Do you know that your chains have been broken?
Are you amazed by the grace that broke those chains?
This song helps us prays:
Jesus, Your grace amazes me…
Where else could I go,
Where else could I run? …
What else could I do?”
Have you come to a place where you truly grasp that there’s nothing you CAN do?
--That His grace is the only place we can run to?
Is salvation based on something we do or something Christ has already done?
When we realize we have nowhere else to run, that’s when we encounter and experience God’s grace.
Is Christianity a matter of law or belief?
Grace or works?
--We’re continuing our series called,
Living Free, as we walk through the book of Galatians together.
Today we’re starting chapter 3, so you can turn or swipe in your Bibles to that passage.
If you’re using this Bible we have available here at Brookwood, it’s on page 938.
And as you find that,
let me give you a quick recap:
Paul has written this letter—a pretty direct letter—to the church in Galatia.
They’re being wooed away from the
faith and freedom they found in Christ by people who want them to embrace the works-based mentality of Jewish law and traditions.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with traditions. It’s the middle of July so it’s almost time for me to start planning the layout of my Christmas village. Traditions can be good… unless your identity is found in them.
See, the Judaizers didn’t believe faith in Christ was enough.
Oh, they thought faith was important, but they also believed you couldn’t gain God’s favor without remaining true to the Jewish law—and for Gentiles, that also meant becoming Jewish through circumcision.
And there’s the real issue. The Judaizers in Galatia believed a Gentile could be saved, but only by becoming fully Jewish.
They believed salvation came not through Christ’s work alone, but primarily through their national identity as the people of Israel.
And that’s the teaching that had infiltrated the Galatian Church.
In the first couple chapters,
Paul establishes his authority to speak on this subject / and introduces the problem.
Now in Chapters 3-4 (and remember, there were no chapters when he wrote it), he’s going to lay out a case for Justification by Faith rather than justification through works (we’ll explain what that means in a few minutes).
Think of the next couple chapters as a courtroom drama, where Paul is the prosecutor and the defendants are the Judaizers.
Paul presents accusations, rhetorical questions, witnesses, and supporting evidence. And he lays out a series of very specific arguments.
**Today we’ll cover his first two arguments: the evidence of a believer’s experience, and the evidence of Scripture. Next week, we’ll look at his next two arguments.
He’s making a case.
And the first witness Paul calls to the stand is you and your experience with God.
More specifically, the experience of the Galatian believers, but it applies to us.
Chapter 3, Verse 1. Paul begins his argument:
Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? Galatians 3:1a (NLT)
So, Paul’s in a good mood.
The NLT says “evil spell” does anyone have a different translation?
Some translations say, “Bewitched.”
Now, Galatia was settled by Gaelic people as part of the great Celtic migration, but Paul’s not talking about leprechaun magic here. He’s not talking about sorcery or witchcraft.
The word for bewitched: baskainō (vas-KAY-no) means “to bring evil on someone by feigned praise or charm.” It means to lure someone to react out of their emotions rather than what they know to be true.
Sounds like what happened in Eden, doesn’t it? Lured away by emotions and false logic.
And Paul’s question here is reminiscent of God’s question in the Garden,
“Who told you that you were naked?”
“Who cast an evil spell on you?”
And, I do think Paul is upset here, but I also think he’s heartbroken. I think both questions came from a place of heartbreak.
“How could you let them do this to you?
And in the next 4 verses, Paul is going to remind them about the experience they had with God when they were saved.
And that’s our first fill-in.
True Belief in Christ…
1. RESPONDS to personal experiences with God.
Have you had an experience with God?
Because the experiences we have with God should dictate how we approach life moving forward.
Let’s keep reading:
Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. Galatians 3:1-5 (NLT)
Again, we don’t know Paul’s emotions here. He’s a pretty direct guy so he might be angry, but these are his spiritual children, so even though he’s being direct, I think there’s compassion in his rebuke.
Don’t you remember what you experienced? Why are you rejecting what you saw God do?
His argument is that they had an experience with God that was undeniable and they should live in the truth of that experience.
Here’s a question: Have you ever had God do something incredible in your life? Have you ever experienced the grace of God, but let outside influences minimize that feeling over time?
Maybe it was the influence of other people (like the Galatians), or some crisis you faced. Maybe it was just day to day life.
But true faith should respond to our personal experiences with God in a continual way.
Our life should never be ruled by outside influences or our circumstances.
**The Christian life begins with an encounter with God and is directed by continual encounters with God.
And if you’ve never experienced a personal encounter with God—whether this is your first day in church or you’ve been here for twenty years, if you’ve never heard directly from God in some way, pursue that.
We’ll have people down front and in the care connection room after the service to encourage you and pray with you.
God wants us to live in constant relationship with Him, experiencing the joy of being connected to Him on a daily basis.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of Your presence
and the pleasures of living with You forever.
Psalm 16:11 (NLT)
That’s not just in eternity, that’s now.
We sometimes forget we can live like that today… and the Galatians had forgotten too.
Paul is very specific in is argument here. Look at this… the end of verse 1 says:
For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. Galatians 3:1b (NLT)
He’s not talking about seeing an Instagram post.
