Let us read together Galatians 5:1-6, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ,”
“You who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” We know that Paul had gone into the region of Galatia and he had preached the gospel; and the gospel is that salvation comes by faith alone apart from works.
No sinner can contribute anything to his or her salvation, it’s all a work of God. All the sinner does is reach out an empty hand to receive a gift by faith. The gospel of grace, the gospel of faith was the true gospel, and Paul said any other gospel is to be damned. Only the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ can save you. So Paul planted churches and they were flourishing.
These people had heard the gospel and believed it. They had been justified, declared righteous by God. And in addition to that, they had been transformed. They had a new nature, and the Holy Spirit lived in their hearts. So they were moving in the power of the Holy Spirit, until some Jews called Judiazers came from Jerusalem. They wanted these Gentiles to become Jewish ceremonially.
They were telling people that believing in Christ by faith alone was not sufficient for salvation. They had to come through Judaism, and that required that they accept circumcision and keeping of the Mosaic rituals, ceremonies and ordinances. This was not about the internal moral law, but the external laws that separated Israel from all these surrounding nations.
So they were preaching essentially salvation by faith and works, and saying that unless you acknowledge these works and do these things, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. This is an all-out attack on the gospel of grace and faith. And Paul states again that salvation is by faith alone apart from works. In the first two chapters he gave a historical argument from his own personal experience.
Paul lived his whole life in the works system of Judaism; and only when he turned from that to faith was he justified and transformed. Galatians 3 and 4, are a testimony, where he defends justification by faith by going back to the Old Testament and a theological argument from the Word of God. Now in Galatians 5 and 6, he shows that justification is true as proven by the experience of believers.
There is a moral transformation. There’s a transformation on the inside that gives people new desires and a new love. Here is the evidence of justification by faith in the actual transformed lives of believers. They shouldn’t listen to these false teachers because they had already experienced the power of God. So in this section, because some of them were being led astray, Paul looks to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
And the reason is because the work of the Spirit is evidence of a justified soul. This then becomes a practical proof for the doctrine of justification by faith. The proof of which is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. Verse 1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free,” the implication is He set us free to stay free. “And do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
Christ lived a sinless life that has been imputed to you. Christ’s perfect life has been credited to you as if you lived it. You’re forgiven of all your sins, and His life is now in place of your life. The wrong view of an antinomian is, don’t worry about what you do. We’re free, we’re under grace. You don’t need to live under this burden of duty, responsibility and obedience. But that idea is opposite from what Scripture teaches.
Yes, for freedom Christ has set us free; but that does not mean we have no obligation to God to honor Him and obey His moral and spiritual commands. Our former life as Gentiles was under the slavery of sin; and we might not have known it, but under the slavery of the law of God, God’s moral law was in action, and based on that law we would all be damned.
So, we are freed from the burden of sin, freedom from relentless guilt, freedom from an accusing conscience, freedom from our transgressions, freedom from the pressure and frustration of trying to be free from “sin’s dominance.” But Titus 2:12 says, “For the grace of God is teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
When people are under the law, the law is instructing them externally to do something they are unable to do. Now the grace of God in the form of the Holy Spirit has moved inside of them and begins to instruct them to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. The grace of God is now the instructor, disciplining us and punishing us. In 2 Timothy 2:25 it’s translated as “correcting us.”
Hebrews 12:5 says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you’re reproved by Him.” So it’s discipline with reproof. Verse 6: “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” It’s discipline with scourging; that’s a kind of punishment. And all fathers discipline their children; and if you’re not disciplined, you’re not a legitimate child.
Hebrews 12:10 says, “We are disciplined for a short time, but disciplined for our good, so that we may share His holiness,” disciplined for the purpose of holiness. Verse 11 admits, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” It’s discipline for righteousness.
So freedom is not just deliverance from the oppression of legalism or the law or sin, it is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit so that you now can do the right thing. And since you have been transformed, you desire to do the right thing. And all of that sanctifying instruction and discipline and correction and punishment is going on internally by the Holy Spirit throughout your life.
Freedom then is now the ability to walk in the Spirit, to live in the Spirit, to see the fruit of the Spirit produced, to live with joy and gratitude, doing the will of God from the heart. Christ did it. How did He do it? Galatians 3: 13, “He was made a curse for us.” He did it by taking our place and receiving the divine curse that we deserved. By becoming a curse, He set us free. The price was that high.
