Study Guide

Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon Freedom and Confinement

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Freedom and Confinement

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. (Galatians 1:3-4, NRSV)

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. (Galatians 1:3-4, KJV)

Right off the bat, there's Jesus dying to free us from all the bad things of this world. We're still not sure how he allowed Jersey Shore to happen.

Because of false believers […] slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us—we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. (Galatians 2:4-5, NRSV)

Because of false brethren […] who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. (Galatians 2:4-5, KJV)

Paul blames these false believers for dissent at the Council of Jerusalem. These guys think that everyone needs to be following Jewish law in order to be Christian. Paul thinks that they're just trying to lock everyone into an outdated system that doesn't work.

The scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian. (Galatians 3:22-25, NRSV)

The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (Galatians 3:22-25, KJV)

If the law is a prison, then Jesus is the metal file God slipped into your cake to bust you out. Paul says that back in the day, we needed to be caged up, but now that Jesus has graced us with his presence, we should be walking around on the outside. Smell that fresh non-prison air…

My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world[…] Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? (Galatians 4:1-3, 9, NRSV)

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world[…] But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? (Galatians 4:1-3, 9, KJV)

Same idea, different metaphor. This time, humans are little children just waiting to cash in on their inheritance. Now, God has left us riches beyond our wildest dreams, and we don't have to worry about all these earthy concerns. We can focus on God. Yet some people still want to go back to the way things were. Paul just doesn't get it.

But what does the scripture say? "Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman." So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 4:30-5:1, NRSV)

Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 4:30-5:1, KJV)

This is the end of Paul's little allegory about Hagar and Sarah. He identifies with the children of Sarah—the free woman—and doesn't want anyone to cling to the slave family. After all, even way back in Genesis, God didn't want them hanging around.

You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. (Galatians 5:13, NRSV)

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13, KJV)

Free at last, right? We can do whatever we want!

Whoa. Slow down. Just because we're free from worrying about obeying the law doesn't mean we can go crazy. Paul says we've still got to remember to care for other people.

It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God's grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (Philippians 1:7, NRSV)

Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. (Philippians 1:7, KJV)

This isn't a metaphor—Paul is literally in prison. Though he's free through his faith in Christ, the Roman authorities have other ideas. This is just one of the many times Paul has landed in lock-up for spouting his views about this new messiah. We guess freedom really isn't free.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7, NRSV)

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7, KJV)

Paul has more thoughts (surprise!): Before, being a slave was bad. Now, it's a good thing. While we shouldn't be slaves to the law and the world, it's totally fine to be slaves to each other and God. After all, it's what Jesus would do.

I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. (Philemon 1:8-10, NRSV)

Though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds. (Philemon 1:8-10, KJV)

Paul's back in the slammer here. Maybe that's why he relates to the plight of Onesimus. They're both metaphorically free through their faith, but they're physically in bondage.

Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. (Philemon 1:15-16, NRSV)

Perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? (Philemon 1:15-16, KJV)

Paul clearly thinks that Philemon should release his slave, but he's really creeping around it here. He tells Philemon that Onesimus should be like a brother to him, but it's up to Philemon to decide if he wants to keep this whole owning-a-person thing going a little longer. Well, at least Onesimus is free because of his belief in Jesus.

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