2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
Of all the multi-syllabic words used in theology, none is more controversial in the protestant/evangelical church than the word sanctification. Although physical wars are not fought over it, thousands of pages have been devoted to arguing and defending positions.
For the Apostle Paul, Justification is the foundation of Christian living. He argues in Galatians 2:16 that a man (read person) isn’t justified by works of the law, but by the faithfulness of Christ (read the Greek translation here: http://biblehub.com/interlinear/galatians/2-16.htm ) and by faith in that truth. It is a crucial argument, because a group of people were attempting to enslave the consciences of gentiles under the Law of the Old Testament. But Paul wouldn’t give an inch.
So, he continues the argument that it is not just that we are justified by the faithfulness of Christ Jesus (having faith in that promise), but that we live in the Spirit by that promise, as well. What else can produce love for our neighbor or love for God? If behavior is dictated, then it is not empowered by Grace. Instead it is coerced subservience.
God’s Spirit is given in the hearing of the Gospel. We live by that Gospel because it produces faith. And faith produces and empowers love and works of unconscious, selfless kindness. The Law cannot do that. It wasn’t built to:
10For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God …
19Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
The critical question then is, “Has the seed come?”
Paul argues that Jesus is Abraham’s seed. The small, negligible mustard seed that has become a great tree of which you are a part. We live on the sap of Grace running from the trunk of that tree into the branches to us. We are the recipients of a Grace which is foreign and offensive to those who would live by works of the Law. They must use another multi-syllabic word to describe those who would live in this freedom: anti-nomian.
The final question then, is, “Is it better to be anti-nominan or … Anti-Christ?”
May God have mercy.