stand against the false doctrines and teachings that have crept into the assemblies.
The First Admonition: See the Liberty: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty.” Paul begins with our liberty and our responsibility to defend that liberty and to walk in that liberty. The responsibility does not rest only upon the one who teaches but also upon the one who has been taught. Paul stood fast by teaching this and they were to stand fast by believing this.
“Stand fast therefore” – In the Greek, “stand fast” is perfect tense, and speaks of a completed action. It emphasizes what is going on in the present and it has ongoing results. We begin by standing and we continue to stand, and we never stop standing. This emphasizes how we are to stand. It means “to persevere, to persist” and “to stand firm.” We are to be firm and unwavering in our stand. Paul says, “Stand fast therefore.” There are no wasted or unnecessary words. Paul is explaining both when and why we do this. Strong’s translates “therefore” as “now” – Now stand fast! or “because these things are so.” – Stand fast because these things are so! Several translations read “keep on standing firm.” This is how the Galatian saints had begun. It is how we all begin but the adversary will try to weaken this stand. We are to keep on standing despite what others say to dissuade, deter or deceive. This is the true test of our faith because over time we can become weary, worn down by battles, feel tempted to relax that stand. Paul has stated the Galatian saints began by obeying the truth but were no longer obeying the truth. They had been bewitched (Gal.3:1), now they were hindered (Gal.5:7). Both had the same devastating consequence of not obeying the truth. The truth is the truth of our liberty in Christ.
God’s children must be willing to stand against and stand for the truth. We do both. We stand against the teaching of Legality and we stand for the teaching of Liberty. Standing is a necessary part of our testimony and it is similar to being “steadfast” and “immoveable” (ICor.15:58). The strength to do this comes from the revelation we receive through the Word by the Spirit. This comes from heart knowledge not head knowledge. We know this liberty is real, we see it, believe it and have experienced it.
There are so many different ways that we are to stand and different things that we stand for that the Apostle Paul shows us in his epistles. We stand fast in faith (ICor.16:13); We stand fast in one spirit (Unity) (Phil.1:27); We stand in the Lord (Phil.4:1; IThes.3:8); We stand against the devil (Eph.6:11); We withstand and stand (Eph.6:13); We stand with our loins girt about in truth (Eph.6:14); We stand fast and hold the traditions [teachings found in Paul’s epistles] (IIThes.2:15). Standing fast is not easy, but what a glorious reward is realized and revealed in our growth as saints.
John Phillips: “Stand!” he cries, “Stand fast!” It is one of Paul’s great rallying cries in his epistles. “Stand firm! Plant your feet!” It would bring to mind the Roman way of waging war. When faced by wild, undisciplined enemy hordes, the Romans simply locked their shields together, planted their feet firmly on the ground, and presented to the charging enemy an iron wall of steel and resolution. That is the kind of stand that we must take against error. We must not yield a single point. Truth is truth; error is error. The two are at war. There must be no giving in on a single issue where error is involved. Paul, the most conciliatory of men, would never compromise when it came to truth.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty” – Once we are told to stand, Paul shows us where we stand, it is “in the liberty” that is already ours as children of God. It is translated: “In [this] freedom” (Amplified); “For this freedom” (Wuest) and “What the Messiah has freed us for is freedom!” (Complete Jewish Bible).
The Greek word for “liberty” comes from “unrestrained;” “not a slave” and means “freedom.” Paul in Galatians shows that we are no longer servants, we are sons. This is our privilege, it is our security in Christ and our standing in Christ. This the foundation upon which our faith rests! This is the same Greek word translated “free” in Gal.4:31. We are free! We are free from the Law! Paul has already revealed that the Law was a Taskmaster (Gal.3:23) and a Schoolmaster (Gal.3:24). It was for children that were minors, that needed a guardian. It was for those that had no freedom to act on their own. It was for those that had to move within a set of rules and restrictions. I remember the rules my parents had when I was growing up. I had to go to bed at a certain time, had to get up at a certain time, had to make my bed, had to clean my room, had to do my chores. I could not go somewhere without asking permission and if my parents did not approve, I did not go. All of those rules taught me something but as long as I was a child, I obeyed. Paul is reminding these Galatians (and us) that we have a new status, that of adult sons. Those that were adults had no need for a Schoolmaster or Taskmaster. Grace continues to teach us and guide us but as full-grown sons and not little children. Paul will go on to show them how to use and not misuse this liberty (Gal.5:13).
Paul has already reminded the Galatians earlier of false brethren that came to observe their liberty and look for ways to weaken it and bring them into bondage. Paul took a stand and would not give them a place and would not submit to them (Gal.2:4-5). Now it is their turn, now it is their responsibility to take a stand because Paul is not there.
John Phillips: Free! Paul was writing mostly to slaves. Rome’s iron heel ground most men into the mud. Even as he penned these words, armor-clad Roman soldiers clanked past his door. The harsh commands of a centurion could be heard above the tramp of marching men. Most of Paul’s converts were slaves. Christianity took its first, firmest, and fastest root among slaves. If millions of people in those days shared one great, common desire, it was the desire to be free. Free! He was writing to people who, whatever their physical and material state, had been set free spiritually by Christ. The very word that he used, liberty spoke volumes. It spoke of manumission from slavery. “Free!” says Paul. You have been purchased! You are the property of the Son of God. Nobody has any right to enslave you again. Which, of course, was just what the legalists were trying to do. They were trying to shackle Christ’s freemen with the chains of the Law.
Part 2 – next issue