OUR ONLY HOPE AND EXPECTATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS—continued (Gal. 5:5, 6)
Paul speaks here of the “hope of righteousness.” It ought to be crystal clear that this is therighteousness of God which is revealed in the Gospel, as power of God unto salvation. This is first of all a forensic, legal concept. It is the righteousness of God which Christ merited for us on the Cross of Calvary, and not some righteousness of God whereby He justifies good men and condemns evil men. This is the righteousness which is imputed to the heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Paul dealt very incisively with this in Romans 4:1-24. It is the righteousness which makes David exclaim, “O the blessedness of the man whose sins are forgiven, whose iniquity is pardoned.” Rom. 4:7) It is the justification of the “ungodly.” (Romans 4:5; Romans 5:5-11) Such is this bounteous righteousness, that where sin abounds grace does much more abound. (Rom. 5:12-21) It is the righteousness of the obedience of one man out of many offenses unto justification; it is the free gift of grace alone. Such is this righteousness. Now, the hope of righteousness refers to the final standing in judgment for God and to be acquitted in the court of God out of bounteous grace alone for Christ sake. This is our hope of righteousness which shall not be put to shame. God has shed his love abroad in our hearts. He did this because he established His love to us when we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:5, 6), when we were yet weak, helpless sinners, enemies of God. Such is our rock-bottom hope of righteousness in the day of Christ. Of this Paul is here speaking and he contrasts this to all the sinking-sand righteousness of the works of man, which are stinking in the nostrils of God.
Now this is what “we” expect, the whole church in both dispensations, the child-church and the adult-church. The Old Testament church looked and expected this in and through the shadows and types of the Christ to come. The New Testament church “expects” this on the basis of the work of the Lamb of God Who said “it is finished.” But subjectively we also are very certain of this our hope of one day standing acquitted at the bar of God. We have a hope in .heaven laid away for us. (Col. 1:5, 23, 27) It is the hope of glory to be revealed in all the church, the hope of salvation in Christ’s day. (Rom. 8:24; I Thess. 5:8) This is the living hope which is ours through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is not an uncertain hope, but it is a glad and certain expectation, which rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is what all the prophets searched out when they looked for the sufferings to come upon Christ and the glory to follow. (I Peter 1:8-12)
This we expect! We wait for it with great and earnest waiting of a living hope! That is not the expectation of those who would be under law. They are without hope and without God in the world. They are under God’s curse of the law.
It is good to see this and never forget it.
For what we hope is not our effort, but it is “by the Spirit.” He is the deep and abiding agent of our hope and expectation. It is the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. Christ lives in our hearts, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Such is this riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles. (Col. 1:27) That is the secret of this joyful expectation. It is first-fruits of the Spirit and of the full harvest.
This Spirit works “faith” in our hearts. He works in our hearts the firm assurance of hope and faith that our sins are all washed away. God sees no iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him. (Num. 23:21) Our glad assurance of faith is that there is for us, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life for Christ’s merits. This is not the boast and glorying of those who would be under law. There is no song of victory upon their lips. Heaven’s joys are not their portion in this life. But such is our hope, our only hope in life and in death in Christ Jesus our Lord!
In verse 6 Paul amplifies this thought a bit more. Surely we stand on solid ground in our waiting by the Spirit for the hope of righteousness by faith. For nothing else avails for the poor sinner, guilty, corrupt, and steeped in sin and iniquity. What does a mere “rite” avail any mortal? Could the mere rite and ritual of “circumcision” avail and have power to give peace with God and the assurance that our sins are no more? They are, by themselves, nothing more or less than superstitious rites. They are then no more than heathen rites, beggarly principles. The same is also true of “baptism” as a mere rite: much water, little water, barrels and oceans of water—they all avail nothing. They have not the power to take away sin. This is only effected by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The inward cleansing is by faith in Christ. This is a faith which is the fruit of the love of God which the Spirit sheds abroad in our hearts. Paul speaks here in verse 6 of “faith working by love.” The term “working” is the translation of the Greek passive participle “energoumenee”: wrought by, energized. This is the term from which our English word “energy” is derived. Everyone in our day is energy-conscious. All talk about conserving energy. The supply may become scarce, because the sources will run out; the water will cease to come from the pump because the well is dry. But this “energy” here has a fountain that never runs dry; they are represented by the fountains of living waters of the Spirit. (John 4:10-15; John 7:37-39) God has put “energy” in love of the Spirit. This is throbbing love of God to us in which we love God. (I John 4:19) This is the covenant life of which Jesus speaks in John 17:21: “. . . as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us . . . that they may be one as we are one.” Such is the mystery of this energy of love of the Spirit in our hearts. That mystery of love is the mystery of faith. Have you ever noticed that the English noun “belief” and the verb “believe” has in it basically the term “love.” To believe is to love! We only believe in one whom we love! Him alone we trust with the heart whom we love with the heart.
