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Sun, Mar 28, 1999

42 - Falling From Grace

Galatians 5:1-4 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 36 secs

Falling From Grace
Galatians 5:1-4

There are two ways of looking at anything, so we have to start off with asking, what is the divine viewpoint? The subject here is freedom. So if we are going to understand or say anything of consequence about freedom we have to start with how God defines freedom, and what He defines as the loss of freedom and where it starts. What the Bible says is that all bondage goes back to sin as the underlying cause and until that is dealt with, either individually or in a culture there can be no real freedom. That is why to have real freedom in any culture there must first be a capacity for freedom. That capacity comes only from orientation at a cultural level to divine viewpoint. That isn't to say that everyone in a culture is a believer but that the culture is oriented basically to the authority of Scripture and divine viewpoint. Once you remove doctrine from a people, and once you destroy divine viewpoint, you destroy its capacity for freedom because you destroy a concept of responsibility. In its place you put irresponsibility and passing the buck, and that is what we see in our culture today.

The issue here is Galatians 5 is freedom. Sin produces slavery in two categories: human good [Dead works, Hebrews 6:1] and personal sins. The Judaisers were telling the Galatians that it is fine and good to say that they were saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone but that they had to be united to Abraham, and the way to be united to Abraham is through circumcision because it is the sign of the Abrahamic covenant and salvation ultimately comes through the Jews. So according to the Judaisers they had to become like a Jew and become circumcised. They were teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation and obedience to the Mosaic Law, adopting it as a Jew, is the basis for moving toward spiritual maturity.   

So what we have here is a very important concept, i.e. the confusion that has entered into Christianity. There are all of the precepts and principles which outline a moral or ethical system and the confusion is that if we are operating on a moral system or an ethical system, then that impresses God and that is what the spiritual life consists of. But that is not what this chapter is going to tell us. What this chapter is going to tell us is that there is nothing wrong with morality or ethics, they were given to the human race by God in order to preserve and stabilise the human race. Morality and ethics are for believer and unbeliever alike. Morality is exemplified in the prologue to the Mosaic Law; it is the basis for all categories of human freedom politically. This is not to say that we should go back and bring the Mosaic Law whole hog into any other nation. That would be wrong because the Mosaic Law is part of God's specific covenant with one specific nation, Israel. But it is a model. We can study the Mosaic Law and we can learn principles and precepts for what a nation's law code should look like and how we can guarantee freedom, but it is not the basis for either salvation or spiritual maturity. In Galatia they have confused the external works of morality with the internal transformation of God the Holy Spirit. As a result Paul is saying that once they go back under a system of law they are becoming a slave to law and, secondly, they are a slave to the sin nature. Why are they slaves to the sin nature? Because when you go into a system of morality or ethics that comes out of the area of strength, which is human good, what is its origin? The sin nature. Operating in the realm of the sin nature is being in bondage to the sin nature. Religion is one of the worst systems of bondage in all of human history.

Galatians 5:1 NASB "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."

Freedom, bondage and the sin nature

1.  Man loses his freedom because of the Genesis chapter three curse.

2.  The issue, then, is whether man is foolish or wise. In foolishness man rejects the divine viewpoint solution which is the only basis for freedom. The wise solution is the grace solution and learning everything that God has to say about every category of life. The Scripture says that we are to be "pulling down strongholds," fortresses of thought. That is where the battle is in the spiritual life ultimately.

3.  Because of sin man has lost his moral freedom. We see from Romans 7 that man knows what is right but he can't/doesn't do it.

4.  Romans chapter one gives us the cause and effect. Sin is self-destructive and destructive of everything around us, so that when we sin it starts a chain of events in progress that ultimately culminates in mass destruction.

5.  Sin not only degrades humanity but when the government begins to try to solve the ultimate problem through governmental solutions it simply compounds the problem. If the issue is freedom and the basic problem in freedom is spiritual, and the spiritual solution is rejected as the core of a political theory, then the result is that you have a political system that is operating outside the realm of reality.

What we learn here is that Christ has set us free for all eternity as a believer in Him; this is our position, the reality that we receive at the moment of salvation. But we have a temporal relationship that is based upon a right relationship with God the Holy Spirit, called the filling of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:18. When we commit a sin, even thought that sin was paid for on the cross, it has temporal consequences. It grieves the Holy Spirit, according to Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19. We are immediately outside the sphere of fellowship, in carnality, and no longer controlled by God the Holy Spirit. We recover the filling of the Holy Spirit through 1 John 1:9. That is the basis for understanding the mechanics of the spiritual life.

What is happening in Galatia is that they are denying all of this and saying the way you get salvation is through circumcision and the way to stay in a right relationship with God is through moral obedience—God blesses through moral obedience (Mosaic Law). That is ultimately legalism and there are two forms of legalism prevalent throughout all of church history. One is that legalism is salvation, and that comes in one of two forms. The first form is front-loading the gospel. That is, by adding a condition up front, e.g. believe and be baptized, or not only believe but you have to keep on believing, believe and produce good deeds, believe and give money, etc. There are all kinds of faith-plus systems. Then there is back-loading the gospel. That is, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone but if you have "saving faith" then you are going to produce works that are consistent with that faith; it you don't have "true saving faith" then there will not be works consistent with that. So the way you know whether or not you have this saving faith or not is by examining the works in you life. You are looking for fruit and you become a fruit inspector. But that is just back-loading the gospel with works, because according to that they are still saying faith plus works. That is not what the Scriptures teach.

What is production? Production is a result. A result is a result of a cause. What causes production in the spiritual life? Two things: the filling of the Holy Spirit plus knowledge and understanding of Bible doctrine. If all a person ever hears is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, the only doctrinal application he can ever make is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. The only thing he can apply is salvation. Then people come along and say there's going automatically be fruit. That is mysticism. Production is the result of application of doctrine and if there is no spiritual life doctrine in the soul or for a person to grapple with and to apply then what this position is saying is that the Holy Spirit is going to make something happen. That is subjectivism; that is mysticism, and that ultimately destroys the power of Scripture.

Galatians 5:2 NASB "Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you." Why? Christ is of benefit to the believer when he is in fellowship because he is filled with the Holy Spirit. When it says in this verse, "Christ will be of no benefit to you," this is not saying Christ will not save you. Paul says "if you [do this]," and because he uses the present tense of the verb and not an aorist tense the implication is that it is thought, not the act itself (which would be the aorist tense). The thought precedes the act, so if they make a change in their minds to accept this principle from that point on Christ will not be of any benefit to them. This is because they are out of fellowship in carnality.

Galatians 5:3 NASB "And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law." Circumcision may seem like a little thing but it is buying into a system, a whole way of thinking. It is either the sin nature or the Holy Spirit. Paul is drawing a dichotomy here. There are only two approaches: the direct approach, God's approach, and there is a worn approach, the human viewpoint solution which is works. If you buy works or one element of that you have to take the whole package. James talks about this is a sort of reverse form in James 2:10 NASB "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one {point,} he has become guilty of all." So what Paul is saying is that if you put yourself under one part of the law you have to put yourself under the whole law.

Galatians 5:4 NASB "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." This doesn't mean loss of salvation, it means no longer in the position where one is basing his life on the grace of Christ—salvation or the spiritual life.