THE GOSPEL IN GALATIANS

by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

1 – The Galatian Problem

Galatians 1:1-10:

Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — and all the brothers and sisters with me, to the churches in Galatia:

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

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again:  If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!  Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?  Or am I trying to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 

In this series of studies, we will turn our attention to one of Paul’s most important letters that he ever penned and recorded in the New Testament.

When God sent His Son into this world, He sent Him not to condemn, but to save this world from the sin that came upon us as a result of the Fall.  When Jesus finished His earthly mission, when He had obtained salvation full and complete for all mankind, He commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and preach this gospel, this unconditional good news, to all men, to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved.

But there is one who hates the gospel, one who does not want you to understand the gospel.  He is the enemy of souls.  The Bible calls him Satan.  And ever since the birth of the Christian church, Satan has been attacking this gospel.

For example, in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Paul tells the Corinthian believers that if the gospel is hidden, it is hidden because the god of this world — that is, Satan — has blinded the eyes of those who do not believe lest they come to the light of the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
But Satan does not stop there at the unbelievers.  The moment we have accepted the gospel and are rejoicing in Christ, he will do his utmost to sidetrack us, to sidetrack every Christian from the pure gospel that was proclaimed by the disciples.  Wherever the apostle Paul proclaimed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established churches, Satan’s agents, the Judaizers, dogged his footsteps to undo his good work and rob Christians of their freedom in Christ.

One such church was that of Galatia.  Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is a stern, severe, and solemn letter with no commendation, no praise, and no thanksgiving.  The Galatian believers, who had accepted the false teachings of the Judaizers, were in grave danger because the very foundation of their faith was being attacked.  Hence, we can define Paul’s epistle to the Galatians as a fighting letter.

Today, many Christians of all denominations have fallen into the same trap as the Galatian Christians.  It is a subtle form of legalism, a confusion of the gospel which saves us and confusion regarding the fruits of the gospel which are the evidence of our salvation.  These fruits make no contribution to our entitlement to heaven.  Even 20th Century Christians desperately need to consider Paul’s message to the Galatians because Galatians is the New Testament declaration of emancipation or independence from any and every type of legalism.  It is the strongest document in all of Scripture in defense of this vital doctrine called justification by faith alone.  It is believed that Luther declared that the church stands or falls in its understanding of this important doctrine:  justification by faith.  It is God’s powerful discussion on behalf of the most important truth of Scripture and Christian faith:  salvation by faith in Christ alone.

In this epistle of Galatians, Paul is dealing with issues which are far from being dead.  In every age, Satan, the enemy of souls, has tried to destroy the purity of the gospel and, thus, rob God’s people of the joy and the assurance of salvation in Christ.  A true understanding of Galatians is, therefore, one of the most powerful ways to guard the purity of the gospel in our age.

Beginning now, we are going to systematically go through this epistle of Paul to the Galatians.  From the time Paul was converted on the road to Damuscus, to his imprisonment in Rome which led to his martyrdom, we have approximately 20 years.  During this time, Paul traveled widely throughout the Roman Empire as an ambassador of Jesus Christ.  On his three famous missionary journeys, he preached the gospel and planted churches in the province of Galatia, in Asia, in the northern and southern parts of Greece.  These visits to these churches were followed by his letters by which he helped to supervise the early churches that he had founded, Galatians being one of his earliest, somewhere between 48 to 57 A.D.

After Paul left Galatia, false teachers infiltrated the churches of Galatia and convinced the believers that Paul was a self-appointed apostle and, therefore, his gospel that he gave them was his own idea.  As soon as this news reached the apostle Paul, he wrote this severe letter.  Our first study of this epistle will cover the first ten verses of chapter one in which Paul touches on the two main themes of this epistle, namely:  his apostolic authority which had come under fire and, secondly, the gospel which he proclaimed.

After Paul had established the churches in Galatia, these false teachers — called the Judaizers — came to these churches and mounted a powerful two-pronged attack on Paul’s authority as well as his gospel.  These Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed in Christ as the Messiah, so they were believers, but they rejected Paul’s message of salvation by grace alone.  To counteract this gospel, they attacked his apostolic authority and, thus, undermined his message.  They insisted that justification is not by faith alone in Jesus Christ.  “Oh, yes, it includes that, but, besides faith, we must also be circumcised,” they insisted.  “We must do good works and we must keep the law.”

In fact, this was the first major controversy in the Christian church which resulted in the Jerusalem council recorded in Acts 15:1 onwards.  There, in Acts 15, we will discover that these same Judaizers, who came to Antioch, insisted that the Gentile Christians had to be circumcised (verse 1) and had to keep the law (verse 5) in order to be saved.  Both Paul and Barnabas opposed this teaching with all their power and authority in order to undermine these Judaizers that were perverting the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, let us begin by reading the first ten verses of Galatians 1 and then we will go step by step.  Paul says in, Galatians 1:1-5:

Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — and all the brothers and sisters with me, to the churches in Galatia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.
The first five verses are the introduction.  Then in verses 6-10, he deals with the Galatian problem:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again:  If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!  Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?  Or am I trying to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
What is Paul saying here?  Let us look at the introduction to this epistle that is, the first five verses of chapter one.  Paul introduces himself as an apostle but then he adds in brackets “not sent from men.” Men in the plural is referring to some committee like the apostles who chose Matthias.  Nor, he says, from man, singular.  Paul is saying he is an apostle not chosen by some committee or by some church official or even himself but he is an apostle called by Jesus Christ and God the Father.  In other words, he is simply saying to the Galatian Christians, “These Judaizers are lying when they accuse me of being a self-appointed apostle.”

Read of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:10-15 where God tells Ananias to go to this place where Paul is praying:

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias.  The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.  In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go!  This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”

The Lord says, “He is my chosen instrument.”  The word “apostle” means “one who is sent forth.”  It is a term that is normally used for missionaries but it had a special meaning in the New Testament.  It also meant the twelve apostles.  You will find this in Acts 1:21-22.  I believe that Paul took the place of Judas.  When the disciples chose Matthias, they chose him before Pentecost.  They should have waited.  I believe that if the Spirit had been allowed to guide in this matter, He would have mentioned to them that His choice was the apostle Paul.

In verse 2, Paul, writing to the Galatians goes on to say that he, an apostle of God, is also being backed up by “all the brothers and sisters” who are with him:

…and all the brothers and sisters with me, to the churches in Galatia….

Now please notice that he calls his coworkers “brothers and sisters” (“brethren” in some translations) because the word “apostle” refers only to the select twelve that God has chosen to be the pillars of the early Christian church.  He calls them brothers and sisters or brethren.  He does not call them apostles even though they are coworkers with him.

Then in verse 3 he says, “Grace and peace.”

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ….

This is the formal greeting and it is the shortest greeting that Paul ever penned in all his epistles recorded in the New Testament.  Then he turns to the gospel, Jesus Christ.  Verses 4-5:

…who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jesus is the one who gave himself for our sins.  When Christ gave Himself for our sins, He gave everything.  John 3:16 says:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What exactly did He give?  Well, John, in his epistle, 1 John 5:11, tells us that gift was the life of Christ:

And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

God gave His Son; Jesus gave Himself to deliver us from this present evil world.  Why?  Because this world stands doomed under the condemnation and the curse and the law of God.  But in Christ, we have salvation full and complete.  And we can add nothing to this salvation.  Salvation is not partly by grace and partly by what we do.  The moment we add anything to the gospel of grace, we are perverting the gospel and are in danger of losing salvation altogether.  This was the danger that the Galatian Christians faced.  In fact, when we come to chapter 5 of Galatians, verse 4, Paul tells the Galatians that the moment they add law-keeping as a requirement for justification, they are fallen from grace.  A clear understanding of Galatians will prevent us from falling into the same pit.

With this in mind, let us turn to the Galatian problem, verses 6-10:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again:  If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!  Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?  Or am I trying to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul starts with the statement, “I am astonished.”  He is saying, “I am absolutely shocked.”  Why?  Because of their overwhelming acceptance of the gospel and now so quickly deserting it.  [The phrase “so soon removed,” found in the King James Version, is misleading since the Greek is not in the passive or in the past but in the present tense, active voice.]  Paul is saying here, “you have already begun turning away from the gospel, so quickly.”  Now, if Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians from Corinth, then they were turning away from the gospel only three years after they had accepted it.  If this letter was written from Ephesus, then it was only one year from the time they had accepted the gospel that they were now turning away from it.  This is a danger that we all face.  The moment you accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour and come under the umbrella of justification by faith alone, the devil will immediately come and side-track you as he did with the Galatians.

The essence of Paul’s gospel was salvation by grace alone.  You will find this, for example, in Ephesians 2:8-9:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

Paul tells us the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5:18:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation….

Again, the same thing in Acts 20:24:

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Paul’s message of salvation was the message of grace alone.  The Judaizers came with a different gospel.  This gospel was salvation by grace plus circumcision, plus keeping the law, plus good works.

In verse 7, Paul makes it clear that this different gospel is not another gospel:

…which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

That word “pervert” is a strong Greek word.  The Judaizers had actually changed the gospel from good news to bad news or to good advice.  But the gospel is not good advice.  It is unconditional good news.  The good news is this:  that, in Jesus Christ, God has obtained for mankind salvation full and complete.

And so, Paul adds in verse 8:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!

The “we” refers to himself along with his coworkers or it could refer to the other apostles, which I think is what he meant.

“Let them be under God’s curse, let him be anathema.”  That is how strongly Paul felt about those who try to pervert the gospel that God had given to the Gentile world.  Paul is using a very strong term, “Let him be accursed.”  This term, the word “cursed,” or “anathema,” means lost forever.  This term means, “May God’s wrath come upon such a person.” and verse 9 repeats it:

As we have already said, so now I say again:  If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

The repetition is to imply the seriousness of the danger of tampering with the gospel.  Do not ever try to tamper with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ for Paul’s strong words in verse 10 clearly indicate that no one must ever be a man-pleaser but we must please God.  We are the servants of Jesus Christ.  What is the synopsis of this Galatian problem?

We saw that, first of all, Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is his reaction, his astonishment at how the Galatians could be sidetracked from the gospel so soon.  And his reaction is righteous indignation.  This is not an outburst of anger.  It is God speaking through the apostle Paul.  The “we” and the “angel” can be anyone.  It can include you; it can include me; it can include any human being; it can include any supernatural being who tries to pervert the gospel.  Such a person comes under the curse of God.  Galatianism is, therefore, a serious danger.  The Galatians were in serious danger of losing their salvation completely by turning towards a perverted gospel.

We must treat this epistle of Paul very seriously.  Paul’s strong words clearly indicate that he is not a man-pleaser but a faithful servant of God.  That is what we must be.  Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is very much applicable today as it was in his day.  The devil has not stopped sidetracking Christians from the wonderful truth as it is in Christ.  That is why I want to take you step by step through this epistle.  I want to show you that there is only one gospel for all mankind.  Whether you lived in the Old Testament times or whether you live in the New Testament times, whether you are a Jew or whether you are a Gentile, there is only one gospel that is able to save mankind.

There are some today who say that there are many roads to heaven and Christianity is only one way.  No, there is only one Mediator between a holy God and sinful man.  There is only one way that you and I can qualify for heaven.  There is only one way that we can stand legally just before God’s holy law and that is by faith in the doing and the dying of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When the Judaizers came to Antioch and tried to pervert this gospel, Paul and Barnabas did not take this lightly.  Turn to Acts 15 and read what took place.  It will show how Paul feels about anyone who tries to pervert the gospel.  These are, in my concluding remarks, Paul’s concerns about anyone who tries to pervert the gospel.  In Acts 15, we read that certain men came and taught the believers that unless they were circumcised, they could not be saved.  Acts 15:1:

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Paul was not against circumcision.  He definitely was not against good works and he certainly uplifted the law as a standard of Christian living, but the moment we add any of these three things, the moment we require these three things in order to be saved, the moment we add the law or good works as a method or a contributing factor towards salvation, then we have perverted the gospel.

So we read in Acts 15:2:

This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

Friends, this was a crucial moment in the history of the Christian church.  Would the apostles agree with the apostle Paul?  I thank God the apostles in Jerusalem defended Paul for we read in Acts 15, what they said in verse 10:

“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?”

Then in verse 11:

“No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

“We” is referring to the Jews, the “they” is referring to the Gentiles.  There is only one way mankind can be saved.  It is through faith in the righteousness of Christ.  And it is my prayer that, if you are a Christian, you will not allow anyone to sidetrack you from this gospel.  If you happen to be an unbeliever or if you are being drawn by the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ but have not given your heart to Jesus Christ, my plea to you is that there is only one way you can make it to heaven:  through faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  It is my prayer that as you study this important epistle, so relevant to you today, that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free and that no one will rob you of this freedom.

 

2 – The Origin of Paul’s Gospel

Galatians 1:11-24:

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.  I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia.  Later I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days.  I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Then I went to Syria and Cilicia.  I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.  They only heard the report:  “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they praised God because of me.

 

Not too long after Paul had established the churches in Galatia, false teachers — who were known as Judaizers — infiltrated these churches and directed a powerful attack on Paul’s apostolic authority and his gospel of salvation by grace alone.  Galatians is Paul’s response to this two-pronged attack.

In our last study, we looked at the first ten verses of chapter one where Paul introduces to us the Galatian problem.  In the first five verses, he introduces himself as an apostle not chosen by some committee or by some men; he is not a self-appointed apostle, but he was chosen to be one by the authority of Jesus Christ and God, the Father.  In other words, he is not an apostle like Matthias, who was chosen by the other disciples to replace Judas, but Paul was called by God the Father and Jesus Christ Himself to be an apostle.

Then, in verses 6-10, Paul directed his concerns to the Galatian Christians and their problem.  He is astonished that they were so soon turning their backs to the true gospel, which they had received with great joy, and were accepting a perverted gospel that was robbing them of their joy and peace in Christ.  He further warned them that anyone, any man or an angel, who modifies, or perverts the true gospel, who sidetracks anyone from the true gospel, will come under the irrevocable curse of God.

