17 February 17, 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. 7Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. 10I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. 11And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. 12I would they were even cut off which trouble you. 13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:1-12)
There are two only cardinal Sacraments recognized in the formularies of the Anglican Church – Baptism and Holy Communion (Lord’s Supper). In the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer a Sacrament is defined as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us.” That is the message of our lectionary text from the Epistle to the Galatians today. Our salvation rests not upon ANY good works that we do, but solely upon the pure grace of God. Even baptism itself is only a reflection of what happens in the heart and not at the hands of men. Under the Old Testament Law, circumcision stood in place for that outward and visible sign – but circumcision itself saved no souls. It was the commitment of the heart that the practice represented. The same is true of Baptism.
We are made free in Christ. It was not by soldierly conquest that we gained that freedom in Christ, but by means of His own conquest of death and hell on the cross. I have seen many bumper stickers that read: “The soldier died to make you free, and Jesus died to save your soul.” That sounds great, but it is nonsense. Jesus died to purchase our freedom as well as to save our souls. He has already penetrated and captured the fortress of the dark Prince – now we need only occupy the recovered mal-appropriated domain until His return.
We are commanded to ‘Stand Fast” in that Liberty purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. That is a military as well as a spiritual command. We hold fast to that faith once delivered to the saints. We, like patriots of this free nation, must ‘stand fast’ upon the God-given rights for which our forefathers bled and died. In the same way, we must stand fast in the blood-bought Liberty that our Lord purchased for our souls which were in bondage to sin.
We are to ‘stand fast’ in the free grace of our Lord’s redemption. We enjoy that “Perfect Law of Liberty’ by that grace that made us free in the beginning. We can neither gain our salvation, nor sustain it, through the justification of good works. Good works after salvation, however, are emblematic of our conversion in Him. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 8:2-3)
We are to ‘stand fast’ in the faith imparted by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. Faith engenders all the markings of the Christian life – love, obedience, compassion, self-sacrifice, and persistent prayer.
So, we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, cared for widows and orphans – but if those works were not done in faith and obedience to Christ, and to His glory, they are devoid of any value whatsoever behind the Gates of Splendor. There are no works of the unconverted that are acknowledge as a means of salvation by God. Even good works are not good works unless done to the glory of God: “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.” (Proverbs 21:4)
For the lost sinner to believe he can earn his salvation flies in the face of all Scriptural warrant. It is prideful to claim justification by works. Pride forces a distance between the creature and His Maker.
Paul, in the last verse of our text, reminds us of the capital of the Pillar of our obedience to the Commandments of God – Love. “I would they were even cut off which trouble you. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” But love does not command us to suffer error and heresy of others – especially those who presume to teach. When confronted with false teachings in the church – and they multiply in the modern church like mushrooms after a spring rain – “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (KJV) Have you been received by the Father?