Gal 4:3-7 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (4) But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (6) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
People who were enslaved to some cult at one time generally have a pretty hard time getting free. Even if they get free physically by being rescued or fleeing, it still can be quite a task to get mentally free.
I have seen this dynamic in people who were in legalistic churches. They are still afraid. They want to serve the Lord. They want to do what is right. But they keep struggling because they have been taught for so long that their old law-preaching pastor and elders are in authority over them, that they must do what they are told, and that if they do not they will incur the Lord’s wrath.
Let me give you an example.
Very typically and very often pastors will teach that their permission is required in many areas of the lives of their flock. For example, individual Christians who are members of their church must get the approval of their church for,
- Marriage and who to marry
- Where to go to school
- What clothing to wear
- and, of course, the church leaders must say yea or nay regarding marital separation or divorce
I tell victims of domestic abuse, “do you realize that you do not need to obtain permission from your pastor in order to divorce your abuser?” Most of us have been taught formally or informally the very opposite, right? Church leaders have a way of granting themselves such authority. But Christ has not given it to them. Where in the Bible do you find this? You don’t. And yet pastors and other church leaders very typically set themselves up as if they were the Pope in a divine position to grant or deny a divorce. Certainly a local church has Christ’s authority to deal with a wicked, unrepentant person. If some church member decides to divorce his wife “just because” he wants to party with his girlfriend, then the church has authority to pronounce his actions as sin and to put him out of the church. But pastors are claiming that they have the right to determine if the victim of the wicked spouse has a right to divorce or not. They have no such authority.
Now, if a person has been in such a church for any length of time, they have a hard time digging out from all this false teaching. They are afraid. Their church has used fear against them for along time and it is hard to shake. “But if I divorce my abuser, they will ex-communicate me. What if I am wrong? What if they are right?” And on and on the struggle goes.
More than once I have seen written communications from pastors to abuse victims in their flock which say things like this:
- You are not competent to decide if you have biblical grounds for divorce.
- We are competent to make that decision and you must wait for us to do so.
- We know your husband has abused you for 20 years, but we think you need to remain in the marriage and patiently suffer for Christ so that your husband will repent.
- Divorce is a sin.
As some of you can testify to, years of this kind of teaching can be very hard to shake even when in your head you know it isn’t true. Fear takes hold so easily and works to draw us back into the clutches of wicked false teachers whose primary desire is to keep us enslaved.
Christian, you are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. Follow His lead and do not permit anyone, not even a pastor or some other “expert,” to put a yoke of slavery back around your neck. If they are using fear to get you to obey them (ask yourself if you are afraid), then you can be sure this is not Christ.
Gal 6:13-14 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. (14) But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.