Moving in to chapter 3 of Galatians, Todd offers 1 simple summary of the content of the first two chapters, 2 simple reminders, 3 previous key verses, 4 simple truths, and 5 simple questions. Paul warns the Galatians that God will not be impressed with their performance but rather finds them - and us - acceptable and lovable only through His grace.
One Last Shot at Communicating the One Great Truth
Why be a Servant When You Can be a Son?
Why Promise is Better than Performance. And Why Moses Doesn't Trump Abraham.
Five Piercing Questions, a Prominent Example, and Perfect Truth
A Right Response to a Wrong Way of Thinking
Why Men Love Religious Systems and Why God Does Not
Are You Crazy Enough to Fight for, Talk About and Live for the Gospel?
The Life that Commends a Man and a Ministry - And the Voice of Truth that Confirms It
If you have not been hanging around with us lately, we are in the middle of a little series that talks about a book called Galatians. It's one of those books in the New Testament that when you stumble across you just by the title of it aren't really grabbed by it. What does a book written to some folks in modern-day Turkey 2,000 years ago have to do with me? What we're doing in this little book is unpacking one of the greatest truths in all of the Scripture. It's a truth that the righteous shall live by faith. In fact, that's one of the most important phrases in the entire Bible.
We're calling this little series Long Arm of the Law. If you want to have a heart attack, a heart problem, a heart that isn't informed by the love of God, then you just keep living according to your understanding of where you can find life. There are these performance-based ideas embedded in all of us that because of the way we see humans relate to each other, we think God must relate to us in the exact same way.
When you get in a performance-based mentality, it's going to pull life right out of you. God is trying to give you life, not pull it out of you. One of the central teachings of Scripture is that God wants you to know he loves you. He has been pursuing you from the moment you and your race of people, my race of being, humans, have turned away from him to find life in the things we do as opposed to finding life in enjoying who God is.
Let me say that again. From the beginning of time, we, as men and women, have believed that we can find life in the things we do as opposed to finding life in relationship with the ultimate lover. It's not unlike a bad marriage. A bad marriage is a marriage where you have to always do something, buy something new, move to a better house, pick up a new hobby, go on the next vacation so you can get through the drudgery and emptiness of life.
"I need to do something because my life isn't rich, isn't full. This relationship leaves me wanting." What all of us really love… Don't you love that first time you connect with somebody and have that conversation? It always scares me a little bit when people practice what I would call emotional promiscuity, when the very first time they go out they talk for seven hours, bare their entire soul, and forge themselves together in a way that is really reckless.
What we long for is that time when, through appropriate time and wisdom and discernment, we can really let somebody else know us. I mean, truly know us, and we move into a depth of relationship that is life-giving. We move into such a depth of relationship that we can get in a car with that person and actually be together for hours and never say anything and just be so glad we're together.
I remember loving getting in a car with my wife when we were just starting to forge a relationship. I just loved being alone with her in that car. The radio wasn't on. We weren't listening to anything, or maybe light music, but we'd just talk, talk, talk, talk. I remember how much I loved that. I also remember how much I loved getting in a car with her sometimes and driving for hours and not feeling like I needed to say anything for her to want to get in the car with me again, and how incredibly rewarding that was.
I didn't have to perform anymore. There was a great deal of comfort in just knowing, "This woman has given her heart to me. She loves me." I loved being with her. I was completely secure with her. I didn't have to be smart enough, funny enough, quick enough, witty enough. I didn't have to worry about putting a baseball cap on because she didn't like my hair or taking it off when I wore a cap all day because she wasn't going to like me, all of the insecurities that define us.
We're all insecure. We grow up and we think, "Gosh, how awful would it be…" That dream we all have where we go to school in our underwear and we're exposed and naked and ashamed. I can remember when I realized, "I am naked around this woman and not ashamed, because I'm not trying to sell her anything. I just get to be with her." There's life in that kind of relationship. But, man, is it ever discouraging to be in a relationship where you're always on, you're always trying to perform to be accepted. It just zaps the life out of you.
The Scriptures are trying to tell you God loves you. "You're not going to find life in the things you do away from me. You're going to find life in being united to me, yoked with me, and enjoying me. Then we're going to do things together, rooted in our acceptance…your acceptance of me that I am good and loving and have your best interests in mind and my acceptance of you because I'm gracious and merciful and kind. You're not suitable for me other than I desire to love you and I'm a loving God. You are a creature in need of love; therefore, you're perfectly suitable for me."
In fact, very quickly I'll just share this with you. I love doing weddings. My favorite moment in every wedding is when I stand there at the altar with the guy, and the music builds. I let them sit a little longer until I nod at the mother of the bride, and she stands up. Everybody takes a cue, and everybody swings around. The doors are still closed, and we're thinking, "Open the door! Let us see her." And that door kicks open, and there she is. You do a 7:00 wedding, almost without fail…
At some point in the wedding I'll say, "Bro, I just have to tell you something. It's never going to get any better than that. She got up this morning. Somebody did her nails, did her feet. Every part of that skin has been buffed and waxed for you. There are professionals who have messed with the hair and the face. That is the dress she shopped for for six months. That's all she's got, man. There it comes." I tell him, "If that doesn't do it for you…"
Here's the thing. I have married some drop-dead gorgeous brides. They looked like 12 hours of work had been put into them, but I have never had a single gal who got up there at that altar in front of the guy and just went… "You're darn right you're giving yourself to me. Who wouldn't?"
