Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1323
Dr. Ed Pettus October 22, 2017 Galatians 5:13-26
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
One of the apostle Paul’s teachings to the Galatians was that they were set free in Christ. When they came to know the Savior, they no longer were bound by anything in their past and there was no reason to return to anything that would bind them again. Today we examine what it means to be set free.
Set Free to Serve
We are called to freedom. It is a holy calling that, for the Galatians, meant not returning to bondage. They refused to stay free. Sometimes we get comfortable in our sin and we don’t mind living in it! But Christ has set us free from that kind of life. To live that life is to walk to our deaths. One of the apparent problems in the Galatian church was a lack of showing love to one another. Maybe they were arguing over what the false teachers had been bringing. Maybe they were critical of one another. Maybe they were looking out for themselves rather than for the good of others.
Paul tells them, and us, not to us freedom as an excuse to do whatever they pleased. Freedom is not real freedom if we use it in inappropriate ways. Freedom used to hurt others is not freedom at all but bondage. There are lots of people in our world today who want to use freedom to do as they please as an excuse to force others to accept their way of life. But they are really in total bondage to their sin.
Instead Paul tells us to love one another in serving one another. This is directly connected to the notion of being crucified to the self, crucified with Christ, in order that we might live to God and in the way of God. That way is in service just as Christ has served us. Remember, Christ came to serve not to be served (Mark 10:45).
In chapter 6 of Galatians, Paul again tells them to serve one another.
10So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
The emphasis is on the household of faith. You really have to look out for one another in the church. Part of that is to give a faithful witness to the world. We’ve heard people say that they do not attend church because we are all hypocrites and part if what they see is that we don’t even treat one another with love, how can we possibly love those outside the church? Let us always remember to use our freedom to serve one another in love.
Set Free to Love
Once again, we see that there must have been a huge problem in the Galatian church with people failing to live out the gospel especially with respect to getting along with one another. I think that Paul zeros in on the second part of Jesus’ quote of the greatest commandment because the Galatians were so deeply erring in this area. They devoured each other with whatever problems were attacking the church. The church should be the last place for such behavior. It’s not even good to say the “last place”, because it should never take place whether first or last. We’ve all probably heard of churches that get into divisions and end up tearing each other apart. It is painful and brings nothing good. No one wins when church folks treat one another poorly. The world sees a terrible witness to something other than the love Christ taught and the membership is left with a spirit of fear rather than joy.
Paul’s answer is to turn to Jesus’ words. Love your neighbor as yourself. You do that and there is no law that can stand against you. Do that and you will fulfill the law.
Set Free to Walk by the Spirit
16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
25If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Christ has set us free that we might walk by the Spirit. Traditionally the metaphor of walking represents the way we conduct our lives. Paul uses that very word in verse 16, to walk or live a certain way – by the Spirit. The word literally means to walk around. It conveys a sense of our walking around life - how we live and conduct ourselves.
In verse 25 Paul uses a different word for “walk” that means to stand or go in a more orderly way. This word brings more of the Spirit into directing our lives as we pay attention to the Spirit’s leading. It is about walking in the way God approves.
Will we indulge ourselves (flesh) or serve God (Spirit)?
The more attention we give to the Holy Spirit in our lives, the less likely we are to satisfy the lust of the flesh. It might even be as simple as that, we will go after the life that we feed the most. If we feed the ways of a fleshly life, we will live in the works of the flesh, but if we feed on and walk in the ways of the Spirit, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
How do we walk by the Spirit? We seek out those disciplines and practices that bring our attention to the Spirit. Things like listening for the “still small voice” of God’s whisper. Things like Bible reading and study, prayer, worship, anything of the Spirit that will tune our ears and eyes and our spirit to keep in step with the Spirit.
Set Free in Crucifixion
24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
You may recall Paul speaks of crucifixion in chapter 2,
20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
Now Paul speaks more specific that we have crucified the flesh. It is a done deal. You have already crucified the flesh. You have crucified that which may cause you to sin. We don’t have to go back to those passions, that life of living only within our senses. We need not be enslaved by our eyes or ears or appetites or touch or smell or desires that oppose God’s way. But we know well the struggles of the flesh. We know the lure of desire and the passions of want.
Crucifixion has brought several deaths for us, one to ourselves and another to the world.
Think about the ways of the world according to 1 John 2:15-17.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Those three elements are from the world but they are also related to the flesh. The desire of the flesh – obvious! The desire of the eyes – sensory. The pride of life – attitude. This is what the world throws at us every day, a world absent of godliness, absent moral fiber, absent any consideration for the ways of God. The ways of the world try to convince us that everything is about “me”. Everything revolves around my point of view, my needs and wants, and my desires and passions.
Later in Galatians six Paul says this about the world...
Yes, Paul is really into crucifixion. What he knows is that it takes a death to bring new life. Jesus was crucified that we might live and Paul is saying that we too are crucified, crucified with Christ so that we might put to death everything in us that would prevent a full and open relationship with Jesus Christ. We are crucified to the world and the world to us.
I like that show Shark Tank and the one they call Mr. Wonderful likes to say to those who won’t make a deal with him that they are dead to him. “You are dead to me!” This is also what we must say to the world, “You are dead to me!” And remember that what we mean by world here are the ungodly ways of the world. We are not advocating that we take ourselves out of the world, only that its influences have not power over us.
Jesus said it this way:
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
What we see in Paul and John and Jesus is that we are dead to the world and yet we have a call to bring the message of redemption to the world. Jesus was sent into the world to save it, to save us, and yet the world did not receive him. Still, God is at work through us to spread the message of the gospel. In fact, we have been set free for that. Set free to serve and to love and walk by the Spirit for it is in that life that others will see and hear Jesus. Amen.