The Fruit of License - Part 2 (series Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Here is another wonderful verse!
The Gospel is a doctrine consistent with godliness is the message of 1 Timothy 6:3—“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness”, and it is so far from giving the least countenance to sin, that it places us under the strongest obligation to avoid and conquer it. The apostle insists that all the law is fulfilled in one word (expression)—“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” If Christians, who should help one another, and rejoice with one another, quarrel, what can be expected except that the God of love would deny them His grace, that the Spirit of love would depart, and the evil spirit, who seeks their destruction, would fill that void, and prevail? How gloriously happy would they be, if Christians, instead of biting and devouring one another on account of different opinions, would stand firm against allowing sin in themselves, and in the places where they live.
The apostle has very briefly stated here what he more fully developed in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 13:8-10), a short time later—“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” This passage in Romans may be regarded as an extended paraphrase of the one we are studying. From comparing the two, we see what is meant by the phrase "hath been fulfilled." We see from the context that the sentence in Romans, "He that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the Law," means "the whole Law," which makes it clear that, by the words before us, "the whole Law hath been fulfilled in one word," is meant that the whole Law has been fulfilled in the fulfilling of the one word (expression), "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The whole Law is regarded as entrenched in that "one word." In the Romans’ passage, the Law is represented as regulating our behavior toward our neighbors, since the apostle cites only those commandments of the "second table." In other words, if I love you I will NOT steal from you, murder you, commit adultery with your spouse, slander you, or want what you have.
It is said that "six hundred and thirteen commandments were given to Moses—
• David came and reduced them to eleven—“A Psalm of David. Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved” (Psalm 15).
• Isaiah came and reduced them to six—“He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppressions, Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil” (Isaiah 33:15).
• Micah came and reduced them to three—“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
• Isaiah came and reduced them to two—“Thus says the Lord: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come, And My righteousness to be revealed” (Isaiah 56:1).
• Amos came and reduced them to one—“For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: "Seek Me and live” (Amos 5:4).
• Habakkuk came, and he also reduced them to one—“. . . But the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4)
• Here the apostle reduces them to “love:'”
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
These words were taken from the book of Leviticus: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18). But the question arises, “Who is my neighbor?” The Jews would answer, “Only other Jews and proselytes to their religion.” But Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to show us that all sorts of men are my neighbor, whether in a natural, civil, or spiritual connection; and it doesn’t matter whether they do
us good or do us ill, whether they are friends or enemies. The rule of love is, "as thyself" which has nothing to do with equality of affection; it’s all about what we do, that is, We are to do the same caring acts of love to others, which we would choose to have done to ourselves: and this is the fulfilling of the law. But this doesn’t mean that a man has to do it perfectly, that is, love perfectly or act perfectly, because man in his fallen state is unable to do that. But the law is exceedingly broad and reaches to thoughts, desires, and inclinations, as well as to words and deeds. We know that we cannot be justified by works of charity, nor by any services done for men, because our love is imperfect, and there can be no justification in that which is imperfect; nor can there be any justification in things done in their own strength, and without the grace of God; nor is there any that can be said to have fulfilled the law perfectly but Christ, and it is to him alone that we must look for a justifying righteousness. These words, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” contain a reason to love one another and to do all kinds of good things for each other; since it is a principle contained in the law and the principal to which the law may be reduced.
So far, we have shown that the “second table” of the Law (The Ten Commandments) is fulfilled in the words, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, but now I would add that the whole Law, including the “first table”, which comprises man’s responsibilities to God is fulfilled by those very same words, because nobody can love their neighbor without loving God—“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this, the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:7-12).
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
But if ye bite and devour one another
“Bite and devour one another” sounds like a pack of wild animals! That’s how the church can act when it is using its “liberty” as a platform to promote their own selfishness. If you want to see some fireworks, put two selfish people together. Selfish people will eventually be consumed by one another. Morris made this observation: “The loveless life is a life lived on the level of animals, with a concern only for oneself, no matter what the cost to other people.”
These Galatian Churches seem to have been in a state of great turmoil; there were continual altercations between members. They had fallen from the grace of the Gospel; and, since Christ did not live in their hearts by faith, pride, anger, ill-will, and all sorts of unkind and mean-spirited temperaments took possession of their souls, and that led them to destroy each other. Nothing is so destructive to the peace of man, and to the peace of the soul, as religious disputes; where they prevail, religion, in general, has little to say.
Paul is probably addressing the strife which had developed between the two parties in the churches—the Jewish and the Gentile converts were contending and striving against each other—a metaphor not improbably taken from dogs and wild beasts. The gist of it is, "if you contend with each other;" take care that you are not consumed—like wild beasts contend sometimes until both are killed. Thus, the idea is, in their contentions, they would destroy the spirituality and happiness of each other; their characters would be ruined, and the church be placed in a bad light or even overthrown. The quickest way to destroy the spirituality of a church, and to annihilate the influence of religion, is to excite a spirit of contention.
Take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Paul had made numerous references to the particular controversy threatening these churches, which centered on the law and circumcision, and the contention of the Judaizers that they were necessary for justification and salvation. Those on both sides of the argument were passionate advocates for their opinion and bitter adversaries of those who disagreed with them. All this hostility and unpleasantness threatened to create divisions within the churches. There was no “love” in these churches, but there was plenty of envy and malice, with accusing words, biting sarcasm, scandalous tirades, and injurious actions, which must engender bad consequences.