In Galatians 3:1-9, Paul essentially says the same thing that has been repeated in my first two posts from Galatians (here and here). Essentially, the question is asked, “If your salvation has come via the Spirit, then in what way do you expect to be sanctified?” Let me put it a different way. If the way that you know you are saved is by the new birth, which Moses called heart circumcision, which the prophets declared to be by the taking out of the old heart and replacement with a new heart, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit, then by what means did you receive that? Was it through your own efforts, or did God come into your life at a certain point and utterly change everything you knew about yourself?
If we claim that the new birth is effected by the Spirit, then why do we expect our sanctification to be by any other way? Ephesians 1:13 tells us that we’re sealed with the Holy Spirit. What could it mean that we’re sealed? We find a further explanation in 2 Corinthians 1:22, where Paul tells us that God has set His seal of ownership upon us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Again in Ephesians 1:14, we see that this guarantee is the inheritance we’ve been promised at the end of the age.
This taps us into an unfolding mystery. You and are are a part of something bigger than you and I. We’re part of the invisible cloud of witnesses, who are not complete (or made perfect) without us. We, too, shall not find our inheritance here and now, but must wait for Christ’s return when He shall grant us the City whose foundations are not built with human hands.
This is where it gets difficult, because the point of Hebrews 11-12 is that they did not receive it, but we have. Yet, the point that Paul is making over and over again when referencing this same principle is that when our Lord returns, He shall give us an inheritance. The two statements don’t conflict. As much as Christ Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and is seated in glory, so too are we granted access here and now to the eternal weight of glory. However, don’t think that this means what we experience is the ultimate; it is the penultimate. There is still a time when the Lord shall rule from Jerusalem, an earthly Kingdom of God being established by which all of the nations shall walk according to its light and rule.
We have been given the tremendous blessing of the Spirit, that we’re a part of something eternal, and not something boxed in the temporal. Because we’ve been granted access into heaven itself, and not merely to petition the throne, but to rule with Christ from heaven, seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph 2:6), ambassadors who know that this is not our home, consumed with that which is eternal and does not fade away, we are no longer in submission to the things that do fade away.
At one point in our lives, our focus upon the things of this world. Even if our story is much like Paul’s, that we grew up within the religious tradition and were righteous according to it, there comes a point in time in which we must recognize that such righteousness is not righteous at all. Our focus is utterly upon the things of this world, even while rejecting it. You don’t have to drink, be lewd, smoke, party, or entertain the more blatant outward sins to realize that you have focused upon temporality.
Temporality is anything that shall not last into eternity.
Leonard Ravenhill used to ask, “Is what you’re living for worth Christ’s dying for?” I’d put it a different way. Is what you spend your time thinking, doing, and teaching going to continue forever into eternity, or will it one day be obsolete? It might be incredible discipline to be able to throw a ball from 30 feet back upward to get it in a small ring without using the backboard. But, how much of that will last into eternity? Is that truly something that you can tell me you believe to have eternal significance?
I’ll address this another way.
Eternality is where heaven and earth meet. It is where what you’re doing brings you satisfaction to the uttermost. It is where contentment remains. It is where you are not condemned in Christ Jesus (and you don’t have to continually remind yourself).
Law is not simply Old Testament (or Leviticus and Deuteronomy). When you actually go back and read these books (instead of just accusing them without even knowing what they say), you find that the Old Testament is tremendously saturated with the grace of God and with salvation through faith. The first mention of heart circumcision is not in the prophets, as many suspect, nor in the New Testament, as even more suspect, but in Deuteronomy 10:16, and even before that in Leviticus 26:41. Heart circumcision is a New Testament phenomenon (in the eyes of most believers), and yet because we simply are in complete ignorance of the Old Testament, we had no clue that Moses said it.
Law is what we put on ourselves to come before God. It is to see our nakedness and wrap up in fig leaves, knowing that the fig leaf curls to hide fruit. The first instance of law is in Genesis 3, when the man and woman hid themselves in the bushes. It then continues through Genesis 4, when Cain brought of the ground, but it was Abel who had faith and knew what God desired. The act of Cain’s offering is not to show that God wanted blood (the Hebrew word is minchah, which is specifically the bloodless sacrifice of Leviticus), but to show that Cain did not act in faith, and the proof was that he succumbed to sin, slaying his brother in anger.
We have from this the first mention of a city. This city was named Enoch, and it is the root from which we can trace to the story of Babel. Babel is the beginning to the word Babylon, which is rooted all the way back in Genesis 4 – the exact earthly manifestation of the kingdom of darkness. It is that darkened city, the tangible representation of law, that we have all been a part of, desiring acceptance before God through our own works and our own ways of coming before Him. It doesn’t work like that, and the result is that we bind ourselves to other gods, whether music, cigarettes, violence, hatred, porn, or something else. Babylon is the system of politics and religion that offer freedom, but can never deliver. It promises something it lacks, but knows how to manipulate by causing to feel pleasure for a moment.
It is not to Babylon that we serve, which Paul will later explain to be the earthly Jerusalem (see 1 Peter 5:13, Matthew 2:2, Revelation 11, etc), but to the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, the heavenly dwelling, unto Zion that we have come. Ultimately, Jerusalem in the days of the apostles is much like the Jerusalem of modern day. It is to be the beautiful city of God, but instead it anguishes over the coming of her Messiah. The reason is because Jerusalem has become Babylon – the place that has slain all the prophets (Revelation 16:6, 17:6, Lamentations 4:13, Isaiah 49:26, Luke 13:33).
So, the question that Paul is presenting here is not of law, meaning Torah, and grace. It is of law, meaning humanly obtained righteousness, and grace. Our sanctification does not come through our works, as if our works were enough to save us. Our sanctification is not a matter of learning to do the right things and no longer doing the wrong things. Sanctification is a state of being, and not a matter of doing. It is a process of the righteous being righteous, learning what it means to do all things in faith, and to renew our minds through the washing of the word. Sanctification is about becoming what we already are, about realizing our true potential in Christ, and about laying hold of that potential. Sanctification is the outworking of the circumcised heart; it is the new birth enacted in life, mindset, attitude, and charity. By the Spirit we were given the new heart, and by the Spirit we live according to that new heart.