14. Notes for Galatians 5:13-15




In this passage Paul shifts gears in his letter from a theological explanation to a practical application of that theology.

Now that we've "thrown out the bondwoman and her son," we are free. But our freedom introduces us to decisions we have to make that wouldn't have been issues if we were still under the law.

We still have our "sinful flesh." Now we become free to choose to submit our temptations and tendencies to the Holy Spirit. Now it become the Holy Spirit's responsibility to take care of those insurmountable habits and yearnings that pull us back toward our old life. Now we have the faith and the spiritual insight to know that when we bump against some old familiar temptation, God is nudging us to trust him with it.

Now, instead of struggling and rationalizing to control that sin in our lives, we have the freedom to tell Jesus exactly how frustrated and out of control we feel. We can tell him how deeply we're drawn back to those things, and we can give them into his control. Now we commit ourselves to him; we can ask him to do in us what he wishes to do. We can trust him with our temptations, and we can trust him to strengthen us with his authority and courage. We can experience victory and peace as we willingly hand our struggles to God, let him have control over our temptations, and walk with confidence into the new way of behaving that he points out to us.

It's important that we do not use our freedom to justify self-indulgence. As the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, our response to him must be to be willing to do what he nudges us to do. Now instead of living frantically, constantly searching for fulfillment and happiness, it is our privilege to serve each other.

Service can sound like a bad word. "Service professions" can become a way for the servers to make a fast dollar. Service can also be something we do in order to build up our own self-image and to earn others' respect.

I'm sure we've all known people who are proud of their humility and who take on any humble task they might be asked to do. Their serving is marked by an unspoken but powerful sense of martyrdom. They expect recognition for their service, and they have a subtle but powerful way of letting us know that they're "keeping score." When they're done serving, we feel obligated instead of grateful.

This kind of service serves the sinful nature; it does not flow from the Spirit.

True service operates from the love of the Holy Spirit and meets the needs of our neighbor.

Self-serving service meets our own needs while telling our neighbor it's for him.

Paul quotes Leviticus 19:18 when he says that the law is summarized in the command, "Love your neighbor as yourself." In the Old Covenant this command was impossible to keep. The law was a standard that Israel could not attain.

Now that we have the Holy Spirit, that command indwells us. It is no longer us trying to attain that level of love. It is now us submitting ourselves to God, and he lives out his love through us.

Finally, Paul insists that the Galatians stop being critical of each other. Unity in Christ transcends personality differences.

If we allow ourselves to fight for our perceived rights and to cut each other down, we're operating from the sinful nature and not from the Holy Spirit.

We will be demoralized and destroyed if we hurt each other in an attempt to push ourselves forward.

We are called to live in freedom-freedom from fear, freedom from drivenness, freedom from self-centered self-protection. We are called to live in the freedom of an indwelling Christ who takes on the responsibility for our growth and perfection.

We are called to live in the freedom of trust and walking by faith.


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