Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 25
By: John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|Freedom is never the right to do as you please, and you’re going to see that today. He’ll address that. But freedom is the power to do as you should. When I allow Jesus and His Word to control my life, then it’s no longer me, it’s Jesus living in me.|
Freedom – The Power to Do as You Should
Turn to Galatians 5. We’re going to pick up today in verse 11. The apostle Paul has been talking about freedom. Now, what is freedom? Freedom is never the right to do as you please, and you’re going to see that today. He’ll address that. But freedom is the power to do as you should. When I allow Jesus and His Word to control my life, then it’s no longer me, it’s Jesus living in me. I am not free unless it’s Him. If it’s me I am bound; I’m a slave. If it’s Him He’s free in me and that’s what freedom is all about, the freedom to be what God wants us to be. When we stop allowing the Word of God to change our lives—now listen to what I’m saying—when we stop allowing the Word of God to dictate to us what our behavior ought to be, when we stop allowing the Word of God to address the individual circumstances of our life, situation by situation and letting it dictate how we are to act, when we stop doing that and many times in our lives we choose not to go that route. All of us have been there. Then the freedom that we have, the freedom to be what God says we ought to be, ceases at that moment. We’re no longer free. We’re now bound again, because we can’t be in our power what God tells us we ought to be without the Word of God which ought to be renewing our minds everyday of our life.
It’s amazing to me how the Word of God is not a map, it’s a mirror. Do you find that true? Every time I get into it you know what I see? I see lousy Wayne, but I see all awesome Jesus; and I see where I need to deal with things in my life. If I’m not in the Word I don’t see that. When I’m not in the Word, I see lousy other people. But when I’m in the Word, I see lousy me. It’s amazing isn’t it? If you’re not in the Word of God you’ve got a finger pointing at somebody. But if you’re in the Word of God, buddy, you’re looking at you and God’s looking at you, and that’s what it’s all about.
But when that stops happening, deception comes among us. And I want to say something to you. I doesn’t matter what age we are, it doesn’t matter what service I say this in; it’s true everywhere. No matter what, no matter, if you’re not in the Word of God you’re already deceived and don’t even know it. That’s how quickly deception moves upon people that will not stay in the Word of God. Deception is the major thrust of the devil in our world today. There’s no other way he can touch us. We’re in Christ. We’re hidden in Christ who is in God. He’s beneath us, above us, behind us and in front of us and lives in us. How’s he going to touch me? But what he can do is deceive the way I think. And if he can get my mind, then he can cause my behavior to be something that is not honoring to God. The basic theme of God’s Word—and if we stay in the Word we see it—is Christ, from Genesis to Revelation, and the grace that is offered to us in Him.
Now I know many of you probably are thinking I don’t know what I don’t know. I’m guessing. Many people probably think I talk about grace too much. Well, here’s my answer to that. There’s nothing else to talk about, period. As a matter of fact, the more I understand about grace, the more I realize I don’t understand about it. You see, what grace is, it’s the well. It’s the well, folks. Every truth in Scripture flows out of the well of what grace is. If you don’t know this message of living grace—you may know saving grace; that’ll help you certainly when you get into the kingdom—but if you don’t know living grace everything that we’re doing is of the flesh. We’re already deceived and that’s why we’re miserable. The freedom comes when you understand what Paul is trying to teach the Galatian believers.
Well, the believers of Galatia had at one time responded properly to God’s Word. They had lived under this grace. They had had a love for each other. They had a sense of blessing that was awesome. That’s why Paul had to ask them, “Where did that sense of blessing go that you once had?” In 5:7 he says, “You were running well.” You know what that means? That means the track that you were running on was the right track. It means that the way in which they were running was the right way. It also means that the power that enabled them in that race was of Him, not of them. And so they were doing it right. They were doing it right. And the apostle Paul tells them that “You were doing it. You were running well.” They were not living after the flesh. Oh, no! They were understanding and enjoying the freedom they had in Christ.
But something happened. And he says in the last part of verse 7, “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” The word “who” there is singular and very important to the text, because what he’s talking about is some individual started this whole thing. Have you ever noticed how, how gossip can start? You ever played that little game gossip? You start off with something and you go around the room and you just see how it ends up at the end of it. But somebody had to start it. Somebody had to start it. And he said, “Who is it that hindered you?”
