A Study of Galatians 6:15-18
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. For henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
I have already delivered two discourses on this subject, and I have spoken of the verse preceding my text: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Now this is said by Paul to be unto me individually; it must be brought home to our own case. Then he says, “In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision,” etc. all must be in Christ, we are complete in him. (Colossians 2:10)
Christ says, “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” (John 17:6)
I have endeavored to show you that all external ceremonies of themselves are nothing. Without we are regenerated we cannot go to Christ:
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
In Galatians 5:6, Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” This is stated a little differently in our text. But you cannot have this faith without regeneration, and therefore it comes to the same thing as “a new creature.” If you can prove that you have one grace of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures will prove that you are regenerated. If you have the fear of God in your heart, you will go to heaven, but without regeneration it is impossible.
I desire to warn you on this subject, and I have felt these words much impressed upon me lately; “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.” (Ezekiel 3:17)
Therefore I must declare that if you die without regeneration and in your sins, you will never come to Christ. ‘Tis time to sound the alarm. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isaiah 58:1)
Three of our congregation have been taken away since the last Lord’s day; one of whom was a poor woman, whom I had to take to the magistrates several years ago, when I was an overseer of the poor, and one word dropped from my lips at that time which brought conviction to her heart, so that she never lost it, but was afterwards brought to a saving knowledge of the truth, and she died in Christ. Through rich mercy I am not one of those who say, “Let us sin that grace may abound.” (Romans 6:1)
I know that in heart I have committed all the sin and much more than this woman, and my being kept from outwardly committing sin was owning to the free mercy of God alone, which leaves me no room to boast, but abundant cause for thankfulness to Him.
So if He has put his fear into your heart to make you depart from iniquity, this should be the effect of it.
“The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.”
I hope I can say that for thirty-six years I have in a small way sounded an alarm to you.
Now what is this new creature?
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”
Paul says it is the new man of grace, and he will be called to walk in a new and living way. If you do this, you will live in a new heaven for ever.
“For behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create.”
Mr. Huntington, in speaking upon these words, said: “I have often pleased myself with thinking how in a future state I shall look back to all the things that God has shown me here; but now I see what a fool I have been, for all these things shall be swept away–they shall ‘not come into mind.'”
Have you been regenerated?
If so, then this new creature is formed in you. This “child shall die a hundred years old.” It does not matter if he has only been regenerated a few hours. This is a new-born babe. I have ten times more heart than head in these things. Let me have Christ the living head. Now we are to consider what is this rule according to which the apostle says we are to walk. The only true rule is the Word of God.
“To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
“Let every man prove his own work, then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another.”
How can I prove the work but by the Word of God?
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word?”
Whatever will bear the touchstone of God’s Word will bear the scrutiny of the day of judgment. I desire to venture only on God’s Word, for that is his revealed will. You cannot more honor him than by giving credit to his word. Another part of the rule is justification by faith, without the works of the law. Another part is that we must walk after the new man, which the apostle describes as “faith which worketh by love.”
And again he says, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20)
And again, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
Paul confirms this and says, “Put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)
“Peace be on them.” Now Christ is our peace. This is having peace in our conscience; an application of his blood brings the peace. Peace with God, with our conscience, and with one another. “And upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:16)
What does Paul mean here?
I think that a distinction is here made between the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the spiritual Israelites.
“For they are not all Israel which are of Israel.”
Then who are the Israel of God?
All his elect people, chosen of God, and regenerated by the Holy Ghost. You see one described in John 1:47. When Nathaniel was coming to Christ he said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.”
He was a tender, God-fearing man–just a babe. When Philip said to him, “Come and see,” he seemed to have a drawing to do so. And I say, poor soul, if you have the least desire, come and see and hear for yourself. I can generally tell from a man’s actions what influence he is under. You may know who his guide is. If you see a man going headlong to destruction you know the devil rides him. I desire to speak tenderly on this subject, for I was just such an one. Therefore we cannot tell what God intends to do for such a person. That is a secret thing that belongs to him. Revealed things belong to us and our children. I was just like the mad Gadarene. Christ went over the lake on purpose for that one man. Like him I had a legion of devils, and you see after Christ had cast them out of this man, he made a preacher of him. The man immediately wanted to be with him, but he said to him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.” (Mark 5:19)
And thus it was with me. I have been sent to tell you and many more what the full and free salvation of Christ is.
“These are truths; and happy he,
Who can well receive them;
Brethren, though we cannot see,
Still we should believe them.
“Could we see how all is right,
Where were room for credence?
But by faith, and not by sight,
Christians yield obedience.”
Nathaniel was an Israelite by natural birth, but afterwards by spiritual birth, and faith came to him by hearing Philip’s words, and he yielded the obedience of faith. Christ said “Behold an Israelite indeed!”
