|Posted on November 27, 2019 at 11:20 AM|
In the practical section of his letter to the churches of Galatia Paul gives us a stern warning about the way we should be living our lives as believers. He says, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, you are fallen from grace.” When we try to live our lives as believers through our own efforts at rule keeping, we are justifying ourselves by our own ability to keep the law. In this condition we have only our own self-righteousness to count on and not the righteousness of Christ making him of “no effect”. The natural outcome is described by Paul as “fallen from grace” since Jesus is full of grace and truth.
Having been saved from the penalty of sin by grace, those who return to their own efforts to live their new life in Christ are leaving the provisions of God’s grace for their continued walk. In essence, they are on their own to behave themselves and fulfill all the requirements of the law. In this condition they will fail miserably since the lifestyle believers are called to requires the supernatural grace of God to live. Yes, they remain the children of God since they have been born of the Spirit but are simply babes who need to grow in grace and knowledge. Growing in grace necessitates an understanding of what God is now doing for them as his children to mature them so they can actually love others like Christ.
Paul goes on to give us a snapshot of the lifestyle of grace in the following two verses. First, he describes the way we enter into God’s grace by saying, “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Through the personal leadership and direction of the indwelling Spirit of God we wait for the “hope of righteousness”. Notice he says that we wait. Because of our natural impatience in the flesh we naturally hate to wait for anything we think is good. Baby Christians often rush into their new lifestyle trusting their own knowledge of good and evil rather than the indwelling Spirit to lead them. Now that they have been born again, they believe it is their duty to pay God back for his salvation. Spurred on by religious teachers who are quick to give them a list of rules to keep, they engage in a variety of religious rituals and practices to make themselves good Christians.
Instead Paul insists that we wait for the hope of righteousness that can only be realized through the transforming power of the indwelling Spirit of God. Waiting on the Lord is not simply a passive state or a fatalistic philosophy but is done “by faith”. It is the exercised of faith that gives us access into the grace we live in. Our faith in who God has made us to be in Christ and all the associated promises is what we are called to believe. Such astounding facts as “being dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God”, “being dead to the law by the body of Christ”, being “married to Christ so that we can bear fruit unto God”, etc.; all describe our new identity in Christ and are realized in our personal experience only as the Spirit renews our minds. Such faith is essential for the believer to receive the grace of God to not only realize his new identity in Christ, but also begin to love others like he does. Just like our salvation from the penalty of sin we are being saved from the habit and dominion of sin by grace through faith.
Paul concludes this picture of grace as a lifestyle for the believer by telling us that our efforts to behave ourselves do not count with God. “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love”. The Jewish rite of circumcision was a real controversy in the Galatian churches as they were being taught a man cannot be saved unless he was circumcised and kept the Law of Moses. Here Paul states it is not what believers do or do not do that counts with God, but faith that us to love others. Our faith in our new identity gives us the personal hope we need to quit being so selfish and self-centered and actually care about others. Our faith in the personal leadership and power of the indwelling Spirit gives us the ability to do and say the things we must to love others like Christ.