One of the themes that Paul has been hammering home in the book of Galatians has been freedom. For freedom Christ has set us free (Gal 5:1). We have been set free by the Gospel. We have been justified by faith in Jesus and have been adopted into the family of God. As his sons and daughters, we have been given an eternal inheritance. We are no longer condemned by the law or enslaved to it.
When Paul talks about the gospel in terms of freedom many people get nervous. They get nervous for the same reason that one might get nervous after paying somebody for a job before it is complete. How many stories are there where a person is paid at the beginning of the job and then takes the money and never does the job. The fear is that people will use this gospel freedom as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. They may say “Put your trust in Jesus so that you can get live however you want.”
Paul was aware of this danger, but his response is not to unsay what he has said in the previous chapters. Those who are in Christ are free. Paul simply asks the Galatian as brothers not to use this freedom for sin. Instead, he asks them to use their freedom to through love serve one another which is actually obeying the law (Gal 5:13-14). You might notice that in his tone he is treating them like free people (Brothers) to be reasoned with, and not slaves which must be coerced and cajoled. He wants them to choose this way of love so that they will avoid biting and devouring one another.
Paul can talk this way to them with confidence because of the Holy Spirit which dwells in believers. He is speaking to believers who have been transformed from the inside out. If we truly have put our faith in Jesus and have become his sons and daughters, we are going to want to do what pleases him. Just like when a good son wants to obey his father because he loves him and wants to make his father happy.
In asking us to serve one another in love he is asking us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus gave us an example that we can follow. Jesus served in love by surrendering his rights. Jesus surrendered his right as God’s only Son and took the form of servant (Phil 2:5-11). He served in love by lowering himself and exalting others. Jesus said, “he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28). His service in love produced and is producing inestimable joy and life for all of us.
May we be a people who follow in the footsteps of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Would we be people who are willing to spend our time, money, and energy in service to one another in love. Would we be those who in humility consider others more important than ourselves, and who look not only to our own interests but also the interests of others. As we live this way then we will be a people full of joy and life. This is the way that those who have been freed by the gospel of grace are called to live.
Pastor, Friendship Baptist Church