Everybody in that room would have gone, "That offends me. I mean, yeah, you're beautiful, but that guy is saying, 'Of all of the women in the world, the rest of my life… As your body deteriorates, my love for you will develop. I will order my days in a way that will cherish you and honor you and will make you singularly my covenant love among all women. I will no longer seek my own personal interests but your interests, and I will elevate your needs and desires above mine.'"
That, by the way, guys, is what God calls us to. There's not a woman alive who ultimately could earn the death of a man for her through her beauty. If she showed up and gave the résumé of her beauty, her dress, the things she adorned herself in and thought she deserved that, at some point we'd all be a little offended. How much more if we, the bride, walk up to the perfect Deity, God, who says, "I choose to give myself to you," for reasons we can't explain other than he's a lover, and we come through and present to him what we think will make him love us.
No. What makes him love us is grace. What makes him love us is mercy. What makes him love us is his nature and character that says, "You know what? You can't clean yourself up enough to be beautiful enough for me to do what I did for you, but I love you, because that's who I am." Scripture is all about understanding moving from performance-based acceptance to acceptance-based performance, responding to the love God has already given us.
But our flesh, our world keeps trying to sell us, "No, you have to do things for God to love you." In fact, what God is going to tell you is if you think you can make yourself attractive enough that perfect Deity would want to date you, you're going to find yourself waiting for that phone to ring a long time. If you show up in his presence and try and dazzle him with your beauty and your life and the things you've clothed yourself in, you're going to find out he's not really impressed with that.
People who come with their hands full don't have any room to receive a gift, but people who come to God realizing that he is something completely unlike them, in need of mercy, waiting to receive, find him ready to embrace them and give them the life they've always wanted. That is true now, and it will be true when we meet him face-to-face. Would you want to read a book that taught you about that? I would. One of the greatest books on that in the entire Scripture is a book called Galatians.
Now here's what I want to do. We've had a couple of weeks since we've looked at this closely together. I'm going to walk you through. I'm going to give you 14 different things. Now don't get panicked here, because 6 through 14 are just verses 6-14 in chapter 3, but 1 through 5 I'm going to break down to you this way. Here's how we're going to go at it today. First of all, I'm going to remind you of one great truth, one simple truth, one simple summary of what this whole book is about. Are you ready? Here's a simple summary.
Paul has a group of friends who happen to live in a little region called Galatia. Just think of your friends at tennis or school or neighborhood. Paul had a group of friends who had been pressured by others to believe that faith in the person and provision of Jesus Christ, God himself in the flesh, was not enough to make them completely acceptable in the eyes of God. They were told they had to keep doing things for God to love them.
Specifically, they had to adopt certain religious practices that God had used in the past to teach people about who he was, but now he's saying, "Those things have accomplished their purpose, and I want you now just to enjoy me. I wanted you to see your need. I wanted you to empty yourself of all your striving, almost be defeated by your complete inability to ever be somebody I would long to be in relationship with, so you'd just go, 'God, if you don't love me, I don't have any hope,' and I would go, 'I want to show you I love you.'"
There was a group of people who came back alongside these friends to whom Paul had said, "God loves you. He loves you so much he humbled himself." He became like the people he created who walked away from him so he could communicate with them, reveal to them his love, and then pay a penalty for them that they could never pay, an infinite debt, an eternal debt. Since they were finite people, they could never pay an infinite, eternal debt.
So an infinite, eternal person, the person of God, became man, revealed himself not just through what he said but by authenticating his words with his works to show, "I'm not just some loon who has some complex. I am very God of very God. I can create out of nothing. My word is powerful. I can deliver people from death. I can bring healing. I can bring hope. I can bring life. I am God. Trust in me, and I will give you life by paying your debt."
Paul wanted them to know that and not to go back to any system, anything that was going to make them believe they had to do something to earn God's love. Simple summary of Galatians. Now I want to give you two simple reminders of major truths that I've taught you up to this point. That was one simple summary; now two simple reminders.
First, anything that threatens the sufficiency of the gospel, the good news of who Jesus is, of salvation by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ… Anything that threatens that, anything which threatens the unity of the body, the family God created by people who came to him in love, anything which threatens the destiny of men who God wants to be in relationship with him is completely unacceptable and must be clearly and powerfully challenged no matter who says it.
In Galatians, chapter 1, verse 8, Paul speaks in great hyperbole. He says, "Even if we, the guys who brought you to that first thing… If I change my tune or if an angel from God," just talking in hyperbole, "came from heaven and would preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have already preached, let that person be cursed by God, because he's taking you away from life."
