Falling from Grace
Probably the best and the shortest summary of the message of this epistle is in verse 1 of this message. In this chapter also, circumcision had become an issue. In the previous chapters, Paul has shown the superiority of the Abrahamic Covenant to the Mosaic Law and thus of grace to law. Since the Law leads only to bondage, and grace to freedom, it is foolish to seek to return to bondage by placing oneself under the Mosaic Law. In addition, this verse leads us to the goal of the gospel, liberty.
I. Steadfastness (Gal. 5:1)
A. “Standfast” indicates the diligence and commitment required to maintain our freedom. Stay where you are, Paul states because of the benefits of being free from Law and the flesh as a way of salvation and the fulness of blessing by grace.
B. “Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage”. To return to the Law as a means of one’s salvation is to return to a yoke of slavery. To put it into the term of Israel’s Old Testament history, it is like the Jews wanting to return to the slavery of Egypt after they have been miraculously delivered after crossing the Red Sea.
Illustration 1: Negative and Positive Commands
According to a third century rabbi, Moses gave 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. David reduced them to eleven in Psalm 15. Isaiah made them six (Isaiah 33:14, 15). Micah 6:8 binds them
into three commands. Habakkuk reduces them all to one great statement: The just shall live by faith.
II. Circumcision (Gal. 5:2-3)
A. If ye be circumcised (Gal. 5:2). Paul has no objection to circumcision itself (Acts 16:1- 3, Phil. 3:5). But he objected to the idea that it has some spiritual benefit or merit with God and was a prerequisite or necessary component for salvation.
B. Scriptural teaching about circumcision:
1. God commanded Abraham to practice circumcision as a sign of His covenant (Gen. 17:9-14).
2. Physical circumcision is not required of Christians (1 Cor. 7:18-19; Gal. 5:1-12; 6:15),
3. It is used in the N.T. as a symbol of the new birth (Col. 2:10-14).
C. The “whole law” (Gal. 5:3). He is informing the Galatian believers that if any of them had placed themselves under the rite of circumcision then they have committed themselves to being bound to keeping the entire law. The word debtor means that he is under the obligation to observe the entire law. God’s standard is perfect
righteousness, so a failure to keep only one part of the Law falls short of the standard.
III. Falling from grace (Gal. 5:4)
A. “Fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4) does not mean “fallen from salvation.” Paul is not writing to people who have “lost their salvation” because such a thing is not possible. He is writing to saints who have moved out of the sphere of grace into the burdensome sphere of law. Watchman Nee says, “Law means I must do something for God; grace means that God does something for me.” How wonderful it is for the
Christian to enjoy the liberty of grace! This means moving out of the bondage described in Rom. 7 into the glorious liberty of Rom. 8! Paul describes the true Christian walk-in verses 5-6: our power is in the Spirit; we receive this power by faith; this faith produces love and works in our lives. In other words, the doctrine of Christian liberty does not encourage a wicked life; instead, it binds us closer to
Christ, and Christ lives out His life through the believer (2:20).
B. The Sad result of Falling from grace
a. This means leaving the principle of faith plus nothing to be saved. “They had fallen from grace.
b. It means being entangled again in the yoke of bondage
c. Nullifying the efficacy of Christ’s atonement
d. It means losing sight of the position of spiritual oneness in union with Christ.
e. The importance of one thing – “Faith working through love (Gal. 5:6)
f. It meant losing the race (Gal. 5:7).
g. It meant disobeying the truth (Gal. 5:7)
h. Accepting the dangerous “leaven” of false doctrine (legalism) that could corrupt
the whole gospel of truth. (Gal. 5:9).
C. “Wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” (Gal. 5:5). Judaizers’ hope was in their and ritual. They hoped to please God by their works. They were attempting to obey the law as a means of salvation. However, Christians already possess the imputed righteousness of Christ, but they still await the completed and perfected righteousness that is yet to come at glorification (Rom. 8:18, 21).
D. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (Gal. 5:6). Paul once again reminds the Galatians that, concerning salvation, circumcision or uncircumcision was not needed. In a broader sense, Jew (circumcised), Gentile (uncircumcised), obedience to the Law or racial
identity is nothing. Faith alone in Christ alone brings salvation and justification.
Illustration 2: Cheap Grace
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession.
Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace…is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship, Christianity Today, February 7, 1994, p. 39
IV. The Lesson (Gal. 5:7-9)
A. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (Gal. 5:7)
Here is one of Paul’s favorite metaphors. He likens the Christian life to a race. Paul used the same analogy with the Philippians, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:14) Paul reminds the Galatians that they at one time ran well. They were on track with their eyes on the goal and committed to finishing the race.
B. But there was a problem! Paul asks, … who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (Gal. 5:7) They were running well and then something went wrong. Satan brought someone along to hinder them. The word hinder comes from the Greek “anakopto” and means “to beat or drive back.” It is an Olympic phrase that described someone who cut across the track and shoved another runner off of the
course. That is what had happened to the Galatians. The Judaizers had cut in front of them and threw them off course with their legalism.
C. This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. (Gal. 5:8) The word persuasion comes from the Greek “peismone” and is used only here in the New Testament. The idea is that the Galatians had been persuaded to abandon their faith. Paul further points out that God had no part in it. Legalism and bondage never come from God.
He works by grace.
D. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (Gal. 5:9) Leaven is often used in the Word of God to illustrate corruption and impurity. When put in dough leaven has a permeating affect, working from within and spreading throughout the whole lump. in literal sense Paul is telling the Galatians that just a little bit of false teaching will cause evil, sin, and wickedness to all the churches in Galatia affecting their lives.
E. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. (Galatians 5:10-11) Paul had confidence that the Galatian believers
would finally reject legalism and fully embrace the grace principle of Scripture. He further believed that the Judaizers would bear the judgment of God for troubling the Galatian Church with their legalism.
F. I would they were even cut off which trouble you. (Galatians 5:12) The words cut off come from the Greek “apokopto” and speaks of amputation. The idea is the removal of an infected limb so as to prohibit further disease. Paul used this word to express his desire that the Judaizers would be removed from the Galatian Church.
Truly, the just shall live by Faith. Faith in Christ is enough for us to be saved. The doctrine that Circumcision is necessary for salvation by the Judaizers is false.