Saving faith does not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God

by Mike Ratliff

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NASB) 

Martin Luther is considered the “Lighting rod of the Protestant Reformation.” It was through his battle with the Roman Catholic Church that the doctrine of salvation through Justification by Grace through Faith alone was recovered and from that, many Christian martyrs went to their deaths refusing to compromise their faith by denying the truth of knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified based not upon the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. So much of the pressure being brought to bear upon Christians in our time is to not be so precise in our theology, but be more willing to “compromise” along doctrinal grounds for the sake of “unity.” The “mega-church” model is based precisely upon never offending anyone, but being non-threatening and willing to be all things to all people in order to attract everyone, but to what?

Those of us who understand God’s Doctrine of Salvation to be centered upon his glory and based entirely within his sovereignty also understand that those in Christ are there because of God’s Sovereign election, his drawing us to Christ, regenerating us unto a living faith and then justifying us by his grace through that faith which is his gift to all those Christ bought with his blood at the Atonement at the Cross. We deserved nothing. We did nothing to earn this. We do nothing to deserve or keep it. However, according to Ephesians 2:10 we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Also, in Philippians 2:12 we are commanded to be obedient to all of Christ’s commands as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Then in Romans 12:1,2 we are commanded to be living sacrifices, to be living our lives in spiritual worship, to be transformed through the renewal of our minds. To many false teachers who twist scripture to keep their followers in bondage they take these passages and try to make them say that “works” are necessary to complete our salvation while ignoring the following passage.

10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10 (NASB) 

We were 100% justified at that moment when we believed the Gospel and turned to Christ as Lord and Saviour. That means that the Father imputed Christ’s Righteousness to our account along with his perfect keeping of the Law, which is his active obedience. That means we are not required to keep the Law to “earn” our salvation. Christ did all this for us. Remember, on the Cross, our sins, our unrighteousness, were both imputed to Christ and his death paid the penalty for us. He paid the penalty that we could never pay. Our Salvation, then, is our Justification, but it is also our Sanctification, and Glorification. It is God’s work, via the Holy Spirit, in us in this life until he takes us home. This is that part about us working out our own salvation with fear and trembling and being a living sacrifice and becoming transformed through the renewing of our minds.

11 Ἴδετε πηλίκοις ὑμῖν γράμμασιν ἔγραψα τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί. 12 Ὅσοι θέλουσιν εὐπροσωπῆσαι ἐν σαρκί, οὗτοι ἀναγκάζουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι, μόνον ἵνα τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Χριστοῦ μὴ διώκωνται. 13 οὐδὲ γὰρ οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι αὐτοὶ νόμον φυλάσσουσιν ἀλλὰ θέλουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι, ἵνα ἐν τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ σαρκὶ καυχήσωνται. 14 Ἐμοὶ δὲ μὴ γένοιτο καυχᾶσθαι εἰ μὴ ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, διʼ οὗ ἐμοὶ κόσμος ἐσταύρωται κἀγὼ κόσμῳ. 15 οὔτε γὰρ περιτομή τί ἐστιν οὔτε ἀκροβυστία ἀλλὰ καινὴ κτίσις. 16 καὶ ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχήσουσιν, εἰρήνη ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἔλεος καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ. Galatians 6:11-16 (NA28)

11 See with what large letter I wrote to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these compel you to be circumcised, simply so they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire you to be circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But to me, may it not be to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision is anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God. Galatians 6:11-16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was corrective. He was dealing with a heresy that was creeping into the Galatian churches in which Judiazers were teaching the people that salvation was not simply according to Justification by Grace through Faith alone as Paul had taught them, but the keeping the Law was also necessary and that began with circumcision. The Galatians were Greeks, that is, Gentiles. This Epistle deals specifically with the heresy of adding works to grace for salvation. By the time we get to chapter 6, Paul is winding down his arguments and we are in the closing section.

His statement in v11 should be taken that Paul is explaining the reason for the style of the “large lettering” was due to him writing the letter himself instead of dictating it to a scribe.

Notice also the pressure being brought to bear on the brethren in these churches to be circumcised. Why was it happening? It was motivated by religious pride and those doing it wanted to impress others with their external piety. The pressure to have everyone do it was to avoid persecution rather than to hold to correct doctrine. Does that sound familiar?  By adhering more to the Mosaic law than to the gospel of Jesus, they hoped to avoid social and financial ostracism from other Jews and maintain their protected status as Jews with the Roman Empire.

On the other hand, Paul makes it clear that for the Christian there is only one answer that is acceptable to this nonsense. All that pietistic stuff is of the flesh no matter what the motivation. We are to “boast” in nothing except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to us and us to the world. The word “boast” used here is an expression of praise, unlike the English word, which necessarily includes the aspect of pride. Christians are to glory and rejoice in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The world Paul talks about in v14 is the evil, satanic system. This world is spiritually dead to real believers, and they are dead to it.

As I translated v14 I was reminded of Matthew 16:24-26.

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)

Soli Deo Gloria!

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