But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
(Galatians 4: 9-10).
The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Galatians to instruct the new church on the difference between the system of law and grace. Our faith-filled relationship with God requires belief in Jesus, the son of God, who was obedient to the Father unto death, and who made an atonement for sin on our behalf by sacrificing himself in our place. This is the plan that existed before the world began. As is common today, there were individuals in Paul’s day who, while religious in nature, were unwilling to accept that Christ fulfilled the law. They found themselves enemies of the grace of God and acted as divisive stumbling blocks to those who would receive eternal life. Paul is uncompromising in his declaration that Christ alone can save and that no human being alive can answer the demands of the law outside of Jesus. Partial faith caused people to want to live with one foot in the law and one foot in grace, just in case Christ was not enough to save them. But without faith, it is impossible to please God. Jesus gives liberty, assurance, and joy, but only to those who fully surrender their life and hope to Hm.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Liberty is Christ is not permission to live like there is no God. It is the freedom of knowing that the God you trust is right in everything and is able to not only save you but to keep you safe. It is the freedom from trusting in one’s own efforts to make it to heaven. It is putting your confidence in one greater than yourself and living your life expectantly serving Him and those around you in response to His example and goodness. Some things we want are the opposite of what we need. Liberty is not just what makes one happy, it’s the pursuit of the one who makes you holy. There are many things that Scripture tells us to lay aside and flee from in order to accomplish great things that bring honor and glory to our Savior. Liberty means that the debt of sin has been paid fully. In Jesus’ words: “It is finished!” Then He proved it by His resurrection. Jesus paid it all, in full, once and for everyone.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus is the fulfillment of all that God required. His flawless holiness was proven in the act of love He committed. What was the purpose of the Law of Moses? It held a mirror up to the sins of the individual, the families, and the nation of Israel. It made us aware of our profound need for grace.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40).
Love in action and not love in word is meant here. We can say we love, but what we do speaks louder. It will declare the condition of our heart. All the law and the prophets hung between two wooden beams on a cross outside Jerusalem. In the person of Christ, God was fully loved and honored and every human being was loved and redeemed as well.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Humanity has shown time and time again that it cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Paul reminds them that because we cannot love perfectly, we end up destroying one another in words and actions. The Law of Moses showed us the wickedness of mankind.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4).
So why do the religious leaders in Paul’s time want to continue in the law instead of living in faith and liberty? In a word, doubt. Our traditions give us security. Believers are called to find their peace and their future in Christ alone. The unbelieving religious men argued that there must be a mix of the two. They said that both works and grace were necessary. Their religious philosophy boiled down to a belief that Christ alone was not good enough, that their goodness was also needed. They didn’t want to give up the idea that they were in control. Paul reminded them that they had never been able to keep the law.
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? (Galatians 4:21).
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
This is the way to live a holy life, and to fully realize the power of God in our lives, “Walk in the Spirit.” Without the Holy Spirit of God, self-reformation, at best, changes little and, at worst, destroys us entirely in crushed expectations and bitterness. Our righteousness “is as filthy rags,” but we have been given the righteousness of God through Christ. There is a war raging within us. We can fulfill the lust of our flesh, in other words, do as we see fit, and by doing so, trample the blood of Christ and put Him to an open shame if we call ourselves Christians, or we can surrender our lives to the Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, and allow Him to show us how to live and how to speak in the pattern of Jesus.
Paul discourages those who would place new believers in Christ under the rules of the law like circumcision. Circumcision was an outward expression of loyalty to God. Under grace, our loyalty to God is demonstrated through a circumcised, or fully dedicated, heart. It’s much harder to change our minds than it is to change our bodies. That is why we need the power of God to help us. There is no longer a need for believers to offer animal sacrifices. Christ gave himself for us, our sacrifice is praise to the one who was able to make a way. We can now boldly approach the throne of God through the name of Jesus. The veil in the temple, the separation between man and God, was torn at the death of Christ, letting all know that we can enter into the presence of God because of the blood applied to our hearts. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, He speaks to us of Jesus, leads us in the path of righteousness, and seals, or continually protects, the eternal life of the believer. But be aware, Paul says, the spirit will fight against the flesh. You can’t serve both. You will have to make a choice. He, the Holy Spirit of God, will ask you to put aside the things that please the flesh and turn wholeheartedly to the things that please God.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Manifest means to be made clearly seen. If you live for the flesh, you will not be able to hide behind a phony religious facade. No one is that good of an actor, by your fruit you will be known. We will not, for the sake of space, define all these fleshly manifestations. Please note that while we may not participate in what we consider the bigger sins, there is no ranking of the works of the flesh. Hatred is listed between witchcraft and variance, envyings, between heresies and murder! Man may rank sin by the consequences, but Paul is saying that left to our own nature, this is what we get. Are these things to be desired?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
The fruit of the Spirit is the product of being in right and constant fellowship with God. Our job is to put God first in our lives and seek Him daily. His job is to cause us to grow and develop into children of God who resemble their Father. We have to desire to produce, to change our thinking, to be led by the Spirit of God. The fruit of the Spirit does not come naturally, it is supernatural. We allow God to cultivate and prune back lesser things in our lives in order to increase the harvest. Growing out of love for and obedience to God, the fruit of the Spirit draws others into God’s eternal Kingdom. It is not a weak person that stands for God. Quite the contrary. It is strong confidence in God and patiently bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit that changes the world.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Jesus said he would not leave us comfortless. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17).
He provided everything we needed to succeed. We do not need to add anything to the saving death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul is fighting for that truth. If we live in the Spirit of God, we will not desire the fleshly things that separate us from the Father because we will desire Him more. We won’t be looking for praise from mankind, because our delight will be to have the approval of the Father. We won't need to cause arguments, react in anger, wrath, or envy because we will be looking expectantly to God to bless those around us as He has blessed us.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!