whytheology

For the Intersection of the Everyday and the Sacred

March 22 Reflection, Galatians 5:1-6

Galatians 5:1-6 KJV (NIV link below)

1Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

5For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

6For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

NIV Link to text

Freedom in Christ

Paul has been building, for four chapters now, to the statement in verse one. The point of Christ’s death and resurrection, the purpose of the salvation offered to you is freedom. If you have been made free by Christ, why would you become a slave to someone else?

As Paul elaborates, we might be tempted to say that this is an example of persons losing their salvation (in fact it’s where the phrase “fall from grace” came from). That is not at all what is going on here. Paul is instead pointing out the ridiculousness of the Judaizer position. Circumcision and other works of the law are not what save you. If you are trying to earn your salvation by circumcision then you have a long way to go. If you are going to rely upon your effort to achieve salvation, then you can’t pick up on this one little bit of the law, you are obliged to fulfill all of it. This is the problem: trying to be justified by the law is a rejection of the work of Christ. Christ fulfilled it, we don’t need to do the same because in his death we find ourselves so that in our life Christ is alive. The necessary righteousness has already been accomplished, we are only awaiting its fulfillment in us at Christ’s return.

That is the gospel: you are saved, made just, made righteous already. Your sainthood is secure. We have trouble acknowledging that because we live in this “already, not yet” time frame between when this was accomplished and when we see its fulfillment. What counts now, though, is not the works we do, but the faith in that fulfillment. This faith finds fullest expression in love for God and for neighbor. This is a key distinction. If you take nothing else from this entire study remember this: righteousness is the result of, not the prerequisite for, salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.

Join the conversation and add your thoughts. What does freedom in Christ mean to you? The verb Paul uses for circumcision is passive, not active. What might it mean to think of sin or abandonment of the gospel as a passive action? What does it mean to adhere to the gospel of grace actively?

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