Truth for the Times

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Galatians teaches us that the religion of faith is the religion of immediate, personal confidence in Christ. This truth is pertinent today when the provisions and claims of certain earthly church forms, and a system of ordinances suggested by the religious, carnal mind are abundant and fascinating. To learn, at all times, that our souls are to have their immediate business with Christ, is comforting and assuring. To be told this afresh, at such a time as the present, is needful.
The Apostle is very fervent in this epistle as we all ought to be when some justly prized possession is invaded, when some precious portion of truth, the dearest of all possessions, is tampered with.
The Apostle lets us know in the beginning, with great force and plainness, that he had received his apostleship immediately from God. He had received not only his commission, or his office, but his instructions also, that which he had to minister and testify, as well as his appointment and ministry itself.
Direct Revelation
He was an apostle directly from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and what he knew and taught he had by direct, immediate revelation.
He tells us that God had dealt directly with him, and he, in answering confidence, had dealt directly with God. For, having received the revelation, having had the Son revealed in him, he at once withdrew from conversing with flesh and blood.
Carrying His Treasure With Him
He did not go up to Jerusalem, to those who were apostles before him, but down to Arabia, carrying, as it were, his treasure—Christ—with him. He did not seek to improve it, but was satisfied with it just as it was.
This brings to mind the Gospel by John, for that gives us, before this time of Paul, sample after sample of the soul finding its satisfaction in Christ. Every quickened one there illustrates it. Andrew, and Peter, and Philip, and Nathanael, in the first chapter, afterward the Samaritan and her companions at Sychar, and then the convicted adulteress, and the excommunicated beggar, all of them tell us, in language which cannot be misunderstood, that they had found satisfaction in Christ, that having been alone with Him in their sins, they were now independent. Having had a personal, immediate dealing with Him as the Savior, they did not look elsewhere. Arabia would do for them as well as Jerusalem, just as in the experience of Paul of the Galatians. They never appeared to converse with flesh and blood. Ordinances were in no measure their confidence. Their souls were proving that faith is that principle which puts sinners into immediate contact with Christ, and makes them independent of all that man can do for them.
How unspeakably blessed it is to see such a state of soul illustrated in any fellow-sinner, in men "of like passions with ourselves."
Assurance and Liberty
Such things are surely written for our learning that by comfort of such scriptures we may have assurance and liberty.
And what is illustrated for our comfort in John's Gospel is taught and pressed upon us in this fervent Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. Having shown the churches in Galatia the character of his apostleship, how he got both his commission and his instructions immediately from God, and was not a debtor to flesh and blood, to Jerusalem, or to those who were apostles before him, and having told them that the life he was now living was by the faith of the Son of God, he begins to challenge them, for they were not in this state of soul.
He calls them "foolish," and tells them they had been "bewitched." How could he do less, when he detected the working of Satan in the fact that they had been withdrawn from the place where the Spirit and the truth, the cross of Christ and faith, had once put them. Then he reasons with them, argues the matter and calls forth his witnesses. He makes them judge themselves, appealing to their first estate. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
Personal Business With Christ
He cites Abraham in proof that a sinner had immediate, personal business with Christ, and through faith found justification. He rehearses the character of the gospel which had been preached to Abraham, how it told of Christ, and of the sinner, and blessing being put together and alone. "In thee [Abraham's seed, which is Christ] shall all nations be blessed." Precious gospel! Christ, and the sinner, and blessing are bound up together in one bundle. And he goes on to confirm and establish this, by teaching them how Christ bore the curse, and, therefore, surely was entitled to dispense the blessing.
Surely these are witnesses which may well be received, proving the divine character of the religion of faith, which is the sinner's immediate confidence in Christ.
He then goes on to tell us the glorious things which faith accomplishes in us and for us. "After faith is come," he tells us in chapter 3:25-27, "we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Here are precious deeds of faith! It dismisses the schoolmaster; it brings the soul to God as to a father, and then it clothes the believer with the value of Christ, in the eye and acceptance of God. And "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Ch. 4:6. And we are redeemed from "under the law." Ch. 4:5. Can any more full and perfect sense of an immediate dealing between Christ and the soul be conceived, than is expressed and declared by such statements? We are brought from under the law—the schoolmaster, and, with him, tutors and governors are gone—we are children at home in the Father's house, and have the rights and the mind of the First-born Himself imparted to us! Can any condition of soul more blessedly set forth our independence of the resources of a religion of ordinances, and the poor sinner's personal and immediate connection with Christ Himself? But Paul finds the churches in Galatia in a backsliding state.
