The book of Galatians is known as the Magna Carta of Christian liberty, Paul wrote this letter to declare total Christian liberty from the Mosaic Law; Paul emphasizes that freedom from sin is accompanied by both freedom from the law and the doctrines of man.
You know how it is when sometimes you get a letter and you open it up and you just know that something is different, the tone is different. It's not going to be a nice letter necessarily. And that's sort of how the book of Galatians is; it's interesting, before the study I was reading a couple of letters, one was a very sweet thankful letter, the other one was an anonymous letter from someone, somewhere in the United States talking about how it's our duty to tell people who to vote for, wouldn't be who you thought it would be perhaps, and how you know just this conspiratorial stuff, but the tone of the letter, it wasn't inspired by God that would be the difference between that letter and the book of Galatians. But you could just tell this is going to be a different letter, the tone is way different.
The book of Galatians has a different tone that is apparent right off the bat. Most of Paul's letters, he begins with word of praise for the congregations he writes to, or even a prayer that he makes to God for those people. Paul doesn't do that. Rather than with embracing arms and hands and heart outstretched, in Galatians he's got boxing gloves on.
Paul is out to get some folks and it's not the church, it's false teachers that have come into the church. So, the book of Galatians is a polemic, it's a strong attacking writing against those who are perverting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a group of people who were legalistic and they go by the term today, Judaisers. They were Jewish believers, who said you have to do legalistic things, keep the Law of Moses, the principle of circumcision, in order to be right with God at all.
So, imagine this kind of a scenario. Paul starts a church, he goes somewhere else, a group of people come in and say well "Hi! Has Paul the Apostle been here by any chance," and they said "Well, yes he has. He gave to us the glorious message of the Gospel and we have committed our lives to Jesus Christ and now we are our little body of Christ." And they would respond, the Judaisers would say "Well, that's fine as far it goes, but you know Paul didn't tell you the whole story. What Paul should have told you is that now that you're saved, you have to keep all of the Laws of Moses and ritual righteousness in order to be right with God."
So, Paul hears about that, it wasn't the first time, it happened to be a recurring problem throughout the early church, and Paul writes against that group. Now here's the thing about this group of Judaisers. They didn't go out and win people to Christ themselves; they didn't go out and start their own churches, what they did is, they found established churches already and like parasites gravitated toward them. They didn't have enough guts to do all the hard work themselves.
Now, they wanted to find Christians who were already there, already growing, then they would come in and infiltrate the church and bring a different Gospel message. Now, the Jews as a nation, 2000 years ago, many of them had the belief system that gentiles in general couldn't be saved. That the only way for non Jewish person to even be considered to be right with God is they had to proselytize; they had to convert to Judaism. And So, there was an old saying going around among some of the Jewish leaders, a couple of thousand years ago that said, "God created the gentiles to kindle the fires of hell."
One ancient rabbi even said, "There is joy in heaven when one sinner is obliterated from off the earth." How different from Jesus who said "There is joy in heaven when one sinner repents." So, those were some of the hardcore Jewish leaders. Now, the Judaisers were indeed believers in Christ. They believed Jesus was the Messiah, but they also believed you had to keep the Laws of Moses and some of the rituals.
A little something about Galatia itself; Galatia is a province in what is today modern day Turkey, Central Asia Minor if you looked it on a map, modern day Turkey, right in the middle, 2000 years ago was the Roman province of Galatia, and it was one of the first places Paul went to, to preach the Gospel. Do you remember his first missionary journey, he left Antioch in Syria, went down to Cyprus and then he sailed up to the coast of Asia Minor and he went Antioch-of-Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, and then back through. That's the area of Galatia.
So, on his first journey, second journey, and third journey, he traveled through these churches in the region of Galatia. Probably on his third missionary journey somewhere around A.D. 57 is when Paul wrote this letter. The book of Galatians stands right up there with the book of Romans, as one of the most important documents Paul the Apostle ever wrote. Now I'm not trying to say that this part of the Bible is more important than that part of the Bible, but as far as something monumental that would change the course of church history, this would be it.
On a human level Christianity could have been confined to merely a subset of Judaism were it not for this document of Galatians. Now I talked about, a few weeks ago, how the book of Romans influenced the Great Reformation and Martin Luther. I happen to have with me a prized possession; it's a commentary by Martin Luther on the book of Galatians. He said this was his favorite book, the book of Galatians and this is an old edition, this is 1749 edition of Martin Luther's commentary to the Galatians. And what he says and it is very interesting, he says, the book of Galatians is my letter, I am betrothed to it, it is my wife.
