Galatians 4:21-31 We are Children of Promise

Galatians 4:21-31         We are Children of Promise             WC McCarter

In Genesis 15:1–6 Abraham is sorrowful because there is no heir to fulfill the promises that God had made in Genesis 12. There is only Eliezer the slave. Yet, God renews the promise to Abraham that he would have a son.

In Genesis 16:1-4, 15-16 Abraham and Sarah weaken in faith and rely on their own human effort. They trust themselves to fulfill God’s promise.

Then, 14 years later, in Genesis 17:15-22 God says to Abraham that his wife, Sarah, will have a son. God will fulfill His promise in a way that will not allow any room for Abraham or anyone to take credit. The fulfillment will not be dependent on any man. God rejects what Abraham was able to accomplish on his own by taking another woman as his wife and having a son by her. That is not what God intended. Abraham and Sarah were old, they could not have kids, and so what would be accomplished would be completely dependent upon God. It would be miraculous.

So, in Genesis 21:1-3 we are told that Sarah conceived and delivered a son. Isaac was not born according to the flesh because his birth was the result of God's supernatural intervention in fulfillment of his own promise. Abraham had learned his lesson: the only response to God's promises is to trust that He will be faithful to His promises, not works of the flesh, that is, human effort.

Galatians 4:23 sums up the story: "The son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise."

One more passage that we should review is Genesis 21:8-13 which says that Ishmael persecuted Isaac, and Abraham was required to send Hagar and Ishmael away. The Lord promises to take care of Ishmael, but the covenant promises would continue through Isaac.

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History (21-23)
Paul speaks sharply to the Galatians who were either thinking of submitting to the Law or maybe already had. There is a bite in verse 21 as he states the irony of their situation. Some of them desired to be under the law, but they were not listening to what the law has to say. Well, the apostle will tell them what the law has to say. He does so by pointing their attention back to Abraham’s narrative in Genesis. This was the great ancestor of the Jews. Abraham was literally the father of their nation. Abraham was their father, their founder, and their hero. So, what does Paul do? He strips the Judaizers of their leading man. He contrasts Abraham’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac, and uses them as symbols.

Symbolism (24-27)
Charting out Paul’s thought here is very helpful. I have filled in some of the contrasts to help us see the whole picture.
                           Two Sons
                       Two Covenants
            Ishmael                                Isaac
---------------------------------        ---------------------------------
Law                                |        Faith
Bondwoman                    |        Freewoman
Flesh                              |        Promise
Mt. Sinai                        |        Mt. Zion
Arabia                            |        Heaven
Jerusalem Now               |        Jerusalem Above
Bondage                         |        Free
Hagar                              |        Sarah
---------------------------------        ---------------------------------
“according to the flesh”             “through promise”/”according to the Spirit”

The primary contrast is between the origins of the two sons. Ishmael was instigated by Sarah and Abraham and fulfilled by the effort of Abraham and Hagar while Isaac was instigated by God and brought about by God.

“Sarah is never designated as a ‘free’ woman in the OT,” so it is Paul who, “is the one who has brought the language of ‘freedom’ into the story” (Moo, 294). What is Paul wanting to accomplish? He has been laying the groundwork for his main point here: those legalistic false teachers are all about human effort which only brings about slavery, while the Gospel is all about the promise and work of the Spirit which leads to freedom.

Lastly, Paul quotes from Isa 54:1, “about the reversal of fortunes experienced by a barren woman in verse 27” (Moo, 292). What this illustrates is the work of God. Sarah was a barren woman. She could not have kids all of her life. God made the promise to make her descendants as numerous as the sky’s stars.

Contemporary (28-31)
Paul puts the Galatians, using the word “we,” in the category of the children of promise (and all Christians by extension). Remember that Ishmael mocked or scoffed at Isaac. Paul says that Ishmael persecuted Isaac which is the same thing that the he and the Galatians were enduring. “Cast out the bondowman.”

Verse 31 concludes Paul’s argument here. He has taught that, “. . . it is not biological descent from Abraham that marks the true children of Abraham but descent through the line of promise” (Moo, 293). You can be a son of Abraham one of two ways, according to the flesh or through the promise, that is, according to the Spirit. What does Paul say that the Galatian Christians are? They “are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.” We have been born through the promise and by the Spirit.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) You will be persecuted, even from within the “church.”

(2) Your status and Christian progress are due to the work of God and not the effort of man. Your status was ensured by the promise of God, and your new birth came about through the work of the Holy Spirit.

(3) Note, again, that freedom is a key component of the Christian life. We are not enslaved to the elements of this world, this present wicked age, the guilt of our sin, any kind of rules and regulations, we are not bound to religious performance, and we are not enslaved to the fear of Judgment Day. We are free!

Galatians 4:8-20 Fear for the Galatians

Galatians 4:8-20           Fear for the Galatians                       WC McCarter

Do you remember what you were before you gave your life to Christ? Or can you imagine what you would have been apart from Christ?

Think about the Exodus generation. They were freed, but they wanted to return to slavery in Egypt.

The Galatians were entertaining the thought of doing just that–returning to bondage to the things of this world instead of trusting Christ for salvation. They were not able to enjoy the benefits of the Gospel.

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Freedom vs. Slavery (8-11)
After revisiting again with the Galatians that fact that they have been saved from this present wicked age, Paul now has a question for them. He must plainly voice his fear for them. Those Galatian Christians, and all believers, were once in bondage to the things of this world. They were orphans. But, because of what Christ had done in them, they were adopted into God’s family. They were made sons and daughters of God in Christ. They were not bound to the elements of this world. They were heirs of God. So, the most obvious question that Paul needed to ask them was, Why are you returning to bondage? If all things are yours because of your inheritance in Christ, then why are you returning to bondage under the weak and beggarly elements of this world?

I love that phrase that the apostle uses in verse nine. A whole lot of things can be categorized under the designation “weak and beggarly elements of this world.” For example, the apostle says in verse ten, “You observe days and months and seasons and years.” The Jews, and the Judaizers who wanted to put the demands of the Mosaic Law on the Gentile Christians, were all about remembering feast days and holy days. They would fast for this and that. They would sacrifice for this and that. But their hearts were not right.

Do we have holidays that we celebrate? Sure, we do, and that can be important and enjoyable, but we should not be bound to them. We should not be enslaved by them. I am thinking of one church in particular, and I know of many, that were not progressing in Christ. When it came to faith in Christ and a knowledge of the Scriptures, they were weak. They did not celebrate the things of Christ, but when July 4th came, the entire building would be decked in red, white, and blue. They would go all out for American holidays with decorations, cantatas, and celebrations of all kinds, but they were not too interested in the things of God. That is not only sad but also dangerous.

What else could we put under the umbrella of “weak and beggarly elements of this world” that people become enslaved to? Well, we could probably come up with a long list that could include things from grievous sins to simple things that we have no business feeling bound to. We trap and enslave ourselves in various sins of the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. We also enslave ourselves to things that we feel “guilted” into by others.

Paul says in so many words, Why are you enslaving yourselves to the things of this world, whether sinful or not, when you can be free sons of God with an ongoing relationship with Him? It is easily explained why someone may be trapped by various “gods” if they do not know the true and living God. Yet, it is inexplicable why a Christian, who knows God and is known by God, would again desire bondage to the world.

Paul’s Relationship with the Galatians (12-16)
Paul and the Galatians hit it off from the get-go. They loved and cared for one another. If you have not heard Paul’s heart thus far, you hear it beginning in verse twelve. He refers to the Galatians as brethren. This is a term of endearment. He considered them equals–friends–family. Interestingly enough, “this is the first imperative in the letter that calls on the Galatians to take action” (Moo, 281). What action is it? “I urge you to become like me, for I became like you.” How did Paul become like the Galatians? Although he was a Jew, he abandoned the law and came out from under its bondage like a Gentile. In what way did Paul want the Galatians to become like him? He wanted them to forever abandon the law for righteousness and trust Christ for their justification before God.

With the sentence, “You have not injured me at all,” Paul begins to talk about his relationship with the Galatians. From the beginning, they had a healthy and happy relationship. As verse 13 indicates, Paul had some sort of illness that caused him to stay in Galatia. Many believe, as I do, that Paul contracted some kind of disease (which in another place he calls the “thorn in the flesh”) that caused problems with his eye sight and made him physically unattractive. Apparently he contracted the chronic disease when he was heading to the region of Galatia and it had gotten so bad that for some reason it forced him to stay there for an extended period of time. The Galatians could have despised and rejected him for this obvious weakness, but instead they received him as an angel, or messenger of God. They consider him to fully represent Christ in their midst. They enjoyed many blessings through Paul’s ministry there. Paul even says in verse 15 that the Galatians loved him so much that they would have been willing to pluck out their own eyes and given them to him. That is a strong and loving relationship! Thus, in verse 16, he wants to know what the deal is now. Why have they changed their mind? Now Paul is the complete opposite to them. He has become their enemy, at least in their minds.

