Galatians 5.13-21

February 25, 2007 Series: Galatians

Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 5:13–5:21



Last week, Paul got down to the heart of the matter and said you cannot have JESUS and have law.  In essence, he said:

You either go all the way with Jesus or all the way with law and legalism.

You either have a life centered on God in all things or man in all things.

You either look to Jesus as your hero and gracious savior or you put on the superman cape and see if you can fly.


Paul got a little fed up with the people who are persecuting the young believers tell them to add works to their salvation, and using some choice words tells them they may as well cut a little more fat off their steak when they circumcise it.  I like Paul.

Now, he will continue to contrast the life of the flesh and the life of the spirit, the life of one who has stopped working, admitted that their works are pathetic, and has fully submitted their heart to the Lord. 


In essence, he will argue that there is a difference between Gospel transformation and moral reformation/deformation

Key to his argument is the fact that there really is no difference between moral reformation (legalism) and moral deformation (licentiousness)-their both rooted in man. 


A life that is pleasing to God, a life that is ultimately righteous, is a life rooted in the Spirit, directed by the Spirit, governed by the Spirit of Jesus.

Galatians 5.13-21

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:  "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.


The beginning of chapter five explained how the gospel has set us free.  Now, as Paul continues, he will make a distinction between someone who is in fact FREE spiritually and someone whose freedom has little to do with being FREE to find God as the ultimate satisfier, but in fact wants license and freedom to find satisfaction away from God.  Just as legalism is rooted in the flesh, so can liberty be. 

Abuse of freedom 

Let's be honest, freedom is abused. I think a lot of it happens with young people who learn about the "liberty" of Christianity and allow their sin to pervert what God expects from us.  They forget that although we have been "released from slavery to sin" we are in fact slaves to God, to righteousness.  This isn't a new thing...Peter warns us over 2000 years ago...

1Peter 2.16

16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Reckless Christians grab onto the liberty of Christianity and turn it into the liberty to sin it up-no different than someone who doesn't know Jesus at all.  THEN, as a reaction, the legalist says WE NEED TO STOP SINNING...take away all Freedom!  Both are wrong.  Jesus prayed that we would remain in the world but not be of the world. In light of Paul's teaching in Galatians about legalism, we are charged to walk a line between legalism and licentiousness not falling into either. 

Most people, it seems, adopt a legalistic mindset because they feel it is a more secure position to have a "better safe than sorry" mentality.  THEY PUT UP WELL INTENTIONED FENCES but instead of protection they perpetuate pride.  What they don't realize is that they are not any more safe than those who fall into licentiousness when it becomes the center of their lives apart from Jesus.  Both are a perversion of the one true gospel where Jesus Christ is the center.  The legalist ignores what happened as a result of the cross and the "sin-it-up-cuz-I'm-forgiven" ignores the reason for the cross at all.  That is not the gospel.  That is not gospel transformation but just as much gospel perversion as legalism.  We need to stand firm on the truth of the gospel.


Jude 3

3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.


The freedom we have is not for us or what we want.  When we make it for us, we deny Jesus the provider of freedom and fail to live godly lives.  The legalist lives a life of self-righteousnessa nd the libertarian a life of UN-righteousness.  Neither one is rooted in Christ and neither one will produce anything godly.  True Godliness produces love.  Paul writes.. 


but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:  "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.


Jesus came to fulfill the law.  If the gospel can be described as anything, merciful, gracious, amazing, I think Love probably encapsulates it the best.  Those who truly understand their freedom, understand that it must be couched in love. Though we ought to stand fast in our Christian liberty, yet we should not insist upon it to the breach of Christian unity; we should not use it as an occasion of strife and contention with our fellow Christians, who may be differently minded from us, but should always maintain an attitude of love for and service to one another. Love is not exactly more important than freedom, but love is the cause and result of freedom so it is certainly more powerful.

IT SEEMS LIKE SOME PEOPLE REALLY MISS THE POINT WITH FREEDOM.  JESUS had a knack for getting people to the point...

If we speak only of our freedom, we have again, become fleshly and about ourselves.  In Matthew 22, Jesus spoke to the importance of love. Specifically, he spoke to he Sadducees (who did not believe in the resurrection) ask a question regarding the specific details of perfect obedience to the law.  Specifically, they ask him whose wife a fictitious woman would have if all seven of her husbands (brothers) died. 

Jesus answers their questions with YOU ARE WRONG...THERE IS NO MARRIAGE IN HEAVEN.  You are thinking about THIS WORLD, thinking about yourselves, when you eyes should be on the world beyond.  He uses their question to tell them, you've missed the point and refutes their entire theological foundation in the process.  . 

Then, the Pharisees take their shot and he pretty much does the same thing.  They ask him, which is the "great commandment" in the law.       

Matthew 22.34ff

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And he said to him,  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." [i]

In other words, YOU ARE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION.  It is not about the specific law, it is about the bigger picture.  He tells them that everything is about LOVE. 

  • The creation of the world was about love. 
  • The commandments were about love. 
  • The incarnation was about love.
  • The crucifixion was about love,
  • the resurrection was about love. 

