Our study tonight takes us to the third chapter of the book of Galatians in our continuing look at this most exciting and helpful book. Galatians chapter 3; and we will be considering verses 1-5, Galatians 3:1-5.
Defection is an ugly word. And so is the word deserter. And certainly, there is nothing more bewildering, and few things more sorrowing, than to see a Christian who defects, or a Christian who deserts, the purity of the Christian faith by which he has been born again and by which he has been nurtured, and settle for something less. But strange as it may seem, many Christians do. We find that they begin well. They receive the grace of Christ extended in salvation; they live in humble faith, but soon they fall into systems of legalism, systems of ritual, systems of works. I wonder how many Christians, for example, have come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ in a very personal way and then fallen into a very liturgical church pattern, where they merely go through formalities and functions that have only external symbolism and no internal significance. I wonder how many people begin well, and then begin to substitute things like confirmation and Communion and baptism and the mass and any other kind of particular church rite for the realities of the Christian faith.
Now this is an issue which comes to full force in the book of Galatians, because this is the issue that confronts the heart of the apostle Paul. He had been used as the mouthpiece of God to introduce the Galatians to the truth of the gospel. He was the one who preached the gospel of grace; he was the one who exposed them to the magnificence of the Christian experience, which was by faith plus nothing, in the perfect and finished work of Jesus Christ. But since that time when he had begun with them, they had defected. They had deserted the simple purity of a grace gospel and substituted a form of religion, inferior and impotent.
Now this is not to say they had lost their salvation. It is rather to say that they substituted for the fullness of their life in Christ a form of religion that had no power and no joy. And beyond that, the unsaved world would get its doctrine of salvation from their lives and are they to live legalistic lives, the world then is to conclude that salvation comes by legalism and nothing could be further from the truth.
And so Paul, in the book of Galatians, is extremely concerned about the defection of the Galatians to a legalism kind of life, because one, they have robbed themselves of the fullness of blessing, two, they have robbed the world of a right view of the doctrine of salvation. Even though they themselves are saved, they are living in nonconformity to the very doctrine by which they were saved.
Now we know that Satan never stops trying to destroy God's plan of salvation, so if God's plan is a plan of grace, Satan will try to overbuild grace with works. If it's a plan of faith, he'll try to add on top of faith something else. This is his plan. And he has done this in Galatia as he has done it throughout all of history. Remember a few weeks back we saw how he did this at the very beginning with the case of Cain and Abel, where you have the first conflict between grace and law. And it's raged all through history, and no different in Galatia. Satan moves in and tries to destroy grace by adding to it law, legalism, and law works as a way to please God, a way to gain God's favor.
Now in chapter 4 for just a minute, verses 13-15 of Galatians, the apostle Paul reflects on the gracious, warm reception he received when he came to the Galatians. Notice verse 13. "You know how, through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my trial, which was in my flesh, you despised not nor rejected, but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is, then, the blessedness you spoke of? For I bear you witness that if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me!" Now that's a startling statement. Paul says, "When I came to you, you received me as if you were receiving an angel, better, as if you were receiving Christ Jesus. You would have plucked out your own eyes for my sake. What a reception I had among you!" Fantastic.
But just as amazing as the reception was the defection. And he is astonished, as he says in chapter 1 verse 6. "I am astonished that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel." He marveled over the reception, and he also marveled over the defection. He was astounded at the way they received him, and he was astounded at the way they deserted his gospel. Now, they had not given up their salvation, they had simply, having received Christ by faith, they decided then that they would live by works and that they would impose works on others as a way of salvation even though they didn't get into the...to the kingdom that way. They were saved purely by faith, but now, because of the efforts of the false-teaching Judaizers, they were going to make everybody else get saved by works. And they were going to themselves live by works, thus robbing their own joy, thus destroying the doctrine of salvation in the eyes of the watching world. So, they had turned from grace to law, from Calvary to ceremony, from freedom to bondage, from faith to works.
Now Paul writes this epistle to counteract the work of these Judaizers. Now we've seen that the Judaizers were Jewish false teachers who traveled around, used by Satan to teach people that they were saved only when they were circumcised (a literal, physical operation) and when they kept all the ceremonial laws. It wasn't a question of moral law, that is, of murder and lying and cheating and stealing and adultery. It was a question of ceremony. They were saying, "To be saved, you have to be circumcised, and you’ve got to keep all the feasts, and you’ve got to go through all the sacrifices, and you’ve got to do the whole thing." And Paul writes this letter to counteract that.
