Perfected by the Flesh?
“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?”
As we examine this subject of law versus faith, we must pay careful attention to the wording here, plus we must read this in the context of the whole of the book of Galatians, and the whole of the New Testament, if we want to get an accurate picture of what this is teaching.
The key word here, to me, is “flesh.” This whole concern here regarding being justified by the law or by faith is centered around this word “flesh.” Are we trying to be made right with God by the flesh or by the Spirit? And if by the flesh, what does that look like? And if by the Spirit, what does that look like?
If by the flesh, that would mean that we are holding on to the old liturgical, ceremonial, purification, and/or sacrificial laws of the Old Covenant which God had with the Jews, and for our salvation. Or it could mean that we are trying to be righteous in our own flesh by our own “good works.”
For, flesh does not produce holiness, righteousness, and uprightness, etc. Flesh also does not produce submission to Christ as Lord, dying with Christ to sin, and living to Christ and to his righteousness, in the power and working of God’s Spirit who is dwelling within the life of the believer in Jesus.
So, when this speaks of works of the law vs. hearing with faith, this is not talking about obedience to our Lord Jesus vs. hearing with faith, for the faith required for our salvation comes from God, is a gift from God, is persuaded by God, and Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith.
So, that means that this faith is going to submit to the Lord, and it will obey the Lord, and it will honor him as holy. And this faith will walk in holiness and righteousness, empowered by God’s Spirit, and it will walk according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh.
So, if we want to understand living by the flesh vs. living by the Spirit, we need to keep reading in Galatians to the end, and then we need to go back and read Romans and the rest of the New Testament. For, if we are walking by the Spirit, we will not walk in (practice, conduct our lives in) sin. Sin will not be what we practice. Righteousness is what we will practice.
And righteousness is what is right in the eyes of God, which is holy living, living lives which are separate (unlike, different) from the world, and honesty, integrity, faithfulness, purity, morality, godliness, and obedience to our Lord Jesus, living to please him in all that we do, for his glory and praise.
Abraham Believed God
“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’?”
If you read the “faith” chapter of the Bible, which is Hebrews 11, it becomes abundantly clear that faith and obedience are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. Nearly every person mentioned in Hebrews 11 obeyed the Lord and did what he said as part of their faith. Their faith was proved genuine by what they did (See: Jas 2:18-26; Heb 11).
Those saints of old in the New Testament who “heard with faith” followed that faith with obedience, submission, and repentance. They surrendered their lives to Christ. They died with him to sin that they might live to him and to his righteousness. For this was to the glory of God.
The “works of the law,” in this context, refers specifically to the ceremonial, liturgical, sacrificial and purification laws of the Old Covenant. They were not to continue in those as a means of salvation. But walking according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh does not leave wiggle room for continuing to live in sin thinking you don’t have to obey the Lord.
Read on to Galatians 5 where it teaches that if we make sin our practice that we will not inherit eternal life with God. For the works of the flesh are not repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ as Lord, but they are sexual immorality, idolatry, lying, sorcery, sensuality, drunkenness, and the like.
Then read on to Galatians 6 where it teaches that we are not to be deceived, for we are all going to reap what we sow. If we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction. But if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life (Gal 6:7-8; cf. Rom 2:6-8; 2 Co 5:10).
Who are of Faith
Galatians 3:7-9 ESV
“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
What is the gospel? It isn’t just that Jesus died on a cross for our sins so that through faith in him we can be forgiven our sins and we can be assured of eternal life with God. That’s just part of the gospel. The whole of the gospel teaches much more.
It is that the truth in Jesus, which we should have been taught, teaches us that we are to put off our old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and that we are to be renewed in the spirits of our minds, and that we are to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:20-24).
It is that, when we believe in Jesus, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin so that we would no longer be enslaved (addicted) to sin, but so we would now be slaves of God and of his righteousness. So, we aren’t to continue living in sin. For if we remain slaves of sin, it ends in death.
For, the grace of God, which brings salvation, trains (instructs) us to say “No!” to ungodliness and fleshly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for our Lord’s return (Tit 2:11-14).
So, the whole point of our salvation is that we are to die with Christ to sin that we might live to Christ and to his righteousness. Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. And his blood bought us back for God so we would honor God with our lives.
[Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:15]
Jesus, Rescue Me
An Original Work / September 18, 2011
Based off of Romans 7:7-8:39
Jesus, rescue me today.
Listen while I bow and pray.
I need Your help to obey You;
Live for You always.
Meet me in my hour of need, Lord,
As I pray to You.
Help me walk in fellowship, Lord,
Living in Your truth.
Jesus, how I long for You to
Change my heart anew.
Father, God, my heart’s desire
Is to live for You this hour
In Your Holy Spirit’s power
Living in me now.
Teach me to walk in Your love, Lord,
Guiding me each day.
Help me to show love and kindness
To the lost, I pray.
Father, teach me to love others
As You love always.
Holy Spirit come in pow’r.
Revive our hearts in this hour.
Change our hearts to be like You, Lord;
Live for You each day.
Help us to forsake our sins, Lord,
As we humbly pray.
Teach us how to live for You, Lord,
Obey You always.
Holy Spirit come in power,
Revive us today.