In Part 2 of our study, we focused on the truth that we are justified before God through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul called out Peter’s sin and reminded him of this truth. In Part 1, we addressed Paul’s reason for writing to the Galatian church. They were beginning to believe in a false gospel. Now, in Part 3, we will learn what this false gospel is and how to address it in our own lives.
In verses 1-9, Paul addresses the Galatians regarding this false gospel. Through verses 2-6, we can define this false gospel. It is the seeking of justification through works rather than by faith. Paul presents the Galatians with a rhetorical question: did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? The answer to this question is obvious. They received the Spirit through faith. Verse 3 is key to understanding the Galatians’ struggle. Evidently, the Galatians believed and received the Spirit of God through faith, but they were trying to grow their faith and work to achieve their justification before God. They had begun the Christian life by relying upon the Spirit, but they somehow thought their works would produce more than the Spirit of God. The Galatian church took the truth that one is saved by faith, and they combined it with the false gospel of earning justification via works. They began to believe the lie that faith was not enough to save them.
The Galatian church thought they could add their works to the saving Work of Christ and somehow earn or get credit for their justification. They wanted to claim a part in their justification. The problem is they couldn’t be justified through their own actions. Only the actions of Christ could save them. Paul will address this in verses 10-14, which will be in Part 4 of our study.
Summary and Application
The Galatians made a mistake and believed they could help earn their righteousness. They sought to add their works to the Work of Christ. When they chose to do this, they essentially were believing that Christ’s work on the cross wasn’t enough to earn their justification. They thought that adding their works would help to guarantee that they were saved. The thing is, the Galatians were already saved. In verse 2, we learned that they already received the Spirit.
According to Ephesians 1.13-14, if we have received the Holy Spirit, we are saved. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation. The Galatians received the Spirit. They tried to earn their salvation through their works, but they were already saved. The Holy Spirit was their evidence of that.
It is very easy for us to fall into the same mode of thinking as the Galatians. In fact, the idea that we can add to our salvation through works is very prevalent now. This thought is wrong. This same thinking has been placed on sanctification. We have thought we can make ourselves more like Christ through our works. This has some truth to it, but it has been twisted. When we try to be more like Christ through our own efforts to produce works, we have missed the point. We are essentially trying to earn our sanctification. We must work with God and allow His Spirit to help produce righteousness.
For the sake of clarification, God works through the Holy Spirit to save us and to perfect us. This process of perfection is called sanctification, which has already been mentioned. Sanctification is an action done only by God. Only through His work may we be made more like him.
Both of these ideologies on justification and sanctification can lead us to rely more upon ourselves and our own abilities rather than relying upon God for our righteousness. This is what faith is: trusting that God paid the price for your salvation once and for all and working with the Holy Spirit to produce evidence of this faith.
At the risk of being repetitive, let me clarify the role of Jesus Christ and the role of the Holy Spirit. According to what we have read so far, Jesus is the One who justified us before God through His work. We can have that justification transferred to our account by having faith in Jesus. We receive the Holy Spirit once we have faith in Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit moves in our hearts and begins to make us more like God. He changes our hearts to begin to desire the things of God. As we will see in later posts, the Holy Spirit guides us to produce spiritual fruit. This is the process of becoming a Christian.
The mindset of a works based sanctification is so prevalent today, and it is easy to get caught in it without noticing.
How do we get out of this mindset?
How do we work with and allow the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts?
Is the Christian life a process of learning to rely upon God and His abilities and promises over own abilities?
Feel free to respond to these questions via a comment or two. I am pondering the answers myself.