Let's turn over to Galatians chapter 5 for our text today. You know, sometimes we preachers get accused of picking a text and never mentioning it again. Usually that's not really true. But a few times I have seen preachers about whom this seemed to be true. They'd pick a text and they'd read it and then that was about all they ever did with it. They'd go on from there to somewhere else and leave that passage behind. I won't do that!
We want to think for a little while this morning about faith and the freedom that we have because of faith. We could, of course, approach this from a political viewpoint and it wouldn't be difficult to take history and prove that the real political freedom that we have actually comes about only where there is a very strong religious background. Even the people who are not necessarily truly saved themselves, if there are enough of them who are influenced by the principles of the Bible, then in places like that you will find a reasonable amount of political freedom. And in places where there is very little Bible influence, you will find less and less political freedom.
But we didn't come here today, of course, to speak to you on a political subject; we seldom or never speak on a political subject, but it is worthwhile to remind ourselves from time to time that the only places where they truly have political freedom in any meaningful sense are the places where they also have a great deal of religious and biblical influence. And that, as I said, is quite easy to prove from reading history.
But today, let's read first in Galatians 5, the first fourteen verses. We'll read this quickly and then use various parts of it in our message today. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law."
Of course, you understand that what he is referring to is not just the act of circumcision itself but the idea of living up to the details of the Jewish law. That's what he's referring to when he speaks of circumcision. "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised," that is, everyone who tries to live up to the Jewish law and trying to be saved in that manner, "that he is a debtor to do the whole law." In other words, he can't just do a little bit of it here and a little bit of it there, and the parts that show and forget about the rest of it. That's what he's saying.
"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law," that is, if you are trying to win your own salvation by living up to a certain code of conduct, "ye are fallen from grace," that is, ye are fallen away from the pathway of grace, to paraphrase it and explain it at the same time. "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision," that is, neither following the law, "availeth any thing, nor," refusing to follow the Jewish law, "nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love."
"Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?" Paul says, "Now once you were very strong, faithful Christians. You ran well. You ran the race of truth, the race of faith well. But now what's happened to you that you are leaving the track?" he says. This was written originally, of course, to a church that he himself had established in Galatia.
"This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you." He says, "This change is not coming from God. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he is." He said, "The fellow who's stirring up this business of the law again so strongly among you, he's going to bear his own judgment because of this, whoever he is."
"And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision," that is, if I yet preach the following of the law, "why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offence of the cross ceased?" He says, "Well, if I follow this teaching of the law as this man apparently was telling that he did, this troublemaker, then why am I still persecuted?" he says. "Because I was persecuted originally because of the offense of the cross," as he calls it here. "That is because of the preaching of the gospel." "I would they were even cut off which trouble you." He says, "I wish they were completely cut off, destroyed." "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion of the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."
Now as we begin to think about this, we see in this first part of chapter 5, he's really developing a theme which he started in chapter 4 when he spoke about the child of the bond woman, and the child of the true wife. And we'll deal with that in a moment, we'll get back to it. But Paul had preached the gospel here in Galatia on his first missionary journey. And many there had been wonderfully saved and the church had been set up, well established under Paul's own leadership, under his own preaching. And while they were still rejoicing in their salvation, their salvation by grace through faith from this heathen idolatry that they'd been following when he first went there, some Judaisers came and said that believing in Jesus was not enough. They said, "Oh, that's good. You must believe in Jesus but that's not enough by itself. You must also add all of the works of the law," (of the Jews that is), "in order to be saved." Some people were troubling the church teaching this false doctrine.
Paul rejected this, of course, very strongly as we read in the first six verses of this fifth chapter. He rejected the idea of following after the law as a part of salvation. As I said earlier, here in this first part of chapter 5, he was giving a more detailed explanation and application of this allegory that he had given about the bond woman and the free woman or true wife in the last part of chapter 4.
But Paul, as we follow this and think about it a moment, sweeps aside every man-made device for men to try to save themselves. He just wipes it away, shows that it does not work. It's not of any importance, this effort to try to save oneself. He shows that neither rituals nor ceremonies, neither obedience to laws nor commandments can save. And shows that all these things must be swept aside as he does here and he brings them back to the one revelation of salvation that we find in the Word of God, which is through faith in Jesus Christ. That's what he does in all of Galatians, the entire book. But, of course, we can't preach on all of it today.
Let us think a little further about this now in an organized fashion. The first thing we want to notice in Paul's special message to these Galatians in chapter 5 is he speaks in detail about the kind of faith that saves the soul. What kind of faith can save our souls from sin and deliver us to God and salvation? That's an important question, isn't it? What kind of faith can do that?
