For those who read this not from our small group, we are currently working through the book, Forgotten God by Francis Chan. The series looks the often neglected or abused subject of the Holy Spirit in the church today.
Last night we discussed one particular Scripture from chapter 4 related to the main chapter heading, “Why Do You Want Him?”
One particular area stood out for me in this chapter… that one of the main reasons God gives us His Spirit is to enable us to love one another, specifically other believers. Now, we also know that we are called and enabled to love those still in need of the Gospel. Nonetheless brotherly or sisterly love in the church is to be a hallmark of the Spirit-filled Christian. Furthermore, as selfish prone people this task is impossible to do apart from the Spirit's enablement.
Paul covers this subject well in 1 Corinthians 13, and really that is a post all in itself. In fact, our group covered some of Paul’s instruction regarding spiritual gifts a previous week, and Lord-willing we will be coming back to chapter 13 regarding loving one another with our spiritual gifts. This is a critically important and beautiful passage for every follower of Christ.
Last night, we narrowed our focus on Galatians 5:13-26 and God showed us something fresh. I’ve read this passage many times previously, but never fully caught the beautiful over-arching context for walking in the Spirit! In verses 13-15 Paul talks about using the freedom the Gospel brings to lovingly serve one another in the church. We know from the flow of the letter that Paul’s main note of correction revolves around legalism creeping into the church. Paul reminds us in verse 14 that we are to love our neighbor as we would ourselves. It seems from verse 15, however, that the Galatian church allowed their legalism to affect their attitude and actions toward one another in the church. The biting and devouring likely consisted of some believers looking down and casting judgment on other believers for their varying degrees of legalistic stances/lifestyles.
Now, notice with me the very next verse! Verse 16 is usually taught on it’s own and it’s own section, but it is inexplicably connected to momentum of the previous verses. Even down in verse 26 at the chapter close Paul returns to the theme from verses 13-15 when he charges believers to “…not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Do you see the challenging beauty of this context? The verses (16-25) on walking by the Spirit and not the flesh are couched in context of loving one another in the church! Oh fellow brothers and sisters reading this, we are so prone to interpersonal friction in the church and it ought not to be. Often we can internally and even sometimes externally level judgment on other believers for whatever the reason. Often we can slip into gossip about each other. Often we subtly choose to not associate with some people in the church because of any number of pathetic excuses. Often we can allow clashing personalities to deter intentional love with others. Often we can allow past offenses to fester, affecting our attitudes and actions toward others.
We are no different than the struggle of the Galatian church, and the corrective admonition is the same… to walk by the Spirit, thereby making this impossible task possible. Thus, one of the main reasons we are given the indwelling presence of God Himself is to enable our selfish tendencies to walk in step with His love toward others.
For those in our specific small group reading this, those in other small groups, those a part of a our church or another local church, and all of us who claim to follow Christ toward all believers in general; I intently want us to ask ourselves some hard questions. How is your pocket of discipleship community doing loving one another? How are you personally contributing to loving one another in your small group, local church, and all believers in general? When the answers to these questions are hard, return to the encouraging discipline of walking in the enabling power of the Spirit as He grows you in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control toward fellow brothers and sisters.
Walking by the Spirit to Love Each Other,