“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Have You Died and Risen with Jesus Christ?
The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” If we believe in this Word, that we have been crucified with Christ and He now lives in us, then we have already died in Him, and our Lord already abides and lives in us. Christ shouldered all the sins we commit on this earth, from our past sins to our present and future sins, through the baptism He received from John the Baptist, and He died on the Cross and rose from the dead again. Now, as our Lord lives in us, He has thereby enabled us to always do His bidding and pleasure. Our Lord is already living in our hearts as the Holy Spirit, and He is leading all of us.
Let’s turn to Galatians 5:6 from today’s Scripture passage: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
Our Lord is working in our hearts as the Holy Spirit. And our Lord is saying to us that He has indeed blotted out all our sins. We believe in the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts. Through His baptism, our Lord took upon Himself all our sins committed while on this earth, whether before or after receiving the remission of our sins; He died on the Cross in our place; He rose again from the dead again; and He has thereby blotted out all our sins. When we have faith in this gospel of the water and the Spirit, the Lord enables us to never stumble over all these sins that we commit out of our insufficiencies and weaknesses. That’s because our Lord has saved us from all our sins.
What Do We Now Need?
When the Bible says here, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6), it means that all that we need is to just believe that our Lord has blotted out all our sins out of His love for us. By our very nature, we are insufficient and evil. So as long as we live on this earth, we cannot help but reveal our shortcomings. And it’s easy for us to be bound by our insufficiencies and weaknesses. In other words, there are times when our own faith may be shaken, thinking to ourselves, “Given who I am, how could I preach the gospel to others, far less than save anyone else from sin?” When we take a look at ourselves, we are prone to be discouraged and sometimes even want to give up our lives of faith.
However, the Apostle Paul, who had the same human nature as all of us, said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Indeed, it is by our faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that we now live. Those of you who believe in the baptism of Jesus and His Cross are no longer who you were in the past. That’s because if we really believe that all our sins were passed onto Jesus Christ when He was baptized, and that He died on the Cross in our place, then we have already died with the Lord on the Cross, and Christ now lives in us. We are now new creatures in Jesus Christ.
If we truly believe that our Lord has already blotted out all our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then we can believe that the Lord is indeed alive in our hearts. This faith is the faith that makes us born again. If we have this faith, then just like the Apostle Paul, we can become the workers of the gospel of God.
God said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). If our Lord indeed took upon Himself all your sins and mine by being baptized, and died on the Cross, then this means that you also passed your sins to Jesus at that place and died with Him; and if Christ indeed rose from the dead again, then it means that we have also risen through our faith in Jesus Christ, and this resurrected Lord of ours is now abiding in your hearts and mine. Now, by placing our faith in the atoning love of Jesus Christ, we have been freed from all the sins of this world.
You and I actually do continue to commit sin in this world. Even though we have received the remission of our sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, this does not mean that we have no insufficiencies. All of us are still insufficient and weak. Whether we look at ourselves or others look at us, we still are insufficient. We know very well that our shortcomings are not just a few, but too many. Yet we can’t expect to see any changes in the future, and so we frequently bind ourselves in our own weaknesses. We tie ourselves up, thinking, “While I have no doubt that I have received the remission of my sins, I am still too rotten. I am so disappointed that this is who I am, even after receiving the remission of my sins.” And as carnal thoughts rise up like fog, we fall into confusion, worrying and questioning ourselves. Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.” Like this passage, when we are bound by our own weaknesses and insufficiencies, our hearts get all confused and empty.
The Lord is alive in our hearts. Because Jesus came to this earth once, took upon Himself all the sins of the world once for all by being baptized by John the Baptist, and died on the Cross, that the Lord is alive means that He has blotted out all our sins once and for all. So we are saved by believing in this Truth of salvation, that our living Lord has blotted out all our sins. And we are no longer bound by our weaknesses, but now that we have been freed from all our sins and transgressions, we live by our faith in the Lord.
The Lord is alive in our hearts. If this is true, then we are inevitably drawn to the conclusion that the Lord has indeed blotted out all the sins of our entire lifetime. Therefore, our Lord’s love that has saved us from sin sets us free not only from all our sins, but also from all our insufficiencies and weaknesses.
Our Lord abides in our hearts as the Holy Spirit. Is our Lord alive in your hearts or not? He is alive. Then did our old selves die already or not? Our old selves died already. If this is the case, then you have died and risen again in Jesus Christ. The Lord lives in the hearts of the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, while our old selves died completely. As we have reached our salvation by our faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we are forever free from all our sins, insufficiencies, and all our blemishes.
