Grace and peace and mercy and truth to you Beloved in the name of Christ.
Today I will read Galatians 3:1-14. Though our sermon this morning will focus on the first five verses. Hear the holy word of God. Read.
Galatians 3:1. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain– if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
6 Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, (this is not just the ceremonial law) TO PERFORM THEM.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE “– 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (the Galatians were Gentiles)
Let’s pray to God and ask Him to help us understand His word this morning and in so doing to worship and adore Him by it. Pray.
What would you think of a toddler taking out his or her crayons and say, “perfecting” a Rembrandt or a Monet painting? Would we think this wise or foolish? Or take an adult with a toolbox and they are going to “perfect” a rocket ship or help out in a little brain surgery. Foolish or wise? Well of course, the answer for these things is, foolish. It would be the height of folly for people without the knowledge or the skill or the authority to even attempt to do any of these things. We would say, they are “out of their depth” so to speak.
And for the child “perfecting” the Monet with his crayons the worst that would happen is that he would wreck a priceless painting. But by tinkering with the rocket ship or brain surgery, we would surely cause someone’s death. So, the price of trying to change something we have no business changing can be life or death.
Well, what do we think of people that want to perfect the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? They are going to tinker around and add a little of their works of the law to the blood Jesus shed for the forgiveness of sins? And what is the consequence of adding a little of our works of the law to Christ’s work on the Cross? We remain in our sins. No eternal life. No salvation.
You can see, can’t you, why the apostle Paul is quite exercised in this letter. The stakes are eternal and unchangeable. The gospel is at stake. (Rom.9:30-33, Rom.10:1-9)
And Paul shows us this by means of the contrast he makes between the false gospel and the true gospel He makes this contrast throughout this larger section of Galatians 3:1-14. To me, this could not be any clearer. To the person that says to me, well what about James 2:21-23? I will say, what about Galatians 3:1-14. The clear interprets the unclear.
The false gospel promoted by the legalist Judaizer Pharisee was Jesus plus the works of the law, ceremonial and or moral. The true gospel is by faith in Christ’s finished atoning sacrifice. In this way, for justification the Law and the Gospel are separate. The law does not justify. Only the gospel does. Our doing does not justify. Receiving Christ by Spirit-wrought gifted faith does.
Please see that God inspires Paul to say that these things are opposites, salvation by works of the law OR by faith (apart from works) which is another way of saying by faith alone. You cannot, cannot mixed them. One is false. The other is true.
Criticizing the false teachers.
Paul heretofore has been defending himself against the false teachers that have led the Galatian Christians astray. Paul has defended the gospel of salvation that he preaches against the false gospel being taught by these deceiving ministers. So, he opens with a defense of himself and his gospel and also a rebuttal of the false gospel. (Gal.1:6-2:21)
Criticizing the Christians for believing the false teachers.
Now here what Paul does is he turns from criticizing the false teachers and he will now criticize the Galatians for believing the false gospel as taught to them by the Judaizers.
A few things about this. First regarding Paul. Second regarding the congregants.
You remember that Paul himself evangelized these people. (Acts 16:1-6, Gal.1:6, 4:13-19) The man that taught them the true gospel was himself converted directly by the Risen Christ and taught the gospel of Christ by Christ Himself. And he was also personally sent out to preach by Jesus. Excepting Christ Himself, what an amazing privilege and gift to be taught the truth of Christ by such a man. (2 Tim.4:2)
Yet in a certain sense the Galatians squandered their privilege of having Paul’s ministry. And this made them susceptible to the “ministry” of lying ministers. Beloved, if we do not value the sound administration of the Word we make ourselves prey to religious liars. And we tempt God to take away the faithful preacher.
Now let’s consider the Galatians. God used Paul to preach the real gospel of salvation to these heathen people and they received the gospel and were saved. And within one to two years they had defected to a law plus gospel hybrid, which is no gospel. I have said before, but it bears repeating, law plus gospel is law. Law plus gospel destroys the free grace or gift of God in the Gospel. Anything we pay to God’s gift is no longer gift. Rather it is an offense to the Giver. This is a trampling on the blood of Jesus. (Heb.10:29)
It is unreasonable to believe a works based ‘gospel’.
I mentioned Paul as the founder to help explain why he opens the way he does. He opens with God’s estimation of embracing a works based salvation.
He writes, O foolish Galatians. In Greek the letter “alpha” or our “a” before a word means the opposite of the word. In other words, the word power in Greek is dunamos. To have no power or to be powerless is a-dunamos. Think of the word for God, theos. To be an a-theos is to not believe in God. Well the word here for foolish is a-noetos. It means to not use your mind, to not think. Paul is saying, Oh mindless ones. Oh unthinking ones. (Gal.3:1, 3)
What a hard thing to hear. Particularly because often false teachers believe they are the ones with the superior knowledge, they have special insight into God’s word. (Col.2:18) And this appeals to the flesh of the audience. So, by believing the false gospel they actually believe that they are the super Bible reasoning Christians, the ones that are really thinking rightly. And Paul comes along and dashes that to pieces.
By believing the gospel is partly Christ crucified, partly their receiving circumcision, and partly their works of the law, whether ceremonial or moral they thought they were wise. (Acts 15:1-5) Proud people love false gospels it feeds their pride. Proud people think they perform righteous works of the law. They are spiritual deceived.
God calls them fools. You see, Christ crucified (alone) for sin is foolishness to the carnal mind. They think you must earn at least part of your salvation. But the wisdom of (carnal) man is foolishness to God. (I Cor.1:18-25)
Now a word here just in case you find Paul’s language overly harsh, perhaps even a bit un-Christian. After all, didn’t Jesus tell us not to call anyone ‘you fool’? Yes, Jesus did say this. But He used a different Greek word there. (Mt. 5:22 – moros)
In addition, Christ is speaking about being abusively critical of another brother. Paul is under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God then is saying to these people, you are not using your mind. Think rightly. Really think through Scripture. Do not let twisters of Scripture fool you. This is not abusive. This is corrective and loving. Painful but loving. Painful but needful.
Proverbs 27:5. Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
Beloved is great benefit in being told that we are wrong on the gospel, and or that we have departed from the true gospel. It is loving and kind to be thus corrected that we might turn to Christ Crucified before it is too late. (2 Cor.13:5, 2 Pt.1:10-11)
By way of application. When Paul calls them foolish ones, unthinking ones, this is their fault. It is the professing Christians personal responsibility to know God’s word, to grow and be familiar with the Bible. And this is especially true of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every professing Believer is a Believer by believing the gospel. And therefore, it is our responsibility to be able to express the gospel. And as regards to this book, to defend it and protect ourselves and our families against false teachers teaching false gospels. (I Pt.3:15)
We are culpable for our own unbelief. The Bible says to each one of us, take care that you not have an evil heart of unbelief. (Heb.3:12-19) Oh beloved, God deals with us as responsible religious creatures. We will give an account of our reception or rejection of the true gospel of Christ Crucified. (Lk.9:37-56, Mt.17:17, Jn.20:27, Lk.24:13-35)
The men’s Friday Bible study is working through a book on the biblical duties of a Christian husband. I would say, paramount in that is the husband and the father teaching the gospel to his family. And protecting his family from being led astray to people that believe the gospel is anything other than believing in Christ Crucified alone. We must be the “watchmen on the wall” in our own homes. (Ezek.3:17-19, 33:8-21, Isa.62:6, Jer.6:17) We will answer to God for it.
May we have enough faith and maturity in Christ to receive a correction, even a rebuke, and benefit from it. May we be on guard against our own corruption. (Rom.7:14-21, Gal.5:17)
It is devilish to believe a works based ‘gospel’.
Next Paul assigns the cause of their embracing works-based righteousness. He says, who has bewitched you? These false teachers appear as angels of light. They look for all the world as servants of righteousness. Oh, their false Gospel of Jesus does His part and you do your part seems so right. But God inspires Paul to say, this is from the devil. This is a bit of witchcraft. (2 Cor.11:14-15)
Wow. This is harder to hear than merely being uncritical in our thinking. Now God says to them that they have been duped by Satanic forces behind the false teachers. (2 Thess.2:11, 2 Tim.4:3-4) Beloved, the devil is a liar and the father of all lies. (Jn.8:44) He chief tactic is to present God’s truth as a lie and his satanic lie as the truth.
That is what is happening as regards to the gospel. The devil tells people, oh no, Christ’s blood alone is not sufficient for your (complete) salvation. Oh that is not really what the Bible says. You have to twist this Scripture and add it to that other scripture and then you can find the “real” gospel. (2 Pt.3:14-18) Oh no Jesus alone does not save – save you. You must add a little bit of your works of the law to be saved. Yes, that is the true gospel.
You see for Paul there is no middle ground between the true gospel being from God and anything that deviates from the true gospel is necessarily a false gospel and not from God, being from the devil. The devil is behind promoting the false gospel by corrupting the true gospel. This is why Paul pronounced the anathema curse of God upon those that add to or take away from the person and the work of Jesus Christ.
V.1. Think of this. Paul says, I set Christ crucified clearly in your view. Christ crucified is the summary of the Good News of salvation. Christ has paid for all of your sins. By His blood He has fully satisfied the Father for you. Now, some snake or wolf in sheep’s clothing tells you, look to all your glorious, holy, meritorious law-keeping! If you think your good works are more beautiful and righteous and efficacious than Christ’s good work, did some witch cast a spell on you!?
Listen to this portion of God’s word.
I Samuel 15:22. Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”
You see Beloved, whether we acknowledge it or not, there is a spiritual battle raging all around us. The devil wants to keep people from believing in the true Christ and the true gospel of Christ.
The devil is busier in churches than he is in mosques or temples. And the devil is more cunning in churches that he is in heathen temples. It does not trick or tempt the average professing Christian to see a half man and half elephant false god. But use the language of the Bible and appeal to our flesh with the law and our self-righteousness and then we are temped.
No beloved, the devil’s most evil scheme is the false Bride, the Harlot presenting a false Christ and a false gospel as the truth. (Rev.17:2)
2 Corinthians 4:3. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (Isa.44:18)
The true gospel is look to Christ, trust in His atoning sacrifice on the cross – alone.
I Cor.1:21. For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (I Cor.2:2)
The false gospel says, look to yourself, trust in your works of the law. The enemy of God and of the image bearers of God is behind this. The devil wants sinners to trust in themselves for their salvation. He will take you where he is destined.
It is contra-experience to believe a works based ‘gospel’.
Now I want us to see something here. Despite having said some fairly hard things to these Galatians, Paul is still considering them true Christians. He is still treating like men and women that truly did believing savingly in Christ and now they have been temporarily led astray, tricked, deceived. He sees himself as God’s agent or servant to call them back to the truth.
How did you hear of Christ?
Paul now will appeal to the Galatians themselves. He states and asks questions that are meant to consider how and why they became Christians in the first place. The first implicit question (that he answers) is, how did you hear of Christ?
Did they hear of Savior Jesus by the preaching of the works of the Law? Or did they hear of Jesus in the preaching of the gospel? Think. Did Paul tell them obey the Ten Commandments and you will be saved for your breaking the Ten Commandments? Did Paul come preaching circumcision and so they heard of Christ? No. Did Paul come preaching baptism? No. Paul came preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified for sins.
Paul says that he “publicly” portrayed Christ Crucified to them. Paul was open and forthright with his gospel, from the outset. The minister of Christ is the herald of Christ, sent from Jesus to proclaim the message of Jesus. Paul has not changed. They have. And he wants them to come back to the truth.
True Christians can temporarily fall away from the simplicity of the true Gospel. But we can never eternally apostatize from Christ Crucified. God will bring His elect people back. But as we see here, He does use means. In this case a minister.
So then Paul is going to use their own personal experience to prove to them that the false gospel is false.
In other words, he says to them, don’t you remember? You were a Gentile, separated from God, separated from His covenants, His promises. (Gal.4:8) You were in your sin. Under the wrath of God. You had no hope. You were without God in the world. (Eph.2:12-22) But then I came and preached Christ Crucified for your sins to you and God the Holy Spirit gave you faith and so you were saved. (Eph.2:1-9)
Think Beloved Believer. In the beginning when you were wallowing in your sins and misery, did you then think to yourself, oh I will do a little works of the law and help God save me? No. Not at all. Were you studying the Ten Commandments when suddenly you met Christ savingly? No.
You were saved from your sins by believing the simple gospel. (Acts 13:13-43)
Isaiah 45:21. Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. 22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.
Acts 16:30. and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Beloved, I love theology. I read books about the Bible every day. I read and study hard things from Scripture every day. I try to learn the most I can so that I might be the best teacher I can.
But I will say this, my sense is that not a great number of people are saved from say reading Calvin’s Institutes or The Economy of the Covenants by Herman Wistius. I am not here criticizing those wonderful works.
But I am here saying that God uses the simple gospel of Christ Crucified for sins to save sinners. God saves sinners by one saved sinner telling another unsaved sinner about Jesus and His atoning work. And that by simple faith or trust in Jesus they will be saved, forgiven, and reconciled to God.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom.10:1-17)
I say the gospel is a simple message. But it is so profound a lifetime of studying the gospel will not exhaust Its riches. We err when we think John 3:16 is Christianity 101 and then we need to move on to the deeper things. Beloved, that was part of the problem of the Galatians. They thought the Cross of Christ too small, too basic, too simple. They wanted the weightier things, intricate schemes on law-keeping. And so they were led away from the simplicity and purity of Christ Crucified. (2 Cor.11:1-3)
Listen to the apostle Paul.
I Corinthians 2:1. And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
How did you receive the Holy Spirit?
Galatians 3:2. This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Now Paul asks them another question. How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you were circumcised? How can this be. The better part of the military men that came out of Egypt were circumcised and they lacked faith, they had and evil and unbelieving heart as Hebrews 3 and 4 says. And God swore in His wrath that they would not enter into His rest.
What about obedience to the Law? Did the OT people of God receive the Spirit of God by their law-keeping? No. The answer is a resounding, no.
Ezekiel 36:25. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (Ezek.11:19, Jer.31:33, Heb.8:10)
Well the Galatians started off so sound. They had an inspired apostle to teach them. What happened that they should so quickly defect into thinking that they must add their works of law-keeping to Christ’s law-keeping on our behalf.
Here is a truism. It is very easy to be doctrinally correct in our statement of the gospel. Outward we can confess, the blood of Christ alone atones for all of my sins, none of my works do, they are filthy rags. Well then, inwardly, something different happens. We have this little self-righteous Pharisee inside of us, the old man, and we say, even if all the other disciples fall away from You Jesus, I never will. I will always obey You!
Oh Beloved, our flesh is so subtle we can glory in our humiliation. In the very act of bowing down at the feet of Jesus, our eyes can be on our self rather than on our Lord.
Why were you persecuted by the unbeliever?
Galatians 3:4. Did you suffer so many things in vain– if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
Now the last thing the apostle Paul will appeal to based on the experience of these former Gentile heathen become Christians is, why were they persecuted when they became Christians? Did their families hate because they got circumcised? Were the Jews angry that they tried to keep the Laws of Moses? No.
Why did unbelieving Jew and Gentile oppose them? It was because they professed faith in Jesus as the Christ, Jesus as the Sin-Bearer Savior. (Mt.10:16-42)
And what Paul is getting at, is “if” you embrace this false legalistic gospel “then” all your suffering as a professing Christian was in vain, because you are not a true Christian.
And I want you to think of this as well. Legalists love to make their religion “hard”. Oh fast this many days a week. No meat on Fridays during lent. No marriage for the clergy. Special days of obligation. Do, do, do, suffer, suffer. And oh people are so impressed by these things.
Beloved in the Philippines on so-called good Friday there are actually men (Filipinos) that beat themselves bloody and others that submit to get crucified seeking to emulate Jesus in His “Passion”. They get really crucified, nailed to a real cross will metal nails. That is “devotion”? That is obnoxious to God. It mocks the crucifixion of Christ it seeks to emulate. Their suffering is in vain. (Col.2:13-23) They follow a false gospel.
Oh beloved, trust only in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins.