Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #317b MP3 Audio File

Righteousness, Faith & Love

Galatians 5:5-6

Delivered 05/01/2005

We began last week to look at the first 12 verses of Galatians 5, which are like a lawyer's closing statement to a jury. Here Paul summons all his rhetorical power to make one final assault on the Judaizers and their false gospel built around circumcision.

In the first 6 verses of chapter 5 Paul is addressing the Galatians, the hearers of this false message that had been taught. Later on, 5:7-12, he will address the teachers of the false message. In both cases the language is very strong.

We looked at the first four verses last week:

Galatians 5:1-4 (NASB) It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

In verse 1, Paul calls the Galatian believers to "keep standing firm" in the freedom that they have in Christ. He doesn't want them to go into the bondage of the law.

The Judaziers were pressuring the Galatian believers to be circumcised in order to truly be right with God. The circumcision mentioned here was the physical act, but Paul understood that it was the motive behind the act that was the problem. Circumcision itself is a non-issue. Their motive in circumcision was to earn God's approval or acceptance. So "circumcision," in Paul's terminology, has become a catch word for "meritorious human effort to achieve God's approval."

Paul says in verse 4, " have fallen from grace." Let me ask you a question: Could a Christian fall from grace? The answer is: No and yes. You were saved by grace - that will never change, and you cannot fall from your position in Christ. But you are also to live by grace - God's free favor on your behalf. We can fall from grace when we stop trusting Christ and start trusting in ourselves to live the Christian life. When you operate in the flesh, you fall from grace.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB) And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;

When a Christian lives in the flesh, he forfeits the grace he would receive if he were living in the Spirit. Not only are we to live in grace, but we are to grow in grace:

2 Peter 3:18 (NASB) but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

This implies that not every Christian grows in grace automatically. A person can be saved and not grow in grace. However, just because a Christian refuses the grace of sanctification does not mean he forfeits the grace of justification. If a Christian loses his grip on grace as a way of life, that doesn't mean God has lost His grip on him in terms of saving grace. The process of sanctification can be retarded by the flesh. A Christian can live in the flesh, hoping to earn God's favor, but that only cuts him off from the flow of daily blessing.

If you seek to achieve your own righteousness before God, you have submitted to a yoke of slavery and are not standing in the freedom for which Christ freed you. What this verse teaches, then, is that the experience of freedom can only be enjoyed as we depend on the grace of Christ. Slavery is what happens when you fall away from the power of grace. The key to freedom is to keep depending on grace.

We looked at these first four verses last week. Today we want to look at the next two verse that are directed to the Galatian believers:

Galatians 5:5 (NASB) For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

Please notice that this righteousness does not come from our efforts or sacrifices, but through the Spirit, by faith. We don't earn righteousness, we receive it by faith as a gift of God's grace. Paul is telling them it is not circumcision that makes them righteous, it is faith.

Notice that He speaks of a righteousness that is yet future - a "hope of righteousness". He speaks of life now (now to them in the first century) as a "waiting" for righteousness, not a possessing of righteousness. What does Paul mean? Do we (21st century believers) have righteousness, or are we waiting for it? In Paul's day they were waiting for it, but we now have what they hoped for.

If we have "righteousness" but the believers of the first century hoped for it, when did it cease being a hope and become a reality? It happened at A.D. 70 when the Lord returned in the destruction of Jerusalem and put an end to the Old Covenant. Can I prove this? I think I can.

We understand that when we trust Christ, we receive His righteousness. As Christians we are as righteous as Jesus Christ. We stand complete in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus Christ took our sin and bore its penalty on the cross, and He gives us His righteousness. We have been declared righteous by God for all eternity. It will never be reversed or changed. Christ's righteousness has been imputed to our account. Justification involves the imputation of Christ's righteousness. But at the time of Paul's writing, righteousness was still a hope. Now, you might ask: Didn't Paul and the New Testament saints already have the righteousness of God? Yes and no. The futuristic perspective of God's righteousness was clearly expressed by Paul in our text:

Galatians 5:5 (NASB) For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

If righteousness was already a fulfilled or completed event, Paul made a big mistake in making "righteousness" by faith a matter of hope. You don't hope for what you have:

Romans 8:24-25 (NASB) For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

If righteousness was a present reality, why would Paul hope for it? But Paul also talks as though it was a present possession:

Romans 4:5 (NASB) But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,

Did Paul have Christ's righteousness, or was it still future to him? Yes and yes. He had it, but it was also still future to him. How can this be?

