Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Liberty, Faith, Love and Truth


Galatians 5:1-12 

V. 1-4  For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 
2.  Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 
3.  I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 
4.  You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 

Warren Wiersbe wrote:  "Sad to say, there are some people who feel very insecure with liberty. They would rather be under the tyranny of some leader than to make their own decisions freely. There are some believers who are frightened by the liberty they have in God’s grace; so they seek out a fellowship that is legalistic and dictatorial, where they can let others make their decisions for them. This is comparable to an adult climbing back into the crib. The way of Christian liberty is the way of fulfillment in Christ. No wonder Paul issues that ultimatum: “Do not be entangled again in the yoke of bondage. Take your stand for liberty.”

What is biblical liberty? Once again, we have to be sure to obtain the definition from the Bible. It is something more than what the world would describe as liberty and it is also contrary to the world’s view.

Because the man of the world is basically egocentric, liberty would mean to him a removal of obstacles, so that he can fulfill his desires, ambitions, and bring himself happiness. It might also mean that, if he is bound by vices and bad habits, he would seek freedom from them, in order to enjoy himself on a much higher level. A higher degree of morality and decency would win for him a greater respect and honor from his fellow man. However, all of these goals are against the purposes of God and therefore, the liberty that he seeks, is not that which is found in the Bible.

Human definitions take nothing away from the fact that God is the God of liberty and offers, through the gospel, true freedom. Liberty is the ambiance of the heavenly Jerusalem and it is only in that ambiance that the new spiritual nature can develop. God’s freedom is absolutely priceless and far beyond the highest value that we can put upon it. I appreciate Warren Wiersbe’s comments throughout this epistle. Concerning gospel liberty, he says: “Paul’s doctrine of Christian liberty through grace is not the dangerous doctrine. It is legalism that is the dangerous doctrine, because legalism attempts to do the impossible: change the old nature and make it obey the Laws of God.”

 To be sure, the gospel will free the one who is enslaved by vices and bad habits, but it will not stop there. It will free from all the attractions of the world, which deceive and entice people to covet them, giving countless hours and mighty exertions of energy in order to possess them. It frees from the wily, supernatural lures of the devil and his kingdom.

It also attacks and destroys an enemy that is present in our lives 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This persistent slave driver is the ego that I mentioned earlier, as the control center of the people of the world. It makes its demands day and night. All our lives, we have habitually given it all that it asks. It gets us out of bed at night to fulfill some whim and dines with us at the table, dominating our appetite. It demands recreation and entertainment. It insists on recognition, high esteem and self-love. The gospel turns our attention humbly away from ourselves, in order to experience far higher and worthier joys.

In this letter, Paul is focusing on liberty from the horrible tyranny of man’s works of righteousness by the law. Our proud ego tries to govern us, claiming that we must do something by our own efforts in order that we might gain salvation. This is an arrogant deception, making an individual think that there is some goodness in himself, some worthy potential, by which he can lift himself into God’s favor. He exalts himself, rather than magnifying the mercy and grace of God for a helpless, depraved sinner. All his efforts and attention, given to fulfill the law, only bring him under a yoke of bondage.

The Galatian decision to take the rite of circumcision (in relation to his salvation) was his initiation, bringing him under the yoke of the law. Immediately, he yields his liberty, forfeits the blessings of Christ and “is obligated to keep the whole law”. For a graphic Old Testament picture of a yoke of bondage, read the story of sightless Samson, grinding at a prison mill like an ox (Judg.16:21). Paul, several times in the epistle, shows the black and white extremes of this choice with no gray areas, no middle ground, between. Take a look… in this chapter 5:2 and 4: “If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you… You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” See also 1:6; 2:21; and 4:11.

Gospel liberty comes through the knowledge of the truth, first of all, but it is the truth itself that has power to free: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn.8:32). Jesus Christ is the embodiment of truth: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn.8:36). “I am… the truth”, He said, that leads to the Father and heaven (Jn.14:2,6). Our focus must be upon Him and the authority of His word.

“Stand firm therefore.” There is much value in a steadfast stand. We often look and admire the ones who seem to make much progress, running rapidly and outdistancing the rest of the body of Christians, but later we see them quickly tire or trip and fall in some way. After making this observation over a period of years, one comes to appreciate and esteem the people who plod forward faithfully, year after year, always solid, always firm in their stand, in their faith and in their doctrine.

V. 5-12  For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 
6.    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything    but only faith working through love. 
7.    You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 
8.    This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 
9.    A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 
10.  I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 
11.  But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 
12.  I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! 

“Through the Spirit, by faith” are words that can be attached to almost all (if not all) scriptural counsel and commands. If these words were always written, the Bible would be a great deal thicker than it actually is. We can legitimately assume their unwritten presence, concerning all gospel truth. For example, in verse 5, “We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness, through the Spirit, by faith.” There is no other way for a Christian to hope. I won’t quote again chapter 3, verses 2-5, but there you find Paul teaching that all gospel work is accomplished through the Spirit, by faith. The Christian lives, works, achieves, understands, evangelizes, ministers and is sanctified through the Spirit, by faith, and must never depend upon his own efforts and abilities.  

