Galatians

Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

~ Galatians 1:1-10

This letter, sent by Paul, was to be read by a group of churches, not just a single church. Galatia, is a Roman province that was established in the year 25 BC which contained the churches found in the cities of Antioch in Pisidia, Derbe, Iconium, and Lystra. Acts 13:4-14 and vs 28 detail the time that Paul spent in this region, including when he and Barnabus were mistaken for gods after healing a man. In Iconium, Jews from Antioch stoned Paul and left him for dead, but he was well received in Derbe. The date of this letter is often placed sometime in 48 AD, shortly after he had finished evangelizing lower Galatia and he mentions here in this first section that he only recently left them.

So, that said, let’s get cracking! Paul, describes himself as a man who was not made an apostle by a council (as was the case for Matthias in Acts 1:12-26), nor through any other method, but who was ordained by Jesus Himself, as is described in Acts 9:1-30. He opens his letter, as is his custom, by opening his heart to them and pronouncing blessings on them and reminding them of the gospel which he preached to them at the beginning. This is important because, for the people receiving it, he is showing them that his message remains the same. Unfortunately, however, that only lasts for about the one sentence.

Very quickly after Paul left, there were infiltrations of Jews who sought to convert these newly converted Christians to a form of Judaism. These pseudo-christians would come into the new churches, proclaiming their own authority, and immediately begin to demean Paul; calling his authority into question and stating that he had only told them PART of what was required to be saved by God. They would then reveal the “whole” gospel to them by insisting that they follow the Jewish civil and ceremonial laws and that they would confirm their dedication to this brand of Judaism by getting circumcised. Paul stands firmly against that. He states that there is only one gospel of God that can be preached and that it is the gospel of Christ – that Jesus is God, that He died for their sins, and that He finished the work necessary for salvation on the cross. They don’t need to “DO” anything to receive this, outside of repenting of their sins and trusting in Him alone for their salvation. Once they have been converted they are wholly secure in their conversion. There is nothing else to add. More than that, anyone who adds to the good news that God has provided salvation for His elect is speaking in the place of God and, by their own law, condemned to death.

Paul, who proclaimed at the beginning of this letter that He was appointed by God Himself for this role, is claiming that He is speaking directly for God in this matter and that his authority rests not with him, but on the throne of Grace in Heaven where Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father. He separates himself from the notion that he does anything for the purpose of his own glory, but that he does (and endures) all things for the sake of God. These impostors, on the other hand, are seeking the approval of the Jewish leaders by distorting the message of Christ. Paul makes it very clear where he stands on this matter – he stands with God and for God and by that statement he condemns the message of those who came in after him.

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.

~ Galatians 1:11-24

Here Paul is explaining that the gospel that he professes is not good news of a human origin, but from God Himself. This was revealed to him by Jesus Himself as recorded in Acts (Acts 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:12-23). He then goes into detail about his previous life, how he sought to destroy the gospel and the new sect (at this point called “the way”) after he observed the stoning death of Stephen in Acts 7:54-60 (remember that he was called “Saul” at that time). Anyone who shares their faith can tell you that there are often three responses to the gospel – you either are saved, ignorant, or angered.

Those who are ignorant, simply don’t get it. Like talking to a 5 yr old about substitutionary atonement – they look intently at you because they realize what you’re saying is important to you, but when you finish they say, “Okay!”, and go running off to look for cars, or flowers, or candy. I’ve seen this happen time after time and it’s still kind of funny to me to think that someone can hear such amazing news and yet not be able to process it. Having witnessed multiple times to Jews I’ve seen the same thing over and over – they often just don’t understand what you are saying. Maybe it’s cultural, maybe it’s the partial hardening of their hearts as pushed by God upon them (Rom 11:25) but whatever it is it’s strange to watch in action.