Most believers don't understand that we live in a different age than Paul did. Paul lived in what the Bible calls the "last days"- they were the last days of the Old Covenant. Those "last days" began at Pentecost and ended at A.D. 70 when the Jewish temple was destroyed. We now live in what the Bible calls "the age to come," which is the New Covenant age. This forty year period, from Pentecost to Holocaust, was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In this transition period, the New Covenant had been inaugurated, but not consummated. It was a time of "already, but not yet." To see this, look with me at:

Ephesians 2:8 (NASB) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

Paul says that they, "have been saved." This seems to be saying that their redemption is complete. Yet, later in the same chapter, Paul writes:

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NASB) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

The process was still occurring. They were "being built" for a dwelling place of God. But the clear blessing of the New Covenant was that God would dwell with His people:

Revelation 21:1-3 (NASB) And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,

The New Jerusalem is the New Covenant, according to what we have seen in Galatians 4: 24-26: "For these are the two covenants:.... but the Jerusalem above is free." So, Paul tells the Ephesian believers that they are "being built" for a dwelling place of God. It was a process that was taking place, but was at that time still unfulfilled.

Can I prove that "righteousness" became the saints reality in A.D. 70? I think I can if we take a close look at some Old Testament verses. Let's start by looking at Daniel, chapter 9. In Daniel 9, the 70 years for the Babylonian captivity was just about over:

Daniel 9:1-2 (NASB) In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans-- 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

In verses 1 & 2, Daniel had calculated the number of years of the Babylonian captivity based upon the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10. He knew that the time was near, and he went to God in prayer asking God to remember his covenant and restore Israel. The restoration of Israel (true Israel - the church) is at the heart and core of Daniel's prophecy. The angel was sent to speak unto Daniel, and this is what he said:

Daniel 9:24 (NASB) "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.

Daniel was told that 70 weeks had been determined on his people Israel, and city Jerusalem. By the end of this prophetic time period, God promised that six things would be accomplished. One of the things that Daniel was told would happen by the end of that period was that God would "bring in everlasting righteousness."

Daniel's prophecy, then, tells of the time when God would "bring in everlasting righteousness." When would this be? Daniel's vision ends with the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in A.D. 70 (v26). Let's compare Daniel 9: 25-27 with Matthew 24:15 and following where Jesus said the Abomination of Desolation and His coming would occur in his generation.

Daniel 9:25 (NKJV) "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

Who is "the prince who is to come" of verse 26? Some say this is the beast. The nearest antecedent for the coming prince, in verse 26, would carry us back to the "Messiah the Prince" (verse 25), who was cut off (verse 26). Therefore, Christ becomes the one and only "Prince" in the whole context. The "people of the prince" speaks of the Jewish people, who were the ones responsible for the destruction of the city Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, when all of the facts of biblical and secular history are considered.

Daniel 9:27 (NASB) "And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."

In the middle of the 70th week, comes the abomination that makes desolate. When this happened, everlasting righteousness was brought in. We know from the teaching of Jesus when this happened:

Matthew 24:15-16 (NASB) "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;

The "abomination of desolation" is referring to the Roman army in the holy place, which is the city of Jerusalem.

Matthew 24:21 (NASB) for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.

"Then" - being when the Roman armies surrounded and laid siege to Jerusalem in A.D. 66-70. There is no tribulation to equal what happened in A.D. 66- 70, prior to it or after it. The great tribulation is over, it happened in A.D. 66- 70.

Matthew 24:34 (NASB) "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

"This generation" - the generation that Jesus was speaking to. The generation that was listening to Jesus speak would experience all he had spoken of, including the great tribulation and His Second coming.

So Daniel tells us that his vision ends with the destruction of Jerusalem, which would bring in everlasting righteousness.

Remember from our study of Galatians that to be justified is to have Christ's righteousness. The fulfillment of this blessing took place in the coming of the New Heaven and earth, "in which righteousness dwells."

2 Peter 3:13 (NASB) But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

This event was the focal point in Old Testament prophecy for the coming in of righteousness. Isaiah prophesied:

Isaiah 51:6 (NASB) "Lift up your eyes to the sky, Then look to the earth beneath; For the sky will vanish like smoke, And the earth will wear out like a garment, And its inhabitants will die in like manner, But My salvation shall be forever, And My righteousness shall not wane.

Righteousness came with the New Heaven and New Earth at the second coming of Christ.

Let's look back a minute to what Paul said:

Galatians 4:19 (NASB) My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you­

What does Paul mean by this? Most commentators see this as Paul talking about the Galatians' growth in practical Christianity, practical sanctification. But I'm not sure that is his intent. The Greek word that Paul uses for "formed" is very important. It is from the Greek verb morphoo, which carries the idea of "essence or nature" rather than outward shape, and therefore does not refer to acting like Christ, but to being like Christ.

This verb morphoo comes from morphe, which is used in:

Philippians 2:6 (NASB) who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

The word "form" is morphe, which means: "essential nature." Here we see that Christ was in the "form of God" - which refers to the possession of the essential nature of God.

So Paul is laboring until Christ is morphoo in them, until the Galatian believers take on the nature of Christ, which is righteousness. Paul is referring here to the change that would take place in them at the consummation of the New Covenant, which would take place at the parousia; they would have the very nature of Christ - they would have His righteousness.

1 John 3:2 (NASB) Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.

When Christ returned, all believers were made like Him. Notice that it says, "we shall see Him as He is"- NOT we shall see Him as He WAS. To be like Him is to have His righteousness.

God's goal for the church was that it be like his son:

Romans 8:29 (NASB) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

This took place in A.D. 70 when the Lord returned, bringing in the New Heaven and Earth; the New Covenant. So the coming again of our Lord for His people brought them to full maturity or perfection. To be perfect was to have Christ's righteousness.

Galatians 5:5 (NASB) For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

The words "are waiting" are from the Greek word apekdechomai. This Greek word is made up of three words put together: the word "to receive," which speaks of a welcoming or appropriating reception such as is tendered to a friend who comes to visit; the word "off," speaking here of the withdrawal of one's attention from other objects; and the word "out," used here in a perfective sense, which intensifies the already existing meaning of the word. The composite word speaks of: "an attitude of intense yearning and eager waiting for the coming of the Lord."

This Greek word is only used seven times in the New Testament, and every one of them is in reference to the second coming. Apekdechomai is used three times in Romans 8:

Romans 8:19 (NASB) For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly (apekdechomai) for the revealing of the sons of God.

Who the "sons of God" were would be revealed when the Lord returned, destroying Jerusalem, and making it manifest that the Christians were His "sons."

Romans 8:23 (NASB) And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly (apekdechomai) for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Redemption was tied with the second coming:

Luke 21:27-28 (NASB) "And then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. 28 "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

The "these things" in the context of this verse is the destruction of Jerusalem. Redemption was complete when the Lord returned, destroying Jerusalem, and ending the Old Covenant.

Romans 8:25 (NASB) But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly (apekdechomai) for it.

The context of all of these verses in Romans 8 is that of the second coming.

1 Corinthians 1:7 (NASB) so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly (apekdechomai) the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Hebrews 9:28 (NASB) so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await (apekdechomai) Him.

Notice in this verse in Hebrews that when Christ appears the SECOND time, it is for SALVATION. So, the Lord that they "eagerly awaited" was to bring to them righteousness at the parousia. Their wait ended in A.D. 70, and every believer who has lived since that time has had Christ's righteousness. So in Paul's day, righteousness was a hope that was fulfilled when the Lord returned in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Alright, let's move on to verse 6:

Galatians 5:6 (NASB) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

This verse reiterates that our salvation is entirely the result of faith that has been given to us by God. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. No outward act of ours accounts for anything. What's important is the fact that we are in Jesus Christ.
This is the first time in this letter that Paul refers to the concept of believers being in Christ.

I'd like for us to spend the remainder of our time this morning looking at the last phrase of this verse, which should read: But faith which works through love. Paul is saying that outward acts or rituals don't matter, it is faith that matters.

What I want us to see today is that faith works through love. The word "works" is from the Greek word energeo, which means: "to be operative, be at work, put forth power; to work for one, aid one; to effect; to display one's activity, show one's self operative." Our faith is to "put forth power" through love.

Let's look at what James has to say about faith and love:

James 2:17 (NASB) Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

James tells us that faith without works is dead. James 2:14-26 is the only New Testament passage which speaks of a dead faith. Please notice that the distinction in James is between dead faith and living faith, not false faith and true faith. Let's look as James' climax to this argument:

James 2:26 (NASB) For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James draws an analogy between dead faith and a dead body. If you were to find a dead body, you would assume that it had died, which would mean It was once alive. James can conceive of a "dead faith" as having once been alive. A person's faith, like his body, can die. James compares faith to the body and works to the spirit. Does that seem strange to you? Would you put faith with the spirt and works with the body?

James' point: works are actually the key to the vitality of faith. James' analogy shows he is writing about the necessity of having works if our faith is to stay alive. James is writing to Christians. Unless we act on our faith and live it out, our faith rapidly decays into dead orthodoxy. Good works are the spirit which animates the entire body. Without such works, our faith dies. This does not affect our eternal destiny, but it does affect our temporal life and the preserving of it from judgement.

James is clearly teaching that works are necessary for physical preservation. He states his argument in verse 14.

James 2:14 (NASB) What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

James says, without a doubt, that works are necessary for salvation. That is clearly what he says here. James is not discussing a doctrine of salvation, which is based only on faith. James insists that works are necessary for salvation. James says, "Faith alone cannot save," and Paul says, "Faith alone saves." Did James really disagree with Paul on salvation being by grace through faith alone? Notice what he wrote in:

James 1:17-18 (NASB) Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.

Good gifts come from God, and salvation is one of those good gifts. God, by a sovereign act of His own will, gives us grace and faith to believe His Word. James sees the new birth as a sovereign act of God.

James and Paul were in fundamental harmony about the way eternal life is received. For both of them, it is a gift of God, graciously and sovereignly bestowed.

What, then, does James mean in 2:14? We need to apply a very basic rule of hermeneutics: "Determine carefully the meaning of words." The Greek verb sozo,used in 2:14 for "save," has a wide range of possible meanings. It can mean: "physical healing, rescue from danger, spiritual deliverance of various kinds and preservation from final judgement and eternal damnation." We must determine its meaning from its context. To help us understand how James uses it, look at how he closes this letter:

James 5:19-20 (NASB) My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save (sozo) his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.

Here the meaning of the verb "sozo" is clear. It refers to preservation of the physical life from death. The Greek expression "sozin ten psuche" is a standard and normal way of saying, "to save the life." There is no text in the Greek Bible where it can be shown to have the meaning "to save the soul from eternal damnation."

The theme of the book of James is found in:

James 1:21 (NASB) Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls (life).

James is talking to Christians, telling them that they can save their lives (they're already born again) from the damage that sin brings if they will walk in holiness. He has already warned them of the death dealing consequences of sin:

James 1:13-15 (NASB) Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Again, he is writing to believers. In verse 21, he suggests that the antidote to the kind of consequence spoken of in 1:15 is the life saving capacity of God's Word. This theme is repeated frequently in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 11:19 (NASB) He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death.

In 1:21-25, James says that his readers will be "saved" from the destruction that sin brings if they are doers, rather than just hearers, of God's Word. And in 2:14-26, he is saying that they will be saved in the same sense, not by what they believe (faith), but by what they do about what they believe (works).

The reason that James 2:14 seems to be contradicting the doctrine of justification by faith alone is because many have missed James subject. James is not talking about eternal life and how to obtain it. James is writing about preserving temporal life and the damage that sin brings to the life of a believer.

James 2:12-14 (NASB) So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

James is asking, "Does the fact that you are a believer save you from the temporal judgement of God if you live in sin?" His question demands a negative answer. James uses "save" here not as "save from eternal damnation" but as "save from temporal judgement."

Then he illustrates his argument in verses 15-16:

James 2:15-16 (NASB) If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

The fact that the preserving of life lies at the heart of this illustration is apparent. Can the fact that a man holds correct beliefs and is orthodox save him from the deadly consequences of sin? Of course not! That is like giving your best wishes to a destitute brother or sister, when what they really need is food and clothing. It is utterly fruitless. Neither will your faith do your physical well being any good if you live in sin.

To the Jew, almsgiving was of paramount importance. Bin Sirach said, "Water will quench a flaming fire, and alms maketh atonement for sin." Tobit says, "I will behold thy face by almsgiving." The Jews of old, much like many today, made works a means of salvation. It is easy to see how this passage can be misinterpreted.

What are works? I think if we examine the context of James, chapter 2, we will see that the works that James is talking about are: to love.

James 2:8 (NASB) If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well.

This is exactly what Paul tells us in Galatians. He says that faith works through love:

Galatians 5:6 (NASB) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

If your faith doesn't produce love, it is a dead faith and in danger of temporal judgement. The moral dynamic of faith is love. Since faith is invisible, a persons' possession of faith is dependant upon his verbal testimony alone. How can you tell if a person has faith? They don't smoke, or drink, they live a very moral lifestyle; they witness to others of their faith; they give money to the church; they study their Bible, they are sacrificial and giving people. Is that how you spot faith? I have just described a Mormon, who does not believe in the deity of Christ or in salvation by grace alone, and will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire because of his unbelief.

Faith is static, but love is always active. Love is obedience to God's revealed will:

John 14:15 (NASB) "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Love is active, it does something, and without it faith dies. Verse 17 says that if faith is by itself - no love - it is dead.

Believers, faith and works are connected. It is by works that faith is made mature. As we act on what we believe and live out our Christianity, our faith grows and matures. But if we fail to work - love, our faith will die. And a dead faith, one that is unproductive, will come under the temporal judgement of God. Keep your faith alive - walk in love.

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