And it falls into three parts. The first section is personal, in chapters 1 and 2, where he defends his apostolic authority. The second section is doctrinal, where he defends his gospel of grace. And the third section, chapters 5 and 6, is practical, where he defends his liberty living. And so there is a personal section in the first two chapters, a doctrinal section in the next two, and a practical section in the last two. Now we're at the beginning of the doctrinal section in chapter 3.
And here Paul fully answers the Judaizers who have condemned salvation by grace through faith alone. You see, the Judaizers came along and said, "You can't say you're saved by faith alone. You've got to be saved also by faith and works. You have to be circumcised, you have to keep the ceremonies, you have to do this." And they were placing on these people the burden of self-righteousness. As Paul said in Romans, "They go about trying to establish their own righteousness." And so the section of...of our interest, chapters 3 and 4, is a classic defense of the doctrine of the justification by faith, which Paul stated in chapter 2 verse 16. You’ll remember that statement; look back at it. We studied this last time.
Paul said, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith,” faith of Jesus Christ, “even we have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." And there, in three ways, he states the same thing. Nobody is saved any other way than through faith in the historic act of God in Christ, in His death and resurrection.
Now he has stated it in 2:16, and in chapter 3 and 4, he defends it. Here you have a classic defense of the doctrine of the justification of faith. Now he defends it from two views. Just make these a mental note in your head and we'll be coming back to these in the weeks to follow. He defends the doctrine of justification by faith from the standpoint of experience and from the standpoint of Scripture, from the standpoint of experience and the standpoint of Scripture.
Now, from the standpoint of experience is verses 1-5. From the standpoint of Scripture verses 6 through the 7th verse of chapter 4. So all the way from 3:6 to 4:7, he defends justification by faith on the basis of Scripture. But his first defense, in our five verses for tonight, is on the basis of experience.
Incidentally, from chapter 4, verse 8 on, he makes a plea to the Galatians based on his defense.
Now tonight, we're going to look at this first defense, the defense on the basis of experience. Justification by faith - what do we mean by that? We mean, in terms of justification, to be declared righteous. How shall a man be just before God? How can a man enter God's presence? How can a man be acceptable to God? The New Testament says, "By faith alone." That's the doctrine of justification by faith, that a man is made acceptable to God by his faith in the perfect work of Christ, no other way. And nothing that man does, nothing that man attempts in the sense of self-righteousness, has anything to do with it at all. Doesn't matter how good he is or how bad he is, it's only a question of believing in Jesus Christ that justifies a man.
Now Paul defends this on the basis of the experience of the Galatians. And in verses 1-5, he says, in effect, "How in the world could you people ever accept a doctrine of salvation by works when you have already experienced salvation by faith? And you found that when you experienced salvation by faith, you got everything there was to get. What are you looking for in works that you didn't get in salvation by faith?" And he does three things. He pinpoints their experience three ways: Their experience with Christ, with the Holy Spirit, and with God the Father. And so, he says in these five verses, "Based on your experience with Christ, your experience with the Holy Spirit, your experience with the Father, you know justification is by faith. What are you doing messing around with a salvation by works doctrine?" Now that's basically what he says in these five verses.
Paul, then, already having established his authority, now proceeds to defend his message and on the basis of experience. And you know, in a sense, experience is a great defense. It’s a great apologetic, because while a lot of people have experiences, it is still true that some experiences are true. And my experience... My experience is a way to defend my faith. In other words, if I say to you, "I believe in Jesus Christ because I have come to Him on the basis of the terms which He laid down. He says, 'Come unto Me and believe in Me, and receive Me by faith, and you shall live.' I did it. I live." That's an experience verifying the truth of the statement. Now that's the thing that Paul is trying to say here.
And look first of all in verse 1 before we get into the formal outline and just get a beginning here. Verse 1: "Oh, foolish Galatians." Now remember, the Galatians were not just one city, but an area in which there were at least four churches, and so this was kind of a circular letter. "Oh foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?" Stop there. Now, like so many who are victimized by Satan, the Galatians were bewitched. He says to them, "Oh foolish Galatians." And in looking at that you try to determine, now what is his attitude? With what emotion does he say this? Well, it’s probably a combination of anger and love, mixed in with surprise. Sort of, "I can't believe this! You foolish Galatians! Who bewitched you?"