Those who are saved are a delight to experience. You see a change in their face as they realize what you say is true, and God begins to connect the dots for them in ways they’ve never imagined. Their whole life begins to make sense to them as the weird revelations they’ve experienced in the past which made very little sense before suddenly are seen in sharp focus as God acting on their life for their good and His glory. They humbly repent of their sinful lives and trust that they are not the captains of their own destiny and begin the long and glorious road of sanctification. This is a rare but beautiful sight that some evangelists never get to see as most are “seed planters” who rarely see the harvest and local pastors and friends are waterers. Paul describes that process in 1 Cor 3:5-7:

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

~ 1 Corinthians 3:5-7

For the person who gets to see this transformation take place as a soul is soundly converted, there is very little on earth that carries as much joy and satisfaction.

There is, however, one other response: Anger. This is the angry atheist who shouts down your proclamation of the gospel, or the false convert who decries your attempts to preach the word by insisting that you are doing it wrong. They beat their chests and shout that you’re wrong and that they’re right and they’re positive that they can best you at any turn. They religionists and atheists alike who proudly proclaim their own righteousness and, in the case of Paul, will actually seek to kill those who oppose them to protect their own agenda and way of life. This is the Muslim who shoots Christians to death to stop the spread of Christianity. This is the Hindu who beats a Christian pastor to death with a baseball bat because of his fear of the true God who reigns in Heaven above. It was with this same anger that led Paul to seek approval from the ruling council of the Jews in Jerusalem to imprison and attack Christians wherever they could be found. This same anger led him to obtain papers that would allow him to arrest practicing Christians in Damascus.

It was on that road that, “He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me (Gal 1:15-16)”, literally blinding him and stopping him in his path, it was revealed to him in the next few days that he would become the evangelist to the Gentiles. This is something that he would have refused to do, as a matter of principle, even to death before his conversion. As a new creation, however, he was more than willing to do whatever is required of him for the God who saved him. He then recounts his visit with the “core” or “pillar” apostles (as the ESV Study Bible puts it) in Jerusalem who accepted him before beginning his missionary journeys. This was recorded to show that he’s not a lone wolf evangelist, but that he has been accepted and approved by the church in Jerusalem. The same people who followed Paul, seeking to convert the new Christians to the modified form of Judaism (mentioned yesterday), used the fact that he wasn’t a “true” apostle since he wasn’t present with Jesus before His death, burial, and resurrection against him. Paul’s statements here at the end of this chapter show that he was not only approved by those apostles, but that he was originally set apart for his service by Jesus Himself. When it was revealed that it was Paul, who was Saul the “persecutor” who was now seeking to proclaim the gospel of God to the gentiles, all Christians who heard it glorified God as they knew this kind of a conversion could not come from human intervention.

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

~ Galatians 2:1-10

Continuing his defense, Paul describes his next visit to Jerusalem where he brought with him Titus, a Gentile. This may have been a challenge to the Jewish Christians who were still mainly focusing on converting Jews to Christ, or it may have been that he was just bringing him to show the kind of conversions that he has been experiencing and so that they could examine him to see if the conversion was real. During this time he sought out the approval of the apostles who “seemed influential”. This would have certainly included Peter and John, and possibly James whom he had met on his previous trip. Paul was concerned that there would be two separate groups in the church, a Jewish sect and a Gentile sect. When he says that he was in fear that he had run “in vain”, what it means is that he wanted to be certain that there was unity between these groups. Many of the Jewish Christians had believed that Paul’s work with the Gentiles was a wasted effort because he wasn’t holding them to the Jewish law. It was Paul’s mission in this visit to prove that his work had been beneficial in soundly saving many and to show them that the law was dead with the old covenant.

Paul, who had been present at Titus’s conversion, insisted that he not be circumcised. Circumcision was a practice that showed allegiance to the old covenant, which Jesus had fulfilled – signified in the tearing of the veil in the temple upon His death. There was now no separation from the people, as was previously displayed by the veil in the temple which separated the holy of holies from the rest of the people – both Jews and Gentiles. All could come freely to God directly through Jesus.

False brothers (read: false-converts), of the same type who were assaulting the Galatian Christians, were merely Jewish spies who were sent in to see what was going on inside of the Church and to try to turn their affections back to the temple and the law from which Jesus had purchased their freedom. Paul remarks that they recognized their deception and, for the sake of the gospel, they refused to change the presentation of the gospel to include adherence to the old testament laws. This meant that they were free to preach the gospel of reconciliation to the Gentiles just as it has been preached to the Jews.

