Studying through the NT, Part 22. Part 15 in our examination of Galatians.
Since we’re now born again, free in Christ Jesus, we are free from the Biblical Law given in the Old Testament. But how are we supposed to live in our freedom? Matthew 25:31-46 informs us. These are the instructions given by Jesus, the actions that produce the evidence that we are true believers, real Christians.
The Galatians immediately demonstrated how true believers act by their care of Paul in his sickness (here). This was a testimony of their faith in Christ. Though they barely knew him, this man who had come to share the Gospel with them had a terrible ailment, most probably an eye disease.
AND YET, in spite of this, they welcomed him into their homes, cared for him in his sickness, and treated him like a member of their own families.
This is Christian love in action. These are actions that true faith produces.
Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of action and the embracing of doing whatever we want to do. Rather, it means doing what we ought to do, empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern and to carry out loving and kind actions.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:13-15 ESV)."Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:13b-14 ESV). Click To Tweet
How had Paul arrived at this realization?
To a former Pharisee like Paul, it was surely of great significance that Jesus had clearly identified the two most important commandments.
“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV)."You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." Mk12:29-31 #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
Together, these shape everything we do as believers.
Knowing and loving God goes hand in hand with loving others. We love others because the Lord first loved us. The newly born-again Galatians showed this evidence immediately in their care of Paul, a former persecutor, but now a transformed man. The Galatian believers were being transformed.
However, within their midst were those who wanted to tear their unity apart by insisting that the Old Testament Law of ceremonies, new moons, and food restrictions had to be kept. These Judaizers had come up from Jerusalem not long after Paul and Barnabas had finished their first missionary effort.
The Judaizers left the church members “biting and devouring” one another. Paul wrote, urging them to watch out, to beware of the outcome this would bring.
Have you ever been a member of a church that is more concerned about knowing the academics of solid doctrine, and all of the interesting studies that reveal the richness of Christian belief, than they are concerned with living out the Christian faith by loving their neighbor as they love themselves?
The result is that people slip through the cracks. Their absences are rarely noted. The sick are not often visited. The abused are ignored or mistreated. The poor are not often helped. But the doctrine of their church is solid, though not lived out in love, and thus, not faithful to Christ’s teachings.
Yet, within even this structure, quietly and behind the scenes, we find believers who regularly put their faith and solid doctrine into practice through love. These are serving others. These are loving their neighbors as themselves.
I had been sick for more than two years when one of the young women from church — a very busy young woman with children and college to attend — came and cleaned my entire house, top to bottom.
About this same time, two other women came to visit me in my sickness. The Lord had told them to come, they informed me, each in unique ways. These women were new to our church. One of their first acts of involvement in the church was coming to visit me every week, first one and then the other.
Another woman from church lived right around the corner. She invited me to walk with her, motivating me, in spite of my pain, to get out of the house. We became best friends, and regular walking helped me to feel better.
These three women were a lifeline. They listened. They were gentle and kind. They helped me in numerous ways. Their kindness made an enormous difference.
Simultaneously, their actions made me aware of how many people I hadn’t seen when I was healthy, those who had simply disappeared, and yet I hadn’t even noticed for a long while. This was convicting, and I began to pay more careful attention.
Living out the kind of love that Paul details here involves service — “through love serve one another.”
In Galatians 5:13-15 above, Paul discusses what it means to be free in Christ?
“Freedom” in Galatians 5:13 is eleuthería in the original language “indicating a free person, one with independence. (I) Freedom is presented as a signal blessing of the economy of grace, in contrast with the OT economy . . .Freedom from the yoke of the Mosaic Law (Gal. 5:1, 13). We have these in Christ.“1.
How is this freedom to be used? To serve one another.
“Serve” in Galatians 5:13 is douleúō in Koine Greek, meaning “to be in the position of a servant and act accordingly; to be subject and serve in subjection or bondage.”2.
When they were under the Law they were enslaved to the Law, yet now they are free. AND SO, here Paul urges them to serve their fellow believers with regularity and consistency as if their service were a requirement, because the Lord himself has commanded so in this passage.
Do we serve with love and also with full commitment?
Paul wrote: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself‘” (Galatians 5:14 ESV).
In what way is the Law is “fulfilled”?
“Fulfilled” means “to come to an end; to give true meaning. (Mt 5:17; Gal 5:14).” Therefore, the Galatians are instructed: “through love serve one another” This verb is present active imperative. A command to do now.”3.
“Previously Paul asserted that they should not be slaves to legalism, but he now balances this with the command that they must be slaves to one another in love” (cf. v. 6; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3–4).4.
“This same truth is expressed in Rom. 13:8. This is the ‘law’ as God’s revealed will, not a works righteousness system of salvation. There is still a proper function for the OT in Christianity! This was a quote of Lev. 19:18 from the Septuagint. It may have functioned as a rabbinical summary regarding the purpose of the Law. It was also used by Jesus in a very similar way in Matt. 5:43–48; 22:39 and in Mark 12:29–31; Luke 10:25–28. This is a perfect tense verb which emphasizes a continuing state or condition. It can be understood as: (1) a summary of the law; or (2) a fulfillment of the law.” 5.
