(267)Thesis:Paul's pronunciation of doom upon the wicked was designed to force the Galatians away from their legalism.
Introduction:In Paul's list of the manifest works of the flesh, he pretty much covered all the bases on physical and relational evils. The only ones we did not consider very carefully were the last two: drunkenness and revellings, which are both escapist behaviors that pretty much exist in a context of a personal refusal to act in a responsible way. It is interesting that Paul ends his "list" of manifest works with these two in that they fly in the face of any hopefulness in respect to legal theology.
This evening we are going to look into Paul's final comment in regard to these manifest works because of the problems it creates for many of us. This comment is an emphatic declaration that people who engage themselves in fleshly pursuits will not inherit the Kingdom of God. As an emphatic declaration, it is seriously problematical if it is not correctly understood and the outworking of misunderstanding is bad theology. On the one hand, some (who misunderstand it) conclude that salvation really is, when all is said and done, a matter of right behavior. This leads to salvation by works with the outworking of that mentality being the claim that one can lose his/her salvation if their behavior is sufficiently bad. On another hand, others who misunderstand it conclude that God has underwritten the salvation of the elect by underwriting their behavior so that it does not ever get "bad enough" to bring on condemnation. This has led to "lordship salvation" issues and a high level of judgmental declarations that certain people who claim to believe in Jesus are really "lost" because they do not act properly.
On the face of it, the declaration that "they who practice such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God" eliminates every one of us from inheriting the Kingdom of God. But, because that total exclusion cannot be true, the hedging begins ... .
This evening we are going to look into what Paul meant and why he said it.
I. Our First Consideration: Inheriting the Kingdom.
A. There are those whose "hedging" takes the form of twisting the words into "inheriting in the Kingdom".
1. It goes without saying that there will be no benefit in the Kingdom for evil, either merely intended or actually accomplished.
a. Paul said pointedly that any/every thing done with an improper motive will "profit us nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3).
b. He also said that everything that is essentially "wood, hay, and stubble" will burn up so that there is no good outcome from it (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
2. But Paul was not addressing inheritance "in" the Kingdom in our text: the word "Kingdom" is in the accusative case; it is the "direct object" of the verb.
B. Jesus left little doubt as to the meaning of "inheriting the Kingdom" in Matthew 25:34-46.
1. The only "wiggle room" here would be if Paul's meaning for the words is significantly different from Jesus' meaning.
2. There is no reasonable argument that Paul meant something significantly different from Jesus given his use of the same words in 1 Corinthians 15:50.
II. Our Second Consideration: Practicing Such Things.
A. Paul's choice of words resulted in his writing "practice" in the present tense.
1. Some have said that the present tense indicates "a continuous practice", but that cannot stand the test of investigation (Luke 22:23 is just one of several uses of the present tense with a single act in view).
a. The Lukan text, among others, even reveals that the verb should not be translated by our word "practice".
b. The word actually signals an "accomplishment" made up of multiple "doings" that form a stair-step progress in cause/effect form from intention to completion.
c. The attempt to make the claim about "a continuous practice" is simply another form of hedging because everyone has to admit that everyone without exception "accomplishes" various forms of the manifest works of the flesh a great deal of the time we are in these bodies on this earth.
1) The argument runs like this: a "true" believer will occasionally stumble, but he will always repent and return to a faithful lifestyle so that if someone does not return, it proves he was never a "true" believer.
2) The reality is, however, that "true" believers stumble more than occasionally and they often do not repent and return so that God is compelled to end their lives prematurely in order to keep them from condemnation.
B. What Paul said, and meant, was that anyone who "accomplished" any of the manifest works of the flesh "shall not inherit the Kingdom of God."
III. Our Third Consideration: the "Forewarnings".
A. Paul deliberately emphasized the truth of his claim by repetition.
B. It is clear that Paul wanted the Galatians to understand one thing: those who accomplish the works of the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
IV. Our Fourth Consideration: The Key Question.
A. The question the text evokes is this: why in the world would Paul put "inheritance of the Kingdom" on a performance basis in a letter in which he openly declared that if the inheritance is by Law, it is no more of promise (3:18) and that no flesh will be justified on a performance basis (3:11)?
B. It can be argued that Paul's entire letter to the Galatians was to argue that no one will inherit the Kingdom on the basis of performance issues so that no one can be denied the Kingdom on the basis of performance issues.
C. So, the question stands: what did Paul mean and why did he say it?
1. What Paul meant was this: people who do fleshly things will not inherit the Kingdom.
2. Why Paul said this is not complicated.
a. "Inheriting the Kingdom" is the crucial issue of man's future eternal experience.
b. A denial of entrance is the same thing as being cast into the everlasting fire.
c. Paul is simply telling his readers that they are not going to inherit the Kingdom if their basis for so doing is performance based.
d. Paul's theology of salvation comes into play at this point: those who are going to inherit the Kingdom are those who have become identified with Christ in the mind of the Father so that His works are theirs and their works are His.
1) Since no one can accuse Christ of any accomplishment of the works of the flesh, no one can accuse those who are in Him of any such accomplishment either.
2) Since Christ suffered vicariously as the effective "doer" of the works of those who have put their trust in Him, their failures have been addressed.
3) 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 pointedly declares that those who "believe" have been removed from the position of being subject to the outcome of their deeds.
4) A comparison of Romans 4:6 and Romans 4:8 (both sides of the same coin) with Romans 7:17 and 7:20 reveals that God has completely removed us from the entirerealm of condemnation [Note Romans 8:33] by making us "heirs" by promise, not by performance (Galatians 3:18).