By Faith Through The Spirit
Key Verse 5:5
“But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.”
I know that for many Christians it is very important to them to know what the will of God is for their lives. Whether you should go to this school or that school, whether you should purchase a house or not, whether you should retire at this age or continue working, whom to marry, and so on. But there are things that are far more important to you to know as far as the will of God is concerned than such things. If it were urgent for you know the will of God for what job to take or whom to marry, then God would have made such tings very clear in the Bible. But he does not! Yet there is something that God wills for you, and he tells you right here— and that is your freedom in Christ. It is the will of God for you to be free in Christ, to stand on that freedom, to live in it with joy— and for a good reason— that with this new found freedom you glorify God with your life, bearing the good fruit of the Spirit. That is such a serious matter to God— more than anything else— that he emphasizes it right here. Paul will soon be telling us in this chapter how this freedom can manifest itself, how it is expressed in our lives, how we can fully honor and glorify God in our lives. But until then, he begins with one most important Christian truth— uncompromising freedom. It is his will that you live in the freedom Christ provided. Jesus died to provide you with this freedom. He rose again for that, and he also sent you his Spirit to live in you and to be with you for that. He did that so that you might be free— completely and unequivocally free.
Read verse 1. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” So why was this freedom in Christ given to us? Why is it necessary for us to have? Why has it been given to us in Christ? Because without it there is no way on earth to please him and to live up to his image and glory. Because we cannot serve God and fulfill our purpose of existence— which is to enjoy him and at the same time to glorify him— unless we are free. Human beings are strange creatures. They want to be self important and self governing and self profiting. But there is no way that we can avoid the fact that God created us and that he made us to serve his own purpose in our lives. In other words he made us for him. He made us to honor and to glorify him by living up to our purpose of existence. But not by force! It has got to be in freedom. In other words he wants us to freely honor and glorify him. And that’s how we started out our journey way back at the beginning. We were once free. We once enjoyed God’s company and serving his purpose. Adam loved working with God in the Garden. He did not resist working with God and for him in the Garden. Adam fully understood and knew that God is the Sovereign Lord over all creation, and over him as well. And Adam did not object to that. He was happily joyfully serving his purpose of life. He was happy. He was working for God. He was working with God. And was bearing the good fruit that every human being is created to bear.
But then because of sin, we became slaves of sin. We fell into slavery to sin, and we no longer were able to fulfill or accomplish God’s purpose in our lives. So whether man tries to live for God by his own effort or not, he is unhappy. That has been the whole story of mankind. Miserable people living a miserable life, on this miserable planet. Here is how the Bible described our condition. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3) He also puts it like this: “Deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13) Working our way through life and thinking that we can make something of ourselves here by trickery and deception, with a pretense of honesty. But whatever we make of our lives here on this miserable earth cannot and does not make us happy. As the whole world unwillingly attests men are still miserable. Some claim to know God. Actually everybody knows God. And somewhere in the depth of their souls they also know that they are not living a life that pleases God. Men try but they can’t. Something keeps them bound down here. Sin has enslaved them and keeps them from doing what is good and right in the sight of God. Some give up, and some who keep trying cannot do much. So they settle for a mediocre life doing what few good deeds they can and hoping against all hope that somehow they might please God. But regardless of what they do, they are still slaves to their human nature to sin and cannot be happy at all. Even if they think they are serving God, they do it as if they would be punished if they don’t. That is what slavery is all about!
But God took care of that. That is the whole story of the gospel— what we lost in paradise God restored. We lost our identity as his children. And in this world were not children at all but slaves to something diabolical. Then God took care of that. He sent his Son and in him and through him God solved our most fundamental and damaging and problem. He solved the sin problem through the death of his son so that those who believe in him are forgiven of sin and delivered from slavery to it. God also solved our death problem through the resurrection of his Jesus from the dead, so that those who believe in him will not die condemned but have eternal life. And God also solved our powerlessness problem— our inability to serve his purpose in our lives— by sending and giving us his Spirit. He marked us as his children and set us on a course of glory. He set us on the road to eternal life. And he assured us that we are his children now— no longer slaves to sin and no longer belonging to this world. He said to us, “Now you are free. Free to be happy again. Free to serve my purpose. Free to live to the fullest measure of existence for me. But your happiness and joy is closely related to living the life you were created to live—a life whose purpose is in me. You can now live to my glory and fulfill your purpose in me. You are free.” “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
We were made to serve and honor God in all joy of heart. But there was a time we could not do that. Then God shed his grace upon us and we received Christ as Lord and Savior. And then the world changed for us. We felt the joy of salvation and exulted in God at the beginning of the journey. We felt free from the severe oppression of sin and the fear of death— of the guilt and shame that we lived in. But there are many things still we do not understand. And that’s why God wants to teach us about himself and about ourselves until we mature in our inner person into intimate coworkers with God— until we fully understand the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. He wants me and you to know him personally and deeply so that when we work for him— when we are living to fulfill his purpose in our lives— you and I am are not burdened nor unhappy about it. Nor does our Father God want us to feel that we have to serve his purpose out of fear of punishment or because we have no other choice. So that when I and you serve God, we do so with the full knowledge that my Father in heaven has given me things to do in my life to my own joy and to the praise of his glory. He has given me things to do that fulfill my life as a child of God, as a son or daughter. God has already done that. And he has done that by setting me free. I am free in Christ Jesus— is a tremendous truth to anyone who is listening. And since I am free and have tasted the freedom in Christ Jesus, I must not be led back to slavery to the law. But I must stand firm in this freedom. I must grow to understand how I can stand in this freedom.