I could go out here and build me a little stone idol and say, "I have complete faith in that idol that it'll get me to heaven." But that's not the kind of faith that's really going to get me to heaven, is it? That won't really get me there at all. Or I could do as most of our black tribes and many of the other tribes of all colors have done back through the ages --- go out there and carve me one out of wood and bow down to it and give offerings to it. We saw a lot of this in Zaire when we were working there. And yet, this faith that I had in this wooden object would never get me to heaven. It wouldn't ever really do me any good -- None whatsoever. So this question of what kind of faith saves our souls from sin and delivers us to God and salvation is an important question.
But this faith that truly saves is not a mere, intellectual assent to the reality of God and the Scriptures. You say, "Oh, well, I thought that was enough." No, that's not enough. That's not all of it, is it? Just the first step to begin to think about the real faith that saves would be an intellectual assent to the reality of God and the Scriptures. Without doing that you couldn't go ahead and have the true faith that saves. But this faith that saves, this faith that delivers us to God and salvation is much more than intellectual perception and acknowledgment of an obvious fact.
I know there are people who try to tell us, and we come across them almost every time we visit, that they do not believe there is a God or that they doubt if there is a God. But I don't really believe there are any people like that. I know there are people who say they don't believe there's a God. But then you try to ask them, you see their beliefs about no God are incoherent. I usually don't even bother to talk to them because if they're insistent on that, there's no approach you can make with them that will do any good. But if I do discuss it with them, I always go along this line, "Where do you think this earth came from that we're standing on?" And then they go into some big, ridiculous long-winded excuse of an explanation and when they get through, you've got to have a lot more faith to believe that silly story they tell you than you would just to believe that God created everything.
It takes a lot more faith to believe the silly fifteen thousand suppositions they give you as an explanation than to believe in instantaneous creation by God. But what we're talking about is much more than just an intellectual perception or an intellectual acknowledgment of something.
James 2:19 speaks of this idea about what real saving faith is when he says this: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well." But now listen to the hook here in the end of it. "The devils," or demons, "also believe, and tremble." Even the devil knows that there's a God. "Even the demons believe and tremble," James says in James 2:19. It's a good thing to believe that there's a God, but you'd have to be a fool not to believe that there's a God, wouldn't you? "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." That's what the Scripture says! That's not what Jim Dearmore says, that's what the Bible says. It's what God's Word says. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." And James goes ahead with that idea when he says, "Thou believeth there is one God and you do well to do that," he says, "but the devils or the demons also believe and tremble."
Remember in the New Testament we have some examples of demon-possessed people speaking to Jesus and saying, "Jesus, thou son of David," or "Jesus, why do You torment us now before our time?" "Why do you come to get us now before our time to go into hell?"
Going a little further here, saving faith is not in the recitation of creeds. I thought about getting a copy of the Apostle's Creed, in fact, I looked it up and read it again myself in one of my books but decided it wasn't worth writing it down to read to you. But many people seem to believe that if they just recite the so-called Apostle's Creed every once in awhile that means salvation. But that doesn't mean anything --- it just means they can read, doesn't it? That's all it means. It means they can read or they can quote. Nothing more than that as far as salvation is concerned. You know, the one that starts off, "I believe in God, the Father, Almighty Maker of heaven and earth and," so forth and so on . . . . . You can go on with that and you can say that every five minutes the rest of your life. It has nothing to do with whether you are truly saved or not. So saving faith is not in a recitation of a creed!
Saving faith is not something else that some people seem to think it is. Many seem to think that saving faith is just joining an organization, a church or a religious organization of some kind, a group of people. That's not salvation at all. If you are truly saved, you should join a sound New Testament Church which teaches and preaches the truth and tries to win others to the Lord. But that's not what saves you. You should join with others to work for the Lord in a true church. But that is not saving faith, just joining an organization or a church. So, we still have this main question before us, "What is saving faith?" What is this saving faith that we're talking about?
Saving faith, as we've said to you so many times before, is a commitment of your life to Christ. A full commitment of your life to Christ. Second Timothy 1:12 speaks along these lines, where it says: "For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." Now that's saving faith, isn't it? That's a picture of saving faith there in II Timothy 1:12.
