If there is fruit in your life, you can have assurance of salvation. This is not fruit in terms of ministry, although a born again Christian would likely be used by God to bring life to others. But the ultimate test is fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace and so forth. The second set of criteria pertain to the works of the flesh and it is found in Gal 5:16-21. [READ]
Notice that in v16-17, Paul describes the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. If you are walking by the Spirit, you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.
It’s not okay to be exactly the same person now as you were before you met Christ. Change is inevitable. There is no such thing as a carnal Christian. If you are still carnal or of the flesh and you claim to know Christ, you got to check yourself. The Spirit desires what is contrary to the flesh.
Conversely, the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit. Christian life is an all-out war between your flesh and the Spirit of God. The two cannot co-exist. This doesn’t mean that Christians are perfect. Far from it. Our flesh, or our old sinful nature, is still there even after we encounter Christ unto salvation. But, a person who is consistently Spirit-filled, filled with the Spirit continuously, will display more and more of the fruit that accompanies the Spirit and less and less of the works that accompany his flesh.
What are the works of the flesh? Some of these are not that hard to resist. I hope no one here who claims to be a believer is promiscuous or attends secret sorcery societies during the mid-week. Or getting drunk, I hope that’s not the norm here. If you limit the list to those high visibility sins, then we might think, I’m good. I am not operating out of my sinful flesh. But we have to look at the other works of the flesh listed here, things like moral impurity, idolatry, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy and anything similar.
This subset of sins is troubling because you and I might be good at hiding these things. You might not be addicted to impurity on the internet, but search your heart and your thoughts. Do you find impurity there? You might not have a temper and you might be good at holding in your anger, but search your heart and your thoughts. Are there people that make you angry inside and just the mere mention of their name causes your blood to boil? What about jealousy or envy? We don’t often go up to a person and say, I’m jealous of you. I envy you. You are so good at everything and I am mediocre and you are so popular and I have no friends. We are not that honest. But just because we don’t verbalize our jealousy or our envy doesn’t mean we are not jealous or envious. Search your heart and your thoughts.
It’s much harder to look at these other works of the flesh and not be condemned of one or a combination of them. To make matters worse, the last phrase “and anything similar” tells us that this is not an exhaustive list. There are many manifestations of the flesh. Pride. Greed. Laziness. A lying tongue. Gossip. Slander. Malice. Lewd speech.
The point being–the works of the flesh are the visible manifestations that point back to an INVISIBLE root indicating that a person is living contrary to the Spirit and in accordance with his flesh, and if this is a repeated state of being over a period of time, that person’s salvation remains in question. Likewise, the fruit of the Spirit are the visible manifestations that point back to an INVISIBLE root indicating that a person is living in accordance with or in step with the Spirit, and therefore, that person can have an assurance of salvation.
Why is it so critical that we distinguish whether our root is in the flesh or in the Spirit as the general trend of our lives? The second half of v21–
21 …I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is scary to think we could go through our entire lives and assume we are fine because our doctrine is sound–we believe in Jesus and submit to the authority of Scripture on the surface–and discover at the end that we will not inherit the kingdom of God because the root of our lives all along was the flesh.
I’m going to sound like a broken record because the issue that Paul is addressing at the church in Galatia is more or less the same issue that we just covered in 2 Corinthians. Listen to Gal 1:6-10 and you will think I am reading from 2 Corinthians. Gal 1:6-10 [READ]
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the good news about the Messiah. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! 9 As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him! 10 For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.
The fact that there were false teachers in Corinth and now in Galatia is the reason why scholars believe that there was a movement of Judaizers, false teachers who taught wrongly that Christian believers need to observe certain Jewish traditions like circumcision. This shows us that every generation of true believers will face some type of false teaching or heresy that will threaten to lead many astray. For us, it could be the prosperity gospel, the false promise that God wants your money and if you give, He will bless you even more financially in this life. For Paul and his generation, he faced the threat of Judaizers. If you think about it, It makes sense that the early church had to fight this tendency toward making Christianity very Jewish in its expression because Christianity has Jewish roots. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from the Old Testament did focus His attention on one nation, Israel. He set them apart to His holy people and they demonstrated their holiness or set apartness from other nations by observing certain religious practices.
The old covenant had Jewish rules and regulations and these were pictures of the coming new covenant. The sacrificial system and the festivals and the Law were pointers to Christ. Christ came to fulfill all of these things. So in light of the new covenant, it makes no sense to hold onto traditions whose sole purpose was to point to a Person when the Person has arrived. It’s like if you are in a long distance relationship. Because you are not physically together, every email and text message is so precious. You re-read them over and over again as you think about how great it will be when you are face to face. What if the person whom you love is in town? You would forget about the emails because the love of your life is right in front of you. It would be weird if you were together and you were having dinner, and during the meal, you pulled out your smartphone and you kept reading over the emails as if the person is not there. Kind of creepy actually.
When you are driving on the freeway, signs point to the number of miles to your destination. We have reached the destination. Jesus has come. No more need to fixate on the signs. We have arrived at the destination–Jesus has arrived.
We have to recognize that whenever there is deviation from the gospel, we are dealing with false teachers, yes, but ultimately, we are dealing with Satan. It’s Satan’s goal to deceive and lead many astray. He masquerades as an angel of light. How does Satan accomplish his goal of deception? Through false teachers who think they are doing God’s will but who are unwitting instruments of darkness.
4 This issue arose because of false brothers smuggled in, who came in secretly to spy on the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us.
False teachers or false brothers. What is their goal? To spy on our freedom in Christ and to convince us to turn away from freedom to enslavement. This verse shows us that in any given church, there is a mixture of true brothers and sisters and false brothers and sisters. Just because you’ve been in this church for many years and we know each other well and we have a good relationship–these things alone do not guarantee that we are true brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s why we give every prospective member at the Hill a chance to go over their salvation testimony. It’s important to check our foundation. Am I truly saved? I said I made a decision in elementary school, but am I still the same person deep down, or is there fruit in my life? This is an important question to wrestle with. At churches, there is a bright line of demarcation that separates true Spirit-filled, born again believers from carnal Christians who are not really Christian because their root is still in the flesh.