That's the kind of influence this book had on this monk, who was trying to be saved by his own good works. The book of Galatians powerfully spoke to him about justification through faith. In fact it is more powerfully written in the six chapters of Galatians than anywhere else in the New Testament. Justification through faith in God and therefore God confers his grace to us. That's the emphasis of this book. It's very passionate. It's very emotionally charged and there's two keywords, there are several keywords, but two main keywords in this book that will draw into perspective the focus.
First is the word law and the word law meaning the Law of Moses as mentioned 32 times. Second word, the word faith, is mentioned 21 times and you have this clash between those who believed keeping the law makes you right with God, versus Paul who said it's faith that makes you right with God. You're not justified by doing; you're justified by believing in the one who did it for you, that's justification by faith.
So the theme, you could say the theme is justification by faith, you could say the theme is faith, I would say the theme of this book as he mentions it also a lot is grace, grace. And if you don't know what grace means, it simply means God's favor to those who don't deserve it, unmerited favor. In fact you could take the word grace and use it as an acronym where every letter of that word stands for a new word and would beautifully illustrate it. Grace, G-R-A-C-E, God's Riches At Christ's Expense, is a good definition of this word. That is the theme of this book.
Now, outlining the book is easy. How many chapters are there? Six. You could divide it up into three sections each; in fact it does itself, two chapters, two chapters and two chapters. The first section chapter 1 and 2 is personal. It's autobiographical. It's Paul's relationship to the Gospel, Paul's experience with Christ. Those are the personal chapters. Chapter 3 and 4, the doctrinal chapters, where he gives several explanations and allegories of how you are saved not by works but by faith.
Third is the practical, or the applicational, showing that if you believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation that that will translate into a beautiful holy loving lifestyle, very different than by works. So let's look at the first part and go to chapter 1. We'll get right into it after a few words of introduction, a typical opening, Paul, right into the Galatians, grace and peace, you know the typical 2000 year old letter approach. He gets right into the personal section.
Verse 6 "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel." It really does astonish me; here you have a group of people, who was able to hear the greatest teacher in all of church history next to Jesus Christ himself. And they would sit under his teaching and then they would turn from his teaching toward these people who were alienating Paul from them with this new teaching and they did it so quickly.
Verse 7 "Which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ." See the word pervert, very strong Greek word, metastrepho, means to reverse, or to turn it around, to go back. You're taking the Gospel and you are reversing it, you're going back to the law, instead of forward into the liberty of grace.
Now, do you remember in Acts chapter 15, which he makes reference to I believe in this book, some don't necessarily, but I believe it's a strong reference to this counsel. Paul was in Antioch, had finished his first missionary journey, goes up to Jerusalem because there was a group of people already in Antioch after the first missionary journey to Galatia, who were saying, unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. And Paul and Barnabas and Peter and others refuted that doctrine.
Now, when Jesus Christ died on the cross, when he died, something very significant happened. It was a sign; it was significant to a great work that was going on. The sign was that something happened to the veil inside the Jewish temple. What happen to it? It was torn from top to bottom, not bottom to top, God tore it. The very veil that symbolically kept people out of God's presence was torn to signify you can freely enter into God's presence. Come as you are, the price is been paid, the atonement is an eternal atonement, come.
History tells us that the Jewish nation quickly worked on stitching that veil back up, very typical of people. God wants to remove the barrier; people come quickly in and put up another barrier to make it harder again. Even some who come by grace through faith want to erect barriers. And I would say, even as you heard in this testimony there are still people who want to pervert the Gospel of Christ, put up a barrier, go backwards.
Unless you belong to our group, you are really not a real Christian. Unless you keep our rules and I could tell you story after story after story but then I would have to mention church denomination after church denomination and I just don't want to go there because some of you get perhaps a little freaked out. But it's still happening today.
Verse 8 "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one preaches any other gospel to you then what you have received, let him be accursed. Now Paul is on the warpath. He is unmistakably clear and he is very angry.
It's sort of like a doctor, a doctor if he knows that you have a certain kind of condition, perhaps an aggressive cancer, but he knows you can be saved if he acts quickly or if she acts quickly in removing it even though it's going to cause you some pain in the short run, in the long run they will save your life. Paul like a good doctor says "We got to cut some of this stuff out, it's killing you."
Paul is a good shepherd. Remember how David said concerning, the Lord is my Shepherd, he said "Your Rod and Your Staff, they comfort me." You know a staff gently guided the sheep, you know what a rod was for? To beat up wolves; I will tell you what, it's a comfort if you are a sheep and your shepherd is carrying a club to beat up your enemy. That would be a comfort. Paul was that kind of a shepherd. He wanted to take these wolves that were perverting the Gospel and get them out.
