Galatians 5:13-15; 6:1-5, 10
Wayne Woods, pastor
First Baptist Church, Moultrie
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life – a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28.
It should not surprise us that all the characteristics of “sticky” relationships that we have so far considered are those things that Jesus is the perfect example of: love, encouragement, forgiveness, and now, service. He came to this broken, fallen world we currently reside “not to be served, but to serve.”
His example shows us that the kind of service to others that really binds us together in relationships is “costly” service, service that requires sacrifice of our own personal agenda and needs and focuses more clearly on the needs of others. We must follow His example! We must seize the opportunity to serve!
Paul was writing to the church at Galatia to open their eyes to the same kind of false teaching we often face today – the teaching that our forgiveness before God must be earned and kept by our own works, our self-effort to “keep” the law of God, to achieve the perfect righteousness our sin debt rightly requires.
Satan’s deceptive power is seen in his ability to have us pursue a goal we know we cannot accomplish on our own. Down deep we know we are flawed at the core, more concerned about serving ourselves than serving God or serving others. Apart from the genuine work of the Gospel in our minds and hearts, we want both God and others to serve us.
What a sad existence that will inevitably lead to! What bondage that will put us in! God’s Gospel Way of Grace is so much better! Paul knew that and he wanted the Galatians to be assured of that, as God wants us to be assured today.
A life of freedom
The Christian life is life of true freedom. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Therefore if the Son sets you free, you really are free.” – John 8:32, 36.
Jesus has called every believer out of slavery to sin, by His grace, into true freedom. Paul’s first concern in this letter has been that they will not lose their freedom by reverting back to a “works” righteousness relationship with their God. Now his concern is that they also not abuse their freedom. Being free from the law as the means to our being justified before our perfectly holy God does not mean that we are then free from the law as our guide to live to please Him. The law remains as the picture of His righteous character that we need to keep focused on.
The difference now is our motivation for our works. We now work not to earn His grace but because we have been freely given His grace!
Express through service
The proper expression of our freedom in Christ is to serve.Through the love that He has demonstrated to us and that He has poured out in our hearts through God the Holy Spirit Who was given to us (Romans 4:5), we are now free to follow His example, go into the world, and sacrificially serve others as He served us.
Christian liberty is service not selfishness. His new commandment (John 13:34, 35) is that as His disciples, just as He has loved us, we must love one another. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
The one who loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:21). His love in us is most clearly displayed by our service to others, especially to those “others” who also are His by faith. That group, in particular, is the one that we must be very careful to preserve our loving relationships with.
If we forget that in the Body of Christ we are also to seize opportunities to serve rather than to be served, we will be sowing the seeds of disunity and division that will consume us and keep us from His vision and mission. Too many churches are experiencing this very thing today.
An overlooked word in church
Service means we cannot overlook the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a desperately needed word in His church today. We have too easily bought into the lie of a “privatized” faith and completely ignored the Bible’s clear teaching about our interdependence on each other (1 Cor. 12:12-27).
Our service to one another as members of His church, His local body, are to include gentle restoration (6:1); humble burden-sharing (6:2, 3); and the faithful fulfillment of our own individual gifts and callings within His body (6:4, 5). As individual members of His church, His body, we belong to Him, and we belong to each other.
This is also a lessson on stewardship. God has graciously granted us time and opportunity to labor for that which is intrinsically and eternally “good.” We must seize that time and opportunity while we can. In the freedom we have been given in Christ, we are secure to sacrificially invest ourselves into the lives of others.
We have no good reason to hold anything back. We can let His love overflow from our hearts, knowing that He will just fill us up again!
Relationships built on and with Christ-like service can withstand even the fiercest storms!