Only Faith Through Love
Galatians 5:2-6 ESV
“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
Circumcision is an outward cutting away of the flesh. It was required of the Jews under the Old Covenant Relationship God had with his people back then. It is not required for us under the New Covenant, so we don’t have to be physically circumcised, even though I think that was limited to males.
But, the problem there in the church of Galatia occurred because Jewish “believers” in Jesus were trying to convince Gentile Christians that they had to add circumcision on to their salvation, as well as some of the old Jewish customs and ceremonies. But, that was not of God. It was not what he required. It was man’s idea of what constituted true faith in Jesus Christ, or not. But humans don’t get to decide that. God does! Only He does!
So, what matters to God? – Faith working through love, and circumcision of the heart, not of the body (Phil. 3:3; Rom. 2:28-29; 1 Co. 7:19).
So, what does that mean exactly? It means our faith in Jesus Christ is not proved genuine by outward displays of piety. It is proved genuine by a transformation of our hearts, of the Spirit of God, in dying with Christ to sin, in being reborn of the Spirit of God, and in the power of the Spirit within us we now live according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh.
But, it doesn’t mean that our faith is only some personal belief between us and God, in our hearts, that does not have to impact the way in which we live or that is not seen outwardly. For, what this says here is that what counts (what matters) to God is faith working through love.
So, true faith in Jesus Christ is evidenced by what we do in the power of God’s Spirit in obedience to Christ and to His Word (New Covenant), for love for God is to obey Him. And, it comes from a change of heart by the Spirit, not by the flesh. We don’t get to decide. God does! And, we just submit to him and follow Him in obedience to what He says we must do or not do.
Faith and Love
So, this faith working through love that matters to God is first of all faith that is divinely persuaded and is gifted to us by God. So, the faith to believe in Jesus Christ is not of the flesh of man, nor of the will of man. Thus, we don’t get to choose how this works, or what it should look like. God does.
For, if the faith to believe in Jesus is of God, which it is, then it will submit to Christ as Lord, and it will surrender to his will and purposes, and it will walk in obedience to him, and it will die with Him to sin and to self (Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14).
Also, the love involved in this is not human love. It is god-like (agape) love which prefers what God prefers, which is what is righteous, holy, godly, moral, upright, pure, faithful, and obedient to God/Christ, etc.
It is also not a feeling or an emotion, but it is love in action. If we love God, we will obey him as a matter of practice. If we love other people, we will do for them and to them what is for their best, as God determines best, and we will not sin against them as a matter of course, as a matter of practice.
So, this is not to say that we will do this with absolute sinless perfection, but that this will be what we practice, our life course which we are following. It will be the way in which we walk (live), our habits, our lifestyle.
And, it will come from the Spirit of God living within us, and from hearts which are cleansed of sin, and which God is purifying, making holy, and is conforming to his likeness. This is faith working through love, which is visible. But, it is not outward only. It is of the heart and of the Spirit of God.
Who Hindered You?
Galatians 5:7-12 ESV
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!”
Ok, but not everyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ is obeying the truth according to God’s Word under New Covenant teaching. Many of them have been persuaded that they don’t have to obey Christ by people who are making up their own faith and gospel and grace.
So, there really is not much difference between the Judaizers, who were adding to God’s grace, and those today who are removing the essential elements of God’s grace from his gospel. For both are of the flesh of man, with man creating his own gospel.
So, if you are being persuaded that your salvation from sin and your eternal life with God require nothing but some profession of faith in Jesus Christ or some mere acknowledgment of Christ or some words repeated after someone else, then your persuasion is not of God, but of the flesh of man.
And, what is my basis for that statement? – The teachings under the New Covenant which Paul referred to as “the offense of the cross.”
For, the “offense of the cross” is not a profession of faith in Jesus Christ or some mere acknowledgment of him or some words repeated after someone else. It is that Jesus Christ died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. It is that he died to put sin to death in our lives that we might now live for him and for his glory and praise. It is offensive to the flesh of man because it requires death to sin and walks of obedience to Christ for eternal life with God.
[Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:16-21; Gal. 6:7-8; Rom. 2:6-8; Eph. 4:17-24; Eph. 5:3-6; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 Co. 6:20; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Jn. 14:23-24; 1 Jn. 2:3-6; Jn. 8:31-47; Rom. 11:17-24; 1 Jn. 2:24-25; Col. 1:21-23; Jas. 1:19-25; Jas. 4:7-10]
So, if we want to obey the truth, then we need to know the truth. But, too many preachers today are not teaching the whole truth, but they are teaching a modified gospel created to appeal to the flesh of man, so not much different from what the Judaizers of Paul’s day were doing. For, both are of the flesh of man, not of the Spirit of God.
So, what is the truth? It is that faith in Jesus Christ involves death to sin, being reborn of the Spirit of God, and living to Christ and to his righteousness as a matter of life course (of practice). We must turn away from our lifestyles of living for self and for sin, and we must now surrender our lives to Christ and walk in obedience to his commands if we want to have eternal life with God.
On the flip side of that, if we refuse to walk in obedience to our Lord, and if we choose to remain in slavery to sin, making sin our practice, then the scriptures are real clear on that subject that we don’t have eternal life with God but that we will die in our sins and we will face the wrath of God.
For, many people will appear before God one day saying “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this or that in your name?” And, he is going to tell them, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
Why? Because they were following man-made religion and the flesh of man, and they were not submitting themselves to the Lordship of Christ or walking in obedience to his commands. They were calling him “Lord” but he was not Lord (owner-master) of their lives. The flesh remained on the throne of their lives, instead.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.