Fulfilling the Law of Love
From Gospel Translations
Education for Exultation: Through the Spirit by Faith
Galatians 5:1-6, 13-18
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. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. . . . 13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, " YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. " 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
The Progression of these Messages
There is an order and a progression in these messages on EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. Let's review so you can see what it is. We began the last decade with a vision and a building for exultation - this one - a building for exulting in God, for corporate worship. And now we begin this decade with a vision and, Lord willing, a building for education - for learning about this God, seeing God in his Word, knowing God. But the two are not separate. And the way they relate is with this little word "for." Education for exultation.
Education about God precedes and serves exultation in God. Learning truth precedes loving truth. Right reflection on God precedes right affection for God. Seeing the glory of Christ precedes savoring the glory of Christ. Good theology is the foundation of great doxology. Knowledge is utterly crucial. But it is not an end in itself. It serves faith and love. And if it doesn't, it only puffs up, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1.
So this vision of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION is at the very heart of our view of the Christian life and Christian ministry. Where education does not produce heartfelt exultation in God, it degenerates into proud intellectualism. And where exultation is not sustained and shaped by solid Biblical education, it degenerates into proud emotionalism. God means to be known and loved. Seen and savored. Pondered and praised. That is why we believe so deeply in both education and exultation, and that they relate in this way: EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION.
1. Exulting in God
So we began the series with God. EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION - IN GOD. From Isaiah we said, "God is God and God is sovereign." That is the beginning and foundation of all of reality. We begin with God as the foundation of all things, and at the bottom of God is the sovereignty of God. He governs all things according to his infinitely wise purposes. Some of the whys and wherefores of the world he reveals. And some he keeps secret (Deuteronomy 29:29). But that he rules over all, we do not doubt (Psalm 22:28; 103:19). And in this we exult, because this is the basis of all our hope. All the promises of God hang on the sovereignty of God.
2. Exulting in Jesus
Then in the next message we added this truth: To "God is God" and "God is sovereign" we added, "Jesus is God." "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1). "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). "All the fullness of deity dwells in him bodily" (Colossians 2:9). And of his fullness we have received grace upon grace - waves of grace that will never stop breaking over our heads with new joy to all eternity, if we receive him as our God and our Savior. So we exult in God and we exult in Jesus who is God. And we educate our children and we declare to the world: "He who has the Son has life and he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12).
3. Exulting in the Cross
Then we saw why the Son of God became human, namely, to die. God as God cannot die. God as man can die. And he meant to die so that we might live. We are all sinners. We deserve nothing from God but destruction. How then can a holy and just God cause waves of grace to break over our heads with joy forever and ever? The answer is that the obedience we failed to give, Christ gave, and the penalty we owed for all our sin, Christ paid in his suffering and death.
Therefore, every blessing that comes to redeemed sinners like us is a blood-bought blessing. Every insurance payment, every breath, every day alive, every hard thing turned for God by the sovereignty of God, every age of eternity with grace breaking over our heads with joy - all of it is owing to the cross. This is why Paul says, "May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). All our exultation in any good thing - or any bad thing that God turns for good - should be a boasting in the cross, because every good thing was purchased for us by the cross.
All education for exultation is education about the centrality of God, the centrality of Christ and the centrality of the cross in life.
4. Multiplying the Exultation
Which brought us to last week and the focus on sending Rick Gamache and Randy Westlund with their families and others of you to the rebirth of a God-centered vision at Grace Church Richfield. In a word, the meaning of last week was this: When we say "EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION," we mean "education for the propagation of exultation." Not just our exultation here, but the multiplication of exultation in other places.
This is what came starkly clear to us elders last Monday night, I believe, because of your fasting and praying for us. Thank you. God answered with one of the most Word-saturated, spiritually intense, vision-enlarging meetings I have ever attended. And at the heart of it is this conviction that EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION means education for the propagation and multiplication of exultation - especially in new and renewed churches.
Now today the title is EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION - THROUGH THE SPIRIT BY FAITH. We have arrived at the HOW? question. We educate with a view to exulting in God. We educate with a view to exulting in Christ. We educate with a view to exulting in the cross. And by all this education we mean for there to be a multiplication of exultation here and around the world.
Now the question is: How? How do we do this so that God gets the glory and we get the joy? Answer: "Through the Spirit, by faith."
Now I did not make up that phrase. I took it from Galatians 5:5. So let's go there and see how it is used and what it may mean for our life together in this vision of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. Let's read Galatians 5:4-5, "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness." There it is in verse 5: "[W]e through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness."
Here we are in this life. We are justified by faith (Romans 5:1,9). We are reconciled to God (Romans 5:10). We have peace with God (Ephesians 2:17-18). But we are not yet made morally righteous. We have a legal standing of righteousness before God, because of Christ's life and death. He is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). We have become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).
But we are not yet perfect (Philippians 3:12). We still sin. We fall short of God's perfect standard every day. We glory in the truth that, in spite of this sin, God counts us as righteous for Christ's sake, but we long to be free not only from the guilt of sin - which we are in Christ right now -but also from the presence and the power of sin. This is where we live. This is the life of tension in this age. Saved, but not completely saved. Secure in Christ, but sinful still and groaning as we wait for the completion of our salvation, as Romans 8:23 says: "We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."
That is where we live and do our EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. We are imperfect educators and imperfect exulters. We are waiting for the hope of righteousness. Reckoned righteous, but not yet made righteous. Which is why in true Christian life and ministry there is always a mingling of courage and meekness. Bravery and brokenness. This is what made Jonathan Edwards write:
The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is an humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child and more disposed to an universal lowliness of behavior." (Religious Affections, Works, vol. 2, [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957], pp. 339-340)
With Confidence and Groaning
This is how we do education and how we do exultation. We do it with the confidence and the triumphant joy that we are justified before the living God. We are standing in grace as Romans 5:2 says, not falling from grace as Galatians 5:4 says. We are trusting Christ for our right standing with God, not banking on works of law for our right standing with God. So there is a confidence and triumphant joy about our education and our exultation.
