Want “conversational” preaching? No raised voice, no intensity, no felt-passion? Rip this page of Galatians from your Bible. If Paul was dictating to a scribe, he probably shouted. If he was writing himself, he probably wrote in bold-face type. He was angry. Itinerant Jewish teachers were making Christ’s crucifixion good for nothing among the Galatian churches. And they were robbing these new Gentile believers of power for living the Christian life.
Irrelevant to us? Here’s a question. You believe Jesus died to forgive your past sins, but what does your future right-standing with God depend on? Not sure? Read on . . .
Starting with the Spirit (Galatians 3:1-5).
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 observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing– if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Paul’s angry. The Galatian believers are “turning to a different gospel” (1:6). Irrational! Ridiculous! “Bewitched” (Greek baskino) in this context means something like, “Who put you in this mental coma?” So, as I said twice already, Paul’s angry. But I suspect it was a sad kind of anger, a lamenting that these believers had been duped into thinking that faith alone in Jesus Christ is insufficient to get right with God. Faith needed Jewish circumcision and law-keeping for justification! How could these Galatians act like blind fools after Paul had painted a graphic word-picture of Christ crucified for them?
Actually the heresy is more insidious than it appears. The false teachers might have preached something like this: “Now that you’ve started this life of faith in Christ, how will you make it all the way to the end? For that, you need circumcision and law-keeping like God’s people have always needed.” That’s why Paul asks the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? “
Paul designed his questions to wise-up the Galatians. How did they start the Christian life? By observing Jewish law or believing the gospel they heard? Well, by believing. But how could they be confident they’d be right with God to the end? Because when they started they received the Spirit. Becoming a Christian isn’t just a legal transaction where the Judge declares us not guilty for our sin because we trust Christ “did the time” for our crime. Nor is it just a love transaction where God gave his Son for us out of affection for us. It is also a dynamic transaction in which we receive the Spirit . . .
“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”
“After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”
“Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you
because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”
Here’s Paul’s argument. At the start, you believed the gospel you heard, and thereby you received the Spirit. You will continue on and reach your goal by the power of the Spirit. And the miracles God gives you now by his Spirit, come because you believe what you heard. How can you possibly think working at keeping Jewish law will keep you going in this new life and get you to the heavenly goal?
Receiving the Blessing of Abraham (3:6-14).
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The 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 have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man 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 tree.” 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. (Galatians 3:6-14).
A strange example Abraham, until you realize he was the father of all who believe (not just Jews). And “the gospel in advance to Abraham” was, “All nations shall be blessed through you.” Abraham is “the man of faith.” The people God is saving, you see, is a people from among all nations who are, like Abraham, a people of faith.
Let’s say I rely on keeping the Ten Commandments to maintain my life with God and reach the heavenly goal. What have I done? Put myself under a curse, because I have to “do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Everything. But, ” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us . . . “
And for what purpose did Christ redeem us from the law’s curse? “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus . . . ” What is “the blessing given to Abraham”? Righteousness/justification/right-standing with God by believing. When God made that promise to Abraham, he did it so that the promised blessing might come to Gentiles too—people from among all nations.
But that blessing isn’t the final purpose. Christ redeemed us so the blessing to Abraham might come to Gentiles “so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit,” Thus, God’s purpose from the start, wasn’t just to put believers in right-standing with himself by faith, but to transform them progressively into people who ARE RIGHTEOUS IN CHARACTER AND BEHAVIOR by faith.
Being No Fool.
Our sinful nature still whispers, “You can do it. Just try harder to be better.” The world idolizes the man or the woman who made something of him/herself. The devil mocks, “Your faith? It doesn’t amount to even half a grain of mustard seed. You better get busy doing good stuff if you wanna make it with God!”
Let’s not be fools. Christ provides right-standing with God through our faith (our faith) in Christ. And with justification comes the Spirit who works miracles in us. Only fools opt for “human effort”.
DON’T BE A FOOL!