In other words, saving faith is the handing over of your soul to Him. Trusting in Him to care for your soul. The faith that saves is simply trusting in Christ, to put it in a few words. We have an example of that which I've used before with you many times. It's one of the clearest examples in the Scripture and that's the reason I use it often. You may remember I've quoted it to you before from Acts 16, the story of the Philippian jailer. We find there a clear cut, plain and simple, straightforward brief answer to the question about salvation. He came to Paul and Silas and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And in the following verse we have the record of what their answer was. The answer in verse 31 of chapter 16: "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Now that's a straightforward answer to a straightforward question.
You could say, "Well, we've got an illustration perhaps in trusting the pilot of a jetliner to get you safely to your destination." I'm sure that none of us here with the possible exception of Buck could land a plane. Presumably, none of us are pilots. I landed one once upside down, backwards and facing the wrong way, Buck. And I walked away from it. Of course, that's not the right way to land one, I understand that! But this trusting that we're talking about, every time you get on a jet plane, you have a little, tiny bit of an illustration of what we're talking about trusting because you have to trust that pilot and the co-pilot and the flight engineer to get you where you're going and to get you down safely, don't you?
Now as I said perhaps Buck (an attendee named Buck Taylor) could land it himself, I don't know if he's a pilot or not. But other than Buck, probably none of us could do so. We haven't the ability, in other words, to land the plane ourselves so we have to trust that pilot and co-pilot and that flight engineer to get us there and get us on the ground, don't we? And if we don't trust them, that is a pretty bad feeling, isn't it?
I guess I'd better tell you this little, funny story. It's a true story. It happened in Zaire. While we were there we heard about this. You know all these African countries when they get their "independence," they always want to set up their own little airline. And they want to Africanize it as much as possible. So they had a big --- this is a true story now, it really happened in Zaire, at Kinshasa --- we heard about it while we were working there. They had a big jet at the airport. It was parked at the terminal building there at Kinshasa, loading. The passengers all got on board and being a black country, Zaire, and Kinshasa being the capital, about two-thirds of the people that got on were black. Management decided they wanted to get some publicity photos before they let the plane go ahead and really take its proper flight. So, they got three fellows all dressed up in their captains uniforms and everything, their proper uniforms to fit the Zaire airline. They marched onto the plane and got up there in the cockpit. The engines weren't even running.
But when all these black people in the plane saw these folks getting into the cockpit, they had a riot. They were fighting to get off of that plane. The blacks were leading the race to get off that plane because they were afraid these three fellows that went up there were going to actually try to fly the plane. Now that really happened. They were just trying to get some publicity photos, you know, for their Congo/Zaire airline, or Air-Zaire or whatever they call it now. But they just couldn't do it. These fellows were not pilots, of course. They were not even fixing to take off. They were just going to get publicity photos. And the people in the back of the plane just about wrecked it getting off, because they were afraid these fellows were going to try to take off. And they didn't trust flying with those fellows in control. (This was before they had any properly trained and qualified Congolese pilots, of course).
But saving faith is abandonment of any hope of any kind in anyone else or in any other way of salvation except Jesus only. That is saving faith. John 6:68 has a good word to say along this line. You may remember the background here. I referred to this a few weeks ago in another message. Some of the disciples who had previously followed Jesus had abandoned Him and had run away because of persecution. And some new persecution had just come along and Jesus said to Peter: "Well, will you folks go away, too?" "Are you going to run away, too?" to the apostles. And this is what Peter said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." He said, "Where would we run, Lord? There's no place to go. You're it." That's what he was saying. "There's no other way." "Thou hast the words of eternal life," John 6:68.
It's like the old song that we sometimes sing, where it goes a little bit like this in one of the verses, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." There's a lot of truth in that verse and chorus of that song. This is the faith that saves, in other words. That's what we're talking about.
Now, why did God choose faith? That's a good question also. Why did God choose faith as the way of salvation? Why? Why would He do this? It would've been so much simpler for Him to say, "Okay, everybody that gets sprinkled or everybody that gets dunked under water in a certain type of ceremony is saved." That would have been much simpler, wouldn't it? --- much easier. But now we want to think for a minute about that. Would it have been easier? No, it wouldn't really. From a human viewpoint it would have been much easier. But why did God choose faith as the way of salvation?
Well, there are several parts to our answer.
First, because there's no other way possible. There simply is no other way possible.
You say, "Well, why don't you prove that to us?" Okay. Let's think about it a minute. If I seek to save myself by merit, let me ask this question: "What about my sins in the past?" I can't go back and relive that life that I've already lived and wipe out those sinful things that I did before I was saved. Not possible, is it? What about those sins that are passed if I seek to save myself by my own merits?
