Continuing our series in Galatians 5:6-12:
Faith working through love, true theology impacting one’s being will always come out in obedience to God’s Word. God’s work of renewing and giving us life in His Son enables us to finally do something of eternal value. Or as Hebrews 9:14 says, to serve the living God rather than doing dead works. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything–but faith working through love does! Faith working through love matters, it is purposeful and joyful and meaningful. It spreads God’s love, but also increases our enjoyment of His love.
True saving faith comes out of the heart in our actions. Hide it under a bushel? No!
Apart from Me, says Jesus, you can do nothing (John 15). But in Him, you will do, you will bear fruit. He makes us fruitful. Faith working through love is vital.
If I have all faith so as to move mountains, but have not love… 1 Cor 13:2… I am a sham, I am fooling myself and others but not God.
(Ponder James 2:14-26 sometime, on this very topic)
Puritan Richard Baxter wrote in 1650: [concerning the] Law of Christ. Christ hath done and will do all HIs work, and therefore is a perfect Saviour; but yet leaves for us a work to do…which is wholly in Christ, and not one grain in ourselves; nor must we dare to think of patching up a legal righteousness of Christ’s and our own together…not duty without Christ, but no Christ without duty. 1
So the teaching is not to strive, not to fleshly strength or worldly wisdom–but to obey the truth out of a heart of faith.
Acts 26:19ff Paul instructed those listening to the Gospel to “turn to God performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” The Spirit gives LIFE, and that life is active ( 2 Cor 3:6; John 6:63) leading us to crucify the old and walk in the new.
Verse 7–you were running well, who hindered you from obeying the truth? The truth calls us to an active life–we join in His Kingdom work. You were running well. Your faith was working. Or as John said of his flock “my children walking in truth.”
Verse 8-9–this persuasion. You were persuaded. Let us not mock the Galatians or look down on them. Unless we are in the WORD, clinging to Him and abiding in Him, we too will be easily persuaded. Think not? Jesus warned His disciples that the antichrist would fool even the elect if He had not safeguarded them. A little leaven. That is all it takes. When we take it upon ourselves to listen to teachers from various theological backgrounds, we too could suddenly begin to wonder, becoming unsure if there is something we need to do to keep ourselves in the love of Christ, and we begin striving. Or to believe there is nothing God requires, and to leave off the “obedience of faith” and the “faith working through love” and the “walking in the truth.”
Verse 10– I have confidence in you!!! How we all need to hear this. Let this be part of how we admonish one another. Though we cannot know the hearts of our friends, we can know what we see, and we know that encouragement goes a long way–let us be lifegiving in our admonishing, rather than merely matter of fact “what?! You are considering circumcision?!!! You idiot!!!” We temper the “o foolish galatians” with the “I have confidence with you.”
Verse 11–circumcision opposed to cross. No stumbling block (cf 1 Cor 1:18-31). The cross has abolished sin and death–yet choosing circumcision abolishes the cross.
Let us not forget what a huge deal this is. Paul has been establishing the fact of “justification by faith alone” and emphasizing that all that matters for Christianity is contained in the cross–if we nullify the cross, we are stuck in our sins, we are of all men most to be pitied (borrowing that from Paul’s words on the resurrection!).
Verse 12–NASB renders this ‘mutilate’ and ESV renders this ‘emasculate’ which is much closer–Paul is showing how this little cutting away, this little law keeping, this little leaven, is HUGE. Oh that the trouble makers would be eunuchs, that they would castrate themselves-and therefore become detestable to the Jewish religion they are adding into Christianity. Read Deuteronomy 23:1. Instead of leading the dear believers astray with a little cutting, it would be better if they would experience the inability to reproduce and the inability to continue in their false form of religion, being cut off from the people of God.
So often evengalicals try to fold in opposing views out of “niceness” or by following academia’s lead. No, purge out the leaven. Cut off the heresy. Recognize it and give it no place in our worship or teaching or way of life. Walk the aisles of Lifeway book store–before they close–you will find many so-called “forms” of Christianity–many of which add a bit of leaven in one way or another. Take those teachings to heart and your whole heart and soul will be leavened. If we would share in the true love of God, we would be jealous for His holiness–we would abhor all that opposed it, or sought to tarnish or steal it.
A parting word from Luther: This goes to show again how much importance Paul attached to the least points of the Christian doctrine, that he dared to curse the false apostles, evidently men of great popularity and influence. What right, then, have we to make little of doctrine? No matter how nonessential a point of doctrine may seem, if slighted it may prove the gradual disintegration of the truths of our salvation. Let us [rather] do everything to advance the glory and authority of God’s Word. 2