The teaching of the false teachers had God’s name all over it. Isn’t that amazing how they hide behind God’s name? They hide behind the name of Jesus, but they had error to tell you. You see, they mixed the two together when you’re not looking, they pick up the error and you think it’s the truth. He says in verse 8, “This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.” In other words, it may have had God’s name all over it, but God had nothing at all to do with it. And then Paul shows that when one believer strays from the truth, just takes one, that’s all it takes. It can be one person in a family. It can be one person in a church. It doesn’t matter. It shows how it spreads like a virus. It spreads like a virus.
He says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” And he uses the term “leaven” to show the persuasive power of how sin and error can get into the body. Leaven is a very persuasive instrument. In fact, it can be used good, it can be used bad. Jesus used it in a good way. But it can be used, it’s persuasive power that it has, it’s like a cancer. It influences everything around it. But Paul is persuaded that God will bring them back to truth, that they’ll come back to what they used to understand. They used to live the right way, and Paul’s persuaded that somehow God’s going to bring them back.
But he says in verse 10, “I have confidence in you” not really in them, “in the Lord.” He has confidence in the Lord, “that they will adopt no other view.” But then he gives a stern warning to those people who are bringing that religious flesh mindset into the church, he gives a warning. He says, “But the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment whoever he is.” There’s a special judgment for people that bring the body of Christ back to error. There’s a special judgment. As a matter of fact, it ought to put a fear in every one of our hearts that we don’t communicate flesh and works, that we communicate grace and what God can do in our life.
Well, he goes back now again to that subject of freedom. Actually, he’s been talking about it all along. But now he’s going to address it one more time. There are several things I want you to see about the freedom that we have in Christ, that Paul wants us to see. I want you to see, too, several things. I’m not going to finish the message, so we’ll just go and see how far I can get. Next time, same place, same song, third verse. But three things I want you to see about this freedom that we have in Christ Jesus.
First of all, I want you to see the frustration of this freedom, the frustration of our freedom. Now these evil men that came in and deceived the Galatian people, disguised themselves under the name of God. Not only did they slander the message of grace; now listen to me, they slandered the messenger who preached that message. Now that’s interesting to me. One of the ways to get a man’s message taken away is to slander the man, and they were good at this. And it says in verse 11, “But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.”
Now, it appears in this verse that these false teachers had gone around and they’d accused Paul of preaching circumcision, of preaching the law. He says, “If I still preach circumcision,” now why would he be addressing that if that had not been said about him? The false teachers were probably saying, well, he preaches grace over to that crowd, but when he gets to this crowd he preaches circumcision, so he’s got a confusing message. He’s not really an apostle. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You see, the false teachers evidently were trying to discredit the man. So Paul answers with a logic in two ways that nobody can dispute. First of all he says, “But if I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?”
So, first of all, the very fact that he was being persecuted showed that the accusation was false. It was stupidity for them to bring this up to start with. Remember a few verses back it said the children of the bond woman will persecute the children of the free woman. Well, the children of the bond woman are those who preach law. They preach circumcision. These were the people he’s dealing with here. And they were not being persecuted. That was very acceptable to everybody. Preach what a man can do for God. Religion is much more acceptable than Christianity because Christianity, a person has to realize the futility of doing anything in his flesh. So he says, “The ones who are being persecuted are not the ones preaching circumcision, but the ones preaching against circumcision.” So Paul shows how stupid it is for anybody to accuse him of preaching circumcision and giving a mixed signal as to what grace is all about.
But the second thing he says is much, much more profound. “But if I still preach circumcision why am I still persecuted?” Then watch what he says. “Then,” in other words, if I’m still preaching circumcision, “the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.” Do you see what he’s saying? If I preach circumcision the message of the cross, the message of grace is completely abolished. You don’t have a message anymore. It has no affect. Why? Because you can’t add external works to grace. You can’t do that. You can’t add law to grace. Paul preached a message of the cross. The cross eliminates all human works. This is why people don’t like it. This is why people hate this message. It, including circumcision, it completely eradicates any human effort to do anything to please God other than to bow before Him. Remember back in verse 6 he said circumcision or uncircumcision means nothing to God. God doesn’t care. He’s not talking about the outward; He’s talking about the inward. And Paul said I couldn’t be preaching circumcision because if I did I would abolish the message of the cross.