Notice the word there for “foolish,” a most interesting word loaded with insights. The word, anoētos, seems to indicate, listen, the stupidity that comes from deadness of intellect. It’s very difficult sometimes to pinpoint Greek words in English, but if we can get back into this one, maybe we'll be able to pin it down a little bit. Literally, it would say this: "You are lacking in the power of perception."
Charlie Brown would say, "Oh you blockheads!" And what it literally means is, “one who does not think.” It is not talking about the absence of intelligence; it’s talking about the failure to use it. It is not saying, "Oh you morons," or "Oh you imbeciles," in a...in a categorical sense of an inability to think. It is saying, "You blockheads who aren't using your brains!" That's basically what the word is saying. "You're not using your heads! The Judaizers arrive and they teach you a doctrine that you can be saved by works; you are stupid to believe that!" J.B. Phillips says, "Oh you dear idiots."
What Paul is saying is, "Think it through! Foolish Galatians!" Also implied in the word is an attitude of the heart as well as the mind. The word is used several places in the New Testament, and if we are to look at those places, we'll find ourselves getting a clear view. Luke 24:25, the road to Emmaus. Jesus is walking along and they don't know who He is, right? He says to them, "Oh foolish ones,” same word “slow of heart." Notice that. When He said “foolish,” He wasn't talking about their brains; He was talking about their hearts. In other words, they were stupid for not studying all the prophets had said so that they would have known that He should rise. They were walking with Jesus and moaning about the fact their Messiah was dead, didn't even know who He was. Says, "Oh foolish, foolish! You're not thinking. If you knew the information in the Scripture, you'd know what was going on. Think it through."
Now when we talk about “foolish” then, we're talking about somebody, not who is stupid intellectually or has no capacity, but somebody who doesn't take advantage of the opportunity to learn the truth. And what he's saying to the Galatians is just that. "You never examined the truth. You got into this mess because you never examined the truth. You never thought it through."
Paul said to Timothy, regarding rich people, in 1 Timothy 6:9, "They that will be rich fall into temptations and a snare unto many foolish lusts." In other words, people plunge after money, and they don't think about what the consequences are going to be. It's just stupidity from the standpoint of the failure to use the perceptive powers that God has given. The same thing is used again in Titus 3:3. "We ourselves also were once foolish." Now the idea, then, is somebody who doesn't take advantage of all the available information to find out the facts. This is a tremendously important thing. Let me see if I can put it another way so that you understand it. It is not a question of mental inability; it is a question of, get it, sinful neglect. It is not a question of mental inability but of sinful neglect of one's available resources. The Galatians, in listening to the legalizing Jews, were stupid because they didn't think it through. And incidentally, so is everybody who barters Satan's lie for the truth of God.
Now listen to this. It was a sheer failure to use their brains that led them into the sin of legalism. Now hang onto that thought. That’s really important, because Paul is going to spend two chapters using his brain to re-think for them.
You know what I believe? I believe right here, you have a tremendous insight into why people get into false doctrine. It's because they follow their hearts, they follow their fancies, they follow their whims, and they don't think it through. They don't study the Scripture and apply the mental processes to the available information. You always hear people say, "Well, they were such wonderful people. It all... It all seemed so good!" Blockhead. Think it through. The Christian faith is not just... It’s not just a bunch of floating whims and fancies. No. Some people just float, you know, they just grab onto whatever breeze is blowing, tossed to and fro about by every wind of doctrine. And they follow their whims and they follow their fancy. Watch this word. They follow their emotions rather than their intellects. And there’s all kinds of things that can stir up your emotions.
Did you know that... Do you know that total misinformation and total untruth, if presented to you in the right salesmanship patterns, can stir up your emotions to wrong behavior? Believe it; it happens all the time. You can respond emotionally to lies just as well as you can to truth. But your mind, when it’s confirmed in the truth, can become a rock. Follow your head, not your emotions. And that's what gets people into trouble; that's why people get wrapped up in false systems. Not because...not because they’ve been intellectually convinced but because they’ve...they’ve been emotionally victimized. Think it through.
