whytheology

For the Intersection of the Everyday and the Sacred

March 26, Galatians 5:13-15

Galatians 5:13-15 KJV Text

13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

15But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Link to NIV Text

Freedom and the Right Relation to the Law

Paul reiterates his point: you have been called for the sake of freedom/liberty. God called out your name, and in so doing proclaimed that your release from captivity. This freedom runs in contrast to the life under every obligation of the law. However, in response to his critics that such a theology would lead to immoral living, Paul cautions us: do not use it for the flesh. The entire point of the freedom you have gained in Christ is to serve one another out of love.

One way to look at this is to compare the service of a slave to the service of a freeman (or woman). Which is a greater display of love? Is it the slave who, though he may love the one he is serving, does so because that is his position in life and he is obligated to do so? Or is it the person who is free, under no obligation to serve, but who does so anyway, without complaint? The latter is the purpose of our freedom. Why is it that when we are saved we don’t immediately go to heaven? One reason is to serve one another. In short, you were saved in order to be the church. Love one another willingly, serve one another out of that love.

Paul then addresses a proper relationship with the law. If you want to fulfill the law, which the Judaizers had advocated, then you do better to fulfill this greater command. Not only did Jesus identify this as one of the two greatest commandments, but in the Talmud, the earliest Jewish commentary on the Torah (the first five books of the bible), Rabbi Hillel identifies this command as the summation of the law as does a later rabbinical commenter, Rabbi Akiva. Why follow the ritualism of the law and neglect this greater command? It is easier by far to perform a simple act like circumcision, but doing so misses the entire point of God’s covenant relationship with us; a point demonstrated most clearly by Jesus: to love one another. If you want to know why you are here, that is your answer: to be free and to be free so that you might love, which is seen most clearly in service to one another.

What do you think? Add your thoughts below. What can you do, right now where you are, to demonstrate love for someone else? Do you find it odd that Paul commands love, especially since a few verses later he describes it as a natural outflow of your relationship with God (fruit of the Spirit)? What do you make of Paul’s metaphor about eating each other? Have you ever seen or experienced the result of such a relationship? Perhaps you have worked in such a place (where people are “biting” each other to get ahead), did you think such an environment was/is conducive to being productive or successful? Have you experienced the opposite environment? Was it easier for everyone to be successful in that type of environment? If you don’t live/work in a positive (loving) environment, how might you make a small change to move it in that direct?

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