Freedom in the Spirit: October 15

The Gospel Matters
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again
to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
Freedom in the Spirit
Galatians 5:1-25 | October 15, 2017

Introduction: Last week, we talked about our adoption into the family of God. Paul reminds the Galatians, and reminds us, that through faith in Christ we are the children of God; we are those with whom God is well pleased. As the children of God, we have put on Christ, and have been freed from our former slavery to the law or to the elemental principles in this world.

The only problem is that we do not always know what to do with our freedom. Often our response goes one of two ways; we return to the security and familiarity of the rules that offered structure to our lives or we abuse our freedom in a way that was never intended, confusing liberty with license. In either case, we find ourselves enslaved. We are ruled either by the law or the flesh. By regulation or by sin.

Paul recognizes this and in calling the church to faithfulness, reminds them that in Christ, there is a new way to live. As the children of God, as Paul spoke of in chapters 3 and 4, we have been given the Spirit. For followers of Christ, those who have been adopted into the family, those who have been brought into the Kingdom and are recipients of the new creation, the Spirit is now the one who guides the people of God. The law no longer binds or condemns, but we have not been left to our own devices. Where the Law was the guide for Israel, the Spirit serves that purpose for the family of God.

And here in Paul’s letter and elsewhere in the New Testament, we see the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. One such example is Jeremiah’s prophetic vision in chapter 31 of a day when God would make “a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…but this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Through the Spirit, the new law is being written on the hearts of the people of God. Through the Spirit, the children of God are called to live out their freedom with faithfulness to God.

And central to life by the Spirit is love. This is the summation of the law itself, the intention behind every command, and a truth we so frequently miss.

Pray: Lord God Almighty, thank you that you have set us free and brought us into your family by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. We confess that we do not always live as free people. We fall back into old patterns of slavery, and we miss Your gift of grace. Yet, in love, you continually meet us in our weakness, and by Your Spirit’s Power, you confirm our identity and empower us to live as your children. Lord, in your mercy, continue Your work of new creation in our lives. Speak to us by Your Word and confirm that same Word in our hearts by Your Spirit, that we might live faithfully in love and obedience to Your glory. Amen.

Read: Galatians 5:1-25

Discussion:

1. Think back to the first time you were “free” from the rules you had growing up. What was it like? What did you do with your freedom?
2. In verse 1, Paul commands the church to stand firm and not submit again to the yoke of slavery. To what ‘slavery’ is Paul referring? How do we stand firm in our freedom? What has this looked like in your life?
3. Paul writes in verse 11 about the ‘offense of the cross.’ Why was the cross offensive in Paul’s day? In what ways is the cross still offensive or challenging?
4. In verse 6, Paul writes that the only thing that counts is faith working through love, and then in verse 14, he remarks that the whole law is summed up in the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. In what ways does this command sum up the law? How is this command related to faith in God? How does faith work through love?
5. Martin Luther writes this in his commentary on Galatians concerning the command to love our neighbor, “To serve one another in love, i.e., to instruct the erring, to comfort the afflicted, to raise the fallen, to help one’s neighbor in every possible way, to bear with his infirmities, to endure hardships, toil, ingratitude in the church and in the world, and on the other hand to obey the government, to honor one’s parents to be patient at home with a nagging wife and an unruly family, these things are not regarded as good works. The fact is, they are such excellent works that the world cannot possibly estimate them in their value.” What do you think about this statement? Where do you find it challenging to ‘love your neighbor?’
6. Talk about the list of ‘works of the flesh’ that Paul lays out. What is the impact of these things on community and relationships? How do these get in the way of loving our neighbor?
7. What do you think Paul means when he says that “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Do you think this is a statement about our eternal destination or does it speak to life here and now?
8. Read through the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ in verse 22. Why might Paul refer to them as “fruit?” What significance does the fact that these attributes are ‘of the Spirit’ have for our lives as Christians? What would our lives look like if we lived these principles out? What makes this challenging?

Application: Throughout scripture, we see a repeated analogy of fruit as a reference to life with God. The grapevine was a symbol of Israel in the Old Testament and Jesus picks on this idea in many of his parables and most strikingly in John 15, when he tells His disciples that He is the vine and they are the branches: if they abide in Him, they will bear much fruit. Here again, in Galatians 5, Paul draws on this analogy. The attributes of the people of God are the “fruit” of the Spirit. The reminder is that the sort of life we are called to as Christians does not come from some heroic effort on our part, it is not another form of striving; it is the natural outworking of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the fruit that comes from being part of the family of God through putting on Christ and letting the Spirit go to work in our lives. Paul puts it this way, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” In this next week, what would it look like to let yourself be guided by the Spirit? Consider praying this old gospel hymn each day: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, and use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Pray: O God, full of compassion, I commit and commend myself to you, in who I am, and live, and know. You alone are God. You alone are good. You alone are worthy of all worship, adoration, and devotion. Keep me this day far from sin and guide me in Your truth. Fill me with Your Spirit that I might live as your child and bear fruit for the Kingdom. Through Christ our Lord, amen.

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