"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The G.E.P.C Study – GALATIANS 5 – PT. 1 of 2

Going Through Paul’s epistles to Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossi
("Great Electric Power Company" is a convenient way to remember the order of these epistles!)

INTRODUCTION: There was in those days severe persecution for Jews who converted to Christianity. The temptation to revert back to Mosaic Judaism so as to avoid persecution by their fellow Jews was very real. But to revert back to the old covenant for the means of salvation would mean returning to animal sacrifices and the rites of the Temple, and that was no longer viable, much less effective because the LAMB of GOD had come as an offering for sin: the only absolute atonement. As well as this, sacrifices were no longer available after 70 AD, for the Temple was destroyed along with most of Jerusalem.

For some of the Galatian disciples it was a matter of desiring an escape from persecution and poverty, but it was really a matter of remaining faithful to the LORD.

For those tempted to return to Judaism, that was familiar to them; having adhered to the old covenant for the entirety of their lives it would be a simple thing to return to it. This ‘Christian life’ was new, and strange – and they were unaccustomed to it.

This would surely separate the real converts from the pretenders. Persecution has a way of doing that.

The apostle Paul in this 5th Chapter is emphasizing some of these points, and underscoring the need to cleave to the LORD, the ONLY Way to the Father!

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law

The yoke of bondage is the Law, represented by the circumcision. Yet while the Law is holy (ROM 7:12), we are “sold under sin” (ROM 7:14), that is, sold into the slave market of sin (and in need of redemption). The Law is not liberating, nor does it deliver from judgment. Rather the reverse, it delivers to judgment. There is no hope in the Holy Law of GOD – which is why it was necessary to shed the blood of animals under the Old Covenant. Those sacrifices only covered over sin – a sort of “Levitical band-aid” until the Messiah would come and save His people from their sins (MATT 1:21).

Paul’s ardent admonition to the churches of Galatia is that they stand firm and immoveable in the liberty granted solely by the LORD Jesus Christ, our Liberator! There is a danger in drifting back into the Old Covenant. It can entangle with deep rooted traditions and conformity to Jewish community.

Any Jew who was excommunicated was rejected by the community, so that they would likely lose their jobs, and no one would be willing to trade with them. Excommunication meant financial and social suicide.

Christ invites all who are heavy laden and laboring [under the weight of the Law or any variety of burdens that this fallen world is heir to; MATT 11:28-30] to come to Him and take His yoke upon themselves – there, and only there will one find rest for one’s soul.

The idea of “rest” is something that GOD did after six days of work and established the sabbath for man (not the other way around). Yet the deeper meaning for “rest” is in regards to laboring for one’s own soul. Israel ‘labored’ in this sense in the Law and proved that they (as we ourselves) were pretty lousy employees! And it was tiring as well.

Elsewhere the apostle Paul admonished the saints in HEBREWS:
1Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest,'" although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
We must rely not on our weak works and ragged righteousness (ISA 64:6) but on the finished works of GOD completed from the beginning of time. This is a mystery! Christ was crucified 2,000 years ago, and yet here it speaks of us who may now enter into rest (from our own vain efforts to provide ourselves salvation) and trust in GOD’s work. Since Christ died for all sin, from the very beginning to the end of time, this sacrifice was in itself established before GOD said, “Let there be light”. Not to say that Christ was crucified literally and repeatedly back then and throughout time: his actual atonement happened just “once” (HEB 9:26), but in a mysterious sense this atonement was established “from the foundation of the world” (REV 13:8).

Circumcision intimates the Covenant of the Law; and only those who obey the Law (completely, perfectly, continually) shall live by the Law (ROM 10:5). Such an attempt would theoretically be a work of self-righteousness (if this was even possible), which in reality is flawed at best and wholly offensive to a holy GOD at worst (ISA 64:6), and in no way comparable to the righteousness that Christ provides (ROM 10:4; 
TITUS 3:5-7).

From the beginning the outward sign of circumcision was established only after the inward expression of faith towards GOD was made by Abraham (ROM 4:10-12). Paul emphasizes faith over circumcision (and uncircumcision) in GALATIANS 5:6.

At the Council of Jerusalem (ACTS 15) the apostle Peter presented the argument that none of the fathers were able to carry this yoke of the Law, nor those gathered at the Council at that time (ACTS 15:10). There are many professing Christians today that assert and affirm that we are obligated to keep the Law and the Feasts.

However, the question as to whether or not Gentiles were/are obligated to do so was discussed, settled and mandated by the saints there, led by the elder of Jerusalem, James (the half-brother of Jesus). The Gentiles were not at all obligated to carry such a burden. This mandate was in accord with the Holy Spirit, I might add.
ACTS 15:24-29
24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law" to whom we gave no such commandment-- 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
There are those who argue that Paul kept the Law, and Zacharias and Elizabeth “were both righteous before GOD, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the LORD, blameless” (LK 1:6), thus validating the keeping of the Law in order to, in a sense, ‘supplement’ the righteousness of Christ with our own for salvation (suggesting that those who don’t follow the Law either are not saved or in disobedience).

