Living Life in the Spirit
[Galatians chapter five]
You will recall from last week that, as we concluded chapter four of the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul explained that we are born into freedom in Christ. This does not mean freedom in the social, political or economic sense, although I suppose that could apply here. But the apostle Paul is referring to Spiritual freedom and to the teachings of Christ who said, “He who is free in me is free indeed”. That is the kind of freedom that Jesus was talking about, and on that note let’s begin today’s study of Galatians chapter five, beginning at verse one.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Gal. 5, verses 1-6, NIV)
The “yoke of slavery” that Paul was referring to is that of the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible. Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of that law once He was crucified, died and then risen on the morning of the third day. At that point the new law – the Law of Christ – took effect, it remains so to this day, and so always shall be until His return. The Old Law was the exclusive domain of the ancient Hebrew/Jewish nation of Israel, but the New Law is for all people from all nations – or as the apostle Luke wrote in the book of Acts, “Even all whom the Lord our God will call”. In plain English that means God can and will call anyone and everyone whom He can, but not everyone will heed that calling. “Many will be called”, Jesus once said, “but few will be chosen”. This is exactly what our Savior was referring to, and so it is with the apostle Paul. Whether one is circumcised according to the Old Law or not is neither here nor there as far as Christ is concerned. Mankind can no longer attain closeness with God through the ritual sacrifices of old. Only through unwavering and uncompromising faith in the shed blood of Jesus can we be absolved of our sins – that, and having continuous unfailing love for one another just as Christ commanded us to do. Let’s hold that thought as we continue now beginning at verse 7.
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. ‘A little yeast works through a whole batch of dough’. I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever it may be. Brothers, if I am preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ [Leviticus 19, verse 18 – PB]. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Gal. 5, verses 7-15, NIV)
Paul compares the church at Galatia to a race, presumably on foot or possibly on horseback, in which they were in first place until someone cut in front of them and tripped them up. Evidently Paul is still not finished taking the Galatian church to task for their apostasy of mixing faith in Christ as the risen Lord with Old Law Judaism. Paul reminds them in the following sentence that he too was once a devout Jew just like them, and even mentions some persecution of his own at the hands of his former peers just before ridiculing those who insisted on continuing the practice of circumcision. Serve one another in love, Paul reminds them! Never mind circumcision, Paul wrote, because it’s a side issue much as abortion or same-sex marriage is today. Although I am not in favor of abortion or same-sex marriage, I am in favor of an individual’s right to choose, because we always reap the consequences of our own decisions. It is not the job of government to legislate morality.
Then the apostle Paul goes on by quoting the exact same verse from Leviticus (one of the 5 books in the Old Law) that Jesus did when He stated the Two Great Commandments in the four Gospels: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22: 37-40). Paul then snaps them into stark reality when he plainly tells them they have a choice between a loving and peaceful coexistence or mutual destruction. Sound familiar? Our world of today is faced with a similar set of circumstances, except nowadays it is on a global scale. World peace or worldwide destruction and death – what’s it going to be, people? As for me, I choose to follow Christ by choosing peace, all at the direction of the Prince of Peace who I follow exclusively. Those who are not doing this very thing are going to miss the boat and wind up not being saved even though they thought they were. Never be like those people who believe waging warfare is the way to achieve peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers”, Jesus said, “for they will be called sons of the living God”. With that in mind, let’s finish up today’s class beginning at verse 16.
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Gal. 5, verses 16-26, NIV)
As you can see, Paul does not mince words or sugar-coat anything as far as what is contrary to the Spirit of Christ. I will skip commenting on what he named as being contrary to the Spirit for now. If anyone reading this has any of the above in their lives, let it be the good stuff such as love, patience and gentleness. Let’s be sure and abolish the bad stuff from our lives – the partying and substance abuse, the immorality and idolatry (trying to get rich is a form of idolatry), the childish self-centeredness, and “selfish ambition”, another necessary ingredient of being obsessed with gaining material wealth. All this sort of thing has got to go, of that you can be sure. In fact, I would be derelict in my duty as a Web pastor, not to mention my sworn allegiance to Christ, if I fail to point this out to everyone. You guilty ones know who you are and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Jesus is returning soon and it’s up to each of us to get ourselves ready for Him. Let’s be sure we do!
Live your lives as one would when living in the Spirit. Follow the teachings and precepts of the apostle Paul with regard to this, since Paul is the 12th apostle who replaced Judas, meaning his word is as good as if it came from the Lord. Have you been busy climbing the corporate ladder, or are you running a business that leaves you no time for anything else? Time to change your priorities to that which Jesus would have you do first. Ask Him exactly that. “What is my next step to be, Lord?” Or, if you’re a new Christian, the question will be similar – ‘what should my first step be’? It should be something else besides reading your Bible, since that is job one for everybody right from the start. If you do not get an answer right away, don’t be discouraged. God’s timing and ours often do not mesh. Wait on the Lord while continuing to make your needs known in prayer until you get an answer. In the end God’s timing is always perfect, so is His will, and I know this speaking from experience. If the answer is not what you were expecting, do not let that concern you either. It doesn’t mean you have sinned or that God is refusing you, it just means God has a better idea that will benefit you more. As before, seek the Lord and He will make His will known to you. That’s the one sure-fire way for all of us to stay on track for Jesus. Next week, we’ll conclude our study of Galatians, but in the meantime remain focused on the cleansing power of the Blood of Jesus Christ. Because in the end, that is all that’s going to matter.