In the book of Galatians, we find the Apostle Paul contending for the doctrine of liberty in the faith. At the core of his writing, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he refocuses the church on seeking God’s approval and not the approval of man for their guidance on how to live.
Galatians 5 begins with an appeal to not submit to bondage, for in Christ they had been made free. Righteousness does not come by pleasing man, it comes from God alone. The Galatians are all over the place at this time - seeking man’s approval and flirting with what Paul calls “a different gospel” than the Gospel of Christ and life in and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
A rule of life is a measure by which we live life, our habits and choices stemming from this standard by which we measure our life choices. In this proclamation of freedom, Paul sets forth a standard of living free by the Holy Spirit, in which liberty and servanthood exist hand-in-hand.
Paul has convictions of steel, undergirded by his identity found in the call of God (Galatians 1:15). This is the same idea we find in Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:13-18 - that part of our reason for being is to walk in the purposes God has set us apart for, before we were even thought of on earth. What a great gift to be created with a purpose in mind by a loving Father.
Paul’s obedience was based on his relationship to God. A lack of relationship to God leads to a lack of conviction - an openness to different “gospels”. We see this today in the modern deconstructionism movement. A lack of relationship leads to looking for other sources of affirmation - who am I without the voices of others?
A question can be presented: do I have a foundation of faith outside of what others would say or preach? God is pleased to reveal His Son and guide us to His call - our understanding and relationship beginning first at the cross, in personal relationship, encouraged by exhortations and teachings of the church instead of founded upon.
While Paul was still willing to come into submission to church leadership (as seen in Galatians 2:2), his foundation was built on God alone - “And they glorified God because of me.” (Galatians 1:24 ESV)
Works outside of faith bear no inward fruit and lead to decay, for we are not justified by works (Galatians 2:16). If our righteousness were based on works, then Christ died for no purpose! (Galatians 2:21)
If then our liberty and our works are based on relationship with God, do we understand our standing with Him? Scripture tells us, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:6-7 ESV)
We then cannot operate in this world, following after God’s call, by our own strength. Paul calls out the Galatians for their flirtation with this idea - “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3 ESV)
At last, the culmination of this proclamation of liberty comes - “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25 EV)
Here is the crux of this message.
This word for “keep in step” is the Greek word stoicheó.
It presents this idea for keeping in stride with, walking in line with the Spirit, and walking by His pace.
In this we find our rule of life - it is only by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit that we can live in His liberty, led to servanthood as sons and daughters living out of our reason for being, our Father’s call, not as slaves on task for a slavemaster. In this, we find the joyful union of liberty and servanthood.
Have you ever tried to walk in a certain stride or cadence and gotten thrown off target or beat by looking to the right or to the left? Just try walking in a straight line and then focusing anywhere other than straight ahead to find how impossible it is to walk towards a destination without properly keeping your eyes on the goal.
Don’t break your stride, brothers and sisters.
It is when we take our eyes off of our stride-setter, the Holy Spirit, and look to what others are doing, either elevating ourselves or envying what someone else is doing, that we can break stride. The Holy Spirit warns us of this - “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another…” (Galatians 5:26 ESV)
Our walk is our own, led by the Holy Spirit. Don’t let the walks of others take you from your walk of liberty with purpose. “...but let each one test his own works, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” (Galatians 6:4 ESV)
The Holy Spirit is the ultimate stride setter.
Let us keep in line with the great gift of His stride of liberty and may it be said of us: “And they glorified God because of me.” (Galatians 1:24 ESV)