This however does not mean that these saints were sinless; all sinners will end up in hell without the righteousness of Christ. What this verse means is that they offered up all the required sacrifices, kept the Law and Feasts and where they did sin (and we all have) the offerings covered their sin, but didn’t atone for them effectively, permanently. They were “blameless” only in this sense. Only the shed blood of Christ under the New Covenant takes away sin! One cannot mix and match elements from both Covenants. You can’t expect to maintain faith in Christ while at the same time adhere to Mosaic Law for justification. Those who depend on “circumcision… Christ will profit you nothing.”

Today Christians apply the Law of GOD (in its moral edicts) as a standard of holy living, not as a means of salvation (because it was never intended to bring salvation!). Salvation comes solely by faith in GOD and in His Word, His promises, His eternal covenant. Abraham, not Moses is our example (ROM 4:1-3). And the summation of the Holy Law is expressed by the LORD Himself, that if one obeys these, one fulfills all of the Law:
MATTHEW 22:37-40
 37 Jesus said to him," 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Apostle Paul recognized this being “a Pharisee of the Pharisees…touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (PHIL 3:6). What was his estimation of his efforts in keeping the Law?
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love

“Estranged” here is a compound word in the Greek: katargeo and its prefix apo; together this compound word implies: “useless, abolish, to cease, do away with, to put away, to make void. Apo is defined as: away (from something near in place, time or relation), usually denotes separation, departure.

Together, “estranged” or as it says in NLKV: “become of no effect” gives the understanding that these Galatians have made the grace of GOD useless in their lives. Any foundation that would be based on grace is abolished, having reverted back to the Law (or at least temporarily so, if or until they return to the grace of GOD). This compound word expresses a cessation, to put something – or in this case, Someone! – away. This has been done between the professing believer (one who claims to be saved and may or may not be) and the LORD Jesus, the Provider of this grace: He was someone that they were “near” to but have been separated.

Many use vs. 4 as a proof text that a person can lose their salvation. Did they become apostate? Did they depart from “the faith”** (and could apostates unequivocally be considered saved at one point)? Were that the case the Greek word for “fallen” would have been aphistemi (as it’s used on 1 TIM 4:1), but the word used here in this verse is ekpipto, which does actually mean “drop away, or driven out of one’s course, to lose or become something, to fail, take none effect, fall away.
**”…the faith” is a phrase used throughout the New Testament. In the majority of cases this refers to the body of doctrines contained in Scripture (ex.: JUDE 1:3). A person could very well “believe” intellectually, without genuine belief “from the heart” (ROM 10:9-10) and have “believed in vain” (1 COR 15:2); they could hear and understand (to a point) the doctrine, without applying the Gospel truth to their lives. These are those whose roots don’t go down deep enough so that they don’t produce fruit (MATT 13:5-6,20-21). These sort are considered “tares” (MATT 13:27-30; note esp. vs. 39), “false brethren” (GAL 2:4). Consider the dog and the swine in 2 PET 2:20-22 – we see no evidence of conversion here: It’s true that they have “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the LORD…” which is something that may occur with any unbeliever whose heart is being worked upon by the Holy Spirit, leading to conversion, but they are still a dog, or a swine (not being converted to “a sheep”) just as they’d always been.

From our prior commentary in GALATIANS 2 we have the following:

“We can equate false brethren with “tares” – they are convincing in their appearance (as tares are with wheat) but lack any fruit. These are they that operate by stealth, that is, subtlety (as with their father; GEN 3:1). These are the sort that say, “LORD, LORD” in MATT 7:21-23. Notice that there is no case in which the LORD said, “Once I knew you, but I know you no more”. He declares that He never knew them, all the while they were claiming Him as LORD.”
Have these fallen away from “the faith”? It states that they have fallen from grace and have rather gone back to the Law. This is why I stated that these Galatians that have done so may or may not have been saved to begin with. A saved person might put themselves under the Law, but if they do, the nature of their relationship to Christ cannot be based on grace, but Law. Any such relationship would be inconducive, inappropriate, and ineffective in spiritual development.

I’ve known Christians who have been very “legalistic” … and are judgmental, extreme disciplinarians, usually lacking in the fruit of the Spirit to any significant degree. They have a joyless life and are far more about the truth than they are grace!

“…fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”

We who are genuinely born of the Spirit can wait with eagerness – not apprehension or anxiety – “for the hope of righteousness” because our hope is based solely on the LORD Jesus Christ, not our own works.

The good works produced in the life of a saint (MATT 5:16; EPH 2:10) reveal the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit by Whom they are produced (as is the fruit; GAL 5:22-23) and on the Day when we see our LORD, our hope (our “expectation”) is that He will declare us righteous, having received His robe (ISA 61:10)!

“…circumcision nor uncircumcision avails [anything], but faith working through love.”

I know that there are people who actually believe that if you have tattoos, then you can’t be saved – because you’ve polluted the temple of the Holy Spirit and there’s no undoing that! Others stress the necessity of water baptism in order to be saved: “if you’re not dunked, you’re sunk!” they say!

