FREEDOM TO SERVE OTHERS
Lord, thank You for the liberty You died to give me.
Read GALATIANS 5:1–15
Freedom in Christ
5 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.
2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
Life by the Spirit
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
a Galatians 5:13 In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit; also in verses 16, 17, 19 and 24; and in 6:8.
b Galatians 5:14 Lev. 19:18
New International Version (NIV)
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“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts” (Psa. 119:45). Thank You, Lord, that Your precious Word guides us into true freedom.
Paul reminds the Galatians about the marvelous freedom that Christ has won for them. He also sternly warns them that to submit to circumcision (and adopt the Jewish way of life) would mean a return to the very status from which Christ freed them. Much more agonizing than being cut physically is being cut off from Christ spiritually. Paul tells the Galatian believers that adding the Law to faith amounts to apostasy. To submit to circumcision is to submit to the entire system of bondage, condemning them to keeping the whole Law. The problem is that seeking to be right with God through the Law is doomed to failure, because salvation can be achieved only through trusting Christ.
The Christian life is sometimes compared to running a race (1 Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1). Here in verse 7 Paul commends the Galatians for running a good race. The problem is, however, that some people (the Judaizers) have joined the Galatians on the race track and muscled their way in. The Christian life is an endurance race, where the challenge is to stay on course and studiously avoid bogus issues or insincere people who can trip you up.
In verses 13 and 14, Paul tells the Galatian believers that, while they are meant to be free and not enslaved, they should use their freedom wisely. Christ did not set them free to please their (sinful) desires but to serve others. They are now free to serve one another in love. Love is the pinnacle and completion of the Law (cf. Rom. 13:8–10). Having been set free from the Law by Christ, the power of sin and the old self, we can now use our freedom for others. Christian freedom prohibits us from doing just we want without any restraint, or we may have situations like that in verse 15. Rather, Christian freedom is regulated by love—love for God and love for neighbor.
Reflect on the precious freedom Christ has won for you and how you can use it well to serve others.
Lord, give Your people the wisdom to know how to walk in Christian liberty in such a way as to please You and not to please ourselves exclusively.