19 Aug 1998

Grace Card?

Submitted by theshovel
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend to friendSend to friendPDF versionPDF version

I lifted this piece from the article Licensed to Sin? so that I could add it to the New Testament Bible section.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

Looks like Paul is cautioning us against taking grace too far, doesn’t it? You know, freedom in Christ sounded too good to be true! And after all the truth he gave us about living by faith this puts a damper on it, huh? But the simple fact is that this verse is not suggesting any kind of caution or limits on freedom at all. I don’t care WHO says it does! The interpretation doesn’t hold water.

When you see the simplicity of it you will realize the masterful trickery that has taken place in order to fool so many believers for so long. It’s like one of those pictures that when viewed differently reveals another image altogether. Only we have gotten so used to seeing the hidden picture that we can’t even see the original one anymore. And in this case, the obvious meaning is hidden from us by the repetitive teaching that reinforces the delusion.

Not too many will question that believers have been called to freedom Why question it when it’s easier to change the meaning? The real question is: HOW DOES ONE GO ABOUT TURNING FREEDOM INTO AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE FLESH? The real answer defines FREEDOM even more, while the wrong answer takes the free out of freedom … and that only leaves dom (don’t strain too hard on that one, okay?)!

Any consideration of this verse apart from the letter as a whole is misleading. So, what I will do is to give an overview of the letter leading up to the verse in question. I will examine verse 5:13 more in depth, giving attention to the horribly misunderstood word that is translated OPPORTUNITY. By bringing the flow of Paul’s thinking to bear upon this verse allows the immediate context to clarify and direct our thoughts. So, if you are up to it, take a look at Galatians with me …

  • In the first chapter and a half Paul put his message of freedom on the line. Summary: My ministry, as well as my message, is DIRECTLY from God. Man’s approval means NOTHING to me. Anyone who preaches ANYTHING other than what I have preached is WRONG and should be considered as bringing death! If this was Paul’s OPINION then he was one of the most arrogant men to have ever lived. I don’t think it was arrogance, do you?
  • In chapter 2, he recounts his confrontation with the APOSTLE Peter. Peter acted like a messenger of death. It was not in what he said, but through fear, his actions made it clear to the Gentiles that they were not as good as the Jews! Paul saw that Peter was “not straightforward about the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL”, and he tells him so … in front of EVERYBODY! What is his basic message? God declares these Gentiles righteous in the same manner that He declares us righteous … through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS and the life that we now live is found in the reality that WE NOT ONLY HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST, BUT THAT HE ALSO LIVES IN US! Looking to the Law for righteousness (in any form) actually nullifies the grace of God.
  • Chapter 3 opens with Paul asking something like “Just how foolish are you people, anyhow?”. It was an obvious reality among them that Christ, and Him crucified was the reality of their new lives. How did those who KNEW they began by the Spirit come to think that the flesh could perfect them? Abraham stands as confirmation that righteousness is by faith. The adding of law 430 years later could not change the promise given to Abraham.

The law served to keep the people of God under CUSTODIAL CARE until Christ came, and in chapter 4, Paul describes these underage heirs as differing not a bit from slaves. Christ came to release these children not only from sins, but from the slavery they were kept under by the law. Paul asked them if they actually heard what the law said. Those under the law are slave children; those by faith are free.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

What spiritual thing have you considered doing that might improve your relationship with Christ? This was the Galatians’ dilemma. But Paul said it would only take them AWAY from Christ! Fallen from grace didn’t describe slipping into an obviously WRONG deed. No, it described the Galatians’ attempt to do the SPIRITUAL thing! It was just like Abraham giving into Sarah’s plea to impregnate her slavegirl to produce the child God promised. In hindsight, you may wonder how he ever thought it was an acceptable alternative. But at the time, Sarah’s suggestion SEEMED to be the only way. You may be at that place right now. And the right thing you are considering is no different than an old man deciding whether he should rape a young girl to produce something for God. [Far fetched? Read the story for yourself in Genesis 16; and then ask yourself: why did God wait so long to fulfill the promise? why did He make sure this story got recorded? why did Paul use it to lead into Galatians 5?]

So, what did Paul tell the Galatians to DO? He didn’t tell them to do anything! Instead, he told them of the REALITY of those who are born of God: “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness” What’s the hope of righteousness? It’s not referring to some far off thing that happens when you die, it is the fruit of the Spirit as recorded in Galatians 5:22-23. It is the real stuff of God working itself out in a human being.

The distinction of waiting as opposed to attempting is what the story of Abraham and the promise was showing. God made Abraham wait all that time so that the contrast would be unmistakable. It takes a lot of manipulation for us not to see it. Somebody has been very busy creating an illusion for believers to have fallen so hard. “but faith work(s) through love” (5:6). Duty will never produce love. And you haven’t been able to muster it up no matter how hard you have tried. Attempts at obedience have only hindered it (6:7)! Abraham proved that! But true obedience is what you have been called into … it is what you are in Christ. Somebody wants to pull you from that freedom.

This persuasion is subtle, for Paul says,

A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. Galatians 5:9

Why have we let the natural, legalistic mind interpret Paul’s use of the picture of leaven? Leaven is yeast. Only a little is needed for a whole loaf. It has been used as a picture … or type … of SIN. That is actually true. But here’s the deception: with one little stroke the focus has been shifted from Christ to sin!

By the work of Jesus we have been rescued FROM a life that has no option BUT sin in one form or another. This little bit of leaven desires to pull us back into that realm. No, it is not that specific sin you struggle with that is calling your name. The leaven is a formula or a rule or a law or a principle you fall back on by which you attempt to overpower it. Whatever that thing is you reach for has only one focus, and that is sin, itself. That right thing you lean on to help you overcome the sin is the thing that replaces Christ. And it will work its way through every area of your life until the life of Christ becomes your last consideration for anything. The mention of His name will only be to create the illusion that your alternative lifestyle is godly.

…the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is … would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. Galatians 5:10-12

Remember how, from the first chapter, Paul spoke of “some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ (1:6)”? These people were even suggesting that PAUL was in support of the token requirement of circumcision, but he goes on record here as refuting any such claim for even this little leaven abolishes the stumbling block of the cross! The little bit requires the whole so where do we stop? The stumbling block of the cross is that anything of the flesh … especially the righteousness of the law CANNOT go beyond death. For ONLY Christ has passed through, and ONLY through Him, by faith, is there ANY entrance into the life of God. Paul’s attitude toward these men is harsh. The mutilation spoken of (or cutting off) is suggesting that those who preach circumsicion should go all the way and castrate themselves! Are you so moved for Christ that you would react as strongly against those who want to distort His whole purpose of hanging on the most humiliating form of condemnation?

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

We are at the verse in question. Now, the traditional explanation would have Paul suddenly come to his senses with the realization that all this grace and freedom might have the believers using it as an excuse to fulfill their sinful desires. After all, isn’t that what our new life wants more than anything else? Give us an excuse … any excuse!

My brothers and sisters, we have been called to freedom through the grace of Christ … it is time we stop blaming our being in bondage to sin on that which has brought us out!!!!

Related Content: 
New Testament: 

Add new comment

Random Shovelquote: Real Practicality (view all shovelquotes)

What if who we truly are in Christ IS the only real practicality?   source