Galatians 3:6-29, “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not!
For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
I recently purchase a new home in a neighborhood governed by a set of HOA covenants. Thinking I should familiarize myself with the rules so as not to accidentally make enemies of my neighbors, I downloaded all 30+ pages to read. As you can imagine I worked my way through about three sentences of legal language and jargon before I gave up!
Honestly, the way lawyers present their arguments is often so knotty it’s almost as though they don’t want you to read what they wrote and they sure don’t want you to understand it! I mean seriously all I wanted was a Jeff Foxworthy “You Might Be a Redneck” version of the HOA covenants… I would have even been fine with a David Letterman “Top 10 List!” Just tell me when the garbage can needs to go out and come in, what the policy is when it comes to people parking on the street, and when the pool opens for the summer!
With that said, and I think most of you will relate to this, I find the way Paul presents his arguments to be just as difficult to understand and often a headache to follow! I mean the way his legal mind processes things is so complex it’s convoluted. And I think logically!
Not only is his favorite literary technique the run-on sentence and he’s notorious for diving down rabbit holes, but Paul had to be suffering from ADHD. I mean Paul will jump from one idea, to another, then to another, before coming back to his original point 20 verses later! Can you imagine how much more organized and methodical his writing style would have been if Paul had access to Adoral? Unbelievable! I’m actually convinced if we were to find an original manuscript of Paul’s writing the parchment would be covered with doodling.
So… In order to unpack the essence of what we just read so that we all can understand it (because it’s not the easiest section of Scripture to dissect), we’re going to approach the text thematically instead of approaching the text line by line. Full discloser… It will take us this Sunday and next to work our way successfully through the chapter.
Now, in seeking to untangle what Paul is communicating to his Galatian audience, it’s helpful to understand Paul’s building a legal argument using O.T. Scripture designed to substantiate two points he’s already made in the first five verses of Galatians 3.
1. “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Paul wants these Galatians to internalize his previous arguments concerning the essence of justification. Had they received the “Spirit” through “works of the law?” Had they been saved because they had done something to earn it or deserve it? Or had this miraculous work of “new birth” come “by the hearing of faith?”
A: A relationship with Jesus founded upon faith in His grace brought forth through His death on the cross is the only mechanism by which a person is justified before God!
2. “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Following the admission brought forth by the first question, Paul now wants them to admit the essence of their sanctification. Though this saving relationship with Jesus whereby they were justified had “begun in the Spirit” were they now “being made perfect” or literally was Godliness being manifested from their lives “by the flesh?”
A: It’s only logical that if the beginning of our relationship with Jesus was supernatural then our continuance should also be the same - supernatural. Sanctification like justification is actually nothing more than a natural byproduct of my relationship with Jesus initiated and fostered through His grace!
If you want to become more like Christ you need to do nothing more than what you did for salvation… Have a relational association with Jesus! Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
Paul’s substantiating arguments for these two points are as follows:
1. Faith in a Savior has always been central to God’s plan for human righteousness.
2. The Law of Moses was only given to accentuate humanities need for this Savior.
3. Once you accept the Savior there is no longer a need for the law.
First, Faith in a Savior has always been central to God’s plan for human righteousness. While these false teachers who had come to Galatia were pointing back to Moses as the basis for their case that obedience to the law still plays a significant role, Paul takes them back some 500 years before Moses and the law to their father Abraham.
In verse 6 Paul quotes directly from Genesis 15:6 which provides this powerful statement that, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Can’t you see Paul (the attorney tasked with defending the Gospel) asking the jury, “According to this Scripture what was the mechanism by which Abraham became righteous before God? Was is the through the law? That couldn't be for the law wouldn’t even exist for another 430 years. Was Abraham made righteous through circumcision? No! That’s also impossible for this practice wouldn’t be instituted by God for another 14 years.”
“Instead ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I contend that this Scripture clearly states that Abraham was declared righteous not by works of obedience - the dietary law or circumcision, but by simple faith in God’s promises! ‘It (the fact ‘Abraham believed God’) was accounted to him (or literally placed on his account by God) for righteousness!’”
Now here’s the relevant question as it pertains to Paul’s citing of this passage (and you can here the prosecution quickly voicing their objections)… What promise had God made to Abraham that was so significant and central that by his belief in this one promise God “accounted it to him for righteousness?”
It’s to this point Paul quickly calls to the stand Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14 which specifically records a promise given by God to Abraham on five separate occasion. Verses 7 & 8, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’”
Paul’s argument contends that Abraham knew from the very beginning that God’s purpose in calling him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and leading him to a land of promise in order to grow his descendants into a mighty nation centered upon a much larger cosmic plan by which God would “justify the Gentiles by faith.” Keep in mind when God originally called Abraham there was no such distinction between Jew and Gentile because there was no such thing as a Jew! Abraham was a Gentile!
According to Paul “the Gospel” or good news “preached to Abraham” centered upon God’s promise to bless “all the nations” by providing “in him” a way humanity could be justified. In Genesis 26:4 (as in 22:18 and 28:14) God more specifically promised, “I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
Now knowing the obvious and in many ways understandable confusion as to what God was implying with either statement “in you” or “in your seed,” in verse 16 Paul clarifies to the jury… “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. God did not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.”
This is the simple argument Paul is making to the Galatian jury… “From the very beginning Scripture attests that God had promised Abraham it would be through his physical lineage that a Savior would come creating a way by which all humanity could be justified.” Note: This Messianic promise of a coming “Seed” who would save mankind was originally found in Genesis 3:15 when upon cursing the Serpent God declared, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Paul rests his argument to this first point that faith in a Savior had always been central to God’s plan for human righteousness… “Because Abraham ‘believed God’ in that he placed his confidence in the fulfillment of God’s promise of a coming Savior “it (faith in a Savior and not obedience to the law or circumcision) was accounted to him for righteousness!’”
Before we continue along Paul’s line of reasoning… Isn’t it interesting how Paul viewed Scripture? Not only does he call Scripture to testify as the truth and ultimate authority (he does this throughout the chapter), but the way he presents Scripture is really fascinating. In verse 8 Paul says, “The Scripture foresaw… preached… and said!”
There is no doubt that Paul saw the Scriptures as the manifestation of a Person… Specifically, the person of God! The Scriptures possessed insight into God’s plans for humanity, they preached the Gospel, and they communicated His promises!
So often I hear Christians say, “I need to hear from God or why doesn’t God speak to me.” Some even ask, “How do I get to know Jesus?” And yet, all of these questions reveal a tragic and in many ways misguided error in perspective. Honestly, what are you expecting? What do you think the Bible actually is… A book of stories or the Word of God? In one of the most telling and radicle passages of Scripture Revelation 19:13 we gain a glimpse of the glorified Christ and we’re told, “His name is called The Word of God.”
Friend, the Bible is a living thing for in these words are found not only the communication of God, but the person of Jesus! God speaks to you and reveals His Son through His Word. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
How did Abraham know God’s plan for His life? “The Scriptures foresaw!” As the psalmist declared in Psalms 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
How did Abraham know the power of God’s truth? “The Scriptures preached the Gospel!” 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
How did Abraham come to know the promises of God? “The Scriptures said!” Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
Abraham “believed God” because he believed the Scriptures! Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Know Jesus. Know Grace. Know His Word.
In order to fully unpack the significance of Paul using Abraham as an example for justification by faith you should understand this phrase “believed God” is not the same thing as “belief in God!” Nowhere does Scripture present an intellectual belief in God as the basis for righteousness, but rather the placing of one’s complete faith and trust in Jesus.
I hope you realize believing in God doesn’t really matter! Tragically, and this seems to be a predominant perspective of those who’ve been born and raised in the Bible Belt, so many people have a false sense of their own eternal security because they don’t understand intellectual belief in God, the person of Jesus, His death on the cross for sin, or even His resurrection doesn’t mean they’re saved. Faith is not the same as belief! To this point James 2:19 wrote rather sarcastically, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!
The idea presented by Paul is that Abraham was declared to be righteous before God because he had placed his complete weight upon God. He trusted God, was confident in God, went all in as it pertained to God’s promises. He saw the hand God gave him and pushed all his chips into the center of the table! Abraham placed his faith in God!
Think about faith this way… You know you’ve placed your faith in something (whether it’s a person, system, or thing) for if that thing happens to fail everything else in your life falls apart. If the stool I place my weight upon fails I’m going to fall down!
For example… It becomes quickly evident the gal who melts into a complete puddle of “my life is now over” simply because her boyfriend broke up with her was not in a healthy relationship, but had instead erected an idol she was placing her faith! It’s clear the guy who almost immediately descends into a depression spiral of “my life no longer has any meaning” because he was let go from his job at Taco Bell was not working a job, but had instead erected an idol he was placing his faith!
With that in mind… The easiest way to know if you really have faith in Jesus (if you’ve placed your weight on Him) is to consider… Would my life fall apart if Jesus failed? I mean if a relationship with Jesus didn’t justify would I be entering eternity in trouble!
Now the good thing is this is only a theoretical question and not one based in reality for Jesus will never fail you and His resurrection proves He is trustworthy! And yet, the sad truth is that many of those who believe in Jesus are not actually placing their complete trust in Jesus for if He indeed failed nothing in their lives would suffer as a result!
You see walking by faith creates this dynamic in your life… Because faith in God’s promises is akin to “going for broke” it declares, “I’m in big trouble if Jesus doesn’t come through!”
Let me speak personally… Ever since we launched Calvary316 Jess and I have felt the desire to move from Snellville out closer to the church. And while a slowly recovering housing market made things difficult, this summer God was crystal clear… “Move!”
Now I could come up with a hundred reasons why this wasn’t a wise decision… We didn’t need to move. We liked our home. We were financially stable. We just had Theo in February and moving with an infant and a three year old sounded terrible. I work a second job in Snellville. Etc. And yet, God said, “Put the house on the market and trust me.” So we did.
And to our surprise our house sold for enough where we didn’t loose our shirt and on the flip side we were able to buy a house in our price range that was about $40,000 under its appraised value in a neighborhood we would have never imagined being able to buy into.
And while everything seemed to be falling into place as the dominos fell one by one there was just one issue… The two months in which all of this was happening (September and October) the offerings at Calvary316 tanked to their lowest levels in years! Seriously, ever Monday morning I logged the offering - looked at the bank balance - and sunk into depression as I thought to myself, “What am I doing selling my house and buying another one when I’m going to have to find a third job just to put food on the table!”
Anyway, on one of these Blue Mondays, one of our elders Joe invited me over to eat some of his world-famous wings and watch MNF. Well, as we’re sitting on his back deck, without prompting Joe turns to me and this is what he said, “You do know why the finances have gotten tight over the month?” Immediately, I start thinking, “Come on man! Now’s not the time to tell me the Bible studies are subpar or the bass guitar is to loud. I have a wife to do that!” Nope. Instead Joe continued, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure giving is down because God told you to move and now He wants to stretch your faith! You know remain obedient when it’s tough. He wants you to be in a position where if He doesn’t come through everything falls apart!”
I’ll be honest I drove home from Joe’s that night so encouraged. “Ok God! It’s all on You! Where you guide you provide! I don’t have to worry about it. Your reputation is on the line.” Well… We moved into the new house the last weekend of October and guess what? November ended up being one of the largest tithing months in 2015!
As we move into a new year for whatever reason a form of nostalgia sets in. More often than not we end up resolving to do in this next year the very things we pushed off the year before.
Now I’m not really interested in speaking to the weight-loss you’re determined to shed in 2016 or whatever superficial resolution you feel inclined to make. Honestly, 90% of resolutions made January 1 fall by the wayside by the time you get to February.
However, I am interested in speaking about a resolution to walk by faith! First, everything we’ve been talking about over the last few months concerning the Gospel of “Grace.” matters not if you aren’t willing to go all in! Grace is amazing for it justifies you before God and frees you to live a life of Godliness by allowing Jesus to live through you; and yet, this work must be initiate by you making the decision to place your faith in Jesus!
Secondly, for those of us who are walking with Jesus, may I ask… What has Jesus been trying to accomplish in your life that is being hindered by the will of your flesh?
Has Jesus been trying to break you of material dependence and security by making you more generous, but your flesh has been limiting this work because you don’t know how your going to survive if you tithe 10% of your income?
Has Jesus been trying to transform some specific areas of your life that aren’t spiritually healthy and profitable to His plans for your life, but your flesh has been limiting this work because you’re afraid loosing that group of friends is going to lead to loneliness?
Has Jesus been trying to lead you into a new opportunity, but your flesh has been limiting this work because it prefers the comforts of the known verses uncertainty?
Has Jesus been trying to free you of that hurt or pain, but your flesh has been limiting this work out of fear that Jesus might be unable to make good on His promises?
Well, this morning I simply ask… Do you have faith in God? Or better yet, what has Jesus done to warrant not being trusted? May this year be marked in your life as the time you placed your faith in Jesus, believed He’d make good on His promises, and went all in!
No Additional Links.