Galatians--Part 22--True Freedom
Sep 01, 2010
Galatians 5:1 says,
(1) It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again in a yoke of slavery.
In other words, do not become part of the Hagar company. Identify with Sarah and consider the New Jerusalem to be your mother. Do not go back into so-called "Christian Judaism."
What is biblical freedom? Is it to be free from the Law? Is it to be free to violate any laws that a Christian finds disagreeable? No, it is to know the intent and mind of the Lawgiver and to be conformed to His mind. It is to follow the will of God and be led by the Spirit. The Spirit will not lead you into sin, but will teach you the true meaning of the Law.
(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.
Paul sees circumcision as a sign of bondage, that is, "an obligation to keep the whole Law." As He has already set forth earlier, circumcision was the ritual which was necessary for a man to approach God in the temple. It signified submission to the vow that Israel made to God at Mount Sinai, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). In other words, it obligated men to be fully and totally obedient to the Law in order to receive life and blessing from God.
That vow itself, though well intentioned, turned out to be a form of slavery. Anyone knows this who has attempted to be perfect as a pre-requisite to salvation, or to be good enough to approach God. Christians themselves have had their own struggle with such doctrine. I certainly did in my early life until God reminded me that the pastors and missionaries around me were not perfect either.
It all boils down to the root question: which comes first, faith or works? If works must come first, then of what use is the Holy Spirit? But if we understand that by faith we receive the Holy Spirit, who then begins to train us in righteousness and write the Law in our hearts, then we obtain a right perspective.
This was the core revelation of Martin Luther that set him free from the bondage by which the Church had enslaved him. He came to understand the imputation of righteousness in Romans 4.
(3) For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned[logizomai, "imputed, reckoned, accounted"] to him as righteousness."
Luther saw that righteousness was imputed to us by faith, and that any infusion of righteousness would have to come subsequently by the work of the Holy Spirit. The definition of imputation is given by example in verse 17, saying, "A father of many nations have I made you." God "calls those things which do not exist as if they existed."
Hence, when God imputes righteousness to a believer, God is calling him righteous as if he were. Faith makes us legally righteous, where God acquits us in the Divine Court and rules in our Favor. (This is what grace means.) Justification does not mean that we have been found innocent or sinless. It means that the penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ, and that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us as if we were Him.
Having been found legally righteous, we then have a new life in Christ. We are not free to sin that grace may abound, but we receive the Holy Spirit to work within us so that the righteousness of Christ may be infused into us over time.
This is the "freedom" that Paul sets forth in Galatians 5. The Law had prosecuted us for sin and had arrested us on many charges. But the Law had to set us free (acquit us) when its penalty was satisfied. Unlike our modern American legal system, the Divine Law demands forgiveness (grace) whenever full restitution has been paid.
The Old Covenant says, "Perform the whole law or pay its penalty to maintain right standing before God." The New Covenant says, "Jesus performed the whole Law perfectly and then paid the penalty which the whole world owed for its sin. If you place your faith in Him and His work, then the Law must rule in your Favor. You are identified with Him and as Him in the eyes of the Law, for you are part of His Body."
This is our freedom, that the Law can no longer condemn us for our sin. This is NOT the freedom to sin, nor did the nature of sin change. God's nature (or Being) is unchangeable. Sin violates who He is. If we are in Christ, then we will walk as He walked.
(4) You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by Law; you have fallen from grace.
If your defense before the Divine Court involves bringing forth your own portfolio of righteous acts, you will always stand condemned by the Law. Being "severed from Christ . . . you have fallen from grace." In other words, you will fall from FAVOR in the eyes of the Court. The Court will never rule in your favor except you plead your case by the provision of the New Covenant.
(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.
Circumcision gives no advantage before the Divine Court. All men are justified equally by faith alone. "Faith working through love" is the only thing that "means anything." In other words, faith is the only thing that the Judge finds relevant in His Court.
(7) You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? (8) This persuasion[peismone, "influence, persuasion"] did not come from Him who calls you.
The word "persuasion" here is contrasted to "faith." Faith comes by hearing the voice of God (Rom. 10:17), whereas persuasion comes by the carnal mind being convinced by some earthly influence. The Greek word peismone is derived from peitho, "to obey." Vine's Expository Dictionary says that it "suggests a play on words."
In other words, Paul used the term to indicate that they had been "persuaded" to go the route of justification by claiming "obedience" to the Law. When one appears in the Divine Court, one should follow the counsel of the Holy Spirit, who is the Paraclete, or Advocate ("comforter") in a court of law. The Judaizers, however, had given counsel from their carnal minds which would not result in a Favorable verdict (grace).
(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 shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.
The Judaizer in question will "bear his judgment, whoever he is." He will be judged because he has presented his own works as grounds for his justification, using the Old Covenant method of attempted salvation. Take note also that there is judgment for sin for such people. This is one more indication that the Law was not put away, for it is the Law that will judge the man.
Some are teaching the gospel of Universalism, which says that the Law was put away and that there is therefore no more judgment for sin. They say all men are saved now, regardless of their faith or lack of it. Needless to say, I disagree. The cross guaranteed that all men will be saved, but most will be saved only through the judgment of "the lake of fire." Judaizers today should heed Paul's warning.
This is the twenty-second part of a series titled "Galatians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones