Sunday Worship Service
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Liberty not Legalism
Freedom is only possible by grace through faith in the person and work of Christ Jesus.
By Pastor Josh Munan
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Liberty not Legalism
Galatians 5:1 – 12
Proposition: Freedom is only possible by grace through faith in the person and work of Christ Jesus.
Application: Receive the salvation God freely offers by grace through faith. Continue in the salvation we have by grace through faith.
In her song/ Me and Bobby McGee,/ Janis Joplin said that “freedom's just another word/ for nothing left to lose.” Is that really freedom? Are we free/ to do whatever we want? Is freedom/ an excuse to indulge ourselves? What we will find/ in the passage we are looking at today,/ is that true freedom/ is only possible by grace/ through faith in Christ Jesus.
- Protecting Our Purchased Freedom (5:1 – 4)
Set Free (5:1): According to Scripture/, freedom means that our former master/, whoever or whatever it may be/, no longer has authority over us. As Christians/, sin, satan and death/ are no longer masters. We are also free/ from the burden of trying to be good enough for God/ through our good works/ and religious customs.
Read John 8:36
Stand Firm in Grace: Freedom has many opponents. Our freedom in Christ/ is constantly challenged. Freedom must be protected. Freedom must be defended. How do we safeguard freedom? By standing firm!
Just as a deeply rooted tree/ can stand firm in raging storms,/ we stand secure in our freedom/ by being firmly rooted in the grace of Christ Jesus.
But if we rely/ on something or someone/ other than grace/ to maintain our freedom,/ we will find ourselves/ enslaved once again,/ by a new master/, called legalism.
Read Lev 26:13
As we saw/ in a former message in Galatians/, false teachers tried to persuade the Gentile Christians/ that in order to partake of the blessing of Abraham,/ in order to remain in good standing with God,/ they had to believe in Jesus/ and assume Jewish identity/ by yielding to circumcision. But forcing Gentiles to live as Jews/ does not lead to liberty.
Stand Firm Against Circumcision (5:2): Paul is not against Jewish believers being circumcised/ as part of their Jewish identity/ and lifestyle,/ he is against forcing Gentile Christians/ to assume Jewish identity/ as a requirement for staying right with the Lord.
Receiving circumcision for health reasons/ or for hygienic benefit/ is not the issue. The issue/ is to be circumcised for religious reasons. Submitting to circumcision in this way/ is to acknowledge that Law keeping/ is necessary to maintain a right standing with the Lord. Living by this rule/ would negate/ the grace of God.
Slavery of Legalism: For the Christian/, circumcision is a symbol of legalism/ – a system of earning one’s way into heaven/ by good works/ and religious customs.
If we accept a Christianity based on our merit/, we are claiming that the finished work of Christ Jesus/ is simply not enough. We are saying/ that our Christian practices,/ our good deeds,/ completes what Jesus accomplished. If I follow a system/ based on my merit,/ a religion/ that combines the work of Jesus/ with my good works,/ what I get in the end/ is not a relationship with Jesus/ but a lifeless religion.
If I insist on adding my good works/ to merit God’s righteousness/, Jesus will be of no value to me. Adding our own righteousness to His/ puts a wedge/ between the Lord and us. Legalism/ makes light of the finished work of Christ Jesus.
As we trust in the Lord/, we find He supplies all needed resources/ in regard to our salvation/ and service.
Circumcision Does Not Stand Alone (5:3): The message of the false teachers/ was that by receiving circumcision/, the Galatian believers/ would be more blessed. But in truth,/ Paul warned that circumcision/ carried the obligation to obey the whole law,/ all 613 commands. We can’t look at the Law/ and say “I like this law, I will keep it. But that law, I don’t like so much, so I will ignore it.” The Mosaic Law/ is not like a buffet/ where we pick and choose what we want to eat.
If we want to live by the law/, if we want to establish personal merit before God/, we can’t choose which laws we want to obey.
Read James 2:10
Illustration: If I surpass the speed limit/ and get pulled over by the police/, I don’t say, “Please, give me a break sir. I have never robbed anyone. I have not murdered anybody. I don’t commit adultery.” The laws I keep/, do not cover the laws I break. No amount of obedience/ can make up for an act of disobedience.
This is why/ we do not want to submit/ to a religious system/ that adds our righteousness/ to the righteousness of Christ Jesus/ as a way to merit God’s favor. When we submit to such a way of life,/ when we seek to establish personal merit before the Lord/, it is then we cease to be free.
So why do Christians become legalistic? Why would we fall into the trap of seeking to establish our own righteousness? Because we believe/ that if we don’t have rules and regulations to keep us in line,/ we will end up as rebels. But the Bible teaches/ that no person becomes a rebel/ when relying on God’s grace.
Read Titus 2:11, 12
Severed from Christ Jesus (5:4a): The result of defecting from the gospel of grace/ for a system of personal righteousness/ is described in the most alarming way. If we seek to establish our own righteousness/, we will have cut ourselves off from the Lord Jesus. His righteousness/ will be of no value to us.
Transition: By adding our good works/ to merit God’s favour/, we cease to be free/; we sever ourselves from the Lord; we separate ourselves from His grace.
Serving in our own Strength (5:4b): Christians can fall from grace/, not because of committing some gross immoral sin. Falling from grace/ means that our trust in Christ Jesus/ is exchanged for a merit-based system. We lose our grip on grace/ for daily living. Grace no longer operates/ in our salvation reality.
