Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Word 11: Love


Galatians Words ~ Word 11: Love

The book of Galatians does not have the highest usage of the word ‘love’ compared to other books in the New Testament. It is used only 5 times. But, in my opinion, it has some of the most significant verses about love and how it impacts and motivates our lives as Christ-followers.

Let’s walk through Paul’s use of this word in Galatians.

We first saw the word ‘love’ in Galatians 2:20.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Christ’s willing, selfless, sacrificial love demonstrated in giving his life in order to make us righteous children of God, is our motivation to live our lives for God. Godly living is our response to His grace and His love.

Throughout this book Paul has emphasized that it is by faith that God’s grace comes to us, by faith that we become God’s children, by faith that we are able to live holy, godly lives, by faith that we receive the promised Spirit, and now, in chapter 5, Paul tells us that our faith is evidenced to those around us by our expressions of love. Love is the evidence of our faith in Christ, because love is how we imitate Christ who modeled the Father’s love.

Love next appears in Galatians 5:5

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 

After much debate throughout the book about justification by grace versus by the law, Paul now goes to the bottom line. Whether one is circumcised or not (or you can replace it with any other demand of the law – observance of special days, what we eat or drink or don’t eat or drink, what rituals or traditions we do or do not adhere to), in the end Paul says these are of little significance when compared to faith. And faith expresses itself – reveals itself, shows itself to be genuine, manifests itself – in LOVE.

We see God the Father’s love expressed in his giving up his only Son for our sake. We see Christ’s love expressed in giving his life for our sake. And now, Paul tells us, others see our faith when it is expressed through love, through acts of service and love. We love others for His sake.

To add a little grammar, the word love is a verb here and it is present tense, which means that it is a call to continually, repeatedly, habitually express love. In other words, expressing our faith in love is to become our lifestyle.

We then see the word ‘love’ in verses 13 and 14 of chapter 5.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

As he did earlier in chapter 5, Paul reminds the Galatians, and us, that in Christ we are free. Free from the bondage of the law and free from the guilt of sin. But, he warns, our freedom is not a license to do anything we want or to act in any way we choose. Our freedom is not just freedom from, but also freedom to. In Christ we are free from sin and bondage, but, Paul says, our freedom frees us from bondage so that we are free to model Christ’s ways and serve others in love. We are made free to live for God and to love and serve others.

As Charles Spurgeon put it, “Do not make license of your liberty”. We are not called to misuse our freedom by selfishly pleasing ourselves, especially if it would be at the expense of others, but rather to selflessly serve in love. Why? Because, Paul says, when we love others, we fulfill the whole law. Our freedom in Christ does not include disregarding the law altogether, but rather we now keep the law out of gratitude and love for God.

How do we live this lifestyle of love? Paul says in Galatians 5:16 that we do when we “walk by the Spirit’. Christ’s Spirit in us produces the fruit that pleases God and enables us to live life His way.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

The word ‘fruit’ in this verse is singular, so I think it means that there is one fruit: love. And out of love flow joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So, basically there is one type of behavior in walking by the Spirit, loving behavior, and all else flows from it.

When we are secure in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us displayed in His grace to us through the sacrifice of His Son, then our only response can be to live for Him and express His love for us by service to others through acts of love.

Share how you respond in the Words Challenge Facebook group. You can also share on social media using #galatianswords.





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