Throughout the book of Galatians, Paul is telling Jesus’ followers about the new way: a path of freedom. To the Jews, he is explaining that their former, customary “guide for living” had proven to be miserably inadequate, both personally and socially. Now, a new and DIFFERENT way was possible for them and for the whole of humanity. God had intercepted by personally coming to their rescue and creating a way that would work. This new way was one where everyone could “live in the Spirit”, “in step with the Spirit” (NKJV).
The topic on Paul’s mind and driving his spirit was bigger and more involved than can be covered in a few lines and sentences. But for us here and now in the 21st century, his message comes through: Jesus has given us a new way of living, and living any other way is no kind of life compared to it!
Gal 5:16-26: Live in the freedom Christ has won for you! Stand fast in it, hold fast to it!
The Jewish people Paul was speaking to had a history of living under what an outsider would call religious laws, which included countless restrictions, observances and traditions that guided their daily lives and annual calendar. Some of these laws had been given to them by God to help them in their ignorance and unrighteous (and therefore destructive) lifestyles, and many more had been added by their leaders down through the centuries.
Gal 6:15 (paraphrased): All the rules and traditions we’ve customarily been putting up there as important, actually aren’t. I now understand and am presenting to you the truth, that what really counts is… we are a new creation! We are freed from the old person and the old ways! I urge you, stand in this freedom, hold fast to it!
We who identify ourselves as Christians tend to hold up things over ourselves and each other which aren’t important, instead of pursuing and encouraging the new way, both individually and as communities of believers. We easily drift from the freedom path of “living in the Spirit”, and take the path of living “under the law”. If we are holding fast to and relying on rules instead of living in the Spirit of our Master, we are not living maturely. It’s a childish way to live, and means that we have not grasped the intention of the Gospel.
How do we stand in and hold to our new freedom?! What keeps us on its path? Reading Galatians makes it clear that it’s only possible by “living in the Spirit”. When we allow God’s Spirit to be our guide for living, we will understand and recognise what belongs in His Kingdom and what doesn’t. What are His ways and what aren’t. What is His heart and will on a matter. What to do and what not to do. How to treat each other, how to bring Life instead of death into situations. How to keep our peace and live at peace with each other. How to pursue holiness. How to live a life that reflects and displays Him.
The new way is to walk “in step with the Spirit”, with Him as our ever-present companion, “by faith in Jesus” (Gal 2:16). This is the heart of the message of the Gospel, the gift to all who accept and keep it: that we can now live in relationship with our Creator God, through His Spirit. This way of life is the way of freedom.