We stand in awe and give GLORY to God for the love he gives.  They asked the wrong question with the wrong motivation.

We ask the wrong questions with our with our freedom.  The question is not always or not you can or can't, it is a question of WHY DO YOU WANT TO-to glorify God or to gratify yourself.  If your answer ends with have just proved you are still of the flesh.  That your desires have become more important than God's desires.  This happens with both the legalists who flees freedom and the liberty-lover who dives head-first into it. 


Are we focused on moral reformation or gospel transformation?  Either perspective...YOU ARE LIVING TOO LIBERALLY or YOU ARE NOT LIVING FREE ENOUGH can destroy a church when there is not love.  If this point of the gospel is ever used to create strife with fellow Christians-it has just become sinful.  Both extremes in the Galatian churches -the legalists and the libertines-were actually both destroying the fellowship because they were focused more on their own agenda versus God's. 


            Romans 10.23-24

All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful but not all things build up.  Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.


The bottom line is that both a life where freedom is abused or legalism upheld is rooted the flesh.  We are called to be people of Spirit...transformed people whose desires have changed. 


The Conflict Flesh vs. Spirit

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Notice Paul says walk by the Spirit and YOU WILL NOT gratify the desires of the flesh.  He doesn't say that walking by the Spirit really helps you do better, but that you will in fact be a new person.  It says that walking by the Spirit CHANGES you!

Ezekiel 36.22

25 eI will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from fall your uncleannesses, and gfrom all your idols hI will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you ia new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 jAnd I will put my Spirit within you, iand cause you to walk in my statutes and kbe careful to obey my rules.


2Cor 5.17

7 Therefore, if anyone is iin Christ, he is ja new creation.1 kThe old has passed away; behold, the new has come.[ii]


There is a reason that Jesus speaks of being "reborn."  When you accept Jesus Christ as your savior you become a new person.  You are not the same old person with a mask on ACTING a different way.  Therefore, the FLESH and the SPIRIT are now in conflict.  This doesn't mean that you don't sin anymore; it means that you don't WANT TO.  Paul writes about this in Romans His flesh and Spirit war against one another.  Your desires are to please God, even if our depravity still causes us to sin. 

Romans 8.5

5 For rthose who live according to the flesh set their minds on sthe things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on tthe things of the Spirit. 6 To set uthe mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is vhostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; windeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

The difference between someone who has truly accepted the Lord is not an issue of "behavior" or outward appearance, its about inward transformation of desires and being.  We are not talking about moral reformation, we are speaking about gospel transformation.   Question then like what do I do with my freedom become less about WHAT CAN I DO and STILL BE OK, and more of WHAT WILL BRING GLORY TO GOD.  Since you are accepted, it's not a question of doing something to make God love you more, it's what will bring him honor! 

Many of you are living in sin and KNOW that it is wrong.  If you are a Christian, NOT IF YOU JUST SAY YOU ARE, if the Spirit of Jesus is dwelling in you then your life must be HELL.  Your spirit, the one the testifies to the Spirit of God that you are a His child, the same Holy Spirit helps you to call God DADDY, is at WAR with the fleshly things you are trying to do. 

IF it is not war...if you're ok with sinning, you're not saved. I'm not making this up, this is what the Bible says. Consider what John says...

1John 3.4ff

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; jsin is lawlessness. 5 You know that khe appeared to ltake away sins, and min him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; nno one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, olet no one deceive you. pWhoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 qWhoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was rto destroy the works of the devil. 9 sNo one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's1 seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, tnor is the one who udoes not love his brother. [iii]

A believer in Jesus cannot continue to live in Sin and be at peace.  Conflict will arise, destruction will ensue, freedom will be abused, and love will not be produced.  Think of the people sleeping together...wrong.  But we love each other.  No you don't.  I would argue that you are in fact doing the least loving thing for that person.


Works of the flesh

18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.


Paul will go into an explanation in the last part of this chapter of two different types of of flesh one of Spirit.  We'll deal with the Spirit next week.  Paul says, that the works of the flesh are evident (Obvious).  Everyone knows what sin looks like.  We are not talking about a SIN, we are talking about a lifestyle of sin, a lifestyle of disobedience with God.  Those who are of God will and should have conflict with these behaviors.  Although, we are not the judge the spiritual condition of people, we do not know the heart, in some sense the evidence will prove the verdict. Jesus said so...

Matthew 7.16

16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So,  every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. [iv]

In other words, you cannot hang oranges on an apple tree and call it an orange tree.  It is not producing oranges, it is still producing apples.  No amount of genetic engineering or scientific experimentation is going to change that apple tree into an orange tree.  But there are plenty of people in the church who fake out plenty of other people by being GOOD!   They look like Christians, talk like Christians, sound like Christians, pray like Christians, but they are no more saved that JUDAS was.  Think about Judas for a moment. By all outward appearances, the guy was on the road to heaven.  But Jesus knew His heart just as God knows yours right now.

