Sunday February 16th
How many people would agree that it’s important for us to obey the law?
I heard a story about a policeman who brought four teenage boys in front a judge. "These hooligans were causing an awful lot of commotion at the zoo, your Honor," he said.
"Boys," said the judge sternly, "I really don’t like to hear reports of juvenile delinquency. Now I want each of you to tell me your name and what you did wrong."
The first boy said, "My name is George, and I threw peanuts into the elephant pen."
The second boy said, "My name is John, and I threw peanuts into the elephant pen."
The third boy said, "My name is Mike, and I threw peanuts into the elephant pen."
And the fourth boy said, "My name is Peanuts."
So the next question is, did the Apostle Paul believe that it was important for believers to obey the Law of Moses? And that’s an entirely different answer altogether!
Starting out in verse 1 of Galatians chapter 3, we see Paul delivering a rather severe rebuke to the believers in Galatia. He says:
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?
We can see that Paul was clearly upset about something within the Galatian church. Twice he calls them foolish. His main issue seems to be whether they were going to continue on their spiritual journey by performing the works of the Law of Moses, or by following the voice of the Holy Spirit by faith.
Here are a couple of key points to consider:
The first question might be - Can’t we do both? Can’t we put ourselves under the Law and still live by faith?
The answer to that question is simply NO!
Paul is definitively telling the Galatians that their spiritual awakening, which came about when they put their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, cannot possibly end up leading to a life that is based on keeping the laws of the Old Covenant. It’s not an option.
Paul asks them a series of questions to highlight the difference between works of the Law and a faith that comes by hearing the gospel:
The second objection that might be raised is based on the fact that the Law was given to Moses by God, so how could it possibly be a bad path to follow?
Paul refutes this point by going back to a time before Moses ever came on the scene – back to the time of Abraham, who is the true Father of our 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.
So faith is the ultimate source of our blessings, not following the Law. Abraham didn’t DO anything to EARN his righteousness! He simply BELIEVED God by faith, and righteousness was RECKONED to him, or given to him.
In the same way, as Christians we BELIEVE in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and then we are GIVEN His righteousness in exchange for our filthy, sinful rags.
So if faith brings righteousness, what does the Law bring?
According to Paul, it brings a CURSE!
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, 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.
Paul’s point in calling the Law of Moses a curse is that no one can possibly keep the whole law in its entirety. He quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 which says that anyone who doesn’t abide by “all things written in the law” will be cursed. And the verse that follow it list all of the curses that will fall upon Israel for disobedience to any part of the Law.
And since we all have broken God’s covenant by violating the law in some way or another, we all deserve to receive the law’s curses and condemnation.
But thankfully Jesus Christ bore the law’s curse for us, in taking our place of punishment, and giving us peace with God instead.
Colossians 2:13–15 says “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
What did Jesus do with the curses that were supposed to fall on us for our disobedience to the Law? He nailed them to the cross when He hung there for us.
So who inherits the righteousness of faith that came from Abraham? Anyone who builds their life upon faith!
15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
So believers whose lives are marked by the indwelling Spirit, fulfill God’s promise that through Abraham all nations will be blessed. The Holy Spirit is the blessing promised to Abraham and to his descendants. That includes all of us. Paul says that the Law of Moses came into existence WAY after the promise of faith had been made, 430 years later. And the Law didn’t have the power to break God’s promise.
Well then, why was the law given? Paul explains that:
19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
The key here is that transgressions, sins, humanity’s inability to keep the law, is the source of our broken relationship with God.
Paul asks the question “Is the Law contrary to the promises of God?” No, they are actually intended to work together. The law would only be in competition with faith if it could deliver us from condemnation, but it can’t do that. The law is good and has value because it shows us what is pleasing to God, but it’s not able to give us the ability to keep the law. The Jews were given the law, but they also were condemned by it.
So what was the real purpose of the Law? That’s what Paul will now explain in a very simple way:
23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
If you look closely at our 10 Commandments monument out along the sidewalk in front of the church, you will see Galatians 3:24 engraved on the base.
“The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”
Was the law able to make us righteous? No, it was never intended to. Its purpose was to convince us that we could NEVER be righteous on our own. We need a savior. The law was our teacher, or tutor, to teach us how much we needed to be saved. We needed righteous. The Law proved to us that we couldn’t do it without Jesus. Then we receive forgiveness, salvation and HIS righteousness by faith. So where does that leave us? In a beautiful place!
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
We are sons and daughters of God through faith alone, whether man, woman, Jew, gentile – all baptized as 1!