Okay, another question. "What about sins in the future?" "What about sins in the future if I seek to save myself by my own merit, by my own good works?" "Can I live a perfect life from now till the day I die?" No! Anyone who believes he can is a fool. It's just not possible, is it? So what about those sins in the future? Not only those sins in the past, but what about those in the future?
If we swore before God on a stack of Bibles to live without sin in the future, if He would just save us then we know when we swear that oath that we can't possibly keep it. Somewhere, somehow, sometime and someday if I'm ever saved, it must be by the mercy and forgiveness of God. There's just no other way! Even from just human reasoning, it's not even logical any other way.
Now another answer. Remember our first answer was because there's no other way possible except the faith way to save man. The second part of the answer is this, God chose the faith way to save us because it reveals God as being merciful, redemptive, gracious and full of lovingkindness and tender mercy. There's no other means of salvation, no other plan that could have been used to show so clearly and so plainly the tender lovingkindness and mercy of God to sinful man than the faith way!
Another reason why He chose the faith way --- God chose the faith way because it is suited for all of us poor, dying sinners. It's the only way that's suited for us. There's no other way that's suited for us as poor sinners.
Would you say to a dying man, if you came across a dying man out here on the pavement, would you say, "Do this, do that, do some other work and you'll live?" Is that what you'd do to a man like that? No, you wouldn't do anything silly like that, would you? You'd know that it wouldn't do a bit of good because there he is dying, his blood is spilling out on the pavement. Would you run up to that man and say, "Well, you get out and you do this and you do that, and something else and you do this and you do that and you'll be all right. You'll be saved"?
No, you wouldn't do that. It would be foolish, wouldn't it?
John 3 fits well here where it says in verses 14 and 15, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Now these dying men, (this is referring back to the time in the wilderness journeys of the Israelites) when the serpents came out and were biting them and they were dying from the snake bites. And Moses went to the Lord and spoke to Him about the problem. And the God said, "You get a brazen serpent and you raise it up on a cross or a tree in the wilderness and if they will just look at this when they get bitten by one of these snakes, they'll live. And if they refuse to look, they'll die from the poison of the snake." And, of course, this was being set up by the Lord as a beautiful picture of the death of Christ on the cross and the means of salvation for the world. So all these dying people in the wilderness had to do was look and live as we can today as dying sinners. We can just look to the cross and live.
But God chose to save us by faith, another answer to why God chose the faith way, God chose to save us by faith because it provides an open door for all mankind. What other means could there be available for all men: the helpless, the hopeless, the untaught, the unknowing, the untrained, the young, the old -- no group has ever been left out of the faith way? None. To him who can do nothing but look to Christ by faith, God gives the marvelous gift of eternal life.
The thief on the cross is a fine example of this. This thief on the cross was already nailed up there. He couldn't do anything, could he? He couldn't be—he couldn't be baptized, he couldn't do any good works, and he obviously hadn't done many good works before because if he had, he wouldn't have been there, being crucified for his criminal activities, would he? And yet, what did the Lord say to Him? When the thief turned to Him and said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom," what did the Lord say back to him? He said, "This day shalt thou be with me in paradise." "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Going on quickly, some people seem to think that the faith way takes away all of the motive for righteous living or living for the Lord as one should. Okay, since we don't have to work for salvation, then why should we work properly at all for the Lord? And though people ask that question from time to time, it simply shows their total ignorance about spiritual things if they ask a that question. Because faith is a tremendous motive, the faith way is a tremendous motive for true righteousness, for true Christian living, for true service to the Lord.
When we're saved we become a "someone else". Did you know that? Yes, we become a someone else. A change takes place. The only real honest-to-goodness, down deep inside, unchangeable change that takes place in people is that which takes place when they're saved.
You may say, "What about education?" Well, education changes people on the surface but it doesn't really change them on the inside. If you've got a rascal who's ignorant, then he's an ignorant rascal. But if you've got a rascal and you send him through university and he gets his Ph.D. or Sc.D. or Th.D., or whatever other degree you want to name, what's the difference? He's an educated rascal. That's the only difference, isn't it? He's still a rascal inside, but he's an educated rascal. But when we get saved, we become a someone else. A new creation in the Lord, someone different --- A new life. It's a new love. A new heart, a new day, a new vision and a new hope. And that changes people. That is a definite and enduring motive for righteous living, isn't it?
Second Corinthians 5:17 says: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." That says it all in very few words. And Paul, over in Romans 13, and again here in Galatians 5, our text chapter for today teaches that love is a very strong motive for righteous living as opposed to fear of the law as a motive.
