When slaves gained their freedom in 1863, few had resources to sustain themselves. Many former slave owners let these newly freed slaves stay on their farms and work them. But, regrettably, farm owners often cheated these people because most could not read. They remained in debt year after year. In many respects, they were still slaves. In addition, certain business owners, needing cheap labor, colluded with officials to arrest Black men for frivolous crimes. They would lease these men to mine coal, tap turpentine, and lay railroad tracks. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation set them free, these tactics made many slaves again. This practice illustrates the point Paul made to the Christians in Galatia. They had accepted Paul’s message that God declares people justified based on faith alone. But after listening to certain false teachers, they began to depend on their own efforts to make themselves acceptable to God. In Galatians 5, Paul warns them, “Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” God expects His children to engage in good works after they come to him by faith; but counting on our good works to save us is like subjecting ourselves to slavery.
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