As mentioned in our last study, the problem of Galatia is not ancient history.  Today, many Christians of all denominations face this very same problem.  That is why it is important that we come to grips with the message that Paul wrote to the Galatians.  As we turn to the concluding verses of chapter one, verses 11-24, we discover that Paul turns his attention to the second attack of the Judaizers, the origin of his gospel.

Paul tells us that, just as his apostolic authority came directly from God, likewise his gospel of grace alone came directly by revelation, given to him by Jesus Christ Himself.

In Galatians 1:11,12, we have an introduction to our study:

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

According to verses 6 and 10, there is only one gospel:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again:  If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!  Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?  Or am I trying to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

This is the measuring stick by which all human teaching is tested.  Paul is saying that this one gospel, which he and the other apostles proclaimed, was not something that was invented by man.  It is not a human philosophy or a human idea.  But it came to him directly by the revelation of Jesus Christ.  This is what Paul is saying about the origin of his gospel.  In these verses, Paul is clearly pointing out that the gospel is no mere human invention, nor did he learn it from any human source but directly from Christ Jesus Himself, just as the other eleven did during the three-year earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.

Then, in verses 13 to 24 of chapter one, Paul gives a detailed account of how this is true.  Let us read it first and then analyze it:

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.  I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days.  I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Then I went to Syria and Cilicia.  I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.  They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they praised God because of me.

Oh, what a tremendous testimony coming from the pen of the apostle Paul.

First, Paul reminds his readers, the Galatian Christians, in verse 13, of his preconverted history.  We will find this in detail in Acts 8:1-3 and also chapter 9, verses 1 and 2:

Acts 8:1-3:
And Saul approved of their killing him.  On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.  But Saul began to destroy the church.  Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Acts 9:1-2:
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.  He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

In Philippians 3:6, Paul also tells us what he was like as a Pharisee:

…as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But Paul reminds the Galatian Christians of his preconverted history, that he, as a Pharisee, as a Jew, as a worker for Judaism, had much success and that there was no human reason for him to give up Judaism.  In other words, from the human point of view, there was absolutely no reason why he should give up Judaism where he was having tremendous success, more than his contemporaries.

But his turning around from Judaism to Christianity was initiated by God Himself.  This is in verse 15:

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased….

God is the initiator by His grace, and this is not true only with Paul’s history but with the history of every believer.  God is the One who takes the initiative.  God is the One who comes to us with the wonderful good news of the gospel.  We, by nature, are running away from God because we are sinners.  We are afraid of God but God comes to us through the gospel and says, “Stop running away from Me.  I have not come to destroy you.  I have come to bring you good news.”

God called Paul by grace.  Grace means undeserving merit.  In 1 Corinthians 15:9, Paul refers to himself as the least of the apostles:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

In fact, he adds, “I don’t deserve to be an apostle because I persecuted the Christian church.”  But God, through His grace, called Paul because, even though Paul persecuted the Christian church, God knew that his heart was right.  He thought that in persecuting the Christian church, he was serving God.  He brings this out clearly in Philippians 3:4-6:

…Though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

And because God knew that Paul was sincere and honest in his heart, God took the initiative and met him on the Damascus road and revealed to him His beloved Son.  “God appointed me as an apostle, as a missionary to you Gentiles.”  This is what Paul is saying in verse 16:

…To reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.  I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia.  Later I returned to Damascus.

“I did not go to the apostles or to some human agent to find out what this gospel is all about.”  Paul did not question God’s calling.  He did not consult with any man but went straight to Arabia.  The word “Arabia” here does not mean or refer to the Arabia we know today.  In Paul’s day, this Arabia was south of Damascus, so it was not a long distance as it is today. In Paul’s day, it was a neighboring country.

Then, in verse 18, Paul says, “After three years” that is, three years after his conversion:

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days.

There are many who believe that those three years in Arabia are to make up for the three years that Jesus taught His other apostles in His earthly mission.  Paul is saying here that after three years — that is, three years after his conversion — he went to Jerusalem, where he saw Peter.  He mentions that he saw Peter only for fifteen days.  Why does he mention the number of days?  Because he is making an important point.  He is saying to his readers, that it was impossible in those fifteen days for Peter to give him the full counsel of God that he had proclaimed to the Galatian Christians.  In other words, “I could not have received this message from Peter.”

One other person he saw was James but also only for a short time.  But he saw none of the other apostles.  He is simply proving his point that he did not receive the message of the gospel from any man but from Christ Himself.

What did Paul do in those three years that he was in Arabia?  He restudied the Old Testament in the light of Jesus Christ.  Paul was very familiar with the Old Testament.  He was a Pharisee.  He knew the Old Testament inside out, but he had misunderstood the message of the Bible.  In those three years, Christ did the same for Paul as He did for those two men on their way to Emmaus.  Remember those two men who were walking to Emmaus after the resurrection of Christ, how Jesus met them and how they told him that they thought Jesus was the Messiah but now He was crucified; He was dead.  Jesus said, “You are so slow to learn the truth.”  And beginning with Moses and going through all the Scriptures, He opened their eyes to all the prophecies that pointed to Him as the Messiah.  You will find this in Luke 24:27 onwards.  Luke 24:25-27:

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

So during those three years in Arabia, God opened the true meaning of the Old Testament.  The Old Testament, like the New Testament, points to Jesus Christ as our Savior.

At the end of the three years, Paul’s gospel was fully formulated through the abundance of revelation that God had given him.  So having been armed with this full gospel, after three years, Paul returns to Jerusalem.  He tells us in verses 18, 19, and 20 that he saw the apostles Peter and James for such a short period that it was impossible for them to have given him the message that he was proclaiming:

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days.  I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Now, we return to verse 21:

Then I went to Syria and Cilicia.

After he saw Peter and James, he tells us, “I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia.”  This is, the area of Tyre and Sidon.  When he arrived, the Jews there would look upon him as a traitor because he who was defending Judaism, he who was persecuting the Christian church, had now become a Christian.  We are told that, after he went to Syria, he “was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ.”  The people, the Christians of Judea, did not know Paul as a Christian.  They only knew him as a persecutor of Christianity.  But they had heard, the news had reached them, that this man who was formerly a persecutor had made a complete turnaround and was now preaching the message of salvation in Christ which he once tried to destroy.  As a result, what did the Christians in Judea do?  “They glorified God in me,” except the Judaizers who opposed him.

Now, having said this, let us make a synopsis of chapter one of Galatians.

Paul makes it very clear in this first chapter that he is not a self-appointed apostle nor was he chosen by a committee or by any dignitary of the early Christian church.  He was chosen to be an apostle.  He was called to be a chosen vessel by Jesus Christ and God the Father.  The reason he is doing this is not to defend his personal rights.  The reason he is defending his apostleship is because the Judaizers, in order to undermine his message of salvation by grace alone, accused him of being a self-appointed apostle.  Paul is defending his apostleship, not because he is fighting for his rights but because he wants to defend the message he brought to Galatia.
Paul is astonished.  He is shocked that the Galatian Christians are so soon sidetracked from the true gospel to a false gospel.  When we come to chapter four, we will discover that the Galatians were so excited by this message of salvation by grace alone that they were even willing to pluck their eyes and give them to Paul because obviously he was having eye problems at that time.  And now, so soon, either a year later or three years later, depending when Paul wrote this epistle — either from Corinth, which would be three years after their conversion, or from Ephesus, which would be only one year — they were so soon turning their backs to this wonderful message of salvation by grace alone.  Do you know why they turned their backs to the gospel?  There are two reasons:
We are by nature legalists.  That means that we are, by nature, inclined to believe, to teach, and to practice salvation by works because sin, at its very foundation, is living independent of God.  This brings us to the second reason.
The gospel is salvation by grace alone.  You and I can make no contribution to our salvation, which is very painful to our egocentric nature because, you see, we want some credit towards our salvation and the gospel takes the glory of man and puts it in the dust.  When we accept the gospel, we have to admit that spiritually we are bankrupt and that is painful.  It is very appealing to our egocentric nature, to our pride, that we can contribute towards our salvation.  This is why the Galatians were deceived by the teachings of the Judaizers.
The Judaizers came to Galatia and said to the Galatian Christians, “We hear that you have been converted by the apostle Paul.”  And they responded and said, “Yes, he came with a wonderful message of salvation, this wonderful good news and we are rejoicing in it.”  The Judaizers would respond, “Yes, we thank God that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour.  But what Paul preached was not a complete message.”  And they would say, “Really?  We thought he gave us the full counsel of God.”  “Oh, no.  What he said is true but it is incomplete.  Surely you don’t expect to go to heaven simply by believing in Jesus Christ.  That’s too good to be true.  Friends, God expects you to do something.  He expects you to be circumcised.  That’s why He gave it to Abraham.  He expects you to do good works and He expects you to keep the law of Moses, otherwise you will never make it to heaven.”  And these poor Galatian Christians were deceived by this perverted gospel.  Paul is astonished that they could so easily be sidetracked from the gospel.

But the tragedy is that we can fall into the same trap.  That is why we should carefully study this epistle to the Galatians.  It is our only way of guarding against this terrible enemy of the gospel.

Then, finally in chapter one, Paul tells us that this gospel that he preached originated from Jesus Christ Himself and not from any man, not even the apostles.  In other words, Paul is saying here, “The day you refuse to accept the gospel that I gave you, you are not refusing my message; you are refusing the message of Jesus Christ Himself.”  So this becomes a serious matter.  Oh, yes, if the message that Paul preached was his idea, if it was some human invention, then there was no danger of turning their backs to this message.  But, if the message that Paul preached was not a message from man, either from him or from the other apostles, but it came directly from Jesus Christ, then it becomes a very serious matter to turn our backs to this message.  The truth of the gospel, friends, is:

Unchanging.  Paul, Peter, and the other apostles all preached the same gospel.  The emphasis, the style, may be different, since Peter preached to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles.  They may have approached the message from a different point of view, but the message, the essence, the substance of the message was identical.
The truth of the gospel must be maintained.  The devil has not taken a vacation.  He is here today to pervert the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and he tries every means — through humanism, through the New Age movement, through infiltrating the Christian church with new truth which is no new truth but a perverted gospel.  We, as Christians, must maintain the purity of the gospel because perverting the gospel is one of Satan’s most powerful ways to pull men and women out of Christ.  Paul told the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 that, just as Satan deceived Eve by his subtlety, he would try and deceive the Corinthians by his crafty ways:
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

And Satan, who is the father of lies, is still alive today and, in the name of an angel, he will come as an angel of light and try to pervert the gospel in your life and in my life.

As we conclude this first chapter of Galatians, it is very clear that Paul is an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is important that we listen to his message because almost half of the New Testament is Pauline epistles.  It is Paul whom God set aside to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When Christ came to this world, He came primarily not to explain the gospel, but to be the gospel.  It is Paul that God set aside to expound the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul is the theologian of the New Testament and the message he proclaimed, which is recorded in the New Testament, is a message that came to him from Christ Himself directly by revelation.  In Chapter 12 of 2 Corinthians, verse 7 onwards, Paul tells us that, because of the abundance of revelation that he received, because of the danger of pride infiltrating his heart, God allowed Satan to put a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble.  2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

As we study this wonderful, important epistle to the Galatians, my prayer is that you will be rooted and grounded in the truth as it is in Christ and that you will allow nothing and no one to sidetrack you from this truth.  This is my prayer, as Jesus said to His disciples, that you shall know this truth and the truth will set you free.  There is only one gospel, there is only one message, that can reconcile a holy God to sinful man and that is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This reconciliation already took place when Jesus died on the cross.  All that is left is for mankind to be reconciled to God. May God preserve you from being sidetracked from this gospel.

 

3 – Only One Gospel

Galatians 2:1-10:

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.  I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism — they added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.  For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

 

As we turn to chapter two of Galatians, keep in mind what we have already covered in chapter one in our last two studies.  Here is a quick review before we turn to chapter two.  Paul was ordained by God and Jesus Christ to be an apostle to the Gentiles.  Wherever Paul went, the Judaizers — Jewish Christians who opposed Paul’s message — dogged his footsteps.  As soon as Paul planted a church in some location, these false teachers would come and trouble the new believers with their perverted gospel, that is:  salvation is not by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ but that we must also add circumcision and the keeping of the law as a requirement to be saved.

Unfortunately, these Judaizers had plenty of success both within and without the church.  Did you know, for example, that most Islamic scholars consider Paul, especially in view of his message of salvation by grace alone, as the greatest heretic of Christianity?  All those who would like to promote legalism in one form or another within Christianity often have a low opinion of Paul and his writings.

It is important that we come to grips with the issues Paul is discussing in Galatians.  As we have already seen, in order to discredit Paul’s gospel, the Judaizers launched a powerful two-pronged attack on Paul and his message.  They accused him of being a self-appointed apostle and inventing his own gospel.

In chapter one, Paul made it clear that both his apostolic authority, as well as the gospel he proclaimed, did not come from men or from himself but from God and Jesus Christ.  But the Judaizers did not stop at this two-pronged attack.  One of the powerful ways they tried to undermine Paul’s gospel was by putting a wedge between Paul and the other apostles.  They hinted to these Gentile believers that the gospel Paul preached was very different from the one that Peter and the other apostles were preaching in Palestine.  Keep in mind that, in those days, communication was very poor.  There was no way for these Gentile believers in Asia Minor, in Galatia and other places, to be sure what the apostles in Palestine were preaching.  The Judaizers took advantage of this.  Paul is proving there is only one gospel that he and the other apostles were preaching.

With this introduction, let us now turn to Galatians 2:1-10:

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.  I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism — they added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.  For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

What a powerful, tremendous passage this is!  What is Paul saying here in this passage?  First, let us look at the opening statement:

Then after fourteen years….

Fourteen years after his conversion he went up again to Jerusalem.  Remember, he had gone there the first time, as mentioned in chapter one, verse eighteen, when he stayed in Jerusalem only for fifteen days.  But this time, he went with Barnabas (who was a fellow Jew and a coworker with Paul) and Titus, a Greek, a Gentile convert, who was an intern under Paul.  Verse 2 tells us why he went to Jerusalem:

I went in response to a revelation….

Paul did not come to Jerusalem to be investigated by the other apostles.  He went up because God directed him to go to Jerusalem.  Why?  Because of the damage the Judaizers were doing by their false teachings.  They were implying to the Gentile believers that there was a discrepancy between the gospel that Paul had preached to them and the gospel that Peter, James and John, the pillars of the church, were preaching in Jerusalem.

God wanted to stop this problem immediately.  Paul says:

I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.

He shared, with the other apostles, the message that he had proclaimed to the Gentiles.  But he did it privately to those who were of reputation.  He does not mention in verse two who those people in reputation were but he does in verse nine.  They were James, Cephas (that is, Peter), and John.  These were the pillars of the church in Jerusalem.  He says:

I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.

It was not because Paul doubted his gospel but it was to report to the leaders so that they might be in perfect unity with the gospel they were both proclaiming.  This unity should be our goal, also.  There is only one gospel that the Christian church should preach and that is why it is important that we understand this epistle to the Galatians.

Now look at verse 3 of chapter 2 of Galatians:

Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.

To understand this, keep in mind, that the Judaizers were insisting that the Gentiles be circumcised in order to be saved.  In Acts 15, at the first Jerusalem council, this was the central issue.  Acts 15:1-21:

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.  The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted.  This news made all the believers very glad.  When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them:  “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.  When they finished, James spoke up.  “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.  Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles.  The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:  ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.  Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ — things known from long ago.

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.  Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.  For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

And here, in Galatians, Paul is saying that if there was a discrepancy between his gospel and the one that Peter, James, and John were preaching, if he was not in harmony with these three great men of God and that the Judaizers were correct, that circumcision was essential for salvation, then Titus, who was a Gentile, uncircumcised, would have been compelled by these leaders of the church in Jerusalem to be circumcised.  It was God who led Paul to take Titus with him as a test case.  Titus was Exhibit A.  The whole unity of the gospel depended on what these leaders in Jerusalem would do with Titus.  The reason Paul took Titus was to make sure that Paul and the other apostles were in harmony.

Paul says in verse 4:

This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

If the Judaizers had succeeded in bringing a wedge between Paul and the other apostles, it is doubtful that the Christian church as it is today would have lasted for so long a period.  We thank God that on this very important occasion, the apostles were perfectly united in their stand.

Paul adds in verse 5:

We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

The “we” here refers to Paul, Peter, James, and John.  Not for a single moment did they allow these Judaizers to pervert the gospel or to bring a wedge between Paul and the other apostles.  Paul and the other apostles were in perfect harmony in the proclamation of the gospel.  Yes, today the Christian church is fragmented with all kinds of issues but one thing must be clear:  the church has to be united when it comes to defining what the gospel of Jesus Christ is.

Paul goes on (verse 6a):

As for those who were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism….

Paul is not being disrespectful to the leaders and the believers in Jerusalem.  Reminding them of the priesthood of all believers, that God shows personal favoritism to no one for we all — apostles and laity, leaders and members of the church, all of us — are one hundred percent sinners saved by grace.  There is no distinction when you and I come under the umbrella of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then he makes this wonderful statement at the end of verse six:

…They added nothing to my message.

The leading brethren of the church in Jerusalem, Peter, James and John, did not contradict, they did not add, they did not modify or supplement Paul’s gospel.  The message Paul preached was full and complete:  salvation for all men is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and nothing else.  He continues in verses 7-8:

On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised [Gentiles, i.e., anyone who wasn’t Jewish], just as Peter had been to the circumcised [Jews].  For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.

The source of the gospel is Jesus Christ.  The gospel proclaimed by Peter to the Jews and the gospel proclaimed by Paul to the Gentiles was the same gospel.  There was no distinction.  Paul and Peter preached the same gospel.  True, it was to a different audience, therefore their style may have been different; their approach may have been different but the substance of the message they preached was one.

Paul says in verse 9:

James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars [leaders of God’s church in Jerusalem], gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.

In other words, these apostles said to Paul and Barnabas, “Continue the good work.  We are perfectly united.”  This was a very crucial moment in the history of the Christian church.  Thank God, this meeting proved extremely successful.  It showed that the Judaizers were liars and deceivers, that they were agents of Satan who came to destroy the truth as it is in Christ.  We read that, before Paul and Barnabas left Jerusalem, they had come to an agreement that the message they preached was one and the same message.  They desired only one thing, said Paul in verse 10, that these Gentile believers remember the poor Jewish believers who were being persecuted and who were facing financial and material hardship:

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

There are two important facts that we must remember concerning this message in Galatians 2:1-10:

The truth of the gospel is unchanging.  Paul said in Galatians 1:8-9 that anyone who perverts this gospel, anyone who brings about another gospel other than the one that he, Paul and the other apostles preached, let him be accursed of God even though that person, that individual may be an angel from heaven.  Peter and Paul and the other apostles all preached the same gospel.  They were perfectly united as to how man was justified before God.  So those who preach the gospel today must also be united.  The moment we preach different gospels, we are doing great damage to the cause of Jesus Christ.  Yes, our emphasis, our style may be different.  For example:  Paul’s greatest enemies in his proclamation of the gospel were the Judaizers.  His greatest enemy was legalism and so Paul, in his writings, speaks against legalism with much emphasis.  James, on the other hand, writing to Jewish believers, is dealing with an opposite problem:  antinomianism (literally, “anti-legalism” or lawlessness; the theological doctrine that by faith and God’s grace a Christian is freed from all laws, including the moral standards of the culture), or what is called “cheap grace.”  Both were preaching the same gospel, both were in perfect harmony, but they were dealing with two different problems, two different groups of people, so their approach was somewhat different.  But their message was the same.
The second truth that our passage brings out is that the truth of the gospel must be maintained at all cost.  Perverting the gospel is one of Satan’s most powerful ways of destroying the faith of believers and the unity of the Christian church.  Paul tells us in Galatians 5:3-4 that anyone who adds law keeping to justification by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ is fallen from grace and Christ has become of no value:
Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.  You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

All through his ministry, Paul warned his believers to be on guard against perverting the gospel.  We find an example in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The devil has, to a large degree, put a veil in front of the eyes of many of the church people today.  He has convinced them that man has, in himself, the power to save himself.  This is the mistake that Karl Marx made; this is the mistake that many who believe in humanistic methods have made.  But the Bible is clear that there is no one who is able to save himself from sin by his own good works because sin is not only an act that condemns us but sin is a slavery; sin is a law; it is a principle that dwells in our sinful nature which makes holy living impossible.  When we come to Galatians 3:10, Paul makes it clear that all who are depending on the law for their salvation will be under the curse:

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

“Cursed is everyone who does not obey the law perfectly and continually,” something that none of us have been able to do.  We must maintain the purity of the gospel for we do not want this gospel to be perverted.

Another passage in the same book is 2 Corinthians 11:3-4:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

We need to give serious thought to what Paul says here.  Paul is saying, “I am concerned for you Corinthian Christians.  It is so easy to sidetrack you from the true gospel.”  What Paul is saying about the Corinthians is true of all of us today because legalism is very appealing to our egocentric nature.  The gospel is a standard.  It shows us how poverty-stricken we are when it comes to the spiritual realm.  It is important that, as Christians, we maintain the purity of the gospel, that we allow none to pervert the gospel.  This is what the devil has been trying to do right from the beginning.

On this historical occasion — fourteen years after Paul’s conversion, when he came to Jerusalem for the second time — if the apostles disagreed in terms of the content of the gospel, the whole destiny of the Christian church was at stake.  It is true that Paul, in this passage that we have just studied, was referring to the Jerusalem Council because there is a close similarity between Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:1-10 and in Acts 15, especially verses 6-11.  In conclusion, to show the similarity, read Acts 15:6-10:

The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?”

Keep in mind that the issue was circumcision and the keeping of the law as a requirement for salvation.  This is the response of the apostles at this Jerusalem Council.  Peter is reminding the Judaizers that Judaism, after 1,500 years, had miserably failed to produce a righteousness that can stand before the judgment seat of God.  In Acts 15:11, the next verse, we read Paul’ conclusion:

“No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

In other words, there is only one way that God saved mankind.  It does not matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, it does not matter whether you are male or female, educated or uneducated, whether you are living in the first world or the third world, there is only one way that sinful man can be justified before a holy God:  it is through grace that we are saved by faith and not by works.

It is my prayer that you will know this truth and this truth will set you free and you will allow no one to sidetrack you from this gospel of grace alone.  Thank God for Paul, the champion of the gospel.  We thank God that almost half of the New Testament is Pauline epistles, especially for his epistle to the Galatians which has been preserved for your benefit and mine that you and I may know the truth and may stand by the truth.  The truth which is Jesus Christ and Him crucified will set us free.

 

4 – Justification by Faith Alone

Galatians 2:11-21:

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!  If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

 

In our last study, which was Galatians 2, verses 1-10, Paul described his second visit to Jerusalem, 14 years after his conversion.  This second visit, and what transpired there, proved conclusively that the gospel Paul preached to the Gentiles was the same or identical gospel that Peter, James, and John — the pillars of the church — had been preaching to the Jews in Jerusalem.

Now, in this study, in Galatians 2:11-21, the scene changes from Jerusalem, which was the capital of the Jewish nation, to Antioch, the chief city of Syria.  Here Paul describes his clash with Peter.  This is without doubt the most tense and dramatic episode in the New Testament.  Here are two leading apostles of Jesus Christ face to face in open conflict.

What prompted Paul to publicly oppose Peter?  Had he lost his temper or did Paul feel threatened by Peter’s presence in his territory?  After all, Peter was chosen by God to be an apostle to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles.  Therefore, was Paul trying to downplay Peter as one presidential candidate downplays another in a presidential election?  Or was Paul jealous of Peter?  None of these is true.  But, before we consider the issue in this passage, Galatians 2:11-21, it is important that we keep in mind four facts.

Both Paul and Peter are born again Christians.
Both are genuine apostles of Jesus Christ.
Both were used by God mightily.  We discover in the book of Acts that the first half describes how God used Peter mightily and the second half how God used Paul mightily.
Both played a leading role in establishing the Christian church.
Yet, here we find them in open conflict.  We will begin with verses 11 to 16 and then we will look at it in detail.  It is important that we see these truths from the Word of God itself.

When Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

What is Paul saying here?  First, he says, “When Peter came to Antioch.”  As already mentioned, Antioch was the chief city of Syria.  It was an important place, not only for the commercial world but also for Christianity because it was here at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.

The moment Peter came to Antioch, Paul withstood him.  Why?  Because he was to blame (or “he stood condemned,” he was in the wrong).  To blame for what?  What was the problem for which Peter had to be publicly rebuked?  The answer is found in verse 12.  Before the Judaizers — who were Jewish Christians — came, Peter would eat with the Gentiles.  But when these Jewish Christians came to Antioch, he withdrew from the Gentiles’ company and he went to eat only with the Jews, fearing those who were of the circumcised or these Jewish brethren from Jerusalem.  Verse 12:

For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

Now, to understand verse 12, we have to remember that, in the early church, the believers often ate a common meal called the agape feast.  The food was pooled together and all partook of this meal.  For many slaves who had become Christians, this meal was the best meal of the week.  This common meal was shared together by both Jews and Gentile Christians, by slaves and masters.  To the Jew who partook of this meal, it was a complete contradiction to his culture and his religious background.  A strict Jew, in the days of the New Testament, and to some degree today among the Orthodox Jew, was forbidden to do business with a Gentile.  He was not allowed to go on a journey with a Gentile.  He must never be hospitable to a Gentile.  The story of the Samaritan that Jesus told graphically portrays this.  Neither was the Jew to accept hospitality from a Gentile.  The gospel had liberated the Christian Jews from this attitude.  Paul clearly brings out in Ephesians 2:14-18, that Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, had broken down or done away with the partition wall that separated the Jews and the Gentiles in the temple of Jerusalem:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

There was to be no barrier between Jews and Gentiles.  In fact, in Galatians 3:28, Paul says:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is one of the wonderful privileges of being a member of the Christian church.  It removes all distinctions.

Before Peter understood this truth, he practiced this separationism just as the other Jews.  God had to open his eyes about this problem.  In Acts 10:9-23, we discover how God solved this problem in the mind of Peter:

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.  He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.  He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.  It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.  Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter.  Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied.  “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate.  They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you.  So get up and go downstairs.  Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for.  Why have you come?”

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion.  He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people.  A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”  Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.

Peter was upstairs, waiting for the ladies downstairs to cook his meal.  He was hungry.  He fell asleep.  Remember, God, in a vision, brought down all kinds of unclean animals in a net and in the vision Peter was told to slay these animals and eat.  In response Peter said, “I have never eaten anything unclean.”  The response was, “Peter, what God has cleansed you must not call common.”  God here was not referring, in this vision, to a diet or eating.  God was simply using the unclean animals of the Old Testament to bring out a lesson to Peter concerning the Gentiles, because the Gentiles were looked upon by the Jews as an unclean people.  Peter was told by God through this vision, “No longer must you treat the Gentiles as ‘unclean.’”

Peter had already learned this.  Remember the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, especially verses 6-11?  Peter, who was the spokesman, made it very clear that there is no distinction in the eyes of God, through the gospel, between Jews and Gentiles:

The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them:  “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

These Jewish brethren claimed that they were sent by James who was the main leader, the chairman or the President of the Christian church in Jerusalem.  This claim is questionable.  There was no way the people in Antioch could prove that James had sent them.  But the real problem was that, when they came, Peter, whose custom it was to eat with the Gentiles, left them and went to eat with the Jews, “fearing those who were of the circumcision.”  That great apostle Peter was not infallible.  He submitted to peer pressure and he did something that set a very bad example.  He became a stumbling block for the cause of Jesus Christ.

That is why Paul openly rebuked him.  As a result of Peter’s action, the rest of the Jews, along with Barnabas, practiced what Paul calls hypocrisy.  A hypocrite is somebody who pretends to be good when he is not.  The Jews, because they felt that God had given them the law and God had called them His chosen people, thought they were better than the Gentiles.  Peter, not by his conviction but by his behavior, was giving the impression that the Gentiles, who had accepted Christ, were “unclean.”  What he did was a contradiction of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So what did Paul do?  Galatians 2:14 tells us:

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel…

The “they” is Peter and the other apostles, including Barnabas, who was a co-laborer with Paul.  He was one of the men who fought against the Judaizers in the Jerusalem Council.  They now submitted to the same weakness as Peter.  Paul, the great champion of the gospel, when he saw what was happening, straightway rebuked Peter publicly because what Peter did was a contradiction which the truth of the gospel revealed to them.  We read in the second half of verse 14 of Galatians 2 the words of Paul to Peter before them all:

…I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”

This can only be understood when we put ourselves in the place of Peter and Paul and the Jews at that time.  Remember, the reason the Jews would not associate with the Gentiles was because they looked upon the Gentiles as sinners and themselves as the children of God.  When Peter ate with the Gentiles, he was admitting two things:  that he, like the Gentiles, was a sinner, and that both of them were saved by grace alone.  Peter’s previous behavior, even with the Gentiles, was upholding the truth of the gospel, that there is no distinction in God’s eyes between Jew and Gentile.  All have sinned, as Paul says in Romans 3:23, both have come short of the glory of God and are both justified freely by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ:

…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….

When Peter moved from the Gentiles table and took the other Jews with him and ate separately from the Gentiles, he was implying by his act that the Gentiles were “unclean.”  He was giving ammunition to the Judaizers, these Jewish Christians who had come from Jerusalem under the guise of having been sent by James.  This ammunition was that the demands of the Judaizers were right.  These demands were circumcision and the keeping of the law as a requirement of salvation.

Peter, not by his words but by his act, was contradicting what he already said to the congregation there in the Jerusalem Council.  He was contradicting his own stand that he took at the Jerusalem Council.  Paul is reminding him in verse 16:

[We…] know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one [Jews or Gentiles] will be justified.

Paul says, “Peter, you know the truth; you defended it in the Jerusalem Council, now why have you contradicted this wonderful truth by leaving the Gentile table and going to the Jews?”

Now he gives Peter some food for thought.  Look at verses 17 to 21:

“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!  If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

This is a very precious message that Paul is telling Peter.  First of all, in verse 16, Paul sums up for Peter the fundamental truth of the gospel.  In many ways, Galatians 2:16 is the key passage in the whole of this epistle to the Galatians.  The reason for this is because it deals with the central thrust of Paul’s concern in this letter and which is that justification is by faith alone and nothing else.

As we consider this verse, along with the rest of chapter 2, we will see an important word which occurs for the first time in Galatians.  This word is:

central to the message of God,
central to the gospel Paul preached, and
central to Christianity itself.
Nobody has truly understood Christianity who does not understand this word.  What is this word?  It is the word “justified.”  The verb form is used three times in verse 16 and once in verse 17.  And the noun form, “justification,” appears once in verse 21.

Since verse 16 is a key verse in this epistle, let us pick this verse apart so that we fully understand the significance of this statement.

[We] know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

The word “know” means Paul is telling Peter, “This is a truth that you already know.  This is not something new.  You declared it in the Jerusalem Council (found in Acts 15:10-11).  You declared that we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”  This word “justified” is a legal term which means to declare a person righteous.  Acts 15:10-11:

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

For example, we find the definition of this word by looking at the book of the law.  We read in Deuteronomy 25:1 where this word justified is used in its clear legal sense:

When people have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting [or “justifying,” in some translations] the innocent and condemning the guilty.

It is true, according to the law, that the law can only justify the righteous.  For 1,500 years, the Jews tried to justify themselves by the works of the law.  This phrase “works of the law” is the Pauline phrase for what we would call today “legalism.”  There was no Greek word in Paul’s day that was equivalent to our English word “legalism.”  So whenever you read the phrase “works of the law,” that does not mean that Paul is against the law but he is against the law being used as a method or as a means of salvation.

The Jews, who tried to justify themselves by the works of the law, had failed miserably.  Paul brings this out clearly in Romans 9:30-33:

What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the stumbling stone.  As it is written:  “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Peter knew this.  It was not a question of being ignorant and yet what he did contradicted his belief.  There are many Christians who limit the word “justified” only to forgiveness.  It is true, for a sinner to be justified before God, his or her sin has to be forgiven.  But justification in the New Testament sense, in the way it is used in the gospel, means more than forgiveness, wonderful as this may be, for forgiveness simply means that our sins have been canceled.

But justification by faith as preached by Paul, includes a positive righteousness.  Paul brings this out in Romans 5:19:

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus Christ] the many will be made righteous.

Justification to life requires not only forgiveness but positive righteousness.  To be justified before God’s holy law, two things are required of us sinners:

Perfect obedience, and
Perfect justice.
Only in Christ do we have both of these.  Apart from Christ Paul tells us it is impossible to save ourselves, to justify ourselves before God.

In Galatians 2:17, Paul makes a rather difficult statement:

But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!

This difficult statement could have two meanings.

It could be that Paul is referring to an ethical issue.  By eating with Gentiles, Peter acknowledged that they were justified just as the Jews were.  By his cowardly act, he implied that the Gentile believers were still “unclean” and, if this is true, he is making Christ, who had justified the Gentiles by faith, the minister of sin.  Here is an ethical issue that is involved.

But is it possible that Paul also was talking about what is called “cheap grace”?  The Judaizers, who opposed Paul’s method of grace, were including the keeping of the law as a requirement for salvation or justification because they insisted that, if you tell mankind, sinful human beings, that we are justified by faith alone based on the doing and dying of Christ, then you are opening the door for what we call in theology “antinomianism” or cheap grace.  In other words, one might say, “Since I am already justified by faith in the perfect history of Jesus Christ that took place 2,000 years ago, then I can say what Paul says,” (Romans 6:1):

What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

This is one of the things of which the Judaizers were accusing Paul.

Paul may have had both in mind.  His answer is “it is unthinkable” to both these issues, the ethical issue as well as the issue of cheap grace.  Look at verses 19 and 20 of Galatians 2, which explains Paul’s application of the gospel to the justified believer:

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

He says two things to us in verse 19.  “As far as the law is concerned, I am dead.”  Now, if we look at Romans 7:1:

Do you not know, brothers and sisters — for I am speaking to those who know the law — that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives?

Paul tells us there that the law has dominion over us as long as we are living.  The moment we accept our death in Christ, the law no longer has dominion over us.  But Christ did not set us free from the law so that we can live as we please.  He set us free that we may live for God.  Paul brings this out in verse 20 of Galatians 2:

I have been crucified with Christ [It is there that I was redeemed from under law] and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Justification by faith means that the true believer says, “I am crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I but Christ who must live in me.”  True justification by faith says, “Not I, but Christ.”  And since Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever, the life He lives in the believer will be the life He lived 2,000 years ago, a life of righteousness, a life going about doing good.  This is genuine justification by faith.  Yes, what Christ does in us does not contribute towards our salvation; we are justified by faith alone in the perfect history of Christ, but the fruits of justification by faith must be holiness of living.

Paul brings this out clearly in Romans 6, especially in verse 22:

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Paul concludes in Galatians 2:21, by these words:

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

On the one hand, we are justified by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ and what we do, even what the Holy Spirit does in us, does not contribute towards that justification.  On the other hand, a justified Christian will always say:  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but the life I now live is Christ living in me through faith in Him who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

This is the balanced message that Paul preached.  On the one hand, we are justified by faith in the doing and dying of Christ and nothing else.  On the other hand, this wonderful truth that has set us free, produces a life of holiness.  May this be your experience.

 

5 – You Foolish Galatians

Throughout Chapter 1 and 2 of Galatians, which we have already covered in previous studies, the great apostle Paul had been strongly defending the divine origin of his apostolic calling and the gospel of grace he preached.  Now, beginning with Chapter 3 of Galatians, the apostle turns to the Galatians themselves and their own experience with regards to their initial response to the gospel message.  Our study will cover the first nine verses of chapter three.  Let us read these first nine verses before we analyze what Paul is saying here:

You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you:  Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish?  After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?  Have you experienced so much in vain — if it really was in vain?  So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?  So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.  Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham:  “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Notice that this passage we just read is divided into two parts.  Verses 1-5 deal with the experience of the Galatian Christians by way of a series of questions and then, in verses 6-9, Paul is speaking of Abraham who is the father of all who believe.  He is dealing with Abraham as our example, as our prototype, and with how the gospel saves us individually.

With this introduction, let us look carefully at this passage and see what lesson we can draw out of it for we who are living today.  Paul begins by a very strong statement:

You foolish Galatians!

The word “foolish” really means “unthinking” or “idiotic,”  implying irrational behavior or stupidity.  If Paul was living today, he very likely would have said, “You stupid” or “idiotic Galatians.”  Any Christian who turns from the glorious gospel of salvation by grace alone and desires to be saved by his own personal good works really deserves to be called foolish for that is pure stupidity.

It is just like a farmer who deliberately gives up using his tractor to plow his land and goes back to plowing by oxen.  Paul feels that their behavior was so irrational that he wondered if someone had not cast a spell on them.  Please notice what he says:

Who has bewitched you?

“Who has cast a spell on you?”  The word “who” here is in the singular, but the Judaizers, who had caused the problem, were really a group of people.  Therefore, the implication is that, behind the Judaizers, was the enemy of all souls, which is Satan.  In 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Paul tells the Corinthian believers that just as the devil deceived Eve, Paul is afraid that Satan might use the same deceptive method to deceive them and bring them another gospel that doesn’t belong to the truth:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

Paul is concerned that the Galatians had turned their backs to the one and only hope of salvation, Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  He is stating to them by a question, “Tell me, you who obeyed the truth, did you obey the fact that Jesus Christ was portrayed before you crucified?”  The message that Paul had brought to the Galatians was Jesus Christ and Him crucified, man’s only hope.  This was at the very heart of Paul’s message.  In 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, Paul identifies the cross of Christ with the gospel, the power of God for salvation.  He says that this message is foolishness to those who do not believe but to us who believe, the cross is the power of God for salvation:

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Then, in chapter 2 of 1 Corinthians, in the first two verses, Paul tells us that the main emphasis of his message when he came to Corinth, was Jesus Christ and Him crucified:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters.  When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

“I wanted to know nothing else among you when I came to you,”  Paul says, “except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  This is the heart of the gospel message.  Man’s redemption is centered around the cross of Christ.

Paul then tells the Galatians, “Tell me.”  he says in verse 2 of Galatians 3, “I want to learn this from you.  Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing of faith:”

I would like to learn just one thing from you:  Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?

And here Paul describes the two fundamental methods of salvation.  The phrase “works of the law” is a typical Pauline expression referring to legalism or salvation by our own good works or observing the law.  There was no Greek word in Paul’s day equivalent to our English word “legalism.”  So, whenever you come across that phrase “works of the law,” that is what it means.

Paul is not against the law, but he is against anyone using the law as a method or as a means of salvation.  When we come to chapter 5 of Galatians, we will discover that Paul does uphold the law as a standard of Christian living.  But, as a means of salvation, there is only one way you and I can go to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Paul is saying in verse 2 of Galatians 3:  “Did you receive the Spirit by the observance of the law, using the law as a method of salvation, or did you receive the Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior?”

Under the law, the law requires us personally to obey it.  We cannot receive any help from outside of ourselves.  The law demands we, as individuals, obey it perfectly and continually if we want to be saved through the law.  It is only under grace that God supplies us the Holy Spirit.  The work of the Holy Spirit is not to save us since we are saved by the doing and dying of Christ.  But the work of the Holy Spirit is to make real in our experience what is ours through faith in Jesus Christ.

The answer to this question is obvious.  The Galatians received the Holy Spirit by accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.  The new birth experience does not come to the legalist.  It comes only to those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.  That is why Jesus had to remind Nicodemus that all his performance could not save him.  He had to be born from above.  In John 3:6, Jesus says:

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh.  You need, Nicodemus, to be born from above, otherwise you can never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  We are born from above only by faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, in verse 3 of Galatians 3, Paul reminds them, “after beginning by means of the Spirit.”  Are you so foolish?  How can you be so stupid?  You began on the platform of justification by faith; you by faith entered under the umbrella of grace and now, having had this wonderful experience of salvation by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ, you turn back to legalism.  How stupid can you be?  Paul says to the Galatians, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

Are you so foolish?  After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

What is Paul trying to tell them here?  Paul is saying here that the righteousness we received through faith in Jesus Christ is a perfect, a complete righteousness.  We cannot add to it and we cannot improve on it.  Paul tells us in Galatians 5:4, the moment we try to do this, we have fallen from grace:

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

It is either all of Christ’s righteousness or none of it.  The moment we try to improve our standing before God by our own performance, we are denying the perfect righteousness of Christ which qualifies us for heaven.  Justification is by faith alone.

Then he reminds the Galatians in verse 4:

Have you experienced so much in vain — if it really was in vain?

When the Galatians first accepted the gospel, they came under persecution.  They were opposed by those who rejected the gospel.  They were persecuted by the enemies of Jesus Christ.  And they were willing to suffer because the joy of salvation was greater than all the suffering that they were involved in through the persecution they came under.  Now Paul is reminding them, “You suffered so greatly.  You were willing to give up so much for this gospel.  What has happened now?  Why have you changed your mind?”  Then, in verse 5 he says:

So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

The Judaizers, the Jewish Christians, had convinced the Galatians that salvation by faith alone is not enough.  They had to add their own performance to that.  They had to be circumcised.  They had to do good works and they had to keep the law.  But, Paul is saying, “Tell me, were you accepted as a child of God?  Were you justified by faith alone or by faith plus some other things that you added to your performance?”  The answer is obvious.  Man is justified by faith alone.  There is nothing we can add to our salvation.  Thank God for that because all our righteousness, Isaiah says in chapter 64, verse 6, is like filthy rags:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Why?  Because it is polluted with self.  The only righteousness that qualifies us for heaven is the righteousness of Christ.  And that righteousness is made effective by faith alone, not by faith plus something else.

Having reminded them of their own personal experience when they first accepted the gospel, Paul now turns his attention to Abraham in verse 6 of Galatians 3:

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Why Abraham?  Remember, the Judaizers were Jews.  To them, Abraham was their father and, to the Jews, the father meant not only somebody who created or produced them but also somebody who was their prototype, their example.  He is reminding these Galatian Christians, who were Gentiles, that even the father of the Jews, who also happens to be the father of all who believe, was saved by faith alone.  Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 where we are told so clearly that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness:

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

In verse 7 [of Galatians 3], he adds:

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.

Then he quotes the Old Testament Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations, not just the Jews, but the human race, the Gentiles included, by faith alone (verse 8):

Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham:  “All nations will be blessed through you.”

In Romans 4:13-14, the great apostle Paul speaks about Abraham as the father of all who believe:

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.  For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless…

The moment we add our own performance to our salvation, then we are denying that we are saved by grace alone.  Romans 4:15:

…because the law brings wrath.  And where there is no law there is no transgression.

The law does not save us; it condemns.  It does the very opposite of what the gospel does because the law constantly demands perfect obedience, from a person who is to be saved through the law.  Paul adds, in verse 16:

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring…

Then he defines what he means by “all Abraham’s offspring” or all the descendants of Abraham:

…to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law [the Jews, who are the physical descendants of Abraham] but also to those who have the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.

“Us all”  means all the believers, Jews and Gentiles.  In what sense is Abraham our father?  He brings this out in verses 17-18:

As it is written:  “I have made you a father of many nations.”  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

The context in which Paul makes this statement is the birth of Isaac.  God had promised Abraham a son when he was 75 years old.  Abraham believed and was counted righteous.  But God waited until it was impossible for Sara to have a child the normal way.  God waited almost 25 years until Sara had passed the age of childbearing.  He waited until it was impossible for Abraham himself to produce a child through Sara because she had now passed the age of childbearing.

Then God came to Abraham and said, “Do you believe that I can give you a child?”  Against hope, against all scientific evidence, against all human rationale, Abraham believed because faith is taking God at His Word.  Faith is not based on our feelings or our performance or what the scientific method tells us.  Faith is based on the Word of God.  Faith is taking God at His Word and, when God justifies a sinner through faith in Jesus Christ, the believer believes that he stands righteous in Christ even though he may not feel righteous.  Paul is saying this is how Abraham was justified.  He is the prototype of all believers.  In Galatians 3:7, speaking to the Galatians, Paul says:

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.

This is how we today, are justified, by faith alone in Jesus Christ.

Paul continues in Galatians 3:8-9:

Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham:  “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

God promised Abraham that one of his children would be the Messiah and, in chapter 4 of Galatians, Paul defined that seed, singular, as Christ.  Through Him, not only the Jews but the whole human race, will be saved.  This salvation is made effective by faith alone.  So then, those who are of faith, are blessed along with believing Abraham.  When we study Galatians 3:27-29, we will discover that there is only one way God saved mankind.  Whether a person lived in Old Testament times, or in New Testament times, whether a male or a female, a Jew or a Gentile, educated or uneducated, there is only one way that mankind is saved.  There is only one way we can be the spiritual descendants of Abraham.  Paul says in Galatians 3:26:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith….

Isn’t that beautiful?  We are all children of God.  Yes, through the Fall, we became the children of the devil, but, through grace, we have become children of God.  This becomes a reality the moment you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Paul adds in verse 27:

…for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

This is why Jesus in Mark 16:15-16 commissioned the disciples:

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Paul is reminding the Christians that as many of us who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  We have become one with Christ.  His life becomes our life.  His death becomes our death.  His burial becomes our burial and His resurrection becomes our resurrection.  Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Then, in verse 29, we read these words:

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The mistake the Jews made was in believing that the physical descendants or the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob constitute Israel or God’s people.  But Paul makes it clear in Romans 9 and here in Galatians 3, that it is having the faith of Abraham which makes a true Israelite.  In Romans 9, a true Israelite is one who has the faith of Abraham, who has experienced the new birth as Isaac who was born from above and whose faith endures to the end like Jacob when his name was changed from Jacob, “the schemer,” to Israel, the “one who prevailed.”

What is Paul saying here?  He is saying to the Galatians how absolutely foolish they are to turn from the pure gospel of grace alone to salvation by faith plus works.  This is something we must not do.  There is no way that we can marry these two methods of salvation.  It is either salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ or salvation by our performance, by works, by keeping the law, by being circumcised.  We can only have one or the other.  We cannot mix the two.

In concluding, we will examine four reasons why we cannot mix the two methods of salvation, because the moment we do, we are in trouble.  Salvation is by grace alone.

The gospel is good news only to those who have no confidence in themselves and are resting entirely in Jesus Christ.  The moment we add our own works, we are no longer depending on Christ.  We are depending partly on Christ and partly on ourselves and this is the problem of the Galatian Christians.  It is a problem that we must avoid.
The reason so many Christians fall into this trap of “I plus Christ” is because they project human love to God and human love is reciprocal.  In other words, “I love you only if you love me.”  That is not the basis of our salvation.  Our salvation is based on God’s unconditional love.
The flesh is proud.  It is egocentric and, therefore, wants to make some contribution towards salvation.  We have to admit that we are spiritual beggars in order for us to be saved by grace alone.  We cannot add our works.
Finally, mankind is by nature a legalist.  We are born with a nature that naturally wants to save ourselves through our performance.  The book of Galatians is crucial because the problem of partly by grace and partly by works is one that did not only exist in Paul’s day.  It is a problem today among many Christians.
It is my prayer that you will realize that you cannot mix the two methods of salvation, that you will accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and nothing else, for Jesus said you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.  By the word “Truth,”  He meant Himself.  John 8:36 says:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

It is my prayer that not only have you been set free in Jesus Christ, but that it is your determined purpose that nothing, no human being, no philosophy will ever sidetrack you from this wonderful truth of salvation by grace alone which is made effective by faith in Jesus Christ.

6 – The True and False Gospel

Throughout chapters one and two of Galatians, Paul strongly defended the divine origin of his apostolic calling and the gospel of grace he preached, both of which had come under fire from the Judaizers.

Then, in chapter three, verses 1 to 9, which is what we covered in our last study, Paul points out to the Galatians how stupid they were in turning their backs to the gospel of grace alone and returning to a subtle form of legalism:  salvation partly by grace and partly by their performance.  He reminds them that Abraham, not the Judaizers, is the true father of the Jews.  He is the true prototype of salvation for all men and he was justified by faith alone and nothing else.

Now, in verses 10 to 14 of Galatians 3, Paul will contrast the false gospel that the Judaizers were preaching — salvation by faith plus works of the law — or the same thing, salvation by legalism, with the true gospel, which is salvation by faith in Christ alone.  This is the fundamental issue Paul is addressing in the whole of the epistle to the Galatians.  It is a battle between the true gospel that Paul proclaims and the false gospel the Judaizers were preaching.

As we study this passage, Galatians 3:10-14, it will become absolutely apparent that these two roads to heaven can never meet in partnership for they are two opposite methods of salvation.  They totally contradict each other.  They are mutually exclusive.

With this in mind, let us start by reading Galatians 3:10-14. What is Paul saying here?

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will 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 hung on a pole.”  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

This is a passage full of meaning.  “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.”  Paul is saying here, “All who rely on observing the law as a means of going to heaven.”  The word “rely” means depending on the law or our observance of the law for salvation.  The phrase Paul uses is “the works of the law.”  It means using the law as a method of salvation.  We would call that in English, “legalism.”  Such people, Paul says, are under the curse.  Why?  He quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 and what does that text say?  It is part of the book of the law.  It says:

“Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”  Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

In other words, if you are trying to be saved through the law, the law demands from you two things:

It demands perfect obedience, and
This perfect obedience has to be continual.
We fall once and we have failed.  That is what happened to Adam and Eve.  God placed them in the Garden of Eden and gave them a commandment.  The first time Adam and Eve sinned, they came under the curse of the law.  If we want to be saved under the law, our performance has to be perfect and continual.  As we know, this is impossible.  Paul says in verse 11 of Galatians 3:

Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”

What is the evidence Paul is referring to here?  It is basically two things:

It is evident from our own experience, if we are honest with ourselves, that our law-keeping is never perfect, that all of us are coming short in performance when it comes to our own good works.
It is evident also from Scripture.
Let me remind you of two statements Paul made in Romans 3 where he concludes dealing with the sin problem.  In Romans 3:9, he says:

What shall we conclude then?  Do we have any advantage?

The “we” is referring to the Jews and “they” is referring to the Gentiles.  His answer (in the rest of that verse) is:

Not at all!  For we have already made the charge [or proved] that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.

In Romans 6:14, the word “under” means “to be ruled by” or “to be dominated by.”  This is a term that was used in slavery.

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Then, to prove his point, Paul quotes from the Old Testament.  Let us read two of those quotations.

(1) The first is found in Romans 3:10:
As it is written:  “There is no one righteous, not even one….”

It is evident from Scripture and from our own personal experience that there is no one who is righteous, not a single person.  In 1 John 1:8, John tells us that anyone who says he has no sin is a liar:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Then in Romans 3, verse 12, the second half, Paul makes this statement:
…There is no one who does good, not even one.

Paul is saying, in Galatians 3:11, it is absolutely evident — both in terms of our subjective experience as well as the Word of God — there is none who has produced perfect obedience.  There is only one Man in this world who has ever lived a perfect, sinless life.  It is our Lord Jesus Christ and He did it in order that we might be saved.

Paul, talking to the Galatians, using the clear evidence of Scripture, now quotes Habakkuk 2:4.  This is in Galatians 3:11, last part:

…The righteous will live by faith.

What Habakkuk actually wrote is:

…But the righteous person will live by his faithfulness….

This is a better translation.  The only way we can conquer the grave and obtain eternal life is through faith in Jesus Christ.  This text that Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 is Paul’s favorite text.  This is why he repeats it many times.

Paul tells us in Galatians 3:12:

The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”

What is Paul saying here?  If we want to be saved by the law, we can’t come to the law and say, “Law, we believe in every single commandment that you have given us.”  The Jews believed the total writings of the Torah.  Many Christians believe the Ten Commandments but the fact that we believe the Ten Commandments or the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, does not qualify us for salvation according to the law method.  This is because the law does not save through faith.  The law saves through performance.  This is why the law method is impossible.  Paul tells us in Galatians 2:16 (end part):

…By the works of the law no one will be justified.

He reminded Peter of this when he confronted him on that very crucial moment when Peter left the Gentile table and went to the Jewish table, implying the Gentiles were still looked upon as sinners.  No, the moment we believe in Jesus Christ we are no longer looked upon by God as a sinner because, by faith, we can be declared righteous, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us and His righteousness is perfect.  But the moment we try to be saved by the law, all our faith is meaningless because the law doesn’t justify us by faith.  It justifies us by perfect, persistent, continual obedience.

As far as the law is concerned, every one of us has failed.  Paul reminds the Roman believers in Romans 3:22-23:

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….

Paul tells the Galatians 3:13, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

If we go back to Romans 3 and read verse 19:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

Here Paul concludes his discussion on the universal sin problem; he says the whole world, Jews and Gentiles with no exception, stands guilty or condemned under the law of God.

When God created mankind in Adam and placed him under the law, the moment Adam sinned and the moment we add our own personal sins to Adam’s sin, we are under the curse of God.  There is no way we can redeem ourselves from that curse.  We were born on death row.  We were born hopelessly lost so that we could not and cannot save ourselves no matter what we do, no matter where we go.  That is our predicament.

But, the unconditional good news of the gospel is that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.  Then Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 21:23a:

…You must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight.  Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.

These are important words.  To understand this statement, we need to look at the cross of Christ.  John 19:5-6a:

When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” [In other words, “Is this not enough?”]

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify!  Crucify!”

This is really a strange demand from the Jews because crucifixion was not practiced by the Jews.  The cross was invented by the Phoenicians about 600 years before Christ and was adopted by the Egyptians.  The Romans took it from the Egyptians and refined it, using it to execute their runaway slaves and their worst criminals.  The Jews never practiced crucifixion.  It was not a Jewish method.  But here, we find the Jews crying out to Pilate, “Crucify Him!”  What did they have in mind when they cried out in unison, “Crucify Him”?  They had to give a reason which we find in John 19:6b-7:

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him.  As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

The Jews answered Pilate, who represented Rome, who found no fault in Jesus, who found no reason why Jesus should be crucified.  This is what the Jews said, “We have a law and, according to our law, he ought to die because he made himself the Son of God.”

The law the Jews were referring to was the law of blasphemy.  It is found in Leviticus 24:16:

Say to the Israelites:  Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death.  The entire assembly must stone them.  Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

It is extremely important that we Christians read this law.  It is true the law demands death for blasphemy, but it also stipulates how that person is to die.  It is by stoning.

Did the Jews, who rejected Jesus as the Messiah and as the Son of God, who believed that His claim to be equal with the Father was blasphemy, know that the law of blasphemy also stipulated stoning as the method of execution?  And the answer is yes, they certainly knew it.  We turn to John 10 to read the words of Jesus Christ in verse 30, where Jesus said:

I and the Father are one.

To the unbelieving Jews, this was blasphemy.  We read in John 10:31:

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him….

This means it was not the first time they did this.  They took up stones “again” to stone Him because they believed that this Man was a blasphemer and they were obeying a law that God had given them.

The question remains, why did the Jews cry out, “Crucify Him”?  They had a reason, which is given to us by Paul where he quotes Deuteronomy 21:23:

…You must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight.  Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.  You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

The Jews did not believe in an immortal soul.  This was a Greek concept.  The Jews believed that death was good-bye to life.  If a Jew committed a sin that was worthy of death and the judge sentenced him to death, he could go on his knees before he was executed by stoning and ask Yahweh to forgive him.  Forgiveness was available because of the daily — morning and evening — sacrifices in the Sanctuary services.  But, if the judge insisted that this criminal was to be hung on a tree, this meant to the Jews the irrevocable curse of God.  It meant good-bye to life forever.  It meant what we would call in the New Testament, the unpardonable sin.  So, when the Jews cried, “Crucify Him!” they had this reason in mind because, in the days of Christ, crucifixion, to the Jews, was synonymous with hanging on a tree [or pole].

This is the reason that, when the disciples preached the gospel to the Jews in the early history of the Christian church, often they would not use the word “cross.”  They would use the word “tree.”  In many texts, the word “tree” is used in the original text.  For example, in Acts 5:30:

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead — whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.

Acts 10:39:

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.  They killed him by hanging him on a cross….

Acts 13:29:

When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb.

1 Peter 2:24:

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

These statements were made to their fellow Jews.  Why?  Because, crucifixion was identified with hanging on a tree.  So when the Jews cried out, “Crucify Him!” they were demanding not only that this Man should be put to death, but, more than that, they were demanding that God should curse this Man for being a blasphemer.

In John 7:30, and in John 8:20, we read that the times the Jews tried to kill Jesus, they failed because His hour had not yet come:

At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put.  Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.

We read in Luke 22:53 Jesus’ words to the angry mob, when He was taken captive in Gethsemane:

Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me.  But this is your hour — when darkness reigns.

God removed His protection at Gethsemane so that the Jews could crucify the Son of God.  To the Jews, it meant the curse of God.  Isaiah 53:4 says:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

But the question is, “Did God allow Jesus to be cursed for blasphemy?”  The answer is, “No.”  The reason God allowed Jesus to be crucified is explained to us in Romans 8:31-32:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

God brought the curse of sin that belongs to us to fall upon Jesus Christ, not the sin of Jesus because He had none, but your sins and mine.  When Jesus died on the cross, it wasn’t just the physical torture of the cross that He suffered.  One writer tells us that He hardly felt the physical torture of the cross because there was something else He was suffering.  It was the irrevocable curse of God.  It is this and not the physical torture of the cross that makes the death of Christ the supreme sacrifice.

Jesus was tasting death for every man.  Hebrews 2:9:

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Jesus, by His own death, was abolishing death and bringing immortality and life through the gospel.  2 Timothy 1:10:

…But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

That which makes the cross of Christ the supreme sacrifice is not the torture of the crucifixion.  It is the curse of God that was placed upon Jesus Christ as our Sin-Bearer.

As Jesus hung on the cross, He could not see through the portals of the tomb.  Hope did not present to Him a resurrection.  He felt that sin was so offensive that the separation was to be eternal.  This is why He cried out in agony (Matthew 27:46):

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Jesus pleaded in Gethsemane, sweating blood, “Father, if it is possible, remove the cup.”  Matthew 26:39:

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

The cup wasn’t the cross.  The cup was the irrevocable curse of God.  It was the wrath of God poured upon Him without any mixture of mercy.  This is the supreme sacrifice.  It is this which redeems us from the curse of the law.  He became a curse for us.  He was made a curse for us there on the cross by His own Father.  It was not because the Father had turned against Jesus, but because the Father so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son [John 3:16].

Jesus hung on the cross, abandoned by the Father.  Remember, Jesus was depending on the Father for the resurrection.  He said more than once (John 5:30a):

By myself I can do nothing….

Jesus was raised by the Father but now on the cross, the Father had forsaken Him, had abandoned Him.  The devil came to Him three times.  We will find this in Luke 23:35-39:

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.  They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him.  They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him:  “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!”

Three times, on the cross, the devil came to Him, once through the soldiers, once through the priests, and once through the thief on the left-hand side, “Come down and save Yourself.  Stop being a fool.  These people are mocking You.  They have crucified You.  Why are You laying down Your life for them?”  But on the cross, Jesus revealed a most significant truth.  He could come down and save Himself but He could not save Himself and the world at the same time.  He had to make a choice and He chose, “I will die that they might live.”  Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 God demonstrated His self-emptying love for us, His agape love for us, in that Jesus died for us:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

On the cross, Jesus demonstrated that He loves us more than He loves Himself.  This is the God we worship.  This is Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.  He redeemed us from the curse of the law.  Paul tells us in Romans 10:4, Christ is the end, the completion of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes:

Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Anyone who rejects this gospel, anyone who turns his back to this wonderful truth and tries to redeem himself by his performance really deserves to be called stupid.

Paul says in Galatians 3:14:

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles [us] through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Don’t let any human being, any philosopher, any teaching — no matter how convincing it may be to your rationale — convince you that you are saved partly by grace and partly by what you do.  No, the New Testament is clear.  Paul is absolutely clear, you are saved by grace alone.  You are saved by the doing and dying of Jesus Christ and nothing else.  As long as you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, your salvation is guaranteed.  It is assured.  But the day you turn your back to this wonderful truth, Paul will tell you in Galatians 5:4:

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

It is my prayer that you not only believe in Jesus Christ, but that your faith will endure unto the end, that you will let no one take you out of Christ through unbelief.

May God bless you that you and I will be justified by faith now and to our dying day.

 

7 – Law Versus Promise

In our last study, which was Galatians 3:10-14, we looked at Paul’s scriptural argument proving from the Old Testament that God saves sinners through faith in Christ alone and our law-keeping or good works does not contribute one iota towards our salvation.

We will consider Paul’s logical argument in which he proves, using Jewish logic, that we are saved by God’s promise and not the law.  This argument begins with Galatians 3:15-29.  Since this is a rather involved argument which requires an understanding of the Jewish mind, we shall analyze this passage in three stages, verses 15 to 18, dealing with the changeless promise of God.  Then, in verses 19 to 25, Paul tells us the purpose of the law.  Finally, in verses 26 to 29, he discusses sons and daughters and heirs of the kingdom of God.

With this in mind, let us now look at the first section, which is Galatians 3:15-18.  This passage has very important lessons for us today:

Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life.  Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.  The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.  What I mean is this:  The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

What is Paul trying to prove here?  First, he takes the covenant [or “will,” in some translations] that was used in the days of Paul as a method of explaining God’s promise to man.  In verse 15 he says:

Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life.  Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.

According to Greek culture or Greek custom in Paul’s day, once a covenant or will was made and signed, it could not be changed.

Now, taking this as a method or model, Paul tells the Galatians in verse 16, that God made a will or a promise to Abraham.  That promise was that [Genesis 22:18]:

…And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed….

Galatians 3:16a:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed….

The word “seed” in the promise is in the singular.  This may not make sense to our Western way of thinking but, in the Jewish concept, in the Jewish way of understanding, the word “seed” had a corporate significance.  Just like the word “Adam” has a collective significance and includes the whole human race, so, also, Paul is telling the Galatians that the word “seed” here had a corporate significance affecting the whole human race but based on one person.  This one Person is Jesus Christ.  He makes that clear in the last part of verse 16:

Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.

God created all men in one man, so that when Adam sinned, the condemnation of the law or the condemnation of death came upon all men.  Likewise as we see in Romans 5, verses 12 to 21, when Christ obeyed, justification of life came to all men:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned —

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So when Christ obeyed, justification of life came to all men.  Why?  Because Jesus, the seed of Abraham, was the second Adam, the second mankind.  He was not one man among many men but the whole human race was gathered up together in Him.  This is why Paul, in Corinthians, calls Him the second, or last, Adam.  1 Corinthians 15:45:

So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

In verse 17 of chapter 3, Paul tells the Galatians the promise God had made to Abraham is that, in this seed of Abraham, which is Christ, the whole world will be blessed.  In verse 17, he says this promise could not be annulled, could not be changed or done away with, through the law which was given 430 years after God had made the promise to Abraham:

What I mean is this:  The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.

What is Paul saying here?  He says that the law given through Moses did not change the promise in any way.  If we look at salvation through the law and salvation through grace, which is through the promise of God, as shown in our last two studies, there are two opposite systems of salvation.  The two systems can never be mixed together.  The law says, “Thou shall or thou shall not, in order to be saved.”  The promise of God says, “I shall save you in spite of the fact that you are a sinner.”  The law saves us by our performance, by our good deeds which have to be perfect.  The promise of God saves us through God’s work in Christ and we make no contribution to it except to receive it by faith.

Thirdly, salvation through law is a religion that is based on human salvation, human religion.  All non-Christian religions are based on man’s performance.  Unlike this, God’s way of saving mankind, which is through grace, which is through the promise, is entirely a gift to mankind.  Paul is saying that God, giving the law 430 years after He gave the promise to Abraham, could not annul or change the promise because the promise was equivalent to a will that is unchangeable.

In verse 18, Paul tells the Galatians:

For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

The moment we try and add the law as a requirement for salvation, it ceases to be a promise.  But God gave Abraham the promise of salvation as a will which the law, given to the human race 430 years later, could not change or annul.  If mankind is saved entirely by the promise of God made to Abraham, then why did He give the law 430 years later?  Did God come to Moses and say to Moses, “By the way, when I gave the promise of salvation to Abraham, I totally forgot a very important item.  I forgot to give him the law.  So Moses, I am giving the law to you to make up what I failed to give to Abraham.”  Is this what God said to Moses?  No.  God never told Moses that He was adding an extra requirement to His promise for salvation.

The question still remains:  why then, did God give the law through Moses 430 years after He promised by a will that He would save all men through one of Abraham’s seed which of course, is Jesus Christ?  Read the question and answer Paul gives as we turn to the second section of our study, the purpose of the law, Galatians 3:19-25.  We will read this passage first and then we will look at it in detail:

Why, then, was the law given at all?  It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.  The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.  A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.  So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

What is Paul saying in this rather difficult passage.  First, he is asking a question:  What purpose then, does the law serve?  Why did God add the law 430 years after He promised salvation to Abraham as a gift?  The answer is it was added because of transgression.  Notice the word for “sin” that Paul chose here in the Old Testament.  There are actually twelve words but only three basic words:

Sin.  The first word is “sin” which simply means missing the mark, coming short of the glory of God.  Paul brings this out in Romans 3:23:
…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….

Iniquity.  The word “iniquity” primarily has to do with our condition, because the word iniquity in Hebrew means to be crooked or bent.  When Isaiah tells us [Isaiah 53:6]:
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He is talking of a condition.  David, for example, in Psalms 51:5, tells us that he was shapen in iniquity from his mother’s womb:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Iniquity is our selfish bent, which is the basis of our sinful nature.

Transgression.  The word “transgression” simply means a deliberate violation of a law.  The prerequisite for transgression is a knowledge of the law.  From Adam to Moses, the human race was sinning.  Paul brings this out in Romans 5:13:
To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.

But the moment God gave the law through Moses, sin became a transgression.  Sin became a willful, deliberate violation of the law.

The law or the giving of the law did not solve our sin problem.  It made it worse.  For the law now convinces us that we deserve nothing but death.  Then in verse 20, he says:

A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

This is a difficult statement so we need to understand what Paul is saying here.

The word “covenant” can be used in two ways.  In the Greek, we have two separate words that can be translated by the word “covenant” in English.  What is the difference?  It is between a will and a contract.  A will is made by one person but may affect many.  A contract is made between two persons.  The giving of the law is like a contract.  God gave the law and the Jews said, “All that you have said we will do.”  Exodus 24:3:

When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.”

But the reason God gave the law, says Paul in Galatians 3:21 onwards, is not to save us, not a new method of salvation but to convince us that we are sinners in need of a Savior.

Look at verses 21 and 22:

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Did God change His mind from a promise to a contract?  Did God change the will that He made to Abraham into a contract when He gave the law to Moses?  The answer is, “Certainly not!”  For if God had intended man to be saved through a law, for if there had been a law given through which we could have life, then there would be no need of a promise.  But the reason God gave the law is to confine all human beings under sin that the promise by faith in Christ might be given to those who believe.  In other words, the giving of the law convinces man that he is a sinner in need of a Savior and, therefore, makes the gospel more desirable.

Sin is not only transgression of the law but sin is a deceiver.  Sin comes to us and tells us that we are not that bad but if we build up our willpower we can do something that can cause us to be saved.  Sin wants us to look at God eye to eye.  “God, You give us the rule; we’ll keep it and then, in turn, You give us life.”  But when we realize what the law demands in human nature, perfect obedience in thought, word, and deed, then we realize that by the works of the law, no one can be justified before God.

God gave the law to convince the human race that they are prisoners to sin and in need of a Savior.  Now we come to this wonderful statement in verse 23:

Before the coming of this faith….

There is a word missing in this statement in some translations that, unfortunately, gives a wrong meaning.  The word “faith” in the original is preceded by the definite article “the” or “this.”  Paul really wrote, “Before the faith came.”  This gives us a completely different meaning of the word “faith.”  Without the definite article, the word “faith” could mean the believer’s faith but Paul is not discussing the believer’s faith here.  He is saying, “Before the faith,” the source or the basis of our faith which is Jesus Christ.  Verse 23 says, that before Christ, the Seed, came, we were kept under God by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed:

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.

When God gave the law to Moses or through Moses, the human race now became guilty of transgression.  Before the law was given, sin was not accountable.  Paul brings this out clearly in Romans 5:13:

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.

Paul is saying that, where there is no law, God has no right to legally, lawfully accuse us of sin; but the moment God gave the law, we stood inexcusable.  The law condemned the whole human race, kept us in prison, kept us in death row until Christ came and liberated us.

Historically, the whole human race was under condemnation, legally, lawfully, from Moses until Christ came.  Therefore, Paul says in verse 24 that the law was our guardian or, in some translations, tutor.  Galatians 3:24-25:

So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

“Tutor” is not the best translation.  Even schoolmaster is not the best word.  The word Paul used in Greek had a special meaning that we do not use today.  This word referred to a trusted slave the master used to discipline and look after his child.  Because in those days there were no schools, education was based on a private tutor.  The trusted slave would hold the young child’s hand and take him to the home of the tutor.  This child had no way of escaping until the slave brought him to the tutor’s house.  Then and then only was he released.  Paul is saying here that the law acted like our guardian or like the policeman who held us in his grip with no escape until Christ came to the scene so that we might be justified by faith in the promise of God.

From Adam to Christ, salvation was based on a promise.  Abraham was saved by a promise.  So was Noah.  To make the promise more meaningful, God gave the law through Moses.  The law did not save us.  The law simply convinces us that we are sinners.  The law made our sins a legal offense which is what the word transgression means.  Actually, the giving of the law made our situation far worse than it was before God gave the law.

But God had a purpose in this.  The purpose was that the gift of the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ would become more desirable, more meaningful to us.  For example, if you offer a plate of food to somebody who just came from a banquet, that plate of food would become meaningless to this person.  But maybe this person hadn’t eaten for the last three days.  He was starving and you offered him a plate of food.  He would accept it with deep gratitude.  It is the same here.  God gave the law to show us that we are one hundred percent sinners.  We are sinners by nature.  We are sinners by performance.  We are sinners by thought.  Paul told the Galatians in chapter 2, verse 16, that by the works of the law no human being will ever make it to heaven.  The law simply put us in death row.  The law locked us up in prison with no hope of escape until Christ came.  Galatians 2:16:

…Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

When Christ came and perfectly satisfied the demands of the law by His life and His death, when Christ came and perfectly met the demands of the law by His doing and the justice of the law by His dying, He redeemed all mankind.  That is the promise of God; this is salvation by grace.  This salvation is made effective by faith alone and nothing else.

Paul concludes this section in Galatians 3:25:

Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

After Christ came historically, the human race is no longer under the law because of the fact that now there is another umbrella, another platform by which man is saved and that is, under grace.  This doesn’t mean that every human being is born under grace automatically.  Here, in this section, Paul is dealing with the objective facts of the gospel.  And the objective fact of the gospel is that God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son.  This is God’s gift to mankind.  But like any other gift, it cannot be enjoyed, it cannot bring us a blessing, until we receive it.  The way we receive the gift of God is not by doing something but by believing, by faith in Jesus Christ.  The moment we believe in Jesus Christ, we have passed from condemnation to justification, from death to life.  This is what Jesus told His hearers in John 5:24:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

Paul addresses the Galatian believers who are Christians, who were baptized already in Christ but who were sidetracked from the gospel through the false teaching of the Judaizers.  Paul tells them, after proving that we are saved by grace alone, after showing the Galatians the purpose of the law, in Galatians 3:26-29 with these words:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

What a wonderful statement!

Remember, Jesus, in the New Testament, is referred to as the Son of God.  By joining Himself to the corporate human race and rewriting our history, He gave us the privilege of becoming sons and daughters of God by uniting us with Him through faith.  Paul is saying in verse 26 that all believers, by their faith union in Christ, have become sons of God.  John, in his epistle, 1 John 3:1a, says:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!

Faith is not simply a mental assent to truth.  Faith is identifying ourselves with Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  At the incarnation, God put all men into Christ so that He became the second Adam.  By faith, we identify ourselves with Christ and His holy history.  This is what happens at our baptism.  We read in Galatians 3:27:

…For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Notice, baptism is always into Christ.  Paul brings this out clearly in Romans 6:3-5 where he tells them that our baptism into Christ is not in any vague manner but we are baptized into Christ’s death:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

His death becomes our death.  His burial becomes our burial.  His resurrection becomes our resurrection.  In the New Testament times, in the early Christian church, baptism was always by immersion which beautifully portrays the truth of baptism.  This is our identification with Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected.

Having said this in verse 27, Paul tells us in verse 28, the moment you and I have become Christians, have been baptized into Christ, all distinctions go:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In the Christian church there should be no distinction between Jew or Gentile, between slave or master, between male or female because in Christ we are all one.  There is no distinction of race, no distinction of rank, no distinction of sex because in Christianity, we are one body.  The Head is Jesus Christ; the church is the body.  If we have become one with Christ, we have joined ourselves to the seed of Abraham through whom God promised salvation.  The conclusion in Galatians 3:29 is:

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

It is my prayer that you will accept this only method of salvation, the promise of God made to Abraham, realized in Jesus Christ and made effective in your life through faith alone.  May this be your experience.  May this be the platform on which you stand.

 

8 – From Slaves to Sons

Galatians 4:1-11:

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.  The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.  So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.  But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.  But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

 

This study, Galatians 4:1-11, is really a continuation of our last study, which was Galatians 3:15-29.  Let us review what we learned.

A child of a rich man was, one day, to inherit all that belonged to his father.  In actual fact, this child is basically a wealthy child but as long as he is a child he is placed under the discipline of an entrusted slave, which means that he has no more freedom than the slave himself.  He is under rulership; he is to do everything that the slave tells him to do.  The slave has authority to punish the child, to discipline the child if he disobeys.

This toddler, from the time he is handed over to the slave to the time that he is set free by the father, is no different than the slave.  The age this child reaches, which the father has appointed, could be anything between 14 to 17 years old.  The date or age was not set by the state but by the father.  The father would decide beforehand, “At this age, on your 14th (or your 17th) birthday, you shall be liberated from under that slave.”  When that date arrived, there was a great party that was given in honor of that child.  He put on the toga, this gown that symbolized his newfound freedom and no longer was he under the discipline of that slave.

Using this Roman practice, Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4:

But when the set time had fully come [the appointed time that God promised Abraham], God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law….

Paul is telling us that, in the incarnation, God did something very special.  He took the divine life of His Son and the corporate life of the human race and united these two in the womb of Mary.  In the womb of Mary, Jesus (the Son of God) and the human race were joined together in one Person and Jesus became one of us.  That is why He is called Emmanuel, “God with us.”  This did not save us.  This did not redeem us from under the law but this qualified Jesus to be our Substitute.

One of the most difficult problems we face in presenting the gospel to the non-Christian world, which is approximately seventy percent of the world’s population, is the ethical issue of the gospel, a problem that existed all through the Christian era and especially since the Reformation.

The ethical issue of the gospel is:  How can one Man be the Savior of all men?  Or still more important:  How can an innocent Man, Jesus Christ, bear the guilt and punishment of the guilty human race?  No law, God’s or man’s, allows guilt and punishment to be transferred from the guilty to the innocent.  God made that clear in Deuteronomy 24:16:

Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

God repeated this in Ezekiel 18:1-20:

The word of the Lord came to me:  “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:  ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child — both alike belong to me.  The one who sins is the one who will die.

“Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.  He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel.  He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or have sexual relations with a woman during her period.  He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.  He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.  He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them.  He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between two parties.  He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws.  That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.

“Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them):  He eats at the mountain shrines.  He defiles his neighbor’s wife.  He oppresses the poor and needy.  He commits robbery.  He does not return what he took in pledge.  He looks to the idols.  He does detestable things.  He lends at interest and takes a profit.  Will such a man live?  He will not!  Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.

“But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things:

“He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel.  He does not defile his neighbor’s wife.  He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan.  He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.  He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor and takes no interest or profit from them.  He keeps my laws and follows my decrees.  He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.  But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.

“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’  Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.  The one who sins is the one who will die.  The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.  The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”

Guilt cannot be transferred.  Righteousness cannot be transferred from one person to another.  No law allows that.

The question is:  How can God justify the ungodly through Jesus Christ and still maintain His integrity to His holy law?  This was the central issue in the Reformation.  This is why the Roman Catholic scholars accused the Reformers of legal fiction.  But the answer to this problem is this:

Before God could save us in Christ, He had to qualify Christ to be our Savior.  He did this by uniting the divine life of Christ with our corporate human life which we all possess.  Divinity was united to our corporate humanity in the womb of Mary.  Jesus became the second Adam under the law as our Substitute and Representative.  This truth is beautifully explained in 1 Corinthians 1:30.  Let us read that passage so that we understand how God saved us in Christ Jesus and still maintains His integrity to His holy law.  Paul says:

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus…

Notice, three people are involved in that statement.  “Him” refers to God the Father; the “You,” which is in the plural form, in the original, refers to us; and Christ is the second Person of the Godhead, the Son of God.  Paul is saying that God took the corporate human race, the corporate human life, and joined it to Christ in the womb of Mary.  By doing this, Christ and we became one and Jesus became the second Adam.  Adam in Hebrew means mankind.  It has a collective significance.

Continuing 1 Corinthians 1:30, Paul says:

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

That word “wisdom” in the Greek means special knowledge.  Remember what Jesus said in John 8:32:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

What is this truth?  By uniting us to Christ and by His perfect life and sacrificial death, Christ became our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption.  Paul says in verse 1 Corinthians 1:31:

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Going back to Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Paul tells us that when the right time came, when the appointed time arrived, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under law.  When Christ united Himself with us, what we are, He became.  By doing that, He qualified to be our Savior.  Then by His doing and by His dying, He redeemed us from under the law that we might receive adoption of sons.  Paul is saying here, that in Jesus Christ, He gave us, He gave all mankind, a new history in which we stand perfect before God’s law.  This new status, this new history, is God’s gift to man.  The moment we receive, by faith, that gift, Jesus Christ, we become sons of God.  In verse 6 of Galatians 4 Paul says:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Another passage says the same thing in a clearer way, Romans 8:16-17:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

This is an exceptional statement.  When we become Christians, we are not only forgiven sinners; we are not only justified sinners but we become sons and daughters of God.  Do you know what that means?  It means that we are no longer members of this world.  We have become citizens of heaven, joint heirs with Christ.  Paul, especially in Romans 5:12-21, tells us that what we receive in Christ is much more than what we lost in Adam:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned — To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

According to the Bible, in the Old Testament and also in the book of Hebrews, man, in Adam was created a little lower than the angels.  Psalm 8:4-8:

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.  You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:  all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Hebrews 2:5-9:

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.  But there is a place where someone has testified:  “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?  You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them.  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.  But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

God is the highest, angels are next, and we were created a little lower than the angels.  Then, Adam sinned and he brought the human race to the bottom of the pit.  He put us all into death row with no way of escape except through Jesus Christ.

Then, Christ joined Himself to the human race that needs redeeming.  He became the second Adam and then, by His life and by His death, He redeemed mankind.  Does He return us back to our lost status?  The answer is, “No.”  He takes us to the very throne of God.  He takes us to where He is at the right hand of God the Father so that, in Christ, we are not lower than the angels but we are above the angels.  We are joint heirs with Christ and one day we shall rule and judge angels.  This is much more.  This is over-abundant grace.  Our position, in Christ, is far better than we ever were in Adam even before the Fall.

Therefore, don’t ever moan and groan, “Why did God allow sin to enter this world?”  One reason He allowed sin to enter this world is so that He could make us better in Christ than we ever were in Adam.  When we accept Christ, God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts.  We call this the new birth experience.  This new birth makes us sons and daughters of God.  This new birth makes us joint heirs with Christ.  And the Spirit that dwells in us, through the new birth experience, convinces our spirit, our conscience, that we are God’s children.  And if we are God’s children, then we can address God as “Dear Father.”

In verse 7, Paul says:

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

You are no longer a slave but a son.  If you are a son, then an heir of God through Christ.  What a privilege this is!

Having made this clear explanation of our situation as Christians, Paul, in verses 8-11, speaks about his great fear for the Galatian Christians:

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.  But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

What is Paul saying here?  He is taking this truth that he has just expounded in chapter 4, verses 1-7, and is applying it to the situation of the Galatians.  He is telling them in Galatians 4:8 that, when they were pagans, before their conversion, when they were believers of false gods which were not gods, they had no joy.  They had no peace and no hope because in all pagan religions, salvation is by our performance.  Since our performance is always coming short of the mark, people who are under legalism, people who worship false gods, have no peace, have no joy.  They were serving these beggarly elements which Paul calls the rules, the “dos” and “don’ts” of all non-Christian religions.  They were in bondage.  They observed days and months and seasons hoping to appease an angry god, hoping that one day, for some reason, the gods of heaven will take them to where they belong.

They gave up all this with joy when they heard the gospel Paul preached to them.  They, from deep heartfelt gratitude, accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.  So much so that they were willing to pluck their eyes and give them to Paul because of the problem he was facing with his eyes.  Now, suddenly, these Judaizers had convinced these Galatian Christians that they must go back to bondage; they must go back to “dos” and “don’ts” as their requirement for salvation.  They were trapped into a subtle form of legalism by these Judaizers.  Paul, with a pastor’s heart, pleads with them, “Have I labored with you in vain?”  “Have I given you the good news for nothing now that you have turned your backs to the gospel?”

Paul is expressing here, his deep concern for the Galatian Christians.  This is a problem that we face even today.  The Galatians were turning from the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to legalism.  And Paul is concerned.  He is not only a theologian; he has the heart of a pastor, a heart that longs to see his believers ultimately saved in Christ.

Paul says the sad fact is, after they found freedom in Christ, they returned to a religion of bondage, a religion of “dos” and “don’ts” which makes no sense to him.  “How can you do it?” Paul says.  “How can you turn from the good news of salvation to legalism which robs you of all peace, joy, hope?”  The devil is very much alive today.  And just as he led the Galatian Christians, using the Judaizers as a tool, just as he sidetracked these Galatian Christians from the pure truth of the gospel, he would like to do the same to us.  Every Christian, living today in the 20th Century must come to grips with Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.  It has been recorded for our benefit upon whom the ends of the world would come.  You see, man by nature is a legalist.  As one young Christian told me who gave up the gospel for legalism, “Anything I need in this world, I must work for it.  Why should salvation be different?”

The reason salvation is different is because God’s ways are not man’s ways.  The prophet Isaiah tells us that, as far as the stars are, millions of light years away, so are God’s ways from our ways.

It is true, in this world, we have to work for anything we want.  This world is a result of a sin problem.  God told Adam after the Fall, “By the sweat of the brow, you will eat your bread.”  But when it comes to our redemption, there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.  We are sold as slaves to sin.  We are under sin, dominated by sin.  Paul makes it very clear in Galatians 2:16:

…Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

That is why God’s way of saving sinners is through faith in Jesus Christ.  Salvation is by grace alone.  This is the wonderful truth that Luther and his fellow Reformers recovered from the Dark Ages of Christianity.

The devil had deceived, not only the Galatians, but the early Christian church.  After the third and fourth century, he came with false ideas and plunged the church into darkness.  Then came the Reformers.  They came with the restoration of the gospel that man is saved by faith alone and nothing else, faith in Jesus Christ.  Faith alone and grace alone were the two wonderful truths of the gospel that were restored by the Reformers.

But the devil, through modern liberal theology, through all his crafty ways, is trying to sidetrack us even today from the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.  Yes, we are living in a scientific age.  Man has made tremendous advances in technology but just like Rome, so it is today.  The scientific method cannot redeem sinful man.  We need a Savior and the good news is that God did send a Messiah.  He did send a Savior by which all men, Jews and Gentiles, can be redeemed.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior, I plead with you to do it now.  There is no other name under heaven by which you can be saved except through Jesus Christ.  And if you are a believer, rejoicing in Christ, don’t you ever allow any human being to rob you of this wonderful peace and joy you have in Jesus Christ.