Judaizer’s Relationship with the Galatians (17-20)
The last paragraph today tells us what has happened. They Judaizers have come into their churches and flattered them. Paul says, “They zealously court you.” Paul’s analysis of the situation is that the Judaizers were going all out to bring the Galatians under their influence, but once they had them hooked, they were going to cut them loose in order to drive the Galatians to want them all the more. Paul’s point is that what appears to be genuine concern on behalf of the false teachers actually has ulterior motives. They do not care for the Galatians that way that Paul does. Another term of endearment is used in verse 19, “my little children.” This is a phrase that teachers used of their disciples. He says, Listen, I am willing to sacrifice a lot for you, but they are not willing to sacrifice anything. My ultimate goal is your well-being, but their ultimate goal is their prestige. I want to see Christ formed in you, but they only want to see themselves formed in you.

Lastly, Paul voices his doubts for them once again. The apostle was forced to use a tone of rebuke. He did not want to, but he was forced to as a shepherd of their souls. He took the responsibility for their spiritual conditions upon himself. He labored and sacrificed all for them. They were not appreciating the benefits of the Gospel because they so quickly were leaving it to be bound by the law as taught by the Judaizers.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) One of the great lessons that we can take from this passage is how the congregation and the pastor relate to one another. I am not an apostle, so we must be careful with our comparisons to Paul and the Galatians. I am your pastor and teacher. Notice verse 14 says that the Galatians received Paul as Christ Himself meaning that they received Paul’s message about Christ. Notice in verse 19 that Paul wanted Christ to be formed in the church. What can we learn from this? A congregation should listen for the message of Christ in their pastor, and the pastor should look for the formation of Christ in the congregation. This is how we should view one another. It is not about appearance, wealth, prestige, or any of the like. It is about Christ. Do you hear me teaching the things of Christ? Do I see you progressing in trusting Christ?

(2) The primary lesson that I want you to take home with you is that you cannot go back to what you were before Christ.

(3) Enjoy what you have in Christ. You are sons and daughters, heirs of God.

Galatians 3:26-4:7 Heirs of God through Christ

Galatians 3:26-4:7        Heirs of God through Christ            WC McCarter

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put eternity into the hearts of people. We are conscious of God, and we are thoughtful of what comes after this life. Therefore, folks are constantly attempting to understand how they may be saved from their own failures and short-comings. I believe that all folks inherently know that God is supreme, holy, righteous, and just. That is what it means to be God. In fact, Romans 1:20 says that from the beginning of history God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen and understood throughout creation. So, here’s the thing, you can only be saved one of two ways. It is as simple as this: either you save yourself or someone else saves you; either you pay for your own sins or someone else pays for your sins. If someone else is going to save you by paying for your sins, then it must be God who does the saving work. Psalm 49:7-8 says, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly.”

You see, this is what makes Christianity exceptional among all the religions of the world. No matter what religion or world-view we may discuss when you boil them down to their core you are only left with religious performance. Salvation is merited by the person. Your good must outweigh your bad or you’re doomed. On the other hand, Christianity offers Good News. The Bible teaches that God has acted in history to save those who will come to Him by faith in His Son. Jesus Christ has merited our salvation. His good outweighs our bad. As one person has said, all religions basically teach that good works will result in salvation while Christianity teaches that salvation will result in good works. The order of these two things makes all the difference.

So, God has put eternity into our hearts. We seek Him out. We want to know what the next age will bring. We desire to know how to be saved from our failures and mishaps so that we can ensure our place in a blessed eternity. And we are those people who have trusted God for salvation. We have abandoned our own pursuit of salvation by law or any kind of works and trust that what He has done in Christ Jesus is enough to save us. This is His way. We stand in grace, united with Christ, hidden in Him, and anticipate our heavenly inheritance of eternal life and blessings forevermore.

Main Message: For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

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The Christian’s Status (26-29)
Look what the apostle calls Christians. He says that we are six things: sons and daughters of God; those who have put on Christ; one in Christ; belonging to Christ; Abraham’s seed; and heirs of the promise.

This is what it means to be a Christian. We are not bound to the law or burdened by its commands. We are not those who wonder about our eternal destiny or view God as a distant and harsh Judge. We are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Our identity before God is “in Christ” who is the unique Son of God. God has forgiven us, accepted us, and adopted us as His children because of our union with Christ. Let me be clear, people like to promote what they call the universal fatherhood of God, but the Bible teaches that God is only the Father of those who have been adopted. Adoption into the family of God is based on our association with Christ.

When can we point to the time that we were made adopted children of God? What was it that happened that best pictures our union with Christ? Think back to your baptism, the apostle says. He says that when you were baptized into Christ that you actually put on Christ. You were clothed with Christ. Baptismal union is a marvelous thing. It is that moment in our own history to which we can think back and remember the feeling of joining the family. I remember one Wednesday night our family pulled up at the church building and as we were walking through the parking lot, I told my parents that I was ready to commit to Christ and be baptized. I was not a small child. I was twelve years old. I can remember many specifics of that evening. I went downstairs to class as usual. They brought me upstairs after the service to change and be baptized. When I came out of the water I flung my hair like I would in a swimming pool (I had a lot more hair back then). When I went into the side room afterward, the minister did his usual thing by asking if anyone else would like to be joined to Christ in baptism. Lo and behold, a teenage girl by the name of Bridget was baptized that very night. It wasn’t too long before that we had become boyfriend and girlfriend! Do you remember your baptism? That is when you were united with Christ! You were united with His death and resurrection. Have you never been baptized? Would you consider giving your life to Christ and being united with Him today? At the end of this sermon, we will give you the opportunity to come forward and be immersed.

So, you see, when you put on Christ, all of the other human distinctions no longer matter. It does not matter if you were Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, American or Asian. . . . None of those things matter anymore. You have been joined to Christ and made a child of God. We are all one people in Christ Jesus. Thus, we are not only united with Christ, but we are also united with one another. That’s why we have to get along. That is why Jesus said that the world will know who we are by how we love one another. We have to stop looking at one another through the lens of the world and start looking at one another through the lens of faith. I once had a wealthy and proud man in the VA church randomly come and say to me, “You treat everyone the same.” I thought, that’s an odd thing to say and responded, “Well, yes, I try to.” He said, “That’s not normal around here,” and he walked off. But, you see, that is supposed to be normal for Christians.

A year or two later I sat with that man and his wife in a hospital room while he was on his death bed. Do you think it mattered at that point if he was wealthy or not? Do you think it mattered what color his skin was? Do you think it mattered what his reputation had been or how successful he was in business? Let me assure you, none of those things mattered. The only thing that mattered as he laid on that hospital bed was whether he was in Christ.

An Illustration of the Status (1-7)
Now we have seen our status as Christians. We are not guilty inmates being guarded by the harsh law. We are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. We are not little children who need a guardian. We are full grown, adult children of God. Notice in verses one through seven the illustration of this that the apostle uses. We have the summary of what it meant to be under the law and what it now means to be united with Christ.

Under the Law: Considered little children unable to receive an inheritance and his status is equivalent to a slave. Those little children are under harsh disciplinarians until they come to a mature age. Whether a person was Jew or Gentile, before Christ they were bound to the law or the things of this world.

Union with Christ: At just the right time, God sent His Son under the same conditions in which we once were in order to redeem us from those things. We have now been adopted into God’s family. Because we are children of God, He has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. Notice the great privilege of being a child of God. Not everyone experiences this relationship and all the benefits. The Spirit of Christ within you tells your spirit that you are a child of God. That is how you are willing and able to call out to God by calling Him Abba (Aramaic) and Father (Greek), which is to say “Daddy” in English. If you are a full grown child of God, then you are an heir of God.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) Christian unity is one of the most important things that the church should focus upon. Human distinctions begin to fade away when we come into union with Christ. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, man or woman, black or white because we all have the same Savior and the same Lord. We are all heirs of the same promise–the one made to Abraham.

(2) You must view yourself the same way that God does–as adopted children. The special thing about adoption is that the parent(s) chooses the children. God has chosen you and brought you into His family. You are not a distant acquaintance of God, but His sons and daughters.

