In our study through the NT, Part 21. Part 14 in our discussion of Galatians.
Like the Galatian believers, we are no longer in bondage. “We are not children of the slave, but of the free woman“ (Galatians 4:31 ESV). Because of this, Paul now urges “For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 ESV).
The bondage of the Law, of keeping the rules and regulations that governed the yearly calendar, of sorting out what food could be eaten and what was unclean and was to be shunned, what new moon should be observed and when, etc. — all of that is now past.
Cornelius and Peter were the ones to whom God made clear that the food regulations and Jewish separation from Gentiles were no longer required. We are now free from sin and also from oppressive dictates!
Because we have this freedom in Christ, we are to “stand firm” in it, “figuratively meaning to stand firm in faith and duty, to be constant, to persevere.”1.
To get this point across, Paul admonishes his Galatian readers yet again:
“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified[counted righteous, ESV footnote] by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:2-6 ESV).
To be cut off from Christ because one attempts to gain salvation through the rigid adherence to the Law is similar to the actions of the Pharisees. Rather than being counted as righteous, these actually have fallen from grace.
They exhibited the signs of not actually being a true Christian at all, for a real believer knows that they cannot gain salvation through any effort of their own. Jesus Messiah did all of the work for us through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven.
The Spirit convicted our hearts, and we entrusted ourselves to Christ by faith, knowing that he would transform us and bring us safely home to be with him. This is something which we eagerly await.The Spirit convicted our hearts, and we entrusted ourselves to Christ by faith, knowing that he would transform us and bring us safely home to be with him. This is something which we eagerly await. #Faith #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
The “hope of righteousness” arrives in its entirety when our souls ascend to be with the Father, when we will no longer do battle with sin every single day — this we long for. We will see Christ face to face, welcomed into our rest.
Circumcision has nothing to do with this. It counts for nothing. It does not gain God’s favor. Nope. Its day is past. “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6b ESV).
Real faith is not merely an intellectual undertaking. Yes, solid theology is necessary, but our faith is not fulfilled and brought to fruition merely through study. The true condition of our faith shows most clearly in how it produces love within us that results in loving outward action, kindness, tenderness, and sacrifice.The true condition of our faith shows most clearly in how it produces love within us that results in loving outward action, kindness, tenderness, and sacrifice. Do we see this in our lives? #Faith #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
Do we see this in our lives? Do we see ourselves responding as Christ would have responded? Do we see ourselves caring for the sick, the poor, the needy, and the imprisoned?
Jesus himself made this crystal clear. These words spoken by Jesus are deadly serious, some of the most significant words in the New Testament, for by this measure the Lord determines whether or not we are truly his people.
If we are truly believers, we will desire to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the one in great need, the sick, and the imprisoned.
“‘For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life“ (Matthew 25:42-46 ESV).
These actions show whether we are truly saved, and these actions determine whether or not we enter into eternal life, for they reveal the true condition of our heart and our affection for Christ. Jesus Messiah did all of the work on the cross for us to be forgiven, to be his own people, to be transformed into his image. And if we are thus transformed, that passages details how we now behave. This isn’t a checklist to work our way through as a legalistic labor to get into heaven.
No, these are the things we will be doing if we truly love Jesus and have been changed by him. Are we acting thus? Are we truly his?
If we are, then faith is working through love, and we are truly free.
But in Galatia, this wasn’t happening. Rather, they were being harrassed by Judaizers — Jewish men who insisted that the Old Testament Law needed to be adhered to even though they claimed to be believers. Paul used an everyday action, the making of bread, to get his point across.
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers,[and sisters] still preach[proclaim] circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:7-12 ESV).
When we make bread, we know that a little spoonful of yeast works into the dough, leavening the entire bunch, thus giving us bread that rises. The tiny bit “infects” the entirely lump of dough.
So too it is with the niggling insistence of the Judaizers, the constant statements about failing to keep this or that law pertaining to what may or may not be eaten, what holiday must be observed, what uncleanness must be avoided. Eventually, the leaven of the Pharisees infiltrates (leavens) the entire church.
Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” — the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:11b-12 ESV).
The Pharisees taught rigid adherence to the Law, and now the Judaizers were doing the same. Some of these new converts to Christianity may have been Pharisees before their salvation. The question here is: Can one truly be saved and yet still rely on their works, on rigid adherence to the Law?
The answer is, clearly, no. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith.Can one truly be saved and yet still rely on their works, on rigid adherence to the Law. The answer is, clearly, no. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith. #Salvation #Faith #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
Therefore, Paul writes: “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:5-6 ESV).
“If Paul was still preaching that people had to be circumcised, then the offense of the cross would be removed because human pride in human effort would return. In other words, there would be ‘offense’ to humble us by declaring that no work of ours can make us righteous before God” (ESV Study Bible, Note on Galatians 5:6).
We must be humbled to receive Christ, for we must recognize ourselves as sinners in need of repentance. To turn around and go the other way (the meaning of “repentance”) — asking forgiveness for all our wrongs and casting our eternity upon Christ (for we can in no way gain it) — this is the heart change that must occur.We must be humbled to receive Christ, for we must recognize ourselves as sinners in need of repentance. To turn around and go the other way (the meaning of "repentance') is the heart change that must occur. #Salvation #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
If we think that we can gain salvation through our own works, we are not saved. Paul recognizes that these ones who continue to press for adherence to the Law, though they appeared to have started well, are not true believers. They want to continue to gain their salvation through works.
In a statement of frustrated hyperbole, Paul wishes that those who are unsettling the true believers “would emasculate themselves,” an over-the-top metaphorical statement, implying that since they’re harming believers, he wishes they would separate themselves from the Christian community. They are not true believers and are trying to destroy the faith of those who are truly saved.
Think of your own church.
Do you see legalists causing havoc?
Do you see people seizing upon things like “the vaccine” or the “vaccination card” as the “mark of the beast” — the way one can lose their salvation, rather than being, in reality, a simple medical decision which you can choose or not?
Do you see people urging new believers to, as quickly as possible, fix this, quit that, stop doing this, or change that immediately?
These impositions of the Law may hinder new believers from ever learning to listen to and to rely upon the Holy Spirit, which is essential for our salvation and our growth in holiness and maturity.
Be patient. The Lord transforms us all in His own time and His own way. Acquaint them with God’s Word. Instruct them in how to discern the voice of the Lord. He will do all the heavy lifting.
- Definitions via Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.