Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Galtaians 5:1-6 Thanks, LORD, I’ll take it from here!

Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: New Testament, points out that Paul lays out his personal experience with grace in chapters 1 and 2 of Galatians, gives doctrinal instruction about grace in chapters 3 and 4, and tells us how to practically live our Christian life in grace in chapters 5 and 6. In these first few verse of chapter 5, he sums up the doctrinal argument:

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. 

Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you.  I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses.  For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. (Galatian 5:1-4, NLT)

The English Standard Version of the Bible puts verse 1 this way:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Hey, Galatians! The whole point of being set free from the Law was to be FREE! So STAND FIRM and don’t go back into slavery to a Law that cannot make you righteous! Paul is adamant that if you rely on your good works and all YOU can do to progress along your path with God, you have completely nullified Christ’s work of grace. In fact, you have actually fallen away from grace (vs 4)!

If we think that our service to the church, whether teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, leading a small group, or visiting the elderly and the sick are scoring Brownie points with God, making us more worthy, we are mistaken. We are NOT worthy! That’s the whole point of grace! It is undeserved! So, when we insist on working your way and carrying the load ourselves, it’s as if we are saying, “Thanks for going to the cross, Jesus, but I’ll take it from here!” It’s actually a form of pride - spiritual pride - to think we can earn more favor.

So what is the balance between faith and works? Paul begins to give us some insight in the next segment, starting with verses 5 and 6:

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. 

The key, then, is that it is love that must be the motivating factor of our works - not our own growth or progress. We serve because we love, and we love because He first loved us! (1 John 4:19)

 Tomorrow we will look at Paul’s opinion of the Judaizers and then begin to unpack what it looks like to walk in the Spirit.  

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