Year 3 Day 58
Read - Galatians 5
Message - Scott Woodburn
The message of Galatians could be summed up by the opening verse of chapter five "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." It was true in Paul's day and it remains true in ours. To seek to add anything to our salvation is to submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Paul stressed the seriousness of the issue. If the Galatians were to accept circumcision as necessary for a right standing with God then Christ would be of no advantage to them. Either Jesus is the entire ground for our hope or He is not. If circumcision was necessary for salvation then the Galatians would be obligated to keep the whole law (v3). In effect the Galatians would be cutting off their foreskins and cutting themselves off from Christ (v4). This image might jolt you but I make no apology. This is Paul's argument - if you think that salvation is Jesus plus something else then you have fallen away from grace (v4).
The hope of righteousness is that we have been declared righteous by God Himself. As we have believed the Gospel, Christ's righteousness has been credited to our account. Our works add nothing to this and our sinful works will not cause us to lose our salvation. In Jesus it doesn't matter if you are circumcised or not, what matters is faith in Christ and the outworking of that faith which is love (v6).
The Galatians had accepted Paul's teaching but had been pushed off course by the falsehoods of the group called the "Judaisers" (v7-9). Yet Paul was confident that the Galatians would take his view on the issue and the false teachers would meet with God's punishment. Paul faced persecution because of his defence of the cross. The message of the cross is offensive - guilty sinners cannot do anything for themselves and therefore need another to take their place. Christ is the One we are looking for and by His stripes we are healed.
Paul wished that anyone not proclaiming the true Gospel would emasculate themselves (v12) - this is another brutal image but one which shows the seriousness of the debate. We must get the Gospel right for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who would believe.
Some have criticised Paul's Gospel for being an open door to sinful living. Not so. Paul stressed that the Gospel brings freedom from a life of slavery to works based righteousness, but the Gospel of grace does not give an opportunity for works of the flesh (v13).
We have been saved not by works but by faith, yet we have been saved for good works. These works add nothing to our salvation but they are evidence of our salvation. Paul urged the Galatians to love one another instead of biting and devouring (v14-15). They were to walk by the Spirit and therefore would not gratify their sinful desires (v16).
It is vital that we heed Paul's message. We must understand the Gospel - it is all of grace and our works add nothing to the finished work of Christ. Additionally we must understand the Christian life - we are saved and called to a life of holiness. The works of the flesh are evident - sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (v20-21). All of these must be put aside and instead we are to cultivate the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
As we attend to the ordinary means of grace and as the Spirit works, He will produce in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (v22-23). This is the path of the Christian, this is walking by the Spirit (v25), this is our sanctification which flows from our justification.
Again the Gospel is entirely good news. A life slavishly tied to works based righteousness leads only to death. But a life transformed by the Gospel is transformed indeed. As Paul would tell the Romans "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8v30-31) Amen!
Q58 What is required in the fourth commandment? The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.