A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
People who try to deny the Doctrine of Eternal Security (OSAS) sometimes point to Galatians 5:13-26 to support their position. And if you just considered those verses you might be tempted to agree. But if you look at the entire chapter you get a completely different perspective. So that’s what we’ll do.
Before we begin, it’s important to remind ourselves that the Bible, being the word of God, cannot contradict itself. If Galatians 5 denies OSAS it’s in direct contradiction to statements the Holy Spirit led Paul to make in Ephes. 1:13-14 and 2 Cor. 1:21-22. Ephes. 1:13-14 tells us that our salvation is assured from the moment of belief with the Holy Spirit sealed within us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. Before we had done anything, either good or bad, before we were baptized, before we had even fully responded to the altar call, we were saved forever. These other things are important, but our belief in the Lord’s completed work on our behalf came first and it’s the one essential ingredient to our salvation which alone brings us eternal life (John 1:12-13, 3:16, 6:28-29, 6:40).
2 Cor. 1:21-22 says, It is God Who makes us stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. There are no passages in Scripture that speak of revoking or even modifying this guarantee. It would be impossible for the Holy Spirit to have led Paul or any of the Bible’s other writers to make any statements that contradict these clear promises.
So what was Paul saying? Let’s start at the beginning of the chapter.
Freedom In Christ
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. 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. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:1-6)
The context of Galatians 5 is the debate that was raging between two groups there. One consisted of believers in the Doctrine of Grace Paul had taught them. The other was made up of those who were being swayed by the teaching of the “Judaizers”, Jews who claimed that Gentile believers had to come under the Law and be circumcised to be saved.
Paul warned them that while neither circumcision nor uncircumcision was relevant in and of itself, it was being proposed to them as a sign of their acceptance of the Old Covenant. Therefore agreeing to it would obligate them to the whole Law. Attempting to keep the Law alienates us from the Lord because it denies what He’s done for us. It makes His death of no value leaving us responsible for saving ourselves.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:7-12)
Law Or Grace?
You can’t have a little bit of Law mixed with Grace. Just as a little bit of yeast will permeate the whole batch of dough to change its composition, a little bit of Law will work its way through the doctrine of Grace, changing it into something it was not intended to be. When Paul said in that case the offense of the cross has been abolished, he meant the Law cancels Grace.
(The Judaizers were hinting that Paul preached the Law among Jews but switched to a watered down version of the Gospel when speaking to Gentiles. His response was, “If I’m preaching the Law to the Jews then why are they persecuting me?” His frustration with them is evident.)
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:13-15)
Paul’s comments here concern the Galatians’ arguments over Law vs. Grace and was a warning to stop it. He called their arguing “indulging the sinful nature”and said while in Christ they were free from the Law they shouldn’t use their freedom to behave that way. Instead, they should serve one another humbly in love.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:16-18)
This is a clear demonstration of the difference between the desires of the sin nature and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our sin nature will always prompt us to do things that are contrary to the Spirit. As He did in Romans 7:18-19 Paul said our sin nature will sometimes cause us to do things we know we shouldn’t do. Here he said if we’re led by the Spirit we’re not under the Law, meaning these things are not counted against us.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26)
The differences between the acts of the sin nature and the fruit of the Spirit can be seen in the comparison of these two passages. In reading the first one we can all admit to periodically doing one or more of these things as believers. In Romans 7:20 Paul said from God’s perspective it’s not us but the sin nature that dwells within us that’s to blame when this happens.
His final words on the subject confirm that the whole chapter had been about about their arguing. He said since the Galatian believers belonged to Christ they should live by the Spirit and not become conceited, a common failing among Law keepers. He said they should stop provoking and envying each other, a reference to the contention among them. These are acts prompted by the sin nature and are not appropriate for believers.
What’s The Meaning Of This?
If you’re going to deny God’s Grace by going under the Law you’ll disqualify yourself from receiving two things that are essential to your salvation. First, you won’t have the Holy Spirit to guide you, so you’ll be left with only your sin nature which will always take you in a direction that’s opposed to God’s Spirit.
But far more importantly you won’t have the guarantee of the Lord’s death on your behalf to save you. You’ll be responsible for your own salvation. Without these two things you can not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Remember, the Law was only given to point out our sins and no one can be saved by keeping it (Romans 3:20). But through faith we can achieve a righteousness apart from the Law and be saved (Romans 3:21-24). So there are only two ways to live one’s life, by Law or by Grace through faith. We can’t have it both ways. If we’re under the Law we can not benefit from God’s grace.
In summary, if we depend solely by faith on our belief that the Lord saved us forever then we’re saved forever. If we think we have to apply our own effort to complete the work Jesus only began, then it’s doubtful we were ever saved. Paul wasn’t contradicting himself. Galatians 5 is not about losing our salvation once we receive it, it’s about whether we ever had it to begin with. Selah 07-30-11