December 31, 2006 Series: Galatians
Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 3:1–3:5
Let Jesus Finish what he started...the way he started it.
Although we met for many months in living rooms and garages, today is our 9th week in this Elementary School. I preached the introduction to Galatians in a garage lined with black plastic with an old wooden cross in the corner we made the night before. That was nearly 10 weeks ago. Now we are in chapter 3 of a 6-chapter book, which puts us somewhere around March before we're done.
We chose to go into Galatians as our first series because it is about the Gospel, the heart of our faith and the mission of this church. We believe that it is the gospel that transforms individuals, families, and communities. The book of Galatians, or more accurately, the letter to the churches of Galatia breaks down the implications of that gospel. It is Paul's defense of that one gospel that has in someway been hijacked by some legalistic Jewish-Christians.
In the first chapter, Paul gives us somewhat a defense of his own apostleship and the message that he brings. He expresses astonishment that these churches he planted have fled to a "different gospel" and abandoned the truth. He challenges them to stop seeking the approval of men, trying to be their own saviors, and recognize that they have in fact replaced Jesus by adding extra requirements to believing in the cross.
In the beginning of chapter 2, Paul recounts the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, where he presented what he had been preaching for over 14 years to the so called "super apostles" whom the Judaizers had always appealed to. They gave him the, "right hand of fellowship" and the Judaizers plan backfired as they affirmed that, "Gentiles are saved by faith just as we were."
Later in the chapter, Paul recounts another story where Peter (the leader of the church in Jerusalem) comes to Antioch. He enjoys fellowship with gentiles until some Jewish guys show up and Peter tries to sneak away to avoid persecution. Paul calls him out publicly, telling him that his life is not in line with the gospel.
The end of chapter 2 focuses on the thesis of the entire letter: Justification. For the first of over 30 times, Paul uses the term Justification in his letter. Simply stated, it means that we are made right WITH God BY God through CHRIST. Not only are declared innocent, we are declared righteous! Through justification, God puts "permanently right" their previously estranged relationship with Himself. Jesus lives the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. He takes what he doesn't deserve my sin, I get what I don't deserve his life.
Now we are in Galatians 3. In this chapter, Paul offers several arguments, all demonstrating the sufficiency of justification by FAITH ALONE versus FAITH + WORKS. Paul argues that we must only believe, we must only accept what God has already done. It is a gift that we that we cannot earn, we cannot possibly return equal favor for, we can just rejoice. We have trouble accepting gifts, don't we, especially exorbitant ones! Well, this is the biggest gift of them all.
In this first of these arguments for FAITH ALONE, Paul asks them to think back to when they came to faith and consider how they will grow deeper in that faith.
- Did they work for it or just receive it?
- Did they receive salvation through legalism or through faith?
- If they worked for it, then when does the work stop?
- How do they know if they have worked hard enough?
- What if they fail to work?
READ GALATIANS 3.1-5
Like Paul, I have been trying to understand why someone would do this? Why would someone flee from grace and to some works-based system? It seems crazy, stupid, and insane. Why would someone ABANDON what they first accepted as true and accept its very antithesis?
It seems like Paul thinks they have simply forgotten. He spends these first few verses reminding them of their own personal experience and ultimately HOW God saves. No one chooses to forget, but do we choose to remember? If you don't choose to allow God's word govern your life, then something else will. If you do not ADOPT and then MAINTAIN a scripture-oriented mentality, your life will by default be guided by a self-oriented mentality. I believe this is caused by laziness.
The term used for foolish here does not denote mental deficiency, but mental laziness. Although some translations right "stupid" here, they were not stupid, as much as they are not using spiritual discernment when faced with a gospel-destroy teaching like the Judaizers are bringing.
The Galatians have foolishly fallen into legalism by allowing their feelings and emotions govern their decision making versus adopting a scripture-oriented mindset. People who allow their feelings ALONE to dictate their truth, are FOOLS. Feelings are never "wrong", but they change so much they cannot be trusted to give us any sort of reliable guidance. People, like the Galatians, who do this are like children. What are children like? Impressionable. Gullible. Weak. Scared. We need to be equipped so that...
