Chapter five of Galatians begins with an exhortation. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” I once read about a vast majority of 03 set freeemancipated slaves became sharecroppers in the south. They were free but they were afraid to enjoy their freedom. As sharecroppers in some cases they were worse off than they were as slaves. The Judaizers in Galatia were leading the new Christians into a similar situation. They were set free by the greatest of all abolitionists, Jesus Christ. Yet they found themselves again reverting to the mindset of slaves and submitting themselves to legalistic expectations and demands of task masters. But Paul riled them up to demand freedom. He wanted them to “stand firm” in their freedom.

First of all he commands us to “stand firm” in our liberty. He wanted all to hold their ground regarding the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone. Some wilted under the constant berating of the legalists. Some even surrendered their new found freedom to the religious stipulations of others. The true believer has no obligation under any system of legalism. Christ has set us free. Our freedom was purchased for us at the cross. Gromacki says, “The shackles of sin and selfishness were removed. The power of the gravitational pull of the sin nature downward has been conquered. The believer is now free to become and to do all that God in His wisdom wanted men to be. He can now become a totally functioning human being in body, soul, and spirit.”

Paul also exhorts us not to let the “yoke” of slavery have its way with us anymore. The “yoke” he is referring to is the yoke pressed upon us by the Mosaic Law. Peter stepped out at the Jerusalem Council and used a similar phrase and explains what this yoke is. In Acts 15:10 Peter says, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts. 15:10). Jesus set us free but called us to His “yoke.” He tells us what that’s like in Matthew 11:39:30. He calls us all out of the yoke of slavery to freedom. He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I think Eugene Peterson gave us an accurate modern rendition of Jesus’ words here. He translates this passage like this: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”