Dear congregation, remember that we spoke about how verse 1-6 of Galatians comes from a heart of love. Well here Paul gets even a little more frustrated at his sheep who are trying to jump the fence, out of the pasture of Christ.
So, although today's text reads in an extremely harsh way, his harshness is birthed out of the same love and concern that would move you to snatch your child out of a busy street. When you snatch your kid out of the street, you don't go, "Man, you're so fast. I couldn't believe you got away from me and ran into the traffic like that." What do you say? "Have you lost your mind?! Come look at this dead squirrel. Look at that. Do you know how easily that could be you? Don't run into the street." Right? Isn't that what you do? Trust me, your heart will be pumping and your voice will be raised! Why, because you love them!
So these words are harsh… no getting past that, but they are loving. Because the opposite of love is not always hate, but in our culture most often it is indifference. Let them do what they want to do and I will do what I do. But that is not love… love is always active. It is not, “do not do to others what they would have done to you,” but rather is do unto others as you would have them do to you! Love is active and Paul loves them by asking them to become self-aware, and Scripture aware.
The Gospel of Grace is reflected in a Christian’s life, and in the Bible
- In a Christian’s life
- In the Bible
In a Christian’s life
Paul starts off in verse 1, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” It is as if some silver- tongued devil has cast some spell over you! You clearly saw Christ hanging on that cross for you through my preaching! It was a public declaration I made to you. I was not hiding it. I was proclaiming it from the rooftops! Christ and Him crucified! It was so clear it was like you saw it with your very own eyes! He was cursed and put to public shame. Don’t act like He did it for nothing. That is foolish. There is no other word to describe it.
You see they didn’t actually see Jesus crucified, but they responded to the gospel. The gospel they responded to was, at every angle, historically, philosophically, and with the sacred literature, presented in such a way that the apex, the thing that made it all hold together, was Christ crucified.
Paul says in verse 2, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” The heart of the question comes down to this: Where were you when Christ found you? What were you when God saved you? Did God make a deal with you and say, “brother sister, if you do these things then I will save you through Jesus Christ.” NO! Of course not! God does not say, “Well I would like you to be my child, but really you are not good enough, I’ll need you to change a few things – stop using the f word, or all those Afrikaans words you keep using, stop sinning sexually, and no more partying like you used to. Then I will come back to check if you are worthy of me.” That is not what God does. He just saved me and you. In a moment. Some of you can’t remember a particular day, but know that the Bible is clear on this point. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” Where were you when God saved you?
Paul continues in verse 3, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? The basis of the question here is, “How have you matured in the faith? How have you grown from where God found you?” Now let’s be honest, spiritual growth never really happens as fast as we want it to. If we are honest with each other most of us don’t even know we are growing when we’re growing. Most of us feel static most of the time. And then some days we look back and become aware that God has been working and we are more mature.
It is kind of like watching a kid grow. You can sit there all day and watch them, and nothing happens, and then one day they walk down the stairs and they look two inches taller! So Christian maturity is slow, and uphill, and in most of us it is never a quick process. But by the grace of God the Christian should be able to look back on the last ten years and say, “Yes, I am growing.” We can see it in the “all of a sudden- moments” when we realize we are responding to situations differently than we did years ago. When you find yourself praying more, and loving the Bible more. All God’s work. So the point is, if you have not been saved by the law, and the law has not helped you grow why are you going back there?
If you do not have faith in Jesus Christ, and you have listened to the Ten Commandments you will get nowhere before God. The ten commandments don’t get you a step closer to God. Faith in Christ does. It is not the 10 commandments or the law that helps you grow – it was your union with Christ through the Spirit that helps you grow in obedience. So if God saved you without you fulfilling the 10 commandments, while you were a sinner, and he brought you to where you are through union with him through the Spirit, how come you are going back to relying on human effort? All your suffering in Christ will be for nothing!
Verse 4, “Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing?” You see if you go back to the law Christ’s death is of no use to you. You are abandoning the way of the cross if you go down this path. We don’t have to go very far to see the persecution that these churches endured. Just read Acts, in every one of the cities where he enjoyed great success, he also suffered great persecution – often at the hand of the Jews.
