Grace to you Beloved in the Name of Christ. He is our Lord. He is our Savior. He is on His throne even now. He is ruling and reigning. I know that as we look at the world and even at the church sometimes it does not appear as if He is ruling. But He is. The Bible says He is. Read Psalms 2 and 110. All is well with our souls. He is coming back soon for us.
Well today we are continuing with our sermon series in the book of Galatians. Today is sermon number twenty. I believe that we have put up almost all of our sermons with my notes on our website. Maybe there are two or three sermons we have missed. But today we are looking at Galatians 5:1-12. With your Bible open and your heart open please read along with me as I read God’s holy Word. Read.
Galatians 5:1. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. 7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.
As always, we must ask the One that inspired this word to help us reading it, hearing it, preaching it, and obeying it. Let’s pray.
Today the apostle Paul is inspired by God to give us a series of exhortations to be faithful to Jesus and to the true Gospel of the Cross. This is part of His exhortations to fight against the legalists. In brief, those that believe in the Shepherd are told to follow the Shepherd.
Fight the good fight.
Last week we spoke about the subject of spiritual warfare from Galatians 4:28-30. The son of the slave woman, the unbeliever persecutes the son of the free woman, the Believer. And in view it is not specifically the unbeliever in the world that does the persecuting, and the unbelieving worldling does certainly hate and harm the lovers of Christ. As Christ says they will. He tells us clearly the world hated Him and therefore It will hate us who love Him. (Jn.15:18-27, Jn.16:33)
We are however called to overcome their evil with our good. (Rom.12:14-21, Lk.6:20-38) And actually we are to overcome their hate with the love of Christ shed abroad in us. (Ga.2:20)
But the unbelieving persecutor in view is the legalist within the church. These are the Ishmael’s among the Isaacs, the tares among the wheat, and the goats among the Lambs of Christ. (Mt.13:24-30) Beloved, until we go home to heaven the church on earth will always be a mixed multitude. (Exod.12:38-40) And this does not matter which denomination or non-denomination you are in. (Rev.2, 3) All visible churches are subject to this. Christ chose Judas to prove this. (Jn.17:12, Jn.6:70)
Faith is the sovereign gift of God. And not all within the visible church have it. True saving faith is precious because it is rare – numerically speaking. (2 Thess.3:2, Mt.7:13-14)
Think of the time of Christ. It was the visible household of faith that put Him to death. It was the Pharisees and Sadducees that hated Christ and sought His death. (Mt.12:14, Jn.11:45-57) It was unbelieving church leaders that got the unbelieving worldling to do their dirty work. Christ came to His own and His own knew Him not. They wanted a legal-self salvation and not salvation in the blood of the Lamb. (Rom.9:30-33, 10:1-4)
Remember these legalists were at the Jerusalem church council. They were professing Believers in Jesus that came from the Pharisee party. (Acts 15:1-5) They added certain ceremonial laws and moral laws to belief in Jesus as the grounds of their salvation.
So, the Holy Spirit has inspired the apostle Paul to take one whole book of the Bible to condemn their gospel-denying heresy. And to warn Believers against following after these disguised servants of the devil. (2 Cor.11:14) In this way, part of our spiritual battle is as true Christians against false Christians. As sad as that sounds. That is the reality of the book of Galatians.
And that is the really frightening truth behind this spiritual warfare. The false teachers that teach their false gospel that often look so good and sound so right in reality they are deceived by the devil. And they are unwitting servants of the Evil One against the Holy One and His people.
And you remember Paul said to the Believers, “and what does the Scripture say?” The answer was cast away the son of the bond woman. (Gal.4:20) The idea is God tells those that Believe in the true Gospel of the Cross or the Gospel of justification by faith alone is that they must separate from these legalists. We are not to keep company with those that corrupt the Gospel. (I Cor.15:33, 2 Cor.6:14-18)
So Beloved, the Bible says to mark them, to identify them, and then stay away from them. (Rom.16:17-18)
I know this may sound a bit extreme or perhaps even a bit unloving. Is it love to your own soul or to the souls of those that you love to put them in eternal jeopardy putting them under the influence of a false gospel? Clearly no. Plus, God tells us to separate from them. The best course is always obedience to the clear commands of the Lord. (Dt.13:1-11)
Contending for the true gospel against those that promote a false gospel is part of what the apostle Paul calls “fighting the good fight of faith.” (I Tim.6:12, 2 Tim.4:6-16, Eph 6:12)
This is how Jude puts this.
Jude 1:3. Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Remember the liberties that you have in Christ.
