The Search for Holiness
Dec 07, 2007
Paul's letter to the Galatians has often been misunderstood as an argument against the law itself. It is, in fact, an argument against those who teach that the law is capable of perfecting men, if we will just be diligent enough to fulfill all of its requirements.
The problem is not with the law itself, but with the idea that man is capable of perfecting himself by his own diligence. The law sets the standard of righteousness, and man says, "God would not tell us to do something that we were incapable of doing. Therefore, we must be capable of perfection."
To those who are less carnally minded and more "spiritual," the argument may go more like this: "God has given us the Holy Spirit, which now makes us capable of achieving perfection. Therefore, if anyone falls short of perfection, it is his own fault, and he should be more diligent in his search for holiness."
First, would God tell us to do something that we were incapable of doing? Well, the first fact to recognize is that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Its twin sister is, "There is none righteous, not even one" (Rom. 3:10). But these verses do not tell us if, having sinned in the past, we may now achieve perfection and never sin again.
If we go back to Israel's example under Moses, we find that God gave them the law beginning in Exodus 20, telling them what they must do to achieve perfection. Their problem was not that God gave them an unrighteous law, but that it was so righteous that they were incapable of achieving it in their fallen (mortal) condition. Romans 5:12 tells us (properly translated), ". . . and so death passed into all mankind, on which all sin."
In other words, since death resides in our flesh, making us mortal, it is impossible to beat that mortal flesh into submission and force it to do all things pleasing to God. Paul ran across that problem, as he discussed in Romans 7. He finally had to conclude in verse 18, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh."
But did Paul blame the law for his problem? Not at all, for he said in verse 16, "But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good."
God might have lowered the righteous standard of the law to accommodate our flesh and make it possible for the flesh to achieve its standard--but that is not how God did it. The law was an expression of His character and hence could not be anything but fully righteous. The problem lies in us, not in the law.
More than that, forty years after the law was first given, Moses tells the people, "Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear" (Deut. 29:4). In order for any man to achieve perfection, God has to take the initiative and give us a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear. No man can do this for himself, for God told Moses in Ex. 4:11,
"And the Lord said to him, Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?"
We conclude, then, that while the divine law is good, man is incapable of achieving its righteous standard apart from God doing something. In fact, this is the purpose of the Holy Spirit, who is sent to TEACH us all things (John 14:26). God is always speaking (Psalm 19:4), but TEACHING is only possible when God opens men's hearts, eyes, and ears to hear and understand.
I have learned over the years to stop talking unless I see that God has opened someone's ears to hear. I have prayed that God would keep people AWAY unless they had ears to hear. God has answered that prayer, for men have stayed away in droves.
How, then, is man perfected? First, God has sent the Holy Spirit to do this work, and apart from the Holy Spirit, it cannot be accomplished. Second, Pentecost has given us the earnest of the Spirit--not the fullness of the Spirit. One cannot be perfected by a mere earnest (downpayment, 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). Therefore, Pentecost has begun the process, but only the feast of Tabernacles can complete this task.
Until the feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled on a historic level (as was Passover and Pentecost), perfection will not be achievable. Passover put us on the path toward righteousness, even as Israel began its journey on that day to the Promised Land.
Pentecost is the revelation of the law and the time of training in the wilderness, as we see in the example of Israel under Moses. Pentecost reveals to us the righteousness of God and the inability of man to achieve perfection. This time is meant to bring us humility, rather than pride in our righteousness. It is designed to cause us to cry out to God for MERCY, rather than to make more SACRIFICE.
Those who use Pentecost to achieve arrogance and self-righteousness will not be rewarded when the time of Tabernacles is fully come, for such people miss the main lesson of Pentecost.
But Passover and Pentecost serve another great purpose. Passover begets Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is the seed of faith implanted in the womb of your soul that engenders that New Creation Man. This inner man has a heavenly Father (God) and an earthly mother (you). Like Jesus Himself, this inner man is destined to have authority in both heaven and in earth, because it is a part of both realms.
That inner man is perfect. If I sin, it is my flesh that is sinning--not the inner man (Rom. 7:17, 20). My inner man is as incapable of sin as Jesus Christ was. We read in 1 John 3:9 (literal translation),
"Whatever is begotten of God does not commit sin; for His seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God."
Your inner man is a God-Man, like Jesus Himself. In fact, it is the BODY of Christ. Your inner man is not merely God in you, but it is also the REAL YOU. It is what YOU are becoming. That man is perfect already. It needs no lessons in righteousness. Those lessons are reserved for the fleshly man housing this spiritual man. The law cannot perfect this outer, fleshly man, and it does not need to perfect the spiritual man indwelling us.
As your Christ-embryo matures by the feeding of the Word, you become capable of being sustained outside of the womb. Then will this inner man, begotten of God, come to full birth at the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles. Those who are ready and mature will inherit the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4-6). Those who lived and died without being ready will inherit life in the general resurrection, I believe, a thousand years later. They will be given their rewards at the same time that the unbelievers are judged (Luke 12:45, 46 and John 5:28, 29).
With this in mind, we may properly understand the book of Galatians. Paul says in Gal. 3:3,
"Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Christians in his day were thinking that because they had been given the Holy Spirit, their flesh was now capable of being perfect. That is, they thought that their flesh had been given the ability to conform to all the righteous standards of the law. It only needs proper discipline by the law. They did not understand that the flesh will NEVER be perfected, for it has been condemned to death. Only that inner man, begotten of God by the Holy Spirit, is perfect and will never be otherwise.
The law provides us with a prophetic description of the character of Jesus Christ and of Christ in you. It does not steal, murder, or commit adultery. It also serves to restrain the flesh man from doing these things.
Dr. Stephen Jones