......so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness, in deceitful schemes."
Paul asks the Galatians, WHO has bewitched you? The term bewitched means to charm or fascinate in a misleading way as by flattery, false promises, or occultic power, and clearly suggests the use of feeling over fact, emotion over clear understanding of truth. In other words, they have not accepted a false gospel because they have spent time considering it. They have accepted a false gospel because it feels good.
mï»¿For the time is coming when people will not endure nï»¿soundï»¿3 teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and oï»¿will turn away from listening to the truth and pï»¿wander off into myths.[i]
Here lies the problem. America alone has more than 350 sects and cults, and most of them claim to base their doctrines on the Word of God. I have spent a lot of time with different cultists who come around and knock on your doors. I am still impressed today the amount of dedication these people have for a lie that we won't have for the truth.
But, over the years, I have become convinced that most cult members did not become involved because they were intellectually convinced the doctrines of the cult were true. In fact, they usually don't know too many of them. But what does attract them, or bewitch them, is that fascination they experience with its teachings and practices. They are taken hold by their emotions because the truth of God's word is foreign to them. This happens to so-called-Christians too. No one wants to be called a legalist-but our fear and guilt rooted in a failure to let gospel reign in our lives, allows us to fall into it.
Men, it's time to step up and lead your families. It's time to get in your Bibles and learn the truth of God that you might pastor your own home. The bottom line, there are a number of false Christs, false gospels, and other false teachings out there that are very attractive. You are charged with shepherding your flock, which includes protecting, feeding, and even knocking back into line sometimes. This includes your children and your wife.
Women are not off the hook either. You have a responsibility to know God's word too. You must be that filter for your kids to discern what they cannot. You probably spend more time with the kids. Bottom line, would an objective listener to your conversations see that the truth of God's word governs your home? Is your mindset with regard your job, finances, husbandry, wifery, motherhood, fatherhood, approach to suffering, govern by the truth of God's word, or something else?
Paul reminds them that their denial of the truth is NOT because they don't understand who JESUS is or what he did...they've forgotten it. Paul, through his teaching, had portrayed him clearly. Specifically, he has explained what Christ's crucifixion meant in terms of salvation.. They were without excuse .
The word for "portrayed" used here carries the meaning of "to write for public reading" as with the posting of a public announcement." What is so frustrating to me is that the "poster" for Jesus has been hijacked by so many different people, even people who claim to love Jesus. Let us settle for nothing less or more than the Jesus of the scriptures.
Paul continues his argument in the next four versus by asking four different questions all of which ask the Galatians consider WHY they would turn to a WORKS-BASED system when they didn't start there. Ultimately, I believe it is a theology that is either God-centered or man-centered. Does it all start, proceed, and end with God or with me?
QUESTION #1 - JUSTIFICATION
Paul does not question their salvation but challenged them to consider whether they were saved and received the Spirit by faith or on the basis of works.
In essence, Paul asks, did you receive the Holy Spirit by following some regimented set of rules, steps or ceremonies, or was it on the basis of faith? It is obvious that these Galatians were saved by faith because, as gentiles, they had no knowledge of the law to begin with. They heard the word, and believed, not because they even decided to, but because the Holy Spirit enabled them to. Why say this?
The Bible uses many terms to describe our shift from depraved to saved. Sometimes it talks about going from flesh to spirit, or natural man to spiritual man, or dead in sin, to alive in Christ. The question ultimately is, how is man saved? Is he saved by waking up one day and deciding that I'm going to live for God? NO. It will not happen. The natural man who desires only things of this world and the self, becomes a spiritual man when the Holy Spirit empowers him to do so.
Our hope is in the Holy Spirit not in the LAW. What is so frustrating to me is that we don't believe this as evidence by how we behave? There is nothing wrong with desiring even encouraging people not to sin. If they are Christians, then we have a responsibility to call them to task. But, why do we expect non-believers to behave before they believe? The Bible says, people will not desire to please God, they are hostile toward God, their minds are veiled by the God of this world, until the Holy Spirit empowers them to see.
But what about after I'm saved?
