A sermon preached by Pastor Enoch Awuku Anti on 4th September, 2022
Somewhere last year, on our way back from work, we were caught up in a gridlock on the Taifa-Ofankor stretch of the road because of floods. It was a total gridlock. A standstill. And we were moving no where. We were in the traffic for about 2 hours. This was not a moving traffic, we were stuck at one place. People were putting off their engines to save fuel. But for me, those are not the times to put off my engine at all. No way! Not that my engine isn’t good. But anything can happen. What if the traffic moves and my engine doesn’t start? So we were there, Standing Firm; moving nowhere. Engine running. Burning Fuel.
This morning, I want us to consider a sermon I have titled “Stand Firm” I am taking this title from the first line of the second phrase in the text: “Stand Firm therefore.” But before we proceed, let me make a few introductory remarks.
Note that, basically from Galatians Chapter 1 up to 4, Paul has been dealing with doctrine, arguing the difference between Justification by Faith and Justification by Works—law. And again, if you don’t remember anything at all we have done in Galatians so far, don’t forget that Galatians is about how sinners are saved. The Jewish believers in Galatians say by observing the law, Paul says “No, No” by faith. So this argument has been going on consistently from Chapter 1 to 4. And as we enter Chapter 5, which we will be dealing with today, Paul now lays out the practicality of the doctrine of justification.
The Christian, as we saw last week is not only to believe or understand doctrine, but to live out what they believe. Paul therefore gets into the practicality or implications of being Justified. And in this chapter, one of the most popular Scriptures is seen: Works of the Flesh and Fruit of the Spirit (vv.19-24) and we will come to that at an appropriate time
What Does It Mean To Stand Firm?
Picture that traffic situation I spoke about earlier. Though being in traffic for that long is not a good thing, I am using the situation to try to explain what the phrase “Stand Firm” means. The King James has a stronger expression: “Stand Fast.”
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1KJV)
The phrase stand firm is a consistent charge in Scripture. Let me share a few texts with you that points us to the constancy with which the phrase and other phrases like it are used in Scripture (Philippians 4:1; 1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
Stand At One Place
The phrase “Stand Firm/Stand Fast” in the original Greek simply means to be stationary— like our traffic analogy. Stand at one place. Move nowhere. Be immovable. And what one place are the Galatians to stand firm in? The one place of the truth of the gospel by which Christ has set us free: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (v.1a).
Compare that phrase with the last phrase of the verse “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” This brings into view a contrast between freedom and slavery. Pay attention also to the adverb “again” used in the last phrase. It gives us an indication that the Galatians were once under a yoke of slavery. And not only the Galatians, Paul himself was included. That’s why he said “For freedom Christ has set us free.” He identifies himself with those who have been set free by Christ.
See, this is not only true of the Galatians and Paul. It is also true of everyone who has come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. We were once under the yoke of slavery. But have been delivered. A yoke is an agricultural implement, a wooden frame that is placed on the neck of cattle/oxen who are used for ploughing. So these animals are under the weight of the yoke and are used for farming. Paul uses this imagery to point out that we have been delivered from something. What yoke of slavery have they been delivered from that they must not submit to again: Slaves to Sin, Slaves To The Curse of The Law, Slaves of The world, Slaves To Satan (Galatians 1:1-3-4; 3:13-22; 4:5-8).
Simply, all Christians were once under the bondage of sin and lived their lives to please themselves. They were separated from God and indeed enemies of God. They were friends to the world. Some even by their upbringing may have had a good moral upbringing. Nonetheless, the point of Galatians is that even our morality cannot save us.
Children, listen to me. Be grateful that you have been brought into families where you will have contact with the gospel. Don’t just grow up as moral and good people. But grow up believing in Christ. You are all sinners. And I plead with you that you will seek Christ early. Put your faith in Christ. Cry out to him to save you. Let Christ reveal to you the true nature of your heart. Don’t only come here to please your parents, but I beg you, call out to Christ to have mercy on you and save you from your sins.
Having spoken to the children, I want to believe every adult here listening to me is a Christian.
But let me press this that this sermon to Stand Firm will be of no use to you if you are not a Christian. Because what will you be standing firm on? The Galatians are being asked to Stand firm because they have been set free by Christ.
So I ask you, have you been set free by Christ? Do you understand that you are a sinner and that Christ died to save you from your sin? I cannot call a man or woman who has not been set free by Christ to stand firm. What am I calling them to stand firm on? Sinking sand?
My faith has found a resting place
Not in device nor creed
I trust the Ever-living One
His wounds for me shall plead
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
Can you say this of yourself? Is your heart at rest with God? If not, seek him.
How Do We Stand Firm?
Reject Justification By The Law
If I am to ask a random question “What is The Gospel?” What will your response be? Or if I am to ask who is a Christian, what answers am I going to get from you? The answers I will get will tell me something whether you are truly saved or whether you understand the gospel.
Look at verse 2-4:
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace
You see clearly what Paul is addressing here: grace and the law and there are four important things he mentions here:
(i) “If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”
Now circumcision is not being used in isolation here, but circumcision is an Old Testament rite by which every male born child is initiated as it were into the covenant family of God. It was the seal of the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 17:10-14) and this will become a part of the law for future generations of Israelite. The Jews in this letter were pushing circumcision as a requirement for salvation. But Paul opposed and rejected their error to the point of pronouncing curses on them (Galatians 1:8-9).
Paul says if you accept circumcision Christ will be of no advantage or profit to you. This means that if you accept circumcision or the law as a means of justification, you will have no benefit from Christ. What benefits are in Christ? Salvation, deliverance from sin, eternal life, reconciliation with God, peace with God, adoption into the family of God, the gift of the holy Spirit and many more will elude us if we make the law or circumcision a means of justification.
(ii) Secondly, if you accept circumcision or the law as a means of justification, then you are obliged to keep the whole law.
This is what is called the curse of the law. The law demands a 100% percent adherence and anything short of that is a curse. But Christ has redeemed us from this curse by obeying all the law on our behalf (Galatians 3:13). So we cannot isolate just one law and say we will keep that to be justified. We have to keep all if we are to be justified.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it (James 2:10).
Sorry, none of us can do this. It is practically impossible and we must forget about it. Don’t let it even cross your mind.
(iii) You Are Severed From Christ…You have fallen from Grace.
This is serious. If you will make justification by the law your standard, then you have been severed, separated from Christ. The original Greek says your have been rendered useless in your relationship with Christ. You have fallen from grace. To fallen away from grace means you are on your own. From the day you made justification by law your doctrine, you must earn your salvation by yourself, which is practically impossible, For by grace are we saved through faith.
Hear my friend and companion in this journey through Galatians: Martin Luther
This passage may well serve as a criterion for all the religions. To teach that besides faith in Christ other devices like works, or the observance of rules, traditions, or ceremonies are necessary for the attainment of righteousness and everlasting life, is to make Christ and His salvation of no benefit to anybody. If one can earn the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life through one’s own efforts to what purpose was Christ born? What was the purpose of His suffering and death, His resurrection, His victory over sin, death, and the devil, if men may overcome these evils by their own endeavor? Tongue cannot express, nor heart conceive what a terrible thing it is to make Christ worthless. The person who is not moved by these considerations to leave the Law and the confidence in his own righteousness for the liberty in Christ, has a heart that is harder than stone and iron (Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians)
Receive Justification By Faith
If we reject justification by the law, then we must replace it with something and that is, justification by faith. How are sinners saved? How are sinners made right with God? How can a sinner be justified and reconciled with God? Paul is clear on this
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love (Galatians 5:5-6).
Through the Spirit. We note in this first phrase that justification is first and foremost a work of the Spirit of God. This is what we call regeneration. It is the Spirit of God who firstly births faith in us. Faith is a gift and only the Spirit of God works on our heart to receive this faith. Paul makes it clear that circumcision or not doesn’t matter. What matters is faith. Working through love.
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (v.7)
Paul tells them they were running well, but what happened? See the Christian life is also presented to us as running a race (Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Are there sins you are dealing with? You cannot run carrying those sins. Put them down. Are there any pet sins in your life? Lay them down. They are distracting you. Deal with them because they are slowing you down Run with endurance. Don’t give up easily in the Christian faith. Many things will discourage you. But dear friends, let us not be discouraged. Let us endure to the end. Focus your faith on Christ. Look to him alone. Cherish him alone
Now the most clear in the text is obeying the truth: “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” We can therefore infer that running well means obeying the truth. Are you living your life in obedience to the truth of God’s word or not? What’s your private life? What’s your thought life? Most importantly, are you living your life as a believer? Look at verse 13:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
You cannot claim to be a believer and your life doesn’t reflect as a believer. Now there is another meaning of the phrase Stand Firm which I have reserved for this point. In a figurative the phrase in its figurative sense, also means to persevere—to continue in something and not give up.
Our kids showed a great interest in the just ended Oregon 2022 Olympics so we watched with them. And it was a great experience. I remember in one of the races, I think 5000 or so, there was one athlete who lagged behind so much that when others had finished their race, he was still running, because he had not finished his race. He had to finish it. And that’s a perfect picture of persevering.
So while “Stand Firm” means to be stationary at one place in the truth, it also means to persevere, that is finish, endure, don’t give up, keep moving. And these are consistent biblical charges. nothing, leave no stone unturned, soldier on, hang on, plug away, peg away, stick to one’s guns, stick at it, stick it out, hang in there, bash on
antonyms: give up, stop, quit
Reject Any Other View
I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is (v.10).
Paul expresses his confidence in the Lord. This is startling. He didn’t express his confidence in the Galatians. But he expressed his confidence in the Lord that they will not take any other view. This is a picture of the preservation of the saints. God is able to keep his own from falling. Now when Paul says he is confident they will take no other view, I will want to separate this from the view of justification by the law and say that apart from this specific error, in our life, we will encounter errors that may not necessarily be works religion but may still be contrary to the gospel. And what must we do? We must reject it. And there are many things out there that are contrary to the gospel.
Brothers, Sisters, Dear Friends, Let us Stand Firm! Let us Stand Fast! Let us Stand unyielding! Let us be stationary in the truth—moving nowhere. Take a stand for the truth. Don’t accept any other thing that is against the truth. This is constantly the argument Paul addresses in Galatians. The church in Galatia accepted another gospel. They moved away from the true gospel and were turning to another gospel (1:6-9).
Take a while and think through this. What other things have you accepted as truth that is no truth at all? There are a lot of teachings out there that is no gospel at all. You and I will have to be resolute in the things we believe. Stand Firm. We must not accept just anything we hear as the truth. We must be a people who love truth. A people who crave for truth. A people who cleave to the truth. The truth of God’s word must be our pleasure. We must treasure the truth above all things.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2)
See, it is not only Pastors and church leaders who need to know the truth. Every believer must be a student of truth and a student of the Bible. We must study. We must read first and foremost, the Bible. Let me ask a rhetorical question. When was the last time you read your Bible? Do you just put it aside after Sunday and pick it up to bring it to church? We need to make every effort to imbibe the truth of the gospel. What book are you currently reading? What Christian truth have you recently known which you previously didn’t know. Are you applying yourself to knowing the truth? This is important because without the truth we will be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. Look at Ephesians 4:13:
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes
Dear brothers and sisters, lets make it a point to apply yourself diligently to knowledge. Read. Pray. Fellowship. Ask questions. Seek out information. Stand firm