Galatians 5:13-18

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The Law To Live By

In a speech to Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt shared his vision of the kind of world he wanted to see after WWII was over.   He envisioned four basic freedoms for all people: 1. Freedom of speech, 2. Freedom of worship,  3. Freedom from want.  4. Freedom from fear.  Much of the world still does not enjoy these freedoms although to some degree, they are found on a wider scale than in 1941.   But I believe Roosevelt left out one freedom the world still needs.   Men and women need to be free from themselves – free from the tyranny of our old sinful nature.

That's what the Apostle Paul speaks about as we come to the heart of this powerful letter to the Galatian churches. 

It seems as the church began to grow, divisions began to creep in.  Men who advocated  keeping of the law in order to be right with God, begin to lay religious trips on these believers who were so free in worship.  The results were not good, backbiting, infighting and a falling away from Grace, took over the church.   So Paul pens out this powerful letter to the churches in Galatia that stands as God's great word against legalistic religion. 

Rom 8:1-3  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

There are two laws at work, the law of sin and death, we are condemned to death by the ten commandments, condemned because we sin, we can not keep them, for they are perfect.   But there is a new law, the law of the Spirit of life.  The law of salvation by Grace through faith, and this law does not condemn, but brings eternal life.   So today as we have come to the heart of the letter, and over the next few weeks we will consider the “Spirit led and Spirit filled life.”  For today as we begin in V13, lets consider: “The law we can live by.”


Three things I would like us to see in this text today.  


Over the past few weeks we have talked about being “free in Christ.”  When Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, you are free from the bondage of the law or religious rules and regulations.   Free from the slavery of sin.  And free to worship God.

In John 4 we read about a woman who spoke with Jesus at the well of Samaria, she was confused about worshiping God.   So Jesus set her straight, and said.

John 4:23...A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

What a wonderful truth, that when we were powerless to enter into true worship, God sought after us so we can worship him in truth.  That truth of worship is found in Jesus.   Its because of him, that we can know God, its though him that we can worship God, and its because of Jesus Christ that the law can not condemn the man/ or any woman who has faith in him.   No condemnation, yet freedom in Christ still has responsibility.   Our responsibility is to live after the Spirit and not after the sinful nature, or as your KJV calls it “the flesh!”

The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer, and baptizes those who seek the fullness of God.   So by the Spirit we have great freedom but it is never a freedom to satisfy sinful desires.  That is what the legalists were saying, “If you preach freedom in Christ, and not the law, people will go willy-nilly into all kinds of immoral sinful behaviors.”   But really the opposite is true, when you preach freedom in Christ, when the Holy Spirit rules a man's heart, if a woman is led by the Spirit, they will never want to please the flesh, because they are free to worship God.

How does our worship of God play out in our lives?   Our text tells us we are free to: “Serve one another in love.”  And that is what faith does, it serves.   So Paul tells us that the entire law is summed up in the one command that Jesus gave the church.   To love your neighbor as yourself.  

John 13:34-35 (Jesus said it this way)  "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 

Love demonstrated to others is not only the responsibility of freedom but the result of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.   Freedom's response is seen in the love.   Love when a husband demonstrates his love for his wife -- by laying down his life for her.   Laying down his life as he puts her before his recreation, before his buddies, his career, and joyfully leads her into worship of the Lord.

Freedom's response is seen in the wife who honors her husband.  She honors him by recognizing the authority that God has given him and allowing him to be the head.   Love is demonstrated when she chooses not to manipulate their relationship but to be the helper God wants her to be.

Freedom's response is seen when as believers we bless others with practical help.  Ministering by fixing someone's car, or splitting some firewood, or helping with a project, or demonstrating love to a total stranger in need.

Paul starts this section with a commandment. -  "Serve one another in love."   The key word, of course, is love.   Warren Weirsby gives a simple formula to show how freedom in Christ compels us to move out in love.   Liberty (freedom) + love = service to others.  /  Liberty - love = license (slavery to sin).

