Sermon – March 25, 2018
The Nature of Faith – Galatians 5:2-6 (mp3)
In 5:2-6, much like 2:21, Paul brings his argument to its conclusion. Faith in Christ is all you need; not only does circumcision avail you nothing, but it puts you under the obligation of the law and separates you from the benefits of Christ. Therefore, do not turn to the law, but believe. But what is the nature of this belief, this faith?
1. The focus of our faith is Christ (v. 2)
Americans are filled with faith. We have faith as the staple of our spiritual food. Unfortunately, for many, faith has lost an object. Instead of being directed at something particular, our faith is simply a general belief that God (or, rather, god) will work out all things for our good, simply because that is his job. Our belief is nothing more than naked optimism. Christians are optimistic as well; but our optimism stems from a faith pointed particularly at Christ.
2. The purpose of our faith is gain (vv. 2-3)
Sometimes, when we boil down our faith, we do so in such a way that removes much of the nuance and care that Scripture has built in. We often boil down our love and faith to something that is purely selfless. True, done in response to much of the selfishness of our culture, such a stance is appropriate. The problem is that the Bible often (always?) appeals to us to act in our best interest. The parables of Jesus are built around this very idea; not to mention the entire epistle to the Galatians. Friend, you should believe in Christ because he has been raised from the dead, yes. You should believe because it is true, but more importantly, you should believe because it is good for you!
3. The goal of our faith is righteousness (vv. 4-5)
Our justification, or being cleared in God’s courtroom, is the goal of our faith. Justification took center stage in the central portion of the letter to the Galatians, and it resurfaces here. We have seen, in the death and resurrection of Christ, God’s own judgment on us – we have seen the future. Therefore, we already have the knowledge of our justification, while at the same time we await the final judgment in faith.
4. The fuel of our faith is love (v. 6)
Lastly, our faith is not one of simple knowledge. The greatest commandment is not that we simply acknowledge that God exists, but rather to love him. If faith is to work, it must do so in love. While circumcision cannot help you, and works of the law will not justify you, and general belief will not make God’s blessings fall upon you, faith, pursued with love, works. This is why we are not just to believe, but we trust.
Paul would not have the Galatians be fools or fooled; he implores them, and you, to act wisely: believe in Christ’s work on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and your justification before God.