Now I don't know about all of you, but I guess I'm just kind of mean and stubborn. But you know, I'm a little bit like the child. If somebody says, "You've got to do this," I just kind of get topped up here and I don't know whether I've got to do that or not. You know what I'm talking about. But, if you really love the one who asks you to do that, you'll be much more willing to do it than you would if someone who was a hard taskmaster tried to force you to do something you did not want to do. You see what I'm talking about here? Love is a much stronger motive for righteous living than is a fear based on the need to obey the law in order to be saved.
And Paul shows that here in Galatians 5 as he does also in Romans 13. If we go on down to verse 14 here in Galatians 5 and read it again, it says it in so many words like this: "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself." So Paul is also emphasizing in this place the strength of love as a motive for righteous living.
Moving on, the creation of a new relationship to God is what happens when we have this faith. The method of faith, we might say, is not only a gift of a new heart and a new life, not only the setting up of a new motive in living, (that is a new motive for Christian living, righteous living), but it also creates something else new and that is a new relationship between us and God. Whereas before, we were enemies of God. You say, "Oh, I don't fight God." Well, you don't consciously perhaps. And yet, all who are not saved are yet enemies of God, though they perhaps do not consciously realize that.
Faith sets up a new relationship when we exercise faith in God. It changes our whole relationship to God. We're no longer working for Him as a slave. That's what these followers of the strict letter of the Jewish law were doing. They were working for God as a slave. But when we have this new relationship which comes about by faith, we're not working for God as a slave, we're not working for the Lord as one trying to earn wages or earn a reward --- that is reward in the sense of salvation. Then after working all your life, you're still a servant or slave when that takes place. If you're working for wages or if you're working as a slave, then you work all your life and at the end of that time you're still working for wages or you're still a slave --- whichever the case may be.
When this new relationship comes about by faith in Christ, we're adopted into the family of God. We're no longer just a servant, but we're a member of the family. There's a lot of difference between a servant's position and a beloved member of the family! A very great difference. It makes us a son of God when we come by faith to Christ. And when by faith in Christ we are adopted into God's family, then we become a son. Isn't that wonderful to think about? We become a fellow heir with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This change takes care of another problem. So many people say to me, "Well, if I believed that I could be saved by true faith in Christ and that when once saved I was eternally saved, then I'd go out and do anything I want to." You know what I tell people that tell me that? I tell them that's exactly what I do; I do anything I want to. But my "want to" has been fixed. My "want to" has been fixed. I do anything I want to, as far as this business of how I live and how I act and so forth. What I do now I do because of one reason. Because I'm a child of the King, a son of heaven. I drink all the whiskey I want to drink (none). I drink all the brandy I want to drink (none). I drink all of anything else I want to drink.
It doesn't bother me a bit, of course! I don't want to drink any whiskey or any brandy for that matter, but still I do drink all of it I want, which is none! We're free. That's the point I'm making. We're free. We're not forced. We're not slaving to be accepted of God. We're already sons and daughters of the Great King. We're not struggling and hoping that at last we'll make it into heaven "by the skin of our teeth", as the old saying goes. That's not what we're working for at all. We serve the Lord because we're His children. We serve the Lord because we love Him, and we know He loves us. And we know that He doeth all things well. His judgments are righteous and even when we have problems here on earth, we know that He still doeth all things well.
What we do, in other words, we do to honor and bless the name of our heavenly Father. What we want to do is what we do. We serve God out of love, not fear! Not because of commands or pressure or demands from God. We love to go to church. We love to be there with Christian people. We're not under the whip of the law, saying, "Okay, you missed church today, you're in trouble, bud!" That's not it at all, is it? We go because we like to go to church. We love and adore the Lord, our Savior.
You know, I'd rather be a Christian than anything else in the world. And I can say that truthfully without any hesitation whatsoever. I'd rather be just a little preacher starting new churches, winning a few souls here and there to the Lord than to be anything else. And I thank God that He's allowed me to help start a few.
And now, as we close, let's think for just a minute together. God has spoken to me and I have heard His voice and answered with my life. What about you? Will you answer with your life today? Will you do it? John 8:36 says this, and this is our last verse: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." And it's still true today, isn't it? That freedom, that joy in knowing that for me to live is Christ but to die is gain, knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
It is a wonderful feeling, knowing that if I stepped out the door today, had a heart attack and fell down right there on the steps dead, I would immediately be in the presence of the King. That is clearly worthwhile to know down in your heart!