Paul says the gospel was so vivid in their salvation that it was as if they were standing at the foot of the cross when Christ was crucified for them. They had an encounter with Jesus Christ.
And what happened after they encountered Christ?
In verse 2 Paul says,
You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. Galatians 3:2b (NLT)
They had an encounter with Christ,
They had an experience with the Holy Spirit.
And after they received the Holy Spirit, they saw miracles in their lives.
… does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law?
Galatians 3:5a (NLT)
This word “miracles” does mean what we think of as miracles (healing, water into wine, loaves and fishes), but it also means a general empowerment over evil—a Spirit given power in their lives.
Now be careful here. Looking at this verse, who provided the miracles they experienced?
The miracles and power they received were through the Spirit, but Paul is specifically pointing out that the Holy Spirit and miracles are given by the blessings of God the Father.
So they’ve had the experience of receiving:
--Salvation through Christ,
--Empowerment through the Holy Spirit,
--And blessings from the Father.
…even though they did nothing to earn them.
Yet despite that experience, they were trying to become right with God through their actions:
Back to verse 2:
You received the Spirit [Why?] because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Galatians 3:2b-3 (NLT)
So (verse 5)…
I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. Galatians 3:5 (NLT)
But they didn’t think that was enough.
Now, many of you may be thinking, “Wow, those Galatians WERE foolish.”
Because we know, in our heads, that salvation is through Christ alone (ref. Acts 16:31).
But is that how we live our lives? Is that what we really believe?
Because I think God is asking us that same question at the top of our outline:
After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?
Let me ask you a question… and I’m not trying to trick you like Perry does (he admits it).
But I am going to ask you to be completely honest.
**Have you ever looked at another believer and thought, “They’re a better Christian than I am?”
Here’s a harder one to admit (you don’t have to raise your hands):
**Have you ever looked at another believer and thought, “Well, they’re not much of a Christian.”
If you’ve had those thoughts, then you’re comparing your actions to someone else’s, and at some level you believe in righteousness through works.
Yes, we’re all at different stages of our spiritual growth, and it doesn’t mean Christians can do whatever they want.
But our behavior is about relationship not salvation—not making you a better Christian.
I want to repeat what David Hardy said last week because he said it so well:
“Before salvation every person is equally separated from God, and after salvation every person is equally reconciled to God.”
** Actions can’t make you a better Christian. They can only reveal you’re a more grateful one.
And even that’s only if your heart and motives are right.
See, Legalism isn’t restricted to following Jewish law. It’s much more subtle than that.
It’s any action, service, or even worship that you use to raise your standing with God.
Christianity can’t be measured by your actions.
Your fate in eternity won’t be based on what you did, but on what Christ did, and whether you belong to Him.
True belief in Christ…
- REJECTS salvation by works and RECEIVES salvation by faith.
Look at 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. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
Not justification by works, justification by faith.
Now, “Justification by Faith” is a pretty unapproachable theology term, but what it means is this:
When you believe in Jesus Christ and stand before the Father, He sees Christ’s perfection instead of your flaws.
You are made right with God through Jesus.
Then why do we try to gain favor with God through our actions?
Why do we return to a works-based mentality over and over again?
We usually say it’s because we want control—that it’s a pride thing.
And for some people that may be true.
But I think for many of us, it’s because we have an identity based in shame rather than Jesus Christ.
I think, deep down inside, many of us are afraid to have God really look at us with nothing to offer.
We think we have to do SOMETHING to cover up our sin because if God were to really see me… really know who I am—He might decide the sacrifice wasn’t worth it.
We’re Adam and Eve, trying to cover ourselves so God won’t see what we’ve done.
We’re the Galatians, desperately trying to earn God’s acceptance.
But when Christ claims you as His own, He steps between you and the Father… and the Father only sees you through Jesus. He sees Christ’s Righteousness as your own.
And He did that because He DOES see you.
Look at 2 Corinthians:
He [The Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)
He knew we couldn’t keep the law, and you don’t have to. Christ did it for you.
In fact, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 (NIV)
Our experience with God should be enough to rest Paul’s case, but the Judaizers were likely using Scripture in their argument.
But they were using Scripture out of context and without the revelation of Christ.
So now, in verse 6, Paul turns to his second argument.
He turns from our experience with God to the evidence of Scripture.
True belief in Christ…
3. is ROOTED in God’s Word.
You can’t accept Christ and not accept the full truth of His Word.
Our salvation is rooted in the Word because Christ IS the Word.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 14 (NIV)
You can’t have Christ without the fullness of Scripture.
The Judaizers only wanted portions of Scripture taken out of context. They were misusing Scripture to prove their point, but it’s a bad idea to get into a Bible debate with Paul.
Remember, he was a rising star among the Jewish leadership. He knew Scripture inside and out. He studied under the greatest Rabbi of his day, he likely had most (if not all) of the Old Testament memorized. He had a passion for Scripture—and that was before God got ahold of him.
But now, Paul had a direct revelation from Jesus Christ and was directed by the Holy Spirit in his argument.
That’s an uphill battle for the Judaizers.
In the next 9 verses, Paul is going to quote SIX passages from the Old Testament (referencing 9).
Why? Because the idea of salvation through faith isn’t just a New Testament idea.
Faith has always been the standard. And since the Judaizers likely used Abraham in their argument for Gentile circumcision, that’s where Paul will start…
In the same way, (meaning, in the same way you experienced salvation) Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. Galatians 3:6 (NLT)
Paul is quoting Genesis 15:6.
Abraham had the righteousness of God counted toward him.
Was it because of a law or tradition he followed? No, it was because he believed.
So what does that mean?
The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. Galatians 3:7 (NLT)
Circumcision doesn’t make you a child of Abraham, faith does. Only faith.
ANY action you take to make yourself right with God—or to convince Him to love you more is useless.
Are you trying to live by law?
Because the law is legalism toward anything you put above your trust in Christ’s sacrifice.
And then, in verse 8, Paul says something the Judaizers really aren’t going to like:
What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when He said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. Galatians 3:8-9 (NLT)
Now, we’re going to dig a lot deeper into that promise God just made to Abraham next week, but catch the significance of what Paul is saying here.
He’s explaining that the Scriptures ALWAYS pointed toward salvation by faith for the Gentiles.
This is Paul’s second Scripture reference. We’ll only count it as one of the six, but it’s actually found in THREE Jewish passages: Genesis 12:3, 18:18, and 22:18.
Salvation for the Gentiles by faith was God’s plan from the very beginning—and it’s written in black and white in the Jewish Scriptures.
Yes, the people of Israel are the chosen people of God. Romans 11 is all about how God is not done with Israel. God will fulfill his irrevocable promises to Israel, and He has a purpose for them to fulfill, but that’s about a calling and a mission for their nation. It has nothing to do with individual salvation. Salvation is through faith alone and it always has been.
So by pointing out that this was God’s plan all along, Paul’s not only telling the Judaizers their wrong now, but that they had the Scriptures wrong even before Christ came. They’ve been wrong all along!
He’s saying, “You’ve NEVER understood Scripture”
Ouch. Remember last week when David Hardy said unity in the body requires “confronting face to face”?
Paul didn’t have a problem with that.
Righteousness cannot be attained by action—only by faith. And what happens if you reject that truth?
But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under His curse. For the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10 (NLT)
That’s his third quote from scripture, Deuteronomy 27:26.
If you try to become right with God by keeping the rules, you will always be under a curse, because God’s standard is perfection.
This is the Torah <hold up Torah>. We call it the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible written by Moses, but the Jews call it the law. And not just the 10 commandments—there are over 600 commandments in these pages, and righteousness through the law means every one of them is followed to the letter every day, forever. It’s impossible.
And if you get it into your head that you might be up for it (first of all, that’s a sinful attitude of pride, right there so you’ve already lost)
But if you think you can follow these rules, Jesus further explains in the Sermon on the Mount that perfection in the law extends to the condition of your heart and to your thoughts.
You might say, “Well here’s one. Do not murder. I can follow that one.”
But Jesus said, “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. …” Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT)
I’ve called people idiots—and meant it.
And to God, that’s the same as murder.
Obedience to God means complete obedience in thought, word and deed.
We can’t even keep ONE of these laws perfectly, let alone all of them.
We cannot meet this standard outside the grace of God.
Paul continues, Verse 11:
So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
Galatians 3:11 (NLT). C/R: Habakkuk 2:4
This way of faith is very different from the way of the law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”
Galatians 3:12 (NLT). C/R: Leviticus 18:5
Now he’s quoting Habakkuk and Leviticus. I told you, don’t mess with Paul.
Let’s leave those up there for a moment.
Look at those two verses.
Compare those two paths.
Are you experiencing life?
I don’t mean surviving. Are you experiencing a full and abundant life, the kind Jesus described in John 10?
Or do you feel drained and tattered?
Do you have joy or worry?
Verse 12 is impossible. We can’t get there.
So if you’re not experiencing the life described in verse 11, through God’s grace, through faith in Christ alone…
It might mean you’re shackled to the curse of verse 12—and you didn’t even know it.
There are more of us in the room with a works mentality than a grace mentality.
Yes, we’re supposed to work for the Kingdom, but that’s from a posture of gratitude for our salvation, not a way to obtain it.
But if you’re not experiencing that kind of freedom, we’re not at the end of the story.
Remember when Paul quoted Deuteronomy earlier?
… “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10 (NLT)
Here’s the answer:
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When He was hung on the cross, He took upon Himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing He promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14 (NLT)
Here’s your last fill-in:
True belief in Christ…
4. REMOVES the curse.
Do you feel like you’re living under a curse? Do you feel wounded by this life?
There’s nothing you can do to make yourself right with God.
But Christ took on that curse so you could be set free.
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (ESV)
--Don’t stay in your shackles.
--Don’t believe the lies this world has told you about yourself.
--Don’t stay a slave to shame when Christ has purchased your freedom.
We have Care volunteers down front and in the Care Connection room.
They will pray with you and help you put that burden down.
Don’t be afraid to let the Father really see you. He’s already seen.
And it’s the reason He sent His Son.