The One Gospel and its Freedom

Randal Amos, Rochester, NY, USA [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Part 5 of 6 of the series Studies in Galatians

CHAPTERS 5-6 – A QUESTION OF LIFESTYLE We progress in the third and final major part of Galatians

Principle: Is the gospel outward rules or inward reality that changes us?
Central question: How do we live?

In our last session, in chapter 4, we considered that God’s redemption not only saved us from the curse of the law but also from the control of the law. We are not viewed as children under law but sons with the Spirit. Chapter 4 was revealing what we are. Chapters 5 and 6 reveal how we live. Chapter 4 addressed the position of the Christian. Chapter 6 addresses the practices of the Christian life.

Chapter 5, which we are looking at, addresses the principles of the Christian life and has two major themes to it:
Part 1 - 5. 1-15, How not to walk; the abuses of Christian liberty.
Part 2 - 5. 16-25, How to walk; the dynamics of life in the Spirit.

Part 1 – The dangers of the old lifestyle, 5. 1-4

5. 1 ‘Christ has made us free’. Notice the source of God’s liberty is Christ (not politics, philosophy or drugs, etc.). Whatever Christian liberty is, it is not the freedom to do what one wishes, for here we see that we are not free to embrace Mosaic Law and be ‘entangled again with the yoke of bondage’. Rather, Christ’s liberty is being freed from something that controlled and kept us from drawing near to God. Once one is freed from this, one is now able do the will of God. The enemy of Christian liberty is slavery, not to governments but to religious traditions, rules and ways. This bondage entangles and controls one’s life and thus hinders one from knowing and doing God’s will.

To introduce law or its principle of doing right to get right is the doorway to bondage. How will one ever be sure to come up to that standard and be saved? Which rules does one have to do and how often and to what extent? What happens next is that someone will come along and demand what should be done in their way. Now this brings the hearers into bondage, most likely it will be done in the Name of Jesus but really it is that person’s regulations. These then have to be accepted by all, conformed to by all and so they glory in the flesh (outward appearance and rituals, as circumcision was) rather than the cross of our blessed Lord.

Grace (eternal salvation as a gift based on the death of Christ to be received without payment or endeavour on the part of men) breaks the power of men to control, Heb. 2. 14.

2-4 ‘Christ shall profit you nothing’. This is so if we now embrace any part of law to maintain favour with God since Christ and His Spirit have come. For law is what man does before God to secure acceptance with Him. Grace is what God does for man through Christ to make him acceptable to Him. You can’t have it both ways. Moses does not finish what Christ began. When one mixes law with Christ you are ‘fallen from grace’ (that is not the position of grace but the principle of grace).

The Christian life is not a form of a messianic Judaism; Christ and law (the imposing on confessors of Jesus as Messiah the Old Testament principles and precepts for acceptance with God) – but Christ alone.

The new lifestyle, 5. 5-6

5-6 ‘For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith’ and ‘faith which worketh by love’ are the words here describing the Christian lifestyle. We wait for something rather than work for it. And yet there is something that works – faith! The means of the Christian life is faith, i.e., confidence in Christ. The motive of our life is love – not fear, i.e., rejection for coming short.

A personal admonition, 5. 7-12

7-10 Here we have a reminder that incorporating law into the Christian life does not have God as its source. Such belief is to not ‘obey the truth’. Such teaching if not stopped ‘leaveneth the whole lump’. Those who teach such shall ‘bear his judgment’.

11-12 Here we read of preaching ‘circumcision’ and ‘the offence of the cross’. Circumcision stands for adding the Law’s rules and rituals to the Christian life to help finish what God began. The ‘offence of the cross’ is that religious man, having crucified the Lord of glory, proved himself to be bankrupt in reason and morals despite his religion. Thus man has no natural resources to help with his salvation. Man is nothing and Christ is all – this is always quite offensive to our ego.

The misuse of liberty, 5. 13- 15

13-14 ‘Ye have been called unto liberty’ . . . ‘by love serve one another’. Here we have liberty and service in the same verse. Most people don’t think of liberty and serving being in the same arena. To many, freedom means to do what you choose, not what another might tell you. The liberty of the gospel frees you from the obligation to any outward rituals producing a dead conformity to a life directed by God’s living Spirit producing love in you so you want to serve others and thus fulfil the very law of God without being under it. Christian liberty is our privilege because we are sons. Christian love is our character because we are sons of the same family.

14-15 However, like many good things, liberty can be mis-used to harm others. One may incorrectly view liberty as one's right to do what one chooses and thus not only fulfil selfish desires but damage relationships in the process.

Part 2 – 5. 16-25, How to walk; the dynamics of life in the Spirit

a. walk (regulate one’s life) in the Spirit, v. 16
b. the Spirit against the flesh, v. 17
c. led of the Spirit, v. 18
d. fruit of the Spirit, v. 22
e. live in the Spirit, v. 25
f. walk in (follow after) the Spirit, v. 25.

Negating the negative, 5. 16-21

16-18 The promise to those who walk in the Spirit (not the rituals of law) is they ‘shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh’. The truth of verse 17 makes the command of verse 16 essential. For though a Christian has the Spirit he is still left with the flesh and the two fight against each other. For this reason one cannot be passive about this. There is also a good side in that there is power, which unsaved men do not have, to restrain sin. Thus, all Christians walking in the Spirit will experience the flesh but in reason and morals despite his religion. Thus man has no natural resources to help with his salvation. Man is nothing and Christ is all – this is always quite offensive to our ego.