Here in verse 7, Paul makes a parenthetical remark that’s of some import. “And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me, God shows no partiality)”… This comment is directly opposite that of the way that people tend to look at “rock star” pastors and theologians. If, say, John MacArthur, Mark Driscoll, or John Piper were to come to your church, there would be a line of people seeking to have them sign their bibles. Why? Paul is absolutely right, God shows no partiality. We are all at the same level before Him. Damned sinners, saved by the grace of a good God who sought us out, died in our place, and took our shame and guilt and replaced it with love and mercy and peace. I stand before God, just as all the rock star “men of influence”, and Paul, and Peter – unashamed and forgiven. Okay, back to the text –

So, what did these “influential” men add to Paul? Nothing! They neither added nor took away from the gospel he was presenting. More than that, all of them found that they were all using the exact same gospel to bring sinners to Christ both to the Jews and the Gentiles. We also learn in verse eight that each of the apostles had roles – Peter ran an apostolic ministry that was focused on Jews while Paul’s was toward the Gentiles. This shows us that they were peers with separate realms of influence as opposed to Paul being subordinate to the higher apostles as the Galatian Christians had been informed. Then James, Cephas (Peter), and John realized how much the Holy Spirit had been working in the ministry and life of Paul they encouraged them that they should both preach to the Gentiles AND the Jews.

Their parting request reveals a little something about the nature of the church. The request that they “remember the poor” was a reference to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. At that time, Jewish converts to Christianity were seen as turncoats and were abandoned by their families. As a result, they were also unable to get work and many went without food and shelter. The request that they “remember the poor” was a request that they seek to obtain a collection for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. This same verse has been used in defense of churches who have ministries dedicated to the poor and downtrodden and, while it’s a very good idea, it’s important to remember that their first responsibility was to the poor IN THE CHURCH, and not the unregenerate poor. We’ll cover this in more detail in a week or so when we get to Galatians 6.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

~ Galatians 2:11-14

WHO’S READY FOR A THROWDOWN? What? No Food Network fans? Meh… Okay – so here we are, Paul is explaining to the Galatian Christians that he’s not just some schmuck with bad eyesight, tons of scars, and massive ministry. He shows here that he’s so firmly committed to the holiness of God that he’s willing to stand up even to the supposed leader of this young Christian movement when he sees him acting in sin. What kind of sin is this, you ask? Hypocrisy! Here’s the back story – Peter was hanging out with some new Gentile Christians and having a bacon ham and bacon sandwich (I mean, when you can’t have it all your life and suddenly bacon is available to you, why would you eat anything else, right?) when some of the Jewish Christians came by, sent by Jesus’ brother James in Jerusalem. Peter, now feeling guilty and reeking of pork, pulls away from the Gentile Christians and the rest of the Jews who were with him did the same. Why is this? Because he was afraid of the response from the Jewish Christians. He didn’t want to appear to be breaking the sabbath laws because he knew that they were going to give him a hard time about it. Paul, however, recognizes this and firmly confronts him.

So, what can we learn from this? First we learn that as public Christians, our influence is seen by those around us and younger, weaker Christians will follow in our footsteps. As a result, we need to be aware of our actions in all situations. While it’s wise to keep our freedom in Christ on a leash when dealing with a weaker brother or sister in Christ who may have had trouble with a specific sin in their lives (so as to not lead them to sin against their own consciences ala 1 Corinthians 10:23-33), but we also must be willing to stand up for our freedoms that we enjoy. If we stop doing something that we’re now free to do because we’re afraid of what other people will think of us then we’re allowing our pride to stop us from glorifying God by acting in our newly found freedom and we’re telling the world that our freedom in Christ is determined by perceived thread of ridicule. Is that really freedom?

Second, we learn that Paul respected Peter as a Christian, but loved God more than his position. Could Peter have pulled rank and tried to get Paul removed from ministry? Maybe, but that didn’t stop Paul. He saw a sin that was influencing other Christians and that was damaging the image of Christ and he responded by firmly calling Peter out on his sin. We don’t see anything more than what is written here but it is assumed that Peter was repentant.