So, he uses a very strong term, look at the word accursed, accursed, it's the Greek word anathema. It means dedicated to destruction or damnation. If I were to literally translate this for our benefit, in our vernacular, Paul was saying "Let him be damned." Very strong isn't it? And he says it twice so it's unmistakable.
Now he says "Though we or an angel form heaven would preach another gospel." Now a real angel from heaven would never do this. It's simply a case in point. He's simply speaking hypothetically. But many of the Jews believed, the law came through angels as mediators thus it was a especially binding.
So, even though a real angel from heaven would never bring another Gospel. That's very clear, look if any person, let alone even an angel comes and brings a different message, let him be damned, accursed. Let's say during this study, there was an apparition, an angel appeared right here on the stage and we're all freaked out. Now sadly if that angel or that apparition brought a message contrary to the Bible, sadly many people here would latch onto it. Why? Because their senses were engage, they heard, they saw. What would the angel say? That's really the important part. Let's compare the message that the angel brings with what the Bible says, and I wish people would do that.
So, there's an apparition at Fatima or an apparition at Medjugorje or Jesus face appears in a tortilla, or Jesus embodiment is on a toast now sold on eBay. What is the message that goes along with that? And just because it looks good, what does it sound like? An angel from heaven? That's what Joseph Smith said appeared to him, giving him the translation of the golden plates in 1823. Hence the Angel Moroni gave to Joseph Smith the real revelation saying that all of Christianity was perverted, all of the Gospel was wrong up to that point no church could be trusted, but here's the real revelation to Joseph Smith, hence the Mormon Church. That we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than the one you have received, let him be accursed.
Now Paul recounts his own salvation and we'll just look at a couple of verses. In other words Paul's saying "Look, let's talk about legalism here, I was Joe-legal I was, I was a Pharisee, was Mr. Judaism.
Verse 14 "And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries of my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace to reveal his son in me," and then from this point on he recalls his relationship with the church in Jerusalem and how they came to realize that God had placed a calling on his life and that he was saved.
Chapter 2 verse 2 "And I went up by revelation and communicated to them," [those are the counsel in Jerusalem], "the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run or have run in vain."
So, what he shows in the next few verses is how the church of Jerusalem got comfortable with him and recognized that he was an apostle to bring the Gospel, the message of Christ to gentile nations and they endorsed him. So that's the personal part of this letter. Chapter 3 and 4 is the doctrinal section, and he brings several arguments to demonstrate that a person is saved by believing not by doing good works and earning it. It's justification by faith.
Chapter 3 verse 1 "Oh foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?" I'm going to read to you in the J. B. Phillips translation, it's going to shock you. "O you dear idiots of Galatia," pretty strong isn't it? J.B. Phillips says -- he believes that's the most accurate way to render it. I'm glad he used the adjective dear before idiots. In other words you are spiritually dull, what has gotten into you guys? Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Who cast a spell on you to turn you away from me, the one who founded this fellowship and gave you the grace and gave you the truth and now you have turned to another gospel? That's a good question, isn't it?
Why would anyone want to turn away to liberty in Christ and turn to bondage in anything? Why when Christ that set you free would you say now that I am free I would like to be a slave of some other teaching or some other system, instead of the freedom of a relationship with Christ? Obviously whoever these Judaistic preachers were, they were powerful, they must have wowed them, awed them, persuaded them.
It still happens. People who aren't biblically astute will find a new book on the Christian bookshelf. Then after they read it and they're wowed and awed, I never saw that before, I never knew that before, I never read that before, that's because it really was never there in the Bible before, until this guy came along and said it was there.
But now their eyes are opened and now they begin judging every other Christian not by their relationship to Christ but by their relationship to the book they just read, and their heart gets turned away. I've seen it time and time again year after year.
Verse 3 "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect the flesh?" Again listen to J. B. Phillips translation "Surely you can't be so stupid, you began your spiritual life in the Spirit, will you now complete it by human performance." Think about it. If you couldn't get saved by works, why would you go back to the law for spiritual maturity? It's absolutely baffling to Paul the Apostle.
Now, I have tendencies, I have seen the tendency, I just mentioned about the book illustration and I think I have mentioned this one before as well, if somebody gets saved, they're so excited about Jesus, they just love the Bible, they love fellowship, they cannot wait to worship and after a while you're around them, they're just a little colder, a little more aloof, a little more standoffish and then you dig in a little bit more and you find out, well they've been reading some stuff.
