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Warning Signs

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Last week we dove in to the fifth chapter of Galatians and came to an interesting question regarding Christian freedom. Paul comes right out of the gate with the phrasing, “For freedom Christ has set us free;”
Last week we dove in to the fifth chapter of Galatians and came to an interesting question regarding Christian freedom. Paul comes right out of the gate with the phrasing, “For freedom Christ has set us free;”
Last week we dove in to the fifth chapter of Galatians and came to an interesting question regarding Christian freedom. Paul comes right out of the gate with the phrasing, “For freedom Christ has set us free;”
Why has Christ set us free? So that we could be… free. Free from what? He doesn’t answer that in this passage, but from what has already been said, Christians have freedom from the tyranny of the law.
- There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
No condemnation refers to the condemnation that the law brings:
Galatians 3:23 ESV
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
Christ freed us from that tyranny so that we could be free. I used the example that just like the soldier that goes off to battle goes off to war so that the citizens of that nation could remain free and secure, so Christ our warrior is fought the war we could not win, so that we could be free like the children of God we are.
So the question that Paul answered in the text is “What is our part of preserving that freedom?”
Now, that implies that that freedom could be lost, right? The way Paul phrased it is found in:
Galatians 5:4 ESV
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
The answer to the question is throughout the passage, but let me summarize: Your freedoms do not rest in your spiritual activity. Your salvation/justification does not rest in your spiritual activity. God’s favor does not rest in your spiritual activity. God is not interested in a lender/debtor relationship. God wants you to rely solely on Him.
Galatians 5:5 ESV
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
“we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”
He does not want you to rely on anything other than the righteousness and finished work of Christ to affirm your standing with God.
So, stand firm in the freedom and do NOT submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Okay, so this gets to the bottom of a few questions about freedom, namely “What are we free from?” Tyranny of the law to condemn us. And “what are we freed to?” To be God’s free children.
Now, naturally you would think that the next thing Paul wants to discuss is “What we’re free for”, right? That way nobody can waltz on out of here thinking that the freedom from the tyranny of the law and of sin, and the freedom to be God’s free children somehow gives a license to do whatever you want without the fear of any consequences. And Paul does get there, but before he does, he wants them to be able to identify what’s happening to them through a series of random images.
Antinomian comes from a Greek word that means lawlessness. This goes all the way back to the beginning parts of the letter where we come to understand that the Apostle is being accused of ignoring the law of God and even the top ten moral laws (10 commandments). And Paul’s point all along has been, “No, I’m not ignoring the law. The law is good. But the law has never been and will never be a means to right standing with God.” The means to right standing with God has been (as with Abraham) and will always be (Gentiles) faith working through love.
Now, most Christians will agree that you cannot earn your salvation, salvation is by grace through faith. However, when it comes to the area of living the Christian life, well that’s a different story. “If you want God’s favor and blessing, you’ve got to start doing stuff and you’ve got to stop doing stuff.” So, you need to stop watching these things, stop listening to these things, stop going these places, and you need to start reading these books and you need to start going to these places, and you need to start doing these things.”
And then you’ve got the polar opposite of that view which is antinomianism which basically says the opposite. “When you become a Christian, you are totally free. There are no moral or ethical rules. Jesus just wants you to be free. And that sounds a little better on paper, but neither one of them capture the joy of Christian living. The fallout is bad on both sides. There is fallout and burnout on both ends. And the unfortunate part of it all is that neither side really knows what to do with their falling out and burning out. The legalist is so worried about what other people are thinking they’re content to just hope no one finds out. And the antinomian falls out or burns out and then just shrugs his shoulders and says, “Oops. I messed up. Oh well.” And sadly those are not good responses because they don’t lead you to any sort of healing or repentance and faith.
So, is Paul promoting antinomianism? No. So if it’s not lawlessness, and it’s not legalism, than what is it?
What are we free for?
Before looking at the text, let me just say this: as soon as you begin to understand and enjoy the freedom that you have in Christ—let me get more specific, once you begin to live your life free from the fear of the unknown, the fear that you might not be doing enough to make God happy, the fear that you’re not going to make everyone happy, and the fear that God loves you not because you earned His love, but because He’s just that good of a Father—beware.
Beware of the fact that since the evil once cannot pluck you out of the Father’s hands, that his goal is to estrange you from the Father. His goal is to get you to live in terror of the Father. He wants to distort your image of the Father. And Satan does not fall short of tactics and methods to try and throw Christians (especially those who live in freedom) off track.
And here is the tough part, the attempts of the evil one to trip us up, rarely ever come packaged the way that we might think. More than likely, you’ll be tempted to do good things with wrong motives than you will to do evil things. It’s not often that Satan is going to tempt the person who battles to trust God in their finances with the instructions to a clean heist on their doorstep.
Paul loved analogies and illustrations because he knew that was the language that human beings understood. This is an important lesson for us especially when we’re trying to teach Biblical truth. Some times we think all we need to do is pile on Bible verse after Bible verse and eventually the Bible is going to ware people out and they’ll get the lesson (I.e. Our kids.) Most people don’t function that way, so God designed our minds and our hearts to be moved to understand pictures and stories and illustrations. Clearly, Paul did not just make Galatians story time, but scan through the last five chapters and you will find a ton of examples, stories, and pictures all to help the Galatians better grasp what he is teaching them.