This Truth is indisputable. All that we now have to do is just believe in the Lord and thank Him for blotting out all our sins once and for all with the gospel of the water and the Spirit and delivering us from all the sins of the world. If we indeed believe that our Lord is alive in our hearts, then this means that we have been saved from all of our insufficiencies. That is how we can begin to do God’s work by trusting in our Lord.
We Are the Lord’s
The Apostle Paul said, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Because the Lord now lives in our hearts, it is natural for us to yearn to live following the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who provokes such desires in our hearts. It’s precisely because our Lord is alive in our hearts that He raises such desires of the Holy Spirit in us. In other words, for those who have received the remission of their sins, their hearts are compelled to yearn to do the Lord’s work, to preach the gospel, and to serve the Lord. The Spirit of our Lord has come into the hearts of all those who have received the remission of their sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and this Spirit inspires them to serve the Lord’s gospel, to love other souls, to preach the gospel to them, and to support the preaching of the gospel in many forms and ways. It is in times like this that you and I come to walk by such desires of the Holy Spirit. The Lord says that we will then not fulfill the lust of our flesh.
My fellow believers, we must believe that our old selves have already died on the Cross with Christ. We must believe that the Lord has blotted out all your sins and mine, all the sins that we were born with and commit in our lives out of our every insufficiency and blemish, and that He has now come into our hearts as the Holy Spirit. If you have this faith, then you were crucified to death, and now that you have been born again, it is Christ who lives in you. You then have the same faith that the Apostle Paul had when he professed in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” And all that now remains for you to do is to just live by faith, trusting that the love of God has saved you, just as the Bible says that nothing avails but faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).
What Kind of Faith Is the Right Faith?
What is the overall message of today’s Scripture passage from Galatians chapter five?
The Apostle Paul had preached the gospel to the region of Galatia, but now, the saints there were bound by their insufficiencies. When the saints of the Galatian churches looked at themselves, they saw just how insufficient they were, and so they fell into despair, wondering, “Why am I so wretched, when I really believe in Jesus as my Savior?” And then they came to think that they should be physically circumcised to get the final affirmation as the people of God. They thought, “If I am circumcised, my heart will have a stronger faith.” As there were some people who misled them into receiving circumcision at that time, practically all the saints of the Galatian churches ended up being circumcised willingly. That is why they sought to receive physical circumcision, on top of believing in Jesus Christ.
This is why the Apostle Paul was upset. He told the Galatians saints, “Even though you had no choice but to die for all your sins sentenced by the Law, didn’t Christ take upon your sins by being baptized, die on the Cross in your place, and rise from the dead again? Didn’t Christ save you like this, and weren’t you saved by believing in this Jesus Christ? Why have you then once again bound yourselves in the old rituals of the Old Testament?”
The Apostle Paul was so angry and frustrated that he said, “I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you” (Galatians 4:20). When Paul said here that he wished he could change his tone, he meant to say, “I had respected you as God’s people, but now that you have turned yourselves into the Devil’s children, I can’t trust you any longer. I have serious doubts about you.”
However, the Apostle Paul continued to admonish: “He who is circumcised is obligated to keep all the requirements of the Law. Anyone who wants to return to the Law and be justified by it must keep the Law completely for 100 percent. Try if you want. In Christ, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through faith. God has indeed saved us through His water and blood out of His benevolent love for us, and it is by believing in Jesus Christ with our hearts that we have been saved. All that you need is just this faith; what does it matter whether you are circumcised outwardly or not? Why do you try to perform this ritual according to the Law?”
So, to those among the Galatian saints who were bound by the weaknesses of their flesh, the Apostle Paul admonished as the following: “Since we were crucified with Christ, did we not die with Christ? Do you really believe in Jesus? If you indeed believe in Jesus, then believe also that when Jesus took upon your sins and died in your place, you died also. You and I both died. Did we clearly die with Christ or not? We died with Christ. Now Christ lives in me. If the Lord rose from the dead again and has come into our hearts as the Holy Spirit to live in us, then there is no need for you to be bound by the Law. You no longer need to bind yourselves with your insufficient deeds. You have already died. In Christ, all your sins and mortal transgressions were condemned with Him because all your sins have already been remitted away. You have been saved. So do not bind yourselves in your own weaknesses. Nothing avails us other than faith working through love. Do you really believe in the Lord? Do you really believe that the Lord is my Savior and your Savior?”
If the Apostle Paul were asking us like this now, how should we answer? We should say, “Yes, I believe.”
“Do you believe that the Lord took upon all your sins?”