But there is also a groaning. There is longing and a heartsickness - as in homesickness for heaven and for shedding this old nature entirely with its bent to sinning. There is the cry, "O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24). There is this waiting for the hope of righteousness. So there is a certain flavor of pain and sorrow in all our joy and in all our education and exultation.
How then do you live in this world of already-declared-just and not-yet-made-just? How do you do education and exultation? Paul says in verse 5, "Through the Spirit, by faith, we are waiting for the hope of righteousness." There are two parts to the way we live. One is through the Sirit, and the other is by faith.
Through the Spirit
"Through the Spirit" means that what we do as we wait for our final transformation is depend on the Holy Spirit to help us do what we are supposed to do. "Through the Spirit," means that we do not live in our own strength but in the strength that God supplies by the Spirit. Paul talks about this in three different ways in verses 16, 18, and 22.
- Verse 16: "But I say, walk by the Spirit." So we walk - we act, we educate, and we exult - but it is "by the Spirit." * Verse 18: "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." Here the stress falls on the work and initiative of the Spirit in our lives: we are led by the Spirit. That is how we educate and how we exult. The Holy Spirit takes the initiative and leads us. * Verse 22: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . .." Here again the work of the Spirit is emphasized. The love and joy and peace that we experience are something the Spirit produces. They are his fruit.
So in all four of these ways (Galatians 5:5, 16, 18, 22) of saying it, the point is that the Spirit is the source of our behavior that sustains and shapes what we do. We wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit (verse 5), we walk by the Spirit (verse 16), we are led by the Spirit (verse 18), and we bear the fruit of the Spirit (verse 22).
So the Christian life - the life of educating and exulting - is lived in the power of another, not in our own power. There is a reason for this. The reason is that the giver gets the glory. And God designs all things so he gets the glory. Here is the way Peter makes this crystal clear (1 Peter 4:11): "Whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." The Christian life is meant to be a life lived by the power of another, namely, God, the Spirit, so that God alone will get the glory.
Which leaves us the question: How do you live so that it no longer you who lives but the Spirit who lives through you (Galatians 5:5) - or Christ who lives in you (Galatians 2:20)?
The answer is given in at least three different places in Galatians. One is right here in our text, Galatians 5:5, "For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness." The answer is that we tap into the power of the Spirit when we trust Christ. Why do I say, "Trust Christ"?
Because that is what Galatians 2:20 says, ""I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me [there's the sustaining shaping power of the Another]; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God." So Christ lives in me, that is, I live by the Spirit - How? "I live by faith in the Son of God." So the way we live "through the Spirit" or "walk by the Spirit" or are "led by the Spirit" or bear "the fruit of the Spirit" is to live "by faith in the Son of God."
But we can be more specific. The third place in Galatians where we are told how to live by the Spirit is Galatians 3:5, "Does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" The Spirit is supplied and works in and among us "by hearing with faith." This means that the way to wait by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit is to trust the Word -the promises of Christ. "Hearing with faith" implies that Christ says something to us and we believe it. And in that very faith in what we hear, the Spirit is being supplied to us so that the effect will be the fruit of the Spirit - especially love (5:22; 5:13).
A Practical Example
Let me close with an illustration of how this works in everyday life.
Suppose that owing to last week's message and the STAR article, you sense the awakening of a desire to enter a new chapter of life by joining with a band of folks from Bethlehem to move your membership to Grace Church Richfield. You see how the Lord has been preparing you for this with a sense of restlessness and a longing to venture something more for the kingdom of Christ. But then the anxieties start to rise: 1) I'm excited now, but what will I do when I get discouraged at leaving behind the familiar and comfortable? 2) What about leaving so many friends? They are precious to me, and I lean on them. 3) What about my teenager who is not excited about going because he likes the youth group here and gets a lot out of it?
Now, if God is leading you toward Grace Church Richfield, how do you obey "through the Spirit by faith"? The answer is that you put the promises of God over against each of those fears and believe the promise instead of giving in to the fear.
1) Over against the fear of discouragement, you ponder Psalm 23:3, "He restores my soul." And Psalm 19:7, "The Law of the Lord is perfect restoring the soul." And you trust the Lord that by his Word, when your soul is discouraged he will restore it. He will not leave you without help.
2) Over against the fear that you are leaving friends who are precious to you, you ponder the promise of Jesus in Mark 10:29-30, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life." Then you believe that in leaving friends for the sake of the kingdom, God will see to it that you get what you need in this life (a hundredfold) and far more in the next.
3) Over against the fear that your teenager wants to stay here, you ponder with him or her two promises of Jesus. One is that Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). You believe that, and you pray that your teenager would believe it. And then you encourage him or her to dream a new dream of serving and giving at church rather than mainly receiving from friends. And secondly, you ponder the promise of Jesus in Matthew 4:19, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." You try to help your teenager believe that God may be calling him or her not to lean on the present youth ministry, but to build a new one.
In these ways the Holy Spirit is supplied to you by the hearing of faith. And you walk by the Spirit and are led by the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit - you live and wait for the hope of righteousness "through the Spirit by faith." You get the help, you get the joy, and God - the Great Worker - gets the glory.
How then do we pursue EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION? We pursue it as weak, imperfect, sinful people who are justified by faith in Christ. So we do it with a spirit of confidence and contrition, of bravery and brokenhearted, of hope and humility. Which means we do it "through the Spirit of faith."