The misuse of liberty, 5. 13- 15

13-14 ‘Ye have been called unto liberty’ . . . ‘by love serve one another’. Here we have liberty and service in the same verse. Most people don’t think of liberty and serving being in the same arena. To many, freedom means to do what you choose, not what another might tell you. The liberty of the gospel frees you from the obligation to any outward rituals producing a dead conformity to a life directed by God’s living Spirit producing love in you so you want to serve others and thus fulfil the very law of God without being under it. Christian liberty is our privilege because we are sons. Christian love is our character because we are sons of the same family. 14-15 However, like many good things, liberty can be mis-used to harm others. One may incorrectly view liberty as one's right to do what one chooses and thus not only fulfil selfish desires but damage relationships in the process.

Part 2 – 5. 16-25, How to walk; the dynamics of life in the Spirit

a. walk (regulate one’s life) in the Spirit, v. 16
b. the Spirit against the flesh, v. 17
c. led of the Spirit, v. 18
d. fruit of the Spirit, v. 22
e. live in the Spirit, v. 25
f. walk in (follow after) the Spirit, v. 25.

Negating the negative, 5. 16-21

16-18 The promise to those who walk in the Spirit (not the rituals of law) is they ‘shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh’. The truth of verse 17 makes the command of verse 16 essential. For though a Christian has the Spirit he is still left with the flesh and the two fight against each other. For this reason one cannot be passive about this. There is also a good side in that there is power, which unsaved men do not have, to restrain sin. Thus, all Christians walking in the Spirit will experience the flesh but they won’t fulfil it. The desires needn’t become deeds. The fantasies don’t need to mature in fruit. The attitudes won’t have to become actions. When this is happening consistently in a believer’s life then this is victory.

19-21 Here we have listed many of the ‘works of the flesh’ from adultery to idolatry and from fornication to wrath. They are not viewed as diseases from a virus nor as or a chemical imbalance from our dysfunctional parents, nor as being a victim of our cultural environment. True, the works of the flesh may lead to such symptoms but the source is our inherent sinful flesh. Thus God’s solution for the source of sin in these areas is not medicine, therapy or psychology but ‘the Spirit’. God’s gospel deals with the whole person, not only the soul but one’s total behaviour. One who doesn’t overcome the works of the flesh on a consistent basis would indicate the lack of the Spirit and thus may well be not truly saved and thus ‘shall not inherit the kingdom of God’.

Producing the positive, 5. 22-26

22-23 It is one thing not to practise sin. It is quite another to have positive Christ-like graces in our lives, these are ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. And of course there is no law against any of these. The power of the indwelling Spirit is the source, not the religious law. Christian liberty, by releasing one from outward externals and providing the indwelling Spirit, frees one to be all that one can be unto God. As 2 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 6 puts it, ‘for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life’. It then adds in verse 18 that as we behold the glory of the Lord that we ‘are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord’.

24-25 Verse 24 is how the negative was dealt with. In Christ the flesh has been ‘crucified’ with its lusts, see Romans chapter 6 for details. This does not mean ‘annihilated’ but it does mean ‘judged as wrong’. This, we must accept, is what God has done with it and to realize our flesh was crucified and only worthy of terminal judgment is to realize it can never be trusted. Its desperate efforts to overcome by rules are fruitless. This is to have ‘no confidence in the flesh’, Phil. 3. 3.

Verse 25 is how the positive is produced. ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit’. Here the word ‘walk’ is a different Greek word than verse 16. There must be the responsibility of action taken to line up behind the Spirit and follow, not just know, His leading; this will be in accordance with scriptures.

Verse 26 ‘Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another’. This truth is actually connected with the truths of chapter 6; the practices of the Christian life. However, it reveals the principle behind our practices. Vain glory or conceit is to have an inflated opinion of oneself. To envy involves thinking that you deserve something more than another. Therefore, one’s conduct is rooted in one’s opinion of self. Improper behaviour towards my brother finds its roots in a high esteem of self.

To focus on law leads to measuring oneself by the performance or non-performance of a set of rules and rituals. To focus on grace leads to esteem Christ as everything and glory in Him rather than self. This is the principle of pleasing behaviour through dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit.

AUTHOR PROFILE: He is a full time worker commended by Linwood Gospel Chapel and Northgate Bible Chapel and is in fellowship in the assembly at Rochester, New York. His ministry is greatly appreciated throughout N. America and he has also ministered in N. Ireland.

There are 31 articles in
ISSUE (2006, Volume 61 Issue 4)

1 Corinthians 9-10 (3)

Abortion - The Moral Maze

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An Alert Assembly

Anna - Just an Old Woman?

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Day by Day - Bible Commands

The Devotion of Youth

Divine, Infinite Dimensiions

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Editorial

Eternal Security

The Fruit of the Spirit is Self control

Gospel Work and other Activities

Heroes of the Faith – Martin Luther

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The Kingdom – What the Bible teaches about the Kingdom of God

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The Problem of The Problem of Obesity

Some Thoughts on Godliness (1)

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Views from the News

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‘Ye are fallen from grace’

There are 6 articles in this series

The One Gospel and its Dynamics

The One Gospel and its Terms

The One Gospel and its Order

The One Gospel and its New Style

The One Gospel and its Freedom

The One Gospel and its Freedom

There are 14 articles by this author

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The One Gospel and its Dynamics

The One Gospel and its Terms

The One Gospel and its Order

The One Gospel and its New Style

The One Gospel and its Freedom

The One Gospel and its Freedom

The Church, A Discipleship Manual for the Body of Christ

The Local Church – Its Character and Constitution

Worshipping God

The Tyranny of Choice

Seven Prophecies of the Church’s Condition Fulfilled

Legality, Liberty and Diversity

Holiness