A Backsliding State
They had turned again "to weak and beggarly elements.” They were "observing days, and months, and times, and years." It was all but returning to their former idolatry, as he solemnly hints to them, doing "service unto them which by nature are no gods," as they had been doing in the days of their heathen ignorance of the true God. (Ch. 4:8.) Christianity that is merely a formal observation of ordinances is here connected with heathendom. Is it not solemn? "I am afraid of you," says he to the Galatians in this state, "lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.”
Gracious and patient as he was in Christ, Paul labors more painfully than ever, even "to travail in birth again" for them. But all this was only to this end, that Christ might be formed in them.
Restoration of Soul
He longed for their restoration, and that was, that they and Christ might immediately be brought together again, that faith might be revived in them, the simple, hearty, blessed religion of personal and direct confidence in God in Christ Jesus. He yearned that, as in himself, the Son might be revealed in them, and that, regaining Christ in their souls, they might prove they needed nothing more.
How edifying it is to mark the path of such a spirit under the conduct of the Holy Ghost! How comforting to see the purpose of God, by such a ministry, with the souls of poor sinners! How it lets us learn what Christianity is in the judgment of God Himself! The going over to the observance of days and times, the returning to ordinances, is destructive. It is the world. "Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" as the same Apostle says in another place. Confidence in ordinances is not faith in Christ. It is the religion of nature, of flesh and blood. It is of man and not of God.
The Passions of Man
And surely it carries in its train the passions of man. Man's religion leaves man as it found him; in fact, it cherishes and cultivates man's corruptions. This showed itself in Ishmael in earliest days and even in Cain before him. Paul declares that in his day it was the same, and today formal, corrupt Christianity is the same. "As then, he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so is it now." Man's religion does not cure him. By it he is left a prey to the subtleties and violence of his nature, the captive still of the old serpent, who has been a liar and a murderer from the beginning.
The decree, however, has been pronounced. It is: "Cast out the bondwoman and her son." Ch. 4:30. It was delivered in the days of Isaac and Ishmael, of Abraham and Sarah; it is rehearsed and re-sealed by the Spirit Himself in the day of the Apostle Paul, and we are to receive it as established forever.
What a consolation it is to have this mighty question between God and man, settled! And, according to this consolation, we listen to this further word: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Ch. 5:1.
All, surely, is of the same character. The Holy Ghost, by the Apostle, is preparing the great, leading, commanding, principle of divine religion. It is faith. It is the sinner's personal and immediate confidence in Christ. It is the soul's finding satisfaction in Him, and in that which He has done for it.
Next Door to Glory
The sinner, in possession of this faith, is set next door to glory. The Apostle quickly tells us this, after commanding us to stand fast in the liberty of the gospel, for he adds, "We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." Ch. 5:5. This hope is the glory that is to be revealed—"the glory of God." Rom. 5:22By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2). We do not wait for any improvement of our character, for any advance in our souls. As long as we are in the flesh we need to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." But such things are not needed as title. Being in Christ by faith, we are next door to glory. "Whom He justified, them He also glorified." (Rom. 8.) Being in the kingdom of God's dear Son, we are "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." (Col. 1.) Here, in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, we wait only for glory. Glory is the immediate object of our hope, as Christ is the immediate confidence of our souls.
It is all magnificent in its simplicity, because it is all of God. No wonder that Scripture so abundantly discourses to us about faith, and so zealously warns us against religiousness. The "persuasion," as the Apostle speaks, under which the Galatians had fallen, had not come of God who had called them, and the Apostle sounds the alarm, blows the blast of war on the silver trumpet of the sanctuary, uttering these voices in their ears: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Again, "If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." Gal. 5:8, 9, 188This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (Galatians 5:8‑9)
18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18)
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Happy Structure of This Epistle
And in the happy structure of this epistle, the Apostle ends with himself, as he begins with himself. We have seen how he told them, at the first, of the peculiarities of his apostleship, how he had received both his commission and his instructions immediately from God, and how he had then, with a faith that was an answer to such grace, at once conducted himself in full, personal confidence in Christ, and independently of all the resources of flesh and blood. And now, at the close, he tells them, that, as for himself, he knew no glorying but in the cross of the Lord Jesus, by whom the world was crucified to him and he to the world. And he tells them, further, that no one need meddle with him or trouble him with their thoughts about circumcision and the law or the doings of a carnal religiousness, the rudiments of a world to which he was now crucified, for he bore in his body the marks of the Lord. He belonged to Jesus by personal, individual tokens, immediately impressed on him, as by the appropriating hand of Christ Himself, and no one had any right to touch the Lord's treasure.
Precious secret of the grace of God, precious simplicity in the faith of a heaven-taught sinner! It is not knowledge of Scripture, or the ability to talk of it, or even to teach it from Genesis to Revelation; it is not the orderly services of religion; it is not devout feelings, but it is that guileless action of the soul that attaches our very selves to Jesus in the calm and certainty of a believing mind.
Things New and Old