Drinking Deeply

Saturday, August 12, 2006 at 9:32 AM

Galatians 3:1-14

Yeah, after camps, I'm always filled with stuff I want to post about. So here's part one: Justification by Faith Alone, an examination of Galatians 3:1-14. Now, it's by no means exhaustive, but it was something we talked about... alot.

The Gospel – Justification by Faith Alone (Galatians 3:1-14)

We didn't address as many topics as I thought we had, but what we did do was address one topic in depth, and that topic was justification by faith alone. I said it before, I'll say it again, you can live the perfect life in all other respects, you can have great relationships with friends, you can be fully confident of your own salvation, you can read your Bibles every day, you can be an example for all those around you, but if you don't have faith (and I'm going to explain what that means), you have nothing.

For the first quiet time, we went through Galatians 3. I'm going to walk through that passage a little bit slower to try to unpack and explain it and how it ties into Justification by faith alone.

We're kind of jumping in the middle of the discussion, so I'm going to go through verse by verse, trying to explain what it means.
1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
Paul is writing this to the church of Galatia and in the context of how he begins the letter in chapter 1, it appears that something has gone seriously wrong. They have started denying the Gospel that Paul originally brought them.

It appears that the Galatians were being deceived and that deception had something to do with denying that Jesus Christ was crucified. Paul reminds them that this was something that they had seen with their own eyes.
2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
He asks “did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” To explain this a little bit, when people believed, they were also given the gift of the Holy Spirit. This generally resulted in the “born again” experience. They would be completely changed, with their hearts no longer set upon the ways of this world but upon God. This began with faith.

So Paul is expecting the negative. No one can say that they received the Spirit by works of the law, they didn't earn it, they got it by faith. Paul is being a little sarcastic here. “Morons! Do you think you somehow received the Spirit by works?”
3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh?
Again, Paul employs sarcasm here. From this question we get the understanding of what the church was doing that was so wrong. They were trying to be “perfected by the flesh.” If you read the rest of Galatians, this specifically entailed the idea that circumcision was required in order for one to be saved. To Paul (and therefore God, since Paul speaks for God here), this entailed a rejection of Christ's death on the cross. “But how?” you may wonder. We'll get to that.
4Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?
Again, more sarcasm. Apparently the Galatian church had suffered for the Gospel. Maybe they were persecuted because of their faith. Maybe people were thrown out of their homes. We're not sure, but whatever the case, they suffered. Paul is pointing out that if they continue as they are doing, then maybe their suffering was for nothing. Once again, you can do all the right things, but without the foundation of Christ, you have nothing.
5Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-- 6just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?
More sarcastic questions. Of course God doesn't give us the Spirit by works of the law but rather by faith. Paul points to Abraham as the great example. He “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” The phrase “counted righteous” is translated from the same root as “justified,” and the meaning of that phrase is very important to us. To be “justified” or “counted righteous,” is a legal declaration. It's God as judge looking at us and declaring, “Not guilty! No condemnation!” Was Abraham declared not guilty as a result of his works? No, he was declared not guilty as a result of his faith in God. What does that faith consist of? Well, we'll get to that=)
7Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." 9So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
So Paul answers all his own questions. God justifies the Gentiles by faith, so all our previous questions are answered “not by works/flesh but by faith.” And this was something that God had known in advance He would do.
The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
What follows is Paul giving a brief outline for what it means to have faith, and what Jesus actually accomplished. Once again, this is core and foundational to our eternal destiny. I feel like a teacher saying, “pay attention class”
10For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them."
Do you guys see the missing statement here that we're asked to assume? Look at the statements in reverse order:

Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.

All who rely on works of the law are under a curse.

The statement that we have to assume is simply this: All who rely on works of the law do not abide by all the things written in the Book of the Law and do them. What is Paul saying? Basically, we're sinners and we're cursed if we're trying to rely on the law to get right with God.
11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith."12But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them."
Instead, Paul points out that instead of living by “works,” the righteous live by faith. Notice another argument he puts together:

1. The righteous shall live by faith.

2. The one who does [the works of the law] shall live by them.

3. The one who does [the works of the law] is not righteous since he's not living by faith.

4. Thus no one is justified (seen righteous by God) by the law.
13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"--
So now that we're all under a curse because intuitively we try to rely on the law in order to get right with God. Now Paul ties it all together with Christ. Christ dies as a substitute for us. He became a curse for us. Where did this curse come from? It comes from the condemnation of God for disobedience. Thus Christ isn't put on the cross by Satan, Christ is put on the cross by God, and by God as a payment, a substitute. And by doing that, he redeems us. That's what allows God to look upon us and say “not guilty,” it's not because God just somehow “forgets.” Remember, God is a holy God, a just God, a vengeful and wrathful God. He will repay in full, and when He promises a curse, He's going to give a curse. Now the love of God steps in (steps in temporally, God had planned it all from the beginning). God sends His Son as a redemption and made Him a curse for us by hanging him on the tree.
14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Thus, through Christ, salvation comes not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. They can no also live by faith. So why was the life that the Galatians living a denial of Christ's death on a cross? Because they were denying that we are saved by faith and faith alone. If they were to live in a manner thinking that they had to continue salvation by their own works (circumcision), then it amounted to a denial of salvation!

So the end of the matter is: don't think that you're saved by works. Don't even think that you have to hang onto your salvation by works. To do so amounts to a denial of Christ's death upon the cross. It's not how many quiet times we do. It's not how often we read our Bibles. It's not even how often we pray, it depends on Christ and Christ alone. Do you have faith? Do you see yourself as a sinner, one under the condemnation and curse of God? Do you trust in Christ and Christ alone as your substitute, believing what when He died on that cross, your punishment was paid and now you can live by faith? Or do you think that you still need to do this before you come to God? Or that you need to do that in order to stay in God's good graces?

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