These are all outward things, that have no material relevance to the work of salvation which is from the heart (the inner man) by faith. I am not spiritually better off as far as my salvation is concerned if I am water baptized. Nor am I the worse if I have tattoos!

Whether we are circumcised or not, have tattoos or clean skin, or water baptized or not – these things don’t avail in matters of salvation. What matters is genuine repentance, genuine faith in Jesus Christ our LORD. It should be noted that “faith working (effective, influential) by love. Another word for faith is trust, and it’s those that you love, and more so those who love you, that you can trust.

We are so enthralled by the love the LORD Jesus has for us, that we willingly with wild abandon cast ourselves upon Him. This is a sweet surrender unequalled in its devotion in comparison to devotion towards any other person or thing!

The Word-Faith Movement overemphasizes and incorrectly defines “faith” and are often arrogant, judgmental, unkind, unsympathetic, etc. Were they to truly understand faith, they would know that its influenced by and only effective through the love of GOD! Both are important, as is hope, but there is an order of priority to observe here:
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Perhaps you might like to bookmark this link to read through this three part series:


7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

The apostle Paul’s assessment of the Galatians was that they “ran well”; they would recognize that as athletes running a race and doing it well, Paul wanted to encourage them. They were starting out good, but somewhere along the way, they started disobeying the truth: specifically, they began to revert back to the Old Covenant where abiding by the Law (which cannot save from sin, only expose and judge it) was taking the place of the New Covenant.

This disallowed them from receiving the grace of GOD, since strict adherence to the Law as proposed by the Pharisees as a means of salvation was based on a meritorious method of redemption.

Yet all have fallen short of the glory of GOD, all have sinned – we are all of us standing guilty before the Holy GOD and have – if anything – demerited ourselves by our crimes against the Throne of GOD.
ROMANS 3:19-23
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
It was the Judaizers that hindered the Galatians from obeying the truth that we are saved by grace through our LORD Jesus Christ and His atonement on the Cross.
ROMANS 3:24-26
24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
This is really nothing short of blasphemy; by reverting back to the sacrifice of animals, this elevates the shedding of their blood over the blood of the LAMB of GOD! The entire book of HEBREWS spells out clearly that Christ “…is better…” than the sacrificial animals (and angels, and Moses, etc.).

The LORD prevented this from carrying on indefinitely by seeing the Temple destroyed in 70 AD, so that no more animal sacrifices could be made.

The Scriptures declare that the Old Testament with its sacrifices, its rituals, its feasts are all shadows (preludes, indicators) of the One Who was to and has come, the LORD Jesus Christ. The Old Testament has been effectively replaced by the New Testament – not in the obsolescence of the Holy Law (HEB 10:1-10; note vs. 9) for the Law is the eternal morality and holiness of GOD, but in the accoutrements and furnishings of the Old Covenant, for “Christ is the end of the Law to all who believe” (ROM 10:4).

Our salvation must be solely based on Christ plus: nothing else! If we include any work or act in the work of our justification, then the cross will lose its effect in justifying the lost sinner! Any sort of such false doctrine, like leaven, will grow and infest and ruin Gospel truth in the life of any professing believer.

10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. 12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!

While Paul was confident that Christ our LORD would see to it that those who truly were saved would remain faithful, he did express doubts about them personally in regards to their wanting to remain “under the Law” GAL 4:17-31). He regarded those who were stirring up trouble (literally in the Greek “to agitate”), as those who would come under GOD’s judgment.

He asks them in this chapter the question involving the Jews persecution of himself. If he endorsed keeping the Law, they wouldn’t be persecuting him, but supporting him! He only preached Christ and Him crucified (1 COR 1:23; 2 COR 4:5) which the Greeks with all of their philosophy considered foolish, and the Jews stumbled over because of their adherence to the Law of Moses.

Socrates admitted to Plato his own consternation on the matter: “It may be possible for Deity to forgive sin, but I don’t see how.” How does one rectify a holy and just GOD with mercy and forgiveness?

The answer truly is the Cross of Christ: He took on the just punishment for our sin, allowing us to receive the mercy of GOD by not being judged and condemned as well as receiving eternal life not based on our own merit, but on that of Christ’s own! Believing the Gospel by faith is what saves!

Legalism wants to exalt one’s own religious efforts and that only feeds our pride; a gracious and free gift of salvation flies in the face of that and what should be a blessing, to those with such a mindset it becomes a stumbling block!

They would rather “glory [boast] in [the] flesh” (GAL 6:13) than humbly bow before the grace of GOD and receive His gift of grace. The apostle admits that since these Judaizers are so intent on circumcising others, that he wishes that they’d go ahead and castrate themselves! Sarcastically suggesting that if a little cutting away of the flesh is good, then more is better!

In fact, such will be cut off from the promises of the New Covenant because they refused to acknowledge their Messiah (ROM 11:18-22); their only hope is to repent and accept their Messiah and His finished work on the Cross, then they shall be grafted back in (ROM 11:23-26).

And speaking of cutting off, I think we shall cut off at this point in Chapter Five and pick up the second half another time!

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