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Freedom to Love - The Abundant Life in Christ (Galatians 5:1-15)

Galatians 5:1–15 - 1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. 7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. 13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 

 

What does today’s passage say?

In today's passage, Paul urges the Galatian believers to stand firm in the freedom provided by Christ's sacrifice, not slipping back into slavery under the Law (vv. 1-6). He reminds them that through the Spirit and faith they were saved; it wasn't through rule-keeping that they began their Christian life. Paul boldly confronts the false teaching that circumcision and observing the Law are necessary for justification, teaching that this does away with grace and separates believers from Christ (vv. 7-12). He also warns against using this freedom merely as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but rather calls them to serve one another in love through the Spirit, fulfilling Christ's command to love our neighbor (vv. 13-15).

 

How can I apply Galatians 5:1-15 to my life?

The churches in Galatia had some confused believers who were being told that faith in Jesus was good but not enough - they still needed to earn their salvation through rule-keeping and religious rituals like circumcision. But the apostle Paul sets them straight. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, not our own flawed efforts. After re-establishing this vital truth, Paul then focuses on the outflow of genuine faith: love and freedom; not rigid legalism but Spirit-empowered care for others. Religious duties devoid of love miss the point. Saving faith transforms our hearts to live beyond bare minimums and serve our Christian community. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

1.     Stand Firm in the Freedom from the Law that Christ Provides (vv. 1-6): Paul warns the Galatians not to give up the freedom found in Christ by dragging the chains of the Law behind them. This self-righteousness through the Law leads nowhere but frustration. Even today, counterfeit gospels proclaim the idea that rule-keeping is the way to godliness and salvation. Do not fall for it! Stand firm in the liberating truth of salvation through faith alone. Keep your eyes fixed on the cross - the only place our efforts fail and Christ's sacrifice succeeds. No amount of discipline can justify you. Do not convolute the simplicity of the gospel by trying to earn through works what you already have in Christ. So, walk forward boldly in the grace that God has freely given in Christ, leaving behind any baggage of self-reliance. Having begun by the Spirit, don’t now attempt perfection the efforts of your own sinful flesh. Rather, rely daily on the Spirit within you. He makes righteous living possible. Abandon applause-seeking and instead point all praise toward the Lord Jesus Christ as you serve others in love. (John 8:36, Romans 6:14, Galatians 3:3).


Food for Thought: What mindsets or habits tempt you towards self-salvation instead of reliance on Christ? What does walking in the Spirit look like practically in your life?


2.     Reject Teachings of Justification by the Law and Circumcision (vv. 7-12): In verses 7-12, Paul continues to confront the dangerous false teaching infiltrating the Galatian churches that claimed believers needed circumcision and obedience to the Law in order to be justified. This directly contradicted the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith. As Christ-followers today, we must exercise discernment regarding teachings that add man-made rules to the simple truth of the gospel. Requirements like particular religious ceremonies, strict rule-keeping, or special experiences as necessary for justification twist the message of grace. These rituals often appear righteous but actually highlight our inability to merit salvation. Stick to the pure milk of God's word rather than chasing religious fads or imperatives. Cling to the sufficiency of the cross. Evaluate any teaching you hear against the truth of Scripture and if it fails to align with the foundational truth of justification by faith alone through Christ alone, reject it. Do not settle for a man-made gospel of salvation by works rather than God-given salvation through faith in what Christ accomplished (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Titus 3:9-11, James 1:22-25).


Food for Thought: What popular Christian teachings today tend towards works-based righteousness rather than grace? How can you develop spiritual discernment?


3.     Serve One Another in Love Through the Spirit (vv. 13-15): After correcting the issues they were having with justification through faith alone in Christ alone, Paul now shows them what living out that genuine faith looks like. Just as Christ did, Paul calls on the Galatians to serve one another in love though the power and direction of the Holy Spirit and not simply in an attempt to “keep the rules.” As believers, our freedom in Christ should never become an excuse for self-centered living. His love will compel us to pour out His sacrificial love to others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can serve others by putting their needs ahead of our own in love. We do this not to earn brownie points but out of reverence and love for Jesus. If we who have received such amazing  grace fail to freely give it away through gracious actions, we are failing to live up to the promise of that very grace (John 13:34, Romans 12:10, Ephesians 5:1-2). 


Food for Thought: What specific actions can you take to serve other believers this week? How can you be filled with and walk in the Spirit?


The true Gospel sets us free from vain rule-keeping through the power of the Spirit who cultivates His love within us. Once we fully embrace justification through faith in Christ alone, we are empowered to walk in freedom and extend grace to others. We must continually test teachings against Scripture, clinging tightly to truths that align with justification by faith while rejecting those that subtly shift our focus to self-effort. And we must beware turning the gift of freedom into a selfish pursuit by asking the Spirit to make us conduits of loving service within the body of Christ. When our beliefs lead to outflow through serving and meeting needs, they display true transformation. May we anchor ourselves to grace, uproot legalism, walk by the Spirit, demonstrate His love to one another, and find joy in simple devotedness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that You would give me clarity regarding any areas of confusion in my understanding of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Expose any subtle legalism that I am prone to adopt. Help me to grow in discernment as I evaluate teachings, grounded in Scripture alone as the test of Truth. Give me sensitivity to Your Spirit living within me and freedom from fleshly, self-focused living. Make me a conduit of Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness to other believers. Show me practical ways I can serve my local church community this week. Keep the cross of Christ central in my mind so that gratitude and devotion to You overflow through me.

I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

 

Galatians 5:13 – “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

 

 

With His Blessings,

Pastor Corby

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