The Law Alienates Christ - Page 1 (series: Lessons on Galatians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

December 7, 2013
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Tom Lowe


Chapter IV.A.3: The Law Alienates Christ (5:4-6)


Galatians 5:4-6 (KJV)

4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.


Commentary

4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Since nobody has ever been justified by keeping the Law, “whosoever of you are justified by the law” would be better stated, “whosoever of you SEEK to be justified by the Law.”
The word “fallen” in this verse is “ekpipto” in the Greek and the literal meaning is “to have been driven out of one’s course,” and it conveys the idea of “sailors whose ship has been driven off course.” It is the same word used in Acts 27, in the account of the shipwreck. Luke says in Acts 27:17 that the sailors feared—“ . . . lest they should FALL into the quicksands, strake sail (lowered the sails) (Acts 27:17). In verse 29 of Acts 27 we read: “Then fearing lest we should have FALLEN upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day” (Acts 27:29).

Hopefully, this helps us to understand the meaning of the expression, “fallen from grace.” Paul is saying, “Those of you who think you can be saved or kept by the Law—you have been driven off course and have missed the grace of God.” Paul was greatly stressed by the conduct of these Galatians. Surely, not all of the Galatians had turned from grace to Law, but they were, at least, considering it. It made him wonder if he had been mistaken when he believed they were truly converted. He says in Galatians 4:11, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” (Gal. 4:11).

Was the time he spent with them wasted; was his preaching to them ineffective and useless. He says, I am starting to doubt that you were ever saved because you are following these false teachers of the law. Paul would not permit any tampering with the grace of God. Rather, therefore, than relying upon the works of the law, Paul says: “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 4:5-6).

If you have been saved by trusting Christ, and then you go down to the low level of living by the Law, you have fallen from grace. This is what “falling from grace” actually means. So, you see, falling from grace does not mean falling into some open sin or careless conduct, and by so doing forfeiting your salvation so that you have to be saved all over again. It has nothing to do with that at all. “Falling from grace” is the opposite of “once saved always saved,” although both expressions are unfortunate terminology. Paul deals with this matter of falling from grace in the remainder of this chapter. He also deals with it in his Epistle to the Romans. In Romans he begins with man being totally bankrupt—without righteousness, completely depraved, as worthless as rotten fruit. Man is a sinner before God. Then at the conclusion of Romans you see man in the service of God and being admonished to perform certain things. Not only is he admonished to do certain things, he is completely separated to God, and he must be obedient to God.

There are two mighty works of God that stand between man in his fallen condition and man in service to God. These are: salvation and justification. As we have seen, salvation is justification by faith. That is very important to see. Sanctification means that after you are saved you must come up to a new level of living. I think one of the greatest misconceptions is the belief that service is essential in the Christian life, and that you must get busy working for the Lord immediately. The early church was more concerned with its manner of life, and their lives were a witness to the world. Today the outside world is looking

at the church and passing it by because we are busy, as busy as termites, but we do not have lives that will back up our witness. Rather than concentrating on trying to do good, we ought to live “good.” If we are pleasing Christ, we must be doing good. I think there is more about sanctification in the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians than anything else.
Now how does God make a saved sinner good? Well, He gives him a new nature. Then he is supposed to keep the Law? Oh, no. Emphatically no! This doesn’t mean he is free to break the Law, but he is expected to live on a higher plane. There is no good in the old nature. Paul found that out, and he also found out from experience that there is no power in the new nature. As for salvation he said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18). And he cries out as a saved man: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). He is not afraid that he is going to lose his salvation, but he is a defeated Christian because he doesn’t have the strength to live the Christian life. But God gives His children a new principle. We will find out in this chapter that the new principle is the fruit of the Spirit.

Living the Christian life by this method is for some Christians as farfetched as living on the moon! They never expect to live there. Perhaps they have never even heard about the possibility. My friend, this is the life He wants us to live—by faith. We are saved by grace; we are to live by faith.


5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

“The hope of righteousness” is the only prophetic reference in this epistle. That’s quite remarkable, because in all of Paul’s epistles he has something to say about the rapture of the church or about the coming of Christ to establish His kingdom. But here in Galatians, he says only this: “the hope of righteousness by faith,” and the hope of righteousness is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only hope and He is the blessed hope; and Christ is made unto us righteousness.

The Epistle to the Galatians was very important to Martin Luther and the other reformers. This is one of the reasons, I am confident, that they spent so little time on prophesy. The subject of prophesy was not emphasized in the schools of religion until the twentieth century. In the twentieth century there was a tremendous development in prophesy. During Luther’s day the subject of prophesy was not developed. The person of Christ was the great subject during his time, just as salvation was the great subject later on.

Therefore, the fact that Paul has only this brief reference to prophesy in his Epistle to the Galatians is understandable, since his emphasis is on the gospel and the Christian life. It is important to note the priorities in any book of the Bible and also the priorities that were in existence in any given period. Failing to do this leads to misinterpretation and misunderstanding, which often happens when quoting church fathers on the matter of prophesy. After all, the authorities on prophesy are Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mark, James, and Luke. We need to take note of what they have written on the subject. But to the Galatians, Paul simply writes, “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” I think the reason for him saying this here is that believers are not going to reach perfection in this life. And the greatest imperfection I know of today is to think you have reached perfection. People who think they are perfect are imperfect like the rest of us—but they don’t know it. Christians already possess the imputed righteousness of Christ, but they must wait for the completed and perfect righteousness that is yet to come at glorification (Rom. 8:18, 21 ). At the coming of Christ, believers will be completely conformed to all the requirements of God’s will. The inward righteousness that began at justification will be transformed into an outward righteousness at glorification. At that time God will fully acknowledge all believers as being acceptable to him.





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