by Mike Ratliff
30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. 31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:30-32 NASB)
Those who like to portray our Lord Jesus Christ as just a bundle of love who would never do or say anything to any that could possible cause offense obviously have never studied what he actually said in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In our Lord’s parable of the soils (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15) he gives us a contrast between genuine believers and those who only appear to be and others who obviously are not. I posted on this several years ago here. The point is that just are there are very religious people who have done religious works and may even appear to be “christian” to some, our Lord says that the criterion to be one of his is not by one’s own choice, but by first being chosen by God, prepared by God, then having the Good News sown into the soil of the heart by him. As our Lord said in John 8:30-32 (above), those who are truly his are those who not only hear his Word, but continue in it. They are truly his disciples and they will know the truth and the truth will make them free.
I was listening to an episode of Dr. James White’s Dividing Line from July 3rd this morning. In it, he played part of a presentation that took place at the University of Indiana in which Doug Wilson was basically heckled as he attempted to present what God’s Word said about Homosexuality to people who were rude and obviously not really interested in listening to what he had to say only in trying to silence him. The ugliest thing that happened in that encounter was a professor at UI who claimed to be a member of a church in that city that he described as an “affirming church.” He brought his 14 year old daughter there to ask Doug a question. She rebuked him first for claiming that he represented the “view” of all Christians and then asked him to explain how he could possibly hold to such a narrow view when so many other “christians,” like her and her father, disagreed with him.
While that was very chilling and quite disappointing as the crowd almost got out of control as they heckled Doug even more and applauded that little bit of ultra-ignorance as if it was wisdom, it was also quite educating and it was as if God was using it to show those of us who actually do see that we have got to stop playing games with Churchianity. Just because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean that he or she is. Back in 2006 when I wrote that post on the Parable of the Soils, I took a lot of heat from many people across the Internet who took exception. Since that time, I have had run-ins with many who took offense with my literal interpretation of Sacred Scripture to point out that such and such a person who was a very popular so-called Christian leader was teaching things that showed that he was apostate. Their point was that we shouldn’t use our discernment that way. I think things have changed a bit since then.
Today we will look at Galatians 5:1-6, which speaks of the liberty we have in Christ followed by a description of professing Christians falling into legalism, what that means, and why genuine Christians do not do that.
1 For this freedom Christ freed us, therefore, stand fast and be not held again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man being circumcised that he is a debtor to do the whole Law. 4 You were estranged from Christ whoever is being justified by law; you fell from grace. 5 For we by the Spirit eagerly await the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision is of any force nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:1-6 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
This freedom is deliverance from the curse that the law pronounces on the sinner who has been striving unsuccessfully to achieve his own righteousness and those who have this freedom are those who have now embraced Christ and the salvation granted to him or her by grace. Paul commands those who received this wonderful gift of salvation to stand fast, that is, to stay where they are because of the benefit of being free from law and the flesh as a way of salvation and the fullness of blessing by grace. Paul tells the Galatian Christians that to submit to the Judiazers is equivalent to being held by a yoke of slavery.
In v2 Paul clearly shows us that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone as God’s gift alone not by works, which is what being circumcised is. Therefore, those who “add works to their faith” are not trusting in the atoning sacrifice of Christ alone, but in law and ceremony for salvation, which is worthless. In v3 we see that God’s standard is perfect righteousness and since no one can keep the whole law, those who try to keep it are doomed and those who attempt to add works to grace are not trusting by faith so they are simply religious in their flesh in the midst of their works righteousness.
The Greek Paul used in v4 that I translated as “estranged” means “to be separated” or “to be estranged.” The word I translated as “fell” means “to lose one’s grasp on something.” Paul is clearly telling the Church that any attempt to be justified by the law is to reject salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Those once exposed to the gracious truth of the gospel, who then turn their backs on Christ (Hebrews 6:4-6) and seek to be justified by the law are separated from Christ and lose all prospect of God’s gracious salvation. Their desertion of Christ and the gospel only proves that their faith was never genuine (Luke 8:13, 14; 1 John 2:19).
Genuine Christians already have been justified and so already possess the imputed righteousness of Christ, but they still await (v5) the completed and perfected righteousness that is yet to come at glorification (Romans 8:18, 21).
In v6 Paul makes it clear that works of the flesh, even if religious, make no difference in one’s relationship to God. What is external is immaterial and worthless, unless it reflects genuine internal righteousness (Romans 2:25-29). Saving faith proves its genuine character by works of love. The person who lives by faith is internally motivated by love for God and Christ (Matthew 22:37-40), which supernaturally issues forth in reverent worship, genuine obedience, and self-sacrificing love for others.
The genuine Christian world-view will always be in conflict with the non-Christian world-view. In these dark times, a great deal of confusion is taking place because so much is in darkness that claims to be Christian, but is obviously not. We must use the light of God’s Word to see into this darkness to discern the way, therefore, stand fast my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!