Does the fact that our salvation is rooted in Christ alone mean that behavior does not matter? Certainly not! How we live the Christian life is so important that the apostle Paul discusses it in practical terms in all of his epistles. That discussion, however, always follows after Paul first explains the glorious news of what God has done for us in Christ. This pattern in his letters demonstrates that our actions are to follow as a response to the salvation we already have in Christ, rather than the means by which we earn it. In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul addresses how the life of faith should be lived. (see 5:13-6:10).
At the very outset, Paul reminds us that while we have been freed from the condemnation of the law, our freedom should not become an excuse for indulging our self-centered desires (see vv. 19–21). It should liberate us from the dominating power of sin that seeks to hold us captive. So rather than living to please ourselves, the gospel instead frees us to serve one another out of love (cf. Gal. 5:13; Lev. 19:18).
Paul says that the love that should define the Christian life actually “fulfills” the “entire” law (v. 14). This does not mean that love is to replace obedience—as if it were one or the other. No! In saying love “fulfills” the law, Paul is referring to a deeper level of obedience that goes far beyond mere outward actions such as circumcision. It is an obedience that does far more than just the minimum required by the letter of the law. It is the way through which the true intent and meaning of the law can be experienced (cf. Matt. 22:36–40; Rom. 13:8–10; 1 John 2:3–6).
As you can imagine, this sort of obedience is beyond our own ability to acquire. It is a divine work of grace that only the Spirit can produce in us. My prayer is that each of us will allow the Spirit to produce that fruit in our lives today.
Carl P. Cosaert
Walla Walla University