I see people who get involved in and believe me I love this, I love Messianic Judaism, if you know me and my stance towards Israel and my involvement in many of these groups, I stand with them as brothers and sisters in Christ, but I find sometimes these gentile believers who start reading some of this material and find out how the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament, so now they feel like I've got to go back and live like the Old Testament. I'm going to wear a prayer shawl and a kippah and blow the shofar and keep Shabbat and keep all the festivals.
It's cool if you just want to do it. But it becomes a law to some of them and they start turning against just those who are Christians and love Jesus. Well you're not really a real Christian till you know what I know and do what I do. It's pathetic. Or they read some of the works of astute hardcore Calvinist and they're not free anymore in Christ. They're always tight about things and they feel like their job isn't to preach the Gospel of Christ but to preach the new Calvinistic doctrine to you.
I see this also with sacerdotalism or people believing you have to perform certain rites and rituals and ceremonies in order to be saved, it's just a sad state of affairs that people, Christians can get into.
Verse 5, chapter 3 "Therefore he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Just as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham."
Now if you know anything about Judaism you know that the Jews were proud of grandpa, Abraham. They were children of Abraham, they were so proud of that distinction. But to default that, they thought that guaranteed salvation, we're sons of Abraham, we're daughters of Abraham. Remember John the Baptist, remember him at the Jordan River and as he's telling them to repent of their sins, then he figures out that they're probably thinking something and so he says don't think within yourself, we're children of Abraham, because God can raise up from these rocks, children of Abraham. Remember that? It's because of this strong belief that if we're Jewish, we're automatically saved. So Paul takes us back here to Genesis chapter 15.
Let me just recount the story, it will ring a bell. Genesis 15 is after the battle with five kings, Chedorlaomer and a coalition of five kings that upset the region, Lot, his nephew, was taking captive. After God gave Abraham victory, one night Abraham goes out and God speaks to him and says Abraham or it was Abram at the time "Abram," God says, "I am your shield and you're exceeding great reward." Isn't that a beautiful thing for God to say, it wasn't not good enough for Abram. Abram says "Well, what are you going to give me? Seeing that I am childless and the only heir in my house is this guy name Eliezer from Damascus." God says "Don't worry he's not going to be your heir. Come here, look at the stars of the sky Abram, as the stars of the sky are, so shall your descendants be," and it says Abram believed God and God accounted it to him for righteousness.
God made a promise, Abram believed it. And by the way in Hebrew it's the word Amen in Hebrew, Amen where you get the word Amen. God gave him a promise and Abram said "Amen," like that's good enough, I believe that. And notice when Abram said Amen, a simple statement of I believe what you just said, Abram was made right with God. That's justification not by works, the law wouldn't be given for hundreds of years, Moses wasn't even born, but by faith. Not by deeds but by faith.
And it was accounted to him, now don't miss that word. Paul loves that word. He used it in Romans, he used it here. It's an accounting term, it's a book keeping term, it means to put something to ones account or to ones side of the ledger.
So, you believe in me I will write on the side of the ledger on your accounting books, saved righteous, pure by faith not by any works. So how was Abram saved? By baptism, by meritorious works, by going to a professional who would take him through some ritual and some rite? No, just by faith. And, and this is what you should understand too, from a Jewish perspective when Abram was justified by God, he was still a Gentile, he wasn't a Jewish. He came from Ur of the Chaldees.
Abram was 99 years old when he was circumcised, but he was 85 years old when he believed God; 14 years before there was any legal ritual, 14 years before that he believed God, and 14 years earlier he was accounted as righteous. That's a very strong point that he's making. There was no law, there was no Judiastic line yet, he was a gentile who believed and God saved him by faith.
Now I want you to hear this. There are only two religions in the world, only two. "No, Skip, I take a class on religion, there are a lot of them." Well just hear me out, there's really only two categories; the religion of human achievement and the one of divine accomplishment. There are only two. You take all of the religions of the world except the belief system called Christianity and you can lump them all into this religion of human achievement. It's a salvation by works. I'll earn it I'll do this and then I'll get that. One is by works; Christianity is not by works but the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and our belief in him.
Sad thing is most people will bank their eternity on the first category. I'm good enough, I've done this enough. I believe if I do that then I'll get saved. You know what I've discovered? I've discovered that the real problem isn't that people aren't good enough, that's usually what, what when I talk to people, oh! I'm really trying to be good, I'm really trying this Christianity thing, I'm really -- the problem isn't that people aren't good enough; the real problem that prevents salvation is people don't realize how bad they are. You tell the average good person, you are a sinner; that's fight words. But unless you realize you are a sinner you'll never want a savior. Verse 10, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse of the Law." Now, notice what he says about the law, it's not a blessing, it's a curse.
