Monday and Tuesday’s REAP passages were Galatians 5 and 6! I thought that it would be helpful to reflect on those passages particularly as I want to address something I have seen around Christian circles and even my own SPCH.
Before we get there, let me briefly explain what’s going on in the letter. A controversy arose over the issue of circumcision: Paul’s opponents were compelling the Galatians to be circumcised (6:12). Although circumcision is itself a morally indifferent act (5:6; 6:15), it signifies the adoption of Jewish observances. Galatians is the objection against those who compelled the Gentile Galatians to live like Jews (2:14; cf 2:3-4). Can you begin to see what’s going on? Paul’s fundamental concern is the preservation of the truth of the Gospel. And we see it again in 2:15-16-> that the only way to justification is by faith in Christ. The Galatian church has stuffed up the doctrine of faith. Christ’s death would be emptied of its significance if justification were through the law (2:21). So what’s Paul saying? “Don’t adopt the way of life as described by the Old Testament law because justification is only by faith in Christ and not by living according to works of the law”-this is at the heart of the gospel.
My concern is that today, even though we are Christians living by the Gospel of grace, I always keep finding the well-meaning and godly Christians keep pushing us down paths of slavery to rules and regulations. WE Christians are saved by faith AND WE are to live by that same FAITH. We’re saved by our 100% trust in God’s grace and we live by that same 100% trust in God’s grace.
And this principle: Saved and live by Grace is something which liberates our Christian life. If every aspect of our life flows out of God’s gracious work on our behalf, then we’re freed and liberated from the tyranny of self-righteousness.
5:1 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.
Now, often the desire to create rules for Christians to live by, arises out of a real desire to be “above reproach” and “not causing others to stumble”. Moreover, I firmly believe they do not think it is based upon works righteousness. However, to the un-discerning, the matter does become muddied and the end result is that Christans are unwittingly yoked again to slavery to rules, regulations and laws.
So, if Christ has set us free, what has he set us free to do?
We are set free to love.
Love is the great concept which binds together the whole Christian moral framework. We don’t need rules and regulations to be complete because Christianity is PRIMARILY AND FUNDAMENTALLY about a faithful relationship with Jesus. If we truly have faith in Christ and the trust the sufficiency of God’s grace, then the love we have for God can be real. If the heart of the gospel were not justification by faith, then our love for God would be empty. God’s grace means our only response can be of affection and love towards God.
I’ve got to say: the Christian life isn’t some mushy love-fest, but rather it is the genuine expression of faith and grateful love. Having a ministry shaped by God’s grace does not mean antinomianism or offering a license to sin. What does love look like? If you understand God’s grace, you can’t be lead by your own desires, BECAUSE when we trust God His Spirit is what leads us and changes us and not the law. What does faith expressing itself through love look like? Look at 5:22-3 the fruit of the Spirit –
5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there’s no law.
It’s an obedience to God born out of faith and love towards him.
And this freedom to love God means we are free to act outwardly also.
5:13 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.
We already know that it is only God who graciously changes people, our response to Him is love. This means that our outward response to others is to rely on God’s grace to change them which expresses itself in our free love towards them.
5:14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Freedom to love?
My plea is not for more compendiums or rule books outlining acceptable Christian behaviour. What is needed is a proper understanding of the freedom of the Christian and delight in our freedom in love. The love of God, expressed in God’s grace frees us both to truly love God and one another.
“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all.” Martin Luther