“I have an extra day off this week" Carl told his wife as he walked into the kitchen.  “I think I'll use it to fix Donna's bike and then take Larry on that museum trip he's been talking about."   "Fixing a bike and visiting a museum hardly sound like exciting ways to spend a day off," his wife replied.   "It's exciting when you love your kids!"

That's the amazing thing about love - it takes the place of all the laws anyone could ever make.

Paul says:  “Don't use your freedom, as an excuse to sin, but let your response for freedom be love poured out to others.”   Love is a funny thing, it can not be horded – it must be given away.   You can tell people “I love you”, you can feel love inside, you can get love-sick, or even be sick of someone in love.   But all that means nothing, true Agape love is always demonstrated by actions.   Its by what you do, that love comes alive.  That is how men and women will know the church is different, that is what will show them that Jesus Christ is your Lord.   First we see Freedom's response.   Serving one another in love/ that sums up all the commands.


Gal 5:15  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Paul gives us some insight to what all was going on in Galatia.   Believers were divided, they were biting and devouring one another.  How so?  What was going on?  Biting with Gossip, devouring with slander, accusations, and division.    Paul says:  “If you keep that up, you will be destroyed.”  Backbiting will destroy the work of God quicker then any other thing.  

Prov 6:16-19   There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:   haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,  a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,  a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Behaviors the Lord hates, actions and attitudes that are detestable to God.   Notice how many of them have to do with dissension, backbiting, and disunity.    Haughtiness, or proud heart, someone who exalts themselves and puts others down.   Lying tongue, deception and lies will always cause disunity. 

That's what was happening in Galatia, people were dividing over false teachings, manipulations, and outright lies.   Some said, “Paul really believes in keeping the Jewish traditions.”  So Paul sets the record straight. 

Gal 5:11-12 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?   In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.  As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

True Paul was Jewish.  True Paul knew the law better then most.  True Paul at one time worshiped through all the traditions.   But as for advocating the keeping of the law in order to be justified by God, I like the way Paul puts it.   “I'm being persecuted, so how could I be part of those guys?”   “If I was -- the offense of the cross would mean nothing.”  “No, those guys who want to cut your flesh ought to cut themselves a just a little more and finish the job.”

We have seen, Freedoms responsibility (serving one another in love).   Second we have seen Slavery's response (division and disunity).  Finally.


The legalists thought they had the answer to that problem.   Laws, threats, and enforcement, but as Paul has explained --  no amount of legislation can change man's basic sinful nature.  

Gal 3:3 Are you so foolish ? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

The work of God in a man/ a women is by the Holy Spirit, those who try to legislate holy living, will be fighting a battle they can not win.  For it is not law on the outside, but love on the inside that makes the difference.  We need power within, and that power comes only from the Holy Spirit of God.

Look at V16, it begins with the statement to “live by the Spirit.”  Your KJV says to “walk in the Spirit”, to live / to walk both imply action on our part.  Think about the first Psalm.

Ps 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked  or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

The blessed man is the one who’s action is not doing some things.  They are not walking in the ways of the wicked, not standing with sinners, and not getting comfortable by sitting with mockers.   Now don’t get it wrong if no one ever hung out with sinners, I dare to say, you and I would not be here, but this is more then befriending unbelievers, it's partaking in their ways.  Christians are to live actively walk or  continually live -- in the ways that the Holy Spirit leads.

This word live, or walk is an interesting word in the original, it not only implies movement, but it literally means: “to be preoccupied with.”   So Paul says.  “ If you are preoccupied with the leading of the Holy Spirit you will not plummet into the ways of the flesh.”  

Some sins are harder then others to overcome.  Some sins grip our lives a little deeper.  But the principle that Paul brings out here applies to whatever we struggle with.   It might be a potty mouth, cursing or gossiping.   It might be substances, drugs or alcohol.   It might be sexual additions, pornography, or lust.   It might be that you dishonor your parents.  It doesn't matter what your struggle is, as Paul speaks about the conflict of the flesh and spirit and its the same no matter how it manifests itself in any person's life. 

