Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
I Corinthians 15:58.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord:”
Every true and faithful servant of God is man’s most valuable friend and benefactor. The most faithful servant of God, who has lived on earth since the days of the Lord Jesus on earth, was the Apostle Paul. Many thousands were blessed beyond measure by his oral and written ministry when he was here among men, and millions have received rich spiritual blessings through his written messages since he suffered martyrdom, about 67 A.D., for his loyalty to his Lord and the Word of His grace. Something of the courageous, uncompromising devotion of this greatest of all Christians is told in his words recorded in Galatians 1:10 and in his words uttered shortly before he laid down his life for his faithful testimony. “For if I yet pleased men I should not be the servant of Christ.” “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” II Timothy 4:7.
This great victory meant great suffering. We have said that Paul suffered martyrdom for Christ’s sake. But is “suffered” the right word? Let us carefully note Paul’s language in Acts 21:13: “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Concerning this mission, and the hazard connected with it, note again Paul’s words in Acts 20:24: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course WITH JOY, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God:”
In the face of suffering even unto death, he spoke of finishing his course with joy. He had received his ministry from the Lord Jesus and his course was “to testify” the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul, as a faithful shepherd, had to feed God’s flock, and he also had to keep away the religious wolves that would not spare the flock. Acts 20:29 and 30.
Since the days of Paul, the religious wolves have multiplied, until today they are without number. In any way and every way possible they beguile and bewitch sinners and saints with a religious message which they declare to be God’s message. With their religious mixture they pervert God’s “grace” message of salvation. They frustrate the grace of God and thereby preach another gospel, which is not another. Galatians 1:6 to 10. Galatians 2:21. In Paul’s day these religious prophets not only subverted the souls of sinners, but they used every endeavor to turn the hearts of Paul’s spiritual children against him, and frequently with great success. Then Paul would write them a message of grace and do his utmost to bring them back to the grace of Christ. In one such message he wrote: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” Galatians 3:1. They had really been bewitched by receiving a religious program to supplement the “grace” salvation message. When Paul found them as unsaved heathen, and preached to them, “declared righteous without a cause by God’s grace through the redemption that was in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24), they were gloriously saved and they greatly rejoiced. But then went forth the false brethren, preaching, “except ye be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, ye cannot be saved” Acts 15:5 and 24. Those who received this perverted gospel became Paul’s enemies. The grievous wolves did not spare the flock.
As some preacher in England wrote some years ago, if Paul had not taken an uncompromising stand against these teachers, who, in the first century, were determined to corrupt Paul’s gospel of grace by adding to it the religious program of the Jews which they brought over from the reign of law, humanly speaking, the “grace” message would have been lost before the apostle died. But later on it was so completely covered up with the corruption of Christendom for many centuries that it was lost so far as the great majority of people were concerned, especially during the many years when they had no Bibles. And to the majority of church-members today it is still lost.
Not only did false brethren succeed in taking from many believers their liberty so that they were again entangled with the yoke of bondage, but other false prophets followed Paul to Corinth and other cities, and taught the new converts that there would be no resurrection of the dead; that is, that the bodies of believers would not be raised. To them Paul wrote that if believer’s bodies were not to be raised, then Christ’s body was not raised. And if so, what? All the apostles were false witnesses. All saints who had died had perished. All the sacrifices and sufferings of saints were worse than folly. All the preaching of a hope beyond-the grave was vain. The preaching was vain, the hope vain, and all the works of saints in vain. This is the message of the fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians. But this is not all that is contained in that wonderful chapter.
At the present time, preachers among Christians who preach salvation by religion or by doing, and who deny the bodily resurrection of Christ, call themselves “Liberals” or “Modernists”. But in Paul’s day they were called “grievous wolves”, “false brethren”, and “servants of Satan transformed into an angel of light.” II Corinthians 11:13 to 15. But at this present time there are many false prophets who believe and teach the eternal Deity of Jesus Christ, salvation by grace, faith in the shed blood of Christ plus something else; and who believe and teach the bodily resurrection. Remember some of the Galatians, who were Fundamentalist, were heretics.
