Read: Galatians 5:1-15
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (v. 14)
As we enter Galatians 5, Paul returns to circumcision as an image of keeping the law as a way to get saved. This echoes the earlier part of this letter, but now it is used to turn a thematic corner. Paul spent the first four chapters telling the Galatians, “Pay no attention to your deeds. None of it saves you. Focus on Christ!” Well and good. Ah, but none of that is meant to imply that how we behave is irrelevant. Anybody who takes Paul’s hammering away at grace as a license to live it up and do whatever feels good (since our deeds don’t matter) is gravely mistaken.
We have freedom in Christ, Paul says. But it is the freedom to love one another, to serve one another. What’s more, the best way to do that will be—believe it or not—to lean into the patterns established in God’s law! Paul is pivoting from saying “Pay no attention to what you do” to saying “Pay attention to what you do!” A contradiction? No, it is the life of grace.
The law cannot save you, but once you are saved by grace, the law becomes a guide for grateful living. Good behavior still has its place. We just need to make perennially sure we never confuse the fruit of our salvation with its root. And speaking of fruit, we will be pondering that topic very soon. —Scott Hoezee
Prayer: Help us to use your freedom to serve others at all times, dear God.