Galatians 5.2-12

February 18, 2007 Series: Galatians

Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 5:2–5:12


Galatians 5.2-12
February 18, 2007
Sam Ford

Have you ever imagined an ideal age that you would like to go back to?  Have you ever identified that seemingly perfect time in your life when everything was Romantic and carefree?  I think we tend to look back a few years from where we currently are:

The first time you look back to is Elementary school.  Do you remember the time when you actually loved school?  A time when reading wasn't considered a requirement but a challenge, and we had more than enough time for recess! 

Then we get into Junior High.  I hated Junior High, I always wanted to go back to Elementary School.  Now, instead of one class I have six.  Now, I actually care about what girls think of me and its at a time when my hormones and my body are completely out of control. 

Then you get to high school, which for me was really fun, but again you think about going back to a previous grade...maybe junior high, maybe high school.  And, we tend to romanticize it a bit-0-making out to be better than it actually was.

Eventually, you move out, which sounds like a good idea until you have pay for everything.  Then, you live the single life for a bit until you get married.  Of course, after than you desire the single life.  Suddenly, you have to think for two.  Live for two.  You can't just throw you skid-marked underwear all over the room, you have to actually consider another human being in your decisions big and small. 

But you can't go back can you. Elementary school sounds real good, but then as a high schooler you realize that you can drive, you can work, you can buy things, you can stay up have some freedom.  When you are married, you might think you want to go back to single life, but you can't live singly anymore...YOU'VE CHANGED.  YOU'VE CHANGED PERMANENTLY.  To try and go back is uncomfortable, awkward, and just plain wrong. 

It is no different when you have an encounter with the gospel!  These Galatians, just as many of us, experienced the freedom of the gospel.  Now they want to go back.  It seems like it's a good idea to them BUT, not only is not a good idea, it isn't possible.  You cannot go from knowing the truth back into ignorance; from an adult back to a child again.  You cannot go from freedom back into 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.

Paul says here, LOOK, as a way of getting down to "brass tacks" and really leveling with the Galatians.   It feels like Paul has almost come to his breaking point.  Although he hasn't really danced around the issue, perhaps he feels like he has, and now he is trying to get down to exactly what the point is.  Up until now, he has said a number of things about the people and that GOSPEL. 

  • In chapter 1 he communicated his astonishment that they had accepted another gospel contrary to what he had taught them (1.6). 
  • Then, in chapter 2 he recounted the story of the Jerusalem Council from Acts 15 where Paul shared how he defended the true gospel and how the apostles themselves supported his gospel and did not require them to be circumcised. 
  • Then he continues on in chapter 3 asking WHO has bewitched you or fooled you into thinking you were on the wrong track?  He asks them to consider their own history of how they came to faith-through the law or through faith?
  • He then proceeds to explain how salvation always came through faith by appealing to Abraham who came to faith nearly half a century before the law was delivered to Moses on Mt. Sinai. 
  • If that is not enough, in chapter 4 he tells them that they are in fact adopted by God, not because we're put on a good show, but because God bought you. 
  • Finally, by chapter 5 Paul is getting to the meat of this argument crying YOU ARE FREE....YOU ARE FREE...DON'T GO BACK AND BE SLAVES AGAIN. 

Now, the final two chapters of this letter is a portrait of what it looks like to live a spirit-filled life as opposed to a flesh filled life; he will go for the throat and basically say CHOOSE; it is either FAITH or WORKS.  You are either dependent upon your own efforts or you are helpless and in need of God.   

"Accepting Circumcision" here has more meaning than just ONE ritual.  It carries the meaning of accepting a life that is centered on the flesh (or human effort) and not led by the Spirit.  You cannot live a life that is centered on works of man AND one that is centered on the grace of God.  You cannot live a life where you have the power to fix yourself AND God fixes you.  It is either all about Jesus or it is all about you ALL of the time!  This isn't a three-legged race where you just have to figure out the right rhythm that Jesus is running, you have to stop running and allow Jesus to pick you up and carry you. 