We gain access into the sphere of God’s grace/ through faith/ in Christ Jesus.
Read Rom 5:2
One who says/, “I was saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, but now my salvation depends on my own efforts,” has fallen out of the sphere of God’s grace/ since they no longer rely on His grace to persevere. Our relationship with the Lord/ is either by divine accomplishment/ or human achievement. It cannot be both.
Ceased to be Saved? Does falling from grace/ suggest we lose our salvation? I don’t believe so. Paul calls the Galatian believers brothers in 4:12.
Salvation is past, present, and future. We were justified by grace through faith – that is past. We are being sanctified by grace through faith – this is in the present. We will be glorified by grace through faith – that is yet future.
I believe Paul is saying/ we can fall out of the sphere of God’s grace/ for sanctification. If we seek to establish our own righteousness/, we no longer grow in sanctifying grace. When we fall from grace/ we are still justified through faith, but we cease to grow in grace.
Read 2 Peter 3:18
Transition: We continue our Christian life/ the same way we began our Christian life, by grace/ through faith. The Lord lavishes His grace on us/ not because of our feats for Him/ but because of our faith in Him. Through faith in Christ Jesus/, we stand firm in our freedom. Through faith in Christ Jesus/, we stay connected to the Lord. Through faith in Christ Jesus/, we remain within the sphere/ of God’s sanctifying grace. Because we have the inward power of the Spirit/, we do not need the outward presence of rules and regulations. The indwelling Spirit/ does a far better job bringing about righteousness/ than our good works/ and religious customs can ever do.
- A Waiting and Working Faith (5:5, 6)
A Waiting Faith (5:5): Just as a zygote/, embryo/ or fetus is fully human/ though not fully developed/, we are righteous/ but not fully righteous. When we are glorified at the resurrection/, then we receive the full and final measure/ of divine righteousness.
A Working Faith (5:6): Circumcision/ or uncircumcision/ has no role/ in attaining the hope of righteousness. What is of value/ is faith working through love. Just as faith waits for the hope of righteousness/, faith also works/ through love. Here/ we find the hallmarks of a justified believer – faith, hope and love.
The order of faith and love/ is important. Faith is the root. Love is the fruit. Faith produces the work/, but the work/ does not produce faith. Faith working through love/ fulfills the law far better than self-righteousness.
Transition: Through faith in Christ Jesus/, we stand firm in our freedom; we stay connected to the Lord; we remain within the sphere/ of God’s sanctifying grace. Through faith in Christ Jesus/ we wait for the hope of righteousness/ as we work out the love of God.
- Resist and Reject Falsehood (5:7 – 12)
Run the Race (5:7, 8): Scripture likens the Christian life / to a race. We don’t run the race to be saved/, we run the race/ because we are saved. But legalism hinders our progress/ in this race. It obstructs our walk/ with the Lord. It restricts our status/ as free people. We will always face challenges/ seeking to hinder our progress/ in the Lord. We will always face obstacles/ trying to turn our race /from a Spirit empowered one/ to one based on our own strength.
The only lane we are to run in/ is the lane called grace. The only strength we are to expend/ is the power the Spirit supplies. Anything that hinders our progress/, anything that obstructs our service/, anything that restricts our freedom/, has nothing to do with God’s will/ and must be rejected.
Reject the Lies (5:9, 10): Great oaks/ from little acorns/ grow. A little yeast/ goes a long way. Yeast/ is a symbol of sin/ and lies.
Read Matt 16:6
Before the Exodus/, Israel had to bake bread without yeast/ so they would not be delayed/ in leaving a life of slavery/ for freedom. Leaven delays us/ in the race we are running. If not dealt with/, false teaching/ which might begin small/ quickly spreads/ and disturbs a local church congregation.
Preach the Cross (5:11, 12): Some people/ walk away from the church/ because they are offended by the exclusive claims/ of the Gospel. The cross provokes persecution. It arouses opposition. Why is the cross/ so offensive? Because it nullifies any thought of personal merit. It says/ God will not accept my righteousness/ as the basis for justification. The cross is offensive/ because it says good people/ do not make it to heaven by their good works. The cross crushes our pride. It says/ I must die to self. The cross is offensive/ because it is God’s final “no”/ to all human attempts to seek and serve Him.
The cross is offensive/ not because Jesus died for my sins/, but because I must die with Him.
The doctrine of grace/ is not a dangerous doctrine. Religious legalism/ is a dangerous doctrine/ because it is guaranteed/ to fail. Why is legalism so attractive? Because we do not believe God’s grace is enough/, and we add in a few good works/ to be on the safe side. Why is the cross so offensive? Because it puts an end to my pride. Why is faith so necessary? Because through faith in Christ Jesus/, we stand firm in our freedom; we stay connected to the Lord; we remain within the sphere of God’s sanctifying grace. Through faith in Christ Jesus/ we wait for the future hope of righteousness/ as we work out/ the love of God.
Our salvation/ continues in the same way it began – by grace alone/ through faith alone/ in Christ Jesus alone.
Please do not attempt/ to establish your own righteousness/ and sever yourselves from the Lord Jesus/ and fall from His grace. Instead/, seek to be established in His righteousness,/ by entering the sphere of God’s grace/, through faith in Christ Jesus
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Liberty Not Legalism