What you see in the first two chapters of this book that we've looked at is that Paul is going to say, "I can't stand silently by when people dumb down who Jesus is. He's not a great prophet or a great teacher; he is very God of very God. He's not just one way that men can have a relationship with God; he's the only way, because your destiny, your life now is at stake, and the unity God wants us to have is not a bunch of different systems we war about but a unity in our love and seeking of him." If anything threatens those things, you can't stand by silently. It must be clearly and powerfully challenged.
The second reminder we've talked about is that God is trying to reveal that his relationship with us is based on love, his acceptance of us, not on performance, what we do, and love is infinitely better than law. Why? Because law rules by fear of punishment. Law rules by fear, we've talked about, whereas love rules by fastening your heart to a person.
The reason that ruling by fear isn't good is because law is only effective when the power of accountability or the execution of justice is present. In fact, one of the things Scripture says is that the reason the hearts of men are so fully committed to doing evil… It says in Ecclesiastes 8:11, "Therefore, the hearts of men among them are given to do evil, because the wages (the consequences) of sin are not readily seen." Isn't that the way it is?
We look around and go, "Well, it must not be that big of a deal to do it that way. It doesn't look like there's any consequence to what they're doing." We don't see all the consequence of the heart, and we certainly don't see all of the consequences of tomorrow when certain seeds are sown in an individual's life. "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil."
Law is only effective when there is a potential consequence for not obeying the law. One of the things you'll see every now and then in Reader's Digest or Parade magazine or something like that is all of the laws in our country that are on the books that are not enforced so they may as well not be laws. Some of them are rather hilarious, but they're inconsequential because there's no fear of persecution.
Arnold Schwarzenegger right now is in a little bit of trouble because he actually smoked a Cuban cigar. If you're an American, you're not allowed to smoke a Cuban cigar anywhere or purchase it anywhere, but nobody has ever been prosecuted for smoking a Cuban. But when you're a politician and people want to take a shot at you, they're going to say, "Well, this is on the books. This is on the books."
Love is effective everywhere the power of relationships is accounted for. In other words, if I was told by my wife, "Hey, if I ever see you being inappropriate with another woman, you're done," then I'm going to go, "Great. No problem, sweetie. Are you going to be here with the kids this weekend? I've got to go to Vegas to a pastors' conference. Whatever I do, I promise you won't see me."
That's why so many people get in trouble when they're away from the accountability of a community, away from the accountability of a wife, because they go, "What doesn't get seen doesn't hurt. What people don't know won't hurt them." Is that true? No, we know it's a lie. We know what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. We know it comes back. That distress, that dishonesty, that deceitfulness comes right back into the home. Even though she didn't see it, it unravels everything we were trying to build together.
But when I leave and go, "You don't have to worry, sweetie, because you may not see or know what I ever do in the privacy of my hotel room or with my discretionary time there, but you're going with me. I have you in my heart. I love you, and I won't do anything that dishonors you or in any way affects our relationship, because I love you." Do you see why love is better?
Now, one simple truth, two simple reminders, three previous verses to set the stage. I want to show you that chapter 2, verses 19-21, really set up where we're going. The three previous verses were these: "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God." That's kind of a confusing verse in verse 19. Then this very famous verse in Galatians 2:20. I'm going to unpack this for you in just a second.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."
One simple truth. Two simple reminders. Three previous verses. Now let me unpack these three verses for you with four simple truths about them. This is all that they were saying. It really sets up where we're going this week.
First, the law shows that no one can meet the standard of God's perfection. That's what it means where it says, "…through the Law I died to the Law…" In other words, the law showed me, "This is what you have to do. You have to live this way, and if you don't live this way, there's going to be a curse." He goes, "I'm cursed. I realized that the law was showing me that I was a man under judgment. The wages of not meeting this standard is death. So I was dead. I had no hope. I was separate and apart from God."
Secondly, the provision of Jesus is what allows us to be acceptable in God's sight. "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God [in Christ] ." What this means is a couple of things. The wages of sin is death. Paul is saying, "I was a dead man." The good news is Jesus came and said, "I am going to go and die for you so you can live in relationship with me."
Paul is saying, "Through the law I died to the law. The Law and the Prophets anticipated that one would come who would pay your debt and that he would allow you to be reconciled to God and live again in relationship with him." That's what Jesus said he did. He fulfilled the law so you can no longer be under the law but now live in relationship with God through the benefit of what Christ, as an expression of God's love, did for you. Those three previous verses show us those two things.
Thirdly, they also show us that understanding and responding to God's love expressed through Jesus is what transforms a life. This is really important. Rule-keeping never transforms a life. What transforms a life is when you see love at work. When I saw God's love expressed through Jesus Christ, it changed my understanding of God. He wasn't some cosmic policeman waiting to bust me. He wasn't some grandfather who was going to let me be a boy but still love me and let me back at his table.
