21 days of prayer and fasting - Galatians 5
It was for freedom that Christ set us free.
But does freedom mean there are no rules, no restraints and no safeguards against people going wild because they are free from the Law? Paul shows how to live free in a way that does not return to a pagan “anything goes” lifestyle.
Godly lifestyle really matters. It seems that the Law helps us live in godly ways. It is superficially attractive. Also it appeals to the human need for significance - we are tempted to feel ‘if only I can do enough religious things and live a clean life I can be accepted by God and I will have contributed to being accepted!’
But Paul has already explained that Law stops us achieving godliness because we cannot be perfect by human effort. Our need for significance is satisfied by receiving God’s free gift of salvation, His love. We are accepted in Christ before we do anything!
But now Paul has to address the common objection - if we let go of the Law what will happen? It will be unrighteous chaos!
Paul’s answer is that what matters is faith working through love. In fact, if faith is real it will produce loving actions or works, because we are seeing unseen realities, the heavenly dimension, where God’s character is revealed. God is love. So faith in God enables the Spirit to fill us with His love so that it overflows. Through the Spirit, by faith, we are waiting for the hope of righteousness (verse 5) - our goal is being made completely righteous and God-like in character.
So freedom is not an opportunity for independent humanity (the flesh) but an opportunity to serve one another, to show love because we are dependent on God (verse 13).
The Law can be summed up in one word - love! Love the Lord and love your neighbour. That is what God is like.
But if we try to live (“walk” in the more traditional translations) in love by human abilities alone (“the flesh”) then we will fail. The works of the flesh listed in verse 19 as examples are things that separate us from God.
In contrast, the Spirit produces fruit.
Fruit grows naturally. We still have to make choices and we have to live by faith, trusting Him, but He causes the growth. And it looks like the examples in verse 22. The flesh - meaning our independence from God - is crucified when we follow the Spirit (verse 24). Another way of putting it is that we are delivered from the flesh as a result of the Cross.
Freedom means deliverance from having to achieve by our own efforts. That is really Good News.