What Christ did for us on the cross, do you understand it? This is so heavy on my heart that you see what he’s talking about. When you look at the cross the only reason Jesus had to come and die on the cross was because men could not attain the standard that God required. God loved mankind, but sin automatically crippled him. Jesus had to become a man to do what men could not do. And so the cross, when you look at it, it shames all of our religious efforts to please Him. It shames all of our fleshly efforts to please Him.
You know what we’re trying to add to grace today? We’re trying to add baptism, some people are. They’re just saying if you’re not water baptized then you can’t be saved. What? You see, you’d have to throw the book of Galatians out of your Bible. That’s an external work. What God does for us and what He did for us on the cross is completely internal and it’s something we have to trust Him to do what we cannot do in our own life. “If you could,” Paul says, “if you could add law to grace then you would abolish the message of the cross.” It would be abolished. The way to frustrate your Christian walk is to try to add law to anything that you’re doing under grace.
You ever been under the “quiet time” law? If you don’t get up at 4:00 in the morning and have your quiet time you’re not spiritual. Anybody been under that law? I’ve been there. Or have you been under the witnessing law? If you don’t pass out 17 tracts a day you don’t love Jesus. Have you been under the church attendance law, that if you don’t come a certain amount of times then you don’t measure up? You see, any time you start, you can add your own laws to it and you can get up under your own laws, but you’ve just abolished the message of the cross.
The cross says to all mankind, you can’t save yourself. You can’t do anything to measure up to what I require; therefore, I love you enough that I’m going to come and I’m going to measure up for you as a man, the God-man. I’m going to go to the cross. I’m going to take upon Myself the sin debt that you could have never paid and then I’m going to open the door. I’m going to become the shepherd, the door that if you’ll receive Me you can have a relationship with the Father. I’ll come to live in you to do through you what you could never do in a million years. That’s the message of the cross. But oh, how man hates the message of the cross.
Paul says it’s a stumbling block. He says the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. Why is it a stumbling block? I’ll tell you. I’ve already really told you. As a matter of fact he says that it’s also in 1 Corinthians 1:23. “But we preach Christ crucified,” he says over there to the Corinthians, “to Jews a stumbling block.” Why would it be a stumbling block to the Jews? Because they think that they’re already in; they’re descendants of Abraham, and therefore the Mosaic Law is their means of righteousness. They don’t see themselves as being lost. And when Jesus came, their idea of the Messiah was He’s going to kick the Gentiles out and set up His earthly kingdom. What do you mean He came and died on a cross? They completely obliterate Isaiah 53. They try to make that a nation, instead of a person, the Lord Jesus, who had to be wounded for our transgressions. It’s a stumbling block to them. It throws a ringer right in the middle of everything that they’ve been trying to say. It blows away, because if you’ve rejected Jesus you’ve rejected the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. But also he says to the Gentiles, “It’s foolishness.” Why? Because, see, we come out of that Gentile area. To Gentiles is foolishness, because what do you mean, man? He’s not much of a man if He came down here and couldn’t do anything else but get Himself killed. It’s foolishness to the mindset that doesn’t understand himself to be a sinner born from Adam.
Well, the message of the cross defies all of man’s effort to earn a right standing with God, to measure up to what it requires. So Paul says, “If I preach circumcision that doesn’t make any sense. You’re still persecuting me, so I must not be preaching it. Or if I was I’d obliterate my whole message.” The message of the cross robs a man of any ability to do anything that impresses God. Boy, that’s a great truth, isn’t it? You say, “I can do a few things that impress God.” You can? Well, bless your heart. I remember when I got saved finally, I was on my knees and I said, “God, why don’t You show me what You see about me.” And God showed me the filth of my flesh. I cried for hours when I realized what a filthy creature I am because of the sin of Adam. And when I cried out to Him that day the sky got bluer and the grass got greener. And all of a sudden something had happened to me. I was saved! That’s what the cross does for a person.
Isn’t it amazing; a person gets saved and forgets every bit of that? He now thinks he can get in a committee and come up with his own way of how to impress God, and that’s exactly what religion does to man. It deceives him! It deceives him! There’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing you can do.
Paul is so frustrated. He says in verse 12, “Would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.” If you’ve studied this you know where I’m headed. “Those who are troubling you” is an old word. It has to do with unsettling somebody. And the word-picture it draws for you is when you’re at home, kicked back in your big old chair, got your loose old clothes on that if anybody saw you, they’d put you in jail. And you just are at home. I love to be kicked back in my chair. I’m at rest. Why? I’m at home. Shut the door, lock the door. And isn’t it wonderful just to be at home at rest? That’s the word. And the word “trouble” means to drive you out from under that and make you feel unsettled. You see the word-picture? He’s saying that when error gets into your life, man, when you’re living under grace you’re just walking in the rest God has for you. Hebrews talks about in chapter 4, the rest that remains for the people of God. And you live in that untroubled state because you’re so surrounded in the presence of Christ. The world can just be doing all kinds of things, but you’re okay because you’re at home. You’re living in your freedom that you have in Jesus Christ. But when error gets in, it drives you out and unsettles your life.
Let me ask you a question. How many of you are unsettled this morning and you wonder why? “Well, it’s this, it’s that.” No, it’s not. There’s only one thing that could unsettle your life, only one thing. You know what that is? When you choose to do it your way instead of doing it God’s way. That’s the only thing that can unsettle you. When you’re walking in the grace of Christ you’re at rest, you’re at peace. You’re walking in the freedom that is given to you.
Well, he said, “Would those that are troubling you, that are disturbing you, that are unsettling your whole life with this error,” he says, “would that they even mutilate themselves.” And that word “mutilate” means to cut off, especially a member of the body. What he’s saying is, would that they castrate themselves. You could read that very literally that way. There was a cult at that time called the cult of Cybele. She was a popular nature goddess. Many of the devout males would go out and castrate themselves as an act of religious devotion to this goddess. In fact, the priests of that cult that was right in this area where he was writing to, the priests would make themselves eunuchs by castrating themselves as an act of devotion. And what many people think that Paul is saying here is, if you think circumcision is that important, then why don’t you just go out and commit the supreme act of devotion and castrate yourself? That’s exactly the literal of what many people think he’s saying.
Now personally, I don’t; because there’s another side to this. There’s another way of looking at it. “Why don’t you just disappear?” I wish those people had gotten into the body of Christ and are causing so much error and so much disturbance, unsettling God’s people. It’s almost as if to me he’s saying I wish they would just cut themselves out of the body of Christ. I wish they would go away. I wish they would disappear.
I understand that. Over the years of being a pastor—I’ve been in the ministry 40 years—and in the years I’ve been in the ministry many times I have prayed “O God, get rid of these 10 people. I believe if we could get rid of these 10 people we could have a revival.” And every time God just messes up. He says, “No, I’ve put them in your life to make you live what you tell others they ought to experience.” Oh, brother! I don’t like that. That’s a bummer.
The frustration to our freedom, folks, comes when you add any kind of law to grace. That’s what going to unsettle your life. It’s going to get you out from under your rest. You can’t trust God anymore. Now it’s up to you. How many times I’ve tried to take the reins of my own life. You can’t do that. And how many times do we have to fail before God says, “Now you just trust Me. I’ll take it from here”?
Well the frustration of our freedom. But then the second thing; oh, man this gets so good, the expression of our freedom. What is the expression? I mean, if we’re walking in the freedom of God, what is the expression of that into our lives? Always, it’ll never fail ever, the expression of our freedom in Christ—if we’re truly walking in it, if we’re truly not unsettled, we’re settled, we’re at rest, we’re at home under grace—the expression will be seen in the way that we treat one another, always, always. “Oh, but brother Wayne, I’ve got some great suggestions.” That’s fine. How are you treating others in the body of Christ?
Verse 13, “For you were called to freedom, brethren,” freedom being the power to do as you should in Christ, Christ living in you. “Only, do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you divide and devour one another, take care that you’re not consumed by one another.”
Now the central theme of those three verses is the last statement in verse 13 when he says, “through love serve one another.” When one is living in the freedom that God gives—see, God is love—love will become the divine motivator in his life. We’ll see later on that this love is only produced by the Holy Spirit. You can’t come up with this kind of love. Our love is conditional. His love is unconditional. You can’t produce it. We love you if. He just loves you. You see, that’s the difference, it’s unconditional.
Well, he says in verse 22, just to show you, he says, “But the fruit,” that which is produced by the Spirit, “of the Spirit is love.” Only the Spirit of God, only when we’re walking in our freedom, yielded to Christ and yielded to His Word do we experience what that freedom is all about, which is a love that motivates our life. The way Christ living in and through us is seen by others is in the love that His Spirit produces. Now again, Christ is God, Christ is love, He becomes a divine motivator of our life.
