Faith results in obedience, obedience cannot come before. (Romans 1:5) The obedience of faith is to believe…and as the Holy Spirit works in us, His works come out of our believing hearts, fulfilling the law of love and the law of liberty as James calls it. He has freed us, and we are therefore finally able (and finally willing) to stand firm, in that freedom.
Freedom! Before we go further, read through Acts 13:38-40: Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Therefore take heed…
Freed us from what? Go back to Galatians 4:3 and 9, He freed us from guardians, managers, elemental things of this world (including lies, formulas for living, “mere common sense,” and legalism), false gods, appetites, ceremonial laws (days weeks and years) that were a but a shadow of Christ. All things the Law kept us shut up under. All things of our choosing.
Do not be subject again, AGAIN? To the Law, to that ‘yoke of slavery.’ The Yoke of the law was actually an honorable way of speaking in this time of obligation. But picture the oxen unable to go left or right because of the yoke of slavery? Imagine wanting to turn around toward even a good way, but you must keep plodding along, led by a task master, controlled by the yoke.
Remember we were all, all humans, whether Jew or Greek, all shut up in sin under the law. Christ has freed you from what Acts 15:10 reminds us was something completely unbearable. No person can live up to the law’s expectations, and can never find freedom from that slavery.
KEEP STANDING FIRM
We don’t always like new testament commands. We tend toward one of three extremes: NO! No commands, Christ freed me, so I’ll keep sinning that grace may abound!!! Or…No–this is impossible! No one can do this! We are all a mess, and its ok. Who do you think you are to tell me anyone can… Or lastly…legalism, self-effort and extra laws to hedge me in safely…and extra things to make up for all future sins…
Richard Sibbes encouraged his parishioners: “The gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig leaves of morality will do us no good.” 1
So, what do we do with this admonishment to keep standing firm. How do we understand this? How do we embrace it?
Standing fast in our freedom will safeguard from lawkeeping legalism, and seeking righteousness by fleshly means rather than the righteousness that comes through faith.
For more on standing firm, see: 1 Cor 16:13; Phil 1:27; Phil 4:1; 1 Thess 3:8
Enemies to our standing firm are plentiful: Judaizers, spiritual Jones’, legalism of any sort, appetites and lusts, idols, the false systems of the world (whether philosophy, heretical religion, common sense, American Dream, Your Best Life Now!, political parties, and books that encourage you to listen to God apart from Scripture (to hear Him on your own terms rather than His).
Vs 2-3 to accept circumcision voluntarily as a religious duty implies acceptance of the whole way of life written of in the law, of which it is the initiatory rite. There is no leniency from Paul, they are not told they can do this if their heart is truly devoted to Christ. They are not told how to “redeem circumcision” as it were. You want to add some laws back in? THen you HAVE TO LIVE BY THE LAW!!!! And since you’re not perfect, you will lie.
Verse 4–severed from Christ. In Romans 7:6 we were severed from the law (same verb). Human merit incompatible with divine grace. We receive, not earn. We ought to look expectantly toward Christ, rather than trying to prepare ourselves and make ourselves “more fit.”
To seek out circumcision, which represented belonging to the covenant community, is to reject God’s way of justification–the true circumcision of the heart, and the true Way into the covenant community. (For further meditation on this, read Philippians 3)
The reformers were adamant that nothing but the WORD of GOD can bind men’s consciences; only God’s Word can tell us what God requires–we may not disregard portions of the Gospel, or add to it.
“Christ is obscured, or rather extinguished, unless our consciences stand firm in their freedom. They have surely fallen away from it if they can, at men’s good pleasure, be ensnared by the bonds of laws and constitutions.”
Malachi 3:17 as sons!!! We are sons, not slaves, remember Galatians 4!). We are free from…and free to… Free to obey, though yet imperfectly. Free to run to our God who is NOT a task master! Free to run to the throne of grace and expect mercy! Our consciences need not be bound by pharisaical to do lists, we have a Father who delights in us as sons, not servants. The Spirit cleanses our consciences–let us not turn elsewhere for help with our guilty conscience, or with our desire to please God. Want to obey? Want to please God? Do not let anyone bind your conscience out of fear or ignorance–take this desire to God, search His word, pray without ceasing and find your assurance from Him. Obedience is a fruit of His Spirit, and fruitful good works will be done by us–but by and from and through and to Him. We are not free to shake off obedience, or to shake off God’s authority.
Verse 5, for we through the Spirit by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For! A reason why we resist the Judaizers…the difference between us and them…
There is more to come, a time and place that is better…as Lewis puts it, more England than England…no more shadow of law, of darkness, of sin, of any of the effects of sin. Everything finally more perfect than can we can imagine. (Ponder 1 Corinthians 2:9-12)
Are we waiting? Are you? Let Galatians 5:5 soak into your humdrum, into your trials, into your frustrations… In this post genesis 3 world, we wait–we long for the culmination of His work! We groan, we eagerly anticipate, we gaze heavenward…we cry out “come Lord Jesus!” We will one day dwell in the land of righteousness, this hope is sure and steadfast.