That is the entire problem with "Church Culture".  Too many people put on the costume of a Christian but they are not saved because they are still depending on their own pathetic works to save them.  These are the people, many who are here in this room, who will stand before the judgment seat of God and he will say. YOU CAN FAKE US OUT, but you CAN'T FAKE OUT GOD. 

Matt 7.21-23

Not everyone who psays to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will qenter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who rdoes the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 sOn that day tmany will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not uprophesy in your name, and cast out demons vin your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 tAnd then will I declare to them, ‘I wnever knew you; xdepart from me, yyou workers of lawlessness.' [v]

There are a lot of people in the church who claim to be Christians but have never been converted.  AND, there are a lot of Christians who are not a church. 

sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The list of sins Paul gives us, simply describe what happened to us the fall back in Genesis 3.  Ultimately, we decided that God's word (DO NOT EAT), was not trustworthy.  We decided he was lying, that there was something better, and sought truth, hope, and meaning apart from God. 

As a result, our relationships with God, others, and even ourselves were broken and deformed. Since that same time, God has been on a mission of redemption to save a people that basically flipped him the spiritual middle finger and walked away. 

Sexual Sins - Relationship w/Self


1Corinthians 6.18

18 n Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin2 a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person osins against his own body. 19 Or pdo you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? qYou are not your own, 20 rfor you were bought with a price. s So glorify God in your body.  


Sexual Immorality - (porneia) is often translated "fornication." From this word comes the term "pornography." Porneia refers to any and all forms of illicit sexual relationships.

Impurity- (akatharsia) is a broad term referring to moral uncleanness in thought, word, and action

Sensuality - (aselgeia) connotes an open, shameless, brazen display of these evils

It shouldn't surprise any of us that nearly ANY list of earthly sins to be condemned or avoided begin with sexual immorality. 

Relationship w/ God


Romans 1.24-25

24 Therefore sGod gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to tthe dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for ua lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, vwho is blessed forever! Amen.


Idolatry: the worship of pagan gods by bowing to idols, and because of its mention just after the listing of sexual sins it probably includes the male and female prostitution so often a part of heathen religion. 


Sorcery- pharmakeia from which the term "pharmacy" comes. In ancient times the worship of evil powers was accompanied by the use of drugs to create trances.

Social Sins - Relationship w/ each other


Genesis 3..."The woman you gave me..."

Philippians 2.3

3 Do nothing from krivalry or lconceit, but in mhumility count others more significant than yourselves[vi]

Enmity - (echthrai) is in the plural form, denoting primarily a feeling of hostility between groups


Strife  - (eris) is the natural result of "hatred" and no doubt a problem in the Galatian church.


Jealousy - (zēlos) refers not to the godly form but to the sinful and self-centered type.


Fits of anger - (thymoi) or outbursts of temper, often come as a final eruption of smoldering jealousy.

Rivalries - (eritheiai) is a self-aggrandizing attitude which shows itself in working to get ahead at other's expense (cf. Phil. 2:3).

Dissensions & Divisions: (dichostasiai) and (haireseis) describe what happens when people quarrel over issues or personalities, causing hurtful divisions.

Envy - (phthonoi) is an evil feeling, a wrongful desire to possess what belongs to someone else. Thus the sinful nature is seen to be responsible for the breakdown of interpersonal relationships in homes, churches, and in public society.


Drunkenness - (methai) refers to excessive use of strong drink by individuals

Orgies - (kōmoi) probably refers to the drunken carousings commonly associated with such things as the worship of Bacchus, the god of wine.


And the like...this list is not exhaustive just as man's ability and desire to pervert that which is intended for good is not limited.  You will find similar lists in Mark 7:20-23; Rom. 1:29-32; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:2-5.

Will not inherit the kingdom of God

These are hard words.  We are not perfect.  We will never be perfect until the day we leave this world.  Growing up, I used to believe that the patriarchs of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the new testament were these perfect heroes like Captain America or Superman.  It was so difficult for me to believe that I could in fact be "good" because I was too often "bad" and my value was based on my own behavior. 

Then I heard the gospel.  I heard the good news of what Jesus had done on the cross and for the first time understood what it meant-that my value, my "goodness", my perfection was in death that he died for me, that I should of, and the life that he lived, that I should of but was not capable of. 

Then I began to read the Bible again with gospel eyes.  I saw saints who fell to the desires of the flesh, like David who fell horribly into adultery. If that wasn't enough, he killed many men in his pursuit to cover up his sin by killing Uriah the husband of the woman he slept with not to mention setting up his own men to die, for Israel to receive shame for losing, and for his enemies to for am moment glory that they defeated David...all for his sin. 

Or there were guys like Peter also fell most grievously and horribly when he denied Christ-three times! And, although these sins were terrible, they were not committed through any anger toward God or willful disobedience, but through infirmity and weakness.

Ezekiel 36.25

25 eI will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from fall your uncleannesses, and gfrom all your idols hI will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you ia new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 jAnd I will put my Spirit within you, iand cause you to walk in my statutes and kbe careful to obey my rules.


More in Galatians

December 17, 2007

Galatians 2.15-21

March 18, 2007

Galatians 6.11-18

March 11, 2007

Galatians 6.1-10