"This only would I learn of you, did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" - Galatians 3:2-3
Paul's message is very clear: the message of the Gospel that brings salvation is Christ - it's a gift, a free gift by grace. We receive it from God by the hand of faith, and there's nothing else involved. No works or no merits of our own! But Paul is at pains to get across that sanctification is exactly the same: it is by grace through faith, not of works of the law.
I challenge you: how are you living your Christian life? Are you trying to do what God has commanded? 'Trying' being the operative word - are you trying? Are you, perhaps, trying to do what others expect of you, or live up to the standard that they have ordained for you? Or are you living what is clearly New Testament Christianity, which is a personal faith-based relationship with God the Father, through abiding in His Son Jesus Christ by faith, and walking in loving obedience to the Word of God through the person and the power of the Holy Spirit? Whilst some may think this is splitting hairs, Paul didn't think so. This was such a serious issue that Paul actually accused these Judaisers in Galatia of preaching a different gospel, whether of salvation or sanctification. It was the difference between doing and being.
Paul said in Galatians 2:20: 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me'. That is how you live the Christian life! I thank God, through the recommendation of some Christians in my youth, I read a little book by Roy Hession called 'The Calvary Road'. There is one statement in that book that really sums up the whole issue of sanctification for me, and all that the New Testament teaches on it, and indeed what verse 20 of Galatians 2 is saying. Roy Hession says: 'The only life that pleases God is the life of His Son'. Think about that. The only life that pleases God is the life of His Son, and that is why our flesh - who we are in self - must die. Now it has died if we are saved, because we are crucified with Christ - it's a done deal, it has already happened. But yet we can still breathe life into the flesh, and try to live the Christian life through the flesh, try and do good deeds by the flesh. We are focusing on doing rather than being - allowing Christ to be in and through us. What Paul is saying in Galatians, and what the Holy Spirit says throughout the whole New Testament, is that the Christian life can never be achieved by law, it can only be lived through the Spirit. The crucified life is the starting point of all sanctification - and if it is not, your sanctification might well be of the flesh.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon