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Galatians 5:2-6: Fallen from Grace or Hope in Christ?

Paul was a profound theologian, but he was also a practical theologian. He always applied theology to life. Theology changes lives. I heard of a pastor who was boasting that his church was very simplistic, he was quoted as saying, “Our church ain’t got no theology or no nothin.” The simple truth is, if the church has no theology it has nothing to offer a lost world. In all of his epistles, written to infant churches, he begins with a doctrinal section, then follows it with a practical section. He writes telling them how to live in the light of what they believe.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free…” (Galatians 5:1). In the previous message we learned that you cannot be totally free until you realize that your position in Christ is an eternal position. If I must worry about whether or not I am saved, I am not free. If I must continuously worry about falling from grace, I am in bondage. There is great freedom in knowing you’re saved eternally. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…” (John 10:28). Isn’t it liberating to know that those who are truly in Christ will never die? “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13 NLT).

Verse 2: “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.”

In other words, cut your flesh as a supplement to the gospel and you cut yourself off from Christ! There can be no mingling, no merging here. According to Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” Grace and works are mutually exclusive.

Paul is saying that you cannot add anything to your salvation. Circumcision will not benefit them, any more than church membership, baptism or good works can add to your salvation. Paul tells the Galatians that if they get circumcised that Christ will be no benefit to them, in other words they can’t add circumcision (or any other work) to their faith in Christ thinking that by doing both they will cover all of the bases, because in doing so they will lose Christ as their Savior. Christian liberty means, we are free from the law as the grounds, or the means of our justification before God.

“Paul’s argument to the Galatians here in this verse is simply that if they performed one single act hoping that thereby they would be making themselves righteous before God, then Christ could not be their Savior and His work for the them would ‘be of no benefit’ to them. Having salvation through Christ is all by faith, or it is by works, and, if by the works of the law then one must realize that no flesh shall ever be justified before the Lord…” –

The Judaizer’s might be saying something like, “You will lose your salvation if you will not be circumcised,” but Paul said, “Christ shall profit you nothing if you are.” He said that the consequence of this would be that they would not benefit from Christ in any practical manner.” –

Verse 3: “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.”

“The first fault with circumcision is that it makes Christ unprofitable. The second fault is that it obligates those who are circumcised to observe the whole Law. Paul is so very much in earnest about this matter that he confirms it with an oath. ‘I testify,’ he says, ‘I swear by the living God.’ Paul's statement may be explained negatively to mean: ‘I testify to every man who is being circumcised that he cannot perform the Law in any point. In the very act of circumcision he is not being circumcised, and in the very act of fulfilling the Law he fulfills it not.’ This seems to be the simple meaning of Paul's statement. Later on in the sixth chapter he explicitly states, ‘They themselves which are circumcised keep not the law.’ The fact that you are circumcised does not mean you are righteous and free from the Law. The truth is that by circumcision you have become debtors and servants of the Law. The more you endeavor to perform the Law, the more you will become tangled up in the yoke of the Law.” –Luther

Verse 4: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace” (NLT).

“Living by law is effectively a kind of Christ-rejection - that's how serious it is! Paul uses this term: 'it is falling away from grace'. Now, don't fall into the misunderstanding of that statement to think that it's teaching some kind of 'saved and lost' doctrine - that one minute we can be saved by grace through faith, and the next minute we can not be saved, and if we were to die end in eternal torment. That is not what this really means, 'falling away from grace', what it means is, in the context: 'If you're going to follow law, you're effectively rejecting Christ' - and that is a departure from God's ordained means of salvation, and God's ordained means of sanctification for that matter.” –

The context is Paul’s warning against mixing law and the Gospel to attain justification. He says to those who let themselves be circumcised (Galatians 5:2) that they are trying to be “justified by law” and have therefore “been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” It should be noted that there is no mention of salvation or the security of the believer. He is telling those who receive circumcision—in other words attempt to justify themselves through the rites and rules of the Law—that Christ will be of “no benefit” to them.

Paul does say that a person can fall from grace. He does not say, “fallen from salvation.” What does that mean? It means that a person can fall away from the principle of grace as the only means of salvation. Grace itself is not salvation. It is the means or the way to salvation. When a person (as the Judaizer’s) falls into legalism by adopting any human works for salvation, he is abandoning the way of grace. You can say he has “fallen from grace.”

Verse 5: “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”

Righteousness is ours the very moment we submit ourselves to Jesus for salvation. But we look forward to the fullness of His righteousness, when we come into His presence someday future.

“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT).

What is hope? Is it a wishy-washy, perhaps, or a kind of an unsure optimism? The modern idea of hope is, to wish for, to expect, but without certainty of the fulfillment; to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire. For example: “I hope I win the lottery!” There is no assurance that you will ever win the lottery! But hope in God is an absolute certainty!

In Scripture, the Hebrew and Greek words translated hope is an indication of certainty. Hope in Scripture means “a strong and confident expectation.”

Listen to what God says through the pen of Peter.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

The Holy Spirit gives us hope, a living hope, a life-giving hope, a hope that is sure and steadfast, anchored in a living relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” (Hebrews 6:19 NLT).

1. Our hope comes from an eternal God.

Psalm 90:1,2, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms…”,

Psalm 48:14. “For such is God, Our God forever and ever…”

Habakkuk 1:12, “Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One?”

2. Our hope comes from an eternal Savior, who never changes.

Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the One who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

2. Our hope comes from an eternal promise.

Hebrews 13:5 NLT, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 MSG, “Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In Him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting His Yes within us. By his Spirit He has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what He is destined to complete.”

Joshua 23:14 NLT, “Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!”

3. Our hope comes from an eternal plan.

1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

1 Corinthians 15:3,4, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

4. Our hope comes from an eternal perspective.

Our eyes are always on the prize.

Philippians 3:12-14 MSG, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

2 Corinthians 5:1 NLT, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands.”

Colossians 3:1-3, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

5. Our hope transforms lives. Too often hope is placed in the wrong source.

Some people hope in others.

Jeremiah 17:5 NLT, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.”

Psalm 40:4, “Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust, and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.”

Psalm 118:8,9, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.”

Some people hope in themselves.

2 Corinthians 1:9, “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”

Proverbs 28:26 NLT, “Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.”

Some people trust in their future.

Proverbs 27:1 MSG, “Don’t brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow; you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.”

Some trust in doctors, some trust in their savings accounts, some trust in their retirement, but all of these can fail. Only one hope is found in God, who says, Proverbs 3:5,6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

•Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.

•Hope motivates in the midst of discouragement.

•Hope energizes when the body is tired.

•Hope sweetens when bitterness comes.

•Hope sings when all melodies are gone.

•Hope believes when evidence is lacking.

•Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.

•Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.

•Hope endure hardships when no one is caring.

•Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.

•Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.

•Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.

•Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.

•Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.

Verse 6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

“It makes no difference whether a man is circumcised or not. He is not saved because he is circumcised, nor is he condemned because he is not. The design of Christianity is to abolish these rites and ceremonies, and to introduce a way of salvation that shall be applicable to all mankind alike…” –Albert Barnes

“For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments” (1 Corinthians 7:19).

They asked Jesus, “’Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:36-40 NLT).

“…faith working through love.” This is what matters, faith that is alive, faith that bears fruit, bears the fruit of love.

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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