Lesson 5 - The Life of Christian Liberty / The Call - Galatians 5

Lesson Five: The Life of Christian Liberty / The Call

(Galatians 5:1-26)

The first two chapters of Galatians are personal.  Paul defended his apostleship.  Chapters 3 and 4 were doctrinal.  The final two chapters are practical.

The Galatians had been called in the grace of God.  Galatians 1:6.  Now in Galatians 5:13 Paul writes, "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty...."

The marginal translation of Galatians 5:1 in the New King James Version reads, "For freedom Christ has made us free."  We learned from Galatians 1:4 that Jesus "gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us...."  Before we trusted in the Lord we were slaves in bondage to sin, but the Son of God has redeemed us, rescued us, and set us free.  To God be the glory!


The Call to Steadfastness.  (5:1-6)

We are admonished, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."  Galatians 5:1.  This is the basic message of Paul's letter to the Galatians.  This is what Paul wanted the believers in the Roman province of Galatia to do.  Today as well there is a need for believers to be steadfast in this freedom.

What is the "yoke of bondage"?  By now you should know the answer to that question.  It is the law.  Don't get caught up in a legalistic lifestyle to be saved, sanctified, or more spiritual.  The result in a word is bondage to a legal system that profits nothing.  "The law made nothing perfect."  Hebrews 7:19.  It's worth repeating.  The law made nothing perfect.

What is the lot of the legalists?  Let these words sink in.

  1. They are entangled in the yoke of bondage.  Galatians 5:1.
  2. Christ profits them nothing.  Galatians 5:2.
  3. They are obligated to keep the whole law.  Galatians 5:3.
  4. They are estranged from Christ.  Galatians 5:4.
  5. They have fallen from grace.  Galatians 5:4.

In light of the five truths listed above, who in their right mind would want to follow the legalistic teaching?

The Jews had told the Galatians that even Paul preached circumcision, which prompted the apostle to respond, "Indeed I, Paul say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing."  In Lesson Two we studied about Paul's refusal to have Titus circumcised in defense of the gospel of grace.  If you need your memory refreshed read Galatians 2:1-10.

Is it wrong for Gentiles to be circumcised?  Of course not!  "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love."  Even though Paul did not approve of the circumcision of Titus, he circumcised Timothy.  See Acts 16:1-3.  The problem occurs when someone is circumcised to establish his own righteousness before God, seeking to be justified by works.  That doesn't work!

The Call to Love.  (5:7-15)

The Galatians started out just fine.  "You ran well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?"  Obviously God did not hinder them.  "This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you."  The sudden apostasy of the Galatians did not come from the Lord.  It doesn't take much to make a mess of things.  "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."  A small amount of yeast affects the whole loaf of bread.  Paul believed that "he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is."  It appears that the Judaizers were unknown to Paul by name.

You'll remember that one accusation against the apostle Paul was that he preached circumcision.  In Galatians 4:29 Paul mentioned that those born of the Spirit were persecuted by those in bondage.  Then in Galatians 5:2 he answered the accusation, and now in Galatians 5:11 he replies once again.  "And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution?  Then the offense of the cross has ceased."  Paul preached the message of the cross, not circumcision.  He expressed his desire toward those who troubled the Galatians in graphic language.  "I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut (or mutilate) themselves."

On the highway of Christian liberty there is a ditch on both sides of the road.  On the one side we have legalism; on the other side we find licentiousness.  "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh."  The legalists preached that the Galatians had to do this and that.  The libertines taught that they didn't have to do anything.  They were free to do whatever they wanted, including living after the flesh.

But our freedom in Christ is not a license to sin.  In Romans 6:15 once again Paul asks a question and then answers it.  "What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  Certainly not!"

According to 1 John 3:4, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness."  Since Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, and believers are not under the law, are Christians free to live lawless lives?  Of course not!  After declaring the call to liberty Paul adds that we should "through love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"  The one word that fulfills the law is love.  See Deuteronomy 19:18.  James quotes the same Old Testament verse in James 2:8, and calls it "the royal law."  Believers in Jesus are not only called to liberty, but called to love as well.

Besides the royal law of love, James mentions "the law of liberty."  James 1:25; 2:12.  It is like the Emancipation Proclamation that outlawed slavery in that the believer is no longer subject to the slavery of sin and the law.

Romans 3 clearly presents the biblical truth of justification by faith apart from the law.  After concluding that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law, Paul once again asks a question and answers it.  "Do we then make void the law through faith?  Certainly not!  On the contrary, we establish the law."  Romans 3:31.  Earlier in the same chapter the apostle calls this "the law of faith."  Romans 3:27.

So far in our study we have learned that the New Testament mentions the royal law of love, the perfect law of liberty, and the law of faith.  In Romans 8:2 two laws are mentioned.  "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."  The law of sin and death is the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments in particular.  The tenth commandment about covetousness is mentioned specifically in Romans 7:7, so we understand that Paul was not writing about the so-called ceremonial law.  That which was written and engraved in stone is the letter that kills.  2 Corinthians 3:6.

The second law mentioned in Romans 8:2 is "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus."  It is this law of the Spirit, which makes us free from the law of sin and death.  This introduces us to our next point.


The Call to Walk in the Spirit.  (5:16-26)

"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."  2 Corinthians 3:17.  The Holy Spirit of life is a liberating Spirit.  "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."  Galatians 5:16.  Paul repeats the admonition, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."  Galatians 5:25.  The Holy Spirit empowers believers, enabling them to live a victorious Christian life.

But it's a battle.  The walk in the Spirit is not a walk in the park.  "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."

"The flesh" (Greek, sarx) has various meanings in the New Testament.  It most commonly means the body itself or the stuff of the body.  Romans 2:28; 1 Corinthians 5:3; 6:16; 15:39; Colossians 1:22, 2:5.  Here in Galatians it refers to our sinful human nature.  In fact the New International Version translates "the flesh" as "the sinful nature."

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."  Galatians 5:18.  The Holy Spirit does not lead God's children into bondage.  We walk in the Spirit as He leads and empowers us.

Throughout the epistle Paul has contrasted law and grace, and bondage and freedom.  Here he contrasts the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.  First, "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."  Galatians 5:19-21.  Those who live under the law live in bondage to a sinful nature that cannot please God.  Romans 8:8.

Among the works of the flesh we find "sorcery."  The original Greek word is "pharmakeia" from which we get the English word "pharmacy."  How relevant today with so many people involved in drugs!  Getting high is really hitting bottom.

Christian liberty is not a license to sin, and the apostle Paul warns "that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."  The key word here is "practice," implying a lifestyle or way of life. 

Believers are not exempt from the works of the flesh.  Do you remember Paul's rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2:11-21?  Paul himself had demonstrated "contention" in a sharp argument with his coworker, Barnabas, over Mark.  Acts 15:36-40.

Jesus saves us just as we are, but He doesn't leave us that way.  The God, who sent His Son to redeem us from under the law, is the same God who has sent forth the Holy Spirit into our hearts.  Galatians 4:4-6.  The result: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law."  Galatians 5:22, 23.

Fruit is produced through a natural process.  Good farmers may help the process along by pulling weeds, cultivating, watering, and the like.  But the tree produces the fruit.  Likewise, the fruit of the Spirit is produced through a supernatural process by the Spirit of God.  Christians participate in the process.  "Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."  Galatians 5:24.  Paul testified, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  Galatians 2:20.  We have been called to walk in the Spirit by faith.


Lesson Six: The Life
of Christian Liberty / The Challenge - Galatians 6



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New King James Version.
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