Listen to Romans 12. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Now listen to this. "And be not conformed to the system, but be transformed." How? "By the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, acceptable, perfect will of God." You see the word “prove” implies an intellectual process. If you want to be a transformed person, it's not going to be an emotional thing; it's going to be an intellectual thing. Your faith ought to be established not on your emotions but in your head. Your emotions will come along, believe me.
Listen to Ephesians 4:23. Straight shot; one little short sentence makes up the verse. "And be renewed” how? “in the spirit of your mind." “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Listen to Colossians 3:10, similar statement. "And have put on the new man that is renewed in knowledge." You are transformed by what you know. You are renewed by what you know. You put on the new man. The new man is renewed in knowledge.
Beloved, let me tell you something about the Christian life. The Christian life is not an emotional gig. The Christian life is an intellectual pursuit. And I don't want that to be cold, hard academics. But it's basically true. There's plenty of emotion, believe me. If you could sit through the service already tonight and not feel emotional, there’s something wrong with you, because there’s joy, and there’s glory, and there’s praise, and there’s love, and there’s all the things that come along the way. But those are byproducts of an intellectual apprehension of truth.
I don't want to be victimized emotionally by people, but I sure want my emotions to run the gamut on the basis of what I know in my mind. And so many people who profess Christ as Savior by faith get sidetracked into legalistic systems because they fail to use their brains to examine Scripture, to think things through, and they listen to so-called experts whom Satan uses to play on their emotions.
"Oh foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?" Another very interesting phrase from the word baskainō, which literally means, “Who has fascinated you?” Now you see, there is the area of emotion. "Who tickled your fancy?" You see Paul knows that when you get dragged away, it is because you're not rooted, grounded, settled in the faith. You have not made an intellectual apprehension of truth and committed yourself to that. That's why we say the study of the Word of God is a great protection against false doctrine, because you get rooted in truth. He says, "Who tickled your fancy and drew you off?"
The Judaizers cast a spell on them. And it wasn't a hocus-pocus, evil-eye type thing, even though the word here is used in historic reference to have reference to the evil eye kind of a deal. That's not what he's saying here. It's not some kind of sorcery, but they have been bewitched by the words and teachings and emotional appeals of the Judaizers. And they were saying to them, "Oh, faith is not enough. Oh, if you want to go further than that, you can have works and gain the fullness of God's blessing." And they were pushing them to a greater thing, a greater experience of God. They were trying to supplement salvation. Hendrickson says, "A supplemented Christ is a supplanted Christ."
Now notice what it says. "Oh foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?" That's an important phrase. What does it mean to obey the truth? It means to receive the gospel. Basically, that's all it means, the gospel of grace. Galatians 2:14, the same phrase: "When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel," There it is. The truth he's talking about here in Galatians is the gospel, the good news of salvation by faith.
Chapter 5 verse 7 is the same thing. "You did run well. Who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?" Now the point is, he's saying, "You knew the truth, you heard the gospel, you heard the facts, you heard it straight, it is by grace through faith plus nothing. Who bewitched you, fascinated your emotions, that you didn't use your heads and fell into legalism?"
Now you say, "Well, how could Paul call them blockheads? On what basis does he say, ‘You didn't use your heads’?" Well first of all, on the basis they didn't even look through their own experience. Secondly, on the basis they didn't examine Scripture.
Now that's the whole argument of the rest of the chapter. First of all, you're a blockhead because you didn't check out your own experience; secondly, because you didn't check out Scripture. And beloved, there is a great pattern for you. When anybody comes along and offers you some greater experience, some new thing, some fantastic new experience with God, or some greater way to be blessed by God, or to get to know more of God, or have more of the Holy Spirit, or...or something to go beyond what you've got, you check it out two ways. One, check your own experience with the Lord and the fullness of what you have in Christ and two, check the Scripture. And if you haven't done that and you get caught in it, you're a blockhead.
All right now let's see what he said. And he really comes in just a crunching kind of indictment on tops of the heads of these Galatians. He says, "First of all, your experience should tell you this, because you've experienced the Trinity; first, your experience with Christ, secondly, your experience with the Holy Spirit, thirdly, with God. And that's how the rest of the verses divide up. Your experience with Christ is in verse 1, with the Holy Spirit is in verses 2-4, and your experience with God is in verse 5. All of these experiences that you've had with the Trinity ought to show you, once and for all, that you do not need legalism.