Third, we see that Paul was direct in his response to Peter, exactly as Jesus told us to be in Matthew 18:15-17. He didn’t write some long diatribe and send an open letter through the community regaling Peter’s sin and questioning his leadership. He simply stood before the man, made his claim, and trusted that the Holy Spirit would lead him to repentance. Can we say that we’ve done the same? If you see someone from your church or your family acting in what you perceive to be sin, confront them – ask them directly. If they refuse to listen or continue in their sin, bring in a few other Christians and if even then there is no change then bring it to your church. If he refuses to listen even then, you can separate from them. Paul, in love, firmly confronts his brother and that’s the end of it. This is the heart of Christians disputes – reconciliation and restoration. Remember, however, that we are to be careful in our dealings with Christians. They are our brothers and sisters and as such, they are to be treated with love and respect. God is the ultimate judge of all.

My prayer is that all of us can use this example in all of our dealings with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

(My apologies for the *possible* embellishments I *may* have taken with the text. As I read it, however, this is what I imagine. Seriously – who can turn down bacon?)

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

~ Galatians 2:15-16

Paul is clearly speaking to the Jews who are reading the text of his letter. To clear up any misunderstanding, he is not calling all Gentiles “sinners”, but is instead referring to those who do not even attempt to even follow the Old Testament laws. These are pagans who willingly refuse to even acknowledge the God who created them. If you’d like more detail on it, Paul has provided a thorough description of them in Romans 1:18-32. He continues his thought by stating that even though they are Jews (who are raised in adherence of the law) they KNOW the law cannot provide for them salvation. Simply put, he’s stating that you cannot DO the law to become saved. Here’s how I explain it to my kids:

First, God knows everything. Jesus said that He knows your thought life and treats it as if you’ve actually acted on it (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28) and James 2:10 says that anyone who keeps the whole of the law but breaks even the tiniest part becomes accountable to the whole law. So, with those two principles in mind, understand that the law of God is not a goal to live your life by, nor is it a guide for life, but instead it’s God’s cosmic measuring stick for entering Heaven. Psalm 24:3-4 describes who it is who can walk freely into Heaven and has provided this handy-dandy list:

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord and who shall stand in His holy place? He who has:

  • Clean hands (you’ve committed no physical act of sin)
  • Pure heart (you’ve committed no mental act of sin – lust, anger, etc)
  • Not worshipped any idols (you have lived your life trusting that God will save you and you’ve never wavered from that)
  • Never lied (self explanatory)

Got that down? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Here’s the deal, if you ever bail on any of those, you can’t get in. Who can live up to that standard? No one. Seriously – Romans 3:23 makes that pretty clear – NO ONE escapes from God’s law and NO ONE, outside of Jesus, has ever lived a life up to that standard above. Even if you happen to have one moment of time, one tenth of a second, where you are wholly worshipping Jesus, your heart and mind are clear of sin and you’re totally dedicated to the glory of God above, you’ve only reached the “you must be THIS holy to enter Heaven” line, but you’re still shy of going over it and attaining salvation. You can never do it. George Whitfield was quoted as saying, “Works! works! A man gets to heaven by works! I would as soon think of climbing to the moon on a rope of sand.”

Paul states clearly and accurately that it’s not by our own works of adherence to the law that we are saved, nor can the law save us at all (since it’s merely a list of regulations) but we must be saved by an outside force. Jesus, who lived the perfect life that neither you nor I could ever live, took our place in the place of suffering so that God’s justice would be maintained and His wrath could be satisfied on him instead of us. By that act, we have been purchased by Jesus, at the cost of His blood and torture, so that we can now enter into the holy place of God. We are now able to ascend the hill of the Lord, free from any fear of punishment or retribution, as we are wholly cleansed by the work of Jesus alone.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

~ Galatians 2:17-21

Continuing from the last post, we are saved not by our own works, by the work of Jesus in our place. Jesus righteousness replaces ours and it can be said that He is living inside us and through us. Now that we’ve wrapped that up, let’s continue on…

If, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin?…” What in the world is all this about? Remember, Paul is speaking to those who were bound to the law – Jews. He had been speaking about Gentiles as “sinners” (those who are without the law) and he asks here if Jews who are now separated from trusting in the law for their salvation and instead find their salvation in Christ alone are associated with Gentiles who do the same, could they be found to be “sinners” (those without the law) as well? Certainly not!