Today, we don't accept circumcision but we adopt all kinds of performance-based systems that do nothing for our needed inner perfection.  The advantages of having Christ are clearly spelling out in Galatians 2.20

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no long I who live but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 


Salvation brings a power from within to fix that which you cannot.  The advantage to having Christ is that I have the power of the almighty God within ME to overcome whatever deficiency I might have.  I have a means, or a man, through which to find truth, to find meaning, to find joy, to overcome despair, to persevere in suffering. 

If you don't have Christ, you only have yourself.  A life in the flesh produces nothing but self-righteousness or despair because you're trying to find something external to fix something internal.  Usually, despair is what governs most of our lives.  In other words, we beat the crap out of ourselves because we can't meet God's law, we're overwhelmed by suffering, and we are sapped of all joy. experience success in life, you are a good person in your eyes, and you sit in self-righteousness (like the Pharisees).   Both are trying to use something external to fix something internal. 

Matthew 15.16-20  

16 And he said, y "Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that zwhatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?1 18 But awhat comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come bevil thoughts, cmurder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, dslander. 20 eThese are what defile a person. But fto eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."

In other words, its we don't just have a "spiritual" cold...we're not just sick...we're completely broken.  In fact, you believe that something outside of you can make you righteous then you misunderstand WHAT SIN had done to you!  Sin is not sins.  God does not have a secret list somewhere where the sins are listed.  He's not Santa Claus with a list of naughty behaviors so he can keep track of who is good and who is bad.  SIN is something that has happened to our hearts.  Sin is greater than a behavior, larger than a thought, and deeper than some thing labeled as bad.  SIN is cause of the fallen and depraved condition of our heart and our nature.  We are DEFORMED, we are BROKEN, and no amount of outside "work" is going to fix the damage that is done inside.   We misunderstand our predicament if we think that restoration will result from something outside of our bodies.  The opposite is also just as wrong, believing that something going in will in fact hurt your spirit.


Paul says, that if you adopt a performance system, thereby denying the gospel, you must obey All the Law.  But not just one part, ALL of it.  Now, he is talking specifically to the Galatians.  Earlier Paul quoted the book of Deuteronomy in Galatians 3.10 saying, "Cursed by everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them."  You cannot choose what parts of the law you will follow and which one are ok to break. Jesus' interpretation of the law in Matthew 5 where he says, "Whoever is angry with his brother murders him...everyone who looks at a woman lustfully is guilty of adultery..." you find out how impossible it is to keep God's law without help.

But we pick and choose what rules are the ones that make someone a good Christian and those that do not.  LOOK: to quote Paul, either your"goodness" is all centered on GOD and work of Jesus Christ on the cross or it is All centered on MAN and the law and traditions of man.  You may feel like we're beating a dead horse every Sunday, but that is the problem with how Christianity is preached is about everything but Jesus.  So, to combat that heresy, we have to keep hammering the fact that everything we are about in this life is centered on Jesus.   Our rightness before our Creator is through Jesus, our hope is in Jesus, our joy is in Jesus, our meaning is in Jesus.

Colossians 3.2-3

2 eSet your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For fyou have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ gwho is your1 life happears, then you also will appear with him iin glory. [i]


4You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Paul uses some strong terms to saying that you are severed from Christ, and that you have FALLEN from Grace.  Paul is not writing in terms of justification.  When you Jesus becomes your savior, the reason for which God will receive you into his family, you become God's Son.  The Spirit of Jesus dwells in your heart and it cries out "DADDY."  Now, when God sees you, he sees Jesus because all of Jesus' perfection has not been "imputed" or credited to your account.  That is what faith means.  It is not working for anything, it is accepting that which God has already done. 

By saying "FALLEN FROM GRACE", Paul is not saying that these people are lost, or suddenly not saved.  You cannot lose your salvation because you're not the one who is holding it-Jesus is.  What Paul is saying is that if you accept the law or human effort as having a part in you being made right before God, then you have in fact separated yourself from the grace of Jesus and are now dependent upon yourself. He is speaking of the method of living a Christian lift and of growth in that life.

