“It is for freedom Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.”
Thoughts… The big idea of Galatians is that Christ’s suffering on the cross means that you don’t have to. His death was substitutionary—he took your place; his death was atoning—he paid the penalty for your sins because you couldn’t pay for them yourself; His death was sufficient—there is nothing you can do to add to it or to make it better. What all that means is that when you were saved, you were freed from a long list of do’s and don’ts and rules, regulations and requirements that you could never keep anyway. By Christ’s death, you were set free from living under that bondage of impossible expectations.
So Paul’s challenge then, is not to allow anyone or anything to enslave you again to either the works of the law on one end of the spectrum, or the works of the flesh on the other end. Religion, in this case, meeting the requirements of the Jewish law, is all about what you can do to get God to accept you, favor you, and save you. True Christianity is radically different. It is all about what was done for you. Christ has already done it all—and you can do nothing to improve upon it. Your salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus’ atoning death, plus nothing else.
Therefore, you are free. You are free from the requirements of the law. You are free to do what you want, to live like you want, to eat and drink what you want, to worship like you want. You are totally free.
But here’s the deal: Don’t use that freedom to gratify the desires of your sinful nature. Rather, use your freedom to love God by serving others. After all, your freedom didn’t come cheaply! God gave his very best to deliver you—he gave his one and only Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world. Likewise, Jesus gave his all—he offered his sinless life as your substitute, taking on your sin and paying the penalty for it so you didn’t have to.
Now if you truly understand the profound implications of that costly gift, you would never cheapen God’s grace by indulging your own sinful desires. You would never use your freedom from the requirements of the law to live a spiritually slothful or self-indulgent life. If you truly grasp grace, you will offer all of your life for the rest of your life as one continual offering of worship to God. How? By loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind! And that wholly devoted love is expressed in its highest form by loving your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:37-39)
If you will make that your highest priority—or as Paul says in verse 16, if you “live by the Spirit” then “you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” What are those sinful desires? Verses 19-21 list them: “Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Out of gratitude for God’s grace, those must be put to death. And when you do, when you offer your life as a living sacrifice of gratitude and worship to God, then fruit of the Spirit will be produced in abundance in your life: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
It is for freedom that Christ has set you free, Paul says. So use your freedom in a way that reflects your deep, profound, and inexhaustible gratitude to God for the amazing grace that has set you totally and forever free.
Prayer… Father, thanks for the free gift of spiritual freedom. My freedom cost you your very best, so I never want to abuse it by cheapening your grace with self-indulgent living. Rather, I want to use my freedom to serve you by serving others in love.
One More Thing… “Spirit filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God.” — Samuel Chadwick