The cure for the great extremes.
Traditionally the two extremes are legalism and license. The book of Galatians is the explanation of the cure for dealing with these two extremes.
Legalism is what was brought into the church at Galatia by those that had adhered to the Law. They did not think that it was enough for these Gentiles to put their faith in Jesus. They said that if these Gentiles wanted the blessings and the promises that God had made to Abraham, then they must join the people of Abraham by becoming Jewish proselytes. Proselytes were Gentiles who converted to the Jewish faith by being circumcised and observing the law of Moses.
In other words, they agreed that these Galatians had an experience, but they lacked something. In order to be like them and accepted by them, they must do more. In the minds of the law keepers, Christ was not enough.
The temptation is to then swing in the opposite direction of legalism and believe we have a license. That is the other extreme. For certain, according to Galatians 5:1, we have been set free. Because of that freedom, we shouldn’t give in to those desiring to base their or our righteousness on acquiring a Jewish identity. Paul said, “stand firm”!
However, in our rejection of legalism, that is not a permission slip to indulge in “the flesh”. Flesh speaks to more than just the physical body. Flesh covers the emotions, will, desires, and motives as well as the physical. Paul states in Galatians 5:13, “do not use your liberty (freedom) as an opportunity for the flesh”.
The next line is the cure, “but through LOVE serve one another.”
The cure for legalism and license is love. Love allows for us to walk with God and be in relationship with Him, without legalism. Equally true, love allows us to walk in freedom properly without displaying selfishness.
Love is the appropriate response to one another and to God. This allows us to respond in faith and obedience to God’s law. Paul is reiterating what Jesus quoted out of the Law.
Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Le 19:18). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
This is what Jesus called the second greatest commandment. The greatest commandment is Deuteronomy 6:5.
5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Dt 6:5). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Paul even explained this to the church in Rome.
8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Ro 13:8–10). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
For certain, Christ set us free! That freedom, while it releases us from one kind of slavery (submitting to the law), actually puts us into a very different kind of slavery for Christ’s sake—submitting to one another by serving one another humbly in love.
Notice that love is the head of the list in the attributes of the “fruit” of the spirit.
For the law enforcer and the law rejector, the issue is love!