Verse 13 begins with the words “For you were called.” Now, the word for “called” there is ek kaleo. It means to be called out from under something, out from; you’re in over here but you’re called over to be in over here. It means to be called out from among something. It has the idea of an invitation, a summons, of “I’m beckoning you. I’m calling you. I’m not making you; I’m inviting you to come out of what you’re in over here.” Paul is reminding them of their salvation. He’s reminding them that they were not believers because of some self effort. They weren’t seekers. Nobody seeks after God, Isaiah said, except believers. But he says God was seeking you and He sent you an invitation. That invitation is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And one day that invitation came to them and they understood it and received it and He called them out from being bond, in bondage to themselves over into being in the freedom that God offers them in their life.
David had a tough, tough life. You talk about a man who lived in bondage, but he had a dear wife that loved him unconditionally. God was working in her life, and one day the invitation somehow, either through her or somebody, got to his doorstep. God so loved the world, God so loved David, and he received that invitation and he came out from under that old bondage to his flesh all of those years and walked into the freedom now of what Christ is doing in his life. And I love it when I preach. He’s sitting there. He’s hanging on every single word. He can’t wait to hear the next word. He didn’t have it for years of his life. It’s almost like he wants to take notes and write down. He’s so hungry. He came out of bondage. He was invited to come over into freedom. That’s what Christianity is all about.
So Paul reminds them of that. He says, “For you are called to freedom, brethren.” The word “to” is the word epi, and it’s a purpose word. You were called out of this, for the purpose of being free in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why we’re saved. That’s what salvation is all about. The implication again, you’re called out of bondage for the purpose of freedom. You once lived under the controlling condemning power of the law where your flesh dominated you. But now you have been called into a lifestyle that’s free. You’re free from yourself. You’re free from condemnation. You’re free from the law. You’re free to be what God wants you to be.
And then Paul defines what this freedom is. But I’ve been saying it’s not the right to do as you please, but the power to do as you should. Look at this. “For you are called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.” Note that phrase: “Do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.” There’s no verb there. It’s written as if there’s a verb. It’s a statement. And when they take the verb out of it, it means don’t ever forget this. Don’t ever forget this. This is a priority. Don’t ever forget this. You “do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.” You see, freedom, again, is not the right to do as you please; it’s not the right to give an opportunity to your flesh.
I don’t have a right to give my flesh an opportunity. I don’t have a, “but I don’t like this, Lord, and I’m going to go tell that person I don’t like it,” and God says “You’re going to do what?” You don’t have a right. Listen to what I’m saying. You don’t have rights to ever give your flesh an opportunity. That’s what freedom is. Freedom is not the right to do as you please. But there’s a lot of people haven’t figured that out yet in the church. Verse 13: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.” Our freedom in Christ gives us no right, it gives us no right.
That bothers me. I’m 6’7”. I weigh 255 pounds. “I can help you, Lord.” I used to think, “Lord, just let me take them outside at the back of the church. I guarantee you if I don’t come back in I’m going to hurt somebody before we get there. I believe I can handle it.” And God says, “No way, son, you can’t ever have the right to give your flesh an opportunity.” I do these camps every year, and I love young people. Every year we have new churches. You know what the biggest thing we have to deal with those new people? They hear we’re talking about grace, but we have rules at camp. And they get there and they say “What, rules! I thought this was a grace camp.” And it takes us an hour to explain to them that grace does not mean the license to do what you want to do. Grace is freedom, the power to be what you ought to be.
Well, what should be the motivation of all that we do? What should be our motivation? We don’t give the flesh an opportunity. He says, “But through love serve one another.” Do you realize that’s what freedom is? That’s what it looks like when it’s working. In all of our relationships we have a divine mandate to allow His love to be produced in our lives and for others to see it, for others to experience it. He says, “Through love serve one another.” The word “through” there is the word dia. Dia means by the means of, by the means of love. There’s only one way to serve and it’s by the means of love. And a definite article is used there: “dia love,” and which means it makes it very specific. And what he’s saying the love of the Lord Jesus it’s only produced by His Holy Spirit in the life of a yielded believer that that love dictate how you serve one another. Through the love serve one another. Isn’t it interesting that religion, all religions, have some type of service? And so that serving word would be kind of interesting to them. See, under religion you’re told to serve; under Christianity you’re motivated serve. It’s a little different then.