A great bit of this warfare occurs in our mind. (Rom.12:1-2) The fight is over what we believe, what we believe about Christ, His gospel, God’s law, and man’s nature. Paul opens with a statement that is meant to strengthen the faith of his audience. God the Holy Spirit wants these spiritually battered and duped Believers to remember the freedoms that Christ as received in the real Gospel procures for them.
Galatians 5:1. It was for freedom that Christ set us free.
The first way that we fight against the siren call of the world, the flesh and the devil, and especially against the legalist call to merit our own salvation is we look to Jesus Christ by faith. Legalism is a look to self. Faith is a look to Christ.
And this is a belief in Christ as He is revealed to us in the Scriptures alone. Looking upon Christ upon His Cross and now upon His throne will humble us and make us ashamed that we ever thought to merit anything. And then, like Paul, to only glory in the Cross. (Gal.6:14, I Cor.2:2)
Paul here says only Christ Jesus is our great liberator.
And the Father sent His Son into the world to set the captives free. (Isa. 61:1-3)
It was for freedom that Christ freed us. (Jn.8:31-36)
I know that sounds a bit evident. But Paul is trying to stress the fact that Christ did not set us free only so that we would turn again and put ourselves into bondage. Because that is what the Galatians did. They willingly submitted to the false teachers. Yes, they were tricked. But it was their duty to test every spirit. They should have been so informed of the gospel in Scripture that they would have resisted the legalist right away.
Freedom from. What is interesting in Paul referring to the freedoms in Christ we have regarding combating these law-is-the-gospel men is the very first liberty Christ procures for us is liberty from the broken law of God. The law does not save. (Rom.8:3-13, 3:20) The gospel saves. The gospel saves us from the law. (Gal.3:21-26)
Christ assuages the wrath of God and satisfies the justice of God for our lawbreaking by His atoning death on the Cross. Christ satisfies all the precepts of the Law by His own doing for us. Christ satisfies for us. We are freed from the demands and the penalties of the Law, as a covenant of works. (WCF 20.1)
Legalism is like trying to pay for what Christ has already paid. And it is more foolish than that. Legalism is like paying with manure what Christ pays with His spotless precious blood. (Isa.64:4) The Law no longer can condemn the true Believer anymore because It has condemned our Representative. The Husband has made satisfaction for His Bride. (Rom.7:1-3, Eph.5:23-27, Acts 20:28) We are free Beloved! Our Husband has taken our curse.
Remember what Paul said earlier.
Galatians 3:13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE “– 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Dt.21:23)
Also, as regards to the law-is-the-gospel men that teach that keeping the ceremonial law is also required for your salvation. Christ again has set us free from this. Christ Himself is the fulfillment of the ceremonial law. The priesthood, the sacrifices, the tabernacle, the temple, all the religious furniture, and days, including circumcision all pointed forward to the person and the work of Jesus Christ. He has come.
All of that shadowy typological ceremonial law is thus abrogated in Christ. (WCF 7.5-6, 19.3, 20.1) Let me say that another way. As NT Believers in Jesus there is no more ceremonial law. We are free from the OT ceremonial law. Remember, Christ foreshadowed this when He declared all foods clean. (Mk.7:19) The ceremonies are over. Christ the Substance has come.
To try to merit salvation by the ceremonial law, including circumcision is like trying to benefit from the umbilical cord after the baby has been born. It is useless. Worse than useless. It is bondage.
Freedom for. Jesus by His doing has purchased your freedom so that you are fully restored to God. In Jesus you have full and free access to the throne of God. None of our doing. All of His doing. We are free to serve God with a childlike love. The law-is-the-gospel men make the love of God contingent on our obedience. Oh beloved, how sad. God does not love you because you obey. God loves you because He sees you in Christ and He loves His Son and all those in His Son. And so we love Him.
Stand firm in the truth of Christ.