Followers of Christ will encounter hardship in life. But listen to me… If you have faith in Christ your suffering in this life has meaning. Every tear. Every hurt. Every insult you suffered has its weight in eternal glory. If you are on the gospel road, suffering and persecution has meaning. Outside of the tracks of the gospel, suffering only means you are getting what you deserve. Jesus Christ teaches us about persecution in a totally different way than the world around you teaches, or even the church sometimes teaches. He says, “blessed are you when others persecute you… Rejoice and be glad.”
So much of our concern today is to make the message cool, and how not to be persecuted for what we believe. We don't want to be viewed as hyper-spiritual people. We don't want to be viewed as weirdos. We want to make it cool. We want to give Jesus an Extreme Home Makeover. Now we don’t have to purposely act weird… we can still winsomely love our neighbor, but we should not modify gospel truths to make it more palatable for the people. “If Jesus is everything, you and I will suffer for giving our life to him, for being in a relationship with him. So, to Paul’s point here… Suffering in Christ has meaning – but outside of Christ you are suffering for nothing!
And then we come to the last question.
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law or because you believe what you heard? God does not work miracles because we do things, but God works miracles because we believe that God really is who he says he is! And because he has done what he says he did, we know that anything we ask for cannot be as great as what he has already given us. Sometimes great things do not happen in a church simply because people don’t really believe it anymore. They have been too indoctrinated by the religions of naturalism and materialism. We need to simply believe.
Look back at your life, look back at the life of the church, and let me ask you some questions. We are going to do some self-diagnoses. Are we where we are because of what we did, or because of what God did? Personally, and as a church? I’m not sure about you but I know I am where I am, only by grace. And as we look back at the history of this church and the church for the last two thousand years I think we can confess the same. The life of the church and the Christian life is a testament to Christ in us, and us in Christ. So don’t try to return to the law! Just look at the Bible!
The Gospel of Grace in the Bible
“Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” “Let me bring up Abraham here as an example of what I am saying,” says Paul. Abraham was one of those people that believed because he heard. He was a Christian before there were Christians. He had faith. God said, “Get your wife, get your stuff, we are headed to a new place.” Abraham asks, “Where?” God says, “I will tell you when we get there.” And he went. God comes to him in his 90’s and says, “you will have a son.” And he believes him. God tells him years later “Go, sacrifice that son.” Now if you are new here, he does not sacrifice him so no need to run out. God actually provides a sacrifice, foreshadowing Jesus Christ. Abraham was saved because he believed. That’s it.
Now listen – Abraham was saved 430 years before the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah. Think about it – we put a lot of emphasis on the Ten Commandments in this church, and there are good reasons for that. But people were being saved the Christian way before the Ten Commandments or the rest of the law was even around! God considered him righteous by faith alone in what was to come – the Lamb, sacrificed for the sins of the world.
“Understand then,” continues Paul in verse 7, “That those who believe are children of Abraham.” It is those who believe that are children. The Jews thought they would be saved because they were ethnic Jews, they were ethnically Gods people. One of the ways that may work itself out in our culture is that you are a Christian because your parents are. Your parent’s faith has zero bearing on your faith. Your standing before God is by faith alone, in what He has done alone.
This is why for the last 5 weeks I have been pleading with you, entreating you, begging you to take your eyes off you and get them on Jesus. Stop looking at how you measure up or don’t. Look to Jesus who measures up to God’s expectations perfectly. If you have faith in Him you are a son of Abraham. Many may know this song.
“Father Abraham had many sons,
Many sons had Father Abraham,
I am one of them and so are you
so let’s just praise the Lord,
right arm left foot…”
(If you want to learn the motions ask me later) One more time: Who are Abrahams children? Those who have put their faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel – and Abraham got it.
He says as much in verse 8 & 9, “The scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the Gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of Faith.” The law is diagnostic of our ills. It tells you, ’you are sick’. The gift to mankind is not the law, but Jesus Christ. And the good news was already going out 430 years before the law was even around.
God justifies us by faith: One of the easiest doctrines to forget. If you are like me you get frustrated if you feel like you did not accomplish something. I get agitated at the end of the day if I feel like I didn’t get something accomplished. When my wife calls me to dinner, I need to feel like I made progress. If I don’t feel like I made progress I get frustrated, and it can feel like a wasted day, even if it isn’t.
Well, what happens, is that same foolish thinking attaches itself to my relationship with God. It is much easier for me to DO than to BE. Are you with me? If I am DOING great, I may feel like God really loves me. Sure, I know better, but in my heart I feel like God is more pleased with me then. Then, by the nature of that belief, when I am not doing as well, not as disciplined, not as ‘on’ it, then he must not be as pleased. I am sure there are more of us that feel this way. But church: He DID it all. By faith in Christ he saved you. Done!
Was it because Abraham did something that he was considered Righteous! No not at all! In fact he did a lot of bad things, like lying to others that his wife was his sister. If it depended on what he did, even the most famous Jewish patriarch, Abraham, would be under a curse because even he did not obey everything that was in the law!
As verse 10 says, “For all who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.” If you want to walk the law road – then you have to do it all – perfectly. Perfectly, otherwise you are under the curse. Notice something here: The law: the Torah = is opposed to faith here. And the curse opposed to righteousness. It’s either the law or faith. It is either a perfect righteousness, or a curse. And it is jolting to our western mindset, where we are self- made people. If you want to try – go ahead – but you will not be able to stand before God.
For verse 11, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith: on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’” The law and faith don’t go together… in fact the opposite – that is why he says, “On the contrary!” You see the law is based on DOING. “The man who does these things will live by them.” Faith is being something in Christ. Faith is being a new person, living under the law is trying to be a new person.”
Dear church of Jesus Christ, life in Him will take you farther than the law ever could. The law was given through Moses, grace and peace came through Jesus Christ. Christian maturity comes by faith – a constant living connection with Jesus Christ – and the more we know him the more He will mean to us, and the more we will want to live in Him.
Even the best saints at the end of their lives confessed that Jesus was the only way! I mean look at Paul, he went to the third heaven, he had seen Jesus, and he says at the end of his life I am the worst of all sinners! I want to cry out don’t be so hard on yourself – but that is what faith in Jesus does, it is an utter rejection of salvation or growth through human effort. He says at the end of his life, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection!” That is a guy who had met Jesus! There is more to know, more to hold onto. That vision of the perfect saint this side of heaven, there is none. Faith in Christ, means that we will come to the end of our race stumbling in the arms of Jesus Christ. The righteous live by faith.
Thanks be to God that as v. 13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written cursed be everyone who is hung on a tree.” The words at the beginning of the text come back, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified!” He was cursed! Do you really think he hung there, and bore that curse for nothing? – then don’t live that way.
“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” The blessing of Abraham came to us not through the law, or through the Jews, but through Jesus Christ! So that we may receive the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ which unites us to him, and gives us the motivation to walk in step with the Spirit. Which we will talk about much more later on.
So how do we make sure that we don’t fall back into the trap of leaning on our own works / efforts
1. Read your Bible – The Bible is full of characters that were saved by faith. They had huge faults, big, big falls from grace – and yet God saved them in Jesus Christ. The entire Bible points to one person, the way your entire life should point to one person.
Second: Keep getting up. I'm not naïve. There are legitimate addictions and legitimate problems in this room. There is alcohol. There are drugs. There is promiscuity. There is marital infidelity. On and on I could go. There are some train-wrecked lives in this place. But Hear me. Self-pity will destroy you. It will suck the life right out of you. So what I need you to hear me say from the gospel is, there is no sin, no addiction with more power than the cross of Christ. Get up. Keep getting up. Don't say, "It doesn't work for me," if you've never actually tried it.
So, you need to confess your sins and get help. You say, "Well I think I can beat it." Well I think you have several years of history that says you can't. If you could just let go, trust God, and trust the covenant community of faith to walk with you, freedom might be had. To drag secrets kicking and screaming into the light, through the means of confession, so that you might be healed, is the most terrifying, yet freeing thing you could ever do. Faith in Christ does that… it frees you to confess and move on, and walk the Gospel road growing in faith, hope and love. Someone maybe so far gone, and not listening to the gospel, because you believe you can't be forgiven, and feel you're stuck in these things. You're not stuck. You can be forgiven, don’t underestimate the worth of my Savior’s blood. Live in him. By faith let’s do that!