If I rebuild what I tore down…” What was torn down? Do you remember? It was salvation by works, and not by the grace of God. If we, now saved Christians, Jew and Gentile alike, now begin to trust in things outside of Christ for our salvation (the law, idols, ourselves and our own works, etc) I prove ourselves to be transgressors (literally it means to cross against or violate) the “law” of salvation by grace through faith. We would then be back under the same yoke of destruction. Paul, in Romans 8:1-2, he calls it the law of “sin and death”. There is no salvation available in the law and to put yourself back under it is a wasted effort. If it did not save you before, how can it save you now?

He continues with “through the law I died to the law so that I might life to God.” Jesus substitutionary death in our place fulfilled the law for us – we are now DEAD to the law. It has no power over us. All of our sins have been paid for – past, present, and future. As a result, we are now free to worship God directly, with no fear of condemnation. Why are we free from condemnation from our pure and holy God who can not withstand any sin in His presence, despite the fact that we still sin every day? The righteousness of Jesus perfect life and His unimaginable worth as the Son of the living God are imputed (placed upon us) and, as a result, it is now no longer us who live (in our sin drenched lives and worthless works) but Jesus who lives on through us. The life that we now live, in everything you do once you are transformed at your conversion, you now live to the glory of God. Why? Because without God working in your life, you’d be destined for hell and destruction. Your very presence proclaims the glory of God, and your eternal destination reveals His mercy and love for you.

If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If this salvation were available through adherence to the law, Jesus did not have to die in our place. The cross would merely have been “cosmic child abuse” and nothing more. Instead, the cross is mandatory for our salvation because, as I explained in my last post and touched on above, our works cannot save us, and the law (meaning the moral law of God) is merely a list of requirements to enter God’s presence – given to us to show our limitations and inability before God and to drive us to our knees where we wait on the Messiah to come and save us. That is the purpose of the law before Sinai, through the age of Israel, and now in the age of the Church. God has never changed, His promise for salvation has always been the same – you cannot do this on your own, trust in me.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by 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? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And 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.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

~ Galatians 3:1-9

In my arrogance and lack of understanding, I have read this statement in the harshest of terms. See, the term “foolish” means “stupid” and therefore I read it as though the Apostle Paul were standing over the whole of the Galatian church and wagging his finger at them in anger at their surprising ignorance. That, however, is not the case at all.

Paul opens his rebuke of them, not by insinuating a lack of intelligence, but a lack of understanding. The question that follows his opening statement (which I read as though it were spouted with his usual sarcastic wit) confirms that Pastor Paul is reaching to the church in his care and simultaneously forgiving their confusion, he is accusing those who taught them false doctrine. They were “bewitched”, tricked, fed lies and took it because they thought that it was the true Word of God. Paul then goes on to remind them that Jesus was portrayed by him to them as crucified and they have already been taught that a crucified Christ kills the effect of the law on them.

In order to explain his point further, Paul asks a series of pointed rhetorical questions aimed at revealing to them the truth that they already know. This is part of the Socratic method which Paul often uses when pointing out error. The Socratic method was developed and used by Socrates to teach his students by using their own intellect as their guide. Logic, when used properly, will point to the truth every time. Paul asks them things that he has already taught them – “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” He had just reminded them in the last chapter that the law is dead through Christ and He had already taught them these things while he was present with them. Pushing the point further, he asks if they who have became free from the curse of the law (which only brings death because, again, no one can survive the law – it only exists to point us to Christ) they seek to “perfect” themselves through the law.

Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain?” Many of those converts to Christianity have lost possessions, homes, and family members due to their conversion. Was it necessary to suffer through that loss for the sake of Christ if that was unnecessary? The Jews biggest complaint against these Gentile Christians was that they were not following the Mosaic law and by adopting the practices of this modified law with which they had been presented they were no longer held in derision by the Jews. Paul is showing them that their suffering was NOT in vain and that it is necessary to break free from the legalism that they are currently experiencing.

