“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
You and I, as New Testament believers, have been freed from the bondage of the Law; that’s what the book of Galatians is all about. But Paul reminds them—and us—that this liberty is not a license to “fulfill the lust of the flesh” (v.16). There are two good reasons for this: First, as the saying goes, “Your liberty to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose!” My spiritual liberty is to operate within the framework of the fruit of the Spirit (vv.22-23), never losing sight of the principle of love and the possibility of hurting another believer (Rom. 14).
Second, liberty is a little like a nasal decongestant inhaler. It’s possible to medicate to the point of achieving the opposite result. It may seem paradoxical, but liberty can end in bondage just as surely as legalism can. And, mark it down, if our liberty leads to “works of the flesh (vv.19-21), the resulting bondage will be far worse than any we may feel the Law forced upon us. Bondage by any other name is still bondage.
The whole purpose of liberty is to give us permission—and power—to walk in the Spirit. Not according to the dictates of any man, but according to the dictates of the Word of God and our own Spirit-tempered consciences. There is a great deal of diversity and individuality manifested within the Body of Christ, but sin and the “works of the flesh” can all be considered strictly out of bounds.
Verse one of this chapter reads: “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with yoke of bondage.” And that goes for any kind of bondage. Even the kind that calls itself “liberty.”