In the latter part of Galatians 5, Paul is beginning to close in on the practical realities of the case he has just made against legalism. Interestingly, in his insistence upon freedom and liberty in Christ, he simultaneously shuns lasciviousness. Doubtless, the reason is grounded in the fact that there is great potential for men to err on either side of this coin. His practical application can be deduced to three main objectives: his call, his warning, and his command.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. ~Galatians 5:13-15
The call: For you were called to freedom, brothers.
The warning: Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.
The command: Through love, serve one another.
Paul argues that the whole law rests upon love for one another. The whole law rests upon what? Love.
It seems that there are primarily two errors Christians are seriously apt to fall into concerning the law. One is being a condescending legalist who guilts himself and others into man-made standards of self-righteousness. The other is being an arrogant law-dismisser who drags himself and others into areas of temptation, sin, and carelessness in the name of Christian liberty. Neither is lawful. Neither is godly. Neither is other-centered. Neither is love-oriented. Both are rooted in pride and personal preference rather than humility and God preference. And, if we are honest, we have to admit we have all been one or the other or both at the same time depending on what kind of sin we’re entertaining.
The law of grace does not rest upon rules. The law of grace does not rest upon recreation. The law of grace rests upon love.
When we love our neighbor, we will not burden him with undue laws and personal preferences. When we love our neighbor, we will not violate him by living offensive, worldly lives, disregarding conscience, or abusing grace either. When we love our neighbor, we will not compare his miserable excuse for law-keeping with our miserable excuse for law-keeping and start swinging at his knees to cover our own failures. Instead, we will admit where we are weak, encourage him where he is weak, and refrain from exercising any freedom that instigates temptation in ourselves or he.
Why? Because love doesn’t bite. Love lays down. When the master is in the house, biting is not an option. Surrender to his call, his warning, and his command must be our only objective.
The whole law rests upon love. This is the remedy and protection of the church against false teachers.
“The liberty we enjoy as Christians is not a licentious liberty: though Christ had redeemed us from the curse of the law, yet he has not freed us from the obligation of it; the gospel is a doctrine according to *godliness* and is so far from giving the least countenance to sin that it lays us under the strongest obligations to avoid and subdue it.” -Matthew Henry