By Will Pavone, MBC Tysons Young Adults and Edge Community Pastor
There are two ways to enslave oneself in the Christian life. The first way is by embracing legalism and the second is by embracing license. Legalism makes performance (or lack thereof) the basis of acceptance before God. License abuses the grace of God by sinning recklessly, rationalizing that salvation can’t be lost and presumptuously assuming God’s forgiveness. Legalism and license are two opposite extremes yet both are destructive to one’s faith and distort the true Gospel of grace. About halfway through chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul shifts from talking primarily about the futile trap of legalism to warning about the foolish lapse of license. The Apostle writes:
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Paul gives us this warning because it is very possible for people in Christian circles to start with a correct premise and arrive at a faulty conclusion. The correct premise is that as believers in Jesus, God accepts us on the basis of Christ’s work and not our own. There is nothing we can do that would change our status as adopted, beloved children of God. That premise is right in keeping with the nature of the Gospel and the radical freedom that Paul is talking about in the letter to the Galatians. Now, the danger is in taking that correct premise and arriving at the faulty conclusion that because of the radical freedom and grace of the Gospel we can therefore live any way we want; or more specifically, we can “sin” anyway that we want. There are literally hundreds of verses in the New Testament that shatter that conclusion. We are not free “to” sin, we are free “from” sin and “unto” Christ.
Christian, we are not our own. We were bought with a price. If we truly grasp the Gospel, we can’t possibly arrive at a conclusion that so greatly distorts grace. The plan of salvation is faith in Christ plus nothing. As believers in Jesus, we are called to live in that freedom and to make it our motivation for pursuing a life of Spirit-empowered obedience, not as an excuse to pursue the values, desires and deeds that characterized our life before Christ saved us. I pray that the Spirit would bear much fruit in our church family as we memorize this great verse together during the month of March!
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