(Some people never study the Bible properly. That is dangerous because on one hand, our new nature compels us to serve God’s purpose but our ignorance of the truth of God draws us back to serve his purpose by falling back into slavery. It is urgent that we study the Bible to learn how to depend on the Spirit of God to fulfill our purpose in glorifying God. If you haven’t studied Bible in a while, I fear that you might be miserably living by your own strength to fulfill what you can never fulfill on your own for God. People have 70 80 years to live. Then they die. Imagine after a lifetime of opportunities we have never made the effort to know God our Maker, nor to read and study his word— all this time wasted on ourselves and our petty lives.) No, in this freedom I have there is nothing more important to me than to come to know my Creator and to know his living words.
Read verses 2-4. “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Paul was talking to both the Judaizers who were insisting on salvation by grace and law (adding the burden of law to the freedom and joy of the gospel), as well as to those who were swayed by their teaching and fallen into the trap of deception. What Paul is saying here is not that he is against circumcision. But that the gospel of God is a gospel of grace alone. And that the gospel of God’s grace provides us with all that is valuable to us. What is valuable to us? It is Christ Jesus and him crucified on our behalf. What we could not do for ourselves, God did for us through Jesus. He died to set us free. And he rose again to ensure our freedom. And he also provided us with everything we need to live the life God wants us to live for his glory with all the joy of heaven. Besides this, there is no value in anything else. Neither circumcision nor the law are of value to those who are set free by Christ Jesus. But if you look at verse 2 again, it seems that the Judaizers placed value on circumcision and the law, a value that adds something to the gospel of God’s grace. But Paul here nullifies this. There is no value in anything you and I do, that can give us a better standing before God or in our Christian life. What is valuable to us is Christ Jesus and him crucified, resurrected, ascended, and living in us through the Spirit. Now that alone is of extreme value to us. Does this mean that we put aside circumcision and the law? Not at all. The new life God gives us through Jesus, draws us to obey God and his laws because in them we find truth. Actually we delight in obeying the laws of God because we know that they are life and spirit. But we do not obey them to gain merits and advantage in them with God for righteousness, nor do we obey them to secure our salvation. Our salvation is the work of God, and our sanctification is the work of the Spirit.
Look at verse 4. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Here is what “falling from grace” most probably means. If you have been justified by faith in trusting Christ, then you down to the low level of living by the law to secure your righteousness and to advance it, you have fallen from grace. Many Christians misunderstand the meaning of falling from grace, thinking that it means that you fall into some open sin or careless conduct, and by doing so you forfeit your salvation and have to be saved all over again. That is not so. Falling from grace, is alienation from Christ, falling from living by the Spirit to living by your own effort to achieve what God wants to achieve through you. There are two mighty works of God which stand between a person in his fallen condition and a man in the freedom of Christ, serving God’s purpose. There is the work of salvation, and then there is the work of sanctification. Salvation as we know is accomplished for us in Christ. But what about sanctification? Sanctification is where after being redeemed by Christ, you come up to a new level of living for the glory of God, the kind of new life that serves God’s purpose and glorifies him. But you cannot do that on your own, by your own effort either. That is what the false Christians were teaching, that sanctification is done by the works of the law. You live up to a certain Christian level where if you are doing this and that in your Christian life you are being sanctified and pleasing to God. But if salvation is the work of God, sanctification is also the work of God, Paul says. If salvation is grace then sanctification is also grace. God himself works in you to sanctify you as you give yourself to God in Christian living. The early Christian church engaged in a lot of Christian activities, but they were more concerned with Christian living. Living the life of a Christian by the spirit of God, reflecting the glory of God to all around them. In that way they grew. These days in the churches there is much activity but not much Christian living. We must be concerned more with Christian living. Paul tells us how to be concerned with Christian living in a way that produces fruit.
