(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.
The Galatians had been delivered from the bondage of pagan legalism. They were now being led by Judaizers who were trying to put them back into the bondage of legalism by requiring them to keep the Jewish Law. But the promise of the path to freedom was really a deception designed to bind them in a system of never-ending emptiness. Achievement, holiness, purity, maturity were all desires. Failure, self-hatred, sin, and immaturity would be the inevitable result. “Stand fast” was the battle cry in the spiritual war for the spiritual life of these believers. Paul was telling them, “Don’t give in, don’t go back into slavery, you are already free in Christ!”
A “yoke” is a piece of wood wrapped around the neck of two cattle. It is connected to a plow or cart. The cattle are not free to maneuver according to their will. They are bound by the yoke and turn or pull at the whim of the person driving them. It is often used in Scripture as a picture of slavery.
Slavery is not better than freedom. Repeat that to yourself again and again. So many Christians willingly place themselves into the chains of legalism. Our liberty in grace is constantly being challenged by power-hungry people who want control over the souls of the free. They make guilt the motivation for service. They speak kindly and gently. Their demands may even sound reasonable. Some even use the word “grace.” But their methods show their heart. When they speak, there is pressure behind those words. There is pressure to act as they act and speak as they speak. They make you feel inferior when you don’t measure up to their expectations, use the words they use, pray the prayers they pray, or support the causes they support. You are looked upon as “immature” when you fail. Guilt is used as the motivation. Guilt works in the beginning because the soul is sensitive. We even feel good about ourselves when we meet the demands of the legalist. But when guilt is constantly used to spur performance, the soul becomes desensitized. It doesn’t last. Our concern turns into carelessness. Our desire to lay our life down for Christ turns into a desire to keep back part of our life for self. We find ourselves in a never ending cycle of trying to perform and falling into sin. Yes, this is slavery.
We must guard our hearts against those who would put us under a yoke of bondage. When you stand in the liberty you have in Christ, be sure the fiery darts of wickedness will be aimed at your heart. Accusations and insinuations will come your way because you refuse to yield. These are the times we must plant our feet firmly on the ground, raise the “shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16), and stand fast in the liberty we have in Christ! Don’t give in!
Renewed Thought -Legalism at its root is self-reliance and ultimately worships self. Christ set us free to rely totally on Him and to worship Him with our complete self.