Return to Study Guide for Galatians -by Don Kugelberg, Long Beach, California USA
Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood at the podium and delivered his state of the Union address. They were perilous times. By the end of the year the United States would be dragged into a world war. He used his speech to talk about duty and sacrifice and toward the end he spoke of four freedoms which he called essential:
In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
• The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.
• The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.
• The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.
• The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.
In his commentary, Warren Wiersbe pointed out that the world is desperately in need of another freedom which went unmentioned by our president. Dr.Wiersbe called it freedom from self and the tyranny of our sinful nature.
In my mind it is by far the most essential of all freedoms, the one primary freedom we cannot produce by our own efforts. In Galatians 5:1 Paul said:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Last week we discussed the oppressive enslavement of the law which humans find impossible to keep. Paul pointed the Galatians to the freedom of knowing that one is accepted by God on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross.
In his epistle to the Romans Paul said “…You are not under law but under grace”.
We are free from the guilt of sin and free from the penalty of sin through the payment rendered on the cross. We are also free from the curse of the law by which man tried to control what was happening in our inner man by external means. It had become a twisted perversion of what God intended.
As twisted as it was, it still held an attraction to the Galatians because it provided them with specific moral guidelines that they could apply to their lives. It reminds me of the scene in Fiddler on the Roof where the Rabbi is asked whether there is a blessing appropriate for the Czar.
He says “May the Lord bless and keep the Czar far away from here.” In the same way, Jewish leaders were renowned for their abilities to develop applications of the law for every situation. These well-defined moral codes provided a sense of security to the Galatian believers. They were no different that people today. “Let’s get down to business – tell me what I have to do and what I need to stay away from, and then I’ll know what’s expected and how to respond.” There is security in having the rules defined. Unfortunately, the law speaks to externals while the Lord looks at the heart.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Paul says to the Galatians, “Get your eyes of the Law! Stop trying to conform yourself to something which was meant to point out the futility of trying to conform.”
I can hear the Judaizers cranking up the argument now. “But Paul, if one does not fall under the law, then are they free to do as they want? With no moral compass, does one just do as they please?”
As we open our text this morning, Paul again mentions freedom in Galatians 5:13:
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.
He has attacked legalism and now he turns his argument toward the other extreme – license. The dictionary defines it as the “freedom to deviate deliberately from normally applicable rules or practices (especially in behavior or speech).”
The Law made up the normally applicable rules and practices for the Jews and the new Galatian believers. If they were now free of it should they just do as they please?
Paul says no – do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. The law still has a place in the kingdom.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Jesus fulfilled the law in that a system which controlled external behavior will now have the ability to allow us to please God.
The writer of Hebrews said “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Now that we have faith, we are liberated from trying to conform to the law as a way of pleasing God. Instead, conformance to the law becomes the response of a grateful heart to the salvation freely given. No longer is there a need for the Rabbis to interpret the application of the Law in day to day living.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
He says that we are to walk by the Spirit. He uses a very specific Greek word which pictures going from “place to place” and was usually used to picture a follower of someone who taught them while he was on the move. Jesus used exactly the method of teaching pictured. As he traveled about his disciples followed, they learned almost by osmosis as they absorbed Jesus manner of life by rubbing shoulders with Him on a daily basis. In a similar way, Paul pictures interaction with the Spirit as occurring on a similar basis. As we live with the Spirit in our lives we will begin to mirror his actions and we will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
He strengthens the allusion in verse 25:
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
In English the verses both say “walk” by the Spirit but in the Greek, verses 16 and 25 picture different things. Verse 16, as we just discussed pictured a traveling teacher with his disciples. Verse 25 uses a word for walk which has military connotations. Literally the verse says “If we live by the Spirit then we have an obligation to keep in step with him.” It pictures the Holy Spirit as a drill sergeant calling cadence a us as members of the troop called to stay in formation.
Soldiers in formation worry about one thing and one thing only. They need to step in time to the cadence. They don’t need to worry about where they are going or how they will get there. They don’t control the speed of the march, that too is in the sergeant’s purview. They only need to step in time to the cadence call.
It also pictures the fact that the Christian is not keeping time alone. We are surrounded by our fellow soldiers, they are matching us stride for stride. We are a unit called to function as the army of God in a unified manner. How different than life lived in the flesh as pictured by Paul.
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
If I am in control, it is natural for me to compare myself to you to check my progress. That old demon pride rears his ugly head.
Satan is perfectly content to see you become chaste and brave and self-controlled provided all the time, he is setting up in you the dictatorship of pride – just as he would be quite content to see your [skin rashes] cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For pride is a spiritual cancer; it eats up the very possibility of love or contentment or even common sense.
Functioning under the direction of a drill sergeant removes any possible source of pride in self. I function only as a member of a unit under the direction of my leader.
When I am functioning under the direction of the Holy Spirit it then becomes possible to be free of the law and to function under the greatest commandment.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Holy Spirit working in me makes that commandment functional in every area of my life. It is He who makes application. It is He that produces the fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Paul speaks of crucifying the flesh. This is necessary because of the battle we all face.
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.
The functional words there are “to keep you from doing the things you want to do”.
If you are spirit lead, you desire to produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life and you hate those times you fail.
The opposite is a man who does not have the spirit inside of him and produces the works of the flesh in his life.
What’s inside of you?
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Return to Study Guide for Galatians -by Don Kugelberg, Long Beach, California USA