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Wednesday, July 17 2019

Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai

INTRODUCTION: In last week’s study, we considered the conflict at Antioch and how Paul handled it. How he made nonsense of the logical conclusion of the circumcision party - that keeping the law was sufficient to justify a person – because this wasn’t true! Christ died for this reason! We also learnt that It is vital that we stand for the principles of our faith, even when others don't understand. And finally, that it is best to serve the Gospel without any cultural inclinations.

In today’s study, we see Paul directing his argument from the circumcision party to the Galatians as he demonstrates to the Galatians that salvation is by faith, not by the law.

1. PAUL’S PAIN AND OUTBURST (VERSE 1)

" Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has hypnotized you and cast an evil spell upon you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death as clearly as though I had waved a placard before you with a picture on it of Christ dying on the cross." Emphasis mine

"Foolish" is not a compliment. Paul used this word to describe the Galatians because they had abandoned what Paul had so clearly portrayed for them! If they were struggling with it initially Paul would not have been surprised; but they used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death clearly! It's almost as if someone had cast a spell on them, to result in such a change of understanding. Paul had made clear to them that Jesus' death and resurrection changed everything! Jesus fulfilled the law, which is now obsolete. Rather than the Galatians needing to be circumcised in order to be saved, they need only to put their faith in Christ's finished work on the cross. Faith, not law, is the order of the day.

2. RECEIVING THE SPIRIT (VERSES 2-5)

“2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by trying to keep the Jewish laws? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you heard about Christ and trusted him to save you. 3 Then have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians? 4 You have suffered so much for the Gospel. Now are you going to just throw it all overboard? I can hardly believe it!  I ask you again, does God give you the power of the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you as a result of your trying to obey the Jewish laws? No, of course not. It is when you believe in Christ and fully trust him.”

Paul's first argument of faith rather than law is drawn from the Galatians' common experience of the Holy Spirit. His argument is simple. They had received the Holy Spirit long before the Judaizers came trying to get them to observe the Mosaic Law. Therefore, the Holy Spirit came through faith rather than the law. His argument rests on two inescapable truths: that receiving the Spirit was both:

  1. Clear to the Galatians and
  2. Something that isn't found in Judaism.

The Galatians experienced the Holy Spirit in two ways:

  • They "received" the Spirit (verse 2) or were "given" the Spirit (verse 4) -- the two sides of the transmission of a gift: receiving and giving.
  • They experienced miracles among them that were attributed to the Holy Spirit (verse 4).

3. ABRAHAM'S JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH (VERSES 6-9) 

“Abraham had the same experience—God declared him fit for heaven only because he believed God’s promises. 7 You can see from this that the real children of Abraham are all the men of faith who truly trust in God.  8-9 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would save the Gentiles also, through their faith. God told Abraham about this long ago when he said, “I will bless those in every nation who trust in me as you do.” And so it is: all who trust in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received.” Emphasis mine

Paul's second argument for faith over law comes from Abraham, the Father of Faith. His argument is as follows:

  • Abraham was justified by faith, according to Genesis 15:6: "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." Abraham believed what God had told him and this faith was imputed or counted to him as righteousness.
  • The Gentiles are Abraham's spiritual children, since God promised Abraham that, "All nations will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18).
  • Originally salvation came by faith, without law being in the picture at all. Furthermore, Gentiles especially should expect their salvation to come through faith, since they are Abraham's spiritual children.

4. THE LAW BRINGS A CURSE (VERSES 10-14) 

“ Yes, and those who depend on the Jewish laws to save them are under God’s curse, for the Scriptures point out very clearly, “Cursed is everyone who at any time breaks a single one of these laws that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 Consequently, it is clear that no one can ever win God’s favour by trying to keep the Jewish laws because God has said that the only way we can be right in his sight is by faith. As the prophet Habakkuk says it, “The man who finds life will find it through trusting God.” 12 How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says that a man is saved by obeying every law of God, without one slip. 13 But Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden cross). 14 Now God can bless the Gentiles, too, with this same blessing he promised to Abraham; and all of us as Christians can have the promised Holy Spirit through this faith.” Emphasis mine

Paul's third argument for salvation by faith rather than law is based on a concept of curses found in Deuteronomy 21:23. In this passage, Paul cites four verses and then argues from them, as might a rabbi, that Christ has freed us from the curse of the law on the basis of our faith. Here are the passages:

Deuteronomy 27:26

"'Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out. ‘Then all the people shall say, 'Amen!'"

Habakkuk 2:4

"See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright -- but the righteous will live by his faith."

Leviticus 18:5

"Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD."

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

"If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance."

Other versions of verse 13 use the word “Redeem” instead of the word “Bought”. Here, Paul uses the word "Redeem" as a commercial technical term hence TLB translates it as “Bought”. In the Old Testament, the word "redeem" came from the concept of a kinsman-redeemer, whose responsibility it was as kinsman to redeem his kin from difficulty or danger, to keep their property in the family in case of poverty, to redeem them from slavery if they lost their liberty due to debt.

CONCLUSION

When we talk about Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, we get just a glimpse of what it cost the Holy One to bear upon himself our sin, "to be sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The cost both to the Father and to the Son can be seen in that lonesome lament from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46 and Psalm 22:1). And hence, the reason why Paul needed to be as firm as he was with the Galatians.

We need to be careful with who we give audience and who we allow speak whatever kind of words over our lives! The Galatians initially used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death clearly! But their understanding had been darkened; and Paul needed once again to enlighten the eyes of their understanding. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!”

Parts of this study was culled from: http://www.jesuswalk.com/galatians/4_faith.htm

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 04:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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