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Declared Righteous By Faith

Galatians: Getting the Gospel Right  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The other day, I finally found a few hours to start setting up my office at home.
I hauled a bookshelf in there, rooted around in the basement, and found my boxes of books somewhere in the pile of stuff still to be unpacked.
And I started shoving handfuls of books onto the shelf in no particular order.
Afterward, I thought, “I really should put them into some kind of order so I can find things easier”
But then I thought, “Nah, I’ll get to it another day.”
The next day, I was studying for this sermon, and I sat back deep in thought about Galatians 3.
As I did so, my eye spied a book that a friend recommended to me a number of years ago.
It’s called “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” by John Ortberg.
And right above it was another book that was given to me this past summer.
It’s called “Chasing Wisdom: the lifelong pursuit of living well” by Daniel Grothe
Both of these books, as the titles suggest, are about living well as a Believer. About putting practices into your life that will help you as a Believer.
And they are good books.
The first one is anyway (I haven’t read the second book all the way through)
But in “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” John Ortberg talks about the Gospel transforming every area of our life.
He talks about “the spiritual disciplines”; the thought being simply, “How is the Holy Spirit transforming every area of your life from the time you wake, until the time you go to sleep?
He talks about:
The practice of celebration: recognizing and celebrating what God is doing in your life
The practice of slowing down: living a life that is unhurried (really, a practice of faith and trust)
The practice of prayer
The practice of confession
And many others. I would recommend this book to anyone
Because the principles that he sets out in this book are all good and Scriptural, and are part of growing as a Believer
But as I looked at these two books again, I became very aware of a conflict rising up in me. One that I have felt before.
Here is the battle, as best as I can describe it:
There are a lot of things that are good for a Believer to do.
Prayer, confession, rest, trust, giving, worship are all things that a Believer should do
Because these things show the Holy Spirit living and working in a Believer’s life
And that a Believer is pursuing God
But the conflict that I feel is how quickly these disciplines turn from
“God, I’m doing this because I love you and I want you more than anything.”
To
“God, I’m doing this because I want to be right with you. And If I don’t do this, I’m afraid that you aren’t going to be happy with me”.
Do you see the difference?
The first approach says, “I know that you love me and you have declared me to be right with you on the basis of my faith in Jesus Christ”
The second approach says, “I’m glad for what Jesus did, but I’m afraid it isn’t quite enough. I have to put my effort in as well
The first approach is a response of faith
The second approach is a response of law
The first approach says “The sacrifice of Jesus was completely sufficient”
The second approach says “The sacrifice of Jesus was not quite sufficient”
I think this is is somewhat the battle that the Galatians were facing.
That why Paul starts out chapter 3 as he does: Oh foolish Galatians!
Why would you even dare to suggest this? You might not be saying it in words, but by your actions, you are declaring that the sacrifice of Jesus is not quite sufficient
What a foolish thing! It’s like you are under an evil spell to even suggest such a thing!
And Paul is very concerned a
Galatians 3. I’m going to be reading this from the NLT because Paul gets pretty involved with his arguments and I really want us to understand this.
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.
The ESV says, “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.”
Had the Galatians been present at the crucifixion?
No. But what Paul is saying is, “When we preached the Gospel to you, this is the clear picture that we painted for you.”
It’s almost like you are driving down the interstate and there is a massive billboard with Jesus on the cross. You can’t miss it.
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. (This is Paul’s “thesis” statement. In other words, this is the statement that he will be defending for the rest of this chapter)
How foolish can you be? After starting your new 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? (He’s asking them to consider why they had been persecuted. Was it all in vain?)
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. (There it is again. You received the Holy Spirit because you believed)
In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.
This statement strikes a massive blow at the Judaizers who said that in order to be a son of Abraham, you had to follow the law. Be circumcised. Follow the ceremonial law.
Paul says, “No. Judaizers, look at your own history and your own writings. Abraham believed God and God counted him as righteous. That hasn’t changed. The real children of Abraham are those who have faith in God.”
What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight 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.
So even the Gentiles are sons of Abraham because they believed.
And to drive his point home, Paul points to the Abrahamic covenant where God told Abraham, “ALL nations will be blessed through you.”
10 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.” (Deut. 27:26)
Has anyone ever observed and obeyed ALL the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law?
No? I certainly haven’t! So we are all under a curse. Deserving of the judgment of God
11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
OR, as we have heard this verse, “The Just shall live by faith.”
When I’ve heard this verse, I’ve thought, “I have to have faith every day. That’s how I live.”
But Paul is making the difference between being under a curse and being free from the curse. To be free from the curse is to live. Like a prisoner released from death row.
And the way that this happens is through faith alone
“The just shall live by faith” means that through faith, I am released from the curse, declared righteous, and given new life!
And Paul explains this:
12 This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”
13 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.”
Did you hear that? Jesus took the curse that we were under because we couldn’t obey the law.
In fact, God made Jesus to be sin for us
2 Corinthians 5:21 “21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53. Surely, He has borne OUR griefs and carried OUR sorrows. The Lord has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all.
[g] 14 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.

The Law and God’s Promise

15 Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement (an agreement that cannot be broken), so it is in this case. 16 God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children,” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”—and that, of course, means Christ. 17 This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise.
Can God break His promise? NO!
18 For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise.
What would it be a result of? If God’s promises and blessing could be received by people keeping the law, what does that imply?
That people essentially control what God does. If God cannot break His promise, then the things that He promised will come to pass in spite of what people do, whether they are able to keep the law or not.
But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise.
So now Paul asks the obvious question.
If righteousness is through faith, and God promise to Abraham would be fulfilled in spite of what people did, why did we need the law?
19 Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. 20 Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham.
So Paul is saying, “Look the children of Israel needed a mediator. Moses was a mediator between them and God.”
But did God need a mediator. He said, “This is my promise, and I will do it, not matter what you do.”
21 Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. 22 But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.
There is no conflict here. Paul is about to explain a bit more

God’s Children through Faith

23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul has now stopped talking about the past and he is talking directly to the Gentile Galatians. “YOU are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus”
27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.[n] 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[o] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children[p] of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
Paul is saying here that being declared righteous by faith bring 3 major changes to us
We are all sons of God vs. 27-28
In verses 24-25, we see two pictures of what the law did
vs. 24. it kept us in custody. basically saying that it kept us a prisoner
It was like the jail keeper sitting outside the the jail cell with a big ring of keys on his belt
In vs. 25, Paul says that it was like our guardian
We don’t have a good understanding of this in our time
But in Greek culture during this time, children, especially little boys, were often put into the custody of a chief slave. if the family could afford it.
He was called a paidagogos
his job was to watch over the boy, walk with him to and from school, to tutor him. Be sort of their teacher, and basically raise them.
And this slave was often a very strict disciplinarian because his master was depending on him to make something out of his sons
That is what the law was like
always there,
Always watching over us and guarding us
Reminding us of when we did wrong
But also in Greek and Roman culture, when a youth would come of age, he was given a special toga which admitted him to the full rights of the family and would state that he was now a grown-up son.
He was no longer under the guardianship of the slave
This is the understanding that Paul is drawing upon here.
In Verse 27 he says that those who have been united with Christ in baptism have put him on like putting on new clothes, like putting on a new toga, signifiying full acceptance and rights as children of God
Believers are all one in Jesus Christ
We talked about this last Sunday so we won’t spend a lot more time on it, although we could
But there is no superiority in the body of Christ.
We like to give people titles: Doctor, Reverend, whatever.
Just remember that in the Body of Christ, there is no superiority, no hierarchy,
This is one of the aspects of the prophecy of the Messiah lowering the mountains, raising the valleys, and making the rough places smooth
Jews do not rank higher than Greeks
Men don’t rank higher than women
Free men don’t rank higher than slaves.
some Jewish men would pray, “I thank God that thou hast not made me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman”.
Paul says, “Nope, you can’t have that attitude anymore”
There is no looking down on each other in the body of Christ.
Stop looking with suspicion across the aisle at your brother or sister
Stop looking with suspicion at other churches. Believers are one in Jesus Christ
Believers in Christ are all Abraham’s seed, descendants of Abraham, by faith
And therefore, all inherit the promise given to Abraham.
We all inherit the blessings promised to him
We join in the ranks of His Chosen People
We take hold of God’s eternal covenant love
We join in His mission to bless the world through the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ
I don’t know about you, but this is great news!
I know this chapter gets a bit technical and complicated, but for Paul’s Galatian readers, by this time, the light has to be dawning in their minds
You can almost hear the wheels of their minds turning.
Oh, you mean that I don’t have to learn the law cover to cover?
No? Wow
Oh, so you are saying that if I simply believe that the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient, that is enough?
Yeah? Wow!
So, wait a minute. Are you saying that the Jews really don’t rank higher than me? That we are all one in Christ? We can worship together, eat together, work together, live together? That I can keep being a Gentile and a believer?
That’s really what you are saying? man, that is GREAT news!
I pray that you are gaining a new appreciation for the message found in Galatians.
Our life in Christ, our freedom in Christ, is based on faith: Faith that what Jesus did for us is enough.
We don’t have to add to it.
We don’t have to perform.
And to even consider doing this is foolishness
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