The Bible says that the goal of our salvation is to look more like Jesus. Romans 8.29 says that we are predestined to becoming conformed to the image of Jesus.  In other words, it is a process, one that I know I am quite powerless to initiate and follow through on because my default mode is a value system that is the very self-centered and not Jesus centered.  What was Jesus like...perfectly obedient, perfectly patient, perfectly gentle, perfectly wise, perfectly angry, perfectly joyful, perfectly kind, perfect period.   When he left, he sent the Holy Spirit to help us...

John 14.15-17

15 b "If you love me, you will ckeep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another dHelper,5 to be with you forever, 17 even ethe Spirit of truth, fwhom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and gwill be in you. [ii]

When we were "attached" to Christ, we When the Galatians submit to circumcision, they are putting themselves under law, and are depriving themselves of the ministry of the Holy Spirit which Christ made possible through His death and resurrection, and which ministry was not provided for under law.  In essence, we create our new Trinity, a new FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT.  The Initiator of all things is US, our Jesus is replaced by whatever IDOL we've chosen as our savior (whether that be work, family, money, etc.), and the enabler or the power is no longer the Holy Spirit, but our own efforts.  We have fallen out of the realm of the grace, we do not choose Jesus but we choose me.

5 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.

So, what does the Godly life look like? 


It is through the SPIRIT.  What does a life lived through the Spirit look like as opposed to a life through the flesh?   What does a life look like that depends on God, versus a life that depends on man?  Is it a life like I heard about at school that said, "Let Go and Let God"?  That just sounds like some fluffy feelings based religion that is rooted in nothing but emotion.  Is that what a life of the spirit is?  No.  A life in the Spirit is a life of POWER versus a life in the flesh which is a LIFE of POWERLESSNESS.   When you live by grace, you depend on the power of the Spirit; but under Law, you must depend on yourself and your own efforts.  

2Timothy 1.7

7 for God gave us oa spirit not of fear but pof power and love and self-control. [iii]


It is By Faith.  It is a life governed by faith rather than works.  It is a life governed by the truth of the gospel and not the feelings that creep in and tell me otherwise.  It is a life governed by the promises of God, that I am saved, that I am loved, that I am free, versus what circumstances might appear like or people might say.  It is not a blind faith, it is a faith that rests in the truth of the scripture.  T


It is hopeful for the coming righteousness.  The individual who has put his faith in Jesus realizes that Christ's righteousness has been credited to their account.  But, I also realize that this is a life of flesh that I live with the power of Christ dwelling in me.  In this life, I will not obtain perfection.  I am in process, I am becoming more like Christ, but I will not make it.  It is not that I don't try, but I certainly don't beat the crap out of myself when I don't achieve it.  I live a life in the flesh and it will not be until death that I am in fact released from this body of sin. 

Philippians 3.20-21

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

RULES or NO RULES...JESUS IS ALL THAT MATTER.  ABSTAIN or PARTAKE, all that matter sis Jesus.  Those who have all the rules and those who have no rules both commit the same sin...they focus on themselves and  the external, and not Jesus and the internal.  In Christ, human effort means nothing.  MacArthur rightly says, "Nothing that is either done or not done in the flesh, not even religious ceremony, makes ANY difference in one's relationship with God."  Whether it is be circumcised, or use the write language, or don't drink, the OUTWARD is completely useless.  The best it can do is reflect what might be happening inward.    

The Spirit-filled life will produce love; flesh cannot manufacture love.  Flesh can only produce selfishness, pride, and fear.  In fact, I would argue that a life that is not centered on the grace of God can only be focused on the LOVE of self.  So, I guess it does produce a love of some sort.  It's just that we get so consumed with HOW GOOD I am or HOW RIGHTEOUS I LOOK, or HOW MUCH GOD LOVES ME OR HATES ME...that we haven't time to love anyone but ourselves.

But faith in Jesus produces love of God and love of people.  Why? Because through the example of Christ in the gospel, we see that we are loved unconditionally, even when all of our dirt is revealed.  When all the CHRISTIANEEZ is pulled away, you will know a Christian by how he loves.  Look how Jesus loved.  He loved those who did not love him in a way that no one every could or can love.  The spirit-filled life produces a love like is not manufactured at is internal, natural.  Its result are those "good works" that too many try to work don't steal, kill, lie to, etc. those you 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 than mine, 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!

