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Leading Question:

“Does the word ‘freedom’ describe your Christian life?”

Key Passages:

  • Galatians 5:1-15 – Freedom in Christ is opposed to both legalism and licentiousness.
  • Romans 8:1-4 – Freedom in Christ includes freedom from condemnation and from the power of sin.
  • Romans 6:1-23 – True freedom is not independence from all authority, but freedom to live for God.

Key Points and Questions:

1. Christ Has Set Us Free: Since Paul makes use of the word freedom more than any other author in the New Testament, he is often called the “apostle of liberty.” The problem is that many people misunderstand the way in which Paul understands freedom. Paul does not see freedom as the ability to do whatever one wants. It is freedom to live as God created us to live. The way in which Paul understands freedom is summarized nicely in the following statement:

“From Paul’s perspective, the notion that people should be free to do as they please is wildly out of touch with reality. Human beings are but a part of a larger whole whose meaning, purposeful order, and goodness are not their creation…. The moral laws that spell out how human beings may appropriately live in God’s creation, and the institutions (marriage, the family, government) that foster and enforce such laws, provide the conditions within which humans flourish. To disregard them is to lose, not gain, one’s freedom. Like birds with broken wings, human beings who refuse to accept their place in God’s world are no longer free to enjoy life as it was meant to be lived. From their disastrous enslavement to the lie of their own independence, the self-absorbed need to be set free.”— Stephen Westerholm, Understanding Paul (Baker Academic, 2004), p. 100.

A. What images and stories come to your mind when you think about the word “freedom”? Do they illustrate the kind of freedom Paul has in mind? Why or why not?

B. Since people value their freedom, why would Paul need to encourage the Galatians to not submit to slavery? What kinds of pressure would they have to resist?

C. How does legalism and licentiousness destroy true freedom in Christ?

2. Fulfilling the Law: To those who are considering circumcision, Paul says in a negative manner that they would also be “obligated to keep the whole law” (Gal. 5:3). Later on, however, Paul says that the whole law is “fulfilled” when we manifest love to one another.

A. How does love fulfill the law? What would that look like in real life? How could you tell the difference between a law-doer and a law-fulfiller?

B. Some Christians want to completely do away with the law. How does Paul’s comments show that the law continues to play a role in the life of a believer?

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