But the word “serve” that’s used here is douleuo. Douleuo is not a word for servant like you’d normally see. This is the word for slave. Now look what he’s saying. A slave is obligated to serve. Oh, man, put these two things together. The love that the Spirit of God produces in you and produces in me is an obligation, it gives us an obligation. It obligates. It motivates and it obligates us to serve one another. So you see, a believer who says “I want you to serve me,” what does that tell you about his walk? He’s not walking in the freedom that God has given to him. He’s chosen bondage. He wants to be served rather than let me be a servant to you.
Isn’t it interesting how many times in churches you have to just beat people over the head to serve? Have you ever noticed that? “Well, you’ve never asked me to serve so I’m just not going to do anything.” Oh me, no, no, no. The obligation and the motivation to serve is something He does, not something the preacher does. You can’t produce this. You cannot program this. That’s when the gifts of the Spirit begin to operate, the service gifts in the body of Christ. You begin to see mercy gifts surface. You begin to see the gifts of serving. You begin to see the gifts of exhortation. You begin to see the gifts of giving. You begin to see the gifts of preaching and teaching and you begin to see the body come alive because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, there is freedom. The gifts can operate only when people are walking in the freedom that God says is ours in Christ Jesus. It motivates us and it obligates us.
Well, His love produced in the lives of those who walk by faith becomes a divine motivator and a divine obligator that these people serve and love one another. It is then that we are free. It is then that we’re free. So the frustration of our freedom is when we try to add law to grace. You can’t add law to grace. And that doesn’t mean there’s not rules in the Christian life. That doesn’t mean we don’t obey the Word of God. What I’m saying is we don’t do what we do in order to measure up. Jesus measured up for us. But not only is the frustration of our freedom that, but the expression of our freedom is when we want to love others. Our serving others is what expresses this, this wonderful freedom in which we’ve chosen to walk.
But the final thing I want to share today, I have another one but I’ll wait till next time, is the culmination of this freedom. Where does this end up? I mean, what is this all about? How do you wrap it up and package it? Is there something we can say about that? Yes, Paul does. Verse 14: “For the whole law,” now notice what he says here, “is fulfilled in” 75 rules that if you obey you pass the test? No. He says, “The whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” By saying “for the whole law,” Paul is speaking of the moral law of God. He’s not talking about the ceremonial religious laws, because they’ve add 613 of those. What he’s talking about is the Ten Commandments. False teachers will never go this route because they know they can’t obey it. They cannot obey it. That’s what condemns everybody. That’s the standard that God requires out of every man. But, you see, he says that whole law, His standard of conduct, is going to be fulfilled in one word and that word is love. And that love is only produced by the Spirit of God in our life.
When we live under grace and the freedom to which we’re called, motivated by His love, obligated to serve others, then we don’t have to worry about the law. It’s being fulfilled; by the way we treat each other it’s being fulfilled. The love in us towards each other is what fulfills the very law that we’ve been concerned about. Well, “the whole law is fulfilled in one word in the statement you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now Jesus did a very similar thing in Matthew 22:35 when He talked to a lawyer. And what He does is He takes the whole law and divides it into two segments, two commandments. He sums it all up. The first four in the first one, the last six commandments in the second one. It says in Matthew 22:35, “One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment of the law?’” Now, which one is it You’d pick out? “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.’”
Let me ask you a question: did you try to do that last week and did you succeed? I don’t think anybody wants to raise their hand. Why? Because He says, “If you love Me you’ll obey Me.” Did you disobey anything last week? If you did, you just missed out on the first one. Then the second one: He says “This is the great and foremost commandment,” and that has to be taken place first. But secondly, “the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Uh oh, uh oh. “On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.” If you’re loving God, which means that we’re obeying Him by faith, that’s all it means, walking in the freedom He gives to us to be what He desires to be, then we are loving others; not in our feelings towards them, but in our actions towards them; then the whole law is being fulfilled. Isn’t that incredible?
So the servanthood of the church is something that’s got to be motivated by God. A preacher cannot make this happen. Oh, you can make it look that way on the surface, but only God can stir hearts, only God can make this happen. God demands our love, but He lives in us to free us from our own self-effort to produce it so that He may enable that which love requires, which is serving one another.
