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Galatians 5:5-6 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:36 mins 46 secs

Faith, Hope, Love: the Spiritual Life
Galatians 5:5-6

Galatians 5:5 NASB "For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness." There are three key words in that verse. The first is "the Spirit," the second is "faith," and the third is "hope." The Holy Spirit is the source of power for the spiritual life under the category of the filling of the Holy Spirit. We recover the filling of the Holy Spirit as a result of confession of sin and that puts us in a place of potential spiritual growth. It only becomes actual spiritual growth when we start applying doctrine. How do we understand "applying doctrine"? The foundation for all application of doctrine is the second word, "faith," which represents the faith-rest drill. Without faith, the Scripture says, it is impossible to please God. Faith means to trust God, specifically trusting the promises of God and the doctrines extrapolated from Scripture. Hope represents the future. It is from the Greek word elpis [e)lpij] which means confident expectation; it looks forward to something. We talk about the three phases of God's plan for the believer's life. Phase one is justification: we are saved from the penalty of sin. Phase two is sanctification: we are saved from the power of sin. Phase three is glorification: we are saved fro9m the presence of sin. There is an aspect of righteousness that is related to all of these. The root word for sanctification is a cognate of hagios [a(gioj], the Greek word for holiness, and it is tantamount to righteousness. At phase one, justification, we receive the imputed righteousness of Christ. So the issue there is our positional righteousness that is ours from Jesus Christ. Phase two is the process of spiritual growth. Hebrews 12 talks about the fruit of righteousness which we call production righteousness or experiential righteousness—tantamount to divine good. When the believer under the filling of the Holy Spirit learns doctrine and applies doctrine the production of that is divine good. It is the production of the Holy Spirit; it is exemplified in the character of the believer and in his application of doctrine. Then phase three is eschatological righteousness, referring to the future when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord when we no longer have a sin nature. Then we will be truly righteous in all that we are in the presence of God. This is what we are waiting for, what we are looking to. The concept of waiting remind us, too, of the faith-rest drill. It reminds us of Isaiah 40:31 NASB "Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up {with} wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary." Waiting looks forward to the ultimate fulfilment of everything that God has promised us which comes true in phase three when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord.

So when we look at these three words the Holy Spirit represents the power dynamic for the spiritual life. The faith-rest drill represents the second power dynamic which is the focus on doctrine. It is never faith in faith, it is faith in the promises of Scripture. Then hope looks forward to the ultimate fulfilment.

But there is another key word that is not found in verse 5 but it is found in the next verse. Galatians 5:6 NASB "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision [legal behaviour or moral good] nor uncircumcision [lack of ritual] means anything, but faith working through love." Circumcision stands for the application of the law. It was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant but the Galatians were particularly associating it not only with the Abrahamic covenant but with all of the Mosaic Law or legal obedience, or in a sense morality; that somehow their external actions gain the approbation of God. We have a problem here in relation to the translation of the text. The Greek word here is the present active indicative of the verb ischuo [i)sxuw]. It means to be able to do something, to accomplish something, to be strong, to be able to overpower something, to overcome a problem. This word is used in Philippians 4 where Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." It reminds us of the power to overcome problems. This is a key word of this section and what Paul is talking about. He is saying that in Christ Jesus neither ritual nor religion nor the absence of it is able to overcome anything. Then with "but" we have the contrast, the strong adversative alla [a)lla], a strong conjunction of contrast, and he is contrasting human viewpoint techniques for achieving spirituality and/or achieving standing with God and for solving problems with the spiritual dynamic that God has provided for us, which is translated "faith working through love."  The verb there is energeo [e)nergew] which means to work, to produce, and it has to do here with the conjunction of two critical elements together in overcoming any problem, any situation in life.

The three key nouns that break this open for us are faith, hope, and love. The verb that breaks it open is ischuo because ischuo is talking about something that is familiar to us when talking about overcoming problems. We need to look at some passages where Paul looks at these three words to get a little insight.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 NASB "But since we are of {the} day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation." First we have to define what he means by sober. The Greek word is nepho [nhfw] which has both a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. The literal meaning is sobriety which means the absence of the influence of alcohol. Most scholars doubt that the word is ever used with that meaning anywhere in Scripture. nepho is a figurative extension of the verb which means to be sober, not to be drunk, but it is used metaphorically to mean to be in control of one's thought processes and thus not to be in danger of irrational thinking. It is possible that 1 Thessalonians 5:8 means lack of drunkenness but most scholars interpret the use of nepho in the New Testament as applying to a broader range of soberness or sobriety, namely restraint and moderation which avoids emotionalism, rashness or confusion. It emphasises thinking, self-control, and objectivity which comes only from the Word of God. It is the opposite of emotionalism or rationalism—"let us think clearly and logically" is what is being said in that verse. If we are faced with adversity we have to think biblically and not react emotionally. "…, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation." Again, hope here means confidence, confident expectation. So Paul uses the metaphor again of Roman armour as he does in Ephesians chapter six and must therefore be talking about protection from the onslaught of attacks, about defence—the fortress of the soul which we have described as the ten problem-solving devices. Faith represents the basic stress-buster, the filling of the Holy Spirit; the entry point is 1 John 1:9. The filling of the Holy Spirit, faith-rest drill, grace orientation, and doctrinal orientation are all based upon the basic operation of faith in the doctrines and promises of Scripture. Hope is that confident expectation where we shift our attention from the present reality to future reality. We have a personal sense of eternal destiny; this is hope. We begin to realise that every decision we are making today determines who and what we will be through all eternity. Once we begin to think beyond today and to focus on eternity as the reason we are here and the reason everything is happening in our life, and the reason we have to make the decisions we are faced with on a daily basis, then we are beginning to realise why we are here and can begin to focus on eternal priorities. This is comparable to spiritual adolescence. Love represents the love triplex: personal love for God, impersonal love for all mankind and occupation with Christ. This, then, is spiritual adulthood.

1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB "But now [in the church age] faith, hope, love, abide these three [the dynamic of the spiritual life]; but the greatest of these is love." The greatest is love because the immature, baby believer, can't get here very easily because love demands knowledge, a lot of knowledge of doctrine and a lot of maturity to be able to fulfil and to utilise personal love for God, impersonal love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ.

So when Paul utilises these words as he does on many different occasions and strings them together they are a sort of theological shorthand for all of the dynamics of the spiritual life.

Galatians 5:5 NASB "For we through the Spirit [utilisation of the filling], by faith [faith-rest drill], are waiting [personal sense of eternal destiny] for the hope [confident expectation] of righteousness. [6] For in Christ Jesus [those in fellowship with] neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means [is able to accomplish] anything, but faith [faith-rest drill] working through [together with] love." In other words, here he is talking about reaching spiritual maturity. In Paul's thinking we are not to be a spiritual infant for long but should move from spiritual infancy through spiritual adolescence fairly rapidly. Paul says we should get with the program very rapidly and if we learn doctrine and are consistent and make that a priority we should be operating in spiritual adulthood within a year or two. But we have to master the basic spiritual skills. These are techniques. No matter what we do in life we have to learn basic techniques to enable us to do what we do. We have to practice them over and over and over again. Spiritual skills are what we have to practice over and over again so that when we are out there in life and are hit with various situations we instantly think in terms of doctrine. We train ourselves to respond biblically rather than react emotionally.