A Study of Galatians 5:1-6
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. [Gal 5:1-6]
Chapters 1-4 have been leading to this statement to stand fast in the liberty that our Lord granted us. As stated before, I do not believe in cheap grace. Some who stand for law-works justification or law-works sanctification or so-called “Lordship salvation” may make that accusation, but I do not teach or believe in cheap grace. I believe in the riches of God’s grace (Eph 1:7). I believe in redemption through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by which we are granted forgiveness of sins “according to the riches of His grace”. I believe that we are justified FREELY by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24). It was never cheap, the Son of God paid dearly for the grace that is given to us. But it is given to us freely, and our freedom should not be surrendered to those who attempt to bring us back under the bondage of law. Paul is here making the logical conclusion to his logical argument to STAND FAST–stand with your feet firmly FASTENED to the ground of liberty in Christ Jesus. Do not allow anyone to place that yoke on you that Peter said “neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” (Act 15:10)
Now comes another statement by Paul that is very striking:
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Read this entire passage several times to get a sense of this statement before continuing. Recall also from chapter 2:
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. [Gal 2:21]
The Galatian believers were being swayed from believing the truth of the gospel of the grace of God to another gospel. This other gospel was not a gospel at all. It was not another possible alternative way of salvation and entering into a right relationship with God. It was a perversion of the gospel, and Paul would allow none of it. By inspiration and authority delegated to him, he said very firmly:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. [Gal 1:8-9]
That the believers could allow themselves to be put under bondage to law was one problem. They would lose the enjoyment of the free Christian life. But there is more: his argument is that it is either by Christ or by the law. If you can make yourself righteous by the law, what do you need Christ for? If you can make yourself holy or perfected by the law, what do you need Christ for? The gospel of Jesus Christ starts with the premise that
…what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin. [Rom 3:19-20]
The law carries with it a curse, and under the law we all carry with us that curse:
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree: [Gal 3:10-13]
If we simply ended with verse 10, we would all be under the curse. None of us have ever continued in all things written in the law, either before or after the time that we knew them. But praise God that Christ has redeemed us from that curse, and that redemption came at an infinite price. It certainly was not cheap. He redeemed us through His blood. He bore that curse for us so that we would not need to bear it. So what profit is there in going back under the law? By doing so you are acting as if Christ never redeemed you. Are we just dealing with just circumcision to enter into the covenant? A study in the book of Deuteronomy would be good to see the covenant relationship that the people of Israel had, and entering into the covenant by circumcision was an entering in to this works covenant. They had truly become debtors to do the whole law. They did not, for they were not able to bare it, and so Israel was indeed under the curse. Those that encourage law-works living should remember where all this led. The city on a hill that would manifest God’s glory among the nations by keeping His law did no such thing.
For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. [Rom 2:24]
The law did accomplish something that is revealed in Romans:
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound… [Rom 5:20]
When law enters in to our Christian life and walk:
…when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. [Rom 7:9]
But we have a standing as justified by grace (Rom 3:24), justified by faith (Rom 5:1), and justified by blood (Rom 5:9). God has expressly declared us to be righteous. It is His declaration that makes it so and He declares it righteously by virtue of the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God [Rom 8:16], so with His witness, we will trust Him that what He has said He will do. I do not feel righteous or holy, but He says I am. The arm of flesh (law keeping) will not add to my righteousness or holiness, but only revive sin.
We wait in hope for the righteousness (experientially) that He has declared judicially.
Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ: [Phl 1:6]
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [His] good pleasure. [Phl 2:13]
Circumcision (Jewishness) or uncircumcision (“gentileness”) makes no difference in Jesus Christ. Jews and gentiles are all proved “under sin” (Rom 3:9), but praise God that though all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), all that believe are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24). For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. [Rom 10:12-13]
One cannot enter into the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ by becoming a Jew (circumcision). There is no entering into the grace of our Lord Jesus by works of any sort. It is only by faith in the One who died for us carrying our sins in His own body.
By Whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [Rom 5:2]
Faith working by love will bring about changes in the believer that attempts to live by law never will, so we patiently wait trusting in God that what He has said He will do. Until next time, walk by faith not by sight!