Rooted in Freedom #3
Text: Galatians 5-6
Today we are looking at our third message from the book of Galatians. Our series is entitled, “Rooted in Freedom” and we are looking at Christian liberty from a number of different perspectives as we go through the book. In chapters 1-2, we looked at freedom from a theological perspective. We learned that the Gospel must be kept free. We are not to add anything to the simple message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. In chapters 3-4, we looked at freedom from a sociological perspective. We saw how this good news of God’s salvation is free for all. No one is to be excluded from God’s kingdom on the basis of his or her nationality, ethnicity, social class, or gender. Over the next three weeks, we will be looking at Christian liberty from a practical perspective.
The Opportunity Freedom Offers
Galatians 5:13-15 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. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
The freedom Paul is referring to in this next chapter is a practical, daily-life freedom. So many Christians understand the freedom of experiencing salvation in Christ, yet so little truly comprehend that salvation is not something you sit around and wait for, but instead it is something that Christ offers to you now through the Holy Spirit. Notice that this text doesn’t say, “you were called to heaven,” but “you were called to freedom”. Imagine if you were a poor pitiable orphan, and one day a wealthy couple came and rescued you as their only child. But imagine that you didn’t understand what adoption meant. Imagine if you only thought that adoption made you an heir, so that you’d receive an inheritance in the future, but you didn’t know that adoption also made you a child, so that you could live in their house with them immediately. You would surely be thankful and would wait faithfully until the day your inheritance was realized. You might sing praises of the ones who made it possible for you to receive your inheritance. But then imagine that they soon came to you, picked you out of the orphanage and brought you home. They showered love on you. They demonstrated that all that they had is your. You not only came into an inheritance, but you came into a family. Would you ever consider going back to the orphanage?
This is the freedom Christ has called us to. We are free to be his children. We are free to live without sin, guilt or shame. Amazingly, verse 14 says that we are actually free to do what we could never have done before: we are free to fulfill the law as we use our freedom to serve one another in love. But we must be careful, for there is still a part of us that seeks a foothold in our lives: our flesh, our selfish ego. Although we are free, this part of us calls out to us, trying to persuade us to serve it, to feed it, to allow it to be master once more. As we feed our flesh, we take chunks out of each other. Although we a Christian, we are undermining and destroying ourselves and our relationships, because we have not understood the opportunity that the gospel offers us to be free. Our only hope is to use the sword of freedom not to feed the flesh but to put our flesh to death – kill it, crucify it. Only in that way will we live completely free. How do we do that?
The Promise Freedom Makes
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
This is one of the most astounding verses in the Bible. There is a promise in this verse that blows my mind and it may be the most significant promise in the Bible when it comes to your Christian life. Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. How certain is this promise?
There are three ways to say no in the Greek language. The first is ou. This is a simple negation. It would be like asking a girl out, and she says, “No, sorry, I can’t.” You’re still ok, maybe you’ll ask her out next week. The second is mh. You use this no in certain constructions. Again, you ask a girl out and she says, “Maybe not, I’m sorry, you’re just not my type.” Ok, your ego may be bruised a little, but at least she was honest and let you down pretty easily. The third way is to combine the two words ou mh. This is very, very, strong. This is the girl looking at you in disgust, laughing, gathering all her friends around, having them laugh at you, as they all make the loser sign on their foreheads, and then her composing herself saying, “There is no way, never ever, I’d ever be caught dead with a loser like you.” That’s how strong a no this no is.
Ou mh is only used 86 times in the New Testament, 58 of those times it is used by Jesus. He was God, so he could make such authoritative statements. I actually think this is one of the reasons why people who heard him marveled at the authority by which he spoke. Another 20 times, it is used in the Epistles or the book of Revelation to speak of the certainty of God’s promises. 6 times it is used in the New Testament by someone stating a vow or making a very strong emotional statement.
