Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. Galatians 1:3-9
The Gospel of Christ is simply the good news concerning Christ. The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth, that is, the favor and exact expression of God, came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17, 18).
I. What is Offered to Men in this Gospel?
1. Forgiveness. "He gave Himself for our sins" (v. 4). Here we have God's best, in contact with man's worst. The Holiest One in Heaven, with the foulest thing on earth. What must sin be in the eyes of God, when it took the life and death, and all the wealth of the character of His own Son to put it away? Now in Him we have redemption through His Blood, and the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7).
2. Deliverance. "That He might deliver us from this present evil age" (v. 4). Although forgiven and justified, we are still here in the midst of all the evils of this present age, and need to be delivered and continually kept from their enthrallment. "He is able to keep you from falling. "
3. Grace and Peace (v. 3). Grace sufficient to meet your every need, and the peace of God to keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Bless God for such a full salvation.
II. How are these Blessings to be Received? How can I make sure that they are mine? "Him that called you into the grace of Christ" (v. 6). The Gospel brings God's call to the soul to enter into the full enjoyment of that grace abounding which is in Christ Jesus. There is no other way but by the obedience of faith. You believe the message, you obey the call, and the grace of God does all the rest (1 John 3:5). "He is faithful that has promised. "
III. How Can this Gospel be Perverted? "There be some who would pervert the Gospel of Christ" (v. 7). The Gospel in itself cannot be perverted: it is always and everywhere the same. But it can be so misrepresented that the minds and thoughts of men may get a very distorted view of its real character. The Judaizer taught that they must be circumcised to receive the full benefits of the Gospel of Christ. We Gentiles are not concerned about being circumcised; but there are many who think that they ought to be compromised, that God will save them because of their moral character and good works. This is a perverted view of the Gospel of Christ. Anything we can do, or be, will never add any value to the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Therefore it is by faith that it might be by grace (Romans 4:16). "The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. "
IV. There is No Other Way. "Though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other Gospel, let him be accursed" (vv. 8, 9). Neither the wisdom of the ages, nor all time, nor eternity, will ever produce another Gospel whereby sinful men—without the grace of God in Jesus Christ His Son—can be saved. "There is none other Name under Heaven given among men, whereby you can be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus said: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes unto the Father but by Me. " "He who believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he who believes not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). Believe you this?
"THE LIFE I NOW LIVE." Galatians 2:16-21
This was certainly not the life he used to live, when he was "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), but it is a brief spiritual autobiography of the life he now lived. It is—
I. A Life Justified Without the Deeds of the Law. "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (v. 16). If we have offended in one point, we have broken the law. The law cannot forgive sin, but by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). To be justified in God's sight is to be free from guilt. So free from punishment.
II. A Life Imparted Through Faith in Jesus Christ. "We have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by faith in Christ" (v. 16). Thus by faith in Christ the righteousness of God is imputed to the believer. The law is but our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3). This is the Divine law of grace. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God."
III. A Life Lived Unto God. "I am dead to the law that I might live unto God" (v. 19). Being now delivered from the terrors of the law, and the ensnaring power of sin; saved out of the self-life into the happy freedom with which Christ has made His believing ones free, his one absorbing purpose is to love, honor, and obey Him who has redeemed by the Blood of His Son and brought into sweet communion with Himself.
IV. A Life Crucified with Christ. "I am crucified with Christ" (v. 20). The old man, with all his fleshly passions and lusts is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed (Romans 6:6). In the Cross of Christ he sees the whole body of his sinful nature nailed to the tree, and in this he gloried. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (chapter 6:14). Crucifixion is a painful remedy, but it is effectual.
V. A Life Indwelt by Christ. It is now, "Not I, but Christ lives in Me." He has now become, as it were, a new personality. A new will, a new purpose, and a new power now rules and reigns. Where Christ dwells is always a center of attraction, like the home in Bethany. To be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man is as Christ dwelling in the heart. This comes by faith (Ephesians 3:16, 17). Christ's indwelling is manifested by the Holy Spirit's presence and power. "Herein know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit" (John 4:13).
