SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (Proper 8) June 26, 2022
GALATIANS 5:1, 13-25
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
You are not under the Law. That’s what Paul says. Galatians 5:18:
If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
The Law is the Ten Commandments. It’s that you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The Law is good. It’s the ordering of creation which God set when he created man and woman to be married to each other, to bring forth families, to honor neighbor, and care for creation.
How can the Apostle say, You are not under the Law?
Doesn’t that make us a little uneasy? We can almost see the anarchy such a statement sets up for our lives—chaos in our society, everything left outside of control, floodgates opened for every kind of confusion and disorder.
So how is Paul telling us we are not under the Law?
Paul shows us a contrast. This contrast is in every Christian life. As we stand at the face of God, we speak of our life of faith. Contrasted to that is our life of sinful flesh.
But they are both true, both real: life of faith vs. life of flesh.
We live our life of flesh before the world, before our neighbor. This life of the sinful flesh is lived under the Law. We are in sinful flesh; our neighbor, too, is in sinful flesh, and we sin against each other—thought, word, and deed.
All this is under the Law.
So everyone in the world, Christian and non-Christian, are accused by the Law. The church can speak in terms of the Holy Law of God, the philosophers can speak of natural law, perhaps, but every person us under this Law, for as our Lord tells us, this Law is written the heart of every person.
Not just the Christian—every person has this Law written on the heart.
This is why it doesn’t take a Christian to say that, for instance, theft is wrong. Everyone knows it’s wrong for me to steal my neighbor’s silverware. It doesn’t take a Christian to know that murder is wrong, doing violence to another person is wrong—everyone knows this. For the Law is written on every heart.
Matters of private property and possessions and wealth, of parents being responsible for children, of the marriage of a man and a woman, of the sanctify of life—these are things of the Law written upon the heart. This Law is natural to us, so that when someone acts against this Law, or acts as if they can change this natural Law, it brings discord and disorder and even violence.
If this Law is written on our hearts in our very creation, then how is the Apostle able to say, You are not under the Law?
Paul is speaking here not of our life of sinful flesh. He is speaking of our life of faith. This is our life of the heart cleansed by the Gospel, our life of being justified before the face of God by virtue of the blood of Christ. Galatians 5:1:
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers.
Paul draws a stark contrast. In your life of flesh, you are under the Law, a yoke of slavery. The Law drives you, it always accuses you, it will not let go of your guilt; you’re a slave just hoping to live another day.
But, Christ has set you free, says Paul. This is your life of faith, your life breathed into you by the Holy Spirit bringing to you the gifts of the Gospel.
In this life of faith, this life given by the Holy Spirit, Do not, says Paul, let yourself become entangled again with the slavery of the Law.
So the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the Law of loving God above all things and your neighbor as yourself, this is actually spoken of by the Apostle as “an entanglement of slavery”—and don’t let yourself become entangled by that.
Paul is addressing you and me according to the new man, the life of faith; in this life we belong to the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:18:
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Then, if we belong to the Holy Spirit, and not under the Law, and we are not to let ourselves become entangled in the slavery of the Law, and yet the Law is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then how will we ever follow that Law, if we’re not under it?
We are given to love our fellow-man, to serve our neighbor, and to do so as those who love God, but to do it not as a slave.
Slavery belongs to the life of flesh; slavery belongs to the old man of sin trying to justify himself under the Law.
But you have been justified by Christ Jesus; you have been spoken clean by his word of Gospel; you have no reason to use the Law to justify yourself, and you would fail anyway.
But we’re still in our sinful flesh, so we still need to hear the Law.
Not for our life of faith, it needs no Law.
But in our sinful flesh we need to hear the accusation of the Law daily, so that the old man of sinful flesh is daily drowned in repentance, that daily the new man of faith rises to live in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
We don’t deny the sin of our flesh; we don’t try to make it less sinful; rather, we repent of it. This repentance is a gift of the Holy Spirit; it is, as Paul says, walking by the Spirit.
In our text from Luke 9, Jesus set himself for the cross. He’s traveling through Samaria, and, the text tells us, the Samaritans did not receive him for he had set his face for Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the place of the cross. The Samaritans did not accept that, for they did not worship in Jerusalem.
Here we see the working of the Law. The Samarians did not want to receive the gifts God gives out to sinners at his Altar at the Temple in Jerusalem, so they rejected Jesus when he set his face for there.
Rejecting the gifts of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans instead tried to justify themselves.
This is the work of the Law, where the sinner, whether the Samaritans at that time, or us today—the sinner rejects the Lord’s way of giving gifts, instead trying to justify self by the Law.
Then the disciples react. It’s more Law. Seeing the rejection given by the Samaritans, James and John jump in. Luke 9:54:
“Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from Heaven and consume them?”
The way of the Law: to see those who reject the gifts of the Lord, and to want to call down on them fire from Heaven—to use the Law, that is, to measure the righteousness of others and exact retribution.
Jesus frees us from all that.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm then, and do not submit again to the entanglement of slavery to the Law.
If you are led by the Spirit,
you are not under the Law.
You belong to the Gospel.
The good works you do, they are done not in slavery to the Law, never to justify yourself, for that is the old man of sin of which we daily repent—but the good works you do, they are done by the new man of faith, they are done as a willing person, freed from all chains of slavery—a free person rejoicing in freedom and in bringing gifts of that freedom to his neighbor, that his neighbor, too, would be released from slavery to the Law.
You are not under the Law. You belong to the Gospel.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.