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Galatians 5:5-6 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:57 mins 38 secs

Power for the Spiritual Life
Galatians 5:5, 6

The question that is often asked today that is creating a tremendous amount of confusion in many circles is: what is the relationship of works to salvation? There are those, especially in the Lordship salvation camp, who teach that works are a necessary and inevitable consequence of saving faith. In other words, if you have "true saving faith" you will have works. Those works will be evidence of your faith and the basis for the assurance of salvation. That, of course, has problems because ultimately if you believe that you are basing assurance on the evidence of your salvation, not solely on faith alone in Christ alone, but on what you deem to be works of righteousness in your own life. Yet how do we ascertain what are works of righteousness in our own life versus just morality produced under the energy of the sin nature, works of morality that any unbeliever can do on his own power. Secondly, it raises the question: what are works? Are works imperceptible changes in the mentality of the soul, or are they overt actions? The idea that works are the necessary consequence are held not only by Lordship camp but also by some people in the grace camp and they say that if you believe in Christ through faith alone they would make no distinction between a faith in Christ that saves and a faith in Christ that doesn't save, but they would say that there is a necessary and inevitable fruit of production from a person who is regenerate, although there are many who have imperceptible fruits, i.e. fruits that take place in the mentality of the soul that are unobservable by anybody else.

We are created for the purpose of works of righteousness but those are secondary because works are production. A person hears the gospel and the response is faith alone in Christ alone. Production is the application of a point of doctrine. If we don't know anything more than Jesus died on the cross for our sins how can we apply it? A person who believes that is truly saved but there can be no other production. There is a problem with the idea that a regenerate nature is necessarily going to produce some sort of fruit, whether it is perceptible or imperceptible. Production is the consequence of doctrine. If there is no doctrine there, how can it produce anything or how can one apply it? The idea of somehow at salvation when we are given this new nature then the sin nature is not quite as bad as it was before and won't be quite as sinful as it would have been and so somehow the Holy Spirit is just going to produce this effect in me, these works of righteousness, apart from the knowledge of any Scripture. That is mysticism—it just happened, there is no basis for it, no true basis in the Word of God. What we will see in Galatians 5 is that our production is based upon application of doctrine, and application presupposes knowledge of doctrine. You can't apply what you don't know. You can't know something unless you have learned it. Learning involves being taught it either verbally or through the written word. Application is what the Bible talks about in terms of production or fruit in the life. 

Ephesians 2:10 NASB "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ [regeneration] Jesus for [the purpose of] good works [divine good, good of intrinsic value], which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." The purpose that God has saved us is so that He can produce in us divine good.

Galatians 5:5 NASB "For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness." This begins with the particle gar [gar] which always introduces an explanation. No Paul is going to explain the principle underlying his statement in verse 4. "For we," i.e. believers who are advancing and maturing in the spiritual life; "through the Spirit," translates just one word in the Greek pneuma [pneuma] in the dative case. It could be a reference to the human spirit, to thinking or an attitude, or it could be a reference to the Holy Spirit. Here it is a reference to the Holy Spirit. The dative case indicates instrumentality or means. What Paul is saying here is: In contrast to those of you who are seeking to be justified by means of the law, there are those of us who are advancing by means of the Spirit. The translators of the NASB who translated this dative as "through" really missed the boat here because in the English we can't see what Paul is saying. There is one crowd who is seeking by law to be justified but Paul is saying we are seeking by the Spirit. There is a direct contrast; it is one or the other. We should translate this "by means of the Spirit." This is a reference to the filling of the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 5:18.

If a believer can produce good works and morality that imitate and counterfeit the spiritual life and for all external observance from his own frame of reference or somebody else's he looks like he is an advancing believer because he is doing everything that people think he ought to do as a believer. How do we discern the difference between someone doing that as a production of the flesh and someone doing that as a production of the Holy Spirit? That is the key issue. How do we discern between good works and morality that is produced from our own basic ability from the sin nature and good works that are uniquely the product of God the Holy Spirit? If we are operating in one realm, the realm of the law and legalism and the flesh, how do we get to the point where now are operating by the Holy Spirit? The answer in Reformed theology is: Just start doing what the Scripture says to do. But that is what we have been doing in the flesh—to the best of our ability, not in the power of the Holy Spirit. So there has to be some means, some mechanism, some skill that transfers us from operating in the power of the sin nature to operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what confession is. It is admission and acknowledging the sin that we have been operating in under the sin nature, admitting our sins to God, and then at that moment we are forgiven, cleansed from all unrighteousness, and at that moment we recover fellowship with God. Fellowship is the unique domain of the Holy Spirit. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and this is the first power option in the spiritual life.

