In Love Serve One Another (Galatians 5:13-15)

Of the many “one another” passages in the Bible, the one today is another one that is well-known but difficult to put into practice.  This morning we shall discuss the difference between having a man-centered and a Christ-centered view of salvation.  Our verses are found in Galatians 5:13-15:

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

Our Freedom in Christ

Paul wrote, For you were called to freedom, brothers.”  The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that through faith we “have been set free from sin” (Rom 6:22).  We used to be “slaves to sin” (Rom 6:20), “dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), and “were by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3).  But God, “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4-5).

We have been set free through the “free gift of God [which] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).  Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to: “to proclaim good news to the poor…liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).  Christ Jesus came to bring freedom from sin and death. 

We have been set free and “have passed out of death into life” (1 John 3:14).  We give thanks to the Father who “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14).  Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free” and Galatians 5:13 says, “for you were called to freedom, brothers”.

We are called to freedom; therefore Christianity is not a religion of rules that must be kept in order to be good.  Christianity is a religion of faith that brings “peace between us and God” (Rom 5:1).  We do not bind people to religious rules, seeking to make them good by religious obedience; we seek to direct them to the good God and Savior Jesus Christ who brings them eternal life.

Improper Use of Freedom

How we use this freedom reveals whether or not we have a man-centered or a Christ-centered view of salvation.  First, we read about a man-centered view of salvation.  Paul wrote, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh…” (5:13).

While we are called to freedom, we must remember that we are held accountable to how we use this freedom.  How we respond to Christ’s proclamation of freedom reveals a lot about our faith in Christ.  Sadly, many hear the freedom of the gospel (Jesus dying to take away your sins) as freedom to sin.  Those who use this freedom in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh have a man-centered view of salvation.

Consider the mindset of people with a man-centered view of salvation.  They believe that God loves them because they are so special.  They believe that God chose them because they are so wonderful.  They believe God uses them because they are so valuable.  The mindset is self-focused and this type of thinking breeds pride.

With this mindset, the implications are scary.  If you see yourself as indispensable, you believe that you deserve praise and you will use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh—as a means to fulfill your lusts and desires.  The result in the church is a group of little dictators who think the church cannot run properly without them or their opinion.   They “bite and devour one another [and are tragically] consumed by one another” (5:15).

Churches that have a man-centered view of salvation spend more time fighting one another than they do the “spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12).  Their focus is more on themselves than on the lost in their community.  This type of church only makes the devil rejoice.

Proper Use of Freedom

How we use this freedom reveals our heart before God and our faith in Christ.  A man-centered view of salvation brings fights and quarrels, but a Christ-centered view of salvation brings loving service.

Paul wrote: “For you were called to freedom, brothers…through love serve one another” (5:13).  The reason is that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (5:14).  Christ freed us from sin and death; not so that we may set up little kingdoms and have others serve us, but so that we can serve one another.  Jesus said in Mark 10:43-45: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  We are called to freedom and we are given this freedom in order to serve God and others.

Consider the mindset of people with a Christ-centered view of salvation.  They know that they do not deserve salvation, they have not earned it, but they have it.  And the only explanation is that Jesus loves them (John 3:16).  They know that they are given “life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25) by God and are gifted by Him (1 Cor 12:11) for service (Eph 2:10).  They are humble before God and others as they marvel at His great love and grace to them.

With this mindset, the implications are wonderful.  They do not want to be little dictators but little servants.  They do not see others as obstacles on their path to happiness, but opportunities on their way to heaven.  Churches that have a Christ-centered view of salvation spend more time discussing how to fulfill the Great Commission than they do fighting over their preferences and desires and the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:10).