When I saw that he was a righteous and holy God who cared for me and dealt with my sin radically and harshly and fully but did it in a way that would allow me to live and him to be glorified, I said, "What can I do to honor that God?" It changed everything about me. So now I no longer do things in fear that I get caught. Now I do everything as a response to what he has done for me. What changes our lives is the fact that God died for me to pay the debt I owe because I offended him. What kind of God is that? Paul says, "I've never gotten over it."
Fourthly, if there is any way to attain the righteousness of God and be at peace with God other than the perfect sacrifice of God's perfect Son, then there was no need for God to come in the form of the Son and die. If there is any other way to make God happy, to make him love you other than him dying for you, then he didn't need to die. He would have just said, "Do this." God forbid that Christ died needlessly.
There you go. You're caught up. Now, after those four simple truths, I'm going to tell you what goes on in Galatians 3:1-14. Let me read it to you. "You foolish Galatians…" You see why Paul calls them this. He's saying, "What in the world, you spiritually naïve people?" "…who has bewitched you…""What spell have you been cast under?" "…before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?"
Paul is saying, "I came and I clearly taught you the hope that came through God walking on this earth, taking on the form of a man, dying for you. I made it very clear that there's nothing you can ever bring before him to boast in, in whatever bag you build in your life, except Jesus Christ crucified for you, a perfect man who paid a perfectly righteous debt that you established when you offended a perfectly righteous God. Don't boast in anything but that. I clearly… I put it on a poster."
That's literally what it means. "That's all I came to you and told you about: the love of God expressed through the cross of Jesus Christ. What in the world took you off of that?" Now I'm going to read for a while.
"This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?"
What's all that? Well, that's five questions. I gave you one simple truth, I gave you two simple reminders, I gave you three previous verses with four applications from them, and now I'm going to give you the five questions that are covered in the first five verses. Are you ready? Here we go. Five simple questions Paul uses. They are called rhetorical questions. What he's doing is putting a hammerlock on these folks until they go, "Okay, we get it. Big mistake." Paul is being clear and powerful in his confrontation of these folks. This is what he says.
1._ How in the world could you have so quickly abandoned what you so thoroughly embraced?_ "When I was among you, I talked about the hope that came through God bringing his love to you through Jesus, and you went, 'Man, that is what we've been looking for. We are whipped and worn out by building different idols, building different gods, going through different systems, listening to the Greeks, listening to the Romans, listening to the Jews, listening to this region, listening to that region, listening to this system, listening to that system. We have sacrificed to every god just in case we missed one.'"
That's what was going on in Athens in chapter 17 of the book of Acts. Paul walked right into the middle of this area where men got together and debated the best ideas of the world. They had all kinds of different idols there that they sacrificed to, and there was one in the middle that said, "To the unknown God." "In case we missed one, let's just throw a bone to this guy."
Paul walked into that setting and goes, "Guess what. You did miss one. I'm going to tell you who this unknown God is. He's the only true God who would help you understand that when you know him you don't need these other so-called gods you have created in your own mind because you rejected the one God who loves you and came, declared himself among you most completely through the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ, that you might know that he cares for you and the curse of the law, which is the consequence of disobeying the law."
When you move away from the love of God, who is the author and giver of life, and you say, "I'm going to find life in doing things over here," you unplug yourself from life and death comes upon you. Physically there is an illustration of what is true spiritually. It is a gift of grace that the eyes grow dim and the flesh grows weak. It is a reminder that your flesh is not your solution. It is a physical illustration of a spiritual truth.
What God is calling you to is "Come back into relationship with me, and even when this tent folds, I will rebuild it and give you a tent that will never fade, and I will bring those who have faith in me that I am good into a relationship with me where all of life will be yours. There's hope and joy now, even in cancer, even in dads leaving, because there is a day that will come when I will deal with all that is evil in this world. There's hope." Paul is saying, "What did they do to take you away from this? I gave you this hope."
2._ What changed your relationship with God and brought his Spirit into your life?_ This is so important. This is verse 2. He's saying, "Why did you abandon God? Let me just go through and ask you a few questions." Verse 2 said, "…did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?"
What he's saying is, "Your life changed when the love of God invaded your life. Your life didn't change when we gave you a system that you had to obey these things in order to earn favor with God. You were burdened by that system. You were constantly checking your calendar. You were constantly watching your step, looking over your shoulder. 'Did we do the right thing?' Your life changed when I told you God loves you. He has your best interests in mind. He's for you.
You went from living a life of fear and performance to a life of peace and acceptance and seeking God at every turn you got, because the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that says, 'This is my Father. My Father loves me. Not my will but your will be done. I'm an idiot and my flesh and this world is going to pull me different directions, but, God, you're going to pull me one direction. It is the direction toward life. I want to go where you want me to go, because you're a good God.'
That's the Spirit of God that was in the person of God, Jesus Christ, and that Spirit came upon you when you met God. Not through keeping the law but through meeting God. When did you get that Spirit that transforms you? Answer: when you trusted in Jesus. Not when you kept the law, not when you did religion. The Spirit of God came upon you, in you when you by faith accepted his offer of love."
