Free to Love
Does grace lead to unrestrained sin? Does freedom from the Mosaic Law mean freedom from any kind of obedience? The apostle Paul faced these kinds of questions recurringly, and the consistency and clarity of his answers ought to make the answer plain to us. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under Law but under grace? By no means!” It is only the most serious misunderstandings of grace that use grace as an excuse for sin. Grace is abused and misused if we ever think of it as a reason to live unrighteously. Grace is actually the only power for holiness. Rightly understood, there is no greater or better motivation for holiness.
Despite these realities, we need to hear the same message the Galatians did. Continuing the theme of freedom, Paul moves on to a warning in Galatians 5:13-15. The slavery of the Mosaic Law has ended. The Law accomplished its good guardian work, not to make anyone righteous but to lead sinners to righteousness by faith. Paul is emphatic that Christians should never return to slavery. So now what? God has called us to freedom (Gal. 5:13). The only thing, Paul says, is that we must not use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.
“Opportunity” is a word for a military outpost, or a forward base of operations. Our freedom is never supposed to be a launching pad for our flesh. Our flesh, that remaining principle of sin, is constantly looking for a foothold. It ought never to find it in our freedom from the Law. Instead, through love we ought to serve one another. Our freedom from being justified by the Law doesn’t result in unconcern for our brothers and sisters. Instead it ought to generate loving service. Love is actually the fulfillment of the whole entire Law. And if we fail to use our freedom for loving service, the consequences are extreme. Paul says, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Lack of love results in church cannabalism. Far from encouraging a careless, sinful lifestyle, Paul is careful to challenge us to use our freedom for love. We are free indeed. So let’s use the freedom in which we were called to do the works we were called to do. Let’s use our freedom for love, not for our flesh.