In this passage, there are a couple things noteworthy, but it all leads to the point: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What is it that leads to this “for” declaration? What is the “for” resting upon that is the so obvious conclusion of?
We noticed in the last segment how Paul is expressing “Christian liberty”. It isn’t that our freedom for freedom’s sake is given so that we can go out and live like we want to, but that we are not bound to a righteousness that demands we live according to what others conceive of being righteous. Our foundation is not upon a law, nor upon what we do, but upon Christ and what He has done. In that, we can rest in the fact that we are alive in Him, and that through Him we can be content simply in being His. One of my friends once told me, “We’re human beings, not human doings.”
It’s the proverbial Moses’ call to “come up the mount and BE there”. Don’t think about how your going to get down. Don’t think about food and water. Don’t think about the Israelites at the base of the mountain. Come up the mount, and be with me.
Now, we haven’t come to Sinai, which Paul so brilliantly already declared in Galatians 4:25-27, but unto Zion (New Jerusalem – Hebrews 12:18-24). The mount that we’re to climb is not one based upon “do this, don’t do that”, but upon faith and the grace of God. We’ve come to Zion, the very heavenly dwelling of God’s throne and glory. We’ve come to Zion, the very beauty that draws out the angel’s worship, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. The whole earth is filled with His glory.” We’ve come to Zion, the place where brothers dwell together in unity, and tears flow for the sake of God’s glory being established on the face of the earth.
Because we’ve come unto that, and not unto the mount that burned with fire, that caused for the people to declare that they were too afraid to hear God anymore, and even Moses declared, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling” (Deut 9:19, Heb 12:21), the next thought is one of love fulfilling the whole of the Law. Between here and there, we have Paul asking again, “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Notice that this was asked before in Galatians 3:1 a different way.
Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? And what exactly is that leaven? Jesus uses leaven in a couple different ways. He uses it in regard to the Kingdom of God, that even just a little leaven within the large batch of dough works its way through the whole lump, and this is how the Kingdom of God is (Matt 13:33). He also warns His disciples to “beware the yeast (leaven) of the Pharisees” (Matt 16:6). In both times, the leaven is neither good nor bad, but simply the very contagious mechanism that causes for the whole lump to become holy or unholy.
We can see how this pertains again to the foundation of our lives. Obviously the Galatians want to obey Christ, and obviously they are doing what they are being told will help to be closer to Jesus. So, it isn’t about making Jesus the center, as if that alone is all that is necessary. The question at hand is the very means by which we serve and worship Jesus. Does the way in which you perceive yourself before God stem from whether you have overcome that besetting sin or not? Do you determine whether you’re truly right with God by whether you have stopped getting angry so easily? Is it through your outward works that you determine where you stand before God, or is it through what God has declared?
Please don’t misunderstand me. We can’t simply cast off what Jesus and the apostles have said elsewhere about the way that we live and treat one another, but we also shouldn’t expect that if we’re somehow not living up to it that we just must not be saved. I’ve heard that kind of damnation on the Internet, really on just about every Christian video that you can find, which would conclude that your brother or sister is not actually saved because of what they believe or because they struggle. There is no room for arrogance in the Kingdom of God, and that includes a self-despising.
The leaven that leavens the whole lump is the basis by which you define yourself, and from there, it works its way through the whole lump. If you perception is “to God be glory in all things”, then it doesn’t matter whether you fall or not. With time, God will bring you through. What bothers me so heavily is when people start making statements with their theology like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, “God will deliver us, O King!” But, don’t forget the rest of the statement: “But even if He doesn’t, we still will not bow and worship your statue…”
Is it about God delivering you from suffering, from poverty, from sin, and from the difficulties of life, or is it about God gaining glory in all things? How can it be that Stephen would be stoned, and instead of crying out against the injustice he is able to reiterate what Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”? Such a heart of compassion and love, even for they who are killing him, does not come from a mind that is saturated in self. That kind of prayer can only be prayed honestly when you have no care for your own life, and your only care is God’s name and His glory. If it grants God the greater glory that Stephen should be martyred, and that Saul would behold this and later come to the faith through such a sight, then who are we to grumble that Stephen could have done great things? Nothing would have exceeded what we find in the New Testament, not because of Stephen’s incapability, but because it is about God and God’s glory alone.
When your heart pants for the glory of God in all things, and not that you would behold it or share in it, but that He would be glorified, you find that people get very upset indeed. “If I still preach circumcision, then why am I still being persecuted?” I could rephrase this for myself: “If I were still preaching the Kingdom of Jesus and me, then why do people get offended at my words?” It isn’t about “Jesus and me”, but about Jesus, and Jesus alone. Circumcision means nothing apart from Christ, and if through Christ you’ve been circumcised in heart, then why do you need to now get circumcised?
The fulfillment of the law is this: love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t do that apart from Christ, for it is only in having that disposition, “may Jesus be glorified”, that we have the possibility of this. If it is about myself, then I’m going to tend to my own wants and needs. But, if it is about Jesus, then it must also be about His Body. Therefore, if my brother has no coats, and we’re living in Ohio where the winter can get down to negative temperatures (Fahrenheit), then how can I not have compassion on him to give him one of my coats? If my sister has to decide between repairing the roof of her house or buying groceries, how can I not buy her groceries so that it’s no longer a decision? If my other sister is going to need to drop out of college because she can’t afford it, but we both know it is God’s will that she finishes, then how can I not send her thousands of dollars to pay for her tuition?
(I give these examples as things I’ve actually done)
It is love that matters. Knowledge will come to a brim, prophecy will cease, and even tongues mean nothing if we have not love, but love goes on forever. Paul never tells us to seek tongues, nor any other gift (except prophecy), but to seek love. Why? Because if you are truly doing the loving thing, you aren’t wanting the gifts that edify yourself, but the gifts that edify the Body. And, if an unbeliever were to be in your midst, and you have a prophetic word, or you have unction from the Holy Spirit to pray for their healing, why would tongues even matter at that moment? Tongues mean nothing, for you don’t know what you’re saying unless you also have interpretation, and they certainly don’t know what’s happening. Therefore, pray for prophecy, pray for interpretation of tongues, pray for the operation of healings and miracles, because in these gifts there is fuller expression of love.
Do you see how this is completely contrary to what modern Christendom teaches? The law of love is utterly different and distinct, as it should be. Unto which mindset have you come? Have you come to the place of “all to Jesus”, or are you still in the “kingdom of Jesus and me”? And, more importantly, what has stolen your joy that you had at the beginning? Why have you transferred from that first moment when you loved Jesus with all of your being, only to go back into the self-centered mindset? Who has robbed you of this joy? Return, thou sleeper, unto your first love. Arise, and shine, for the true Light is already shining, and He is alive in our hearts.