Now there was a lot of effort by Jews who claim to be Christians. They wanted to affirm circumcision and keep all the regulations of the Mosaic Law. And there was so much conflict that they held a council meeting in Jerusalem. Acts 15:5, “They were of the sect of the Pharisees, and they stood up in that meeting in Jerusalem and said, ‘It’s necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Law of Moses.’”
Peter said in verse 10-11, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through grace, the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” Salvation is by grace through faith. They had been saved out of paganism, they didn’t need external Judaism.
Here is what happened. There are people in this Gentile congregation who on the surface have come to understand the gospel, and have to some degree accepted the truthfulness of it. But they are in danger of turning away, and heading in the direction of the rules of the law. Some of them already had. The false doctrine said you have to be circumcised before you can be saved.
So Paul says this, “You who are contemplating it, if you do this, here are the results. Verse 2, “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.” That is a stunning statement. That’s why it says, “Behold,” because it’s shocking. This is the real dilemma: it is Christ or works, it is all Christ or no Christ, it is all faith or no salvation.
There is no hybrid salvation. Romans 11:6, “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, or grace is no more grace.” But there’s so many people who profess Christ, claim Christ, acknowledge Christ, and think that their works contribute to their salvation. Faith and works cannot go together. You have to choose. If you add anything to Christ you lose Christ. Colossians 3:11, “Christ is all and in all.”
Many Jews are disqualified for this very reason. They actually came to believe some things about Christ. We read about them in Romans 9. Israel did not arrive at that law of righteousness. Because they didn’t pursue it by faith, but through works. Many Jews had some affirmation of Christ, but it was always Christ plus their religion, Christ plus circumcision, their Mosaic obedience, and so Christ was useless for them.
Secondly, Galatians 3:10, “As many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who doesn’t abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.’” And James 2:10, “Whoever shall keep the whole law and offend in one point is guilty of all.” Verse 3, “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.”
Verse 4, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” This is repeated in Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.”
But there is another effect. If you go the way of a hybrid religion, Christ has no benefit to you. You are a debtor to every part of the whole law. And you are fallen from grace. You are severed from Christ. If you try to invent a hybrid gospel, Christ profits you nothing. And finally, you are excluded from the righteousness that only Christ provides. The very thing you seek will never be yours.
Verse 5, “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Now Paul is speaking to believers, including himself. We have to wait for the hope of righteousness, because it’s a gift from God. It is through the Spirit, by faith, that we eagerly await the hoped for righteousness. We’re not trying to earn it, we’re waiting for it. And in our sanctification the Lord gives it to us as a grace gift.
Paul used the verb “waiting.” This is something God has to do for us and in us, and is doing it by His Holy Spirit. It comes only by waiting, in faith, on the work of the Holy Spirit. Conclusion, verse 6, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” That’s all that matters. The whole law is fulfilled by believing God and loving God.
It is all internal. It is faith working through love. Our hearts are literally drawn to God in trust; that’s what faith is. We live trusting God, and we live loving God, and as a result, loving those around us as well. It is a working faith. It is a living faith. It is a growing faith. It is a growing love. It is a multiplying love, as we wait and the Spirit in grace does His work in us.
I read about an artist who wanted to assemble his life masterpiece, and he worked on it for years and years, and it was some kind of combination of natural elements, stones and various things. And he brought them into his studio, and he kept on building and building, and adding and adding, until it reached the point where it was finished. And then he realized it was too big to get it out of the room.
And that is essentially what happens to people who try to earn their way to heaven; everything they have built isn’t going to get out of the room. Spend all your life trying to work your way to heaven, and that’s the one place you’ll never be. Christians wait in faith and love, walk in the Spirit, and let Him do the work. The grace of God has done everything that we need through Christ, and all we have to do is believe and follow Him.
But that is the intention in a day when so many so called Christians want to make anybody and any religion feel good, especially people who are in some aberrant form of Christianity. They are tolerating this hybrid notion that salvation is a matter of faith plus works. May there be no one who walks out of this room this evening believing that, having rendered Christ of no benefit.
We all come with empty hands to receive your gift of salvation. So that You, God will forever and ever receive all the glory. None of us can boast. You have done it all. By grace You have even given us the faith to believe. We just have to reach out and receive the gift. Father we are so grateful to have a God like you. Forgive us as often fall short in giving you all the glory. Let us pray.