Does God, who provides the Holy Spirit to you, and who works miracles in your lives, do so because of your own work (adherence to the law) or by your faith?” This, while fairly self-explanatory, is monumental. In fact, it’s on this that the principle of preservation of the saints swings. Let me restate it in another way to make it stand out more: Is God obligated to provide you with salvation, the Holy Spirit, and to work in your life because He owes it to you based on the works you have done for Him, or does He do it out of His own mercy when you heard the Gospel and believed in it? If God is obligated to provide your salvation to you, then you are the one upon which the glory rides in this relationship. You are the one who does the work necessary to achieve your own salvation and God owes it to you like a wage that you earn based on you accomplishing a set of requirements. The gospel, however, operates outside of our own merits and instead is a gift of mercy by the grace of God. How do you attain this gift? You believe that He has done it for you. Can you lose this gift? No – because the act necessary to receive the gift (faith) was placed in you by the work of the Holy Spirit at your conversion. Abraham, for instance, was counted as justified by God at his FAITH, and before he had done anything (Genesis 15:9; Romans 4:9, 21-22).

Those who are of a like faith with Abraham (who trust in God alone for their salvation and for every aspect of their lives) are “children” of Abraham. This means that we Gentile Christians are now seen as part of the “true Israel” – adopted by God into His family. How do we know this? This is how we know that the original “Israel” that the Jews thought of as being those who were in a direct genetic line with Abraham is untrue, and instead it is those who exhibit the faith of Abraham by releasing control of their lives over to God and trusting in Him alone when all things come up. For more information on this, read Romans 4 where Paul makes and solidifies his case. Ultimately, there is no longer Jew and Gentile, but Christians. Through the cross of Christ, the “nation” of Abraham was extended to the whole world and all who trust in Christ are grafted into family of God.

For 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.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ 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 that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

~ Galatians 3:10-14

Paul makes a very surprising statement here for a Jew – he condemns everyone who trusts in the law for their salvation. The term “cursed” means “damned” and “without hope”. As I stated before, the purpose of the law is a guardian (Gal 3:24) that holds up the standard of perfection and merely shows you that you cannot attain it. Even if, for some reason, you were able to cleanse yourself of your Adamic sin nature and live your life from here forward in perfect obedience to the Mosaic law (the ten commandments) – never stealing anything, not even post it notes at work or using your work phone for personal calls – never looking with lust on anyone to whom you are not married – never becoming angry without cause – always content in what you have – always trusting in God alone for everything and always looking at Him alone for all of your sustenance and comfort. If you could do that for every moment of the rest of your life, you’d still have all of the failure of your past that testifies to your guilt against you. You’d merely be meeting the standard, never atoning for your past failures.

Therefore, NO ONE is justified before God by the law. We are justified by God, through His mercy, by His grace, apart from our own doing, and against our will. If left to our own devices, we will brush off God’s salvation that He has provided for us and stand up on our own two feet, grab the tablets of the law in our hands and say with all the strength we can muster, “NO! I will attain this salvation!” It is in our sinful nature to try to do things ourselves and while that can be used for good, when it comes to resting in Christ is breeds religion and legalism by building for ourselves standards that God has not instructed us to build and begin to judge others based on our own imaginary righteousness. Don’t believe me? Listen to 95% of the pastors who preach today – conservative and liberal alike. They inform you that there is X, Y, and Z wrong in the world or with society, that we are somehow the answer to that problem and now we need to DO 1, 2, and 3 to bring this nation back around. How many times have we heard that our nation’s schools are failing, that our economy is crumbling, and that our abortion is the #1 cash crop for the government funded Planned Parenthood? The response is that we need to write our congressmen, take a stand at the voting booths, and pray that God will change this nation. This is nothing shy of legalism. Let’s take a different approach here – how many times have you heard someone on Christian radio state that they read the Bible for 3 hours a day and that God really uses that time to transform their lives and if you spend 3 hours a day doing the same that He will do it for you too? That’s legalism. What about the pastor who tells you that a giving Christian is a real Christian, then takes it one step further stating that if you don’t give a certain percentage of your money to the church then you’re as bad as the tax collectors or blasphemers. That’s legalism. Anytime that you’re told to DO anything outside of trusting in the work of Christ on the cross for your salvation, you’re entering into dangerous waters of legalism.