The next thing that the apostle Paul tells us to fight against the false gospel of legalism is to stand firm in the truth of the Gospel. (Eph.6:11-13, I Pt.5:9, I Cor.15:58, Phil.1:27, I Cor.16:13, Phil.4:1, Mt.24:13, Jas.5:8)
Galatians 5:1. therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Paul is using this term, standing firm, in a military way. Remember we are talking about spiritual warfare. The idea is to stand and fight. Do not back down. Do not give in. Do not run. Stand firm for the Gospel of Christ. Stand firm against every so-called gospel that includes the works of man for salvation. Do not fall for the lie. Do not fall asleep on duty. Danger is afoot. (I Pt.5:8-9)
You can imagine a military commander running up and down the line of his men as the enemy approaches and he is yelling for them to hold the line! Brace yourself. Fight like men! This is a call to be strong and be courageous as we have seen God tell Joshua. (Josh.1:9, Isa.12:2, Dt.31:6, 2 Tim.1:7, I Chron.22:13, Rom.8:31-39, Mt.10:16-20)
You have heard it said, getting old is not for lightweights. Or that being a parent is not for the fainthearted. And other similar statements. Meaning so many things we face in life are hard, really hard and you need courage, resolve, sweat, blood, and tears. Well, like that being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ in an anti-Christ world is not for the fainthearted. It is a fight.
And we have to arm our thoughts, guard our affections, and command our wills to be brave in Christ. Live on God in the Bible daily. Daily be refreshed by God in prayer. To fear God more than we fear Man. To fear sin more than we fear pain. To have the courage to speak the truth of Christ Crucified, Christ alone in love. And to resolve if we lose family and friends because of obeying Christ then this is His will. We have to resolve even if our name, our honor, our wealth, our health is slain, still we will serve the Lord. (Job 13:15-18, 2 Tim.2:3-5)
Christ has set us free by His blood. And we fight for freedom in Him. And we fight against spiritual slavery. If people came to you and tried to capture you to be their slave, would you resist? How hard would you fight not to be taken into slavery? Tooth and nail. To the death. Beloved, that is what Paul is talking about.
Let me give you one account of two men that stood firm for the truth of the gospel of Christ and His Cross alone apart from any of our good works.
On October 16, 1555, after spending eighteen months in a tower cell, Bishop Hugh Latimer and Bishop Nicholas Ridley were tied to a stake in Oxford England. The Roman Catholic Church condemned them to die by fire for the crimes of wanting a Bible in English so the people could know the gospel of salvation and for the crimes of teaching that only Christ merited our salvation and not us – faith alone in Christ alone.
Ridley said to Latimer, “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it”. As the fire burned, Latimer said to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” (2 Sam.10:12, Polycarp’s martyrdom)
Do not trust in human works.
V.2-12. Now see that the apostle moves to one of the keys points of the legalists and that was to be circumcised in order to be saved. (Acts 15:1-5) Paul uses the word circumcision five times in these twelve verses. And then on V.12 he uses a play on words that goes beyond circumcision – mutilation, it means to cut off. (imprecatory statement)
Let me say something about Paul admonition to not receive circumcision. He is not talking about circumcision for health or physical reasons. I would argue that almost all of the circumcision that is practiced in our country today is of the health kind and not of the religious kind. I would argue the Bible has nothing to say on the non-religious kind of circumcision in the NT epoch. It would be a matter of individual liberty. I believe this is what Paul is getting at in V.6. Non-religious non-meritorious things are a matter of indifference.
Paul is writing against submitting to this physical rite for religious reasons, believing that the rite itself is necessary to be saved of our sins and to go to heaven. This is a gospel denying heresy. This is another gospel for which God through Paul pronounces eternal curses – anathema. (Gal.1:6-9)
Galatians 5:2. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Now circumcision is what Paul rails against, but this is just representative of trusting in any and all religious rites or religious works of man. (Col.2:9-23)
So, if someone said water baptism is necessary to be saved. Paul says, you have been severed from Christ. Meaning severed from Christ alone the only One that merits our salvation. You see by adding anything of ours to Christ we lose Christ.
One man put it this way. Paul’s meaning is simple. If the law is the cause of justification, then Christ cannot be its cause. But if Christ is the cause of our justification, then the law cannot be.
Beloved, false Christians try to get you to trust in man in so many ways. And many of the ways sound so plausible. This is the Galatian problem. And it is still with us to this day.
This is why Paul criticized the Galatians in chapter four for submitting to a religious calendar or holy days. Days don’t make you holy to God. You are not more or less acceptable to God if you eat meat or don’t eat meat! (Gal.2:2, 3:4, 4:11) Charles Spurgeon says here Paul lays the axe at the root of all ritualism.
Legalists will say this, Christ died for the church. Therefore, you have to be a member of the church to be saved. No. The Body does not save. The Head saves. Should you join a local church? Yes. Does the church save? No.
Beware of that gospel denying heresy. It is not only Roman Catholics that say this, many quasi-Protestants do as well.
Beware of men that tell you the church saves. Run from them. Resist them. Do not put your trust in Man or a collection of men or any church. Put your trust only in Jesus.
