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NO OTHER GOSPEL NO. 19  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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I was born at a very young age. As a matter of fact I believe that I actually tied the record for how young I was when I was born! Being the rebellious person that I am I refused to cry when I left the safety of my mother’s womb and entered into the dangers of this present world. The doctor was so perturbed by my refusal to cry that he spanked my bare bottom (in retrospect, I should have sued him for child abuse!). Still I refused to cry. Being the malicious man that he was, the doctor was not willing to let me win this Mexican Standoff, so he grabbed a scalpel and circumcised me right then and there. I was perturbed and I let him know it! (Boy, when you don’t get enough sleep at night you never know what you might write…).
I tell you this story with a hint of humor, but that is exactly what happened to me (minus the motivation and such…). One could actually argue that in a physical, temporal sense, I was saved by the act of circumcision. But in the spiritual realm circumcision has no power to save. For that matter neither does water baptism, the taking of the elements of communion, or any or religious ceremony.
Is it wrong for Christian parents to have their male children circumcised? It depends on their reasons for so doing. If they think that there is some sort of spiritual benefit to circumcision — well that is a dangerous road. But if it is done for medical reasons, then no, it is not wrong.
As we go through our passage today, , we will note that the message of the gospel sets the believer free from various forms of slavery, however legalism in it various forms seeks to bring believers back into bondage, and it hides the true mark of Christianity.
Let’s read our passage together.
Through the Message of the Cross and the Empty Tomb Believers Are Set Free
a. Set free from sin and its guilt
b. Set free from death
c. Set free from the devil
As we continue on today I want to broaden the focus from circumcision to legalism. The reason for this is that if we limit what Paul is teaching to circumcision then we miss the point. As a matter of fact, though I have mentioned circumcision frequently in the context of Galatians, this is the first time that Paul mentioned it by name. Previously he had referred to the keeping of the law, but not to a specific aspect of the law. Last week someone had mentioned that they didn’t really understand what I meant by legalism, so this week I found what I believe to be a helpful definition of legalism.
Preaching the Word: Galatians—Gospel-Rooted Living Chapter 20: What Ultimately Counts? (Galatians 5:1–6)

Legalism is treating that which is good as though it were essential. Whenever Christians turn something valuable into something ultimate, legalism is at work and freedom is forfeited.

Legalism Brings Believers Back Into Bondage By:
a. Hindering the believer’s spiritual growth (vs. 2)
i. Legalistic People Seek to Measure Themselves Against Others – a performance based attitude
b. Obligating the believer to pursue righteousness based on the law (vs. 3)
Luther said, “We must give up either Christ or the righteousness of the law. If you keep Christ, you are righteous in the sight of God. If you keep the law, Christ is no avail to you; then you are obliged to keep the whole law.” And you can’t!
Philippians 3:9 ESV
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
c. Alienating the believer from Christ (vs. 4)
i. The Vine and the Branch
John 15:1–2 NASB95PARA
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
John 15:2 NASB95PARA
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
John 15:4–6 NASB95PARA
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
In a play on words Paul states in verse 4 that “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” The legalistic false teachers who were trying to lead the Gentiles to become circumcised were causing not only the foreskin to be severed from the body, but the unwary believers to be severed from Christ. But what does it mean to be severed from Christ or to fall from grace? IT CANNOT MEAN LOSS OF ETERNAL LIFE! That would be inconsistent with the rest of the Bible. James Montgomery Boice wrote:

But to fall from grace, as seen by this context, is to fall into legalism. Or to put it another way, to choose legalism is to relinquish grace as the principle by which one desires to be related to God. The article with “grace” distinguishes it as that specific grace of God in Christ that Paul has already stated to be the core of the gospel.

Notice verse 5. Paul shifts from speaking in the second person — “you who are...” and now includes himself by speaking in the first person plural — “we.” What is it that they all have in common? “We through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.”
Legalistic people hope for a righteousness based on adding imperfect and worthless works of law in a vain attempt to complete the perfect and priceless work of Christ. But His work is finished. It is complete. There nothing to be added to it.
John MacArthur notes that “believers already possess the imputed righteousness of justification, but the yet-incomplete righteousness of total sanctification and glorification still awaits them.”
Legalism Hides the True Outward Mark of Christianity
a. The outward mark of Judaism is circumcision
b. The outward mark of Christianity is faith working through love
As important as it is to be correct in our doctrine, and it is extremely important, faith working through love is of far greater importance. In , written at the end of the first century, Christ praised the Ephesian Church for standing firm on solid doctrine. But then He rebuked them for losing hold of the love they had at first. And He warned that if they didn’t repent of their sin and return to that first love then their church would cease to exist.
Which comes first? Faith or love? Douglas Moo points out that this one of the main contentions between Protestants and Catholics during the time of the Reformation. “Protestants generally insisted that this verse stresses the need for true faith to manifest itself in works through love but that love in no way qualifies faith, as if love is necessary before faith can be justifying. Roman Catholics, on the other hand, tended to insist on the idea of faith as being ‘formed by’ love.”
Therefore, I contend that faith comes first and then love. We all know Paul’s statement at the end of “The Love Chapter” … “but now abides faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.” But where does the love come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit who pours it out into the hearts of believers. Faith comes first and then love.
But true faith is a faith that works through love. Though the two virtues are separate, they are also inseparable!
The true outward mark of the Christian is the love they have for their fellow believers. Jesus said that by this all will know that we are His followers. Does the world recognize that we here at the Britton Bethel Baptist Church are followers of Christ? Is our love for one another visible for the world to observe?
Let’s pray.
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