Freedom & Fellowship

An exposition of Galatians 5:16-26. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, March 29, 2009.

We really are shaped by our experiences.  Where we grew up.  Where we attended school.  The church we were raised in.  All of these have a profound impact on why we are like we are.  The fact that we are Americans determines, to a greater extent than we realize, how we interpret Scripture and frame our doctrines.  We are an independent lot and so you find a great emphasis in the American Church on my “personal Lord and Savior.”  We talk about what “my” Bible says.  And we tend to think of the church as a necessary evil.  “I love Jesus and me and Jesus are fine – but those folks down at the church…” as if you can think of loving Jesus and the folks down at church as having little or nothing to do with one another.  The fact is when you came to faith in Christ you were made part of the family of God.  It was a package deal.  You don’t get one without the other.  The expression of that family is found in a local group of believers seeking to live their faith together in the church.  That is why the church matters.  That is why the church is essential to your being what God intends you to be.  Can you be a Christian without being a church member?  Yes.  Can you be the Christian God intends you to be without the church?  No!  We must acknowledge up front the church is imperfect.  It is often a mess.  But do you know why that is the case?  Because the church is made up of people like you and me!  Frail, flawed, broken sinful people stumbling towards perfection by the grace of God.  The church is not an institution.  It is not an organization.  It is a family, a body, a living organism.  Yes it is “institutional” in that there is a structure with leaders and officers and programs but that is not what the church is essentially.  Not at its essence.  At its essence the church is a family.  It is a family and not an organization.  It is a group of people who are in covenant relationship seeking to grown in our understanding of God and His Word and seeking to live for His glory.  I am becoming increasingly convinced that this is the key to the church being what God intends it to be.  We have to quit thinking of the church in terms of an organization or institution.  It is not a bout power.  It is not about titles.  It is not about programing or product it is about relationship first with God then each other and then the world around us.  That is what I want you to keep in mind as we explore our text this morning found in Galatians chapter 5.

Text: Galatians 5:16-26

The churches of the Roman province of Galatia were troubled. They were troubled by a false teaching that wreaked havoc with these young believers. The message of grace was being lost in an emphasis on law.
Gone was the freedom of life in Christ and in it place was a religion of rules. In the early chapters Paul lays down a theological base. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. Beginning with chapter 5 he applies that truth to life. What does this theology look like when it is lived out? How do I live the doctrine of salvation by grace alone?

The immediate context for our passage today is found in 5:15 – “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”  That this is the focus is further reflected in 5:26 – “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Our text is about freedom and fellowship (remember 5:1).

Thesis: Genuine Gospel freedom is evidenced by a united, loving fellowship.
I want to point out three things quickly.

  1. Peace within the body of Christ demands that we recognize the source of conflict.  (5:16-18)
  2. Peace demands that we resist the intoxicating draw of our sinful nature.  (5:19-21)
  3. Peace demands that we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit.  (5:22-26)
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