Closing the Gap – Week 17 Study Guide

Galatians 5:13-16, 13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

 

Commentary

5:13–14. In verse 1 Paul spoke of the Christian’s freedom and warned against the danger of lapsing into slavery. Here the apostle again reminded believers of their freedom in Christ and warned against its being converted into license. Specifically he charged the Galatians not to use their liberty as “a base of operation” for sin to gain a foothold. Rather than liberty being used for lust, the real goal should be love. Rather than being in bondage to the Law or to the sinful nature, the Galatians were to be in bondage to one another.

Having discouraged two forms of slavery as burdensome and terrible, he commended another form that was beneficial—a slavery of mutual love. In support, Paul quoted Leviticus 19:18 and stated that the entire Law was summarized in this single command to love their neighbors. Jesus affirmed the same truth (Matt. 22:39; Luke 10:25–28). But Paul also wanted to show that Christian love is the “fulfillment” or “the carrying out” of the Law. The apostle developed this point in Romans 13:8–10.

5:15. That such love needed to be mutually expressed in the Galatian churches is made clear here. As a result of the inroads of the false teachers, the church was divided and engaged in bitter strife. The followers of the legalists and those who remained steadfast were biting and devouring each other. This was far from the biblical ideal of believers dwelling together in a loving unity, and threatened the churches with destruction, that is, the loss of their individual and corporate testimonies.

5:16. The answer to the abuses described in the previous verse is to live by the Spirit. The verb peripateite is a present imperative and is literally translated, “keep on walking.” As a believer walks through life he should depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit for guidance and power. But the Spirit does not operate automatically in a believer’s heart. He waits to be depended on. When a Christian does yield to the Spirit’s control, the promise is that he will not in anywise gratify the desires of the sinful nature.[1]

 

Study Guide

  1. One way we indulge the sinful nature is to by being self-centered.
    • What are some of the different ways self-centeredness reveals itself in our own life?
  • Why does being self-centered never really get us what we want? Give some examples.
  • Rather than self-centeredness making us happy, it usually ends up making us bitter.
    Why is this true?
  1. Can loving others be an antidote to bitterness? If so, what would be some of the results?
    • Serving others—giving your life away—is what Christ has called us to do.
      1. When you think of this truth, does your mind automatically go to the “big sacrifices?”
        Why do you think that is so?
      2. Think about some of the small opportunities to serve that are right before you today.
        1. What are some of those ways?
        2. Have you embraced the opportunities? If not why? If you have share what it looked like with the group.
  1. Think about what it means to be free—free in Christ.
    • What does it mean for you personally to know that you’ve been freed from indulging the sinful nature?
    • What does it mean for you personally to know that you’ve been freed to serve one another in love?
  1. What would it look like for you to live by the Spirit, to let his power operate in your life today?
    • What would it look like if all of us were to resolve to live by the Spirit and carry Christ’s sacrificial love and care into the world we live in? How can we make this a reality?

 

[1] Campbell, D. K. (1985). Galatians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 606–607). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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