The words "by faith" in verse 5 makes it look as though the contrast is between by law and by faith, but that is not the contrast at all. The contrast is by law or the Holy Spirit. It is the preposition ek [e)k] plus the genitive of the noun pistis [pistij]—from the source of faith. Faith means to trust and it indicates here the faith-rest drill. So: "we by means of the Holy Spirit from the source of faith." Faith in what? Faith always has an object. Here it is faith in the Scriptures and mixing faith with the promises of God. 2 Peter 1:3, 4 emphasise the sufficiency of Scripture and the promises of God as the tool for advancing spiritually. NASB "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of {the} divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." What does Peter mean by "partakers of the divine nature"? He means the same thing that Paul meant earlier in Galatians chapter four where he said that "Christ is being formed in you." This is the character of Christ being formed in us. How does that happen? It happens under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit as we take in the Word of God, exercise our volition to learn the Word of God, and metabolise it so that it become epignosis [e)pignwsij] in the soul—application doctrine. Once we have it in the soul as application doctrine the Holy Spirit will bring it to our memory so that we can apply it in the midst of various tests and trials. When we apply it then we advance spiritually.

What is happening in Galatia is they are trying to do this through works, and they are thinking that their post-salvation works somehow accrue to them value and approbation in the sight of God, and this is the essence of legalism.

A personal sense of eternal destiny focuses on where we are going and who we are going to be in eternity. That is often indicated in Scripture through this word "hope" in the Greek which is elpis [e)lpij]. "Hope" is rather weak word for the Greek concept of hope which has the idea of confident expectation, of optimistic certainty. We are waiting with confident expectation for righteousness. The word "righteousness" here is in the genitive case which indicates what the hope will produce, a genitive of apposition. It looks forward not to phase one which is the imputation of the righteousness of Christ but to phase three our glorification when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord when we will have perfect righteousness in our experience for all eternity.

Righteousness is a key term in all of this. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone, Galatians 2:16, and the word "justified" comes from the verb dikaioo [dikaiow]; the noun form is dikaiosune [dikaiosunh]. This forms the basis for our whole relationship with God. Paul is contrasting those who are trying to achieve dikaiosune through the Mosaic law and those who are waiting with confident expectation for ultimate righteousness and are operating by means of God the Holy Spirit from the source of faith.

The doctrines of righteousness and imputation

1.  dikaiosune has a double meaning in the Greek. On the one hand it can means righteousness and on the other hand it can mean justice. Righteousness refers to the absolute standard of the law, of God's perfect character; justice is the application of that absolute standard. What the righteousness of God accepts the justice of God blesses. Justice can only bless +R and will condemn R. That is the basis for blessing and condemnation.

2.  The problem in man's relationship to God is that man fails to measure up to this absolute divine standard.

3.  Isaiah 64:6 NASB "…And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…" Man by man's efforts can do nothing good enough to measure up to God's standards, and man cannot gain the approval of God either for the purpose of salvation or the purpose of sanctification, based on works that have their origin in his own sin nature.

4.  Imputation basically means to ascribe, reckon or credit something to some through either cursing or blessing. There are five real imputations in Scripture and two judicial imputations. In a real imputation there is affinity between what is 8imputed and its object. So when we see the imputation of Adam's original sin to our sin natures there is affinity between the two. When there is not a real imputation between what is imputed and its object it is judicial. Jesus Christ has perfect righteousness. When our sins were imputed to Him (who is +R) it was a judicial imputation because He who knew no sin was made sin for us. In the same sense the perfect righteousness of Christ was imputed to the believer but there is not affinity there because the believer is R. So this, again, is a judicial imputation; something that is decreed from the Supreme Court of heaven. The five real imputations are human life to the soul, Genesis 2:7; Adam's original sin to the sin nature at birth, Romans 5:12-21; eternal life, the life of God, to the human spirit (Regeneration), 1 John 5:11, 12; blessings in time to the righteousness of God in us; blessings in eternity to the resurrection body.   

   Galatians 5:6 NASB "For in Christ Jesus [positional truth] neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." What does he mean by love here? There are three options. Love can refer to human love for other human beings. Or it can refer to divine love directed toward mankind in the provision of grace blessing for life. That is what this is referring to. Paul is being very short here in order to communicate all the concepts. E.g. circumcision stands for everything in the Mosaic law; he doesn't go into detail. The same thing happens in the last phrase, "faith working through love." What faith? Faith in the promises of God. Where did those promises come from? They are the product of the love of God. Remember, what the righteousness of God approves the justice of God blesses, initiated by the love of God in eternity past and given through the grace of God.