Look again at V16, I believe this is just a statement of fact.  “That if you live by the Holy Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”   If you follow the heartbeat of God, you can not / you will not follow the call of the sinful nature.  Why?  Because the Holy Spirit will always lead you to pure and godly living. 

Then in V17, Paul speaks about the continuing conflict that every person who has ever committed their lives to Jesus Christ still struggles with.   The old nature, leans toward doing evil things -- things that are not pleasing to God.   But the Holy Spirit living within a believer desires what is contrary to what the flesh leans toward.   The battle is inside.   Even the Apostle Paul had these same battles.


Can you relate to Paul?   Can you agree that the law of God is good?   Do you find sometimes that the things you should be doing -- you don't do them?    Do you find things you should not be doing - often you do just those things?    Like Paul, do you think, “nothing good lives in my old sinful nature.”   Can you relate with Paul?   If you can, where will we ever find an end to this cycle?    Look at.

Rom 7:24-25  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Notice he doesn't say, how can I rescue myself?   Or what can I do to be rescued?   Rather he says, who can rescue me?   Praise God church, the rescue comes only in Jesus Christ.  So chapter eight tells us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.   The law condemns, it shows us our sin, and our need for a savior, but there is a greater law.

Rom 8:2  Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Those who live by the Spirits power are free –

·          Free from the guilt of sin -- because they have experienced God's forgiveness.

·          Free from the Law -- with its curse and demands.

·          Free from the penalty of sin -- because Christ died for them on the cross.

·          Free to worship God -- with a life laid down for him.

The man/ the woman who lives by the Holy Spirit's power is truly free, because Jesus Christ bore the curse of the Law and ended its tyranny once and for all.    So freedom, or liberty and Grace go hand in hand. 

By God's grace I am free, to worship because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, has given me that freedom.   And the law of the Spirit rescues us from the coming wrath of God.   This is what Paul tells the Galatians is the Spirits Power.

He concludes today's text with the fact that if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law, there is  no bondage.  So I ask you – are you led by the Spirit?   Is your life guided by God's Spirit?  

The believers life should be like the Israelites when they were escaping Egypt.  God guided them by a fire by night, and a cloud by day.  When the fire or cloud moved they moved.  If the fire or cloud did not move, they stood firm.   The fire of the Holy Spirit, lights our way, and warns our hearts.   The cloud of the Spirit keeps us cool in the heat of the day.   When the pressure is on, we stay cool, for the cry of the Holy Spirit is always leading us into the fruit of the Spirit:   Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.

Are you led by the Spirit?  Do you live according to the sinful nature?   The flesh is weak, but the Spirit was given to the church in power.

Acts 1:8 (the last words of Jesus before he ascended to heaven)   But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you...

The Spirit gives power to overcome the sinful nature, the Spirit gives power to overcome temptation, and the Spirit brings power to live victoriously.   Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 

Today it is not easy to be separate from the world.  We have Hollywood and Madison avenue pounding us with what they say is acceptable.  We have the examples set by corporate and political leaders that are contrary to the ways of God.  These all tell us that immoral and ungodly lifestyles are not only acceptable but they are the norm for our society.  But the Spirit says no!   We do not have to partake of the sins of this world because of our faith.

1 John 5:5  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Who overcomes the world?  Only the the man/ the woman who presently has faith in Jesus Christ.  The overcomer is the one who daily not only believes Jesus exists - but that believing carries over to obedience.   Present faith, faith today, not living in the faith that we exercised five years ago, not the faith we lived by back in the seventies.   Present faith, that is how we overcome the world, the devil and our own flesh.

Gal 5:16  So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

From here our text goes into two sets of behaviors, one fleshly led by the old nature, the other Spirit inspired, following the heartbeat of God.   We will consider them next week, but as we prepare for communion, lets meditate on this law of the Spirit of life, that if we live by the Spirit we will not gratify the flesh.


Series: Galatians -Through the Bible
By: Rich Lammay
Scripture: Galatians 5:13-18
Date: February, 2007

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