Life-Giving Love

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 2/28/2021

Okay. I’ll let you in on a little secret. When Paul writes letters, he usually weights the front part with hard core, foundational theology. Then, once he’s established the foundation, he builds out the application. Again, this is “what” you believe, "this" is why it matters. And only after, this is “how” you shall live it out.

In Galatians, Paul seems to spend extra time on the foundational matters! By the time we get to chapter five Paul is still summarizing core theology. But as we get into the chapter, he starts to unpack some gospel implications. Let’s just start with Galatians 5:1. This morning I’m going to give you two core principles and then two core applications of what the Christian life is all about.

Core Principle #1: BELIEVE. In four short verses, Paul gives us a sweeping summary of the first four chapters of Galatians! Galatians 5:1-4, “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Take note! I, Paul, am telling you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all. 3 Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to do the entire law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace.”

I could easily see Paul screaming these words. For FREEDOM Christ set us free! If you are trying to earn your salvation (religiously justify your life) by doing the law of God, the standard isn’t “good enough” it’s “absolute perfection.” Cursed is anyone who doesn’t continue to do everything written in the book of the law. Christ didn’t come to lower the boom on you. He came to liberate you! The chains are off, we’ve been set free. The soul crushing burden of the law has been lifted. Our sin has been atoned for, Christ’s wrath satisfied, our soul’s rescued by the blood of Jesus Christ. He took our curse, our judgement, upon himself. He settled our account, he settled any and all of our liabilities before God.

Paul uses two interesting phrases in Galatians 5:4. First, he says if you are trying to be justified by the law you are “alienated…estranged from Christ.” Second he says, “you have fallen from grace.” This word fallen has the idea of “drifting away from grace.” Have you ever been caught adrift in the ocean? You waded out into the waves, until suddenly you couldn’t feel the sand beneath your feet? Until suddenly, you were being pulled out from shore? How many Christian souls have been stolen away by the riptide of works salvation?

The Christian life is about going deeper in grace, not guilt or shame or works or legalism. Growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! BELIEVE! Put your confidence in Jesus blood and righteousness.

Core Principle #2: BECOME. The goal of holiness, godliness, goodness, complete transformation remains. But what is changes is the “means” of transformation. What changes is our “posture.” Galatians 5:5-6, “For we eagerly await through the Spirit, by faith, the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.”

This verse marks a HUGE paradigm shift. Do you see it? The Christian pivots from “working” to “waiting?” The Holy Spirit of the Living God, through faith, is going to produce Christ’s righteousness within us! Our righteousness is going to be the Spirit’s work, not our work. This means our job is to continually invite the presence and power… the power and energy of God… to sanctify us. Jesus blood justifies us, by his blood were forgiven. But the Holy Spirit of God will make us Holy!

I promise to keep drilling Gospel truths into your brain until your brain, and all your body is holy (get it?). Remember Galatians 3:1-5? “You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing—if in fact it was for nothing? 5 So then, does God give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law? Or is it by believing what you heard. . .”

Don’t you love this? What God started sending Jesus to the cross God finishes by sending his Spirit into our hearts. God doesn’t start something in his Spirit and ask us to finish it up in the flesh. No, God sends his Holy Spirit to keep working miracles of transformation in our lives.

Think of what Paul says over in Philippians 3:20-21, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.” Thank you Holy Spirit!

What about Romans 5:3-5? “. . . we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

The Holy Spirit is the transformer, and energizer of this new life. So I can rest in Christ’s atoning death, that justifies me. I can rest in the Spirit’s power, who sanctifies me. Are we getting the CORE PRINCIPLES down?

Now we’re going to come back to Galatians 5:6 in a moment. Let’s pivot.

CORE PRINCIPLE #3: BUILD. Paul next tells us to be very discerning, cautious, about the Christian relationships we maintain. One of Paul’s favorite metaphors for the Christian life is an Olympic marathon. He could have been quite familiar with the Roman games. Look at Galatians 5:7-12…

Galatians 5:7a, “7 You were running well.” Remember? They’d understood Christ’s death. They’d believed. They’d begun in the Spirit. They’d experience miracles of transformation, of “becoming.”