QUESTION #2: SANCTIFICATION
Paul deals with post-salvation growth in Jesus in through the next question. He speaks of being perfected, which we will never attain in this life, we know is a process that all believers continue to go through until they die and experience God's final perfection in heaven.
Presupposing the answer that the Galatians became Christians by faith, Paul asked if they were so foolish as to think they could begin the Christian life in one way (by faith) and move on to spiritual maturity in another (by works). This was what the Judaizers promoted. The Galatian believers probably thought that keeping the old Law would aid them in their spiritual lives, but it would not. Think about it...
- Does keeping rules make us more spiritually mature? No.
- Will it cause us to sin less? Maybe.
- Will it change our heart? No.
- True change and spiritual maturity is a continual act of God.
By God's grace, we are a work in progress. But too often we let we let our emotions, even our thinking, dominate our worldview (what the Bible says) and thus let it impact our behavior. We can only feel good, or spiritual before God, when we are following some sort of regiment. Basing God's acceptance on legalism can only result in one two things, Spiritual Pride or Spiritual despair-it can never result in peace because your acceptance becomes a variable that changes daily.
Don't get me wrong, James tell us that true faith will evidence itself through works. But these works come as a result of the Spirit working in us, not us working for the Spirit. (NW COLLEGE...help the Spirit...invite the spirit of God...)
It is the Spirit that convicts us.
It is the Spirit that comforts us.
It is the Spirit that empowers us to overcome temptation.
It is the Spirit that illumines our minds to understand the scripture.
It is the Spirit that draws us closer to God.
It is the Spirit that refines us more and more into the image of Christ.
QUESTION #3 - PERSECUTION
The third question looked back on the persecution the apostles and new believers experienced in the region of Galatia. As Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps at the end of the first missionary journey, they warned the Galatian converts that they would suffer as Christians (Acts 14:21-22).
Persecution evidently soon followed, and Paul reminded them that if they turned from grace to Law they would essentially label themselves as in error before and would then have suffered so much for nothing..
I have learned that a stand for the truth of the freedom in the gospel brings persecution, usually from those in the church. Usually, when someone decides to take that stand, they immediately are dismissed as sell-outs who refuse to take the proper cultural stands to ensure piety. It is easy to throw in the towel and follow a law for the approval of men or for my own "good feelings" before God.
If, as Paul writes, we have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, then we will experience what Christ did. He was hated by the world and hated by the ones he came to save.
QUESTION #4 - POWER
5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and fï»¿works miracles among you do so gï»¿by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-
The final question that Paul asks, concerns the power of God. That miracles were performed among the Galatians by divine power was recorded in the Book of Acts (14:3, 8-11).
It was clear, furthermore, that these supernatural works were not the result of the works of the Law but from the hearing that leads to faith. The Galatians did not know the Law, and Paul's message was that of justification by faith.
The question ultimately asks us to consider how God will continue to work miracles in our lives? Where does our hope for the redemption of this world rest?
Does the strength to overcome that one temptation that has a hook in you rest in your ability to fix yourself?
Does the power to save that marriage rest in reading the right books or finding the perfect counselor?
Is the miracle needed to transform an individual rest in their ability to follow particular rules or behave certain ways?
Does the hope to change our city, our state, or our nation rest in the different types of legislation we can pass?
Do we joyfully proclaim the good news and life-giving power of rules?
Or...does our faith for all goodness, all restoration, all glory, rest in the transforming, life-giving, surprising, immeasurable power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the seemingly impossible. \
Let us not forget how we start this journey back to God's family. We are adopted as God's children through faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.
The Gospel is not a set of facts we accept then forget. I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you what you need to do. Some of you here today may have never heard of such news. Perhaps the best that was preached to you was "BE GOOD" and JESUS WILL LOVE YOU. I'm here to say that you can't be good without God. Admit you're a sinner, and accept this humongous gigantic jumbo gift Jesus has for you. No strings attached.
If you have accepted Jesus, if you did begin your walk of faith accepting what Jesus did by FAITH ALONE, then preach that to yourself everyday. Let the word of God dominate your life, not just your Sunday mornings. Finish strong by allowing God to carry you...stop trying to run alone.