Galatians 5:13 One Another Commands of Scripture: Serve One Another WC McCarter
We have now come to the third and final sermon in a series about the “One Another” commands found in the New Testament. The Scriptures are full of how God’s people are to relate to one another. We are commanded time and again to do and think all sorts of thinks concerning one another in the household of faith.
The One Another Commands
One another commands. Love one another, John 13. Forgive one another, Colossians 3. Serve one another, Galatians 5. They are all linked. I could use the foot washing event as the illustration for all three sermons. Christ has set the precedent.
READ Scripture– This is the Word of God
Galatians is the letter of liberty in the NT. Paul rebukes the Galatians for turning away to another gospel which was no Gospel at all. They were mixing the true Christian faith with legalistic Judaism. False teachers were saying that Christians must be circumcised according to the law, they must observe Jewish holidays and dietary laws, and more. To submit to the Mosaic Law, or any tradition for that matter, would be to “renounce their divine calling” (Witherington). Paul says that they must not do these things because they are free in Christ. You do not become a Christian by religious performance, and you do not remain a Christian by religious performance. By the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. We are saved by faith and nothing but faith from beginning to end.
Serve One Another
We are called to be free [13a]
In Galatians 1:6 Paul states his astonishment at the situation. At the beginning of the letter he says, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different Gospel, [which is really no Gospel at all].” Christians are called to liberty. Freedom is something that this world likes to talk about, but what is Christian freedom? “It is a freedom of conscience” (Stott). People are bound in their on minds by guilt, swallowed up by their own sin against God. Colossians 1:21 tells us that apart from Christ people are alienated and enemies of God in their minds by wicked works. Freedom is “peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). We are free by faith in Christ, free from slavery to sin, free from the eternal repercussions of our sins, free from condemnation, free from guilt, and more.
Christian liberty is not gained by working yourself out of your predicament, but surrendering yourself to what God has already done in Christ Jesus. What is true of the Galatians is equally true for us. We were called to liberty. The Scripture that says it best is 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” He is the One that sought us out in the person of His Son. He is the One who has called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9); not the other way around, never the other way around. You see “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
Freedom is not for the flesh [13b]
We must not use our freedom for fleshly ends. We have not been freed to fulfill the desires of our flesh. Now we usually think of “flesh” as our bodies, but that is too narrow of a definition. The biblical “flesh” is the old nature (also called the old man, fallen nature, sinful nature, etc.). God has not freed us by the person of His Son so that we can do whatever we will. It may be a great temptation to think that now we are free to fulfill our own selfish desires, but we know that is not the truth that we have found in Christ.
Freedom is for serving one another [13c]
We must use our freedom for spiritual ends, that is, through love to serve one another. Our freedom in Christ should benefit our brothers and sisters. We have been freed to love. We can now serve one another with no fear of condemnation. We have been freed to love and love the way God desires! John 8:34 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” We have been freed from sin, not to sin. Once we sin, we return again to slavery. . . . Could anyone be any “freer” to do what he wanted than Christ? And what did He choose to do? Submit to the Father’s will, serve mankind. He took off His outer garment, girded Himself with a towel as a servant, and washed His disciple’s feet (John 13). And that is only one glaring example of what He did by putting on flesh. He came to serve, to love. . . . We are called to do the same with the freedom we have been given.
How do you (practically) serve one another? You are to make yourself a slave to all; to consider others better than yourself; to bear one another’s burdens whether they be spiritual, emotional, financial, or what have you.
The Value of Church Membership
I would like to close this sermon by saying a few things about the value of church membership. The New Testament does not say anything explicit about the subject, but the implications are clear that we are to be accountable to one another in an association that we now call church membership. I think these past three sermons apply specifically within the context of church membership. Let me give you three reasons why I believe that to be true.
1. Others know that they are accountable to you and you to them. You are to love, forgive, and serve the brethren as well as many other things. The best way to know who the brethren are is by church membership.
2. It lets the minister and elders know who they are responsible for. We re to shepherd the flock, but we have to know who belongs to this flock in order to best do that.
3. Not only are you to submit to one another, but you are to willingly come under the care, authority, and teaching of the local church leaders. You do the by membership.
Invitation. If you are a baptized believer who would like to join this congregation, then all you have to do is say that you would like to join. If you have never committed your life to Christ, but you have counted the costs and would like to be united to Him today, then now is a great time to join. If you have believed, but have never been baptized, then let today be that special day.