Galatians Part 1: Freedom or Bondage

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (ESV)

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (KJV)

This verse in Galatians is a critical for us to discuss. It’s been cherry-picked and taken out of context with not only the surrounding verses but the entire letter.

I believe it’s a huge understatement to say that Paul can be misunderstood. This is probably ‘the’ most misunderstood and assumed out of context’ verse in the entire bible.

I’m going to get straight to the point: Paul is not calling the ‘Law of God given through Moses’ slavery or bondage, nor that we have been freed ‘from’ it, as I will let the Scriptures prove.

Who is Paul talking to and why? What is the context of this verse and that of the surrounding text?

What does the text say?

Galatians 5:2-3 2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3I testify again to every man who gets circumcised that he is bound to keep the whole law.

Circumcision is the subject of topic for a very good reason and it is not because Paul is against the command of circumcision (see my blogs, “Zealous for the Law” and “You Yourself Also Live in Observance of the Law“).

Now, read this next verse out loud.

What does the text say?

Galatians 5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

I really don’t get what all the to-do is about these passages. There is absolutely nothing new here that Paul doesn’t say a dozen or more times in all of his letters; we are not justified by works of the Law. This is not new doctrine.

The believers in the assemblies throughout Galatia were duped into believing that the only way to get saved, or justified, was for them to get circumcised. They were trying to “earn” their salvation, to be “justified” before God, by their own works! Paul is chastising them for believing it and for going back to their sinful pagan ways now that they “think” they are justified by their own work of circumcision. THAT is the “yolk of bondage”!

This is the context, the whole context and nothing but the context of the entire letter to the Galatians. It has nothing to do with the current validity of the Law and whether or not it should be obeyed. Paul never says that the Law of God as given through Moses should not be observed at all, only that we  cannot justify ourselves by it. Nor does this letter ever insinuate, much less claim, that it’s abolished or done away with.

We have been taught wrong.

Paul is railing against the ‘circumcision party’, and their “salvation by circumcision” doctrine. This ‘group’ is mentioned in Acts and in some of Paul’s letters. ~

Acts 15:1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

They taught that in order to be saved one had to get circumcised. The ‘Circumcision Party’ was only interested in the outward boasting of “righteousness” that man could see. Paul reminds the Galatians of this in the next chapter ~

Galatians 6:12-13 12As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

This ‘Circumcision Party’ were not following the Law of God given through Moses themselves, as Paul says right here. They taught the only way to achieve justification/salvation was through circumcision.

Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus railed against for keeping mans laws/traditions over God’s Law, Paul is doing the same thing here. He is telling these believers in Galatia to stop relying on man’s rules for justification.

The two BIG stumbling blocks that you have to get past, are two of the biggest lies in Christendom ~

The First Big Lie: “The Law of Moses is bondage and slavery”.

The Second Big Lie: “The Israelites were saved by obeying the Law of Moses”.

We have been taught incorrectly for generations, as I will let the Scriptures prove.

We will go over the 1st Big Lie in this blog and cover the 2nd in the next.

Almost every mainstream Christian denomination assumes that Paul is telling the Galatians that “the Law of God given through Moses” is bondage, slavery, weak, beggarly, and useless; but is this what the verses actually say? These are all errors of biased interpretation, eisegesis, handed down from our fore-fathers. Eisegesis is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text.

Never in any letter did Paul write, nor is he ever quoted as saying, that the “Law of God” is bondage or slavery. What he does state over and over and over again is that we were ‘enslaved to sin’, and ‘don’t be a slave to sin again’ (see “Freed from the Law of Sin and Death“).

What does the text say?

Romans 6:6 We know that ‘our old self was crucified with him’ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Romans 6:16 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

This is not new doctrine. Paul learned this from his Master, Jesus ~

John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

What is sin?

1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

Back to Paul ~

Romans 6:17-19 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been “set free from sin”, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Paul states in v.19 directly above, that we were ‘lawless’, not obeying God’s Law, when we were in slavery to sin. Paul is reminding us, and defining for us what condition we were in before we were “set free from sin” by the blood of the Messiah and before we ‘crucified our flesh with Christ’; we were under the dominion of sin, disobedient to the Law, unrighteous and unsanctified.

Romans 6:22 But now that you have been “set free from sin” and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

But now, Hallelu Yah, we have been “redeemed”, our freedom from the ‘dominion of sin’ has been purchased. Now we can be reconciled again to the Father and walk in His ways.

Take notice that Paul states twice within 5 verses that we “have been set free from sin”, not set free from the Law as we have been taught.

Did the Prodigal Son, after he repented and was forgiven, return to his ‘self-centered’ and ‘wicked’ lifestyle once he reconciled with his father? Did he tell himself, “Now that my Father has forgiven me I can go back to my own ways and do what’s right in my own eyes and my Father will be okay with that”? Or do you think he honored his father and lived according to what his Father deemed as right living?

As he states in most of his letters to the churches, Paul is reiterating to those in the Galatia, that trying to keep the Law for justification is futile. Getting circumcised ‘in order to be justified separates you from the grace, mercy and love God has shown us through the Messiah. We don’t obey our God to be justified in His sight; we obey Him because He is God! We are His bond-servants, grateful, faithful and wanting to show our love by behaving righteously as our master Jesus did (see my blog “Justification vs. Righteousness“).

What does the text say?

Galatians 5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law

“You who would be “justified” by the Law”.