Let me go back to my relationship with my wife. I probably wasn't the only insecure one in the car the first few times we got together. I'm sure she wanted to look good. I'm sure she wanted to make sure she didn't embarrass herself, didn't have lettuce between her teeth. By the grace of God, for some reason, she wanted to spend some time with me.
But at a certain point, I went to her and said, "Hey, of all of the women in the world, I'm going to choose to yoke myself and give myself to you. Will you accept my offer to love you as best I can? I'm not a perfect lover by a long shot, but I'm going to do my best, and I'm going to surround myself with men who will stand with me at my wedding, and when those guys go off in the different ways of life, I'll find other men to stand with me to make sure I fulfill this covenant commitment to you.
I'm going to ask them to call me out. I'm going to ask them to undress me in every way necessary for me to be the man I want to be, and I have a God who's going to continually call me to that, because he loves you and has your best interests in mind, and he loves me and knows I'll find life when I really give myself to you this way." She went, "Oh, yeah. Yes, I will receive that offer of love," and peace came upon her and the spirit of love invaded our lives.
Now, this is more than just an emotional idea; this is a security that came in the spirit of Todd offering himself to the spirit of Alex, who gave themselves to one another. I'm a fallible, fallen man, but when God himself offers to love us and that offer of love comes to me in the person of his Son, the person of his Spirit, and I accept it, it changes me and brings peace into my life.
I don't shrink back from him, wondering if I look good enough for him today. I know I could never look good enough for him, but for some reason, he offered himself to me. I do all I can to be a lover to him, pleasing to him, but not out of fear that he'll leave me if I put on a few pounds, if I don't look good, if I make a mistake, if I respond in anger or moodiness. I keep resting in his love. Paul said, "Did you get that by your performing or by meeting Christ?"
3._ Do you think the faith which initially brought you the transforming power of God now needs help from that which never transformed you?_ Verse 3 asks it this way: "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh [by doing] ?" In other words, the faith which brought you into this place of peace and the transforming power of the presence of God doesn't now need help by you going back and doing things to change you. Your doing things never changed you. What changed you was your belief in God's provision for you. So why would you now leave that provision and go back to doing things?
4._ Was it worth it to suffer for your confidence in Christ before but not now?_ That's what verse 4 says. "Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?" What he's saying is, "When you decided to believe that a man could be reconciled to God only through the person of Jesus Christ, you took some heat from that. The Jews around you said, 'That is crazy.' The Romans around you said, 'What do you mean?' The Greeks around you said, 'How are you even sure there's a God, you people who have found the Way?'"
In fact, early believers were not called Christians. They weren't called Christians for a long time. They were called people of the Way. Why? Because they embraced this idea that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life, and they took some serious heat for that. There was this period of time when the world leader, a guy named Nero, used to take Christians and run them through with a spear, dip them in oil, and use them to light the way to his garden parties. Get you some of that.
It separated you from families because you left old family religious systems. Some of you guys were people that your family said, "What do you mean you're not going to do what we've always done as a family? What do you mean you're going to reject the family's gods and the family's views? What do you mean you're going to embrace this Jesus?" He's saying, "Why do you now, having gone through all the persecution you went through when you embraced Christ…? What all of a sudden wasn't worth following Christ that these men told you you were going to get if you went back to doing things in order to get God's love?"
5._ Was the power of God evident among you when you were law-keepers or now that you became lovers?_ Verse 5: "So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" That "miracles among you" has two ideas in mind. "When God came and I came as his messenger, as one sent forth from God, there were a lot of things that happened when I was there that God used early in the church's history to authenticate the message I was bringing."
God always does that as an act of grace. Whenever he's revealing himself in new ways to men, he always authenticates the messenger with works. That's why you don't see a lot of the same kinds of miraculous manifestations today in areas where the gospel has been firmly preached and clearly known for a long time. Early on, when the law was given through Moses, there were many miracles to validate "This is God's man."
Remember what Moses said? "H-h-how are they going to kn-kn-know that I'm-I'm-I'm your man? I don't even sp-speak well." God said, "What do you have?" "Sandals and a stick." He goes, "Perfect. Let's use them, because it's not about you, Moses, or your stick; it's about me. I'll take your little stuttering mouth and let them know you're my man." If you haven't read Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy lately, check it out. I think you would go, "There's something going on with this Moses." Moses said, "It ain't me."
Prophets. When people left what Moses brought to them about revealing who God was, God sent messengers who would come and tell them the truth about who they were and how they rejected God's message. Early on, Elijah and Elisha came along, and many prophets came, and when they came, to show that they were calling you back to what you had abandoned, there were many miraculous manifestations early in the life of the prophets, but as the prophets continued, they no longer had as many miraculous manifestations and the message continued.
You'll find late in the life of Moses the miracles decreased because he had been firmly established already as God's man. Thirdly, the time that God now comes and says, "These prophets who have been telling you that you've wandered away from the law but have given you hope that one day God would provide the means through which the law could be satisfied?"
