THE ARGUMENT BASED ON GALATIANS 5
Galatians 5:4 says, "You have been brought to nought, separated from Christ, you who are being justified by law; you have fallen from grace." When many read this verse, they think that, first, one can be separated from Christ, and second, one can fall from grace. Such a one is surely not saved. This understanding is wrong. We have to realize the background in which Paul wrote the book of Galatians. When the clear gospel of God was preached to Galatia, the people there heard it. After this, false prophets came to Galatia to preach the gospel. They did not change the first half of the gospel; they changed the second half. The first half said that man was saved only by trusting in Christ and receiving Christ. However, the second half said that before one believes in the Lord Jesus, he cannot have the righteousness from the law; but after one receives the Lord Jesus, he should have the righteousness of the law. Paul wrote the book of Galatians just to refute them. He argued that as a man cannot have the righteousness of the law while he is yet a sinner, in the same way, he cannot have the righteousness of the law after he is saved. We have seen in the previous few messages that Romans and Galatians are different. Romans says that while we are sinners, we cannot have the righteousness of the law. Galatians says that after a sinner is saved, he still cannot have the righteousness of the law. The subject of both books is not having the righteousness which is of the law. These ones taught that after a man has believed in Christ, is saved, and has eternal life, he has to have the righteousness of the law. The first thing and the minimum requirement of the righteousness of the law is circumcision.
After you are clear about the background of this book, you will know what Galatians is speaking of here. In chapter one Paul said that he marveled that the Galatians were so quickly removing from Him who had called them in the grace of Christ to a different gospel. He marveled that they were so quickly deceived to follow another gospel (v. 6). He also said that if he, an angel, or any spirit came and preached to them a gospel different from what they had received, they should be anathematized. The word anathematize is the strongest word of curse in the Greek language. It means that all the curse in heaven falls on the cursed one and that all the blessings are withheld. Paul said that his gospel was revealed to him by God alone. He received it in the wilderness of Arabia. This is the reason that his gospel could not contain any mistake. Galatians 2 tells us what this gospel is. In this chapter Peter pretended. When he saw the Jews coming in from James (vv. 11-12), he maintained himself as a Jew. Paul rebuked him to his face. Circumcision means nothing. Christ has already died. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives. Chapter three tells us that God’s goal is not the law but the promise. The reason that God gave man the law was to cause man first to know his sin and then to accept the Son of God. Chapter four brings out two other things to show us that it is useless for man to keep the law even if he is able to do it. Hagar represents the law, and Sarah represents grace. Hagar must go before Sarah can remain. Even if you can keep the law, you are just Hagar, and you still have to go. The first sentence in chapter five is, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Christ has brought us into freedom. We must now stand firm in this freedom. Do not lose this freedom. If a man keeps circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to him. If the system of the law is retained, Christ will have to be denied. One cannot keep the law a little and then ask Christ to make up the rest. Christ never does this kind of piecemeal work. Hence, Paul said, "And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to do the whole law" (5:3). Why would some not choose other things in the law? Why would some only pick up the matter of circumcision? Why would they only pick up what they liked and not keep the whole law? If they wanted to keep one item of the law, they would also have to keep the entire law. If one stays, all have to stay. They cannot choose one and reject all the others. Verse 4 says, "You have been brought to nought, separated from Christ, you who are being justified by law; you have fallen from grace." To be brought to nought from Christ means the same thing as Christ profiting nothing at the end of verse 2. It seems as if Christ is not expressed in you. You do not have forgiveness, joy, and peace. Furthermore, if you follow the law, Christ will be brought to nought in you. Here, it is not a matter of receiving salvation. It is speaking of the condition to be saved. Suppose a brother comes to me and says, "Mr. Nee, I should keep the Sabbath. If I do not keep the Sabbath, my salvation will not be complete." I know that this brother is indeed saved. There is no question about it. Now that he has received such a wrong teaching, I must tell him, "If you keep the Sabbath, the work of Christ will have no effect on you. It is of faith that we are in Christ. Now you have gone back to the law. You have fallen from grace." Thus, it is not a question of salvation or perdition. It is a matter of the condition for being saved. It shows us that a man is saved by Christ and not by himself. If a man keeps the law, there will be no grace.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 17, by Watchman Nee)