“Yes, I believe that the Lord shouldered all my sins.”
“Do you believe that all your sins were passed onto Jesus when He was baptized?”
“Yes, I believe.”
“Do you believe that Jesus took upon all the sins of everyone in the world in your place, died on the Cross, and rose from the dead again?”
“Yes, I believe.”
We have nothing else but such faith. Faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit is what is truly right before God, only this faith saves us, and only this faith sets us free from all our sins, weaknesses, and insufficiencies. It is for this faith that we are commended by God. None other than this is true faith. This is what the Apostle Paul proclaimed.
How about you and me today? While you and I live in this world, we do not always follow our flesh. Sometimes we follow the flesh, but other times we follow the Holy Spirit. But what do you do when you find yourselves following the flesh and discover your insufficiencies? Do you imprison yourselves over this? You might often imprison and condemn yourselves, saying, “It’s been so long since I received the remission of my sins, and yet I am still so wretched. I am such a loser! What a fool! How can I follow the Lord to the end with such weak flesh?”
My fellow believers, while living in this world, we waver back and forth from two different kinds of works. In everyday life, we vacillate back and forth between the work of the Spirit and the work of the flesh. We do this constantly. Whereas those who have not been born again cannot help but be absorbed with carnal affairs always, those who are righteous waver back and forth between the work of the flesh and that of the Spirit. Put differently, even the righteous will inevitably fall into the work of the flesh unless they do the work of the Spirit. We the righteous cannot but commit sin when we do not walk in the Spirit. But even so, should you and I offer prayers of repentance everyday trying to wash away such personal sins? Are you now trying to wash away all your sins through your own prayers of repentance, just as the Galatian saints long ago had sought to be circumcised trying to get the final affirmation as God’s saved people? This would be akin to once again returning to the Law.
The Lord said that nothing is of use but faith working through love. It is through our faith, by believing that the Lord took upon all our sins, died on the Cross, and rose from the dead again, that we have reached our salvation. Yet despite this, are you still trying to be sinless by offering prayers of repentance?
My fellow believers, when certain insufficiencies of your flesh are revealed, what you need to do is admit that this is who you are by nature. Rather than saying, “I’m not like this actually,” you should admit your fundamentally weak nature. Since this is the basic nature of our flesh, we can’t help but follow the desires of the flesh if we don’t walk in the Spirit. This is who we are. Therefore, you should not feel frustrated when you somehow commit sin unintentionally. If you do not admit your real nature, you would keep on blaming yourselves, thinking, “This is not who I really am; I shouldn’t make such a mistake again.”
However, if you realize that this is who your true selves are, then you can find the solution. When your insufficiencies are exposed, you should first admit that this is who you really are. And then you should affirm that you have been saved and made new creatures freed from all your present insufficiencies by faith, believing that you had died with Christ, that He has blotted out all your sins, and that the Lord now lives in you.
Now that we have been freed from all our insufficiencies by faith, how should we live then? We now need to live according to the desires of the Holy Spirit. As mentioned, the desires of the Holy Spirit are the holy desires that God provokes in our hearts. The more we carry out God’s work, the more we want to do such holy works. Those who serve the Lord desire to serve Him more and more. Although they find it difficult at first, they want to serve the Lord even more as they realize how precious it is to serve Him. It’s very awkward and hard to bear witness of the gospel for the first time, but once we get used to it, we yearn to bear witness even more.
This is none other than the desire of the Holy Spirit. All that we have to do is just live according to such desires of the Holy Spirit. There is now no need for us to be bound by our sins and insufficiencies. We have been saved by faith. Today’s Scripture passage tells us that nothing avails but “faith working through love.” Since we have already been saved by faith, what’s the only thing remaining? All that remains for us to do is just to live according to the desires of the Holy Spirit.
Circumcision is a certain ritual of the Law. But do you really become God’s children and righteous people only if you cut off your foreskin? You may cut off all the body parts you want, from fingers to toes and feet, but this will not make you righteous. Even if you threw your bodies into the fire, your souls will not be justified.
How, then, can we be made righteous? It is by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the gospel of Jesus Christ who has worked through love, that we are made righteous.
That is why the Apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). And the Apostle Paul went on to tell us to live according to the desires of the Holy Spirit.
