“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.” (Galatians 5:13)
One issue that Paul often discussed in his letters was legalism. Many of the new Christians were confused about how they should follow God; though the apostles held that the Law of Moses could not save anyone, some people argued that true Christians should adhere quite strictly to the Law. This became a major issue as the Gospel continued to spread, and Paul wrote about it several times. One important discussion of this matter is in the book of Galatians, where Paul addresses once and for all how Christians how supposed to live.
The first thing to understand is that we’re all sinners. There has never been a moment in our lives when we were not contaminated by the horrible disease of sin. But when we are saved, Jesus sets us free from sin. We no longer have to be slaves to our fallen nature; instead, we can finally be the creation God intended us to be. Now, as the New Testament makes clear many times, the Law was never designed to be a tool for salvation. No matter how hard we try, we cannot save ourselves through it. It is God alone Who saves us by His gracious mercy.
So then, what does that mean for us? Since the Law can’t save us, does that mean we should just ignore it? Well, no. The Law is actually an excellent way of showing us God’s holiness, helping us to understand how we relate to Him and He to us. But when Jesus said that the entirety of it can be summarized as a total love for God and for others, that is exactly what He meant. Because we are saved by Him, we now have the ability to fulfill the heart of the Law. When we were lost in sin, we simply couldn’t love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It was impossible, because our sin separated us from God. And without that love for Him, we also couldn’t love others in the right way. But now, we can. “For freedom Christ has set us free….” (Galatians 5:1a), and that freedom is found in obeying Him. Jesus tells us to love God and to love others, and He has given us everything we need to be able to fulfill this command. At last, we can do what we were created to do. This is what God has saved us for. He isn’t gracious to us so we can continue to sin; rather, it’s so we can finally obey Him. This is true freedom, and this is how all Christians are called to live.