I want you to turn to John 21. I just had this on my heart. I’ve been studying this for a long time. I’ve studied John and gone through it many, many times, but there’s a passage here that I think helps us understand this. Everybody that’s always said, “Brother, I love God with all my heart, body, soul and strength,” I’ve never seen it in their life. That’s an arrogant statement. But how do you get to that point? Let me show you. John 21:15, this is of course Simon Peter, and I love Simon Peter. The only time he ever opened his mouth was to change feet and some of you relate, I know. We all, anybody that’s outward and in that way you probably relate. Some of you quiet ones don’t have a clue but I understand what he’s doing. I relate to Jonah and Simon Peter. That’s not a good résumé, by the way.
Verse 15, he told the Lord, he says, “Lord, I’ll die for You. I’ll die for You.” Jesus said “Oh, shut up man, you’re going to deny me three times before the cock crows.” That’s in chapter 13. Chapter 18, what does he do? Exact, as a matter of fact, one of the other gospels says he cursed and said “I don’t know this guy.” Boy, he’s scared to death, little coward. He’s related to Gideon in the book of Judges.
And so Jesus comes to them, and I love this. He’s always relentlessly pursuing us and He comes to them. They don’t recognize Him, and He says, “Hey, guys, you caught any fish?” He gets right to the point. And they say no. And, by the way, that’s the worst question you can ask somebody when they’ve been fishing and haven’t caught anything. Don’t ask them what they haven’t caught. Don’t tell them what they haven’t caught. He said, “Throw the nets on the other side of the boat.” Well, they did and somebody in the group said “Hey, that’s Jesus,” and Peter got so excited he jumped out of the boat. The rest of them came in in the boat. You know, he’s the only one that would jump out because he couldn’t wait to get to Jesus.
He’s never repented of how three times he denied Jesus. But Jesus is going to teach him something right here. Verse 15: “So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’” Some people say does that mean the fish or the disciples? And I’m thinking good grief, man there are some people, just go away. It doesn’t matter what you put in there. “He said to Him, ‘Yes Lord, You know that I love You.’ He said to them, him, ‘Tend My lambs.’” In other words, He showing him He’s going to use him, but He asked him with agape. Agape is that love that says I am committed to you to do whatever it costs me, even if it’s my life, if it’s for your spiritual benefit I will do that. That’s the kind of love God has for us, total commitment. He doesn’t say, “Well do you like Me?” He said “do you love Me?” “And Peter answered Him back and said, ‘Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.’” He changes the word. He changes the whole tone. He says, “I phileo you.” Oh, You’re my best friend. Man, I love being with You. There’s nobody I’d rather be with than You, Lord. That’s not what Jesus asked him.
Verse 16, “He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’” Do you love Me committed to Me that you would die for Me? “‘Yes Lord’ he said to Him. ‘You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Shepherd My sheep.’” Now, little does Peter know that His sheep is going to be Israel, which are a rebellious, stiff-necked, stubborn ones of the Old Testament. He’s going to be assigned to that. Paul was assigned to the Gentile world; he’s assigned to the Jewish world. But it’s interesting, same words, “You know I love you as a friend.” He still hadn’t caught it. If he has caught it he can’t answer Him. He can’t answer Him because he knows he doesn’t. He doesn’t love Him enough to die for Him. How do you know? He just denied Him three times, scared to death for his own life.
Then in verse 17, “He said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of John,’” and this time Jesus changes His word and uses the word Peter’s used. He says, “‘Do you even love Me as a friend?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ and he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things.’” Why would he be grieved? He knows that Jesus already knows the answer. “He said, ‘You know that I love You as a friend.’” I can’t measure to that which You require. “Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’” Oh, it’s so beautiful. I’m going to use you, Peter, but you haven’t got a clue what’s going to have to happen to you first. Fifty days later Pentecost came, and the Spirit of God came to live in man and He was going to come to produce what? Love. Even the love God requires of me, I can’t produce, but God living in me can.