For it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written the book of the law, to do them", according Deuteronomy 27 verse 11, "But then no one is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for", Now he quotes Habakkuk chapter 2, "The just shall live by faith."
So, he quotes Deuteronomy 27 and he says look, the law isn't a blessing, the law is a curse unless you're perfect. If you're perfect and you never break one iota of the law, it's a blessing. But, if you live in the real world like the rest of all of us, the law isn't a blessing, it's a curse and according to Habakkuk chapter 2, that's where he quotes in verse 11, "God has always justified or declared righteous, a person who lives by faith."
So, now look at verse 12, "Yet the law is not a faith, but" and he's quoting now, Leviticus 18, "The man who does them, shall live by them." You see, the law doesn't ask people to believe. Do you get that? The law doesn't ask people to believe and the law doesn't ask people to try to keep it. The law demands a strict complete and perfect obedience, do this and live. Faith says, believe this and live. Remember again, the disciples came to Jesus, "Jesus what must we do to work the works of God?" Jesus said, "This is the work of God that you believe on him whom he had sent." So what is the solution? The solution is Jesus took the curse.
Look at chapter 3 verse 13, "Christ has 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') the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
A very fascinating point that Paul makes, I really don't want you to miss it. What was capital punishment in Judaism? If you did something wrong, what did they do to you? They stoned you to death. Okay, Jesus suffered capital punishment, but it was not by stoning, but by crucifixion, the Jews never crucified, never crucified. It was a Persian invention; later on the Romans adapted it. Because of the belief system, according to scripture, anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed.
So, the point Paul is making is, look Jesus died but he died on the very implement that the Jewish law says one is a curse. So, we're cursed by the law and the only solution is that Jesus Christ died on the place of cursing that is a cross that is a tree. The curse of God fell upon Jesus Christ, he is our substitute, all of our sins were placed on him and that's the solution.
Verse 19, "What purpose then does the law serve?" Good question, if you just eradicated the whole thing then the next question is, okay, so what's the whole purpose of it? "It was added" he says, "because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator." Now he's showing that it had a purpose. Okay so, Abraham was justified by the faith, today people are justified by faith and Christ, so what was the purpose of the law?
It was added because of transgression. Now, Judaism was the only religion God ever gave to man and it served a distinct purpose. It was added because of transgressions. Now, I'm going to read that verse to you in two different English modern translations to help you get the sense of it. The New Century translation renders it this way, "So what was the law for? It was given to show that the wrong things people do are against God's will." Again the J. B. Phillips translation, don't worry you won't say you are lame, you are stupid. "What was the purpose of the law? To underline the existence and the extent of sin." Now, here's the point, the law wasn't given to remove sin, it was given to reveal sin. It can't help take it away, it can only show you, you've got it. But it's never going to full remove it.
So, the law was given from the time of Moses to the time of Christ to reveal sin until it says, "the seed should come". Go down to verse 24, "Therefore the law was our tutor, to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."
And some old translations don't say tutor, they say our school master. Whatever they say, I think, the King James says, "our school master" and here the New King James says, "your tutor". The Greek word is paidagogos, paidagogos, it was a person in a Roman household who took charge of a child from about age 7 to age 18. It fell under his duties. He would get clothes for the kid in the morning, he would wash his face, if needed his nose blown, he would hand him a Kleenex, he walk him to school. The time came when he went into a secondary education and he was given over to someone else. I'll be the tutor; I'll guide you until I take you somewhere else for a fuller education.
So, the law revealed sin, pointed to the cross and when the seed, Jesus Christ, has come, the law went up to child and said, I can't help you any longer, but I can point you to where you need to go, you need to go Jesus Christ now; that's the place where you rest for your salvation. Chapter 4 verse 4, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law" [now don't stop there because you're about the read the rest of the Christmas story, the real nativity story] "to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth His Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying out, 'Abba Father!"
What kind of a father would give his only begotten son to die? What kind of a father is that? It's a kind of a father that loves other people and wants to redeem them and knows the only way to do that is to send the one who is the sinless seed to redeem people from the curse of the law and make them adopted children and give them full Sonship.
Or think of it this way, the Son of God became a man to enable men to become Sons of God and I mean men generically, don't take that as; I didn't say generally or gender correct, men and women, mankind. He became a human to enable humans to become children of God.
Now, this is the side of the Christmas story that isn't usually told and every year there is mangers and nativity sets, I was in Baghdad, Iraq a few years ago, and right in front of the hotel I was staying at in Iraq was a nativity set, and I thought, well, there is places in America, you can't have a nativity set. You know the ACLU will come in and try to shut that down, but I'm in Bagdad, Iraq and here's the nativity set.