Hope is faith in the future tense. By faith, we are made righteous, but we also wait… eagerly… for the hope of a future of perfect righteousness. This is “the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col.1:5). It is “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award … to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Ti.4:8).

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything.” Circumcision, in itself, is not right and is not wrong. Being uncircumcised, in itself, is not right and not wrong, it just doesn’t count before God and never did. It was always symbolic and already that is made clear in the Old Testament, even by the lawgiver, Moses: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (Dt.10:16). “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart… so that you will love your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Dt.30:6). Then, centuries later, Jeremiah commanded, “Remove the foreskin of your hearts…” (Jer.4:4).

On the other hand, faith working through love, is that for which God is looking. These are the foundational virtues, given to the Christian. Love is the motivational force behind all Christian service, which obligates free and willing devotion to Christ. Faith gives the ability to fulfill His purposes.  

Truth is the essential teaching that provides the believer with the knowledge of God’s will. It stands in direct opposition to the heart of the world’s overall philosophy and ideology, which is deception. The assumption that doctrine is not important will leave a vacuum in the life of the person, who assumes it, and will make room in his heart for deception.

As Paul has been teaching us, “the world’s rudiments” lead to slavery and, ultimately, spiritual ruin. John simply teaches, “No lie is of the truth” (1 Jn.2:21). Jesus, praying to the Father, states, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (Jn.17:17). The Christian can only advance in obedience to the truth of the word of God. Progress immediately stops, when doctrinal lies enter. “Who hindered you?” Obviously, not the One who called you. It is a foreign element, who entered, presented false doctrine, and hindered you, and ultimately, you are responsible for following it.

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Leaven makes a substance appear to be bigger than it actually is. It is symbolic of deception, hypocrisy and pride, three unwholesome ingredients that work together to produce a carnal product. This is a subtler way for Paul to show that the works of the law are entirely incompatible with Christ and His grace and will annul His work in the Christian. Leaven enters the whole lump and puffs it out of shape.

I see nothing positive about leaven in the entire Bible. The Jews observed a feast of unleavened bread and leaven was not allowed in any offering by fire. There are two exceptions, where leavened bread is offered, apart from the offerings by fire, which were entirely offered to God. In those exceptional offerings (Lev.7:13; 23:17), leaven symbolized the reality of sin still present in the individual and in the church, as John teaches us: “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 Jn.1:10).

Jesus warned His disciples of leaven. I am among a minority of Christians, who believe that Jesus’ parable of leaven in three measures of meal (Mt.13:31-33) is actually a prophecy, pointing to what is now a historical fact. The kingdom of God on this earth, sown as a mustard seed, became a monstrous tree, full of corruption, instead of the desired mustard plant. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, as well as in the portion that we are studying, Paul warns of the negative consequences of placing leaven in the lump of dough.

Paul shows confidence that this problem now will be dealt with and his confidence is not in the Galatians, but in the Lord. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Mt.16:18) and He is intervening through the apostle to eliminate the serious threat caused by the Judaizers, while He works in the inner recesses of the heart. We can be assured, as well, that where Christ’s true church is found today, He will deal with corruption, before irreparable damage takes place. For love of His bride, He acts to save her from the attacking wolves. You may recall that I mentioned this intervention much earlier in our study. The false teachers will experience His judgment and the church must act to renounce and alienate themselves from them.

Much of the persecution in the early church came from the Jews. Teaching of circumcision and the keeping of the Law of Moses would find much more acceptance among them. This teaching, then, is the more popular teaching in Paul’s day. Perhaps a false assumption arose that Paul preached circumcision; he did, after all, circumcise Timothy. He argues that the greatest offense to the Jews and the world is the preaching of the cross, which runs totally cross-current to the teaching of circumcision. His argument is based on the fact of the resulting persecution, when preaching the cross; Paul was persecuted everywhere. He proclaimed that salvation is through the cross alone and circumcision does not play the smallest part in it.

Verse 12 is a very strong and graphic statement, one you would not ordinarily expect from the apostle, nor will you find anything like it in any other place in his fourteen epistles. I will not specifically point out a few places in the Bible, where God’s mouthpieces spoke a surprisingly crude language. In saying this, I am not accepting, nor excusing, some preachers in our day, who go far beyond the limits of acceptable vocabulary. Jesus taught, “Out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks” (Lk.6:45), which tells me that these foulmouthed preachers, also have a foul heart. Paul, however, is simply desiring the excommunication of these ‘circumcision’ teachers, but his term is correctly translated in the ESV “emasculate”. To these, who are glorying in the number of Christians that they are persuading to be circumcised, Paul suggests that they should go a step farther in cutting their own bodies.


Post a Comment