Jesus comes, and early in Jesus' ministry you have a lot of miracles, but then later in Jesus' ministry he said, "There are going to be no more signs. I've already done everything I can do to show you that what I'm doing is not of me; it's of God. The Spirit of God is on me." So later in his life he finally said, "There will be no more signs except the sign of Jonah, that a man will be three days inside death and yet will live again to preach hope." Speaking of his resurrection.
When the early church came, Paul said, "Places that we went to authenticate that we, in fact, were men who were going to carry forth the gospel of Jesus Christ, that we were his messengers, his sent-forth ones." Early on, there were a lot of miracles that were miraculous in their manifestation, a sense of awe, but the enduring miracle, which is also what he has in mind here in Galatians 3:5, is not just the healings, not just the things Paul did, which were similar to what Christ did, which were similar to what Elijah did, raising people from the dead and the like…
Those things tapered off, and the ongoing miracle of the church is the miracle of a transformed life among us, the peace, the hope, the love, the difference in the way we commune with others and serve the world and steward our resources, not for our own further comfort but for the glory of God and the good of man. If that isn't evident here, then people have a right to believe that Jesus isn't who he said he was and/or we are not who we say we are, which is followers of this King.
Five simple questions Paul asks. "Did that power come upon you when you were obeying religious activity or when you embraced Jesus? So why, if all of those rhetorical questions are answered in the way that clearly they're asked, which is, 'When I embraced Jesus,' why have you left?" Because these men were persuasive and powerful, and these men told them specifically in that day and age, "If you don't adopt Judaism and the practices of the people God revealed himself to initially and gave the law to… If you don't do these things, God won't love you."
They had a compelling case, because they could go back in history and say, "Look. This is how God revealed himself to us in the past." But when Jesus came, he went to those men and told them, "Look, man. You guys don't get it. The law was to show you that God is holy and you are not, yet you've become slaves to the law instead of people who sought mercy from me. You reject me because you love the law because the law exalts your flesh, when the law was really supposed to expose the weakness of your flesh. You guys have prided yourself on thinking you've kept the law."
That's why when Jesus came he said, "Okay. Some of you guys… So, you haven't gone to Vegas and slept with some stripper, but have you ever looked at a woman with lust in your heart? Guess what. That's not holy. Okay, so some of you guys haven't gotten so angry you've run a spear through a man, but have you ever called somebody an imbecile or an idiot? Have you ever slandered them? You're guilty of murdering that person's character, made in my image."
On and on he went. He just said, "Let me tell you the standard of God's holiness. You guys are focusing on the wrong thing." This is where Paul is genius. Not only does he appeal to experiences in verses 1-5, but now I'm going to give you my 6-14. This is very simple. It will go very quickly.
What he's saying in this little section in verses 6-14 is, "Okay, let's just leave your experience, because experience is good, but experience is subjective. Let me show you why your experience is validated by the objective truth of what God has always been saying. These Judaizers, these religious people are coming alongside of you and telling you you need to be Jews. Well, let's, then, go to the law and see what the law said, and let's go to the ultimate quintessential Jew and see what he did."
The quintessential Jew was the father of the Jewish people, a guy named Abraham. The giver of the law was a guy named Moses. So we're going to appeal to the writings of Moses and the life of Abraham. Here we go. Verse 6. Let's take Abraham. "Even so Abraham…" And he quotes Genesis 15:6, where Abraham was told by God, "Look, Abe, you've been trying to get what I told you would happen done by your own plan.
You didn't see life coming out of you and Sarah. You didn't see a descendant coming that you believed I could bless the world through by your own means, so you went and took a concubine and had a son called Ishmael. That's your way." By the way, how has that worked out for the people of Abraham? How has that little Arab nation that came from Ishmael and his family unit done?
He came and said, "Abe, it's not going to come through Ishmael. I will give you a son through your wife, the one you should have hung with from the beginning like I told you." It says, "And Abraham believed God," even though he goes, "I really don't know how that's going to happen. If you haven't noticed, God, things didn't work so well with Sarah and me when we were in our 30s. The plumbing is about 60 years older now, so good luck with that."
In the midst of that, he said, "Well, okay." It says in Genesis 15:6 that Abraham believed God, and when he believed God it was reckoned… The word is imputed. The word is counted, which means it was given to him that he was righteous. Why? Because he said, "You know what, God? I'm not going to go my own way. I'm not going to work it out the way that makes sense to me. I'm going to believe you. I'm going to believe you're good. I'm going to love you. All right. What do you want me to do?" That's what made Abraham righteous.
So Abraham, the quintessential Jew, wasn't even righteous because of obeying the law, because the law didn't come around for a long time. In fact, the sign of his relationship with God, which is circumcision, wasn't even adopted by Abraham until chapter 17. The reason he circumcised himself in chapter 17 is because God said, "Hey, Abe, you said you loved me back there in chapter 15. If you love me, here's something I want you to do to show that you love me that'll be a sign among the nations that you're different from other nations."
