Summary: Paul gives four purposes of God’s call to the freedom of loving Him: 1)To oppose the flesh, 2)To serve others, 3)To fulfill His moral law, & 4)To avoid harming others.
In the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver is experiencing a construction boom. But there is growing concern that all the money being thrown around in the chase for skilled labour has led to an increase in drug use among construction workers. So construction companies and the construction workers union have introduced the most far-reaching drug-testing policy of its kind in Canada. A documentary this week on CBC radio One’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti explored the balance of civil liberties and public safety. In the interview, a safety officer explained his frustration that he was limited to enforce standards only on what he saw as workplace performance. He noted how workers would put on their equipment in the morning with a joint in their mouths, do drugs on their coffee breaks, often go offsite for lunch to do drugs and even when they were caught going drugs on site, from marijuana to cocaine, they were often just sent home for the day. The fear of stricter enforcement, is that an already short technical labour supply will move to an environment of less enforcement. (http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/)
Ours is a day of addiction, not only to alcohol and drugs but also to sexual passions, violence, and many other forms of bondage in which a person eventually becomes powerless to escape. When people choose to persist in a sin, they develop less and less control over it until eventually they forfeit any choice entirely. Fallen humanity is a slave to their sinful nature, an addict who cannot successfully control their sinful thoughts and actions even when they may want to. And ironically, the more one asserts a self-centered freedom, the more one becomes enslaved to sin.
Paul has already spoken of the “liberty which we have in Christ Jesus” (2:4) and presented an analogy illustrating the believer’s spiritual descent from Abraham’s wife Sarah, a “free woman” (4:21–31). He now declares:
Galatians 5:13a For you were called to freedom, brothers. (Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another). (ESV)
Freedom is at the very heart of the gospel and of godly living. It is not a side benefit or an adjunct to the Christian life. God has called all believers to freedom.
To what are we called: we are called to liberty. The Christian is free. Free from the guilt of sin because the believer has experienced God’s forgiveness. The believer is free from the penalty of sin because Christ died for the believer on the cross. And the believer is, through the Spirit, free from the power of sin in daily life. The believer is also free from the Law with its demands and threats (Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Ga 5:13)
In Galatians 5:13b-15, Paul gives four purposes of God’s call to the freedom of loving Him: 1) To oppose the flesh, 2) To serve others, 3) To fulfill His moral law, and 4) To avoid harming others.
1) TO OPPOSE THE FLESH (GALATIANS 5:13B)
Galatians 5:13b (For you were called to freedom, brothers). Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, (but through love serve one another). (ESV)
The Judaizers, and some of the immature Jewish believers, considered Paul to be antinomian, a lawless libertine. Because the opposite extremes of legalism and antinomianism are both man-centered, they have always been attractive to sinners. The legalist satisfies himself, and presumably God, by adhering to a strict external code of do’s and don’ts, which he imagines demonstrate his self-righteous suitability for heaven. The antinomian, on the other hand, satisfies himself by rejecting all codes and living completely according to his personal lusts and desires.
• Whereas legalism demands responsibility without freedom, license grants freedom without responsibility (Philip Graham Ryken: Galatians: Reformed Expository Commentary. P&R Press. 2005. p. 217).
Illustration: Someone has pictured legalism and libertinism as two parallel streams that run between earth and heaven. The stream of legalism is clear, sparkling, and pure; but its waters run so deep and furiously that no one can enter it without being drowned or smashed on the rocks of its harsh demands. The stream of libertinism, by contrast, is relatively quiet and still, and crossing it seems easy and attractive. But its waters are so contaminated with poisons and pollutants that to try to cross it is also certain death. Both streams are uncrossable and deadly, one because of impossible moral and spiritual demands, the other because of moral and spiritual filth.
But spanning those two deadly streams is the bridge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only passage from earth to heaven. The two streams lead to death because they are man’s ways. The gospel leads to life because it is God’s way.