Now I want you to see something from V.3 that Paul says. And this to my mind ought to end all discussion with law-is-the-gospel men. God says, if you want to try to earn your salvation by your law keeping and not by Christ’s law keeping then you need to do what Jesus did. Keep the whole law!
Keep the whole law perfectly inwardly and outwardly! The end. Or, it should be the end. And this is the really sad part. The false teachers do not give up so easy. In fact, the unconverted flesh never gives up trying to earn its own righteousness before God. So, they regroup and then they twist and turn Scripture here and there and presto-change-o they come up with their trick reason why God does not demand perfect obedience to the law as you try to save yourself by the law.
I am going to borrow something from J.C. Ryle, he said that we ought to value and live upon the very many clear and simple passages of Scripture. The Bible clearly says, if you try to save yourself by law keeping then you have to keep it perfectly. That’s it. And then separate. Remember you are in a spiritual war. Remember the sons of the free woman are supposed to “cast out” the sons of the slave woman.
And falling from grace is not losing grace. Falling from grace is denying the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. The same is true of being separated from Christ. This isn’t losing Christ. This is denying Christ.
Again and again, Paul is saying, God is saying, you cannot-cannot join the law to the gospel. The law is your work. The gospel is God’s gift. The gospel is Christ’s work given to us. (Eph.2:1-9) Grace and works as regards to salvation are polar opposites.
Walk by faith in Christ who is your righteousness.
Next I want us to consider from our passage this morning as regards to our spiritual warfare is what Paul tells us in V.5-7.
Galatians 5:5. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. 7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
Believe in Christ. And Believe in Christ some more.
You see this is what I would call the positive part of Paul’s admonitions. Heretofore he has put us on our guard against various forms of sin. And since the Holy Spirit inspired this, of course this is true and correct.
But if all we did was watch for our enemies, we would soon lose heart. When we focus too much on our sins or our failures and our enemies, we soon start to feed our fears, which in turn can have a tendency to depress us and overwhelm us.
We need to counterbalance those things with plenty of looks to Jesus Christ. And I know this may appear a little silly. After all we are all professing Christians. Don’t we all think about Jesus? Yes and no.
I would argue that we do not think about Him enough. If the Galatians did they would never have let the legalists get a foothold in the churches.
Now V.5 tells us where this saving faith in Jesus Christ came from – through the Spirit. Beloved here is something else to help us in our spiritual battles. The Holy Spirit has given you a new heart. The third Person of the Godhead has given you the gift of faith in Jesus as He is proclaimed to you in the (real) Gospel, joining you to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit resides with in you. Now joined to the Triune God you are a spiritual man or a spiritual woman – by grace, by God’s gift in Christ. Oh remember the Trinity. Oh remember the Holy Spirit your indwelling Counselor and Pledge.
Imagine if we daily reminded ourselves of these gospel truths:
I Corinthians 15:1. Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
I Timothy 1:15. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (Eph.1:1-10, Jn.3:16)
2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (Rom.5:1-10)
Luther says this, faith makes people spiritual but works make them carnal.
And you see by the Spirit-gift of faith in Jesus we then hope in Christ as all our righteousness. This is it beloved. The legalists says hope in your own righteousness. Oh no! Of ourselves we have no righteousness. The true Christian only hopes in the righteousness of the spotless Lamb of God.
And though we are righteous in Jesus Christ right now we still have to wait for that day when He will come back and we will be openly acknowledged and acquitted before Him. (WLC 90, WSC 38) Come Ye who are blessed of My Father. Come Ye dressed in My righteousness.
Busy yourselves in doing good to others for love’s sake.
V.6. Now in our waiting we are not to be slothful, but we are to be busy about our Master’s business. (Mt.25:14-46)
Faith worketh by love. This is James. Saving faith produces good works. (Jas.2:12-26) Live a life filled with gratitude. Gratefulness quenches the fires of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The notion is one of the best ways to fight the good fight of faith is love God and to love Man with words and deeds. Let’s fill our heart and mind with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let’s own that Jesus has set us free – for freedom. To use our freedom for holy ends, for God’s glory. Oh there is so much work to do in His kingdom. And I do not specifically mean, run out and become a preacher. No. Not many should be quick to be teachers. But I mean there is a Bible to be read, prayers to be said, a gospel to be shared, sins to be mortified, kind words to be said, good deeds to be done.
Beloved, the devil makes quick work of idle saints. The devil is a bitter spirit. He hates it when you love. Whereas God is love. Love God. Love Christ. Love the Gospel. Love Man. Christ has set you fee.