Faith Working by Love (2)

Powerless Alternatives

Two other things mentioned in verse 6 do not avail.

According to verse 6 there are two kinds of people “in Jesus Christ.” There are two kinds of Christians, two kinds of believers or two kinds of church members: the circumcision, believing Christians of a Jewish background; and the uncircumcision, believing Christians of a Gentile or pagan background.

In the New Testament “circumcision” is almost synonymous with “Jew.” Circumcision was the Jewish ceremony of initiation or the Old Testament sign of the covenant. In Paul’s day it was still the sign that distinguished the Jews from the other nations and the Jews boasted in their circumcision. The Judaizers thought that circumcision was so important that the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved and justified before God (Acts 15:1). Moreover, circumcision signifies and represents the whole law, which is clear from the context: “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing; for I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:2–4).

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Faith Working by Love

The issue in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is justification. How is a guilty sinner declared righteous before God? The answer: a sinner is justified before God on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ received by or through the instrument of faith alone without works.

Paul preached that gospel in Galatia. The saints in Galatia had received and believed that gospel. But false teachers infiltrated the churches. They brought a different message, the message that the sinner is justified on the basis of his obedience to the law of God; or that he is justified on the basis of good works; or that he justified on the basis of faith and good works.

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“Crucified with Christ, I Live” (2)

Alive in Christ

You might think that, if Paul has been crucified with Christ and had died to the law, he would be dead—but he is not, for he clarifies in verse 20, “Nevertheless, I live.”

Paul’s crucifixion with Christ did not put his physical body in the tomb. Paul’s death to the law did not kill him physically. Paul was not physically crucified at all.

Or to put it another way, Paul is dead in one sense: he is dead to the law; but he is alive in another sense: he is alive to God. When the law threatens him, Paul’s answer to the law is, “I died to you; I am dead to you because of the cross of my Savior, Jesus Christ.” When God calls him, Paul’s answer to God is, “O my God, I live to thee; I devote myself to thee because of Jesus Christ thy Son.”

“I live” is Paul’s conclusion in verse 20. What does he mean by that? Does he refer simply to physical life? That cannot be the meaning, for that would be true of anyone—believer or unbeliever; or Christian, Jew, or atheist. But Paul is making a distinction: I have been crucified with Christ; therefore, I live. To the unbeliever Paul would say, “You have not been crucified with Christ, but you are a stranger to Christ; therefore, you do not live. You cannot live.”

Outside of Christ, the unbeliever is dead.

The life of which Paul writes is the rich life of fellowship with God. This life has its source in God, for God alone has true life. This life consists in knowing God. This life is eternal and everlasting life. It is the life of heaven begun in to the soul, which will come to perfection in the kingdom of God.

“Nevertheless, I live.”

Paul lives because Christ lives.

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“Crucified with Christ, I Live”

Dead to the Law

Paul begins Galatians 2:19 with this assertion, “I am dead,” or (better) I died.” The difference between “I am dead” and “I died” is the difference between a state of being (dead) and a completed action in the past (died). You might express it thus: “I died,” with the result that “I am dead.”

The truth that Paul died presupposes that before he died, he had lived—or he had been alive. Such is the case. With respect to what was Paul once alive? And with respect to what did Paul die, so that he is now dead? The answer to the question is “the law.” “I am dead to the law” or “I died to the law.”

There was a time in the past, says Paul, when I was alive to the law. But that has changed. I am now dead to the law, for I died to the law. Paul was alive to the law; he lived for the law; he was devoted to the law; and he sought his salvation in the law.

There was a time in the past, says Paul, when I tried to keep the law. The law said, “Do this and live.” Paul thought that by “doing” the law he would live. Therefore, Paul made every effort to keep the law. He lived very strictly.

Then something happened. Paul died to the law, so that now he is dead to the law.

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Make Wisdom the Priority

In Proverbs 4:7 the exhortation is “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.” If wisdom is the “principle thing,” it is the first thing, the head of all things, the root of all things, and really the only thing worth getting.

Better to have wisdom than any other thing!

 

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Wisdom: How to make a wise decision

The first thing you need to make a wise decision is knowledge.

The reason the fool goes wrong is that he does not take the time to acquire the necessary knowledge to assess the situation. Obviously, if you do not have the knowledge, you cannot make a wise decision, because you cannot apply and adapt knowledge that you do not have! The foolish person is often impetuous and impatient—he does not wait to find out knowledge, or he does not ask advice of others, or, if he does ask advice, he rarely takes good advice.

 

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Christian Wisdom

The book of Proverbs is devoted to one great subject—wisdom.

Listen to the words of Proverbs 4:5, “Get wisdom, get understanding…” or Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

 

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Wisdom and Folly

If wisdom in God is the application and adaptation of all things to the goal of his own glory, then wisdom in us is the application, use and, adaptation of all things to the goal of God’s glory.

That is why we read in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Without the fear of God, which is a godly reverence for him in which we avoid sin and seek his glory, we are, and will behave as, the greatest fools!

 

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TODAY! Second Radio Interview on 'Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt' with Rev. Martyn McGeown

TODAY from 4-6pm EST, Rev. McGeown will be interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio program Iron Sharpens Iron.

The subject will be Rev. McGeown's recent book, Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt

Visit www.ironsharpensironradio.com and click on the livestream box to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone at (563)999-9206; press #3 for Christian Radio when prompted.

Be sure to tune in later today!

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The Urgent Warning

John adds a warning and an incentive. The warning is: “and the world passeth away and the lust thereof” (v. 17). The things of the world are temporary, fleeting, and have no lasting value. The world offers pleasure, power, and the fulfillment of the lusts of the flesh, but one day these things will come to an end. There will come a time when you will not be able to enjoy them. However, it is almost impossible to convince a person infatuated with the world that this is the case. A worldly person lives for the moment, especially for the weekend, and it takes a miracle of grace to wrest his heart away from the world.

But by “passeth away” John means more than to underline the world’s temporary nature. These things pass away because they will be destroyed in the judgment. The worldly person will stand before God. The music will be silent, the sensual pleasure will be over, worldly friends will be gone and he will be sober. Then he must give an account to the Almighty: “I exchanged my Creator for the fleeting pleasures of creation. I had no love for God in my heart. The world was my god.” And if the worldly person has only his love for the world he will stand naked before God, stripped of everything except his sins, and will be condemned.

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