So Abraham did get circumcised, but not to earn God's love but because this friend of God, Abraham, heard God say, "This would please me," so he did it. So the quintessential Jew didn't even become righteous in God's eyes by obeying the law, because the law didn't come until the descendant of Abraham came along later through Moses. It came through faith.
Let's go back even farther to Genesis when God created Adam and Eve. How did Adam and Eve have life? Adam and Eve had life in Eden, the Paradise of walking with God, because they had faith that they just had to enjoy God's provision. They didn't need to do what God said they didn't need to do to find life. He said, "Look. You can do whatever you want, but you don't need to figure out what good and evil is. I'll tell you what good and evil is. Just walk with me."
So he put the Tree of Knowledge in the middle of the garden, in the middle of Paradise, and he said, "You will live by faith. The day you start to think you can decide better than me what is good and evil, you'll pick of this tree, and you'll know good and evil then, but the difference between you and me is you're not essentially good like I am, so even though you know good and evil, you won't be able to choose good like me."
So they lived in Paradise as long as they had faith that God was good. Do you see how simple this is? The righteous have always lived by faith. The day they go, "We don't believe that God knows what's best for us, so let's get the information we think God is keeping from us to find life…" They ate of that Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and God said, "Let me tell you something. You don't believe I'm good? Well, then you go get a big ol' drink of your knowledge."
How has that worked out for us? The next time somebody says, "If God is so good and so loving and so kind, why is there so much evil in the world?" the answer is because we're not living the way God wants us to; we're living a way that is right to us and has brought all kinds of sickness and pain and death and destruction and hopelessness in this world. That's why: because we're not people of faith. We don't believe God is good.
"Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham." That's the way it has always been. "You guys say you're sons of Abraham just because you're some physical descendant. Well, God doesn't have any grandchildren. From the beginning, God wanted to bless all of the nations through Abraham." Go back and look at Genesis 12:1-3 where God reached out to Abraham in love.
There it's very clear that it was always about the whole world, that God was going to reveal himself to the whole world through Abraham. As Abraham was a friend of God, other people could be told by Abraham, "This is how you become a friend of God: you just trust him. Here's who he is, and his light will shine upon you." This is who sons of Abraham have always been, not descendants of a particular physical line.
I encourage you. You ought to go read John 8:33-47, because it is Galatians in 15 verses presented by Jesus Christ. He goes to the religious leaders of the day and tells them, "Look. You guys don't get it because God isn't your father. Your father is the Devil because you're doing what the Devil says you should do, which is to build your own way to life instead of receiving God's promise of life."
Look at verse 8. "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying [in Genesis 12:3] , 'All the nations will be blessed in you.' So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer."** Do you want to be righteous? Join Abraham, the believer. Not Abraham, the doer. Do you get it?
Now, because Abraham believed and he believed God was a good God, he goes, "What can I do to respond to that love?" Just like I'm not insecure about the fact that my wife won't love me, but because I care about her, I eat a certain way. I try and keep myself reasonably attractive. I try and treat her in a way that would make it easy for her to love and respect and follow me. Not out of fear that if I don't live up to a perfect standard she's out. I know she's committed to me, but because I love her, I do everything I can to serve her.
This is what it says about Abraham. Abraham was a friend of God. Because he's a friend of God, he goes, "Hey, what would please you, friend, incredible friend who does more for me than I could ever do for him?" So Abraham did things, but it was because he believed God was good. It was acceptance-based performance, not performance looking for acceptance. Do you get it?
"For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law** …'"** You want to talk law? Let's go back to the law. Deuteronomy 27:26 says, "Cursed is everyone who doesn't abide by everything written in the law." A lot is wrapped up in that, but bottom line is the law, from the very beginning, was nothing more than to show you that you can't keep it.
Then he goes on to say, "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, 'The righteous man shall live by faith.'" That is one of the most important verses in your entire Bible. In fact, three entire books of your New Testament are written off that verse. "The righteous…" Do you want to know what the righteous are? The entire book of Romans is dedicated to those two words: the righteous. This is what righteous men are in God's eyes. Read Romans.
"…shall live…" Do you want to know how to live? The entire book of Galatians is an exposition on how we shall live. Not in bondage to performance but an expression of a response to God's love for us. That's how you live. That's what the whole book is about. You're free to love God because you know who he is. He's not some cosmic killjoy, not some cop up there in heaven going, "Caught you! Can't wait to get you." He is a God who is good, and how you live is all expounded in the book of Galatians.
"…by faith." That's the entire book of Hebrews. That's what the whole book of Hebrews is about. That one little verse that is quoted numerous times throughout your Bible… Specifically, it's referenced from the book of Habakkuk right here. "You shall live by faith." That's what Abraham said. Not by doing to obtain righteousness, but a righteous man believes in God. There's your New Testament. Three major books unpacking that verse, which shows up again and again in your Bible.
