Lesson 19


The Epistle to the Galatians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

5:1 Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don't be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 5:2 Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. 5:3 Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 5:4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace. 5:5 For we, through the Spirit, by faith wait for the hope of righteousness. 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love.


Today's Lesson 

Paul had used the allegory of the two sons of Abraham to explain to the Galatians why the Judaizers should not sway them. The gospel of grace is like Isaac. Isaac was born of the promise of God and born to a free woman. The message of the Judaizers is like Ishmael. Ishmael was born because of man's planning and born of a slave. Paul tells the Galatians that Christ has come to set them free. The Judaizers had come to enslave the Galatians to their own culture and rules. So, Paul begged the Galatians to not be so ready to throw away their freedom.

 

Because Christ has set them free and because that freedom was purchased at such a price, Paul encourages the Galatians to stand firm in their freedom. He does not want them merely to accept their freedom intellectually. He insists that they embrace their freedom completely resolutely. "Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free." Freedom is not a thing to be taken lightly. Freedom can slip away quietly as an early morning mist. But freedom can also be as firm and as substantial as a granite pinnacle. The difference between the two types of freedom is the faith that we put into it.

 

For those who accept the message of the Judaizers, their freedom would prove to be profitless. By taking on a part of the law a man becomes obligated to the full measure. God did not offer the law to the nation of Israel in parcels. All the people were required to affirm that they would live according to the precepts of the law under pain of death. God did not tell Israel that they could live according to some of the laws and not others. In the same way, Paul is telling the Galatians that they could not accept just some part of the covenant of Judaism and not all of it.

 

Paul writes that all those who seek to justify themselves by law alienate themselves from Christ. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under the law. He accepted the curse of the law in order to redeem us. If we embrace that which crucified Him, then we despise His sacrifice. Those who accept circumcision and the law after having once come to Christ have rejected the grace and mercy of God.

 

What does Paul mean when he writes that those who seek to be justified by the law have, "fallen away from grace?" There are two major disagreements about this issue. There are those who believe that having once received salvation that salvation can be lost. Under this view the "falling away from grace" is the return to a sinful state and the loss of all the grace and mercy of God. The second view would be that grace and salvation once delivered can never be lost. Under this view Paul's "falling away from grace" does not constitute losing that which one has been given, but rather Paul informing them that if they accept the law they had never been saved at all. Christ would have profited these people nothing because whatever "faith" they may have expressed or even felt was not accompanied by salvation from God. These people were much like the multitudes following Jesus when he was performing many miracles. Their belief in His miracles was not accompanied by faith in His being the Son of God and they missed out on the ultimate miracle, the salvation of their souls.

 

It is the responsibility of every Christian to study the scriptures for themselves to determine which of these major views they believe God is teaching. I have known people of faith that held both views, and I for one do not believe that either view is essential for salvation. For myself, I believe that God teaches that once we are baptized into Christ that we cannot loose our salvation. But, I would encourage all Christians to study and meditate on this vital issue.

 

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love." God does not see Jew or Gentile. God sees faith. Those who place their faith and trust in Christ Jesus are seen by God, are placed into the family of God. Faith is the most valuable substance in creation. For the purpose of faith, the world was created. On the basis of faith, Christ offers salvation to all mankind.

 

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