Galatians 5:13-15 Here we find the transition into Paul’s exhortation to the Galatian churches to live out their faith, to walk in the Spirit, to LOVE. He began chapter five with the notion that faith working through love is the Christian life. Now we see that selfishness will wreck that–love must constrain us or the freedom we have in Christ will be twisted for evil purposes.
Good theology leads to action, and will be lived out in the world. Hence Galatians 1-4 leads to the directives in this section:
Vs 1 keep standing firm
Vs 5-6 waiting for the hope of righteousness, faith working through love
Vs 10 adopt no other view [of justification, of faith]
Vs 13 do not use freedom for flesh, through love serve one another
Vs. 15 do not bite and devour one another
Vs 13, you were called! A reminder of how and why you are a Christian! You were called into this life by God, you did not stumble upon it or choose it for yourself. You were called into this freedom, and called into this love–and love must be working. The focus of our freedom is not selfish, not “what am I free to do without you judging me!!!”
Rather it is: wow, I can finally bask in the love of God, and share His love without sin, flesh or devil holding me back!
Our freedom is the Spirit imparted ability to desire and to do what one was created to do.
If we do not love? Verse 15 happens; self-centered living leads to isolation and animalistic tendencies to destroy others.
Paul is not saying this life is easy–but is highlighting the difference between flesh and Spirit. We need to be aware of this conflict, and attentive to the Spirit’s leading and guiding us. In His Word, through prayer, and in fellowship with His Church.
Walk, abide, in close connection, mindful attentiveness. Present imperative, so “keep walking”… The Spirit does not lead us in mysterious ways. He clarifies, strengthening us in body and mind to choose what pleases God rather than something contrary. This does not give us ‘freedom’ to sit down and say “until the Spirit shows me the next thing to do, I’ll just sit here waiting.” Many want the leading and guiding of the Spirit to be a mysterious thing of Him dropping ideas into your head, speaking to you as if in a garden alone, in a way which none other has known… Sorry, this lovely idea is not found in Scripture. Yes, it will found in contemporary books like “Jesus Calling” and slightly older books like “God Guides,” or in the movement known as “listening prayer” but–is founded on verses abstracted from the text and tweaked a bit, and of course, what Bonhoeffer calls our precious wishdreams.