Don’t you think most people would say they would like a life of freedom, hope, and promise? Paul’s defense of the gospel includes an appeal to these universal longings of us all. Justification by faith is, he wrote, a call to liberty. We are free from the necessity to prove we are good enough to make it to heaven. I am reminded of another old hymn, “Nothing to the cross I bring;simply to the cross I cling.” He urged these churches in Galatia to stand together on this freedom, and not allow anything to be added to the gospel. Otherwise, they are obligated to keep all the Old Testament laws perfectly and they will fail in that, and thus, lose their liberty. “Live like free men, not slaves,” he said.
All along he has reminded them of Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14). They are to not only live like Issac, a free, rich man, but they are to live as children of the promise. They are to live as children of Abraham, even though none of them were Jewish. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness” was both a promise and hope for them. “All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand…” Christ is the Rock on which we stand. He give promise of righteousness and hope of eternal life. And now, as Christians, they had the additional promise that the Holy Spirit will encourage, enlighten, guide, and strengthen them (John 15:26-16:10).
But, wait. Now he gave them a warning:
Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But, if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:13-15).
Ah…here is the rub. If they weren’t careful, they would go after these false teachers with a vengence, and instead of acting with love and kindness, they would “bite their heads off.” Then, people would take sides, provoke one another, envy others, and strife would be the order of the day. Things would quickly get out of hand. There was an orderly way to stand firm, Paul said. It was to not listen to those twisting the gospel, to realize how false teaching would spread, and to support scriptural teachers and share with them. After all, they were to live as people who had these promises of righteousness, eternal life, and help from the Holy Spirit. They were not slaves to their sinful desire to have their own way and pre-eminance over others. If they continued to live as free people who were led by the Holy Spirit to love others, they would see themselves acting in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness ….. (Galatians 5:22). And this would give them even more liberty, promise, and hope.
DO YOU LIVE IN LIBERTY, WITH PROMISE AND HOPE?
This passage is chiefly about life in the community of the local church. But, we can apply it to our family life as well. There is a sense of standing up for the gospel in our immediate and extended family. Of cultivating a climate of freedom to believe in the promises and hope of the Scripture–even if others disagree. But, always acting and speaking with gentleness, kindness, love, and, of course, self-control and putting up with one another. You are free to be led by the Spirit, to sow the seeds of spiritual things, instead of always tending to rivalries between children, divisions between in-laws, someone’s controlling the family by fits of anger or drunkenness, or even sexual immorality. God will give your spirit grace through His Spirit.
What would sowing spiritual seeds look like in your family? Could you regain a spirit of liberty and hope as you stand on the promises?
“The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks. It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife (Proverbs 25:23-24).
As Paul asserted with confidence, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers.”