Dear Church Family,
In the sermon this past Sunday, we examined the doctrine of justification from Galatians 2:15-21. In verse 16, we learn that “man,” “we,” and “all flesh” are not justified by works of the Law but by faith in Christ Jesus. That is to say, in His plan of redemption, God justifies (declares righteous) those who trust in Christ by imputing the righteousness of Christ to them. In the Law, all mankind is condemned, but by faith in Christ we are justified. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone.
In the sermon this coming Sunday, we will examine the doctrine of sanctification from Galatians 2:15-21. In the latter part of these verses, Paul speaks not of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ, but of living by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). As the redeemed of the Lord, Christ now lives in us. As a result, the Law of God takes on an added function for those who are born again through faith in Christ. We begin to live our lives by faith in the Son of God, and this faith is marked by a love of the God’s Law and a desire to keep it. The Apostle John puts it this way: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
In learning about electromagnets with my children, we once made one at home. We got some wire and wrapped the wire real tight around a nail. Then, we took the ends of those two wires and connected them to a power source (two D-Cell batteries) so that the electric current from the batteries passed through the wire. When the electricity passed through the wire that was tightly wrapped around the nail, the nail became magnetized – the nail became an electromagnet.
So, now, think about this. When the nail is all by itself and there is no electricity passing through the wire, it is not magnetized. Therefore, when you touch a piece of iron to the nail, it won’t do anything. It’s just a nail and a piece of iron. But, when you connect the wire that’s wrapped around the nail to a power source, you change the nature of the nail. The nail becomes magnetized and the relationship between the nail and the piece of iron changes. Now, the magnetized nail actually attracts the piece of iron.
Our relationship to the Law of God is much like the relationship between that nail and the piece of iron. In our natural, fallen condition, the Law is only a burden because we are only sinners – like the nail in its natural condition is just a nail. As sinners, the Law of God condemns us and shows us our need for an alien righteousness that is not our own. The Law simply condemns us and shows us our need to be justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His imputed righteousness.
But, when you are born of God, made a new creation in Christ Jesus, given the gift of faith, made a new creation, you now have the ability to love and keep God’s commandments. Just as the relationship of the nail to the piece of iron changes when it is magnetized, so too, your relationship to the Law of God changes when you are born again. Yes, the Law still condemns you and shows you your need for Christ. But now, as one who has been regenerated and justified in the eyes of God, Christ lives in you. You have been made alive to God. And His Law becomes attractive, a delight – something that you now, by faith, are actually able to keep.
Will Christians always delight in the Law? Not completely – at least not until heaven. There are still times when the weight of God’s commandments are burdensome, but that’s only because of the remaining remnants of our sin nature. We feel the weight and burden of the Law when we listen to the enticements of the world, our flesh, and the devil – they’re trying to call us back to think and live as if we haven’t been changed.
But, if you are born of God, and believe that Jesus is the Christ – trusting in Him for your salvation – His commandments are not burdensome. That’s part and parcel to the good news of the gospel! It’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
When you take Jesus’ yoke upon you, the weight and burden of the law is lifted. And, now, instead of a set of burdensome commandments that you can never keep, the Law becomes a delight. Your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the victory. Jesus bought and paid for you with His own precious blood – you are born of God – your salvation and eternal destiny is safe and secure. And, now, instead of God’s wrath, in the Law you see His gracious, loving, and guiding hand – teaching you how to live and how to love!
That’s what sanctification is all about. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sanctification as “the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness” (WSC 35). By faith in the Son of God, we live more and more unto righteousness. By the grace of God, we learn to live more and more in accordance with the Law of God. Or, as Paul puts it, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20).
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch