Summary: Christ has made us free so that we may serve one another.
Background to Galatians: Following Paul’s successful campaign in Galatia, the Judaizers (Jews who taught that salvation and sanctification is by faith in Christ plus the works of the law) insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity follow certain OT practices, especially circumcision.
The Big Idea: Everybody is a SLAVE—either to the law, the flesh, or to others.
1. LEGALISM: Bondage to the LAW.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Two forms of legalism:
(1) Teaching that salvation is by faith plus works
(2) Demanding that others follow rules that God does not intend for us (example: circumcision)
2. LICENSE: Bondage to the FLESH.
The “flesh” is our sinful nature. We were all born with this nature: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).
The result: SELF-INDULGENCE
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature [flesh, KJV)” (Galatians 5:13a).
Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1).
Believers constantly struggle with the flesh/sinful nature: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19).
3. LOVE: Bondage to OTHERS.
The result: SERVICE
“Rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13b).
The kind of life required of a slave is a life lived entirely for others.
a. Service flows out of LOVE.
“Serve one another in love.” Or, “Through love serve one another” (NKJV). There is a slight difference:
(1) “In love”: Love is the motivation.
(2) “Through love”: Love is the means.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
Didn’t Paul just say that we are free from the law? We are not to simply follow an external list of rules but an internal compulsion to love others (placed within us by the Spirit).
“Summed up” (“fulfilled” KJV): “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10).