Finally, what do you do with people like this?

I have really struggled with what to do with those people who knock us off course.  How do we react to those people who really mess with the gospel and butcher the grace and freedom offered us?

I have to go back to Jesus.  How did he deal with them?  Jesus was as gracious as he could be with sinners, with the sick, the lost, the needy, the lonely.  He ministered directly to those whom society has ostracized and often labeled as unworthy, unholy, and the like. 

Strangely, however, Jesus had different words for those deemed "religious" or clean or holy.  Of course, we don't like to think of Jesus this way.  We like to remember GENTLE JESUS MEEK AND MILD, not brutally honest Jesus who may have had some harsh words for some people.  Consider some of the things he says...

John 8.44

44 zYou are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. aHe was a murderer from the beginning, and bhas nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. cWhen he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 dWhoever is of God hears the words of God. eThe reason why you do not hear them is that fyou are not of God." [iv]

Matthew 23.29ff

29 s "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are tsons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 uFill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, vyou brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to whell? 34 xTherefore yI send you zprophets and wise men and ascribes, bsome of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will cflog in your synagogues and dpersecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all ethe righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent fAbel to the blood of gZechariah the son of Barachiah,2 whom you murdered between hthe sanctuary and ithe altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, jall these things will come upon this generation. [v]


A little doesn't take much to get off us off track.  JUST ONE SMALL COMPROMISE.  I guess that is why Paul talks about self-control with the race.  We have to stay within the lines and not fall into the lane of legalism SO THAT THE RACE IS NO FUN or LISCENTIOUSNESS so that the race isn't a race at all. In terms of doctrine, a false gospel, a gospel of works, will in fact eventually overtake a person and a body of believers. The spirit of legalism does not work fast, it works slow.  Even if motivated by good intentions to make people more spiritual, more holy, or more moral, ultimately it ends in a theology and a lifestyle that is despairing or prideful because it is centered and grounded in man.

No one persecutes the law followers because they don't need the cross...the cross is offensive.  It shouldn't strike anyone as strange that no one persecutes people who follow rules, at least not people IN the church. The cross is offensive especially to the believers (1Peter 2)


Romans 9.33

30 What shall we say, then? sThat Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, ta righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel uwho pursued a law that would lead to righteousness3 vdid not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the wstumbling stone, 33 as it is written,


Behold, I am laying in Zion ya stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;

     and whoever believes in him will not be aput to shame."


IF you depend on yourself YOU  HAVE LOST THE CROSS.   The cross says with all boldness that we are in such a predicament that God must in fact save us by killing his son.  How pompous and stupid it is to believe that we can work our way to him and ignore what Jesus did.  The size of the debt and the nature of the payment should floor us and leave us with a sense of awe to how pathetic we are to try and work our way to God but how much God loves us in the extent he goes to fix us.


I wish they would just emasculate themselves...It feels like Paul gets so frustrated with these guys that he just lets them have it.  Lest we forget that it is not Paul who is writing, but God breathes out these words himself, in what he wishes happens to these guys who pervert the gospel.  The verb "mutilate" (5:12) refers to castration or similar mutilation (cf. Deut. 23:1). Such physical mutilation for religious purposes was commonly practiced in the worship of Cybele, the Phrygian goddess of nature. Paul expressed his wish that those who advocated circumcision should go all the way.perfect.  YOU HAVE TWO CHOICES...

Go all the way in LEGALISM: Focus on yourself, follow every rule to its fullest, condemn every appearance of evil by living a life of fear and slavery. Base your acceptance (justification) on your sanctification-end up a ENUCH...lot of fun there.

Go All the way with JESUS: Keep your eyes on Jesus, base your growth (sanctification) on the truth of your justification....End up free and loving.

More in Galatians

December 17, 2007

Galatians 2.15-21

March 18, 2007

Galatians 6.11-18

March 11, 2007

Galatians 6.1-10