Author: Ron Graham
The Guiding Principle
—in Paul’s letter to the Galatians
Last lesson we looked at the question of our freedom under Christ, even though we are required to fulfill the law of Christ as his slaves. This lesson continues to look at Paul’s statement in Galatians 5:18, "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law" . We try to understand what it means to be not under law.
1 “You are Not Under Law”
One set free from sin and not under law is also, and equally, a slave of Christ under the law of Christ
No master in this world is above or equal to Christ the Lord. Christ has the power to abolish or veto any law, and to replace it with his own. He has the power to redeem the slave of any master, and make that slave his own slave. The freedom from the burden of that old enslavement under an oppressive and killing law, is properly regarded as being free and no longer under law.
Becoming enslaved to Christ and placing ourselves under his law, we find true life and liberty. Jesus himself said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32, John 14:6,15). What is "the truth" if not the law (teachings and commandments) of Christ?
Now someone will ask, and so they should, "Well where does love come in?" John answers that question very well: "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome" (1John 5:3-5). There you have love, law, and liberty brought together.
The love is "the love of God". The law is "his commandments". The liberty is that what Christ requires is "not burdensome" but rather allows us to overcome the world and know the victory of faith. There is no conflict between law and love if you are talking about the law of God through his Son.
Paul’s concern was not that the Galatians were enslaved under the law of Christ, but that they were leaving that happy state and seemed ready to "turn back again... to be enslaved all over again" to that from which Christ had set them free (Galatians 4:8-9).
2 “Against Such There Is No Law”
Notice something that Paul says after he makes the statement, "Led by the Spirit, you are not under law" (Galatians 5:18-24). First he lists a whole lot of "deeds of the flesh" and then he lists a whole lot of "fruits of the Spirit". Then he says of the latter, "Against such there is no law". So obviously we have this choice:
- To practice "deeds of the flesh" which there is law against, or
- To practice "the fruit of the Spirit" which there is no law against.
Now if I choose to do things "against which there is no law" isn't it true to say that I am "not under law" in that respect? And if I choose not to do things that are against the law, then surely the law against those things does not apply to me, so I am "not under law" in that respect either, am I?
To illustrate this principle, let us imagine two fellows, Harry and Bill. For their own reasons, Harry partakes of alcoholic beverages, and Bill abstains.
Now there are all sorts of laws dealing with the consumption of strong drink. If Harry were to purchase and consume alcholic drink, he would be under the law of requirements and punishments about the practice of consuming alcohol.
But Bill never purchases or consumes strong drink. So all that law about it has absolutely nothing to do with him. They could change that law, double all the punishments and toughen all the restrictions. It would not make any difference to Bill.
Bill wouldn't even need to know or care about those laws. He wouldn't care two hoots whether he is allowed to drink alcohol in this place or that place, at this time or that time, nor how much of it he's got in his blood.
All the booze buses in Australia could blitz Bill’s town, and Bill would be unconcerned. He could blow into their gizmos and count it a pointless exercise, because Bill is "not under law" regarding alcohol. Bill drinks beverages against which there is no law.
Paul himself indicates what he means when he says, "You are not under law". He says, "The deeds of the flesh are evident". In other words he is saying that it’s easy to see what there are laws against, and if you do the things against which there is law, then you will be banned from God’s kingdom. But he points out that there is no law against practicing the fruits of the Spirit. If you do these things "against which there is no law", then "you are not under law" are you?
3 “You Reap What You Sow”
Christianity is about sowing and reaping good fruits abundantly. Where there is much planting and harvesting, few weeds ever get a chance to grow. Being a Christian is not about fighting the desires of the flesh. It’s about nurturing the good things of the Spirit. While you are doing that, there is little opportunity for evil. You are happy and free. You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7-8).
You don't have to worry much about things which are against the law, because you are diligently doing profitable things against which no law exists! That’s what it means to be "not under law".
Our Guiding Principle
Of course some of you who read this lesson will run away with the idea that if there is no law against something then it’s OK to do it. Don't fall into that trap, because that is not Paul’s view (nor mine if that counts at all). It’s the Devil’s view. You will notice that Paul speaks of being "led by the Spirit" and tells us to "walk by the Spirit".
The Spirit teaches us the law of Christ, and we have seen clearly that we are certainly under the law of Christ. Living by the law of Christ certainly does not mean doing anything we please so long as Christ has not specifically passed a law against it. That approach is a form of legalism. It is certainly not liberty!
There is a principle by which the Spirit leads us, concerning things which Christ has passed no law against. Paul looked at all such things and said,
"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me but I will not be mastered by anything... All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good but that of his neighbour." (1Corinthians 10:23-24, 1Corinthians 6:12).
Paul did not live only by the principle "against such there is no law". He included another principle, "such things as edify and make for peace and are profitable". When you are "not under law" you are doing things "against which there is no law" but that’s not why you are doing them. You are doing them because they are "profitable" and constructive, and if they are not so, then you will not want to do them, even though there is no law against them.
Christianity is not really about doing what there is no law against. It’s true, of course, that if there is no law against something, then we would consider it is "not wrong" to do it. But that is not our guiding light. That is not the basic principle we walk by.
Christianity is really about doing what is profitable and constructive. That eliminates not only what is against the law, but it also eliminates a great many things against which there is no law. The Spirit leads us away from all things that are unlawful or unprofitable. He leads us to do what is helpful and leads to growth and goodness. That is our guiding light. That is the principle we live by. When we walk in that path, there is no law to bind us.
We are free to live in "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1-2).