Chapter 5 picks up right where 4 left off (if you haven’t already, you might just want to read the whole book straight through to get the most out of it – it’s only 6 chapters).
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. […] 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
From chapter 4, we know that the Galatians were struggling, falling back to their old ways. Paul is still trying to get to the heart of the why and how. He wants them to quit trying to be justified by the law – because by doing do, they miss out on Christ’s promise and are once again bound into slavery.
Do you ever get bogged down by doing things exactly by the letter and then realize that you have been missing the point? Paul is specifically talking to the Galatians about circumcision, but I think the same idea could apply to many things. This reminds me of Jesus’ teachings about the Sabbath. The Pharisees were so focused on making sure no work was done, that they wanted to condemn Jesus for healing someone. Jesus pointed out that if a sheep fell into a hole on the Sabbath, they would pull it out – and how much more valuable is a person! So Paul’s point is to quit being so focused on the letter of the law – he says in verse 5 “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
So rather than focusing on the law, focus on this:
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
It could be easy to say that if we are not bound by the law that we are free to do whatever we want, but I believe we are called to a standard higher than the law by this freedom. If we look to Romans 6, Paul clarifies here that we are to offer ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness and to not let sin reign.
This chapter finishes with the fruit of the Spirit. You are probably familiar with these, but I usually think about these alone, not in the context of this book. If we are children of God through Christ, then we have the Spirit to guide us rather than the law. This list isn’t easy. They are high standards of living. I am going to leave you today with these verses as a reminder – let’s try to live in step with the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.