But then Paul asks in Galatians 5:7-9, “Who prevented you from being persuaded regarding the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough.” In other words, Paul asks, “Who cut you off at turn one? At turn two? At turn three? Who blocked you? Who caused you to trip up and stumble?” The word “persuasion” means to listen and obey. “You were running a great race… but who started tripping you up? Whose voice, whose persuasive words started getting in your head?”

Paul echoes Jesus warning from the gospels. “A little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough.” It takes just one negative, discouraging, legalistic, political, sarcastic, self-centered, fleshly, worldly person to corrupt a whole community! There are people who build up the body with theirs words, and there are people who burn the whole house down.

Paul agonizes about this. Remember chapter 4? These people at first loved Paul, they would have given their eyes for him, he catapulted their faith with his preaching and encouragement. But in came the Judaizers. They were destroying people’s faith in Jesus and confidence in the Holy Spirit.

I have to say this. You are responsible for the leaven you let leaven your dough. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone receive the gospel with joy only for that person (or family) open themselves to some bad yeast. You are responsible to key into those voices that encourage, inspire, build up, edify faith. You are responsible to turn from those who are divisive, negative, legalistic, critical, disruptive, disparaging, discouraging, who induce you to forfeit race.

Galatians 5:10-12, “10 I myself am persuaded in the Lord you will not accept any other view. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. 11 Now brothers and sisters, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish those who are disturbing you might also let themselves be mutilated!” Verse 10-12 reflects profound pastoral anger, holy anger, but anger nonetheless.

I will patiently tolerate most anything in the body of Christ—but one thing I do not tolerate is deceit and divisiveness. If you use your influence to destroy another person’s faith. If you become divisive, and start tearing the body own, disqualifying runners in the race, you get warned once. . . and then after that, Christ commands our leaders to protect the body. And that’s what we do.

I would suggest if the leaders of the Church take disciplinary action, that you trust that action (though you do not maybe have all the facts). I do not suggest you keep being influenced, listening to the seductive and divisive lies of the one whose leaven is problematic. Let’s help BUILD THE BODY’S FAITH UP!

CORE PRINCIPLE #4: BRAVE. I want you to consider what it is God wants us to demonstrate in the world. He wants us to brave his mission. What is God’s mission you ask? It is love! LOVE?? Love can protect. That’s what Galatians 5:7-12 is all about. Love can discipline, correct, rebuke. Love can expel or excommunicate bad leaven. The goal of love is doing what’s very best for a person. If a person is sinning (i.e. deceiving or being divisive)… and a line is drawn, the goal is that person would humble themselves and repent and stop doing damage. That’s tough love, and its necessary love, that’s to bring about God’s best in his body.

Paul’s point of view is that we ought to always be acting (bravely) in love. First let’s jump back to Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.” Such a profound truth. Faith works itself out in love. Faith is the root, love is the fruit! Faith plants its roots deeply in grace, love extends itself outward in service. Paul and James are in agreement with one another. James says faith without works is dead. For Paul, faith that doesn’t work outward in love is unfruitful!

Galatians 5:13-15 says, “13 For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.” If were not growing and braving love, were not doing things right!

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

You see God’s will is still love. But how he brings it about is by grace (cross), and by his power (Spirit). Communion: grace, power, love that builds and braves.

Scripture Verses

Galatians 3:1-5; 5:1-15; Philippians 3:20-21; Romans 5:3-5

Worship Playlist

Open Up the Heavens by Meredith Andrews

Forever Reign by Hillsong

Death Was Arrested by North Point

Study Questions

1. What does it mean that Christ has freed us from slavery? Why would we be tempted to go back?

2. How does rule keeping alienate us from Christ?

3. How are you becoming someone who trusts in Christ for freedom and not in the slavery of rules?

4. Who in your circle is feeling the impact of your freedom in Christ (vs. 13-14)? How?

5. What can you as an individual or as a group do this week to express your freedom in Christ through love?

Apply It!