In opposition to one that is only so in appearance. Here was the new man of grace–the incorruptible seed in his heart. If you can find this, you are one in whom there is no guile, that is, in the new man. Put on this new man. No craft, subtlety, or deceit will be here, for this man cannot act in these things. I want you and myself to be found Israelites indeed.
Do you want to know whether your names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?
Remember all shall worship the beast whose names are not in that book. (Revelation 13:8) This is not left to a chance, but they “shall,” and God’s “wills” and “shalls” must stand. If your name is written there, a thousand Popes cannot move you. If you have not the grace of God you are not written in the Book of Life. I know that this is an evil day, and I wish to be obedient to that solemn charge given by Paul to Timothy, which I feel equally applies to myself, though I do not mean to compare myself with Timothy. “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine; for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
Now you see reproof stands first, rebuke second, and exhortation third. There is nothing about comfort in the whole. “But after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Three shalls spoken by the inspiration of God are here together. It is very easy to take offense, and go away from the truth; but you cannot come back again of yourselves. It is said, “Naomi went out full, and God brought her back empty.” She did not come back of her own accord. The offense will get farther and wider, so that no man can bring himself back again.
I have warned you of these things. I know it is the work of God to quicken you and make the warning effectual. May God the Holy Ghost quicken those who are now in a state of nature, that they may come to Christ and see the truth.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
You will have peace and comfort come into your hearts in thus coming to Christ.
“Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.”
After this work of bringing down has taken place, then comes in another word.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received at the Lord’s hands double for all her sins.”
What a sweet work is this!
I know if I am made instrumental in the conviction, I shall be also in the comfort, as the apostle Paul says, “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Both these things belong to the minister. I hope that not a few of you can set to your souls that you are Israelites indeed, and that God has infused his Spirit into you. Can you say when you hear the description of a regenerated person, I can see eye to eye with the preacher in this. That is coming to the light that your deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God.
“Out of Zion the perfection of beauty God hath shined.”
God makes his ministers to show the light. “Preach the word.” “But watch thou in all things: endure afflictions, do the work of an Evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” I look upon all this as spoken as much to me as to Timothy, as I believe that God hath equally set me upon the wall as he did him; and I hope there has been some proof of my ministry in the numbers who have died in the faith amongst us during the last thirty-six years. I don’t doubt that God loves you as much as he does me, but your comfort will be in believing it. I believe that Noah had faith that God would preserve him and his family, though he destroyed the whole world to do so. There is, therefore, no presumption in us to think the same as respects ourselves, if we have the same faith. The apostle says, “Who loved me, and gave himself for me,” (Galatians 2:20) as if there were no other person in the world.
You say, What is your comfort?
When sometimes the Lord comes to me in secret and gives me a touch of his love, this comforts me. When I am but dust and ashes, like Abraham, and yet I can say,
“O my Jesus, thou art mine,
With all thy grace and power;
I am now, and shall be thine
When time shall be no more.”
I want to feel your pulse this morning.
Is there any place where you have found this?
Those things are to be known, felt, and personally enjoyed.
“He that believeth hath the witness in himself.”
(1 John 5:10)
I know this is the desire of every regenerated man: to know that he is complete in Christ, and that his work is genuine and not spurious.
Perhaps you say, suppose I am not comfortable in mind?
That has nothing to do with it. Suppose it is quite dark. It was so with Christ himself.
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.”
It is as safe to go to sleep in the dark as in the light in Christ. I hope you are sound at the core–not like some fruit, which looks fair outside when it is quite rotten within. I want to have many seals to my ministry, therefore I would address you as the apostle Paul did the Philippians.
“Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.”
“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
How the apostle shows his love. I would I had as much of this grace as he had. Here is a sweet part of the subject. Allow me to address you in this manner. My brethren and sisters, “Sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Christ Jesus, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” (Jude 1,2)
Here are three distinct persons in the undivided godhead or Divine essence. I do believe this doctrine of the eternal trinity in my heart.
“There are three that bear record in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.”
(1 John 5:7)
I would adopt the apostle’s language for myself. The apostles all address the churches as brethren.
Because they all belong to the same family, and all are equally beloved of God–the younger as well as the elder–and I would trace this up even to the elder brother, Jesus Christ, who says in his prayer (John 17) “That the world may know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” “That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them.”
“O love of unexampled kind!
That leaves all thought so far behind;
Where length, and breadth, and depth, and height,
Are lost to my astonish’d sight.”
“It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.”
“Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace;” (John 1:16) not grace for works, merit, or deservings. “The head stone shall be brought forth with shoutings, crying Grace, grace unto it.” (Zechariah 4:7)
It is not the quantity, but the quality. If you have but one spark of grace from Christ and out of his fulness, it will endure for ever. May this grace be with you and me, and we shall walk together in the unity of the same Spirit without jar or discord.
By John Vinall
Preached at Lewes, Lord’s Day Morning, October 17th, 1847