Galatians Day 12 – Galatians 5:1-15
Paul closes this section of the letter with three statements that seem unrelated, but are actually very related with important directives and warnings for Christ followers…
First, use your freedom as an opportunity not for the flesh, but through love to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). In other words, we have this incredible freedom gifted and paid for us by Jesus. Shall we just go about our lives doing as we wish, pleasing ourselves? No, of course not. A genuine heart understanding of the impact and magnitude of this freedom should elicit a heart response of love and service to others.
Second, the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “you should love your neighbors as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14). Paul is basically saying, “You want to keep the law? Here is how to do it: love one another.” Jesus also says that the law is summed up in loving God and loving each other (Matthew 22:35-40).
Finally, a warning: if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15).
Adam Clarke’s Commentary says, “These Churches seem to have been in a state of great distraction; there were continual altercations among them. They had fallen from the grace of the Gospel; and, as Christ no longer dwelt in their hearts by faith, pride, anger, ill-will, and all unkind and uncharitable tempers, took possession of their souls, and they were in consequence alternately destroying each other. Nothing is so destructive to the peace of man, and to the peace of the soul, as religious disputes; where they prevail, religion in general has little place.”
Thousands of years have passed since Paul penned these words and the church is still battling the biting, devouring and consumption of one another.
When we are not coming from a place of love, it leaves a void that is quickly filled by pride, anger, self-righteousness, envy, ill-will, etc.
The Biblical Illustrator Commentary, recognizing that the church is composed of sinful people with a variety of backgrounds, capacities, temperaments, and interests, acknowledges there will naturally be differences. But, we need to keep them in check. Not to sacrifice truth for unity, but to ensure love is always at the core. If not, we are at risk. “These dissensions are uncharitable, when persons bite and devour one another. The spring of all this poison is in the heart; for ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,’ and the hand acts. There is a defect of real and fervent love, and an excess of selfishness within; self-opinion, self-will, and self-interest: and this arrogance breeds insolence, and all the “biting and devouring” mentioned in this place.”
Earlier in the passage, warning about those leading the Galatians into untruths, Paul reminds them that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9). Yes, untruths impacting salvation and freedom in Christ need to be addressed head on, but so does the biting, devouring, and consuming of one another. Both are like a little leaven that spread exponentially. Both are heart issues, fueled by pride.
C.S. Lewis says of pride, “…the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through pride that the devil became the devil: pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… it is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began…make no mistake about it: pride is the great sin. It is the devil’s most effective and destructive tool”
How do we combat this powerful and destructive force? This is where Paul’s first two statements come in: We recognize the work of Christ and in turn use our freedom to love and serve others…recognizing their freedom in Christ as well. And we love others well. Everything we do, say, think should be rooted in love and gratitude. We can’t let the absence of love leave a gap to be filled by pride and all that accompanies it.
Every moment we spend fighting and devouring our own, we miss opportunities to share Christ with others.
God, help us love well. Teach us how to love like You love. Let love take up so much space in our lives that pride has no place to settle in. Let us rest in the grace and freedom you have gifted us with, even when it goes against everything the world is telling us.