Note Paul’s short but full answer to the religious teachers who teach salvation either by works wholly or in part. “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21. He wrote the Corinthian saints that their labour in Christ was not in vain, because Christ was raised and saints are to be raised at His coming.
Will a Christian make the death of Christ vain? Think of the ignorance, or presumption, the spiritual crime of trying to make the great sacrifice of the Son of God vain! God spared not His only Son. Romans 8:32. Think of that hour of darkness when the holy Son of God hanging on that cross of shame had cried, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. “God is love.” I John 4:8. What is the measure of God’s love? How much did God love the world? The Lord of Glory on the cross, is the answer. What does God say that Christ did on that cross? He “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Hebrews 9:26. “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead in sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” I Peter 2:24. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. I Peter 3:18. “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Hebrews 9:12. This is what Christ did with sin by His death and resurrection.
Yes, He hath obtained redemption for us. What kind of redemption? Eternal redemption. What did He do with religion and the law?
Colossians 2:13 to 16.
“And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.”
If righteousness came by the law (by religion), Christ died in vain. If the poor sinner turns away from the grace of God, from Christ and Calvary, and the open sepulchre, where will he turn? There is only one other place to turn, and that is to Mount Sinai with its “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”; with its ordinances, ceremonies, and the blood of animals that could never take away sin. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. Therefore the question of Acts 15:10: “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
“(For they could not endure that which was commanded.) Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you is justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him Who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Hebrews 12:20; Romans 4:15; Galatians 5:4; Romans 7:4; Galatians 3:13.
To turn to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount or His Golden Rule for salvation is to find death instead of life. There is no salvation or justification in the ethical philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. Man, by nature, is dead in trespasses and sins. He is in the flesh. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:8. The penalty for sin is death. Christ died for our sins. The sinner is in bondage to sin. To put him again under the law means “bondage again”; for he is obligated to keep the whole law and not offend in one point or be guilty of all. By faith in the redemptive work of Christ, His death and resurrection, the believing sinner is free from the law of sin and death and he is free from the law of Sinai. Romans 8:2 and Romans 7:3 to 6. And then what?
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1.
Before the believer can walk worthy of the vocation wherewith he is called, walk well pleasing unto the Lord, before he can serve the Lord acceptably, he must obey Galatians 5:1. He must stand in grace having a sure foundation.
Stand fast in the liberty. “Ye have not received the spirit of, bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15.
Are you a child of God? If so, what made you a child of God’? Who made you a child of God? What did you have to do with it? Was there any doing? What did you do? Did Christ obtain eternal redemption for us? Hebrews 9:12. Did Christ do a perfect work of redemption? What work does God want a sinner to add to the perfect work of His perfect Son that that sinner might be redeemed? Who set the believer free? Whom the Son sets free, shall be free indeed. John 8:36.
If Christ has set us free, we do not have to do anything to set ourselves free. The sum total of our doing is to believe and receive Christ and His doing. Then stand fast in the liberty. Beware of religion. Beware of any and every message of salvation by character, or religious doing. Stand fast in the liberty wherein Christ has set us free. Christ has set us free? Who? Christ. Believe it and stand!
Stand fast in the liberty. Liberty means, no longer the slave of sin, headed for the wrath of God and judgment after death. Inasmuch as religion could never liberate a sinner, why become a slave to religion? “Be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage.”
The only religion which God ever gave to man was the religion He gave to Israel, through Moses. That was imposed until the time of reformation. Hebrews 9:10. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Romans 10:4. The kingdom of God is no longer meats and drink, but righteousness. Romans 14:17. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Romans 10:10. Righteousness is the believer’s passport to glory. Religion is not righteousness. God’s sons today have Christ and Christ is the believer’s righteousness and life. God’s people, under their religion, received the spirit of bondage unto fear. Romans 8:15. They did not receive the Spirit of adoption, crying Abba, Father. During the present reign of grace there is no such thing as the Christian religion. Believers have eternal life. Believers are in Christ. Christ is in believers. Believers are accepted in Christ; without condemnation in Christ; and complete in Christ. Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:1; Colossians 2:10.
