Paul to the Galatians…Righteousness & Life through Faith

Righteousness Life Faith

Sunday 08/29/21

Series: Maintaining this hope

Message – Paul to the Galatians…Righteousness & Life through Faith

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Paul to the Galatians…Righteousness & Life through Faith

Last week we covered how the churches throughout Galatia were being infiltrated with a distortion of the true Gospel of Christ. They were being told that salvation is NOT simply through faith in Christ Jesus alone, but that it first requires that you be circumcised into the Old Covenant.

As we said last week this was not an unreasonable assumption, since ever since the establishment of Israel as a nation through covenant with God, the law clearly stated that foreigners who wanted to come into the covenant had to be circumcised into it and so become an Israelite because salvation is of the Jews. So it seemed logical that even after Messiah had come, any Gentile who wished to be saved, must first become a Jew through circumcision or faith in Messiah Jesus would do them no good.

Paul established the validity of the Gospel HE had preached to them by revealing how his gospel agreed with that of the Apostles, without ever having first consorted with them. Paul received his knowledge of  the gospel by direct revelation from Jesus after His resurrection and departure, and the Apostles received theirs during and throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. In the end though – they both agreed!

We ended last week with Paul calling Peter out in front of everybody because even though he knew that there was NO distinction to be made between Gentiles and Jews, he would only eat with Gentiles when his colleagues from Jerusalem were not present.

Let’s read that part before going on into chapter 3…

“(14)  But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all

“If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?  (15)  We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,  (16)  knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”  

Notice again that the issue was not so much the law itself, but using the law as a means of attaining righteousness and justification – a point which Paul will make himself when we get to chapter 3.

“(17)  “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!  

(18)  For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  

(19)  For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.  

(20)  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.  

(21)  I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing!”

Chapter 3

“1  You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified!” 

This convergence of words is painting a grim picture of these people and Paul has no difficulty calling a spade – black. 

One translation actually has this as saying Galatians, you dear idiots… ” 

Paul then uses his skill with words to paint a picture of their folly with…

  • 1 part expression of verbal disbelief
  • 1 part satire to put a lighter spin on a deadly error and 
  • 1 part play on words to illustrate his point and its solution using a word picture. 

Let’s examine the key words in this first sentence of chapter 3.

  • Foolish – anóētos is a compound Greek word a- being prefix for the opposite and noéō meaning to comprehend. So it means to not understand or to lack intelligence, foolish
  • Bewitched – baskanṓ it literally meant to cast an evil eye. A Greek commentator on the work of the poet Theocritus observes that the noun form of this word (báskanos) means one who with his eyes kills or destroys. 

It was a somewhat real and popular superstitious belief that great harm might result from the “evil eye” or from being looked upon with envious and malicious stares. 

In the NT, it means to utter foolish babble, i.e., to mislead by pretenses as if by magic arts. 

  • Portrayedprográphō to write clearly, publicly before. Like a billboard on a highway. 

So in effect Paul is saying, who has placed the evil eye on you to turn you into simpletons when I so clearly placed before you the reality of Christ and Him crucified? You need to turn your gaze back to Him and let His gaze bewitch you back to sanity again. 

“2  The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?

 3  Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?

 4  Have you suffered so many things for nothing? – if indeed it was for nothing.”

This is the same region in which Paul and his companions were persecuted, even to the point of being stoned and left for dead by the Jews when they were among the cities of Galatia. As I told  you, Galatia was a region comprising many cities.  It was divided up into northern and southern districts due to many differences between the two in terms of language, nationality and social organization. We are most familiar with the cities of southern Galatia such as Pisidian, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.

Without question these believers who stood by Paul and held tightly to the gospel he preached were not immune to much of the same persecutions Paul and Barnabus endured while they were among them.

“5  Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

 6  Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,

 7  so then, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham.”

So there you have it – the real issue here was that these people were being encouraged to become what they already were – sons of Abraham or Jews. I want you to REALLY pay attention to this – it is truly symptomatic of one of the key focuses of this ministry – what I feel God has called me (and really all ministers to) and that is clarity without compromise in the doctrine of the Gospel. At simple face value you here – the only place these people disagree is what it takes for a Gentile to be “of Israel”, because remember… “Salvation is of the Jews”. So the pivotal issue here is how do Gentiles become descendants of Abraham…by faith or by circumcision as a work of the law?

So far as I can tell from the text – those bringing in the false doctrine Paul was addressing believed Jesus was the Messiah and that salvation comes through Him by faith. I mean – on the surface – THAT’S THE GOSPEL…right?

Well, not if you add to it or take away from it!

Salvation is NOT Jesus + something else…ANYTHING else. It is simply Jesus and faith in Him!

So Paul is taking his stand SOLIDLY on Christ Jesus! He gave his own testimony regarding this just before addressing what we are reading at the close of the last chapter. He said, 

“(17)  “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!  

(18)  For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  

(19)  For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.  

(20)  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.  

(21)  I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing!”

And here he says, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham.” 

WOW! I could camp here for a LONG while!

You and I are not tempted to go to the law in addition to Christ for salvation. That is all we have ever known. However, for OUR benefit he does NOT say “understand that those who have believed (past tense) are the sons of Abraham” but rather those who BELIEVE. The word believe, though not in the continuous present – refers to those who have exercised faith for salvation, and whose standing and character are consequently determined by that faith. So it is both past and present faith!

You might ask – why is that important? I cannot tell you how many people I’ve heard who take a relaxed stance regarding the salvation of loved ones and friends who say that at some time in their past they made a profession of faith. This statement, as well as many others in the New Testament, make it quite clear faith does not end at the cross where you met Christ, it is where faith begins in a life-long journey with Him where we progressively come to know Him better and trust the Jesus we come to know more and more.

If someone you know and love claims to have made a profession of faith but do not live it now – you have NO basis for confidence that they are in Christ whatsoever! I am not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying the only 100% assurance we have is if their confession is producing in them a growing intimacy with Him which expresses itself in active trust and character change – that is FRUIT or living- ongoing character change produced in us through our union with Him!

This is something he wants them to UNDERSTAND. The word understand here is ginosko in this verse it is not imperative but indicative. Meaning he is laying out a deductive case before them, which he believes is enough information to come to a correct deduction on their own. The argument is, “Since faith was the way Abraham was justified, it follows that those who exercise like faith, are his true followers.”  

Let’s continue…

“8  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”

 9  So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer.”

I want you to see and rejoice with me over the foresight and loving care of God for ALL OF US! 

Raise your hand if you were born a Gentile?

The scriptures tell us that being born a Gentile placed us at a colossal disadvantage.

Ephesians tells us in chapter 2 starting in verse 11,

“(11) …remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh – who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands –  (12)  that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”  

I am reminded of one of my teachers in Bible college, who would sometimes say, “God has something to say about that!”

Paul tells us here in Galatians that God saw down through the ages the need of the Gentiles to obtain salvation and included us IN Abraham by crediting righteousness to Abraham by faith BEFORE he was ever circumcised so that salvation could come to the non-jews!

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a mighty thin margin why which we missed an eternity of separation from God! But like my teacher said, “God had something to say about that!”

Oh aren’t you glad that God is NOT one of our silent earthly fathers but that He is a TRUE provider. One who sees the dangers which ahead of us and makes provisions for them before we even knew we needed them! Oh how He loves us!

What did He say?

“(13)  But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  (14)  For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility,  (15)  when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace,  (16)  and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.  (17)  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near,  (18)  so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  (19)  So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household,  (20)  because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.  (21)  In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  (22)  in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” ~Eph 2:11-22  

Let’s go back and finish up this chapter where Paul gives them several quotes from the law…beginning with a reminder of the two mountains we JUST talked about a few weeks ago on Wednesday night – Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim – in the pronouncement of the blessings and curse for obeying or breaking the law. Any who were on those two mountains? Those born of the flesh were on the barren mount Ebal and those born of promise were on mount Gerizim.

“10  For all who rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law.” ~ Deut. 27:26

 “11  Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith.” ~ Hab. 2:4

“12  But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them.” ~ Lev. 18:5

 “13  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) ~ Deut. 21:23

 “14  in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.”

Inheritance Comes from Promises and not Law

“15  Brothers and sisters, I offer an example from everyday life: When a covenant has been ratified, even though it is only a human contract, no one can set it aside or add anything to it.

 16  Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. Scripture does not say, “and to the descendants,” referring to many, but “and to your descendant,” referring to one, Who is Christ.

 17  What I am saying is this: The law that came four hundred thirty years later does not cancel a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to invalidate the promise.

 18  For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise, but God graciously gave it to Abraham through the promise.

 19  Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the descendant to whom the promise had been made. It was administered through angels by an intermediary.

 20  Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is One.

 21  Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

 22  But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin so that the promise could be given – because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ – to those who believe.”

  • Mat 19:17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

  • John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father Who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

  • John 6:63, “The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

  • John 1:1-5, “1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not comprehended it.”

Sons of God Are Heirs of Promise

“23  Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed.

 24  Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith.

 25  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

 26  For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.

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

 28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

 29  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”

Back when we first changed from Woodland Fellowship of Believers to Living Grace Fellowship, I began to teach you that we had been blending covenants, and instead of becoming excited many began to shrink back and internally say. “Then what promises are for me? What can I take a stand on?”

Here is the answer – LIFE!

Peter tells us that we have a new covenant based upon better promises. The promise was LIFE!

Most of modern preaching is about sin, righteousness and judgment which are in fact things the Spirit will convict the world regarding according to John 16:8

But did you know that the New Testament mentions 

  • Righteousness – 93
  • Judgment – 48
  • Hell – 12

Do you know how many times it speaks of Life – 134 times

It mentions Grace as the vehicle of the life – 156

I think we have our message blurred, our wires crossed and our gospel is possibly as distorted as the one these poor Galatian believers were being delivered from by our brother Paul.

Again I find myself irresistibly drawn to Michael Card’s music and one song in particular stands out in regard to this topic. It’s called… 

“The Promise” 

The Lord God said when time was full

He would shine His light in the darkness

He said a virgin would conceive

And give birth to the Promise

For a thousand years the dreamers dreamt

and hoped to see His love

but the Promise showed their wildest dreams

had simply not been wild enough

The Promise was love and the Promise was life

The Promise meant light to the world

Living proof Jehovah saves

For the name of the Promise was Jesus

The Faithful One saw time was full

and the ancient pledge was honored

So God the Son, the Incarnate One

His final Word, His own Son

was born in Bethlehem

but came into our hearts to live

What more could God have given

Tell me, what more did He have to give

The Promise was love and the Promise was life

The Promise meant light to the world

Living proof Jehovah saves

For the name of the Promise was Jesus!

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!