Running Well by Standing Fast (Galatians 5:7–12)

“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” —Galatians 5:7–9

The race of faith is one in which if you are cut off, you take the blame. If you’re tripped, you’re at fault for not being ready. If you’re not running well, it’s because you’re not standing fast (Galatians 5:1). Enemy interference is expected. This is no gentleman’s race. It is a race for warriors.

The word translated “hindered” can carry the connotation of being cut off. It’s hard to avoid the double entendre. By circumcision the Judaizers were trying to cut the Galatians off in the race of faith. The knight cannot reason that he committed treason because his opponent had a bigger sword.

If you are duped by a false teacher, the blame falls on you. If you eat the apple, you cannot blame the serpent. Tolerated lies are soon digested. Stand firm. Do not submit. Give no quarter.

Rest assured, the serpent and his spawn have been crushed under the crucified foot of Christ. Our Lord will manifest this victory when He returns in glory and the serpent is crushed under the feet of the saints (Romans 16:20). But the saints are those who persevere in the faith. So, paradoxical as it may seem, if you are to run well, you must stand fast.

If (Colossians 1:21–23)

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. —Colossians 1:21–23

This once/now contrast is only a reality if. Colossians 1:21 is true of all men. All men were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, but for many, there is no contrasting now, as evidenced by the failure of this if. This is not to say that a Christian can revert from their now of reconciliation to their once of alienation. It is to say there is evidence that they never made the transition. Who they once were, they’ve always been and still are.

This is not an if of grounds, but an if of evidence. When a doctor says, “If you have these symptoms, then you have the flu,” the symptoms are not the grounds or cause of the flu. Coughing doesn’t make you sick; being sick makes you cough. Symptoms are not he grounds of sickness; they are the evidence of sickness.

Continuing in the faith does not make you reconciled, any more than sneezing makes you sick. Continuing in the faith evidences reconciliation. If one is reconciled, they necessarily show forth this evidence. “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 4:13).”

The saints of old spoke of “the perseverance of the saints,” whereas we hear “once saved always saved,” or “eternal security.” Perseverance does not say less but more than these other terms. “Once saved always saved,” taken alone, is a neutered version of perseverance. “Eternal security,” is a good enough term, but often disguises an emasculated doctrinal definition. Perseverance says God’s saving grace not only secures your justification and glorification, but keeps you on the road of sanctification that runs from one to the other. Listen to how the Westminster Divines teased this out.

They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

The flip side of perseverance is preservation. We persevere in the faith because God preserves our faith. What God gave, He keeps. By God’s power, we are guarded through faith for salvation (1 Peter 1:5). We will remain faithful because God is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24). Our continuing is the result of His sustaining (1 Corinthians 1:8–9).

If you do not continue, your once is your now. “But I walked an aisle, I said a prayer, I have a Bible with a date in it, I was baptized, my parents and my pastor told me I was saved.” There are two serious problems here. First, you’re grounding assurance of your salvation in something you did in the past instead of what Jesus did in the past. Second, you’re not meant to find assurance about your future by looking for grounds in the past, but evidence in the present. Is there fruit that you have the root of salvation in Jesus’ work of reconciliation? Are you continuing in the faith right now, stable and steadfast, not shifting?

If not, don’t try to continue in a faith that you’ve never had. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved with so great a salvation that you will continue in the faith.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” —Jude 24–25

God Is not Unstable so Be Not Unstabled (Exodus 32:1–14)

The point of the text is not to paint God like some Roman deity. God is not moody. God isn’t temperamental or vindictive. God is not emotionally erratic and unreliable. Exodus 32 should not cause the saints to doubt God’s faithfulness, rather, just the opposite. God’s covenant faithfulness is unfailing.  Everything that happens in Exodus 32 is part of God’s sovereign plan. Consider four things.

First, read this singular instance in light of the whole of Scriptures that show God as sovereign over all things. Israel’s sin and Moses intercession are both part of God’s plan.

Second, Moses has pleaded with God on the basis of God. Moses has not spoken of how good the people are. Moses has not bartered with God as Abraham did, asking that if there are just ten righteous that God would spare them. Moses pleads with God upon the basis of what God has done (Exodus 32:11), out of zeal for God’s glory (Exodus 32:12), and because of what God has promised (Exodus 32:13). This isn’t Moses changing God’s sovereign will, but instead, revealing it.

Third, God set Moses up. When God says, “let me alone (Exodus 32:10)” the implication is that if Moses does not leave, then God will not consume them. Moses doesn’t disobey God. He stays upon the basis of who God has consistently revealed Himself to be and what He has promised to do and he implores God based upon the implication of what God has threatened and who God has called him to be—an intercessor.

Fourth, Why is Moses who he is? At the beginning of this book, when Moses was first on this mountain speaking with God, he argued with God in a sinful way, offering up various excuses for not obeying God and going to Egypt to deliver God’s people. Previously, Moses argued with God in a sinful way for selfish purposes that would leave Israel in bondage. Now, he implores God in a holy way for unselfish purposes, that will preserve Israel. So who has made Moses who he is? Who does Moses look like? Into whose image is Moses being conformed? Moses looks like Jesus, which is to say, he looks like God.

The point of the tabernacle is that man is sinful, God is holy, and that a mediator and sacrifices are thus necessary. This chapter, sandwiched between the instructions for and construction of the tent, not only amplifies those themes, it unites them as the mediator puts himself forward as the sacrifice (Exodus 32:30, 32). Saints, this text should cause you to hate sin and it should show you the ugliness of sin, but it should not cause you to doubt God’s faithfulness. One better than Moses pleads for you. He died. It is finished. He rose. He is at the right hand of the Father. You are united to Him by the Spirit. It is the Father who gave Him. You cannot be cast away unless Christ be cast away, meaning you are unmovable. Oh great sinners, take comfort in your great Savior.