When the Bible tells us to walk according to the desires of the Spirit, you may think that there is something special to this, but that is actually not the case. Your hearts’ desire to serve the gospel is the very desire of the Holy Spirit. That is the Holy Spirit’s wish. The desires of the Holy Spirit are not that demanding; when we have a small desire to live for God, all that we have to do is just live according to this desire since this is the very desire of the Holy Spirit. When Christians live a spiritual life for God according to the desires of the Holy Spirit, their lives would be graded A+ before Him. They will pass the test with flying colors. Even though we constantly waver back and forth from the desires of the Holy Spirit to those of the flesh, our Christian lives would score perfectly as we live according to the desires of the Holy Spirit trusting in our salvation. This is what the Apostle Paul is telling us today.
That is why you have to shake away your mistaken thoughts. “When I am so hopeless like this, how could I live for others, for the Church, or for the gospel? I can’t even handle myself.” Do you, by any chance, worry like this? You too are like this. But even though this may be who you are, if you realize and believe in the fact that our Lord has blotted out all the sins of the world including yours, then you can still lead your lives of faith successfully. The Lord already knew that you would commit sin like this, and that is why He blotted out all your sins including the sins you would commit even after being born again.
Had the Lord taken away only original sin or your personal sins, then He would not have been the Lamb of God, nor could He have said, “It is finished,” at His death. But John the Baptist left a very concrete testimony of Jesus in the Bible, saying, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) By believing in this written Word as it is, all our sins were passed onto Jesus through His baptism, and we could be crucified to death and rise from the dead again in union with Christ. We are the righteous people born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
My fellow believers, do you have sin, or are you sinless? You have no sin. And now, you believe that you’ve passed your sins to Jesus Christ, died with Christ, and risen with Christ. Then what is in your hearts now? You have no sin, but only faith working amidst love. My fellow believers, it is by faith that we have been made sinless, and it is by faith that we have become God’s children. It is because we have no sin that we now yearn to do God’s work by faith.
That is why from now on, you must realize and believe that there is no sin in your hearts, and you must be freed from the bondage of your flesh. In the days to come, even if you are insufficient, you must still follow the desires of the Holy Spirit by faith. Although the born-again may not be able to follow the desires of the Holy Spirit all the time, at the center of their hearts, they still want to follow the Spirit’s desires by nature. A dog on a walk with its master may venture elsewhere to turn over garbage cans and sniff around looking for something to eat, but it soon comes back and follows its master. Likewise, even though we often follow the flesh and waver back and forth between the flesh and the Spirit, we are still the saved people who follow the Lord until the end.
Even though we are insufficient, we are now sinless, and therefore we must live according to the desires of the Holy Spirit. When we work faithfully from small things according to how God inspires us, then the Lord will make our hearts want to do even more works. If you don’t know what to do, then just carry out faithfully what has been entrusted to you by God’s Church. When we serve the Lord and the true gospel in anyway possible, we are made into truly upright Christians before God.
My fellow believers, God has given us liberty, not bondage. God has freed you from the ties that bound you, so that you may follow Him out of your own hearts’ volition, follow Him in joy, and serve Him in joy. The Lord has saved us through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, so that we should never again be bound by sin, nor by judgment.
Just as some people in the Early Church era who had heard the gospel from Paul received circumcision to cover their shortcomings, Christians in this present age are also trying to cover their sins by offering prayers of repentance when they sin. Is this faith right? No, of course not. Most Christians, however, don’t realize that the sins of the world were passed onto Jesus through His baptism, and this can only mean that they don’t really believe in Jesus. They don’t know that their old selves have already died with Jesus Christ by uniting with Him through His baptism and crucifixion. That’s why they resort to offering prayers of repentance. If they really believe in Jesus, then they would not try to wash away their sins through their own prayers of repentance.
Today’s Christians who try to receive the remission of their sins by offering prayers of repentance whenever they sin, are of those who have been cut off from Christ and drifted far away from Him, to be placed under the curse and condemnation. They are not the ones who truly believe in Christ. If anyone really believes in Jesus Christ, then even if he is insufficient, he would actually thank God for his insufficiencies by trusting in the Lord. You and I must be thankful to God whenever we find our insufficiencies because the Lord has blotted out all those sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
My fellow believers, you and I must lead our lives of faith being grateful to Jesus Christ by faith. You must never allow yourselves to turn into the pitiful who bind themselves only to perish away. Some saints confess that they wish to go out into the world, buy nice clothes, and see nice things, and that there are too many things they want to do. When you come down with a fever from all these desires, you have to recognize that this is actually who you are by nature. If you really need to buy a set of new clothes, then buy some clothes to quench your desire. Then, keep on following the Lord again. Is this somehow a sin? No, of course not. My only admonishment is that you shouldn’t fall into the desires of your flesh thoroughly and be discouraged by your thought that this is all that you are. That is only a small part of who you are. Your true selves want to follow God’s desires. You may be insufficient, but you are still righteous people. I ask all of you to have a clear understanding of your identity, and live by faith as God’s own children.