VI. A Life Continued by Faith in the Son of God. "The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God" (v. 20). This life begun by faith in Christ, is to be perpetuated by a continuous act of faith in Christ. By grace are we saved through faith, all the way long. Ours is a life of faith in the Son of God. We live by faith, not by sight. Continue in the faith, and be not moved away from this doctrine. He who endures to the end in this steadfast attitude of unfailing trust will be saved with a full salvation. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
LAW—GRACE—FAITH. Galatians 3:6-14
These three, but the greatest of these is "grace." The law shows us our need. Grace reveals God's provision to meet that need. Faith is the personal application of that provision to meet that need.
I. By the Law there is Condemnation.
1. It Demands a Perfect Obedience. "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things written in the law to do them" (v. 10). "He who offends in one point is guilty of all." You cannot break one link without breaking the whole chain.
2. It Cannot Justify a Transgression. "No man is justified by the law in the sight of God" (v. 11). It is easy for us to justify ourselves in our own eyes, but then it is with God we have to do. This was the delusion of the Pharisees (Luke 16:15).
3. To be Trusting the Works of the Law is to be Under the Curse (v. 10). That is a withering sentence against those who are hoping to earn eternal life by their trying to obey the just demands of the law. "Whatever things the law says, it says to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped" (Romans 3:19). The law would shut us up, that we might look to Christ.
II. By Grace there is Salvation. "Grace came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).
1. "Christ has Redeemed us from the Curse of the Law" (v. 13). Jesus Christ has bought us with His own Blood. We now belong to Him and are not under the law. So we are freed from its curse. One is your Master now, even Christ.
2. By "Being made a Curse for Us." "He was made under the law, that He might redeem them that were under the law" (Galatians 4:4, 5). He became under the law, that He might come into contact with those who were under the curse. He could not be made a curse for us by becoming disobedient to the law. He said: "I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). He willingly took the place and curse of those under the law, and bore their penalty when He was hanged on a tree (v. 13). He died for us, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
3. Christ Redeemed us "that we Might Receive the Promise of the Spirit" (v. 14). It is a great blessing for us to be delivered from the curse and dominion of the law. It is also a great honor to Christ that we should be possessed by His Spirit and made witnesses for Him. Is not this the ultimate purpose of our redemption? Saved to serve. He has redeemed us that we might receive the promise of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is promised to every believer in Jesus, and a promise is for faith. "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? " (Acts 19:2).
III. By Faith there is Justification. "The just shall live by faith" (v. 11). Abraham was justified by faith because he believed the promise (v. 6). This was 430 years before the law was given. The promise of eternal life, given us in Christ, which the Scripture foresaw before Abraham (v. 8) is an infinitely greater revelation of God than the law given by Moses. The law offers no promise, but is a command with a penalty for disobedience. Having no promise, then it cannot be by faith. The Gospel is a glorious God-honoring promise, therefore the appeal is to faith. "All that believe are justified from all things." "He who hears my Word, and believes in Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation" (John 5:24). As the Gospel is offered in promise, then salvation cannot be by works. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith (Romans 3:27).
THE PURPOSE OF THE INCARNATION. Galatians 4:4-7
I. The Time. "When the fullness of the time was come" (v. 4). There is no premature action in the Divine Providence. He does not pluck unripe fruit. The time was ripe for the coming of the long promised Seed (Genesis 3:15). The Mosaic age had come to its close. "Now once in the end of the age He appeared to put away sin" (Hebrews 9:26). The psychological moment had arrived, prophetically and politically, for the Coming of Him who was to bring to the sons of men the new age of saving grace.
II. The Person. "God sent forth His Son" (v. 4). The pre-existence of the Son is clearly implied. "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1). "He is before all things" (Colossians 1:17). "He only could speak of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was" (John 17:5). "It was by His Son God made the world" (Hebrews 1:2). Now by His Son He seeks to save it. What a "good-bye" among the angels when He left His Father's Home to take the form of sinful flesh, and become "God manifest in the flesh." It is humiliating to think that there are teachers so blind and so presumptuous as to say that this Christ was a product of the age. "God loved the world, and sent His only begotten Son" (John 3:16).
III. The Manner. "Made of a woman" (v. 4). With regard to His physical nature, He was born of a woman; but He was never called the Son of Mary. He was not the Son of Joseph. But He called Himself "The Son of Man," the Son of humanity, as if the blood of the whole race was in His veins. He was the Child of all ages and of all nations. "Unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given." As a child in human form He was born; but as a Son in the likeness of His Father He was given (Isaiah 9:6). "Made under the law." No angel ever knew what it was to be under the law, yet He who was higher than the angels, humbled Himself to become a debtor to do the whole law, and to be obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Neither the law, nor any of His accusers, nor the prince of this world, could find anything against Him (John 14:30). Worthy is the Lamb!
