For, brothers, you have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Having shown the magnificence of the gospel system, Paul now proceeds to define that freedom which it secures. It is not licence, but love, which it induces; and love not only fulfils the Law, as legalism does not, but also prevents the bitter strife which legalism ensures. We have the following points suggested: -
I. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN LICENCE AND LIBERTY. (Ver. 13.) The grace which has freed us from the legal spirit has not endowed us with a liberty to live licentiously. The liberty it gives is totally distinct from licence. Licence is liberty to please ourselves, to humour the flesh, to regard liberty as an end and not a means. But God in his gospel gives no such liberty. His liberty is a means and not an end; it is liberty to live as he pleases, liberty to love him and love men, liberty to serve one another by love. We must guard ourselves, then, from the confusion of mistaking licence for liberty.
II. LOVE IS THE REAL LIBERTY. (Ver. 13.) As a matter of experience we never feel free until we have learned to love. When our hearts are going out to God in Christ, when we have at his cross learned the lesson of philanthropy, when we have felt our obligation to God above and to man below, then we are free as air and rejoice in freedom. Then we refuse licence as only freedom's counterfeit, for we have learned a more excellent way. We cannot imagine a loveless spirit to be free. He may achieve an outlawry, but he is not, cannot be, free.
III. LOVE IS THE REAL FULFILMENT OF THE LAW. (Ver. 14.) The legalists in their little system of self-righteousness spent their strength upon the mint, the anise, and the cummin; while the weightier matters of the Law - righteousness, judgment, and faith - were neglected. Ceremonies and not morality became their concern. The tithing of pot-herbs would entitle them to Paradise. In contrast to all this, Paul shows that Christian love, which is another name for liberty, fulfils the demands of Law. The meaning of the commandments published from Sinai was love. Their essence is love to God and love to our neighbour, as well as to our "better self." Hence the gospel throws no slight on Law, but really secures its observance, The whole system turns on love as the duty and the privilege of existence. While the Law is, therefore, rejected as a way of life, it is accepted as a rule. Saved through the merits and grace of Christ, we betake ourselves to Law-keeping con amore. We recognize in God the supreme object of grateful love; we recognize in our neighbour the object of our love for God's sake and for his own sake; and we honour the Law of God as "holy and just and good." The whole difference between the legal spirit and the gospel spirit is that in the one case Law is kept in hope of establishing a claim; in the other it is kept in token of our gratitude. The motive in the one case, being selfish, destroys the high standard of Law. It fancies it can be kept with considerable completeness, whereas it is kept by the best with constant and manifold shortcoming. The motive in the other case, being disinterested, secures such attachment to the Law, because it has been translated into love, that it is kept with increasing ardour and success. Slaves will never honour Law so much as freemen.
IV. LOVE IS THE TRUE ANTIDOTE TO STRIFE AND DIVISION. (Ver. 15.) The ritualistic or legal spirit into which the Galatians had temporally fallen manifested itself in strife and bickerings. This is, in fact, its natural outcome. For if men arc straining every nerve to save themselves by punctilious observance of ceremonies, they will come of necessity into collision. It is an emulation of a selfish character. It cannot be conducted with mutual consideration. As a matter of fact, organizations pervaded by the legal spirit are but the battle-ground of conflicting parties. But love comes to set all right again. Its genial breath makes summer in society and takes wintry isolation and self-seeking all away. Mutual consideration secures harmony and social progress. Instead of religious people becoming then the butt of the world's scorn by reason of their strife and divisions, they become the world's wonder by reason of their unity and peace. It is, love, therefore, we are bound to cultivate. Then shall concord and all its myriad blessings come into the Church of God and the world be subdued before it. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.