The Race Track

Galatians 5:7 ESV
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
Paul loved analogies and illustrations because he knew that was the language that human beings understood. This is an important lesson for us especially when we’re trying to teach Biblical truth. Some times we think all we need to do is pile on Bible verse after Bible verse and eventually the Bible is going to ware people out and they’ll get the lesson (I.e. Our kids.) Most people don’t function that way, so God designed our minds and our hearts to be moved to understand pictures and stories and illustrations. Clearly, Paul did not just make Galatians story time, but scan through the last five chapters and you will find a ton of examples, stories, and pictures all to help the Galatians better grasp what he is teaching them.
So as Paul talks about persevering in your freedom as a Christian he relates it to runners running in a race. Track and field didn’t look identical to what it looks like now. They didn’t run on an oval track, they ran in a straight line and at the end of this track was a post in the ground. They were to touch the post and run back to their starting point. The picture that Paul is painting is of these Christians all running in this race and making their charge from the rear are these Judaizers and as they’re running they’re “hindering” the runners from touching the post. In other translations we have a little better picture. They use the phrase “cutting in.” To cut in on a runner who is running at full speed is going to either slow them way down, or make them trip up all together. Paul sees these false teachers as people who have no good intentions for the Galatians, but by nature of their message they are cutting in and hindering the Galatians from running well.
Paul says, “You were running really well…” Galatians, you received the Gospel, you experienced God’s power working in your own lives, you were running on that freedom track, and while I know that it’s long and exhausting, you are on the right track! He says, “You were obeying the truth.”
It’s very important that we understand what that phrase means. What does “obeying the truth” actually get at?
In contrast to lawlessness that does not believe you need to obey anything and legalism that says you must obey everything, libertine Christianity requires obedience to the truth of the Gospel. The truth of the Gospel is that we are incapable of saving ourselves and we are incapable of changing ourselves. Obeying the truth boils down to a full dependence upon the triunity of God for our salvation and our sanctification.
And that is a good litmus test for what Paul says next...

The Courtroom (Scene 1)

