Galatians 5:13-23 – Justice, Liberty, and Love (Sermon Notes)


Text: Galatians 5:13-33
Title: The Authority of Scripture: Justice, Liberty, and Love
Date: September 11th, 2022
Location: Christ Church – Moscow, Idaho


In 2011, a Christian Pastor named Rob Bell published a book entitled “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Love Wins was a challenge to the historic Christian teaching on Hell and questioned whether God’s love is really compatible with sinners being cast into hell forever. In the aftermath of this controversial book release, Rob Bell resigned from his mega-church and started a spiritual talk show in Los Angeles.

In 2015 (four years later), the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that under the 14th amendment, marriage is a right that must be extended to same-sex couples. This victory for so called “gay-marriage” was then celebrated with the hashtag #LoveWins, with people like President Obama, Taylor Swift, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, voicing their support with this hashtag. “Love is love,” they said. “Love wins.”

I begin with these two examples of what has happened to words like Love, (and we could say the same for words like Justice, and Liberty) because here the church’s apostasy has so often preceded the world’s corruption.

  • Before the Supreme Court tried to redefine what marriage is to include what God calls an abomination worthy of death (Lev. 18, Rom. 1), there were countless seminary professors, professing Christian scholars and pastors like Rob Bell, who had been playing word games with the Bible (equivocating), twisting it to mean something that it does not mean.
  • For example, Gordon Fee, who wrote what is currently the #1 best seller on Amazon in the category of Christian Hermeneutics, says that there are certain sections of Paul’s letters that are not actually Scripture.
    • When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:34, “Let your women keep silence in the churches for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law…” He says of this verse, “this is a marginal gloss that got added to the text later and is not part of the original.” In other words, Fee says, You’ve got verses in your Bible that are not actually supposed to be there.
    • And this is the author of the current #1 best seller in Christian Hermeneutics (first published in 1982 and now on its 4th edition), he also happens to be one of the primary scholars behind “Christian egalitarianism.”
  • Before we had rainbow flags flying in every city, and BLM posters in the windows of half the businesses, biblical scholars had been busy at work for decades redefining the Word of God. Redefining what Scripture is, and what it means to be the authentic, infallible, and inspired Word of God.
  • Is it any wonder then that the world has redefined Love to mean sodomy, Justice to mean socialism, and Liberty to mean the freedom to indulge your flesh?

It is not just the world that needs to repent of their corruptions, the church also must repent of how we have dulled the blade of God’s Word. How we have blushed when certain verses are read in public. How we have apologized for how rude the Apostle Paul is.

  • Jesus says in Mark 8:38, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
    • In other words: If you are ashamed of Scripture, Jesus will be ashamed of you.
    • If you are ashamed of what the Bible says about sex, gender roles, justice, or hell, Jesus will be ashamed of you. That is a serious threat, and one of the reasons why we have been doing this sermon series.
  • So what I want to do in the rest of this sermon is help you be unashamed. I want to walk through Galatians 5 and observe how God defines these words, these realities of: Justice, Liberty, and Love.

Exposition of Galatians 5:13-23

Starting in verse 13, Paul says,

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

  • If you remember the context of Galatians, there was this big controversy over circumcision. And the big question was: Do Gentiles need to be circumcised in order to become Christians?
    • Circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith (we are told in Rom. 4:11), first given to Abraham. And when this sign of the covenant was given, God warned him in Genesis 17:14, that “the child who is not circumcised shall be cut off from his people, he hath broken my covenant.”
    • So circumcision was a big deal and this was a reasonable question to ask if you were a new covenant believer.
    • Do Gentiles need to be circumcised in order to become Christians?
  • The answer that Paul gives in Galatians is a clear “No.”
    • And the logic is that: If you accept circumcision as a continuing spiritual sign in your flesh (as a religious rite and sacrament of the promise to Abraham), then you are in effect choosing slavery to the law, instead of liberty in Christ.
      • He says in Gal. 5:2-3, “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
    • Now how is this the case? How is it that a former sign of the covenant could suddenly become a sign of apostasy?
    • The answer is that: Circumcision was a sign that pointed to Christ, the seed and son of promise. It takes a lot of faith to cut off part of your privy part, and that action was a sign that you trusted God and not your flesh. You cut off the flesh, trusting that God can raise the dead.
    • And so to continue with circumcision after Jesus had come, was to deny that Jesus is the Christ. It was to deny that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise, and to in effect say, “we are still waiting.”
  • In Galatians 3, Paul calls the law, “a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Gal. 3:24-25)
  • And this is where his discussion of liberty stems from. When you were under the law with its types and shadows and sacrifices and ceremonies, you were like a child or a slave. You simply had to do what you were told. (This is how the book of Leviticus reads: do this, don’t do that.)
    • But now that Christ has come, in Him you have grown up, you have graduated and left the schoolmaster. The schoolmaster was holy, just, and good, but lacked the power to save.
    • Whereas in Christ, by the power of His Spirit, you are set free to live for God. At it says in 2 Cor. 3:17, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
    • So when Paul says in Gal. 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” He is saying, “don’t go back to elementary school, you’re an adult now.” “Don’t go play with stuffed animals anymore, get a job.”
      • Under the old covenant, priests were not allowed to drink wine on the job. But now in the new covenant, we all drink wine.
      • This is the liberty we have in Christ. And yet with that liberty comes all sorts of new temptations and dangers.
        • What are the temptations when you turn 16 and get your drivers license?
        • What are the temptations when you turn 18 and leave the home?
        • What are the temptations when you turn 21 and can buy alcohol?
      • With greater liberty comes the possibility for great good or great folly. And this is what Paul is warning us about in vs. 13: “use your liberty to serve one another, not as on occasion to the flesh.”
  • So what is Liberty as defined by God?
    • It is the freedom to love and serve your neighbor.
    • It is the freedom to lay aside your prerogatives to seek the good of others.
    • Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more…”’
    • Paul is so free that he can actually observes the Jewish ceremonial laws (he even circumcises Timothy), not as one under the law (like the Galatians were trying to be), but he says, “as living under the law of Christ.”
    • This is true liberty. It is not anarchy or lawlessness, but rather, “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).

