Be free – Grace and the Christian life

God of Love,
through this Lenten journey, purify my desires to serve you.
Free me from any temptations to judge others, to place myself above others.
Please let me surrender even my impatience with others,
that with your love and your grace, I might be less and less absorbed with myself,
and more and more full of the desire to follow you, in laying down my life
according to your example.

We offer this prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen

We finish our study of Galatians as we look at the final 2 chapters. We divided the book into 3 sections: 1) Personal: Grace and the Gospel. 2) Doctrinal: Grace and the Law,

and now we think about 3) Practical: Grace and the Christian life.

The converted Jews argued that Paul’s doctrine of grace was dangerous. They were afraid that It replaced law with license. They were worried that if they did away with the rules and abandoned the high standards, the church would fall apart. These people had misunderstood Paul’s teaching about grace and in order to correct such misunderstanding Paul turns from the application and the doctrinal to the practical.

No matter how you look at it, when you abandon grace for law, you always lose. Paul begins by explaining what the believer loses when he turns from God’s grace to man-made rules and regulations.

  1. The slave – you lose your liberty (5:1) ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’.

  2. The debtor – you lose your wealth (5:2-6) Paul uses three phrases to describe the losses the Christian incurs when he turns from grace to law: ‘Christ will be of no value to you at all’(v2). ‘Every man who lets himself be circumcised is obligated to obey the whole law.’ (v3). ‘You who are trying to be justified by the law; you have been alienated from Christ’. (v4).

  3. The runner – you lose your direction (5:7-12). Paul was fond of athletic illustrations and used them often in his letters. His explanation changes the figure of speech from athletics to cooking. Yeast is a good illustration of sin: it is small, but left alone it grows and permeates the whole.

Paul Then turns from the negative to the positive and highlights the way the Holy Spirit enables us to live by grace.

  1. The Holy Spirit enables us to fulfil the law of love (5:13-15). Paul reminds them of their calling to be free, offers them a caution, ‘Do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh’. (v13) and gives them a commandment, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.

  2. The Holy Spirit enables us to overcome the flesh (5:16-21, 24). Paul explains that there is a conflict between our old nature and the new way of living. He suggests the need to conquer. The list can be divided into three main areas: The sensual sins (5:19, 21b), the superstitious sins (5:20), and the social sins (5:20b-21a).

  3. The Holy Spirit enables us to produce fruit (5:22-23, 25-26). Paul outlines the characteristics that prove a life is being lived in the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to love, joy and peace which expresses the Godward aspect of the Christian life. He then goes on

to express the manward aspects of the Christian life: forbearance, kindness, and goodness. The final three qualities are selfward: faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul goes on to explain that the cultivation of the fruit is important. There must be a right atmosphere before the fruit can grow, and he also points out that this fruit is to be eaten, not to be admired and put on display: we bear fruit that others might be fed and helped.

In chapter 6: 1-10 Paul talks about two important ministries we should share with one another. We ought to bear one another’s burdens in the sense of restoring the brother in love if he falls into sin. This needs to be done in a spirit of meekness and love. As well as bearing each other’s burdens it is important that we share blessings. Paul’s enemies did not have this spiritual attitude towards one another, Paul encourages this different way of life and exhorts the people not to give up but to persevere and not to be weary of doing good.

Finally we turn to Galatians 6: 11-18. This is Paul’s conclusion in which he emphasises the dangerous characteristic of the legalist, the wonder of Jesus, and Paul’s own example.

The Legalists were (v12-13) braggarts, they are compromisers, they are persuaders (trying to draw people away from the truth), and they are also hypocrites.

Paul keeps coming back to the cross, and Paul bears testimony to why he glories in the cross.

Paul knew the person on the cross. Jesus Christ is mentioned 45 times in the letter to the Galatians. The person of Christ captivated Paul.

Paul knew the power of the cross. For Paul, the cross meant liberty: from self, the flesh, and the world.

Paul knew the purpose of the cross. It was to finish the work of redemption.

And so Paul closes by humbly pointing out the scars he had received for the lifestyle he now embraced. Paul was no armchair general; he was out in the front line, waging war against sin and taking his share of suffering.

So Paul comes to the end of his letter, and he closes just the way he began: GRACE! Not ‘the law of Moses’, but THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

I leave you with a blessing:

(1:3) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. -Amen

(6:18) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers, and sisters. Amen