IV. The Purpose. When the clock of time struck the appointed hour, God sent forth His Son.
1. To Redeem "them that were under the law" (v. 5). All were under the law, and all were under the curse (chapter 3:10), and the only way of escape from the curse was by a Divinely ordained redemption: for no man could "redeem his brother." He gave Himself as the Surety for an insolvent humanity.
2. "That we might receive the Adoption of Sons" (v. 5). This sonship is based on redemption. There are those who teach that Christ came to reveal the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. These facts are implied in the teaching of Christ, but never is it stated that He came and suffered and died to make this known. "He came to seek and to save the lost." He came to redeem us, that we might receive the adoption of sons. All men are God's creatures, but only those who have been reconciled to God by the death of His Son can have the true spirit of sonship (v. 6). Sonship implies family likeness. "All one in Christ."
3. "If a Son, then an Heir of God." "An heir of God through Christ" (v. 7). "If children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16). All who are in Christ are heirs with Him of that inheritance of "honor and glory" which is now His, being exalted to the right hand of God. This is an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in Heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3, 4). "All are yours, for you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:23). "What think you of Christ?"
SOWING AND REAPING. Galatians 6:7-9
In chapter 5, verses 17-25, there is a description of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The contrast is between rottenness and perfect soundness, between the basest and the best. The works of the flesh are separate individual acts. The fruit—not fruits—of the Spirit are all of one, but manifold in its expression. This fruit is the outcome of the energy of the indwelling Spirit, and "against such there is no law," because they are above and beyond the law. Now he speaks about sowing to the flesh and sowing to the Spirit. Here we have—
I. An Unalterable Law. "Whatever a man sows that shall he also reap" (v. 7).
1. The Seed. The harvest will not be according to how much we know, but how much we sow. There may be a large stock of seed in the barn of the mind, but unless planted in suitable soil there shall be no profit in the time of harvest. The seeds of thought are sown in words and deeds. The "Word of God" is the incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23). That always brings forth fruit "after its kind."
2. The Soil. There are two classes of soil: the flesh and the Spirit. To sow to the flesh is to sow rotten seed, in a poisonous soil. Nothing can come from it but corruption. We sow to the flesh when we sow to our carnal self-pleasing, worldly lives. There is nothing in this for the honor of God, so it will rot like a lifeless carcass. To sow to the Spirit is to sow to the revealed will of God, that which is pleasing unto Him. Then the fruit of the Spirit will appear.
II. A Solemn Reminder. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked" (v. 7). No one can ever gather "grapes from thorns," or "figs from thistles," or the fruit of the Spirit from the works of the flesh. The flesh is bad, and cannot bring forth good fruit in the sight of God. The Spirit is good, and cannot bring forth evil fruit (Matthew 7:17, 18). By their fruits you shall know them.
1. Be Not Deceived. It is easy to deceive ourselves by false expectations, by trusting to appearances, by being guided by our feelings, instead of God's Word. We deceive ourselves when we think it matters not what we sow, if only we mean well. Would that be wholesome advice for a farmer? Most certainly the self-life will never produce the fruit of the Spirit.
2. God is Not Mocked. He is not going to be silenced and put to shame by men's indifference and unbelief, in regard to this great eternal law, that spiritual things can never be produced by carnal things. The unrenewed man cannot bring forth the fruits of the new creation. The flesh and the Spirit are as different as death and life. The Christless man sows to the fleshly life, and reaps corruption. The Christian sews to the Eternal Spirit and reaps life everlasting (v. 8).
III. A Word of Encouragement. "Be not weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not" (v. 9). We have much need of this cheerful word in these conflicting days. The season for us to reap the final harvest from all our spiritual sowing is not yet due; but the first fruits are being gathered, when the personal character is being made rich with the graces of the Holy Spirit. Some weary themselves looking for the fruits of their labors, and get discouraged because they seem so scanty and poor. Let such seek more earnestly that the fruit of the Spirit may be manifested in their own lives, and God will look after the fruit of their labors (John 15:5)