Jesus has redeemed us, bought us at the cost of His own life, so that we will be free from the bonds of legalism and from adherence to the law. The law existed in the past as a pointer to the Messiah who was to break us free from the condemnation of the law, cleanse us from the guilt and consequence of our sins, and fill us with His righteousness so that we could stand unashamed before the throne of God. That is the blessing of Abraham that we receive through faith in the substitutionary atonement provided by God through Jesus for our good and His glory and the proof of this transformation is provided to us in the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

~ Galatians 3:15-20

Pastor Paul, now brings it down a little and describes this exchange in a way they can better understand. With a contract that you or I would make, say for a mortgage or even a marriage, once it has been signed by all parties, it cannot be changed. This is the same with the covenant that God made with Abraham.

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

~ Genesis 12:7

See that? No plural, only singular – “Offspring“. Through the line of Abraham, through Isaac (Abraham’s second son, the child of promise) and through Isaac’s second born son, Jacob (by God’s sovereign choice), then a long line of individuals we have Mary who became the mother of Jesus Matthew 1:1-17. What Paul is describing here is the true recipient of the covenant that Abraham ratified with God and that recipient is Jesus, not his genetic descendants. Now, the law, which came through Moses on Sinai, was delivered to the people 430 years later and it cannot change the already standing covenant of grace.

A covenant of grace? What’s this? While this subject really deserves its own blog post (or series of posts) I will briefly (seriously) cover the separate covenants that that God has cut with man since the dawn of time. Covenants of grace are acts of God upon us whereas covenants of works are acts that we must adhere to or maintain for God to do something for us.

The first covenant is called the Adamic covenant and it is broken into two parts – the Edenic covenant (Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17) and the full Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3:16-19). The first explains our relationship with God in the garden of Eden: Man is created in God’s image, we have dominion over the earth and the animal kingdom, we are to reproduce and inhabit the whole earth, mankind is vegetarian, eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is bad. Next was the Adamic covenant which basically lays out our punishment that comes from Adam and Eve breaking the Edenic covenant. First we learn that Satan will constantly struggle with us, and that that we will have marital strife, the soil will be cursed so that it won’t automatically bring forth plants necessary to life and that there will be hard work necessary to live off of it. Thorns and thistles will cut our hands and ruin our clothes, we will struggle to survive, there will be pain in childbirth, and, most sucky of all, death will come for every living thing. Sounds fun, huh? This, however, is not a covenant of works, but is instead a covenant of grace because God promises in Genesis 3:15 to send a messiah who will free us from this life of toil and destruction. The implication is that our faith in God will deliver us from the consequence and guilt of our sins. See that? Sounds like the gospel, huh? That section of scripture is referred to as the “proto-gospel” or the “first gospel”.

Next we have the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9:1-17) which is a covenant of grace as God promises not to flood the world again and he allows us to eat meat. Then we have the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-9; 15) which is another covenant of grace. God promised to give him a land for his “offspring” which he will maintain forever, and that his “descendants” (spiritual descendants) would be innumerable. The next covenant is the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19-24 where God codifies the 10 commandments and the sacrificial system. As a neat aside, as you read through the Pentateuch (1st 5 books in the Old Testament), you read that the sacrificial system was already in place as far back as Cain and Abel as a “covering” of their sins and not for forgiveness. Why? Because they were to trust in the promised Messiah to bring reconciliation between man and God. Next was the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:5-16) where God enacts a covenant of grace whereby He promises to create for David a “house” and “kingdom” that will never end – that is fulfilled in David’s descendant – Jesus. Finally, the New covenant comes in (Jeremiah 31:31-34 as a covenant of grace where God promises to put His moral law (the 10 commandments) in our hearts (ingrained into our subconscious) and provide for the first time forgiveness from the guilt and consequence of our sins. God also promises to come and live with us, just as He lives in our lives now, but in the future we will live with Him bodily where we can worship Him forever. Who fulfills this one? Jesus!

