Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Place of Ultimate Trust

In last week's lesson we were introduced to a study of doctrinal belief. Gal 2:15-21 Paul had taught the Galatians they must die to the law and have faith in Christ in order to live through eternity. False teachers had entered Galatia with the express purpose of undermining Paul's teaching and his authority to teach. The Judaizers taught the new converts they could not be saved unless they accepted the law, specifically circumcision, in addition to justification in Christ. Further, they questioned Paul's authority to teach as he was better known to persecute Christians. Paul wrote the epistle to the Galatians to defend the doctrine of justification in Christ versus the law. He also defended his authority to preach the doctrine as having been given from the risen Savior. Gal 1-2 Paul yet continued his battle against the false doctrine in chapter 3. Our focus in this lesson is Gal 3:1-14.

'O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?' Gal 3:1 Paul lets the Galatians know that he was displeased. They had allowed themselves to come under a "magical" spell to accept a different doctrine rather than obeying Christ. 'Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.' Prov 9:8 They were Christians who had been taught the truth by Paul. The Galatians knew Jesus Christ had been crucified on the cross to set all humankind free from the curse of sin and the law. Salvation was available through Him if they believed. They had wisdom, but they were acting foolish and needed to be rebuked for allowing false teaching to overrule their doctrinal teaching. They knew they could not be justified through the works of the law. They could only be justified by faith in Christ. It was not enough to be taught the doctrine, but they had to believe it, and obey it without another doctrine's interference.

'This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?' Gal 3:2 Paul inquires of the Galatians how they had received the Holy Spirit. Had they received the Holy Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing faith messages? Surely their response had to be "by hearing faith messages". The false teachers had not arrived to preach to the uncircumcised before Paul began to preach to them (Gentiles).

'Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.' Gal 3:3-4 Paul then brings them from the beginning of their journey in the Holy Spirit. At that time they endeavored to follow the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ. They suffered persecutions and ridicule for their new belief in Christ. However, along the way, they allowed the false teachers to corrupt their doctrine. They by no way can be made perfect by using a doctrine founded on the works of the law. The latter doctrine is a doctrine of the flesh and will not save. To obtain a higher degree of perfection it must be in Christ and not in the law. 'Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.' Matt 7:22-23

'He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?' Gal 3:5 Paul then asked his followers whether God gave His Spirit and worked miracles by way of the works of the law or by the hearing of faith. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is always by the hearing of faith. The preaching of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit of the Lord had brought them into a relationship of spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ. They had believed by the hearing of faith.

Paul then used the argument of his opponents against them. All Jews looked to Abraham as their father in faith and as their example. 'By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.' Heb 11:8-10 However, the false teachers seemed to have forgotten that Abraham was not under the Mosaic law which was given over four hundred years later. They forgot he was an example of faithfulness to God. '...Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' Gal 3:6b Like Abraham, the Galatians should also believe. There was no need for the Galatians nor any Gentiles to bear the cultural marks of the Jewish Christian as they were under the Gospel of Christ and need only to believe in Him.

'Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.' Gal 3:7-9 Abraham's justification by faith was the fulfillment of the promise made to him by God for the world's sake in Gen 12:2-3. 'And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.' The great nation of Abraham shall all be blessed families of the earth, both Jew and Gentile, justified by faith through his seed Christ Jesus.

'For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.' Gal 3:10 A person who lives under the doctrine of the law must always follow the Ten Commandments as well as over six hundred laws found in the five (5) books of Moses. The laws are voluminous in number and simply point out sin. They do not save. However, the people were found to be considered cursed if they did not continue to follow the total law versus a part of the law. 'Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.' Deut 27:26

'But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.' Gal 3:11-12 The law will requires strict, complete, and perfect obedience. There is no equity to the law. The person who adheres to the doctrine of the works of the law must comply. There is grace given by God. Paul quoted Habakkuk in his statement that the just shall by faith. See Hab 2:4, Rom 1:17, and Heb 10:38. When a person believes in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, he is justified by faith. His sins are forgiven, whether he is Jew or Gentile.

'Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:' Gal 3:13 Criminals were condemned to hang on the tree as they were a curse before God. 'And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, ...(for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)...' Deut 21:22-23a Jesus did not come to change the law, but to fulfill the law. 'For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.' Matt 5:18 Christ took on the sins of the world by becoming our substitute on the cross. The curse of the tree, wrath of God, fell on Christ to redeem men from the law.

'That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.' Gal 3:14 The death of Jesus opened the fulfillment of the promise that God made to Abraham. Christ was a descendant of Abram. God promised to bless all nations through one seed of Abram (Gen 22:18). The seed God was referring to was Jesus Christ to whom blessings are received through justification by faith.

The true Gospel had clearly been preached to the Galatians, so their defection is incomprehensible. The same is true today. Paul did not defeat the teachers of legalism. There are those who believe that confirmation, baptism, church membership, speaking in tongues, etc are necessary for salvation. There are elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Some legalism messages have been preached for so long that most people believe that it is actually part of the Christian doctrine. They are not! You can only be saved by faith in Jesus Christ.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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