Gal 5:13 – 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.
I suppose the safe assumption we must take when reading Galatians 5 is that it refers to the false gospel being perpetrated to the Galatians and the battle with the legalism being forced or taught to and upon them. As I read this text I could not help but to think about the practical implication this has on the swinging pendulum of Christian’s and their preferred positions on doctrines. The perpetual motion of the pendulum remains consistent in its swinging to and fro and varies in its heights of degree.
One thing remains certain as I attempt to bear through this one, no matter what we understand about what is legalism and what is not, the Apostle Paul plainly states that we as believers are to enjoy freedom. But this freedom is not reckless abandon and overindulgence in the things of the world. It is freedom from the snare and death wrought through exposure to the Law’s awful curse. The pendulum swinging to the degree of freedom allowing moderation of all things worldly is tough for me to justify as Paul states,
Gal 5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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.”
In most cases the things that I want to do, even in my “freedom” are against the Spirit, and most times cause grievance of that same Spirit.
Going on to examine the self-control, as a fruit of the Spirit, and how it sets precedence of moderation instead of cessation of indulgence is another difficult task to face. Is this a matter of maturity and sanctification? Does one eventually come to a position, in this life, and in this flesh where they can actively and openly practice the things the flesh is weakened by in moderation? Does it make one legalistic if they choose complete abstinence from those very things that would cause the flesh to become weakened and in turn promote the same practice as safe practice? I face the task within myself and my state of ongoing sanctification to oppress these desires for the sake of bearing a testimony to the world. While I affirm that we cannot be removed wholly from the world around us (1 Co 5:10), we can bear a powerful testimony (Php 2:15) that exemplifies the love of Christ, the power of the Gospel, and the truth of the Cross, of which alone lies our ability to boast in anything.
As much as I’d like to further this discussion by examining the doctrine of separation, I feel enough is covered for now. In prayerful consideration of the ever growing gray area of Christian liberty I ask that we consider not what it is that we can profitably get away with, but what is holy, un-defiled, and righteous in the sight of God, and convicting in the sight of the world without implicating human judgment upon them?
Gal 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.