Galatians 5:13-15 In Christ, we seize the opportunity to start anew and make things right
Galatians 5:13-15 In Christ, we seize the opportunity to start anew and make things right
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
The Galatians’ loveless strife against one another is evidenced of their unregenerate mindset. Paul urged them to use their new found freedom to progress in the course of divine love and servitude. They are not to return to the fleeting pleasures of the flesh thinking they will never be imprisoned again. Today’s devotion teaches us: In Christ, we seize the opportunity to start anew and make things right.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Before the Gentiles come to Christ, they were in the flesh, destined for everlasting destruction. The flesh stands for the bondage upon man because of his own sin and the sin of his ancestors. The flesh is human nature due to the curse of sin; it stands for the manifestation of all things opposed to God. Because of man’s bondage to the flesh, men were unable to receive God’s truth into their hearts much less live it out. Paul described the unregenerate man as totally deprived, as having a mind that is set on the flesh and is hostile towards God, for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:7-8.
Freedom here explicitly refers to the believer being set free from the bondage of the flesh that sets him against God. This freedom is the result of Christ’s sacrifice that destroyed the bondage of sin in the flesh. As a result of this freedom, the believer is given the Spirit that enables him to progress in acquiring Christ’s virtues, wisdom and authority. He is then able to reject the vices that plague mankind. Paul said,
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:2-3
Through Christ, those who set their hearts on the Spirit will be freed from the flesh and the bondage of sin. However, it remains for believers to make the right decisions when faced with temptations. It is important to note: the freedom that we obtained through Christ does not guarantee us salvation, it merely frees up our will to choose good or evil, the Spirit or the flesh. Those who believe that Christ has secured them immunity from hell are gravely mistaken. For such have turned freedom into an opportunity for the flesh thinking they will never be imprisoned. In reality, the more they indulge in the deeds of the flesh, the further they distant themselves from freedom. And the more difficult it becomes for them to return to the path of the Spirit. Regrettably, many found themselves back in the prison of sin awaiting the final death.
The word “opportunity” in the original Greek can be translated as “starting point”. The below diagram shows the point of freedom “F”, the new starting point for all who are in Christ. “F” is also where believers make their choice (when faced with temptations) either for the Spirit or for the flesh.
Those who are accustomed to taking the path of the flesh will find themselves further and further away from freedom (see image below). Unless they repent, they will return to the prison of sin awaiting everlasting destruction.
The apostle Peter said concerning believers who have strayed from the way of righteousness,
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 2 Peter 2:20-21.
Paul urged believers to use their new found freedom to progress in the course of divine love and servitude. They are not to return to the fleeting pleasures of the flesh thinking they will never be imprisoned again.
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
On the surface, it appears that Paul is inconsistent in his statements about the law. However, there is an underlying coherence to Paul’s arguments: Paul understands the relation of the believer to the law as “fulfilling” the law as opposed to “doing” the law. As seen in the diagram below, when a man repents by acknowledging Christ as Lord and Saviour, God puts His law into his heart through the Spirit resulting in true righteousness.
This inner righteousness which is invisible to the eye is made evident when he “fulfils” the law through visible acts of love. Indeed, true righteousness is obtained through an act of God, not of man. Hence, the “doing” of the law by circumcision does not help a man obtain righteousness. As seen in the diagram below, the Judaizers attempt to obtain righteousness by human effort by circumcision.
This form of righteousness means nothing as God does not look at the appearance of a man but at his heart. The external mark of circumcision is powerless against sin, for he continues to carry out the deeds of the flesh. But one who serves out of good will has proven that the law is indeed within him. But one who serves in order to benefit himself is considered as “doing” the law.
But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Apparently, Paul perceived that the Galatians were actually fighting ferociously with one another. Indeed, the Galatians’ intention of “doing” the law, was matched by their failure to “fulfil” the law. Indeed, loveless strife was evident through their bitterness and selfish disregard of others, not to mention their fleshly deeds (5:19-21). Notwithstanding the abundance of grace in their midst, they were in danger of turning their community into a hellish existence.
In Christ, we seize the opportunity to start anew and make things right
What does Christ’s sacrifice bring us? Christ got us out of deathrow so that we may get another shot at life. Indeed, Christ’s sacrifice paid the penalty for our sins through which we gain the opportunity to start anew… to make something of our lives. Therefore, we must seize the opportunity to learn from past mistakes, our mistakes, and those of our ancestors’. In the process of repentance, we no longer tread on the same route or fall into the same hole but in progressing… we take the narrow road towards the higher plains of life.
There is urgency to repent and learn from past mistakes. Some of us have been living a double life thinking no one knew. There is urgency to repent before we lose everything that we have worked so hard for. Not to mention the trust and the goodwill we have built over the years. Christ did not die so that we may escape punishment, but that we may have opportunity for a fresh start towards something good.
Let us redeem the time and make something of our lives. Regrettably, many like some ex-convicts who having served out their terms, returned to the very same vices. Their last state have become much worse than the first. Freedom has become for them not an opportunity for progress, but to return to the vices they so missed. Unless we change our mindset and redeem the time, Christ died in vain.
In Christ, we receive freedom to love and to forgive
Why is the freedom to love and forgive fundamental to the resurrection life? Love and forgiveness is the fundamental manifestation of Christ’s resurrection life. Christ, upon forgiving the sins of those who tormented Him received His resurrection. Thus, the evidence of a resurrection life is the conviction to love and forgive another: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” As we have freely received Christ’s forgiveness, we freely forgive those who have hurt us. The Galatians’ loveless strife against one another is evidence that Christ’s resurrection life has yet become a reality in them. How do we begin to love and forgive? It starts with one being forgiven by God, then the courage to forgive oneself, then forgiving others, and lastly, to take Christ’s forgiveness into the world. In the below diagram, being forgiven by God is the core foundation that leads to forgiving oneself and so on.
Forgiving oneself begins with A) acknowledging our sinfulness in the light of God’s holiness. B) To acknowledge that Christ’s sacrifice has once and for all removed the penalty due us. C) Through self-reflection allow Christ’s blood to sanctify us of our fleshly inclinations.
Building upon forgiving oneself is forgiving others. To forgive others is to release them from their debt of having to repay us for their wrong doing. One who has not forgiven himself will find it impossible to forgive others.
Building upon forgiving others is the Great Commission where believers bring Christ’s forgiveness into the world. Jesus send His disciples to bring His forgiveness into the world by giving them authority over curses of sin, sickness and poverty (see John 20:21).
Therefore, we must practice forgiving ourselves daily through self reflection and reading of the word. In the process, we die to our former selves while taking on Christ-likeness. We must practice forgiving others by praying for their sanctification daily. Based on these foundations, we bring Christ’s forgiveness into the world.
Are you in the habit of filling your mind with regrets every time you feel you are not up to the mark? And you are perpetually blaming yourself? Quickly learn from your mistakes, and move on. For all divine retributions have already been borne by Christ. By forgiving yourself continually, you are freed to forgive others and to bring Christ’s forgiveness into the world.
Do you find yourself short fused and constantly thinking that people are taking advantage of you? You could be bearing a grudge due to some past incidents. Let go of the injustice believing that God will restore what you have lost. As God has freely forgiven you, freely forgive.
Dear Lord, I thank you for bringing me to a place of freedom… a chance to start over. I will treasure this freedom… to redeem the time… to make the world a better place. I will practice self reflection, to forgive myself continually as I forgive those who harmed me. Use me to bring your forgiveness into the world. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.