In ending, let me give you the clear, distinction between salvation under the law and salvation under grace.  There are three major distinctions.

A religion under law is a religion of fear.  Why?  Because we are constantly living under the curse of the law.  Cursed is everyone who does not obey the law.  Galatians 3:10:
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Whereas, under grace, it is a religion of love and joy and peace.  1 John 4:17-18 tells us that perfect love, the love of God, casts out fear:

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment:  In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

There is no fear in the believer because, as He is in heaven, so are we on this earth.  As Christ is, so are we because we stand perfect in Christ through faith.

The religion of the law is a religion of insecurity.  One of the biggest problems that mankind is facing today is the problem of insecurity.  We are insecure but under grace we have full assurance of salvation because we know in whom we believe and that He is able to save us to the uttermost, all who come to God through Him, Jesus Christ.
Finally, the religion of under law is a religion that ends in spiritual poverty, bankruptcy, and burnout.  There comes a time when we give up because our performance never reaches the requirement of the law.  But those who are under the umbrella of grace, have a religion where they never get tired because they have peace with God.
It is my prayer that you will cling to this message of salvation by grace alone and that nobody will rob you of your peace, your joy, your assurance of salvation.

 

9 – The Effects of Legalism

Galatians 4:12-20:

I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you.  You did me no wrong.  As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.  Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.  Where, then, is your blessing of me now?  I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.  Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?  Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.  What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them.  It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.  My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

 

So far, in our studies of Galatians, we read the writings of Paul as the apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul, the theologian and Paul, the defender of the faith.  But now, as we turn to Galatians 4:12-20, we will read the writings of Paul, as the pastor, the passionate lover of his flock.  In this passage, Paul appeals to the Galatians with deep feelings and great tenderness.  In verse 12, for example, he calls the Galatians his brothers and sisters.  Remember that Paul was a Jew.  The Galatians were Gentiles.  For a Jew to call Gentiles brothers and sisters was quite a statement of tenderness and acceptance.

In verse 19, he calls the Galatians, “My dear children,” an expression the apostle John, a disciple of love, was very fond of.  But Paul goes even further than John, in verse 19, for he likens himself to their mother who is in labor over them until Christ is formed in them.  Not only did the legalism, introduced by the Judaizers to the Galatians, endanger their salvation, but it had affected their lives so there was no longer a loving church but a church that was split up into factions.  Paul tells them, in Galatians 5:15:

If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

According to the doctrine of justification by faith, we all are 100% sinners saved by grace.  But the moment we decide to be saved by legalism, the moment we come under the umbrella of legalism, salvation by works or salvation by keeping the law, then, we begin to compare ourselves with each other.  We begin to judge each other on the basis of our performance just as the Pharisees did in the days of Christ.  These are the effects of legalism.

With this as a foundation, let us read Galatians 4:12-20.  Paul wrote:

I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you.  You did me no wrong.  As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.  Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.  Where, then, is your blessing of me now?  I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.  Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?  Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.  What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them.  It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.  My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Here, the beloved Paul, with deep concern, responds as a pastor to the flock he had established in Galatia.  Here is what legalism does to a church.  Let’s take this step by step.  In verse 12, Paul says:

I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you.  You did me no wrong.

Paul is saying there was a time that he was like these Judaizers — a legalist — but he gave it all up for the gospel.  In verse 12 Paul is saying, “Please follow my example.”

To know what Paul really meant here, he expresses the same idea in Philippians 3:3-9.  Let us read this so we will understand what Paul is saying to the Galatians and to us who may be trapped in legalism.  In Philippians 3:3, Paul describes the true Christian.  He says:

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh….

To Paul, a genuine Christian is one who is totally resting in Christ for salvation because this believer recognizes that he is a 100% sinner, saved by grace alone.

In Philippians 3:4, Paul adds:

… though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more….

The word “flesh” here refers to anything that is true of us.  It could be our birth, our performance, our standing in the church, our status, that we are depending on fully or partially for our salvation.  Paul tells the Philippians, if there is anyone who can brag about what they accomplished through their own efforts, he can more than any Philippian.

In verses 5 and 6, he explains what he was as a Pharisee, a man zealous for God and a man zealous for the law.  Read what Paul says about himself before his conversion.  Philippians 3:5-6:

… circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal [zeal for God], persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Paul thought of himself, before his conversion, as a very successful believer in God.

Verses 7-8 adds:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ….

Verse 9:

…and be found in him [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Paul knew by experience what it meant to be a legalist.  But when he found Jesus Christ and His righteousness, legalism no longer had any meaning for him.  It was filthy rags.  It was rubbish, or garbage, as he says in Philippians.

Paul is telling the Galatian Christians, “Please don’t return back to legalism.  Please become like me as I became like you.”  Or, “I accepted Jesus Christ as so did you at the beginning.”  In Galatians 4:13-14, Paul says:

As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.  Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.

Paul is appealing to their emotions.  He is appealing to their past experience.  He is reminding them, when he first came to Galatia and preached the gospel, he was suffering from terrible pain.  Obviously, as we read in verse 15, the problem he had was concerning his eyes:

Where, then, is your blessing of me now?  I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.

Some scholars feel that this could have been because of the Damascus experience but that is not necessarily so.  All we know is that his eyes must have looked awful.  They must have been full of pus and he must have been an unsightly person.  Yet the Galatians didn’t mind this.  They were willing to ignore this terrible condition.  They were willing to do all this because they were so appreciative of the gospel that Paul had brought them.  In verse 15, Paul is saying that they were so appreciative that they were willing to pluck out their own eyes and give them to him in gratitude for the good news he had brought to them.

Paul is now pleading with the Galatians in verse 15, “Where, then, is your blessing of me now?” He says, may he remind them, of the way they responded to this wonderful message, and now that they have listened to the Judaizers, have they turned against him?  Has he become their enemy?  Here he was, in Galatia, bringing good news at tremendous cost to himself.  He says, he could have used this eye problem as an excuse not to preach to them, but he wanted them to know Jesus Christ.  He wanted them to hear the good news in which they rejoiced, and he was willing to suffer so that he may bring to them Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  What, he asked, “has happened, dear Galatians?” This is his plea as a pastor to his flock.  Verse 16:

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

In verses 17-18 of Galatians 4, Paul now discusses the Judaizers.  This is what he tells the Galatians:

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.  What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them.  It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.

Legalists win converts, not to Jesus Christ, but to themselves.  The Judaizers were guilty of this.  They were zealous.  They were very determined.  They worked hard, not to lift up Christ, but to draw disciples towards them so that they may glory in the flesh.  Galatians 6:13:

Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.

They glory in what they have accomplished by bringing people towards them.

Paul says to the Galatians, the true motivation behind the Judaizers was not their salvation but their own pride and glory.  Paul says in Galatians 4:19:

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you….

Paul likens his flock to children who have been produced by a mother.  A mother goes through a lot of pain when she delivers her children but after that she rejoices in the fact that they are born into this world.  They bring joy and hope to her.  Paul is saying, “I am like your mother.  I was willing to go through all this terrible pain so that you may be found in Christ.  And now, I am still in pain until you are fully and totally established in Christ.”

When we become Christians, we change our citizenship from citizens of this world — which is under Satan — to citizens of heaven — which is under Christ.  But, physically, we are still living in this world, so Christians are really citizens of heaven living in enemy territory.  As the apostle John, in his epistle 1 John 5:19, tells us, the whole world, apart from believers, is under the evil one:

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

When you become a Christian, Satan has lost a subject.  Do you think he will give up without a fight?  The answer is, “No.”  He will do his very best to gain you back into his kingdom.  And one of the means by which he destroys a believer’s faith is by perverting the gospel.  This is what he did to the Galatians through the Judaizers.  He deceived them.  He cast a spell over them, as Galatians 3 brought out.  And now, he is trying to deprive them of the joy of salvation that they had received in Christ.

Paul is pleading with the Galatians that they return to Christ.  Paul will not let go of this situation.  He will continue working for them, pleading with them until they are fully established in Christ.

Then, he ends in verse 20:

…How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Paul would have loved to come to Galatia again physically. but he had much to do.  Transportation in those days was very difficult.  He is saying to the Galatians that he questions whether they will turn back.  He wants to be there so that he can see them turning back to Christ and he has doubts because he knows the power of legalism is very strong.  He is pleading with them to turn back to Christ as their only hope.

With great pain, Paul first preached the gospel to the Galatians.  He was willing to ignore his suffering to bring good news of salvation to the Galatians.  And now, he is willing to go through the same pain all over again to restore them to Christ.  These verses truly express the heart of Paul who reflected God’s agape love.

In Romans 9:2-3, he expresses the same thing towards his own fellow-Jews who hated him and who had turned against him.  He says:

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race….

“I am willing to be accursed that my own fellowmen should be saved.”  Paul was not just a theologian but “the” theologian of the New Testament.  Paul was a pastor at heart.  He had a great concern, a great burden for the people he had converted.  He was not just an evangelist.  He did not come to a church, establish it, and then leave for home and let them fend for themselves.  No, Paul was a pastor at heart.  When he heard anything negative about the people he had converted, he would write to them.  Here he writes this very stern letter telling them, “I wish I could use kinder words but I am afraid that if I do so, you may not realize the seriousness of your problem.  So I am using these strong words that you, dear Galatians, will turn back to Jesus Christ as your Savior.”

What Paul is saying to the Galatians is also true of us today.  We are still living in enemy territory.  It is still very easy for the devil to sidetrack us from the gospel and turn us back to legalism.  As mentioned in our last two studies, legalism is not something we have to learn.  It is part of our very being.  It is part of our culture.  It is part of our very nature.  All I have to do is stop preaching the gospel and my people will sooner or later end up on the road to legalism.  It is important that we constantly need to preach the gospel in clarity so that there is no mistake, that there is no idea that man can, by his own performance, save himself.

We must take this message to heart.  We need to take Paul’s burden for the Galatians and apply it personally to ourselves.  Paul, the great pastor, wants no one to be lost because, if we turn back to legalism, the devil has pulled us out of Christ.  He tried this all through the history of the early Christian church.  He tried to do this to the Jewish Christians.  The Judaizers, who had accepted Christ, were in danger of losing their salvation.  The book of Hebrews is constantly reminding the Jewish Christian, “Please, don’t go back to Judaism.  Please don’t go back to the legalism you were raised up with.”

As we conclude this study, let us read Hebrews 10.  This is very meaningful to those who have been trapped into legalism.  This is very much in harmony with what we have just studied in Galatians 4:12-20.

In Hebrews 10:36-39, the writer of Hebrews says to the Jewish Christians who were facing he same danger as the Galatians:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

It is not enough to just believe in Jesus Christ.  Yes, justification is by faith alone but Jesus Himself made it clear in Matthew 10:22 that faith must endure unto the end:

You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

The writer of Hebrews is saying in Hebrews 10:35:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward, for Christians need to be patient.  They need to endure unto the end.  They need to cling to their faith until the reality of salvation takes place at the Second Coming of Christ.”

The righteousness that qualifies us for heaven, now and in the judgment, is always in Christ, never in us.  Not even what God does in us.  But the faith that makes the righteousness of Christ effective in our lives or in us, is not in heaven but in us.  This faith can be touched.  This faith can be destroyed.  This is the real purpose of Satan when he enters the Christian church and perverts the gospel.  But the writer of Hebrews says in verse 36 of chapter 10:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God [that your faith endures unto the end], you will receive what he has promised.

We have this promise brought out in verses 37 and 38:

For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”  And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”

Living by faith is the only way you and I can be saved.  “But [there is a “but” here], if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”  God is a God of love and, where there is love, there can be no compulsion.  As long as we are believers, we are giving God the permission, the right, to take us to heaven, not because of our faith but because of the righteousness of Christ.  Faith doesn’t contribute towards our salvation.  Faith is only an instrument, a channel by which we receive the righteousness of Christ.  The New Testament is absolutely clear.  We are not saved because of our faith but we are saved by faith or through faith.

Paul is saying to the Galatians, “Hold on to your faith.  Turn back to Jesus Christ.”

We read in Hebrews 10:39:

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

So it is not enough, to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  This is the beginning, but our faith must endure unto the end.  Paul, writing to young Timothy, says in 2 Timothy 4:7:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Faith is a battle in the sense that we must not give it up.  The devil will do everything to pull us out of Christ but, thank God, as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, as long as we recognize that we are 100% sinners, saved by grace, the devil cannot touch us.  But legalism tells us that we have something good in us, that we can save ourselves by our performance.  We cannot come to Christ and, because we admit that we are 100% sinners, receive His righteousness and then, after accepting Him, admit that we can do something good towards our salvation.  No, it is either all of Christ or none of Him.

It is my prayer, as you wrestle with your faith, that you will not give it up.  May your faith endure to the very end.  May you, like Paul, say to God or to your fellow believers, “I have fought the fight.  I have kept the faith.  Now, there is waiting for me, a crown of righteousness and not only for me, but for all who love His appearing.”

Legalism is one of the greatest enemies of the gospel.  Legalism is one of the greatest dangers of the Christian believer.  You must constantly remind yourself that you are by nature and by performance a 100% sinner.  Oh yes, your performance may not be 100% but your nature is 100% sinner so that even if you have not committed a single sin for the last two hours, you are still a sinner during those two hours because your sins are simply the fruits of what you are.  God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, not to condemn you but that, through His performance — through His doing and dying — you and all mankind could be saved.

Now that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, I plead with you, do not allow anything, anybody, any philosophy, to pull you out of Christ.  Be on your guard against legalism that may come to you in a very subtle form, in a very religious garb so that you may be deceived.

It is my prayer that you shall know the truth and you shall constantly hold onto this truth and you, having obeyed the truth, may be set free so that, one day, when Christ comes, you may with great jubilation cry out, “This is my God, I have been waiting for Him.”  Man’s only hope is Jesus Christ and His righteousness.  Justification is by faith alone and nothing else.

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