Even though you are insufficient, you are still God’s children who have been saved through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. I want you all to follow the Lord and praise Him, believing without any doubt that you are indeed righteous people before God, holy saints, of those who have received eternal life, and the workers of the righteousness of God. You have identified yourselves as such.
Those of you who have not been identified yet consider this Book of Galatians very difficult to understand. They can’t quite comprehend its spiritual teachings. So, they are likely to say, “What is Paul saying? I can’t understand what he is talking about. All that he needs to do is just tell people to live virtuously, and yet he is talking about something so complicated.” Even the theologians do not know exactly why the Apostle Paul was so angry at the circumcisionists in the churches of Galatia. They just mention the definition and lexicons of the circumcisionists.
For the born-again, however, Galatians, Hebrews, and Leviticus are flawlessly planted in their hearts as the simple and clear Word of Truth. When the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit read the Word of God, they are able to understand it very easily, and so they know it and accept it to be the Truth, taking it in as their food of faith.
Because God our Father loved us, He sent His Son to this earth, baptized His Son to accept every sin, and crucified His Son to die on the Cross in our place. So when you and I say that we believe in Jesus Christ, it means that we believe that all our sins were passed onto Jesus when He was baptized; that when this Jesus died, we also died; and that when He rose from the dead again, we, too, were resurrected. And since God the Father gave up His Son out of His love for us and condemned this Son for all our sins, it is by believing in Jesus Christ that we are saved. Because our souls have now been saved by faith, from this point on, our insufficient acts cannot trouble us any more, and all that we need is for our hearts to follow the will of God by faith
My fellow believers, we are the righteous who have received the remission of sin. Yet despite this, do you still feel as if you have to offer prayers of repentance every time your insufficiencies are revealed? “Lord, please forgive me. I’ve sinned. Please wash away my sins.” Most Christians today feel like this, and so with their tongues they give such prayers of repentance at the slightest wrongdoing. However, they can never be remitted from their sins in this way, no matter how ardently they might pray to God to wash away their sins.
The salvation of Jesus was already completed over 2,000 years ago, and it is only by believing in this Truth that one can receive the remission of his sins. Since this salvation that Jesus has brought to you through the gospel of the water and the Spirit now abides in your hearts, you are free from even the sins you commit at this present point. You have already been saved from all your future sins as well. That is the Truth. Do you believe this?
The worldly pastors are prone to make a fuss when they preach sermons to their congregations. They have no other choice but to be flamboyant because they have nothing to preach in their hearts. And to exploit the congregation for money, it’s inevitable for them to stir up their congregation’s emotion and throw them into a frenzy. When such pastors say, “Fire, fire, fire!” their congregations would say, “Amen. Hallelujah, Hallelujah!” Swept away by their own emotion, people carelessly empty out their pockets. That’s because filled with emotion, their minds get all disoriented, and they have little time to think straight. Emotionally overwhelmed, they give up all their money, and when this is not enough, they take off and hand over their jewels and precious stones. The religionists are obedient to these false prophets not because they have a genuine desire to serve the Lord, but because they lose their minds momentarily.
You and I may be insufficient, but we are still righteous people. We were crucified with Christ. And we have risen again. Although we are insufficient, we are God’s children. We are righteous people. We are the workers of righteousness. We who have truly been born again want to follow the desires of the Holy Spirit, out of our hearts’ wish to serve the Lord in anyway possible. All that such people like us have to do now is just live according to the desires of the Holy Spirit. These desires of the Holy Spirit are aroused when you carry out the Lord’s work. You are awakened to the Holy Spirit’s desires when you stop living according to the desires of the flesh, come to God’s Church where such desires of the Spirit can be aroused, listen to the Word, and unite your hearts with God’s work even if you are a bit insufficient.
When your hearts wish to do God’s work, do not ignore this desire, but continue to follow it even if it’s small, and unite with God’s servants and His Church. Once you do this, your small desire will grow like a snowball rolling downhill. In this way, you will come to have a burning desire to live for God, carry out God’s work more and more, and eventually, without even realizing it for yourselves, you will turn into God’s great workers. No matter how insufficient we might be, God has placed the Holy Spirit in our hearts. He has become our Savior abiding in us as the living God, and He has also given us the desires of the Holy Spirit so that we may do blessed works.
I thank the Lord for giving us such desires. I hope and pray that you would all live according to the desires of the Holy Spirit aroused in your hearts. Hallelujah!