Galatians is a short book, only six chapters and seven pages in my Bible. However, it is an important book for at least two reasons. Very little is known about the ten years following Paul’s Damascus Road conversion. Galatians supplies most of what we do know about that period of Paul’s life. In this book, Paul powerfully and logically lays out the case for justification by faith alone. He plainly declares that justification cannot come from works of the Law, but rather must come from faith in Christ alone. He follows that plain declaration by using Abraham as an Old Testament example of being justified by faith alone. Paul also points out the heresy of adding anything else to this divine formula.
Galatians reminds us that because we have been forgiven, saved, and justified, we have also been set free. We were created to be free, but we sold ourselves into slavery to sin just as surely as the children of Israel sold themselves into slavery to the Egyptians. Christ paid the supreme penalty to set us free. It is an unspeakable tragedy that we are set free by His magnificent gift and then we return to many of the same old prisons of sin. Galatians powerfully reminds us that our freedom is not to be twisted into an opportunity to sin, but rather our freedom must release us to serve God and our fellow man. Chapter 5 contains a comprehensive list of sinful imprisoning deeds of the flesh. It also lists the pleasing, satisfying, fulfilling fruits of the Spirit which ought to characterize our lives.
I have fought the good fight against fire ants in my yards in three different states. I have tried everything I could think of, with little to show for it. I could always get them to move their mounds, sometimes even off my property. I could oftentimes get them to disappear deep underground, where I would not see them for extended periods of time. In time my diligence would fade and the pesky little varmints would reappear. If I used available treatment materials and attacked them with a vengeance I could drive them away again pretty quickly. However, what I usually did was to put it off for a while. I would allow them to regain their lost ground, making them that much harder to drive away when I finally got fed up with them again. You and I both know that I am really talking about those pesky little sins which constantly march against us, digging, burrowing, establishing a stronghold in our lives. If we remain vigilant, we can drive them away, but we must remember that they do not go far and are constantly looking to begin marching back into our lives. Why do we neglect the available fruits of the Spirit and refuse to fight the pesky sin?
Steve Ellison is pastor of Harvey’s Chapel Baptist Church