“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; over such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23
I have always found that last phrase, “over such things there is no law,” to be quite descriptive of the gospel Paul preached, the gospel he received directly from Christ through a revelation and was taught by Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). It speaks directly to how the true gospel differs from religion.
The true gospel does something that religion just cannot do – change a person’s nature. When Paul says, “For I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and now, that which I live in the flesh, I live in faith, that of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal. 2:19b-20), he emphasizes the difference of who is now actually doing the living. In the original language, the verb contained the pronoun so one wasn’t needed to be supplied, unless the speaker or writer wanted to emphasize it. Paul did that here. He included the pronoun, “I,” to place greater emphasis on what has happened to him through the gospel. He is making a strong contrast between what he once lived and what Christ is now living through him.
The gospel is good news because, through a change of nature, there is no longer any need for laws to direct the one changed, because that person’s new nature is the nature of Christ. No law can or is necessary to give direction to Christ’s nature. Religion only attempts to manage sin through behavior modification. If enough rules and requirements are piled on top of a person’s sin nature, the thought is what the person does will be right and proper. There is a big problem with that approach, however. Eventually, people find a way around the rules and requirements or flat out dismiss them in order to do what is in their nature to do – sin.
According to what Paul said in Romans 7, the reason God gave the law was so that people would understand the reality of sin. The problem with trying to deal with the sin nature through the law is that eventually, no matter how hard you try, you do what it is in your nature to do – sin. No amount of rules or requirements or regulations can stop that from occurring. It may take more time for some than others, but it will eventually happen. For example, this is why God instituted the tithe, requiring the Israelites to give back 10% to Him. He knew that, in their sin nature, they were not generous people, so it had to be mandated. But how well did that work out? People eventually worked around it or completely ignored it when convenient.
But when a person’s old sin nature is killed through being crucified with Christ when s/he believes, s/he receives a new nature, that of Christ and it is a nature which is lived out through the perfect faith of Christ. And when the nature is changed, there is no longer a need for rules or laws over that nature to give direction or mandates, hence, why Paul says, “over such things there is no law.” So, in the example of the tithe, in the New Testament, there is no mention of it being required of the believer. Why is that the case? Because it isn’t necessary because the believer is generous by nature because being generous is in God’s nature. Therefore, there is no need for a law/rule, like that of the tithe, to require and mandate generosity by the believer.
And just like those who came in after Paul and were teaching a “gospel” mixed with religion with laws and rules which convinced many of the believers in Galatia that they were still in need of those laws and rules because of an old nature, it has been far too common within the church that “sin management” and “behavior modification” have been the focus. The focus is on following rules and requirements.
For those whose nature has been changed, these are those who are followers of Christ, there is no need for these rules and requirements, for there is no law over the character and nature of Christ. No law or rule exists that can legitimately make a requirement of or mandate a certain action by that nature. What the church has reinforced through emphasizing “sin management” and “behavior modification” is that a Christ-follower’s nature hasn’t truly changed and, therefore, must be dealt with accordingly. What the church MUST be doing is teaching those followers what it means to have that new nature. It must be emphasizing that true identity and nature.
It must continually remind people of who they are truly. It must continually tell people, “This is who you are,” for when people become convinced that they do indeed have a new nature, that is the nature from which they naturally live.
And when people are convinced that they do indeed have a new nature, that of Christ, as their one and only true nature, there are no need for laws or rules to govern them.