Galatians 5:8 ESV
This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
Stepping back for just a minute, part of the purpose of this whole letter so far has been an explanation of why these false teachers are NOT from God. So that has to make you wonder, is Paul able to say this because he’s an Apostle? The majority of his argument is not, “I’m the Apostle. I have spoken with Jesus. Shut up and listen.”
So how does he know (and how should they know) that this persuasion that’s coming from the Judaizers is not from God? I want to direct your attention back to what he says last week, “If you rely on the law as a means to right standing with God, you can’t rely on Christ for right standing with God.”
When the Apostle Paul was saying his final goodbye to the Ephesian elders in , he lets them in on how he determines false teaching and false teachers.
Acts 20:30–35 ESV
and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Acts 20:28–32 ESV
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
False teachers twist their message so that ultimately people will follow them. Now this can be difficult to discern, but lets ask the question, who would false teachers want to draw the disciples away from? The elders in Ephesus? No. They are drawing disciples away from Christ and the simple message of the Gospel.
So in our discernment of false teaching and teachers we need to be cautious NOT to label Christian leaders who differ from our theological understanding, but rather if a religious leader begins to speak less and less of Jesus Christ being the answer.
False teaching doesn’t mean that a person will stand up and say, “Forget about Jesus, and come follow me.” More than likely a false teacher is going try to convince you that you are the hinge and you just need a few tweaks to be a stronger hinge. They want to convince you that the power to do whatever you feel like God wants for you is believing in yourself or thinking positively. The ultimate goal with this is that this teacher makes you feel so good about yourself, that you can’t imagine leaving their teaching. Or they could go on the complete opposite rail and try to make you think that they are the answer. They’re the model for Christian living, they’re the enlightened preacher, they’re the answer to all of your problems, so much so that you can’t imagine leaving their teaching because of how badly you need their sage advice. Both teaching is false teaching. Both teachers are false teachers.
Sound teaching and sound teachers may not be the most eloquent and they might stumble on their words, but the ultimate goal in sound teaching is that the congregation would lean just a little more of their weight on Jesus. That the congregation would see a little more beauty in Jesus. That they couldn’t imagine leaving Jesus because you can’t imagine leaving HIS care, and HIS grace, HIS mercy, and HIS steadfast love.

The Kitchen

Galatians 5:9 ESV
A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
It only takes a few grains of leaven to make an entire loaf of bread rise to perfection. But you cannot add a few grains and hope one side will rise and the other will not rise. No, the entire loaf will rise.
In addition to this serving as a baking metaphor, leaven was symbolic for Jews as well. The Passover, that was inaugurated just before Israel’s exodus from Egypt, included very specific instructions for the meal. The Hebrew people were NOT to leaven their loaf or it would compromise a swift departure.
Paul knows that if the Galatians accept circumcision as a means for right standing with God, that everything will begin to change. The first compromise we take away from a whole-hearted reliance on God is the most difficult, but once we compromise in one area of our lives, that leaven will spread throughout the rest of our lives.
And guys this is for us, right here. The whole lump of Redemption Church and the community surrounding us is in jeopardy if we start to rely on something other than Christ as our hope.
For some of us, the reason we can’t see some change in certain areas of our life is because we’re ignoring the fact that we’ve allowed some leaven into one area and it’s leavening the whole lump.
And don’t think that leavening will stop at you. You’ve got a family, both biological and spiritual. If the leadership begins to compromise on our stance on Scripture, or the Resurrection, or Salvation by Grace through faith, the lesson is that we’ve announced our journey towards death as a Church.
We have a job to do right here of making sure that we don’t accept false teaching, but we also have a job equally important of not becoming false teachers. And we’re probably false teachers far more than we’d like to admit. Every time we’re not pointing others (with our words and actions) to rely on Jesus, we’re guilty of being false teachers.
As Paul closes this last rebuke, there is a beautiful glimmer of hope.
We asked a question last week about eternal security. How do you know? And we said that the typical Christian cliche’ is “Once saved, always saved.” And it’s so important that we understand that faith is not intellectual ascent, but genuine faith is a lifestyle of dependence upon Christ and what HE has done and is doing. Your security does not rest in your spiritual activity, or on your works, but Christ’s work for us.
However there are those who profess faith in Christ, but their lives reveal a complete lack of trust in God. And the Galatians seem to be heading in that direction, but here is the glimmer of hope.
The Courtroom (Scene 2)
You’re a false teacher every day when you act as if you’re god. Forget about all the televangelist for a second and think about this, you are the leaven that leavens the whole lump of your family, your neighborhood, your place of business, your school when with your actions you’re teaching the false doctrine that everything depends on
Galatians 5:10 ESV
I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.
The hope is that genuine faith, even though will have moments of doubt and fear, will ultimately be led by the Spirit to dig their heels deeply in to the truth that Jesus IS ENOUGH, I don’t have to try to prove that “I’m worth it to anyone” because I know that what Christ has done has made me right with God, I not only say I believe that, but I’ve put all my weight on that. Genuine faith doesn’t show up on Sunday morning, genuine faith is 24/7/365.
And Paul goes in to some very serious words about being a false teacher, and especially leading people who want to follow Christ astray. He doesn’t wish this, he has confidence in the LORD that the ones who are trying to trip up the Galatians will bear the penalty. What is the penalty? I could guess, but I think it would better to listen to what Jesus had already said about those who do this:
Matthew 18:6 ESV
but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Paul doesn’t stop with that remark, in fact Paul gets really undignified:

