Read: Galatians 5:1, 13-15 (MSG)
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you… It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
What Does it Mean?
There’s a lot of talk in the New Testament about freedom. We’re told that “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”, and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. Jesus Himself tells us that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. In his letter to the church at Galatia, the apostle Paul writes, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”. Or, to put it another way, through Jesus we have been set free from slavery to sin so that we can live free from the chains that once bound us. Paul goes on to exhort the church to “stand firm” and not go back to the “yoke of slavery” that Jesus died to save them from.
We’re set free to live free, but that doesn’t mean that we get some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card that entitles us to do what we like without any consequences. That’s not what freedom means (no matter what the world would like you to believe otherwise). We’re set free from slavery to sin and slavery to religious law, but there is a purpose to our freedom. It’s not an abstract concept. This is what Paul explains in verses 13-15.
Warren Wiersbe comments on this passage: “We are prone to go to extremes. One believer interprets liberty as license and thinks he can do whatever he wants to do. Another believer, seeing this error, goes to an opposite extreme and imposes law on everybody. Somewhere between license on the one hand and legalism on the other hand is true Christian liberty”.
Paul warns the church, “Don’t allow your liberty to degenerate into licence” [paraphrase]. What he means is that Christian liberty is not a licence to sin but an opportunity to serve. The purpose of our freedom, Paul says, is found in the command “love your neighbour as yourself”. Warren Wiersbe says that “love in the heart is God’s substitute for laws and threats”. We have been set free to love, and serve others out of the wellspring of our love.
In verse 15, Paul paints a very vivid picture of how not to use our freedom in Christ. It’s a picture of wild animals attacking each other – a picture that ends with destruction. It’s a stark warning of what can happen when, instead of using liberty to love and serve one-another, the church replaces slavery to sin with slavery to rules and regulations aimed at controlling the liberty we have in Christ. Whilst it is true that liberty isn’t a license to sin, neither should we be slaves to unrealistic rules. We are called to embrace the middle ground, and the truth that we have been set free for a purpose.
The Bottom Line
The world gives us a false perception of what freedom means. Jesus has set us free so that we can experience “Christian liberty”. Our freedom has a purpose – to love and serve one another – and it isn’t a license to indulge our sinful nature.
How does a worldly concept of freedom compare to the Christian liberty definition?
When you become a Christian, you immediately receive the gift of freedom. How has that affected your life? What does it mean to you?
We have been set free with the purpose of loving and serving one another. In what practical ways can you put this purpose into practice?
 Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, Galatians 5