It was not too long ago that we celebrated Memorial Day, a day in which we remember those who died while serving in our armed forces. We cannot imagine all the freedoms we now enjoy because of the ultimate sacrifice so many made on our behalf.
Therefore, it was fitting that we celebrated Holy Communion on that Memorial Day Sunday. For no sacrifice was as great and all-encompassing as Christ’s atoning death for us.
I love celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion because in it we get a beautiful picture of the Gospel. We enjoy precious freedoms as Americans because of the sacrifices of men and women through the centuries. And we have precious freedom as Christians because of the work of Christ.
In Galatians 5:1, Paul highlights that freedom. Paul writes,
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Freed to be Free
The freedom Paul is talking about is our freedom from the burden or oppression of legalism which Paul calls “slavery.”
You see, it is not the Law that Paul says is bad. When we understand God’s Law correctly, it is good, even beautiful. And that’s because God’s Law feeds us. It guides us. It draws us near to God. It teaches us. It encourages us.
But the way it was being used by the legalists in Paul’s day was actually enslaving the Christians in Galatia. It was like a giant weight lying on top of a person, crushing them bit by bit by bit.
Because of this oppressive legalism, the Galatian Christians had no freedom in Christ. They couldn’t enjoy being liberated from their sin because they couldn’t keep the Law well enough for the legalists. Instead of flourishing and enjoying their new life in Christ, they were suffocating under the weight of the Law, wrongly understood, and the condemnation of sin that came from that false teaching.
They were in a bad way.
Thus, Paul wrote to them and declared from the rooftop: Enough! The Law of God should never be used as an enslaving and oppressive weapon!
In addition to the wonderful previously mentioned things the Law does for us, it does something more. It leads us to Christ. Like a schoolteacher, the Law teaches us – it shows us our need – it leads us to Christ… and Christ leads us to freedom.
That’s why Paul said “it’s for freedom that Christ set us free. That sounds like Paul is being redundant, but he’s saying something very important here. Paul is saying, “Christ didn’t set you free… so you could remain a slave to sin. He didn’t set you free… so you could become a legalist.”
Through his work on the Cross, Christ set you free to become all you were created and called to be. Therefore, Paul wrote, “Don’t go back to a life of slavery… to sin or legalism. It is that wonderful, freeing work of Christ on the Cross that we celebrate in Holy Communion.
So, what does that freeing work look like? I want to point out how the Cross frees us in our past, present, and future.
Freed from Our Past
First of all, the Cross of Christ frees us from our past.
Here’s what I mean. We no longer need to live under the penalty of sin. We have been liberated from the condemnation our sin deserves. Romans 8:1 says,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
And that is true because the work of Jesus paid for – atoned for – our sinful and fallen condition. God no longer counts our sin against us. We no longer have to walk through life like poor Pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress did… with a giant bag of guilt and condemnation and sin weighing him down.
Therefore, when we read the liturgy for Holy Communion, and then receive the Bread and Cup, we should do so with hearts full of gratitude for Christ’s work on the Cross.
Freed for Our Present
Second, the Cross of Christ frees us for our present.
Just as Jesus freed us from the penalty of sin, his Cross also frees us from the power of sin in our present. This does not mean that sin no longer has any power over us at all. It still has the power to influence our lives. Unfortunately, we are not free from temptation. That is still alive and all-to-well.
However, we are now free from the dominion of sin. In other words, before we were in Christ we couldn’t help but sin. We had no real power to resist it. But now, because of the work of Jesus, that dominion of sin in our lives has been defeated. We have been freed from it.
Not only that, but when we receive the Bread and Cup we’re actually meeting with our Lord at his Table… in the present. Through his Holy Spirit we are filled with his grace. That is why John Wesley called Communion a “means of grace.” It is a way in which we put ourselves in the way of God’s grace.
You see, Holy Communion is a time when we’re strengthened by God’s Spirit and grace to live the life he’s called us to live. And Holy Communion reminds us that we are in this together. It is not an expression of a Lone Ranger faith. Instead, we gather with all our brothers and sisters in our local church, around the world, and including the Great Cloud of Witnesses of Hebrews 12.
Holy Communion reminds us we are now free to become all that God has created and called us to be.
Freed in the Future
Finally, the work of Jesus on the Cross, which includes his resurrection, reminds us that one day we will be free from the presence of sin in our lives.
Holy Communion helps us to remember forward. It reminds us of a future where our Lord will once again dine with us at a Heavenly Banquet. The precious meal of the Bread and the Cup is just a foretaste of the Great Banquet that awaits us.
No longer will we be entangled in sin at all. It will be once-and-for-all done away with. And as we move from this life to the life-to-come, we will live in the unveiled presence of our loving Savior.
But we do not have to wait for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom because we’re living in it right here and right now. That is why Paul could write, “don’t let yourselves be burdened any longer by a yoke of slavery.
Therefore, because of the love and work of Jesus for you…
- You are free from the bondage of legalism and the penalty of sin. So, give thanks.
- You are free from the irresistible power of sin in your life. So, pursue becoming all God created you to be in Christ.
- And one day you will be completely free from the presence of sin. So, live every day in joyful obedience to Christ our Lord, with the living hope of those who love him.
Thanks be to God.