Galatians 3:19-25 The Purpose of the Law

Galatians 3:19-25         The Purpose of the Law                   WC McCarter

Are you with me? Are you following what the apostle is teaching in Galatians? Do you understand that you will be saved by faith and not by works?

Now that we have established that no one is made right with God by the law, let me ask you this, what is the purpose of the law? What is the value of the Old Testament? We are New Testament believers, right? Do we even need the Old Testament? Can we not just get rid of it? Should we just ignore what God said to and did with Israel? We will see today that the Law was for a limited time and specific purpose (Moo, 232), and also that the OT has tremendous value for Christian.

When I was in high school, I did not know exactly what career I would begin. I did not know what I would be doing for the rest of my life. Thus, I did know exactly what to study or how to prepare. So, the educational system put me through all sorts of disciplines that I did not necessarily care for. I was forced to take several years of math, science, language, and more. This was to get me to a certain point. It was to prepare me for whatever I would go into.

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#1 Because of Transgressions (19-20)
The law had a definite beginning (430 years after the promise was made), and it has a definite end (until the Seed should come to whom the promise was made). So, Paul says that the law was given until the Seed of the promise came on the scene. Whatever the law was for, it was only for a certain period of time and not forever. The promise is what God was wanting to accomplish. The promise is what God would surely accomplish in human history. And He has.

“Transgressions” is a very specific word. Paul does not say “sins,” but “transgressions.” Transgressions refers to breaking a certain, established law. This brings greater punishment. Sin is bad enough, but when one is fully informed that they should not cross a boundary and they do, then the punishment must be more severe. The law was the revealed will of God for the people. It demanded holiness. God said, “Be holy for I am holy.” What God did in giving the law was make rebellion against His will a legality. Humanity could no longer hide behind the notion that God’s will was not clearly revealed. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations. They were to share the instruction and demands of the Lord with the whole world, but they failed miserably. They themselves could not even keep the law, much less teach it to others. So the law was given for the simple fact that God could then say, “You have broken my law by transgressing its commands.”

It is well known in Jewish tradition, and even in the New Testament, that the Law was given by God to Moses through angels. After that the law was then given to the people by Moses. The Law, then, was given by God through the angels through Moses to the people. On the other hand, the promise was given directly by God to Abraham. The blessing associated with the promise was of the one God from beginning to end. However, the blessing associated with the Law was dependent on both God and the people.

Law Cannot Give Life (21)
After tearing down the law as a means of justification, Paul asked the question, “What is the purpose of the Law?” He answered by saying that it was to make sin transgression, which warrants a greater degree of penalty. He will give two more answers to this question, but before doing so, he will ask and answer another question in v21. The next logical question, then, is to ask, “Is the law against the promises of God?” To that Paul answers, “Certainly not!” The question is not so much important as is the answer. Paul only poses the question so that he can make the answer clear. His point in v21 is, The law is certainly not against the promises of God, but the law does not give life. That is why the promise still stands and is necessary to make us right with God. The law promises to give life to all those who keep every command, but no one has ever perfectly kept all the demands of the law. Thus, the law cannot give life.

#2 To Confine All Under Sin (22-23)
The next two verses, 22-23, give us a second answer to the first question, What is the purpose of the law? #1 To make sin transgression. #2 To confine all under sin. The law cannot give life, and, in fact, it does the opposite–it confines all under sin. And we all know that the wages of sin is death. The term “confine” in the NKJV is “locked up” in the NIV and carries this meaning of being imprisoned. So, the human offense is sin. Transgression is what has put humanity in prison. The Law is seen as the prison guard, the jailer. Now, we are the ones who have sinned, and God is the one who has handed down the law so that all things are confined under sin. Why has God done this? Why put mankind in this prison? “[It was so] that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Humanity was going to have to (and many still must) come to the realization that their righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord, that they are poor in spirit, and they need Christ to save them. Thus, we were (and many are) in prison until Christ freed us.

#3 To Bring Us to Christ (24-25)
The NIV does a much better job in translating these two verses: “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”

V24 “παιδαγωγς” is where we get the word “pedagogue” which means teacher. Yet, that is not what the word originally meant. The word literally means “boy-leader” and refers to a male–usually slave–who was a trusted member of the family in charge of leading a boy to and from school, watching him while he played, supervising the boy’s overall conduct, guarding him, and disciplining him. He was not necessarily a teacher but was a leader, guardian, and guide. He was the restraining influence. Respect was due to him and obedience. This guardian would accompany the boy until he reached a mature age and was no longer needed. They were often seen as overly harsh in their discipline which was the acceptable practice.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) So, what is the purpose of the OT law? The apostle gives us three answers:
          #1 To make sin transgression.
          #2 To confine all under sin.
          #3 To bring us to Christ.