He then goes on in verses 14-15 to define what love is…

14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

  • So liberty is freedom to love and love is a fulfillment of the law.
  • He says likewise in Romans 13:8, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
  • This is where love and justice meet. Justice is giving people what they are owed (what is due to them), and Paul says, what you owe them is love and love is defined by the law.
    • So you can know what love and justice looks like by whether or not it is consistent with Exodus 20-23.
      • Your neighbor’s ox has gone astray, Love brings it back to them (Ex. 23:4).
      • Your pet gets loose and tramples the neighbor’s garden, Love makes it up to them with the best of your produce (Ex. 22:5)
      • Your friend outbids you on a house you really wanted, Love does not covet, but rather rejoices for them.
    • Love is not sentiment; it is not what merely makes us (or someone else) feel good. Love has a fixed and immoveable standard, and that standard is God’s moral law.
  • Now in the next few verses, Paul just assumes that we are going to struggle with this. Liberty is dangerous, Justice is not always easy to determine, Love is difficult to do because people are difficult. And so how do we keep from biting and devouring one another with our newfound freedom?

Paul says in verses 16-18,

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

  • This is a description of the normal Christian life. There are two principles within you: The Spirit that wants to do good and the flesh that wants to be selfish. Welcome to Christianity.
    • In Colossians 3, Paul calls this the old man and the new man.
      • The new man (the Spirit) is singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody to the Lord, doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
      • Whereas the old man (the flesh) is complaining, grumbling, blaming, looking for the path of least resistance.
    • So which person are you going to be? Who are you going to walk with? The Spirit or the flesh?

In these final verses Paul gives us a description of what your life will look like depending on which road you take:

If you walk in the flesh, “your works will be manifest, which are these;

Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness (lude behavior/wantonness), 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

  • Notice that Paul is saying this to Christians. Galatians was written “unto the churches at Galatia” (Gal. 1:2).
  • And so this is a real warning that you can use “Christian liberty” to destroy your life. You can say, “I don’t need to be circumcised, justification by faith, I’m a five point Calvinist, paedobaptist, postmil, presbyterian,” and then in the name of Love and Liberty, sleep with your neighbor’s spouse. Fornicate. Lie to people’s face. Abort your baby. And not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • We think that just because we’ve been a Christian for awhile, that we are above these sins, and yet all it takes is a little compromise, a little provision for the flesh, and before you know it, you’re doing things you thought you were incapable of.
  • Do not be deceived brethren, this life is a war unto the last. And until our bodies lie cold in the grave, the flesh will try to ruin you. So flee these things, and walk rather with the Spirit.

Verses 22-23 says,

 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

  • Life in the Spirit is a life of fruitfulness. The Spirit turns us from dead soil into trees of life.
  • Are these qualities hanging from your branches?
    • Is there love in your actions.
    • Joy in your soul.
    • Peace that surpasses understanding.
    • Patience that bears peoples’ burdens.
    • Gentleness that heals.
  • What does your presence do to those around you?
    • Does it draw them upward towards Christ and our glorious future. Or does it drag them downward to temporal things that are passing away?


Jesus says in John 12:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

  • If you are tired of living in the flesh, or if you are struggling to win that battle between the flesh and the Spirit, Jesus says the way to bear fruit is to die.
  • Paul says the same thing in the next verse, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24)
  • If you want to live, if you want to bear fruit, if you want to inherit the kingdom, then you mustgive up every carnal ambition. Every fleshly desire for preeminence, popularity, adoration, approval, all must be nailed to the cross with Christ.
  • And if you are not ashamed to be identified with Him in His death, then He will not be ashamed to call you His brethren (Heb. 2:11) and raise you from the dead.