Rather than doing all of that biting and devouring of one another in their war over whether to keep the Old Testament law, Paul says, do this instead:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law“ (Galatians 5:16-18 ESV).
When we walk by the Spirit, we follow the Spirit’s leading, with His empowerment. We don’t seek to gratify our own flesh, for our flesh is at war against the Spirit and against our desire to serve the Lord with obedience and a heart full of love.
Our sinful natures war against the Spirit, for these two are opposed. Yet our sanctified self is captivated by the Spirit. He empowers us to call out to Him as we attempt to serve the Lord, relying not on our own abilities, but on the power of the Holy Spirit Himself.
This is the only way we can serve consistently and in a way that is pleasing to God. The flesh (sarx – our human nature) is at war with the Spirit. It is a lifetime battle, requiring us to learn that we must rely upon the Spirit who dwells within us.The flesh is at war with the Spirit. It is a lifetime battle. We must rely upon the Spirit who dwells within us. He makes all the difference. #Faith #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
He makes all of the difference, for the Holy Spirit is the reason we no longer are required to adhere to the Law. He empowers us for love and good deeds.
In what ways do you rely upon the Holy Spirit?
How can you tell when your flesh is failing because you’ve been attempting to live a Christ-like life in your own power? What are the signs?
- Strong’s #1657. This source was used to derive Koine Greek definitions: Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
- This source was used to derive Koine Greek definitions: Strong’s #1398. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers. Swanson, J. (1997).
- This source was used to derive Koine Greek definitions: Strong’s #4444. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians (Vol. Volume 11, p. 58). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.
Great quote “ It is a lifetime battle, requiring us to learn that we must rely upon the Spirit who dwells within us.” and as the world moves further away from Christ on a daily basis, I think we must fight harder to keep our flesh from failing us. Thanks Melinda
I agree, Yvonne! The more the world falls apart, the more attuned to the Spirit we must become in order to know what He would have us to do and how He would have us to live. We must rely upon Him for the power, both to be attuned to Him and to act as we are led by Him.
So good! I love what you say about how freedom isn’t just doing whatever we wish to do. Our freedom in Christ is so much more than that–it’s a reason for living, a feeling of liberation and strength. Freedom is in Jesus ALWAYS.
In Jesus is the only place we are ever free. I so agree, Jessica! Until we meet him, me may think we are free, but we are not. After being released from the weight of our sins and feeling the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit forever and always in our lives, we then know what real freedom actually is. He empowers us to be who we always wished we could be — loving, kind, helpful people, transformed by the Holy Spirit.
While reading your message, I keep singing “And they will know we are Christians by our love…” Amen. Freedom doesn’t mean doing whatever we choose. Freedom in Christ allows us to serve others with love and compassion. Great message Melinda.
Thanks, Melissa! They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love came to my mind many times while crafting this post! This letter has been rich for digging deep, and I’m glad I could study and focus on application.
True freedom is so misunderstood. Love this quote:
“Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of action and the embracing of doing whatever we want to do. Rather, it means doing what we ought to do, empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern and to carry out loving and kind actions.”
This passage is really rich! There’s so much here about what it means to walk in our freedom. Being the first letter of Paul, it lays the groundwork for all of the following epistles. I’ve been so blessed by what I’ve discovered by digging deep into this. Thank you, Ava, for your thoughtful comment!
This is an excellent explanation of our ‘freedom’ which isn’t what comes to mind when we consider the word. And how we are so dependent upon the Holy Spirit to live in freedom as God expects. Love this: “it means doing what we ought to do, empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern and to carry out loving and kind actions.” Love in subjection to the Spirit is true north.
Reminding ourselves of what truly is freedom seems to be a Christian discipline empowered by the Holy Spirit, Stephen. “True north” is a great way to describe it! Otherwise, because of our sinful natures, we can become selfish in our viewpoint of what true freedom is. Obviously, the Lord intends for us to care for our health — sleep, eat, and do all the things we must do to keep us healthy and thriving. Serving one another cannot be done unless we ourselves can function. Some end up believing that self-care needs to be neglected, but this wouldn’t allow us to serve others, for without food and sleep, we cannot serve one another in love.
What a beautiful picture of what the Church is supposed to be! I love what these women have done to love you!
Nancy, thank you for your kind response. These loving Christian women have made all the difference! I’ve been blessed to know them.
So much insight and powerful truths here, Melinda! I want to say Amen to this at least a hundred times: “Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of action and the embracing of doing whatever we want to do. Rather, it means doing what we ought to do, empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern and to carry out loving and kind actions.” In fact, I’m on a girls trip with two friends and I just read it to them as we sit here on the cabin deck.
And the greatest and second greatest commandment in the gospel of Mark was also unpacked so well from you!
Thank you, Karen! I’ve really enjoyed digging into this epistle. Since it’s Paul’s first letter, so much about it lays the groundwork for the rest of the letters to the churches. Serving others and putting them first can be challenging, and yet we have the Holy Spirit to convict and to empower us, if only we’ll rely on Him.