(2) The Old Testament is vitally important to the history of redemption in that it demonstrates the holiness of God (you cannot approach God in just any old way); it determines our sinfulness and causes it to be transgression; and the OT has set boundaries morally, ethically, and religiously. By the way, it is decidedly difficult to understand the NT without the OT. Therefore, we should be sure to read and meditate on the OT often so that we may know who God is, how He has dealt with humanity, and that we may know our need of grace.

(3) You have been given life by the grace of God. Glory in that. You have been made alive, freed from sin to live as God desires. Although you were once confined by sin, overwhelmed by the burden of your sins’ consequences, you have now been made alive and free! Be satisfied in Him. Rest in faith.

Why Pursue Holiness?

Why Pursue Holiness (Progressive Sanctification)?

Here are some brief, bullet-point answers to the question that may be elaborated upon later:

1) Sin displeases God, and I want to bring Him glory.

2) Sin does not accurately reflect our calling in Christ.

3) A lifestyle of sin is a red flag that you are not bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

4) Sin is destructive to me, so I want to get rid of it.

5) Sin is destructive to my relationships, so I want to get rid of it.

6) I want to be everything that God has freed me to be.

7) Progress in Christ ensures that I will not “backslide.”

8) I do not want to be entangled or enslaved by sins.

9) I want to be light in a dark world.

10) God demands it; “Be holy for I am holy.”

What would you add?

Galatians 3:10-18 Christ Redeemed Us from the Curse

Galatians 3:10-18      Christ Redeemed Us from the Curse      WC McCarter

We are continuing the thought that we have seen over the past couple of weeks with only a “new stage in Paul’s argument” (Moo, 201). What is it that we have seen but faith versus works of the law? The apostle wants to continue to demonstrate that works of the law will not and cannot justify a person, that is, make them right before God. Paul will use a few OT references to prove his point. The Galatians are those who heard Paul and his companions preach the true Gospel message of grace in Christ Jesus by faith. They believed what Paul said, trusted in the Lord for salvation, and were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Spirit was doing sorts of wonderful miracles among them.

It was not long after Paul left that false teachers came in among the Christian churches in Galatia and began teaching that to be completed they would have to submit to circumcision, dietary laws, and all of the Mosaic Law in the OT. Thus, the Galatians were faced with two paths to ultimate justification: works of the law or faith in Christ. There were two options, but only one would secure salvation. There are not several roads to heaven. There is only one way. The Galatians had to choose their path. One would bring the blessing associated with Abraham the other would leave a person cursed by God. To put it simply, the Galatians were faced with heaven or hell in this moment. They would either find life or death. Which would they choose?

Main Message: The law cannot secure the Abrahamic blessing and actually brings you under a curse.

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Cursed by the Law (10-12)
The apostle introduced the blessing associated with Abraham in the previous passage and now wants to show how the Law cannot bring someone into that blessing. All those who are under the law are under a curse. Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27 where Moses says that everyone is cursed if they do not continue in the law. When a person submits to the law as a means of justification before God, then they elect to keep every point of the law perfectly. Therefore, Paul says that all who are under the law are cursed because they do not continue in all of the things which are written in the book of the law. James is very helpful on this point. In 2:10 he teaches, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” You see, you may keep 612 of the 613 commands of the law perfectly but because you failed at the one point, you are then labeled a “law breaker.” To submit to the law is to commit to keeping in completely.

Paul next wants to show that even the OT is clear that law-keeping is not the way to be right in God’s eyes. God said long ago that the just shall live by faith. This quote from the prophet Habakkuk becomes a very important one in Paul’s theology. He utilizes it here in Galatians and also in Romans. If the just shall live by faith and the law is based in performance, then the law is not of faith, and one cannot be justified by religious performance according to the law. This is a very strong argument. The logic here is solid. This apostle who argues against the law as a means of justification is a Hebrew among Hebrews. He has submitted to the law and tried to keep it perfectly, yet even he has abandoned the law as a means of a right relationship with God. He turned to Jesus Christ by faith in order to be called “not guilty” and “free.” If he has abandoned it and can argue this way, then why would the Galatian Christians leave Christ and go to the law? It makes no sense. It will be devastating. They will be cursed.

