3. THE GOSPEL OF GRACE APPLIED
(a). Position of Liberty: Stand Fast <5:1-12>
Paul now applies the teaching of the previous sections to our living in Christ after our conversion. He states: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” ; meaning that Christ has set us free from the Law’s demands which cannot earn us favour with God; and since we have been set free we are to “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ,giving the reason why we should remain in that freedom. He states that if they should allow themselves to be circumcised as the Law requires “Christ will be of no value to you at all.” , because; in effect, that would indicate that Christ’s sacrifice for sin made in His death, burial and resurrection, which was acceptable to God His Father and proved by His resurrection; is not sufficient enough for our salvation. Furthermore, complying to this demand of the Law means that we are once again obligated to the whole Law; and by doing so we are “alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” ; having shown previously that Law and Grace cannot co-exist such action causes us to fall away from God’s grace.
Faith is activated in us by God’s grace which is extended to us, and through The Holy Spirit we eagerly await what has been promised – “the righteousness for which we hope.” ;consequently, for the believer “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” ; that is, our faith is expressed in acts of love and kindness from within us and not only as words or outward expressions .
In concluding this section Paul expresses his concern; “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” , emphasising the fact that such persuasion does not come from God but is usually triggered by individuals in the body of believers likened to “yeast”, spreading discontent and lies causing confusion ; adding that “The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.” <5:10>;and stressing the fact that if he is preaching circumcision then, “In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.” and he, Paul, should not be enduring the persecution he is facing.
(b). Practice of Liberty: Love One Another
Being steadfast in Christ’s liberty from the Law does not grant us an excuse to gratify the sinful nature; we are indeed free from the demands of the Law, but not from the consequences of transgressing the Law , for if we cater to our old sinful nature then we will be disciplined by God . Therefore, Paul’s instruction is: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” ; since the whole Law is summed up in the single command to love our neighbour as our self, as our Lord taught His disciples . Paul expresses an important fact: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” : the truth of this is; observance of the Law to gain favour with God as opposed to living in faith makes one self-righteous creating a critical spirit within us resulting in constant disapproval of each other.
(c). Power for Liberty: Walk in the Spirit
(1). Conflict between the Spirit and the Flesh
Paul now speaks to the difficulty that every believer in Christ faces on an hour-to-hour and day-to-day basis; a constant conflict between our “old nature” and our “new nature”; so he says “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” The way we live, or the way we behave, must be controlled by the Holy Spirit, otherwise we will be overcome by the internal conflict between good and evil and the old nature will take control. “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
Therefore, it is crucial that every believer in Christ permit the Holy Spirit to have full control of our life, otherwise we will be constantly defeated by the demands of the Law, and Paul here emphasises the fact that “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” since Christ by His sacrifice for sin has delivered us from the curse of the Law , so we have that power for liberty within us.
(2). Works of the Flesh
Paul now gives a description of those that live their lives under the control of their sinful nature: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”; these deeds are definitely not the result of the leading of the Holy Spirit, but a direct result of inherited sin that is within us from birth. These acts of the sinful nature are what plagues our society and results in all the conflict that we experience in our world today, and no matter what our lawmakers do, or can do, the attitude of mankind will only be changed when each individual turns to God in faith and accepts what He has provided, specifically, His Salvation from sin through our Lord Jesus Christ. These acts of the sinful nature are not new and have been exposed and identified by the Law of God from the beginning of time, and Paul reminds us and declares “that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”