Look at verse 5. “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” This is how we must live as Christians. This verse perfectly describes the life of Freedom Paul talks about in verse 1. This verse is enormous in its content. We cannot possibly exhaust all that we can learn from this truth here. But certainly there is one thing very clear, is that it describes the work of sanctification in us. How we are sanctified. It describes how we can live in the freedom that Christ gave us. We live by faith. We live this faith through the Spirit. And we live in anticipation of the final outcome of our lives, which is the hope we have or the hope we live in— that one day when Christ appears, the final verdict will be spoken on our behalf— that we are made fully righteous in the sight of God. And that is how we live in the freedom of Christ from day to day, by faith in him, through the Spirit and not through anything we do to grow in our sanctification, and with the hope in our hearts that soon we would be fully and completely made righteous. You might say, “but I thought you said, I am already fully righteous”. You are, by virtue of Christ Jesus and your faith in him. But you also have a hope that this imperfect life of yours here and now, as it grows in Christ, will one day be fully sanctified and declared and made righteous in every way— beyond all corruption. We are now righteous, but still in the imperfection of our bodies, we are being sanctified. But one day, we will be indeed righteous not only by God’s gift, but by his promise to free us from this body of sin and give us a new one after the likeness of his son.
Our new lives began by the work of the Spirit, by God’s own divine intervention, which was entirely God’s own initiative and work. And our new lives in Christ also go on by the work of the Spirit. As Paul said, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” We are free because God sent the Spirit of his Son to us, to help us deal with the imperfect life that we have. This is true freedom because we live in and through the power of the Spirit, being recreated on the inside to mature into all that God destined us to be, to live for his glory and to fulfill his purpose in our lives. And this is the freedom we have, as we joyfully live for God’s glory. We live “by faith through the Spirit.”
In this life we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1,9) and made righteous. But we are not yet made morally righteous. Legally we are righteousness before God, because Christ died for us and rose from the dead. He became our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). But we are still imperfect. We still sin. God knows we fall short of God’s perfect standard every day. But we do not despair, but rather rejoice in the truth that, in spite of our sins, God counts us righteous for Jesus’ sake. But in our hearts we really long to be free not only from the guilt of sin— and we have been freed from that guilt through Christ— but we also long to be free from the presence and the power of sin in our lives.
Yet this is where we are now. This is the tension we experience in this world in our lives. We are saved, but not completely saved. We are secure in Jesus, but still sinful and struggling as we wait on God to complete our salvation. This is where are now. We are imperfect in our living for the glory of God and in fulfilling the work God has appointed us to do. We are imperfect in everything. But we are waiting for the hope of righteousness. We are considered righteous, but not yet made righteous. And that is why in our Christian life and ministry there is always a mixture of courage and timidity, a mixture of boldness and at the same time brokenness. Yet in whatever we do, we do with confidence of the Spirit he has given us, with the joy of assurance that we are justified before God, not falling from grace. We are trusting our Lord for our standing with God, not relying on any work of the law that we might do for our acceptance and the embrace of God. And in this of course, there is still a whole lot of heart-sickness over our imperfection but joy in our hope that what he began in us he will see it to completion. We are being sanctified, but to be joyfully sanctified while serving God’s purpose at the same time, we must stand in the freedom of Christ. We do that “by faith … through the Spirit.”
“By faith through the Spirit” tells us that while we wait in hope for God’s final day of our righteousness, we depend on the Holy Spirit to help us do what are supposed to do. We do so by faith. It is hard to separate the two, “by faith” and “through the Spirit.” We depend on the Spirit by faith. And through the Spirit, we stand by faith in him who gave us the Spirit in the first place. We do not live in our own strength but by faith in the strength that God supplies by the Spirit for all things. And “by faith through the Spirit”, Paul also teaches us in this chapter how to fulfill our purpose of bearing fruit to God in our lives. We will look at the fruits of the Spirit later on in the chapter, but for now we must fully understand that it is “by faith through the Spirit” that we fulfill all that God would have us fulfill— all is the product of “faith through the Spirit” who lives and works in us to help us to use our God given freedom for his own glory. Some people understand freedom as doing their own thing, in their own way, for their own good and purpose. That kind of freedom is dangerous and corrupted freedom which leads to bearing bad fruits. We see how independent and hard headed Christians work in their own ambition towards their own goals, and then insist that they have freedom in Christ. When they abuse their freedom, they are worse off than when they were slaves to sin. That is not what Jesus died for. He did not die and rise again so that we might do our own thing in our own way for our own purpose. We, who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, are still God’s children, created to obey God and to fulfill his purpose. Jesus died to bring that freedom back to us— not so that we do our own thing, in our own way, for our own purpose, but so that we might work with God “by faith through the Spirit” to fulfill his purpose and bear fruit for his glory. If you are in Christ you are free.
God bless you to study the word of God more deeply, to know the Lord better so that you might serve your purpose in life with the joy “by faith through the Spirit”.