Redeemed from the Curse (13-14)
In verses 13-14, Paul in effect says, “Listen, the bad news is that under the law all are cursed because they do not continue in all the things that it commands. Yet, the good news is that Christ has redeemed us from that curse.” How is it that He has redeemed us from the curse? Here is the Gospel: Christ became a curse for us. How did He become a curse for us? He laid down His life and hung on a tree for us. The law even says in Deuteronomy 21, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Now, this is hard for us to understand at first, but imagine how difficult it would be for a Jew to believe that Christ secured a blessing even though it appeared that He was cursed by God because He was condemned to death on a tree. The only way to come to a true understanding of the cross is to understand that Christ was not punished for His own sins. He was sinless, but He laid down His life for “us.” He became a curse “for us.” He has redeemed “us” from the curse. As Paul famously says in 2 Cor 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Do not get in your mind that what Christ has done is for everyone without distinction. It is not automatically given to all people. What Christ has done is available to all people but only given to those who access it by faith. Look at what verse 14 says plainly:  the blessing and promise come upon the nations in Christ Jesus through faith. You are put into the category of “blessed” through faith in Christ Jesus. You receive the Holy Spirit who is you guarantee of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Paul is telling the Galatians, and I am warning you today, “Do not put yourself in the category of “cursed” by trusting in your on religious performance to save you.

God Gave it by Promise (15-18)
After laying before us the two categories of blessed and cursed, life and death, Paul wants to show us how the whole Bible holds together by the theme and function of the promise of God. The story of salvation is based on the promises of God. Of preeminent value is the promise that God made to Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The primary covenant that God has made is one of promise. But, the Judaizers might say, what about the law? The law was added to the covenant of promise, right? Paul says that the Mosiac law that came 430 after the covenant of promise does not and cannot annul the promise already made to Abraham. Thus, verse 17 is the key verse of the paragraph that includes verses 15-18.

The apostle starts in verse 15 with a practical example from everyday life. Of course, we are not familiar with all of the legal practices of the first century or before, but I think that point being made is simple. If a covenant is established and confirmed, even if the parties agree to add something to the arrangements, the original premise(s) of the covenant cannot be revoked. If a man’s covenant cannot be set aside, then God’s promises can certainly not be undone no matter what may come later (Stott, 88). In verse 16, which is somewhat of a parenthetical statement (Moo, 228), the apostle wants to argue that the promise made to Abraham was in direct reference to Christ. Paul says that God did not use “the plural ‘children’ or ‘descendants’, but the singular ‘seed’ or ‘posterity’, a collective noun referring to Christ and to all those who are in Christ by faith” (Stott, 88). The promise was to Abraham and his collective “Seed” in Christ who are all linked by one thing: they all approach God and are counted righteous by him through faith. This premise (faith alone) cannot be undone, set aside, or annulled. This is the promise of God.

Conclusion and Christian Application
Thus, we should not only sing, “The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.” We should also sing, “The law behind me, the cross before me; No turning back, no turning back.” All of you who are believers, united with Christ’s death and resurrection, you have come into a right relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t care if you are ten years old or 100 years old. You have been saved by grace through faith. Now, (like the option that was spread before the Galatians) if you turn away from faith in Christ, you are turning away to cursing and death because the just shall live by faith.

The most important thing that you must consider in this life is how to come into a right relationship with God. We have two options put before us: performance or faith. Either your human works will save you or your full reliance upon the accomplishments of Christ. I am convinced by the Scriptures that faith is what God requires for salvation. I am also persuaded by the witness of the NT Scriptures that none are righteous, that we are all under sin, and that all are guilty before God. Lastly, I am assured by my own experience that my religious efforts are far from perfect. I am weak and am a sinner. Therefore, by the testimony of these three witnesses, I find that my only option for forgiveness of sin, salvation from the wrath to come, a right relationship with God, and eternal life without the sufferings of this age is to throw myself at the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. I surrender to the sacrifice of the Savior. I have no hope apart from Him. I have no righteousness outside of Him. So, I trust Him to make me right and to save me. I hope you will do the same.