These believers were trying to earn their justification by getting circumcised and Paul is railing them for letting themselves be subjected to the power of the Law, i.e. under the law (see my blog ‘Subject to the Power of the Law’).

This error of not understanding the difference between Law and faith is why Paul expounds with the allegory in chapter 4 ~

Galatians 4:21-25 21Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.

And again, contrary to what we have been taught, this is not comparing the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ covenant. Paul’s comparing the “Covenant at Sinai with Moses” vs the “Covenant of Promise with Abraham”; he’s comparing Hagar vs Sarah; comparing Ishmael, the son of the slave vs Isaac, the son of the free woman; comparing work of the flesh vs faith and trust.

This is an allegory. By the words of his own mouth Paul tells us it’s an allegory. An allegory is “a figurative sentence or discourse, in which the principal subject is described by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances; a continued metaphor” (Webster’s Dictionary 1828).

It is a metaphor; i.e. not literal.

Paul is telling us, in a metaphor, that those who desire to be justified by the Law are just like Hagar, the slave woman. The Galatians are unable to be heirs of the promise because they are seeking to be justified by their own works just like Abraham did with Hagar. Paul is telling us if you seek justification through the Law, the result is bondage because you can’t satisfy it. It’s not because the Law itself is bondage, but because we fail to keep it. The Law cannot redeem you, it cannot save you and it cannot justify you, because it was not designed to. The Law given at Sinai did not redeem, save or justify Israel. They were redeemed out slavery in Egypt by faith and trust in God and the blood of the Passover Lamb, ‘THEN they went to get the Law, the instructions, at Sinai. The word Law is ‘Torah’ in Hebrew, and in Hebrew the word Torah means ‘instructions’ (sneak peek of the next blog).

If you seek to be justified before God by the works of the Law you are cursed because you fail(ed) to obey it. Then, because you failed to obey the Law, which is sin, you remain in bondage/slavery to your sin, having forfeited the mercy and grace offered by God to justify you by the blood of the Lamb. This is what Paul is saying that those in ‘his’ current Jerusalem were like because most of them did not believe in the Messiah.

We have been lied to. The Law is not bondage or slavery. What does the Word of God tell us the Law is?

What does the text say?

Deuteronomy 6:25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’

Psalm 19:7-11 7The law of the LORD is “perfect”, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 119:42-44 42And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I wait for Your ordinances. 43So I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever. 44And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.

Psalm 119:142 Thy righteousness is an ‘everlasting’ righteousness, and thy law is truth.

Psalm 119:160 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures ‘forever’.

Psalm 119:172 Let my tongue sing of thy word; For all thy commandments are righteousness.

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Is God a liar?

Are David, Jesus and Paul liars?

Another similar error of interpretation in Galatians is in chapter 4, verses 8-10. The majority of the mainstream teachers claim that Paul is scolding these believers because they are ‘turning back’ to the Law of Moses, and thereby returning to the ‘slavery of the Law once more’.

This is a HUGE error.

What does the text say?

Galatians 4:8-10 8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10You observe days and months and seasons and years!

The Law of God given through Moses is NOT, nor has it ever been “weak” or “worthless”. Read the quotes from David, Jesus and Paul listed above one more time. Also, this in no way can be referring to the Law of God for two other very important reasons:

  1. Verse 8 distinctly states “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods”. Before Paul brought the good news to the Galatians they were pagans, worshiping false gods, which Paul states they were “enslaved to”. They ‘never’ knew the Law of God, much less who Moses was. It is impossible for them to “turn back” to something they never had.
  2. Verse 9 tells us the Galatians were returning to “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”. In the Greek the word ‘weak’ is G772 ἀσθενῆ/asthenē; and ‘worthless’ is G4434 πτωχὰ/ ptōcha; and ‘elementary principles’ is G4747 στοιχεῖα/stoicheia. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states these words to mean: a.) asthenē – without strength, feeble, infirm; b.) ptōcha – to cower(ardly) down, roving about in wretchedness, afflicted, lowly; c.) stoicheia – of the heavenly bodies, because times and seasons, and so sacred seasons, were regulated by the course of the sun and moon; and/or the elements, rudiments, primary and fundamental principles. Paul is blatantly telling us that these people throughout Galatia are returning to the slavery of their feeble, wretched and afflicted ways that they observed before they knew the real God. They were observing rudimentary principles of the world, not of the real God. How anyone could believe, much less preach, that the ways and principles of God Almighty could ever be weak, cowardly, wretched, and afflicted is beyond me. The Galatians were ‘returning’ to observing days, months, years and seasons of their pagan gods. These were not the Holy days and feasts of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which Paul himself did observe (see my blog ‘The LORD’s Feasts’).

As Paul states in verses 8 & 9, these Galatians were wanting to return to the “yolk of slavery” they once were under before they knew the one true God. Just like Abraham trying to make God’s promise happen by his own works, the Galatians thought that they were ‘justified’ by their own works. They somehow reasoned that they could now go back to their old wicked ways they once observed, man-made rules and pagan rituals, without worrying about their salvation because they were now circumcised.

The “yolk of bondage/slavery” in Galatians 5:1 is this yolk of slavery” from verses 8 & 9, in chapter 4. The people of Galatia were ‘returning’ to their sin now that they thought they were justified. Sin, is the slavery/bondage Paul constantly warns us not to let ourselves go back under the dominion of.

Paul is railing against a works-based justification, that’s all. The Law doesn’t justify, we are justified by faith.

Final thought: Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. | Paul

2 thoughts on “Galatians Part 1: Freedom or Bondage

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