Paul’s Footsteps #66

Footsteps #66

Up until Gal.5:13, Paul has focused entirely on Christ centred theological content. He now turns to the issue of Christian behaviour. How should a justified by faith person live? I think he was well aware of the potential misunderstanding that could accompany his emphasis on grace and freedom. If I was to summarize the intent of 5:13-25 it would be that we are justified by faith for love and service. This is not ordinary human love, because human love is far too conditional. Paul’s use of the definite article (the) before the word love in Greek indicates he is referring to “the” divine love that we receive only through the Holy Spirit. The real surprise, though, lies in the fact that the word translated as “serve” is the Greek word for “being enslaved.” Our freedom, then, is not for self-autonomy but for mutual enslavement to one another based on God’s love.  V14 quotes Lev.19:18, but this is rooted in Jesus’ more positive radically different use of the passage, (Matt.7:12,). He demonstrated that law and love are not incompatible. Without love, the law is empty and cold; without law, love has no direction. Ask yourself; is it easier to love others, or simply obey the ten commandments? Or do they somehow work together? Salvation is not faith plus works, but a faith that works. While it is true that a person is not saved by works, it is also true that a person will not be saved without them. While it is true that our busy spiritual activities will not in themselves ensure salvation, it is also true that faith that unites us to Christ will stir the soul to activity. 

Freedom is one of Paul’s favourite words for defining the gospel. It includes both what Christ has done for us in freeing us from bondage to the world and also how we are called to live the Christian life. We need to be careful, however, that our liberty does not fall prey either to legalism or licentiousness. Christ did not set us free so that we could serve ourselves but so that we might give our lives in ministry to our neighbours.

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