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Thursday, December 12, 2019

2019.12.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:1-6

Questions from the Scripture text: In what does the apostle command them to stand fast (Galatians 5:1)? Who has given us our freedom? What does the apostle again call submission to the Jewish church calendar and ceremonies? What are they considering doing, according to Galatians 5:2? How much will Christ profit them, if they seek spiritual value in circumcision? And if a man is circumcised because he feels a religious obligation to, what else is he indebted to do (Galatians 5:3)? What two things does Galatians 5:4 say have happened to those who attempt to be justified by law? Through Whose power did we come to faith (Galatians 5:5)? What do we eagerly expect to receive by this faith? What two things avail nothing, according to Galatians 5:6? What, in Christ Jesus, is effective?
The freedom that is being described here comes in the context of having made our transition from being under the guardian to having come into our inheritance (cf. Galatians 4:1-4, Galatians 4:9). The apostle’s point is twofold.

First, we should be embracing and celebrating the change that Christ brought from the slavery of outward forms to the sonship of simpler but fuller and more direct knowledge of God in Christ. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free!”

Second, if instead of embracing the change that Christ brought, we begin again to add external forms, we will be bringing ourselves back under that former slavery. The word translated “be entangled” has the sense “come under the control of.” We are easily entangled, easily controlled, by forms and patterns and practices in religion—and even the ones that point us to Christ quite easily take Christ’s place.

This is why the apostle warns them, “if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” Why? Is uncircumcision a superior condition? Galatians 5:6 says that uncircumcision avails nothing! The problem is that it is the living Christ Whom we are to know and interact with in all our religion, which means that those things in which He has not currently appointed to give Himself become worse than worthless—they become competition to Christ and enslaving. Therefore, “If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.”

The time had passed for circumcision (and other things, cf. Galatians 4:10-11) to keep God’s people focused upon the Christ to come. Attaching any religious value to circumcision would be to try to go back to that law as if it were possible to be saved by the forms that had been given by Moses—something that was never possible even at the time of Moses. This is what the apostle means when he says that becoming circumcised would obligate them to keep the whole law (Galatians 5:3), and that seeking standing before God in this way is to become “estranged from Christ” (Galatians 5:4).

Are we already what we ought to be? No! There is that holiness without which we will not see the Lord (cf. Hebrews 12:14). When we see Him, we will be like Him, and when that is our hope, we are devoted to purifying ourselves as He is pure (cf. 1 John 3:1-3). The question here is not whether or not there should be effort or growth in the Christian life.

The question is: how does that happen? If it’s not by circumcision, then is it by uncircumcision? Galatians 5:5-6 answers that it is neither of these things, but that the faith by which we have received righteous standing in Christ also depends upon the Spirit to give us the righteous character of Christ—something that is energized (made effective, “working” in verse 6) not by law but by love.
What are some things that man has added to “Christianity” that Christ hasn’t? What do Galatians 5:2 and Galatians 5:4 warn us will be the effect of practicing such things in addition to the current means by which Christ gives Himself to us and works in us? What place does love of Christ have in your own daily Christian walk? Where does Scripture say it comes from? What does Scripture say it does?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

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