Summary: Christ has made us free so that we may serve one another.

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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).


“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 same Greek word is translated “be enslaved by” in Galatians 4:9. So Galatians 5:13 could say, “Be slaves to one another.”

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).

“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14; cf. Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:29-31).

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).

“Your neighbor”: Anyone God puts in our way, including our enemies (cf. Matthew 5:43; Luke 10:29). (In the context, however, Paul probably has the fellow-Christian in view.)

Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29). The Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that we to be a neighbor to whomever we meet, not ask, “Who is my neighbor?” (Notice how Jesus changes the question in verse 36: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”)

“As yourself”: Self-love is natural and instinctive. Just as directly and unhesitatingly as we loves ourselves, we must love his neighbor.

Do people really have a problem “loving themselves”? (Read article: “It’s All About Him,” by David Von Drehle, Time, April 30, 2007. Summary: “The pain, grievances and self-pity of mass killers are symptoms of the real explanation. They are raging narcissists.”)

b. Service was perfectly demonstrated by JESUS.

“…who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

He took “the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).

“…he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5). That was the job of a servant!

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’” (John 13:12-15).

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