Freedom to Love

Text: Galatians 5:13-15
Speaker: Jim Newheiser
Outline: PDF
Date: February 24, 2013

We have come to a turning point in Galatians which is so sharp that it almost sounds like Paul is contradicting himself. For four and a half chapters Paul has been declaring our freedom from slavery to the Law. Now Paul describes how we should fulfill the Law (of which he had spoken negatively until now 5:4 3:10 etc.) by lovingly serving (same Greek Word he had used for bondage to the law 4:8-9) one another. Of course there is no contradiction. We need both aspects of what Paul is proclaiming.

What is the nature of our freedom in Christ? Scripture teaches that we are free in two different senses. We are free from the bondage of trying to keep the law in order to merit salvation (which is Paul’s theme in Galatians 1:1-5:12). We are also liberated from bondage to sin so that we are able to keep God’s law by lovingly serving each other (Paul’s theme in 5:13-6:10 also see Romans 6:17-18). This new liberty is empowered by the Holy Spirit (5:16,18,22ff).

The order is important. First comes what God has done for us – providing a salvation which is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Then comes what we do for God – serving and obeying Him, not to earn His favor, but out of our love for Him Who first loved us (1 John 4:19).

While the emphasis of Scriptural teaching about our freedom in Christ is perfect, professing Christians often go to one extreme or another. Some wrongly want to begin with Galatians 5:13ff emphasizing our duty to God. Others end with Galatians 5:12 and don’t want to be exhorted to obey God. These challenges are not new in our day. Luther, who very much emphasized God’s grace in salvation writes, of the problems he faced nearly 500 years ago.

There is danger on either side… If grace not be preached no man can be saved for it is faith alone that justifies & saves. On the other side, if faith be preached .. men understand the doctrine of faith carnally and draw the liberty of the Spirit into the liberty: flesh… serving their own lust they give themselves to covetousness, pride, envy & such other vices. The grief hereof makes me sometimes so impatient that I could wish such swine, which tread such precious pearls under their feet, were yet remaining under the tyranny of the pope.

My prayer is that this passage will inspire us as a church to love and serve one another all the more, with joy and grace, in light of God’s great love for us in the gospel of Christ.

Posted on February 24th, 2013 | Permalink