The Shocker

Galatians 5:12 ESV
I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
He’s confident that God will punish them, but he wishes that they wouldn’t stop at trimming the foreskin, but would just go all the way and remove their masculinity. Now, it sounds like Paul is just being crude, but again we need to remember what circumcision meant when it served as the covenant sign. It was a reminder that every child born of a Hebrew male was because God promised Abraham that he would make of him a great nation. Their sons would wonder why they looked differently and it was an opportunity for fathers to teach their sons about God’s faithfulness to His covenant to their forefather Abraham.
So, what Paul is saying is, I wish these men would be completely unable to have children by removing their male genitals. In other words, I wish these men could be completely shut up, completely unable to teach anyone else this false doctrine.
In addition to this, he has just used a similar analogy to the Galatians when he said, “If you rely on the law for your standing with God, you are cut off from Christ.” For Paul this isn’t crass, it is the crux of the argument. If you want to cut your foreskin in hopes that you’ll gain Christ, you’ll be cut off from Christ.
Paul has taken us through the gambit of word pictures, like flipping through channels on late night TV
We went from the race track, to the courtroom, to the kitchen, back to the courtroom, to the cross of Christ, and then to the a horror scene.
The racetrack was so they could see what Paul could see was happening to them.
The courtroom was so they could see that this whole letter wasn’t about who was right, but it was really all about whether or not God (who had called them) was doing the persuading.
The kitchen analogy about the leaven was so they could see the damage that a little bit of compromise could do to a whole community that has based their lives on the bread of life.
The second court scene was so they could see Paul projecting himself as the prosecutor being convinced that they as the jury will see clearly that was he was saying was true.
And then it seems in his meditation over what he’s already says, it hits him that he’s still being persecuted. And if he were now preaching circumcision (as the Judiazers were trying to convince the Galatians that he now was) that the cross of which all of Paul’s letter hang would be an absolute hoax.
And then finally he paints a violent picture of what he wished for the Judaizers so they could see finally that what Paul was contending for was no small thing.
All of these illustrations were given so the Galatians could really grasp what it will be like for them if they go forward with their plans for converting to become a cultural Jew.

Application:

You are under attack. The evil does not like the fact that you are living as free children of God and he will not stop his attacks until he is cast out into eternal punishment.
So, lock your arms together and stand fast in freedom...
Now it’s almost like those were the commercials between the show, but the commercials actually played a part in the show. But as a way of closing, we are going to answer the question we began with:

What are we free for?

Galatians 5:13 ESV
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13
What are we free from? Tyranny of the law, the condemning of the law. We’re not worried whether or not we’re right with God based on our adherence to the law.
What are we free to? We’re free to then be God’s children. To live lives free from the fear of disapproval and judgement.
What are we then free for? We’re now free to serve one another out of a heart filled with the love for God.

Communion:

That’s what we’re going to talk about next week.
Jesus is always the hero, Church. Jesus had the freedom, the authority, the power to end things on the night of his crucifixion, but he submitted himself to the Father, and he was filled with the Spirit, hanging there on the cross with all of our sin on his shoulders. He used his freedom to serve us. And what’s even more incredible is that even now is using freedom to intercede on our behalf. The Spirit serves us when he reminds you that you are God’s free child. The Father is serving us with His provision and blessing.
Tripped up, manipulated, compromising, deceived, and cut off. This is not
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