Thursday, September 8, 2011

Salvation is of the Lord, Part 8 of 9

Christ is a Savior, and He gives eternal life on the sole condition of faith. When we turn from grace (the unmerited favor of God) to working for our salvation we have become a transgressor and impugn the free gift God offers in His Son. Galatians 2:16-21 addresses Christians who believe they are saved by grace but revert thereafter to the works of legalism. This is folly. Either Jesus is our Savior and deserves the title, or the redemption He provided on the cross was insufficient to save us or keep us saved. Choose. All of the “thou shalt not’s of Scripture have been summed in these words: love your neighbor as yourself, Romans 13:9. Walking in love toward one another fulfills the law’s requirements, Romans 13:10.

The apostle goes on to remind his readers that Christians are dead to the law and its demands; namely sin and death. We are not endeavoring to obey in an effort to be approved by God; we are alive in Christ and immediately approved the moment we believe. The works that follow on the heels of salvation are the fruit of the Spirit. God the Holy Spirit produces in us what comes natively to Him and what we cannot produce without Him. If we simply abide in Him the fruit of the Spirit blossoms naturally; it requires no effort on our part. Love is the fulfillment of all the law, as Jesus our Lord instructed us and Paul later affirmed. If we walk in such love we shall naturally fulfill the law because love does no harm to another.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” Matthew 22:37-40.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” Ephesians 2:10.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” Titus 2:11-14.

The dead faith James describes in his epistle is a different way of putting what Jesus told His apostles when He described the necessity of abiding in Him. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned,” John 15:4-6.

The concept is one of fellowship and communion with Christ. If we walk in the Spirit we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. If we turn from Him and through sin break fellowship and grieve the Spirit we cannot produce anything satisfactory to God. These are the works burned at Christ’s judgment seat. Any deed done in the flesh will cause us to suffer loss; however, that will never be a loss of salvation. We are “preserved in Christ Jesus” and are kept from stumbling by our Lord, Jude 1:1, 24. The only way someone who has savingly believed will be cast out of Heaven is if Christ Himself were thrown out, so close is our relation to our Lord after our rebirth. We are “in” Christ, 2nd Corinthians 5:17.

The last verse in this passage of Galatians bears repetition, for its implication is a death blow for anyone who wishes to add their “two cents” into being saved. “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” Galatians 2:21. Jesus’ death was pointless if there was any other way to save mankind from the penalty His own justice demanded. Jesus prayed the Father about the same question, asking if there was another way than the cross, Matthew 26:39. There could be none; man is dead and sins and trespasses, Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13. The best of our human righteousness is filthy rags to God, Isaiah 64:6. Spiritual victory of any type comes not through human ability but God’s Spirit, Zechariah 4:6. I repeat: if righteousness comes by any other avenue than the sheer sovereign grace of God and His mercy displayed on the cross then Jesus died for no reason. Calvary was unnecessary.

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Romans 10:2-4.

It is not enough to have zeal for God; one must mingle knowledge with that zeal. We must understand what the Lord’s will is, and then obey it. Christ revealed God’s will to the world, that the whole world should believe on Him, and whosoever believed would be saved. There are those who through ignorance or deliberation do not comprehend the righteousness of God and set their own standard of righteousness. Personal bias dictates what constitutes salvation, and man holds the measuring stick for what it takes to reach Heaven. Such strive to “establish” their own righteousness. This Greek word “histemi” can mean “to stand firm or stop.” The Jews Paul speaks of in this passage stood firm for what they believed constituted a righteousness God found acceptable, and they stopped there, being comfortable with their own answer. Unfortunately, they forgot to consult God, who surprised them with an answer they did not anticipate or desire. Because they stood fast in their position even when confronted by Jesus and His apostles about their willful rebellion (Acts 5:32; 7:51) they refused to submit to the standard of righteousness God set up. That standard is Jesus Christ; and everyone who places their faith in Christ meets that standard because the righteousness that is in Him is imputed to us. We are righteous, justified, found not guilty on account of our sin-bearer, Jesus.

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them,” Romans 10:5.

If your religion is one of “doing” over one of “knowing” then you have not become acquainted with historical Christianity or your Savior yet. The world’s religions stress “do, do, do!” Christ said, “Done!” John 19:30. The world’s religions command working up that ethical/moral/spiritual ladder to higher degrees of religious perfection. Christ said He would humble the proud but exalt the humble; quite the opposite tone of man-made religion. Could a man be justified by the law? If you never sinned from birth to death and led a sinless, perfect moral life in thought, word and deed, yes. As Moses said, if you do the law (obey it) you will live by it. Read the Ten Commandments found in Exodus chapter 20 once. Have you ever broken one of them? James writes that if you break just one (presumably once) you are guilty of all the law, James 2:10.

One sin was enough to separate Adam and Eve from God. We have already covered in Romans that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. God brought in the entire world guilty of breaking His moral law so He might have mercy. He doesn’t grant His mercy to those who are good commandment keepers, because adherence to law only condemns. It is the truly guilty, who know they are such that Christ can visit with the good news of the gospel. “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Matthew 9:12-13.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I am amazed that so many continue to focus keeping the Law when Paul devoted most of the book of Galatians to showing that salvation is neither obtained or retained by keeping the Law. In fact no amount of laws could cover every situation. As Christians, we are to focus on the intent of the law rather than the mechanics, as Romans 7:6 states, "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." In fact, the letter of the law kills rather than giving life according to II Corinthians 3:6.

    Great post.


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