And then He says, “You’re going to get to that place, Peter. Truly, truly I say to you, when you were younger you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished, but when you grow old you’ll stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you and bring you where you do not wish to go.” And what He’s talking to him about here, He’s telling him how he’s going to die. Peter is going to learn to love Him. It’s going to be a love growing within him to the point he’ll die for the Lord Jesus Christ. He won’t right now. It’s not time yet. And then he says in verse 19, “Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this He said to him,” now, Peter, go out and take a course on how to love Me. Is that what He said? Now Peter you go out and I’ve already convicted you, buddy, you better feel guilt, and if you don’t love Me tomorrow like I told you to love Me tomorrow, then you’re out of here. He didn’t say that. He said one simple thing. What? “Follow Me, follow Me.” Isn’t it interesting?
When I learn to follow Him, which means I learn to yield to Him, letting Him in the yoke, letting Him be the main oxen that pulls me along, when I say yes to Him, surrender to Him, surrender to His word, He in me develops a love that I never knew could even be possible, and all of a sudden I begin to learn to love Him. And that love is really not even coming from me as much as it’s coming from Him. And it’s a divine relationship that’s growing more and more and more and more intimate. And there’ll come a day that I’ll die for Him.
You see, the very thing God demands He lives in us to enable. What was the symptom of the Galatians that were not walking this way, not serving each other out of love, not interested more in what can I do for you, rather they were interested in what can you do for me? What was the symptom of these people? Galatians 5:15, “But if you bite and devour one another,” now watch this now, “take care lest you be consumed by one another.” The word “if” there is first class condition, which means “since you are.” You’re already doing it. See, what happens with error; it just splits the body of Christ. Everybody becomes opinionated overnight. Everybody says if you don’t do this and this and this, then I’ll do that.
You know, it’s a mess. You know what I’m talking about. No doubt that this is going on at all. This is going on in Galatia. This is error, this is what flesh will do to a church. It’ll destroy it. The words “bite and devour” are words that are used to describe how dogs and wild creatures treat each other. They had a humorous illustration back in their day of two snakes that got mad at each other and each one of them attacked the other by the tail. And somehow they ate each other and that was supposed to be funny in their day. I don’t really catch it, but that’s what they would use. And the idea is if you keep going after each other you’re going to devour each other. You’re going to destroy the very thing that you had.
And what, by the way, what organ in our body do we use to bite and devour? You know, if the devil has any place—and he can’t get in a believer—but if he could, you know where he could hide? He’d put a saddle on the tongue right behind the teeth. That’s how we bite and devour one another. That’s what flesh does to you. That’s what flesh always does to you. The callous things that we say when we’re not walking in the freedom that God has given to us. I’ve done it, you’ve done it. We’ve all been there. The conviction should be to everybody in this room. When flesh is allowed to be our motivation we’re not obligated to serve anybody, we’re not motivated to love anybody. We want somebody to do something for us. And as a result of it, when they don’t we’re going to bite and we are going to devour, no matter how many religious things we’re doing.
“Oh, I went on seven mission trips and I sing in the choir and I handed out the offering and you mean God doesn’t count those?” Absolutely not, unless it came from a divine motivation to love and a divine obligation to serve. Now He counts that. You see, you may have two people serving side by side, one of them totally out of the flesh, one of them totally in the Spirit, one of them free, one of them a slave. And it’s difficult many times to recognize which is which. But when we start looking at Scripture it’s a mirror, remember. Man looks on the outside, but God looks where? See, you can fool me and I can fool you. We don’t fool God. And division in the body of Christ, division in the family, if it’s an individual family, I guarantee you there’s flesh somewhere. God unites; flesh divides. The Galatians had been running well. Boy, they’d been living it right, doing it right. They’d been, but now they’re biting and devouring one another.
The frustration of our freedom; try to add law to grace and see how frustrated you get. The expression of our freedom is in the love that we have and the obligation to serve others. And the culmination of our freedom is as we’re walking this way, the law is being fulfilled. You don’t have to worry about all those rules. Yes, God’s Word—don’t hear me wrong here—there’s responsibility, be doers of the Word. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying the motivation of why we do what we do is never to measure up. Jesus measured up for us. We do what we do because we’re already loved, not so that we can be. And so the beautiful picture of what the body of Christ can become, but what had happened to the Galatian people.
When God lives in us He motivates us and He obligates us and it is not about us. It is all about Him. My question: are you living in freedom this morning? Is it evidenced in what you say and how you treat others in the body of Christ?
More Articles You Will Love
John Ankerberg Show
Founder and president of The John Ankerberg Show, the most-watched Christian worldview show in America.