Focal Passages: Galatians 4:1-7; 1 John 1:5-9; 3:1-3
Luther, my lead tenor, wasn’t feeling any connection between
his soul and the notes of the spiritual, “Too Late, Sinnuh!” that my chorus was
rehearsing for state contest. Impulsively, he stood, faced the group, and
exclaimed, “Set yourself free, class; set yourself free!”
While calling for more “soul,” Luther overlooked the need to
master first the elementary knowledge of the music — notes, pitch, rhythm, and
dynamics — before the spiritual could progress from the students’ heads to
their hearts and eventually resonate in the ears of their listeners.
Today, cries for political, religious, financial, and
physical freedom reverberate throughout the world.
Centuries ago, while addressing the Galatian Christians,
Paul stressed still another kind of freedom — spiritual freedom from sin, made
possible by Christ’s death and resurrection.
Since the time Paul last preached in Galatia,
many Christians there had allowed the Judaizers to convince them that Christ’s
death and resurrection were not sufficient to save them from sin; they must
renew their practice of circumcision and keep the Mosaic law.
Paul argued that this legalism would not promote spiritual
maturity, but would drive them backward to the ABC’s of spiritual infancy. In
the childhood of the world, the law served as guardian for people of faith
But God intended for grace, not law, to be the way of
salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). Paul used the word stoicheia, which meant the ABC’s of
faith, to describe the elementary forces of the world that currently enslaved
Now, in God’s time, He had sent His Son to free them from
the bondage of the law (Gal. 4:3-5).
Therefore, Paul insisted, “But now, since you know God, or
rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and
bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again?”
Once my chorus mastered the elementary aspects of the music,
and performed the spiritual in contest, receiving A’s from all judges, why
would I, the following morning, go back to teaching the notes all over again?
Today I remember Luther’s appeal as reminiscent of the
centuries-old cry of Paul: “Now that you live under grace, don’t return to
slavery under the law. Set yourselves free, Christians, set yourselves free!”