For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
The word 'called' is describing an invitation offered to the Galatians, an invitation of liberty, freedom from the tyranny of sin, available to all upon faith in the finished work of Christ. However, it is imperative that the purpose of this liberty is not misunderstood resulting in misuse, liberty is not permission to live a life of sin, then simply excusing one's failures with the statement, "I'm forgiven by grace."
Paul's exhortation contradicts the thought of unrestrained sin through the use of the word occasion; militarily this term describes a base of operations from which an enemy mounts an attack. Paul also used this word in Romans 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
In this Romans passage, sin used the commandment as a base of operations from which to mount its attack upon the believer; essentially, law is seen as giving strength to sin. In contrast, the Galatians passage describes the believer improperly using his new position of righteousness, purchased by Jesus, as a base of operations to live a sinful life while thinking in his mind, "It's ok because righteousness is based on my position-not my condition."
So liberty, given through grace, is not a license to sin, nor is it a “Swiffer” to clean up our sloppy mess every time we take another trip to feed at the sin trough; instead, it is an opportunity to serve others through love. The word serve describes a slave, previously in bondage to sin; new life of freedom awaits the Christian.
Paul's concern is that the Galatians are leaving their first bondage of heathenism and entering a second bondage of legalism. Bondage of any sort will ultimately prevent the Christian from living their lives the way God intended. Godly slavery is when a person willingly emulates the life of Jesus, who selflessly laid Himself aside for the service of others. Ultimately, this verse serves as a transition point, moving the believer from knowledge to practice, reaching backward, it reminds us of liberty purchased, looking forward, it guides us towards a life of service that will bring others to Christ.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
While the Judaizers are trying to bring the Galatians under the bondage of the Law, Paul explains that the essence of the Law is fulfilled in loving others. Jesus explained it this way: Matthew 22:37-40-- Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Jesus accomplished both parts of the previous passage through His sacrificial offering, resulting in an illustration of selfless love towards God and sacrificial devotion towards man. Loving another the way one would love himself requires selflessness rather than selfishness, sacrificially -Jesus gave self for sinners-similarly believers serve God through giving themselves for others. Ultimately, this new life we have received results in us allowing Jesus to live His life through us, which strengthens struggling believers and leads unbelievers into a relationship with Christ.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
While we are not told exactly what was going on between the Galatian believers, it is obvious that there were factions within the congregation engaged in a bitter battle. Moving forward in the chapter reveals that the Galatian's actions towards one another were being produced from the source of their flesh rather than the Spirit of God; improper Christian faith produces improper Christian behavior.
Similar to our natural born families, church families will have disagreements; this is a natural part of Christian growth. Christian growth is stifled in the lives of believers who isolate themselves from the corporate body (church). Will you like everything that goes on in a church? Absolutely not! But let me ask you this: When your daughter does something you disapprove of, do you go find another daughter, ignore her for 3 weeks, or refuse to fellowship with her? I hope not! Part of the process of growing in Christ is the realization that not everybody is at the same level in their walk, resulting in opportunities for disappointments and frustrations, providing an atmosphere for us all to grow through practicing selflessness and forgiveness.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
The idea of walking in the Spirit describes a believer allowing the Holy Spirit to rule and reign over their hearts; furthermore, in the context of this passage, the emphasis is on the way other people are treated along the journey of Christianity. The Holy Spirit is speaking clearly, "Treat others as Jesus treated you." Believers know right from wrong, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives constantly communicates God's will to us. However, many times we ignore His voice, resulting in behavior that resembles our old man rather than the new man in Christ.
How do I walk in the Spirit? The answer is to know the scriptures, understand the plan of God, and reorder your life around that truth.
What do you mean? It goes back to Galatians 2:20 again. The old person you were died in Christ, through that process, you became a new creation with access to the presence and power of God, which changes people from the inside out. What the Spirit of God is reminding us about is the fact that the old person we were died in Christ, behaviors that were prevalent before, are to be replaced with the character of Jesus.
The term flesh in the Greek describes that physical part of man that is separated from the presence of God, adding the surrounding context, produces the idea that human flesh separate from God is tainted with sin and incapable on its own to produce persistent righteousness. Ultimately, if the believer will walk in the spirit, mindful of his new position in Christ, which provides access to grace, his behavior will begin to resemble Jesus as the memory of his old man’s responses fade away.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
There is an important theological concept in this passage. Once again, the flesh represents the physical person infected with sin, which is synonymous with the sinful nature. When the believer is born again, the sinful nature is not eradicated; instead, the relationship between the believer and the sinful nature dies (Romans 6:1-5). Then, once we see Jesus, we will become like He is, not Deity, but without a sinful nature (1 John 3:2).
Furthermore, upon salvation, the believer becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit; the presence of God literally comes to live on the inside of man. This produces a dichotomy (two opposing forces) within the believer. This idea should not be confused with something like demon possession. An unclean spirit and the Holy Spirit do not dwell in the same vessel. What we are discussing here is the fallen nature of man. When we are born again, there is not an exchange of natures, as previously mentioned, the relationship with the previous nature dies (Romans 6), and the born again believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature: 2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
The word partaker there is koinonos, which means to share or have fellowship.
Unfortunately, the devil knows how to do CPR on the dead sin natures of Christians who do not understand where to keep their faith anchored. Sin revives sin! And so a war ensues in this Christian's spirit the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit lusts against the flesh, and they are contrary to one another.
The word lust- means deep passion towards something, depending upon the context, the passion can be good or bad. For instance, the Spirit of God is passionate about only the things of God, and it is in contradiction towards anything sinful. The sinful nature of man, in its activated form, is contrary to the things of God. Ultimately, a battle is raging, and when the sinful nature is active, the believer usually succumbs to the desires of sin rather than the desires of God.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
If a believer is following the lead of the Holy Spirit, he will be led straight to the foot of the cross and constantly reminded, here victory was purchased! The Spirit of God will never lead the believer to a system of Law, rules, or regulations, guidance such as this results in bondage, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit is liberty-not bondage.