Monday, January 25, 2010

Emancipation to Christ's Yoke (Galatians 5:1-8)

[Points from last night's message.]

I began last evening's message by reading the second part of the Emancipation Proclamation. This is a powerful, famous declaration made by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. In it, he declared that (almost) all slaves living in Rebellious states were free. He did so using the authority granted to him as Commander-in-chief of the US Army and Navy.

In Galatians 5:1, we are encouraged by Paul to stand boldly in the Liberty which Christ has established for us. We are no longer slaves. He has come to set us free. We know from John 10 that if the Son set us free, we are free indeed. This freedom is established by the Lord God Almighty. While Lincoln used his Authority as Commander of a great Army, Christ's authority is that of the Creator of all things. His power is unlimited. He chose to use His power to ensure that we can be set free.

One major criticism of Abraham Lincoln's proclamation was that it was not a legal document. By using the military as his authority he bypassed an opportunity to make a more powerful statement--he could have used Congressional power. By using congressional authority, he could have set a real legal precedent which could have been followed by more Congressional sanctions against Slavery as an institution. Christ's declaration of our freedom does not stand only on the merit of His Omnipotence, is also stands on the legal footing of God's justice. In Christ, the legal requirement of the Law has been satisfied. He is the perfect substitution. He has taken the punishment that our Sin demanded. Scripture calls this Justification. Hence, we are set free based on both Christ's power and His representation.

Throughout the New Testament we find the word "Yoke." The yoke is a symbol of bondage. And animal is fitted with a yoke that is set up with a cart or sometimes with another animal. The yoke requires that the animal carry a burden. What yokes are we saved from? Which yokes do we like to try on for size? The rest of the message covers these topics.

There are at least 4 yokes that scripture speaks of. When I discuss these yokes I will use the format, "The yoke of association with..." I chose this format because the yoke always links one with something else. The yoke will be linked with another beast and/or a cart or plow of some kind. In essence then, the question is: who are you associated with. Who is your master?

1) The yoke of association with the Flesh. Galatians 4:21-31. In the direct context of Christ's pronouncement of our Liberty, Paul used a picture from Jewish history. God's promises and blessing resided with the Freewoman, not with the woman of bondage. This is a black-and-white issue. Everyone has been born under this yoke. There is no escaping it. We are born in the Flesh. We are born Children of the Bondwoman. We had to satisfy the requirements of the Law. That was the burden we bear. The Wrath of God was looming over our heads. Praise God, He created a way to make us His own Children in Christ. Now we are born Free. We need not carry the yoke of association with the Flesh. We do not need to satisfy the lusts and impulses of the Flesh any longer. Note that this is a yoke for unbelievers, the rest refer to believers.

2) The yoke of association with the Sinful. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. This is one of the two passages that most people think of when a yoke is mentioned. Notice my title for this yoke is different than the above. This passage, as mentioned earlier, was written to believers urging them not to associate with sinners. Paul tells the believers to come out from among them and be separate. He tells them not to establish bonds with sinful people. Why is that? Because their yoke is hard to bear. Their yoke is designed to weigh you down and make it impossible to please God. The burden linked with this yoke is guilt.

3) The yoke of association with the Legalist. Galatians 5:1-4. As one studies the Pauline epistles, they cannot help but notice that the issue of Legalism seems to always raise it's head. In fact, the Judaisers were a major problem that the early Church councils dealt with. This can be read in Acts 15. Their conclusion can be found in verse 10. The Church decided, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, that the Law had been fulfilled. The purpose of the law has been achieved. We are now under grace--freed from it's obligations. But there are people who would put us back under the Law. Perhaps they choose a different law. Maybe their law sounds more Christian like: go to every Bible Study, Payer meeting, Youth Group Session, etc... Maybe it's about taking role. Maybe it's about having a certain stance on politics or fringe doctrines. These are man-made lists and they are burdens we were never called to bear.

4) The yoke of association with Christ. Matthew 11:28-30. These are the blessed verses that everyone thinks of. Christ's yoke. Notice that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. This is a definite contrast with the previous three yokes. This is not a threatening taskmaster. This is a loving Lord. Notice also that he does not only remove a burden, He places one. But the burden is light. It is light because he assists you.

Philippians 4:1-9 illustrates how this works. Of the many themes of Philippians, two stand out from this passage. 1) Unity. 2) Joy. After reading the book, one cannot help but notice the great deficiency the Philippians had in joy. Paul urges them over and again to Rejoice. The reason for their lack of joy is because they were not united in their focus on Christ. The Yokefellows were not focused on their Master, so they were traveling different paths and straining their relationship -- unity. Maybe they tried on the yoke of Sinfulness. Maybe the yoke of Legalism. They were being pulled in different directions. The discord brought strife. When the focus is on Christ, most problems simply melt away. The problems that remain are the truly serious ones. Those problems can be resolved as long as both parties are truly focused on Christ.

Hence, we have been set free. Free from the burden of the Wrath of God. Free from the Burden of Guilt. Free from the Burden of Our Own Creation. Let us be faithful to the Lord and his light burden. To focus on Him always and strive to please Him.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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