But then, if you can even manage these days to get a nativity set in a public setting, that's where people want to stop. They like the baby Jesus. They like the little Jesus, they don't want him to grow up and be a Savior and make demands on people. And say, "I'm the only way the truth of life; you can't get to heaven unless you believe" and they don't like that Jesus, they like him in the nativity set, that's so cute. Look at those cute little hands, look at those soft little feet.
But you don't realize when Paul is saying, it's for the purpose of redemption, those cute little hands were there so that they could develop and spikes could be driven through them. That's their purpose and those little, cutely little feet would walk up a hill toward Golgatha, bearing a cross and be stapled to a cross and that soft, sweet, little infant head would one day wear a crown of thorns.
That's the real story and Paul says that is why he came. I've always loved the story of the family who got in the car to drive around town and look at the Christmas lights and they came to a nativity set that they saw every year at a church and the grandma was in the back seat and she said, "I love this nativity set, isn't that beautiful?" The little granddaughter said, "Yeah, I like it grandma but one thing bothers me, Jesus is the same size this year as he was last year. When will he ever grow up?"
You know there's a lot of people in this culture who don't want him to grow up. They want him to stay the little baby and Paul says, he came to redeem those who were under the law and so why, so, we could be placed in his family and be his children, we're adopted sons and we cry Abba, Father!
Now the translators of this verse must have felt uncomfortable with the real translation so they put in the Aramaic or the Hebrew, Abba. If you go to Israel today and you'll see little children through the streets going Ema, Abba. Ema is mommy, Abba is daddy. It's a very intimate term, it's not father, it's daddy. Ema, Abba, but probably the translators saw that the translation itself is too intimate to translate it as daddy, after all this is the Bible. So, they left it with its original rendering of its language, Aramaic or Hebrew, same word Abba.
But, the translation is daddy, so here is the point Paul is making, 'The law could never do this, grace through faith can do this. You trust in him in his work and you get put it in his family as a full grown mature son or daughter of God and you're able to call him your daddy because now there is an intimacy of relationship that comes with that, something that the law could never do.
Now, as the chapter goes on, an allegory is given, it's quite hard to unravel, but I will just simply say, it's an allegory of Ishmael and Isaac and the Jerusalem and Mount Sinai and it's basically an analogy of bondage and freedom. The law is a picture of bondage as seen by Hagar and now figuratively as in Jerusalem under the bondage of the law and the other is the freedom that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Let's get to the practical section in the last few minutes that we have.
In chapter 5 and 6, Paul will show how that living by grace will promote true spirituality and I'll tell you why this is important. Because these false teachers, these Judaisers, they didn't like Paul's message because they thought, well, grace if you preach that will be misunderstood unless you put it in the parameters of the law, it could leave people to lawlessness to lewdness, no restrain. So, you need the law.
What Paul would share is that, the law only commands, it doesn't enable, it doesn't help, but grace will do in the person and through the person what the law could never do. Here's a little poem.
"Do this and live, the law commands,
but gives me neither feet nor hands.
A far better word the Gospel brings,
it bids me fly and then it gives me wings."
So, what Paul was saying is look, I'm through the personal part, I showed you my relationship to the law, my relationship to the Gospel, my relationship to the church in Jerusalem, I've talked about the doctrinal part of it now. Now, I want to bring this back to the practical, just so you don't think that this Gospel of grace is going to lead to lewd, loose living. It's going to lead to holy living.
He says in chapter 5 verse 1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." Okay, understand the difference between standing fast and being entangled by a yoke. This is firm talk; a yoke was an implement that went around in animal to pull a plow. It's a picture of an ox or an animal bow down and unable to stand because the yoke is so heavy, it's pushing them to the ground.
So, he's saying, stand fast in the liberty, don't be bowed down and entangled by a yoke of bondage which is the law. Do you remember, in Acts 15, that Council of Jerusalem that Paul and Barnabas went up to, Peter was there and Peter was Jewish and Peter said to these people in Jerusalem, he said, "You got to keep the Jewish law to be saved". He said to them, "Why will you put a yoke on the neck of these Gentile disciples that neither we nor our fathers were ever able to bear?"
Now Peter is calling they are bluff, you know what, you guys are talking about the law and keeping the law, you've never kept it. Your dad never kept it, your grandpa never kept it, all of your forefathers never really kept all the law and then you're trying to put that on the Gentiles now. Even Jesus Himself said, concerning these religious leaders, "They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on men's shoulders" and I watch people do this. I watch young believers come to Christ, they're so happy, they're so excited and they go, yeah, but I'm going through this bible study and I just feel kind of weird because they say, I got to do this, and I got to do that, and I got to do the other thing and they just start getting really pushed down, instead of standing fast in the true Gospel, which gives them liberty.
