What is true Christianity? I suppose many will rush to give an answer. But let us read a few verses that will lead our minds into the right answer (Col 1:3-5; 1 Th 1:3; 1 Cor 13:13). Yes, we must think of faith, hope, and love: a firm faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, confident expectation of sharing glory with Christ, and love for God, his people, and all people.
Our text for this outline consists of two of the key verses in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Many verses in the letter are better known, but these provide an essential part of the true Christian way of life, about which the Galatians had been seriously misled. These verses are a complete contrast to the principles that Paul had to oppose in verses two through four. As we said previously, Paul begins this section of the letter with an emphasis upon correct thinking. This involves a proper understanding of justification by grace.
I. Think correctly about the faith of true Christianity.
A. The focus is on Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When something else is made central, Christianity is distorted. To illustrate, the tire is out of round.
1. Any distinctions among people lack value before God. This is what circumcision was during the law covenant. It distinguished the people of Israel from other peoples. But now, either condition is meaningless and non-beneficial. We must understand that connection with Christ does not depend on any external factors, like ritual or religious actions, ethnic heritage, economic levels, educational attainments, power, or prestige.
2. The crucial personal issue is this: Are you in Christ Jesus? Salvation is not a matter of knowing and or agreeing with some facts about Jesus. Instead, it is when a person trusts or fully commits himself or herself to Jesus Christ, relying on his righteousness as the way of salvation.
Apply: Perhaps someone is thinking, “This really doesn’t matter! My life seems to be going okay without all this stuff about Jesus. If it turns you on, that’s your business.” My friend, you are not alone in your thinking. But think of this. You may not theoretically need to wear a life preserver while your “duck” is safely navigating the Delaware River. But if it’s struck by a barge, you will need it suddenly. And that’s what your life is like. Everything seems pleasant and easy, but the living God will bump into you one day and you will need the only Savior, Jesus Christ.
B. God’s way is the way of true spirituality.
1. In true Christianity, “justification has nothing to do with anything ‘fleshly’ or ‘natural’; all is of God; all is ‘the work of the Spirit’” (Cole). Our hope or confident expectation is kept alive and nurtured by the Spirit of God (Rm 15:13). The Spirit of God presently makes known to us what we will fully possess someday. He keeps us longing for the final fulfillment of redemption.
2. Our access to Christ and his justifying righteousness is “by faith”. Notice that Paul does not direct us to baptism as some kind of replacement for circumcision. That is not the idea of believer’s baptism at all. What matters is faith in Christ. We depend on the Lord to be true to his word of promise.
C. This righteousness is certain. We are talking about past and present experience and confident expectation.
1. Consider the tenses of salvation: I have been declared right with God (Rm 5:1), I am now right with God (Rm 3:24), and I will be declared right with God (this text; cf. Rm 2:5-16). When Christ saves us, we immediately enter into all the benefits of salvation. He doesn’t let us thrash around in the water, desperately trying to swim into a state of righteousness. No, he immediately lifts us out of the waters of wrath, because we are in saving union with him.
2. The Spirit develops an attitude of eagerly awaiting the fullness of salvation. Notice that we do not work for it, but we wait for it. We enjoy being in Christ now, but we know that what is coming is so much better than what we have now (cf. Rm 8:18-19, 23, 25). The believer looks forward to having his righteousness with God, which comes from faith in Christ, openly declared (2 Tm 4:8; Col 1:5; 1 Pt 1:3).
II. Think correctly about the life of true Christianity.
A. The Christian way of life begins from the principle of faith.
1. Without faith in Jesus Christ, there is no Christianity. A person might be religious or moral, but if he or she has not trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, he or she cannot live as a Christian. True Christianity requires following Christ, and that simply is not possible without the strength he provides by the Holy Spirit to those who trust him. How can you even think you can keep the Two Greatest Commands apart from his power? How can imagine that you can obey the Great Commission without his presence? How can you dream of showing his surpassing character (Col 3:12-17), unless he is with you?
2. This excludes the religious liberal or cultural Christian from the realm of true Christianity. They might do a lot of “nice” things, but they are done apart from Christ.
B. The Christian way of life involves positive activity for God.
1. A true Christian has repented and trusted in Jesus Christ. He or she has a new world and life view that is built on and seeks to express the reality and supremacy of Christ. He or she depends on Christ to follow what he calls us to do. These two conversion graces are productive of new attitudes and actions (cf. Rm 1:25 and 1 Th 1:9).
2. This excludes what is called “easy believism”, in which salvation becomes some kind of “fire insurance policy”. It excludes all who would claim to be Christians, but who fail to walk like Jesus Christ (2 Tm 2:19; 1 Pt 1:15-16; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 3:14-15).
C. The Christian way of life is clearly displayed in love.
1. Repentance toward and faith in the One who is love produces love for other people. “How can a heart embrace him who is supreme love without glowing with love and love’s energy?” (Lenski)
2. This excludes legalists and hypercalvinists, or anticalvinists as R.C. Sproul calls them. People who lack love have nothing at all (1 Cor 13:1-7).
1. Paul and James agree on the subject of justifying faith. The faith that saves is a faith that works, to use Paul’s words. It is a faith that loves. Paul praises the true faith that works; James condemns the false faith that doesn’t work.
2. The Holy Spirit is not something that the Christian waits for; instead, by the Spirit the Christian waits for the fullness of blessing. It is rather meaningless to talk about being filled with the Spirit and not to have one’s eyes fixed on what we have in Christ in heavenly glory.
3. The end of all legal ceremonies is in Christ. What matters now is life and worship by the Spirit of God.
Pastor David Frampton: The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit First Baptist Church