Our study through the Epistle of Galatians has been hugely helpful to many of us in lots of ways. I hope it has been for you. This week we are up to chapter 5 for the Sunday sermon. Please go give it a read and pray through the text to prepare your heart for worship and communion. Note the important topic the text addresses.
How can a believer be set free from the dominating power sin has over his or her life, decisions, and will? Sure, the gospel means those repenting and believing are forgiven and justified by God. Positionally, we are fully accepted by God. But what about the life we’re still living on this earth? What about the ongoing struggle we have against sin that remains in us? Is believing enough? After believing, still the sin problem is there. Is there some magic ritual that can be performed which will do the trick so the sin is never repeated again?
If we’re honest, all believers will humbly acknowledge that we have remaining sin in us. We do things we know are sinfully displeasing to God. We have confessed them many times yet they continue. We feel ashamed not that we don’t believe God forgives but that we must keep asking for the forgiveness. Can there be a believer who hasn’t felt this way?
In verses 16 and following the apostle describes the indwelling sin problem in terms of a raging war taking place inside every believer. “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” As a result of this war the flesh (remaining sin) works hard to do what it pleases. This is called the fruit or works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
On the other hand, the fruit of the Spirit is: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” How can the believer find the way to win the battle between the flesh and the Spirit so that the good fruit becomes more and more prolific and the bad fruit disappears? The Judaizers had an answer to this question for the Galatians but Paul had a totally different answer. Their false doctrine was to accept circumcision and obey the rest of the Mosaic law and doing so defeat sin. Paul opposed them fiercely calling it the false doctrine that it is.
He says in verse 2, “if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Those who submit themselves to this false doctrine are “severed from Christ” or “fallen from grace.” The one thing which has the power to defeat remaining sin in the believer is Christ and His grace. But accepting a false effort means letting go of the true cure. What would we think of the parents who used medieval or superstitious practices for their child’s illness refusing to take them to the doctor when the symptoms suggest the child has leukemia? The apostle thinks the same thing of the emptiness in relying on some manmade, physical act to address indwelling sin in the soul.
Rather, he points listeners to sow to the spirit, not the flesh. There is a cure that effectively addresses and renews the soul in spite of remaining sin. In verse 6 he says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” The manmade, physical act has no power to do anything about remaining sin. But “faith working through love” does. Faith is the looking to and beholding in Jesus all the righteousness of God given to the one who believes. This looking and beholding in Jesus has the power to renew the mind with their new standing and identity in Christ. Such love, grace, mercy literally is able to transform the sinful will into a new will that has a new desire present in it. It’s a new desire to please the one who has shown such love, grace, and mercy. This new desire created by faith begins to work itself out in love in the person. The faith works through love. The faith produces a desire for new works. The love produces the desire to do them greater than the desire for the sin. Those works of faith and love are all the things that please God. And if you were to name them they would be ““love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
So no longer sow to the flesh but sow to the Spirit.