Well, that was fun. See? Didn’t even use a whole post on it. Alright – back to the text! Our inheritance, not an inheritance of land, but one of salvation and a heavenly reward, does not come to us by the law. It comes through God promise through His covenant with Abraham – a covenant which cannot be annulled or changed. So, why do we have the law? Because we, like sheep, are stupid. We need laws, that is, until the New covenant was put into place. Jesus fulfilled the old Mosaic covenant and it is therefore dead and gone. No more temple sacrifices, no more priests, heck – no more temple. Jesus is our high priest, king, and savior. He fulfills all of the roles that the Mosaic law emulated through the civil, ceremonial, and moral law. The only things that carry forward are those that are restated in the New Testament. Jesus fulfilled the whole of the law so that we don’t have to, and by His life, death, and resurrection, we are freed from the curse that the law placed upon us.

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

~ Galatians 3:21-22

Given that the law, which God has provided as a guide and cosmic measuring stick revealing our failures and proclaiming God’s standard of excellence, only can bring death since there is no salvation provided through it, is it then against the nature of God who has promised to provide salvation for those who trust in Him? Paul clearly answers – “Certainly not!

Let’s explore why we’re here for a minute. See, God, in the trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) all share with one another a sense of community. Each one loves and cares for one another in separate roles, yet all are God and all share the spirit of God. Now, before the creation of the universe, was God the Father ever able to share His attribute of long-suffering with the Son? Of course not, because Jesus, who IS God, is incapable of sinning, therefore God the Father could never share that with Him. Could the Holy Spirit share His attribute of knowledge or mercy on the Father? No! Because God the Father does not need these things in the pure community of the godhead. Lastly, could the Son impart on either the Father or the Holy Spirit mercy or grace? Why would He? Those are given to those who need it, not on those who are without need.

Therefore, we have a perfect Godhead, the Trinity, existing in eternity with no one to share these communicable attributes. What’s that? A communicable attribute is something that you can communicate with someone else – and God is chock-full of them: Knowledge, wisdom, goodness, general benevolence, love, grace, mercy, long-suffering, holiness, justice, righteousness, sovereign will and sovereign power. Most of these cannot be appropriately displayed on someone who has no need of them. In the same way that the gift of generosity is lost when someone who has very little gives to a king who has very much. If he has no need of it, it’s a wasted effort. God created us, therefore, to display these communicable attributes. We glorify God (not that we impart glory to Him, but rather reflect His own glory back to Him since we, in our selves, have no glory) by acknowledging Him and everything He has done. God imparts to us, love, knowledge, wisdom, general benevolence. When we sin, which God knew we would do, He enables us to receive His attributes of grace, love, and mercy when we recognize our own separation from Him in comparison to His righteousness. In all things, whether we comply or not, we are under the attributes of His sovereignty and our lives, this planet, and the whole universe are at the whim of His sovereign power and will.

See how this works? Now, in God’s mercy He has provided a path to salvation through His Son who was promised to our mother Eve. The path? Trust in God for your salvation. He provided for us a sacrificial system that pointed to the coming sacrifice of the Son. This was meant to remind us of our sin and to point us back to God. God provided His law for us, not as a method of salvation, but as I mentioned before, as a guide and cosmic measuring stick that revealed our own inadequacies before the perfect moral standard of God. This too was meant as a gracious gift as it keeps us focused on Him alone for our salvation. See, if it were merely by maintaining a set of rules that we could attain salvation from God, He would have provided that for us, but the often forgotten attribute of God’s justice and perfect holiness demands that all who break the moral laws of God must be punished. Jesus, became man in the flesh, so that He could live a perfect life that we could never live due to the Adamic curse, and died in our place, literally embodying the sin of those who would believe in Jesus and trust in Him alone for their salvation.

Therefore, there is none who can be saved by their own works, nor by following the commands of the law, but we are all saved by rejecting control of our lives, placing the reigns firmly in the hands of our Creator (thus rejecting the original Adamic sin) and trusting in Jesus work on our behalf for our salvation. This is most certainly not an act of obedience to a law, but an act of submission to our Creator in light of the law.

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)

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