Perfected by the Flesh?
Galatians 3:1-6 ESV
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?”
Ok, so what is Paul talking about here? The Jews had been under the Old Covenant and under the Law of Moses, which included all the old ceremonial and purification laws and customs, and the law of circumcision, as well as God’s moral laws (See: Genesis – Deuteronomy).
And, now those who had trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives were under the New Covenant, which had set them free from the old ceremonial and purification laws, and circumcision, but not free from God’s moral laws, which were repeated for us under the New Covenant.
But, there were people who had slipped in among them who were trying to convince those who had not been circumcised, which would have been primarily Gentile believers, that they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved from their sins, and that they had to keep at least some of the Jewish ceremonial and purification laws. So, Paul was correcting this error.
And, he explained to them that it was faith in Jesus Christ that saved them, not the works of the law, i.e. not the ceremonial and purification laws, and not circumcision (primarily), which were all external. They added nothing to their salvation at all. They had begun with faith, and now they were trying to be perfected with the flesh. And, so he was writing to them to correct this error, and to get them to reject the lies and to hold fast to the truth.
But, now we have a different error that needs to be corrected, which has swung the pendulum the other direction, but which is also of the flesh of man and not by genuine faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. For, it also relies on the flesh and not on the Spirit of God, for it does not submit to God, nor does it obey him, but it still walks according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit. And, that really is the bottom line here in both of these situations.
So Quickly Deserting Him
Galatians 1:6-7, 11 ESV
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.”
We have another “man’s gospel” today that is spreading like gangrene all throughout the church, at least here in America. And, it also is a distortion of the true gospel of our salvation. So, in order to examine it and how it is man’s gospel, and how it is a distortion of the true gospel, we need to know the true gospel that Jesus and his NT apostles taught. And, a great summary of that true gospel is found for us in Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV:
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
For, you see, we are not set free from God’s moral laws, for they are internal, of the heart, not external, of the flesh. For, Jesus didn’t die on that cross just so we would be forgiven our sin, and so we could go to heaven when we die. But, he died to free us from our slavery to sin and to empower us to live to his righteousness in his power and strength (Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Tit. 2:11-14; 2 Co. 5:15; 1 Pet. 2:24).
So, faith in Jesus Christ is not just some emotional experience or some mere acknowledgment of Christ, or some words we repeat after someone else. And, that is because the faith to believe in Jesus is divinely persuaded and God-given faith which dies with Christ to sin that it might live with Christ to his righteousness. And, thus, it submits to Christ as Lord (owner-master).
To Bring Us into Slavery
Galatians 2:4-5 ESV
“Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”
And, this “man’s gospel” that is of the flesh of man, that is being spread like gangrene all throughout the church, also brings people under slavery, or back under slavery to sin. For, it teaches that one can merely acknowledge Christ or say some words or have some emotional experience and they are saved from their sins and heaven is guaranteed them, but they don’t have to leave their lifestyles of sin behind them or walk in obedience to Christ.
So, the “faith” they have to believe is man-made faith, of the flesh of man, and not of God. For, if it were of God, it would submit to God and his Lordship, and it would leave their lives of sin behind them to follow our Lord in surrender and in obedience to his commands. For, this is what the scriptures teach with regard to faith and our salvation from sin.
So, we are not to submit to this fleshly gospel which is designed to appeal to the flesh of man and to give him full liberty to continue in his sinful practices without guilt and without remorse. For, it will not end in heaven but in hell for those who follow after it (See: Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:16-21; Gal. 6:7-8; Eph. 5:3-6; Rom. 2:6-8; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).
Crucified with Christ
Galatians 2:20-21 ESV
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
This is what it means to be “in Christ,” and to be saved from our sins. Our flesh dies with Christ, so that our flesh no longer lives (reigns supreme). Our flesh no longer has dominion over our lives. It does not rule what we do. And, now Jesus Christ is on the throne of our lives, and he is our Lord and Master. And, now we surrender our lives to him.
We still live in flesh bodies, though, and so we still have the propensity to sin. And, we will still be tempted to sin, too, and so we walk by faith in Jesus Christ, and daily by the Spirit we are putting the deeds of the flesh to death. And, daily we are putting on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us. And, we are walking by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, and we are no longer living to gratify the desires of the flesh.
This doesn’t mean we will never sin again, but that sin is no longer our master. Sin does not rule our hearts and lives. But, we follow after Christ, and we do what his word teaches us we must do – all in his power, wisdom and strength.
And, not nullifying the grace of God means we don’t go our own way, the way of the flesh, and we don’t make up our own gospel that appeals to our flesh, either.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14 ESV
By Ann Aschauer
Well, some folks think that “love” means emotion,
So it comes and goes their whole life through.
Some folks never know that when the magic goes,
If you keep on lovin’, it’ll come back to you.
I was so afraid we’d lose the special feeling,
And someday we’d find our love wasn’t true,
But then God opened up my eyes and made me realize,
Love is not what you feel, it’s what you do.
And so we stood side by side at the altar,
As our wills and God’s power combined.
With His help I could say, “I do love you today,
And I will for a long, long time.”
c 1987 Ann Aschauer