- Matthew 16:22 – “this will never happen to you,” Peter
- Matthew 26:39, Luke 14:31 – “I will never deny you,” Peter
- John 13:8 – “You will never wash my feet.” Peter
- John 20:25 – “Unless I see, I will not believe” Thomas
- 1 Corinthians 8:13: “I will never eat meat again” Paul’s vow
People didn’t just through ou mh around lightly.
Only twice in the entire New Testament is the ou mh construction used to speak about a present spiritual reality at work in the believer’s life.
2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
You want to live a victorious Christian life? Study these two passages.
Before we get into what walking in the Spirit is, let’s follow Paul’s argument through the passage to see how he can make such an authoritative statement.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
This makes sense. The Spirit cannot sin. The Spirit is holy. The Spirit has desires that are in complete opposition to our selfish ego. The Spirit and the Flesh are not friends, they are mortal enemies. The flesh wants to kill the Spirit and the Spirit wants to kill the flesh. There is a battleground going on inside of you everyday, as your sinful nature jostles for position against the Spirit of God that is within you. So who’s winning in the war for your soul? Verses 19-24 give a very clear diagnostic test by contrasting the flesh’s deeds with the Spirit’s fruit:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires
Notice that neither of these are complete list. Compassion is a fruit of the spirit that is not listed here. Also notice that there is one spirit fruit (the fruit of the spirit is). Some commentators believe that the fruit of the spirit is love, and all the rest are manifestations of love. This seems to make sense as it fits in with verse 14, that the whole law is summed up in one word – love your neighbor as yourself.
So then, this is the promise, walk in the Spirit, and your life will be characterized by love instead of destroyed by selfish pride, for as you walk in the Spirit, you will have crucified the sinful flesh in Christ. Remember our memory verse a few weeks ago, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live, Jesus Christ now lives in me.
The Life Freedom Inspires
Verse 25: If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (ESV)
So again, how do we do this? How do we walk in the spirit? Verse 25 gives us a start to an answer, for in verse 25, Paul divides his term “walk” into two separate concepts.
Live By the Spirit: Empowerment for life comes by the Spirit. We are unable to do anything spiritually apart from him.
Keep in Step With: A different term than 5:16. This is a military term which refers to marching in line behind a leader.
Notice that one must be living by the Spirit in order to march under his orders. So as the spirit empowers us, we march in line under his direction. This fits in perfectly with what we have already studied in the books of John and Romans.
How do we walk in the spirit?
Abiding: The Climax of the Book of John. The Power. Jesus’ illustration in which he is the vine and we are the branches. Apart from him we can do nothing. John Piper calls this secret of walking in the spirit, “resting in the promises of God,” or as he says in another place, keeping your heart happy in him. This is the discipline of worship. Daily enjoyment of God and his promises. That is worship. Getting to the point where you enjoy God more than anything else in your life, so that all the other things fade away in your heart. Here is where the power to walk comes from.
Renewing: The Climax of the Book of Romans. The Path. Romans 12:2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. This is the discipline of study. Here is where you feed the Spirit within you with the Spirit’s food, the Word of God. Meditate upon it. Learn its principles. Learn how to rightly interpret it. And it will become a lamp unto your feet. It will become a sword that you can wield to fight off temptation. It will be the scalpel the Holy Spirit uses to open up your heart before you.
Walking: The Climax of the Book of Galatians. The Practice. Keep in step with the spirit. This is the discipline of obedience. Not legalistic obedience, but spirit-led obedience that naturally overflows from the first two principles. I abide in the Spirit so I know God’s heart and am filled with his power. I renew my mind in the word so I know God’s truth. Now I set out to live a spirit-filled life in a spirit-led manner. In doing so, I will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Notice the order. I abide, then renew, then walk. Some of us try to renew without abiding, or walk without renewing. This brings spiritual disaster. So how do I come back? Abide. Abide. Abide.
What do this life look like practically? Well, it looks a lot like love. Galatians 6:1-10:
The Spirit-led life cares for others
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The Spirit-led life humbles oneself
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
The Spirit-led life sows spiritually
One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
The Spirit-led life makes the most of opportunities to do good
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.