We just spoke of the term “believe” as being basically identical with the term to “belove.” Let us try to see this. The Dutch term for what is well-pleasing to us is “belieft.” When we say, “may it please you,” in English, in Dutch we say, “als het u belieft.” And we also say in the Dutch, mag het u believen. Drop the “n” from the word “believen” and you have the word “believe.” Now this is akin to the German “lieben,” to love. He that “believes” in the Son has everlasting life. Such a believer loves the Son as did the adulterous woman who loved much; she believed much because she was forgiven much. (Luke 7:47) Now Jesus was her “beloved,” whose feet she does not cease to kiss, and she dries his tear-washed feet with her hair. O, wondrous love that energizes faith. Thus it is when we believe in Jesus: it is a love that does not doubt His love and grace. Only such faith which is energized by love has power. O Simon, Simon, thou work-righteous Pharisee, I have something to say unto you, said Jesus to this man who only had the “rite” of circumcision which had not power to give him a thankful heart! May that never be said by Jesus to us!
PAUL’S PASSIONATE APPEAL THAT GALATIANS CONTINUE TO RUN BEAUTIFULLY—Galatians 5:7-12
Paul has more than the tongues of men and angels, and more than understanding of all prophecies and all mysteries, and a faith that can remove mountains. He himself has loved. It oozes from every syllable and letter in these few verses which we will now discuss. In spite of all the back-slidings here in Galatia, Paul has a love which believes all things, which endures all things; he has a love that suffers long and is kind. He has the great heart of a great servant of Christ who loves Christ and loves his sheep.
That love believes all things and gives credit where such is due we see in that beautiful spiritual-psychological approach in verse 7, where we read, “Ye have run well (beautifully—Kaloos). It was a good account that these brethren had given in the race to the final hope of righteousness. They had walked in both justification and sanctification. They had rejoiced in the forgiveness of sins, and they had walked in newness of life. They had walked in a faith which is energized by love, and they had not been foolish to believe that a mere “rite” of circumcision had any power to justify or to sanctify and enrich life. Nor did they view their baptism as a mere “rite,” but they viewed baptism as a sign and seal of the righteousness which is by faith. (Rom. 4:11)
But someone had interfered with their running. Paul asks, “Who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” In Galatians 3:1 he asks, “Who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth?” Does Paul not know? Does he have a certain individual in mind whom he does not call by name? Certainly the Galatians knew who he was; or who they were. But someone has prevented them from running the race of faith in obeying the truth of the Gospel, namely, that salvation is not only to the Jews, and not only to the Greeks, but that it is to all who believe, whether they be Jew or Greek, male or female, bond or free, and that it is a matter of being a new creature in Christ, the true Israel of God. Paul speaks more often in this letter of this “truth of the Gospel.” (Gal. 2:5; Gal. 2:14; Gal. 3:1; and Gal. 5:7) This is the Gospel which they have heard of Paul who was separated by God to preach the Gospel. Now who has the audacity to stop you from obeying this “truth” and walk in the lie? Who? Who has been trying systematically and cunningly to have you stop “obeying” the truth, being persuaded by it? The term in the Greek means that someone has “cut into” and impeded one’s course, to prevent him from running well.
One thing is certain, this “persuasion,” which now is introduced, is erroneous and cannot satisfy and must be a fleeting thing. For it is not out of God, the Father, but is out of the evil one. It does not rest on the Rock, Christ Jesus, the chiefest corner stone. Paul’s letter often refers to God, the Father, as the one “who called you.” This refers, of course, to the inward, almighty, saving calling to faith and to final glory. For this reason the church is denominated, the called in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 1:6, 7) As such they are the beloved of God, and are called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light to declare his/ praises. (I Peter. 2:9) Yes, they are sanctified in Christ, called to be saints, that is, they are saints by virtue of this calling. (I Cor. 1:2) Unto such “called” the preaching is the power of God and the wisdom of God. (I Cor. 1:24) And this calling is the fruit of their election. (I Cor. 1:26, 27, 28) And the purpose of this divine calling is that the poor, the base things may be made glorious, so that no flesh may glory save m the Lord. (I Cor. 1:29)