God says, “Keep out of religious entanglements.” All religious people are entangled. Religion that is not God-given is Satanic. The only religion that God gave was abolished by the death and resurrection of Christ. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4.
It is not the immoral, irreligious sinner, who once claimed to be a Christian, who is fallen from grace. The one who is fallen from grace is the moral, religious man who professes to be a Christian but who is depending for his righteousness upon his religious activities in addition to “the perfect work of Christ.” To turn from Calvary, where Christ cried “finished”, to Sinai, the ministration of death and condemnation (II Corinthians 3:7 and 9), is to fall from grace.
The sinner who turns to religion, without receiving eternal life through Christ, is twice dead, plucked up by the roots. Beware of any kind of legalistic religious entanglement.
“And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.”
Romans 4:3 and 4.
“For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”
HOW ABOUT GOOD WORKS?—BE STEADFAST
But do not stand idle if you are sure your trust is in God’s grace and the redemption that is in Christ. Get busy! waste no time! Be steadfast!
I Corinthians 15:58.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
The Lord Jesus Christ died not only to save us from the penalty of sin, but, “Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, ZEALOUS OF GOOD WORKS.” Titus 2:14. Note, “to purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The Lord’s redeemed ones are to prove that they are a peculiar people by their good works. No proof is necessary so far as God is concerned: “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” II Timothy 2:19. But note the rest of this verse in II Timothy, “And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Departing from iniquity is included in the good works. The world says, “show me your faith by your works.”
The Lord’s peculiar people are in the world but not of the world. They are dead to sin. The unsaved people are dead in sin: they are in sin; in the flesh; in Adam. The Lord’s people are new creatures in Christ. They are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10. God’s order is; first, God’s workmanship and then God’s workmen.
God is not a taskmaster over His redeemed people. They are not servants as the Israelites were under the law. Neither must God’s people work to be redeemed. But God says to His redeemed ones, “ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.” They love, the Lord because He first loved them. “For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all then were all dead. And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” II Corinthians 5:14 and 15.
Moreover, God reminds His people that He is not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love. Hebrews 6:10. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 3:11. “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” I Corinthians 3:14. No believer will ever serve God for nought. He shall receive a reward. We may be sure that God’s rewards are worth striving for. Our labours in the Lord are not in vain. Remember, “labours in the Lord”. One must not only be “in the Lord”, but all of one’s labour must be “in the Lord”. Hear this most important instruction as to how to serve God if you expect a reward.
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” Colossians 3:17.
Also note carefully Hebrews 12:1 and 2: “Wherefore seeing ye are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Here we note that we cannot depend upon our own ability or genius, no matter how wise or clever we may be. And while the Lord’s redeemed ones should always help one another to run a good race, to fight the good fight of faith, we know how miserably they fail in this; and if we look unto man, or if we get our eyes fixed upon circumstances, conditions, failures, or human patterns, we’ll not be steadfast and unmoveable.
It means much to be steadfast and unmoveable. Paul practiced what he preached. He was steadfast and unmoveable. Note his words in I Corinthians 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than, they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” He presents himself as a pattern, for believers in Christ.
“Brethren, be followers together of me.” Philippians 3:17. “Be ye followers of me even as I also am of “Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1. “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy; that in me first, Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to fife everlasting.” I Timothy 1:16.
Note what is said about Moses’ incentive to faithful service: “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of reward.” Hebrews 11:26. He had respect unto the recompense of reward. Note Christ’s words: “And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:14. Because our labour is not in vain in the Lord we should always abound in the work of the Lord. We would emphasize the two words “always” and “abounding”.
Always. Abounding. Something more than Sunday church services. Faithful service every day in the week.—Always—“Herein is My Father glorified that ye bear much fruit.” There is so much to be done for God and for man.
“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” John 4:35 and 36.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.