Verse 13, "For you brethren, have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; you shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Paul's point is, the Gospel of grace won't make you indulgent, it will make you a servant to others. Verse 16, "And I say then, walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of flesh." See the Holy Spirit living inside of a believer energizes the new nature that has been put within us, helping you. When you were born, when you were born physically, you received an old nature, that's just the impulses of the flesh, the impulse to sin, you received that at birth. When you were born again, you received a new nature, a new nature and the flesh wars against the Spirit, Paul will say, and the spirit against the flesh.
There's the conflict and so Paul wrote, do you remember in Romans chapter 7, "What I want to do I do not do and what I hate I do." Paul is now showing here's the battle and he'll, he'll list 17 sins of the flesh contrasted by 9 fruit of the Spirit or characteristics of the spiritual life showing that, if you live according to the Spirit, the spirit living inside of you will energize you to conquer the sins of the flesh.
So, I want you to compare something. Look at chapter 5 verse 19, "Now the works of the flesh are evident which are adultery, fornication, lewdness and uncleanness etcetera." Verse 22 of chapter 5, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness." This is what Christ produces. So, it's a very strong point, to these teachers who are saying, well, if you follow this Gospel that Paul is preaching you are just going to kind of in liberty do whatever you want to do. Paul says, no you won't, you'll live by the Spirit and if you live by the Spirit and you follow Jesus Christ it will produce in you fruit.
Now, here's the thing about fruit, do you ever see an apple strive. Ever walked up to an apple tree and looked at it and go, that apple is working really hard. Well, that tree is working really hard and that branch, really sweating. Have you ever seen an apple tree going like this? Apple, that was so hard; I worked so hard to produce that. But it was my hard work, as an apple branch.
No, you know how you get an apple. The branch just has to hang in there. Quite literally, it's what Jesus said. "If you abide in vine you will bear much fruit." Abide means to hang in there, means to remain. If you just stay in there with Jesus Christ, hang in there, stay in fellowship with him, walk with him, love him. If it's true fellowship that you have with Christ, it will produce fruit.
It won't be anything you have to strive. Yes, you'll have to obey him, certainly holiness is a huge part of it, but the spirit living inside of you gives you the ability energizes that new nature, the fruit of the Spirit. That's why he says at the end of verse 23, he says, "Against such, this fruit of the Spirit, there is no law." The Gospel of grace will make you a rebel; it will make you a faithful disciple.
So, the real danger then isn't the liberty of the Gospel that Paul preached, but the legalism of religion. The law can only restrain you outwardly. Oh! Look at that nice little boy, the good works he's doing. But what's he thinking inwardly? What's he doing inside his heart and his mind? Look at that good Christian man or woman doing those good things, yeah, but what's going on?
See the law can only govern, don't do this, don't do that, it's all outward. But what about the inside? No power to change the inside. Chapter 6, power of the Gospel of grace also shows up in how we treat people. Verse 1, "Brethren if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted."
How different this was from those Judaistic legalizers who pointed their fingers and said, "You have to keep the Law of Moses to be safe, what you are doing is wrong." They had no sense of restoration and compassion; it was always condemnation. I hate when I see that in Christians and people who profess to be believers, that spirit of condemnation, instead of restoration.
The church has really been good at shooting its own wounded throughout the centuries. Instead of coming alongside and saying, let me hear you out, I'm going to come alongside of you, let's restore you back to fruitfulness, let's restore you back to relationship, let's restore you back to fellowship. They don't want to repent, they don't want to change; that's another story, but once they do, remember the Corinthian incident, Paul says, "There's a guy with incest in the church kick him out" and then once the guy sees what's going on and wants to repent, Paul says, "Bring him back in, lest he be overtaken with grief."
And we have to be -- if we are really good at discipline we should really be good at restoration and discipleship that way. Verse 2, "Bear one another burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ, for if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." Again, that's all the outward versus the inward.
Verse 11, "See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand." Now stop right there for a minute. If you have by any chance an Old King James Bible, I believe it says, "See how large a letter I have written to you." So this has sort of baffled expositors and commentators, that what does Paul mean when he says, "I have written to you a large letter." Does he mean, this is a really long letter, I've written to you. It's really not, I mean you compare Galatians with Romans or the First Corinthians, it's relatively short.
So, he probably doesn't mean, it's a really long letter. He probably didn't mean that. Number two, it could mean that he had bad eyesight. I mean, worse than my eyesight, really bad eyesight that he couldn't see it all and he had to write real big. Now, when he went to Galatia, the first time he went to Galatia, he went through Iconium, Antioch Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.
In Derbe they threw rocks at him, they stoned him; they thought he was dead. He wasn't dead, he got back up and he preached the Gospel, but some believe that that incident is when he got a malady, he couldn't see after that, maybe his writing hand was paralyzed and so he had to write really big letters, so that he could see it. You know like extra, super, mega, giant print, his Bible would be like, you would have to have wagons to carry it in because his print would be so large, he didn't have spectacles or contacts.
So, it could mean that he had an eye injury of some kind that disabled him from reading, so he wrote with large letters. Now, Paul would dictate his letters, but sometimes he would reserve the last section, where he would write it himself and it could be that he had really write like -- take up a lot of space on the page. That could be it or here's another thought, just I'll toss it out there. It could be that throughout this letter, Paul would say to his amanuenses, his secretary, who was taking the dictation, write this in all capitals, make this really big like 45 point font, not the little stuff; as if to say, I'm emphasizing this, don't miss this, these are some large letters. Here in this point and this point, that I want to emphasis this to you unmistakably, so you can take your pick. I won't be dogmatic.
Verse 13, "For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh." See to them it was all about you know here's the conversation, "I love Jesus, I'm a Christian". "Have you been circumcised?" "Well, no, Paul didn't tell me I had to". "Well, Paul was wrong, he was a good guy who gave you a good start, but now you have to be mature and if you are really mature you really obey and the law says you got to get circumcised." "Okay", so Paul just says, they want to boast in your flesh.
So, compare that, look at verse 17, "From now let no one trouble me" [I've had enough of this], "for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, Amen." Okay, here's the point he's making. He's contrasting their marks in their body circumcision and the marks in his body that he has suffered for persecution. Okay, they want to boast in their marks, circumcision, let me tell you about the marks I have suffered in my body, the stripes I have on my back, the whippings I have taken, the beatings I have endured to follow Christ, to preach this Gospel message to you.
You don't have to turn to it, but in Second Corinthians, chapter 11, it's the same idea, I just touched on it briefly while back last week. Paul writes in verse 22, "Are they Hebrew? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool,) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils of the city, in perils of the wilderness, in the perils of the sea, in perils among false brethren; and weariness, in toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger, in thrust, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside the other things which come upon me daily, my deep concern for all the churches."
So, they can boast all they want in their circumcision, but I bear the marks of persecution, because I preach the Jesus Christ alone Divine accomplishment not human achievement, is the way people are right with God.
A while back I was over here, a restaurant which some of you have gone to, I was eating lunch there and I had some other friends, some company, we were getting ready to leave and pay the bill and I got out a credit card and the waitress said, "You don't have to pay, it's been paid for. Your tab has been covered." I said, "Well who covered it?" She said, "I don't know, but it has been covered and they have already left." And I said, "Wait a minute, I have got company here, these are friends, I have got to at least pay for half of it." This whole free lunch thing, grace thing, it's sort of hard to receive and I wanted to earn a part of it, like I will pitch in, I will put in my part. That's free gift, it has already been taken care of.
That's what grace is. God says, you know what, what you owe me is so much you could never pay for it, I don't care how hard and long you worked, you can work lifetime after lifetime and be really religious, this tab is so high you can't pay for it. It's been covered, it's already paid for and it has all been paid for, even the tip has been paid for. You can't add to, don't try. Here take it and while people were saying, while that's too elusive a message to preach, you got to add something to that, add a little guilt, add a little good works. Paul said, "If it's the real Gospel, it will be fruitful, it will be loving, it will be life producing and I have marks on my body to prove it." That's the message of Galatians, powerful, powerful book. No wonder Luther said, "This is my favorite book." No wonder he said, "It's my letter, I'm betrothed to it, it's my wife."
Let's pray, Heavenly Father! Though it's not our wife, it is certainly our life. Jesus Christ gave us life freely and that's why when we worship, we sing and we think of different words and different melodies and different ways to express our love to you, because you paid a debt, you didn't owe. We owed the debt we could never pay. We just say thank you, praise you, we worship you, we receive that gift. I pray O Lord! That the message of the Gospel will so transform us that we would never want to add anything to it, we would want to live by it, but we do pray O Lord! That as we abide in Christ, we hang in there, that our lives would be fruitful. Though not perfect, ever increasing fruit would mark us. Thank you Lord! Thank you, for your forgiveness, thank you for your love, thank you for your plan and thank you Lord that the law did its part and pointed us to maturity, salvation freely in Christ. In Jesus' name, Amen!