Note: Here are some abbreviated expositional notes on Galatians 5:13 from last Sunday morning’s sermon from Galatians 5:13-15:
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
Paul begins v. 13: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty….”
Notice again Paul’s use of the title “brethren [adelphoi]” (cf. 1:11; 3:15; 4:12, 28, 31; 5:11; 6:18). Once more, despite the strain on their relationship as apostle and people, Paul still has a fraternal affection for the Galatian believers. They are brothers still, even if brothers seduced into error. Paul does not demonize these “brothers.” He continues to hold them close.
He reminds them of their status as redeemed men and women. It is a status they have received through the effectual call of God (cf. v. 8; Romans 8:30).
It is a status of liberty [eleutheria] (cf. v. 1). Again, the word has a secular usage that draws to mind the manumission of one enslaved. Paul is reminding the brethren that they have been set free through Christ. From what have they been set free?
1. From the wrath and curse of God due to them for their sin.
2. From the guilt of sin.
3. From the duty to keep the law as a condition of salvation. Keeping the moral law of God and the commands of Christ might be a grateful response of a believer, but the believer does not look to this as the thing that saves him. He has the liberty of knowing that his salvation does not depend on his own law keeping. But there has been given to him, completely undeservedly, the righteous life of Christ.
Paul proceeds to say: “only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh….”
Paul is urging and warning: Do not use the assurance of your salvation as an occasion or an excuse knowingly, flagrantly, and repeatedly to wallow in sin.
Finally, Paul adds: “but by love serve one another.”
Thus, Paul offers a positive alternative to the negative path of giving occasion to the flesh. The Christian life is not merely a matter of mortification (putting to death sin) but also of vivification (bringing to life godliness). Paul exhorts: Use the occasion of liberty not for licentious living but for serving your fellow believers with an attitude and spirit of love.
This final part of the passage speaks to the importance and centrality of belonging to a local church. How better to obey this command than by becoming a vital part of a local body of believers?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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