"However, the Law is not of faith…" Contrary to how righteous people should be, the law is not of faith. "…on the contrary, [Leviticus 18:5 says] 'He who practices [does] them shall live by them.'" Doing will never satisfy God. The law is always about doing, when righteousness comes by believing. Verse 13:"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written[in Deuteronomy 21:23], 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree …'"
Jewish people never crucified folks. They stoned them, but when they did something especially egregious, they took those stoned bodies and hung them from a tree so everybody could see, "This is what happens to people who are idiots, who aren't friends of God." Romans came a little bit later, and as a way to publicly humiliate men, they didn't stone them; they nailed them to a tree while they were alive and let them sit there until they asphyxiated themselves in their weakness.
So Christ became cursed, exposed to the watching world. Why? He didn't do anything wrong. Exactly! Because he didn't do anything wrong, he didn't have a debt to pay to the law, but because he loved you, he paid that debt so you could accept that gift by believing that what he did could be imputed, given, considered yours so you can be back in relationship with God. How do you respond to a God who would do that for you? You love him.
The Spirit which ruled Christ's life will come upon you when you see that love, and you'll live the way Christ lived. Not perfectly, because you're not Christ. You don't see as clearly as he has seen because you're an idiot and your flesh will pull you a different way and the world will convince you that that way is a better way and the Enemy will tell you it's the right way to go, but you'll keep going back and you'll sing songs and you'll be with other men who remind you, "This is the love of God." Christ paid that curse for us.
Verse 14: "…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing [that God said would come through] Abraham might come to [everybody] , so that we would receive the promise of the [relationship of a living God] the Spirit through faith." That'll set you free, people. That'll set you free. It's worth getting up on a rainy day and coming to hear about. It's worth knocking on people's hearts and saying, "I've got to tell you something."
I'm going to tell you a quick story about my friend Paul. He told me this today. He said, "Todd, I had a pivotal moment in my journey this week." He said, "I was at Chick-fil-A waiting for a meeting, and I saw two guys sitting at a table. They were just talking a lot about how to find life in a way that seemed right to them. They were talking about women. They were talking about partying, and they were just making their way through. I just sat there and went, 'O Lord, those poor people. They don't know there's no life in doing what men think they should do to find life.'"
He said, "For the first time in my life, I did something I've never done before. I was just thinking about what we talked about last week and how bold and how great this story is. Why wouldn't I share that with them? It wasn't going to cost me anything. Maybe they were going to think I was crazy, but who cares?" He said, "For the first time in my life, I did something I'd never done. I got up, I walked over, and I sat right there by their table and said, 'Hey, guys, excuse me. I was just sitting there, and I heard your conversation. Can I tell you something?'" They go, "Sure."
He goes, "Listen. I don't mean to eavesdrop, but I totally get what you guys are doing. Your life used to be mine, and I kept trying to look for different things that would give me life. I have to tell you, you're not going to get life doing that. From personal experience, I will tell you that I felt pain with those choices, real deep pain, but I have found life, an understanding that God is good, as revealed to me through his love and his sacrifice of paying for my sins through Jesus Christ and realizing he loves me so much he died for me.
Then I began to follow him in every way of my life, and my life has changed. You may think I'm crazy. I just want to tell you something. God loves you, and he wants you to quit trying to look to find life by sharing stories and moving through women and hurting people and hurting yourselves and find life in following God. He loves you. His name is Jesus." That was it. About a minute and 15 seconds. He said, "Thanks, man." They go, "Thank you." And he got up and went and got his chicken sandwich and had his meeting.
Why wouldn't you do that? There's life here. If we can help you understand more about that life, would you come talk to us? If you know that life, will you respond to it fully by being people who love, people who steward your life and resources in a way that gives glory to God and kindness and goodness to others? We have to keep spurring each other that direction.
Father, I thank you for these my friends who got up this morning to come and consider these things. We thank you, Lord, that you have considered us, for reasons we'll never understand, valuable enough that you would die for us. Lord, we realize you didn't do it because we were good; you did it because it's who you are. What kind of God is so good that he would pursue the men who spit in his face and turned away from him and take their curse due them that they might find life and reconciliation?
You're a great God, a God worthy of being served. So we seek to serve you this week in our lives being lives of worship. May we worship you this week by our love and by our responding as friends respond, saying, "What can we do to please you today?" That's our life of worship. For your glory and our good we go, amen.
What makes the Christian faith like no other? Its bold claim that we are accepted by God - not because we "follow the rules" - but only because of Christ's sacrifice. Yet how many of us, if we're honest with ourselves, are still trying to earn God's love!Having previously established the church in Galatia, Paul continues to boldly proclaim Christ and maintain that the law's sole purpose was to make us aware of our great need for God's grace. He warns against striving to merit God's acceptance by following strict religious practices. Doing so is an exercise in futility and a rejection of Christ's sacrifice.The message for believers today is clear: Relying on performance to earn God's love sets us up for bondage to legalism, pride and hardness of heart. Join Todd Wagner on this walk through the book of Galatians where you'll discover the danger of performance-based acceptance and learn to walk in the freedom offered through a relationship with Christ.