It is undeniably clear that Paul had the Galatians’ freedom on his mind whilst writing this epistle, and as Paul was given the accolade the “Apostle of Christian freedom” such an epistle warrants attention in hope that we are enlightened to his treatment of the subject. Thus in order to comprehend whether we can align ourselves with the given assertion we ought to look at the context, recipients, gospel regarding freedom, and in particular chapter five which may be labelled the chapter of Christian freedom.
The context of Galatians reflects a group of Gentiles who Paul possibly evangelised on his missionary journeys thus saw Christ as Paul had portrayed Him. However Paul shows that a miscomprehension of the freedom which the gospel brings, and thus in Paul’s pastoral heart he sees a need to defend it to his utmost in the hope he may bring restoration. It may be that the Galatians saw the freedom as a motive for indulgence, they were free from the Law, so they saw it obliquely as freedom to sin, it may be that these were antinomialists. However J. Knox stresses Paul does not advocate such a stance; “He stands for freedom from the Law but he wants to make clear that he does not stand for moral license” Such scholarship reflects that the line of Paul’s argument may be similar to that of the given assertion that ‘this letter is a plea for the responsible use of freedom’ thus from the offset it is justifiable that to acclaim the validity of such a statement.
From the beginning of Galatians 5, Paul exerts zealousness in order to put the message across which shows his fervent nature; “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. “(Gal 5v1) The ambiguities of such a verse are clear, it seems like an obvious verse to such an extent that we deliberate over what Paul is attempting to put across through it, however what it clear by its inclusion it Paul’s treatment towards the subject reflecting the attention it ought to draw.
However we can see with clarity that Paul sees the gospel his preaches as not the Law of the Torah but rather a law of love; “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. “(Galatians 5 v 13) In such a reflection he looks upon the actions and shows those outward actions which hold consequences for others, and these actions are later followed by how we should use our freedom self ward. Our calling is one by which we do not have to do legalistic actions or deny or fallibility but rather one by which we can exhibit Christ’s love and as such Paul follows with a reiteration of Christ’s commands which he responded upon pressed by those trying to try him which is to love your neighbor as yourself. By this we can note a two fold effect upon the reader, Paul is showing that there is an onus on Christian responsibilities in regards to their freedom, and secondly the responsibility is not one which has been contrived by Paul but one preset by Christ.
In our Christian freedom we are no longer bound by the law but instead transformed by a new way of thinking, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians5 v 16 -17)
This reflects that with the aid of our given paraclete, the Holy Spirit we our able to act as Christ wants us to, not for ourselves, whilst Paul sees the pragmatism and sees our attitudes do not fleet after conversion but rather there is a battle within us. Perhaps to some extent subconsciously Paul is reflecting upon the nature of the Galatians salvation within this verse, surely albeit they were fallible, as Christians their attention should be on God not acts of sin. As a statement it provides encouragement, not admonishment, it is as though on some level Paul is identifying with their struggle yet still hammering down their responsibilities, which they are guided in by the Holy Spirit.
Paul progresses to the denouement of chapter five by which point he seeks to shed light on the Galatians freedom. He clearly separates the acts of sin and fruits of the Spirit into two separate lists by which nothing aligns them. The acts of sin take up verses 19 -21, and are very telling of the time, including such sins as dissensions, factions, idolatry and witchcraft. Paul makes an inverse statement of the beatitudes reflecting those who live in such a way will not inherit the kingdom of God; this kind of imagery is unorthodox in Pauline epistle which makes it so striking.
However he then provides a positive list, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. “(Galatians 23 -25) this is encouragement and if the reader feels their life mirrors the list, they are enjoying their freedom properly. With Christ on the cross so were our sins and sinful nature pinned, and now we are set free. Thus the concern in these verses voice Paul’s attitude towards freedom forcibly turning the Galatian reader’s to the fact they need to align themselves with such a teaching.
Hence with regard to all these considerations, it can be asserted clearly that Paul whilst documenting his epistle to the Galatians wished to enforce the implications and responsibilities which the converts had within Christ, however it is clear that he wished to resound that in adhering to such they were not alone but rather had the Holy Spirit to aid them in such a journey.