My daughter, Abi, who’s one of our most direct, honest communicators, said to me last night…”Dad, I have to admit, I can never tell a difference between your inside voice and your outside voice.” My voice isn’t in “mid-season form” yet, as one of my coaches recently told me and luckily the Lord kept me from sounding like I had gone back to my pre-teen years. And, I’ve got to agree with Abi, I have a hard time telling the difference.
Now, on to the sermon and some extra thoughts that I hope are adding and fueling your study and growth. My hope also in these musings is to give you a glimpse at the challenge of knowing what to put in the sermon and what to take out.
The BIG question:
I knew when I first looked at this text that vs. 4 would be a challenge. Here’s what Paul wrote: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” One reason this was going to be a challenge was because it’s a huge question that I get asked often: “can a Christian lose their salvation?” The problem is…answering that question in the middle of this particular sermon, was not the point of the text. The point of the text is the freedom that Christ has purchased for us and the dangers of going back into the slavery of performance-based religion. Losing our salvation was not the point of the text and because of the breadth of this text, I couldn’t address this question adequately. So I thought I’d do that here.
My reply and I believe the Bible’s reply to this is clear: those who are truly in Christ, stay in Christ until the end of their lives or until Jesus returns. And we know this from a variety of texts (here are a couple):
- “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29, ESV)
- “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, ESV)
The other reason I believe the Bible teaches this is because of God’s sovereign work in salvation. If believers are those whom “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”, then it would make sense that those whom God calls and those whom He has predestined, will remain with Him until the end.
So, what’s the deal with Paul’s statement about these Galatians? And did these people lose their salvation or fall from grace? Well, I think the answer is 3-fold:
- Because they were in danger of trusting their performance or obedience to save them, Christ would be of no help/advantage to them, and that is why Paul used the term “severed” from Him. Further, I think this is why he said they had “fallen from grace.” God’s grace is not needed when human merit is trusted. Thus, these particular people and any of us who try to add legalism to our justification, are in danger of Jesus being of no value to us and not trusting in grace.
- But the other part of the answer is that those who “lose their salvation” are actually revealing that they never had it in the first place. This does means that people can show signs that they’re trusting in Jesus, even prophesy, do miracles, etc. and still not be in Christ (see Matt. 7:21-23). One of the fruits of justification in Christ is that we will stick with it, until the very end. So, to the question of if these Galatians lost their salvation: my reply would be, those who truly trusted Jesus, didn’t lose their salvation, but those who left Jesus for human performance, never trusted in Jesus in the first place.
- Now, there’s a clue in the text about how Paul felt about this and it’s found in vs. 10. Paul wrote: “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.” Paul trusted in the work of the Holy Spirit to convince His people of the truths that Paul was teaching. This reveals the heart of a true, Spirit-filled pastor. Timothy George wrote, “Paul’s expression of confidence here was neither a mere matter of tact nor a “conventional epistolary phrase” but rather a robust assertion of reliance on the optimism of grace.”
2 final questions:
- How is human performance slavery?
- When I got done with my manuscript (early Sunday morning, this week), I realized that this question might stick out. I covered some of this in the sermon when I said that even the world holds us accountable and states that we don’t measure up. We feel it when we look at Facebook or IG. We hear it when we don’t get the job we wanted or we see celebrities telling us all the causes they’re fighting for and our causes seem so trivial. On and on we get beat up by human performance. That’s how it enslaves us.
- But the way the gospel frees us from this slavery is that the price for our identity, our value, and our standing with God (the greatest being in the universe) has already been paid by Jesus. So we don’t have to perform for that anymore. That means, in a world of human performance, we can perform free of that stress and anxiety. We can perform, at the highest levels, knowing that our performance (good or bad) does not add anything to our justification. And this frees us to perform, knowing that our eternal status does not hang in the balance. And it allows us to take failure differently. Since failing at giving a good performance does not define us, we can handle it as if the Lord will use it for His glory and our good. And if we succeed, we can receive the success as a gift from God that He will use for His glory and our good.
- How does the gospel change the way we treat others? There’s a ton to say on this, but I’ll try to just point us to a few thoughts:
- One is that the gospel flips our self-reliant kingdoms on their ears. The gospel calls us to be servants of a King, not servants of ourselves. And the gospel changes our affections. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 puts it like this: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (italics mine). So, rather than treating others the way they’ve treated us, we begin to treat them the way our King wants them to be treated.
- Which means we can look at Jesus treated us and this will teach us how we are to treat others. Here are a couple of verses that will show us this:
- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)
- “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7, ESV)
- Now, I know that a prayer of mine regularly is, “Lord, help me to treat others, not just the way that I want to be treated, but the way that You have treated me.” I’m not great at it, I can tell you that. But, I have seen, over time, the Lord change my unmerciful heart, my impatience with others, and my self-righteous criticism. And when I fail, I go back to the wonder of God’s grace towards me in Jesus; I confess what I’ve done; and ask God to empower me to change.
Hope that helps! I’m very grateful for all that God is doing in our church…amazed actually. He continues to meet with us, provide for us, and move His gospel in us and through us. What amazing grace God has shown us!
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.