The following is from a recent sermon I preached from Galatians 5:1-6. This is taken from verses 5 and 6:
Paul makes four assertions in verses 5-6 concerning true salvation. First, salvation is “through the Spirit.” True salvation is not a work of man but a work of God’s Spirit. This is the major point of grace and central to the New Covenant. Grace emphasizes that God is doing the work. To say we believe in salvation by grace alone means that we (1) do not believe that we have any capacity for saving ourselves (works) and (2) that the whole work of salvation is according to God’s good pleasure and power (grace). We cannot boast of our faith or of our repentance. We cannot up and one day on our own decide to follow Christ. We can decide on our own apart from grace to give Jesus a try, to follow Him in hopes that He will make our lives better. But we cannot deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him, i.e. follow Him by faith, apart from grace. We can only glory in the Lord when the Holy Spirit has worked savingly in our lives, enabling us to see an know God’s marvelous grace.
That is what Paul means in our text. How can a sinner bring himself out of spiritual darkness or lift himself from spiritual blindness or raise himself up from spiritual death? He has no power to do so. He must be born again by the Spirit.
This work of the Spirit will accomplish Paul’s second assertion concerning the sufficiency of grace in salvation – a response to Christ alone for salvation, “by faith.” The opposite of “by faith” is ‘by works of the law.” Again, Paul confronts the notion that a person can adhere to the law and be justified before God. This is not due to the law’s weakness but to the weakness of the flesh to keep the law (Rom. 8:3-4). We are the problem, not the law. The law has its purpose to show our inability to keep it and to point us to Christ. When we come to Christ, we do not gain Him by some act of merit on our part, but only by faith in Christ’s work at Calvary. Faith comes empty-handed to the Cross, spiritually bankrupt. The law cannot save you. Your good-intentioned efforts cannot save you. Your family’s Christian heritage cannot save you. Your friends’ impressions of you cannot save you. Your walking down an aisle cannot save you – not even your prayer can save you! Your baptism cannot save you. It is only those who refuse to claim merit before God and who rest totally in Christ that are saved.
Now, in case you haven’t heard me so far, let me again say that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone (that is in receiving and trusting) in Christ alone. So I think you would agree that it is important to know, “Who is this Christ?”
According to Christian researcher George Barna, the majority of church youth have an unorthodox view about Jesus. Although 87 percent of teens believe that Jesus was a real person who live on earth, and 78 percent believe He was born to a virgin, nearly half (46 percent) believe He committed sins, and more than half (51 percent) say Jesus died but never rose from the dead.
Another survey done a few years later asked teens to affirm the following four statements:
- The Bible is completely trustworthy in what it says about Jesus.
- Jesus is God.
- Jesus physically lived, died, and came back to life.
- Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Sadly, only 9 percent of churched youth would consistently express confidence in these doctrines.
His virgin birth; His perfect obedience; His sacrificial death; His glorious resurrection; His ascension to be with the Father; His return to receive those who have received Him). Christ alone!
If regeneration by the Spirit of God and faith in Christ is true of you, then Paul says there are two other things true of you as well. The “root” is salvation in Christ alone through faith alone. The “fruit” is a faith that first has great “hope” (v. 5). “We ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” What happens when the Spirit imparts grace and a sinner believes savingly in Jesus Christ? What is the result of saving faith? That person is filled with “hope.” “Hope” has Christ as its object and with great anticipation looks to the future because “hope” in Christ is confident. We often use the word “hope” when we lack confidence or are uncertain. That is not the case when our “hope” is in Christ. “Hope” in Christ brings assurance of salvation. “Hope” springs from a resolved mind and a settled heart that Christ is sufficient!
How different this is from those whose confidence is in themselves, in their efforts keep the law by their own works. The law breeds uncertainty because no man is able to keep it. That is why I so often remind you that Christianity is the only religion based on grace. All others are based on works, and there is no hope, no assurance in works because, regardless of your religion, you are always left wondering if you’ve done enough. It is the gospel alone that brings assurance because it is based on the certainty that Christ, by His perfect life and death, met God’s righteous requirements of the law for you. It is His work that is accepted, not ours!
This does not mean that we have not yet received righteousness, but instead, it means that the full complement of all that the righteousness of Christ has secured for us will be ours. The infinite wonder of His grace shown to us will be made known for the ages of eternity. It is this “hope” that secures the Christian in the difficulties of life. Hebrews 6:19-20 – 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
What else happens to the person who has received the gracious work of the Spirit, has renounced trust in himself and cast his whole reliance upon Jesus Christ, and who has a new hope assuring him? In verse 6, Paul again explains that circumcision and uncircumcision are not what counts, but being “in Christ” does. And, he says, one in Christ will have “faith working through love.” This is the first occurrence of “love” in the letter and demonstrates that where faith is real and vital it will operate through love.
The Reformation expression applies this truth: the believer is justified by grace alone through faith alone; but not by a faith that remains alone.” The Greek expresses the idea of faith being “energized” so that it produces love. Faith is never idle. It produces love in the believer that shows up in his kindness and acts of charity toward others. It is a love that is best evidenced not only in his love for God but in his love for others. We love others not because we find them worthy of being loved but because our lives are now characterized by love. If God has done a saving work in you, then you are a loving person. Love is not an option. If you have been set free from the law, you are to love as Christ loved, showing compassion to others. And this love is not to be in word only, but in deed. That is the work that matters! We don’t work to be saved, but because we are saved. We don’t work for righteousness but our righteousness is demonstrated by our works born out of a love for and the love of Christ.
One of God’s great gifts to the Christian is the church. [The church] is for us, because God is for us too. The worship, though ultimately for God, is meant for our edification—for belivers’ edification, not immediate resonance with nonbelievers (though we want our services to be intelligible to them too). Just as important, think of the one another commands. Church should be a place to bear each others burdens, meet physical needs, express comfort, demonstrate care, exercise hospitality, exchange greetings, offer encouragement, administer rebuke, receive forgiveness—basically faith working itself out in love. And isn’t love for each other the distinguishing mark of the Christian community?
 Israel Wayne, Questions Jesus Asks, chapter one, Kindle edition.
 Kevin DeYoung, quoted in William Boekestein and Daniel R. Hyde, A Well-Ordered Church, p. 24