Summary: A message from an expository series from the book of Galatians.
As you are probably quite sick of hearing; Galatians 5:1 states the theme of the entire letter. Christ has set us free. What Paul wants more than anything is for us to enjoy this freedom that Christ has provided. When we allow ourselves to become subject to traditions and other man made standards we neutralize the effect that grace has upon our lives. When the effect of grace is allowed to be neutralized in our lives we slip back into the slavery of a religion based upon works. As we have learned if we want to live a life apart from grace we in reality are living a life apart from Christ. Because we once again have been enslaved by the things Christ had set us free from. When it is all said and done there is only one thing that counts. And that is neither an outward religious observance nor the observance of some law or tradition but faith. In 1954 Dwight Eisenhower gave his famous explanation of the foundation of American Democracy. “Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith and I don’t care what it is.” It is obvious though the Paul cares and he is convinced that God cares. That faith that expresses itself is faith in Christ. So let’s take some time this morning to examine this faith that Paul is presenting.
I. Faith in Christ is a central theme in the Gospel message.
A. Paul is concerned that the Galatian Christians not return to any form of slavery to “the weak and miserable principles” they formerly served.
1. We will not go astray if we remember that for Paul, Christian liberty was always grounded on the believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ on the one hand and with the community of faith on the other.
2. Outside of Jesus Christ, human existence is characterized as bondage—bondage to the law, bondage to the evil elements dominating the world, bondage to sin, the flesh, and the devil.
3. To the church at large Paul says, “If you go on having yourselves circumcised,” you are relying on a false premise. This dependence on circumcision must stop!
4. Christ will “profit nothing” to those whose trust is in their own work of keeping laws such as circumcision. It is not merely a matter of adding an innocuous “extra” to the gospel; it is a matter of changing it to no gospel at all.
5. An ethical life must begin by recognizing that the foundation of God’s dealings with men is grace through faith rather than legalism. "Do you wish to lead a holy life?" Paul seems to be asking. "Then begin with the principles of faith and shun legalism."
6. In the ever ongoing arguments over whether it is possible for a Christian to “fall away from grace,” this verse is a sword that cuts both ways. On the one hand, it clearly is possible for a Christian who has believed and received the Holy Spirit to be later misled and be “alienated from Christ” and “fall away from grace.” On the other hand, it must be noted that the way such people fall away is not by inadequate attention to keeping all God’s rules, but by inadequate reliance upon grace.
B. For the Galatians to accept this heretical theology and the practice derived from it would mean that they had rejected God’s all-sufficient provision for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross.
1. To have faith in Jesus Christ is to trust his sacrifice to be adequate in God’s eyes to save the sinner. To believe that his sacrifice is in any way deficient is not to trust—not to believe.
2. The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Christian faith is faith in Christ not in some outward religious expression.
3. The outward expressions of religion: circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbaths can do nothing about saving us from our sins.
4. To trust in such things is to be alienated from Christ, fallen away from grace and having no right to hope that the Lord will one day declare us righteous.
5. Holiness will never come as the result of someone insisting on adherence to either man-made or even God-made regulations.
II. True faith in Christ always expresses itself.
A. If the Galatians submit to the rite of circumcision they are demonstrating more faith in the Jewish Law than in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
1. It is “by faith” that the peril of apostasy is avoided. “Falling away” is not avoided by deciding it could never happen (Calvinists) nor by trying harder to earn a safer place in God’s favor (legalists).
2. Paul and those who like Isaac are children of promise do not place their trust in their own deeds of righteousness. Instead, they place their hope in God and eagerly await a righteousness “not of their own, not based on law”