First, of all, let's begin with our experience with Christ. What a fantastic statement he makes. Verse 1: "Oh, foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been openly set forth crucified among you?" And he's saying here, "You have openly seen the gospel presented in a crucified Christ. You’ve had that experience." Now the gospel of Christ had come to them with clarity, it had come to them with power. They had received. They had believed it. They’d been transformed from meeting Christ. And their yielding to the false teachers was totally inexcusable. Why? Because Jesus had been presented to them as the source of all salvation simply to those who believed. It had been clearly and publicly proclaimed to them. There was no excuse for them to believe anything else. Paul is really recalling their conversion.
Now let's look at the features of the statement. "Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been openly set forth." Or, “evidently set forth,” a most interesting word, prographō. Now this word refers to the placards that were publicly displayed in the forum or the marketplace, the agora, when there was an announcement to be made. Today, we get all of our announcements in the newspaper. And the newspaper, I don't know how you feel about it, but it gets to be rather uninteresting after a while because you don't know what's important and what isn't. But in those days, you knew what was important simply because there were no newspapers and what the government or the city officials would do is they would nail a placard all around town with a public notice on it. And everybody would read that and that was the important information that needed to be known. And that is the word that is used here. And he's saying to them, "Christ has been placarded in front of you! There's no doubt; you have seen clearly the gospel of Jesus Christ openly, publicly proclaimed. And you saw that He was crucified."
Now, you know, I'm sure Paul was a dynamic and dramatic preacher. I'm sure if they had sat beneath his feet and listened to the gospel, they could honestly say, "Yes, He has been openly set forth as crucified." Perhaps that audience even felt like they could hear the ringing of the hammers as they hit the nails that went into His hands. Perhaps there was a sense in which they could hear His cries, and they could sense His tears, and feel His hurts, and even perhaps visualize the blood that was dripping from His body, so vividly was He presented to them. They could see Him crucified. They were convicted of their sins. They repented, they accepted His perfect sacrifice, they forsook their sin and paganism and by faith had entered the kingdom. And they had seen it all, they had become new creatures. And Paul says, "It was all open, and it was all public, and you responded to it. And the miracle happened and a whole multitude of you Galatians arose to walk in newness of life. You saw Him crucified. How then? How then, could you ever conclude that legalism saves a man, when you saw so clearly that there was only one thing that could redeem and that was the death of the perfect sacrifice? Why? Because by the deeds of the law, nobody could get saved. God had to send a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty."
If you jump back to chapter 2, verse 21, you get an interesting comparison. Paul says at the middle of verse 21, "If righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead (what?) in vain.” If you can save yourself by your own good deeds, then Christ died needlessly. Now, you foolish Galatians, who bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been openly set forth crucified?" In other words, "You are now saying, in effect, that He didn't need to die. How can you say that when you heard the gospel of His death so clearly presented, and believed it with your whole heart, and were redeemed on the spot when you believed? How can you now deny the necessity of His death? How can you substitute a system of works?"
Let me tell you something, beloved, Jesus never would have died if He didn't have to. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, "Let this cup pass from me." But He said, "Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done." Through His life, He said, "I must needs go to Jerusalem." He had to go there. He had to die. He said Himself, "To this end was I born, for this cause came I into the world." Why did He have to die? Because no man can ever get to God, no man can ever be right with God, no man can ever be accepted by God except through a perfect sacrifice paying the penalty of sin. You can't do it for yourself.
Well when they accepted a system of works — that you could get saved by keeping sacrifices, going through religious folderol and hocus-pocus — they were, in effect, denying the absolute saving character of the cross. And he says, "How can you do it when you've experienced the cross? Visually, right before your eyes, you saw it so clearly with the eyes of faith! And now you're going to back up to legalism and deny the cross?"
Notice the last phrase of verse 1, "Crucified among you." It's just one Greek term, really, perfect passive participle: “Christ having been crucified in your midst, in your view.” It's a fantastic thing because this form of a Greek verb expresses —
watch this, it expresses, and this is a really deep thought —it expresses an historical fact with continuing results. This is one form of a Greek verb that expresses a historic fact with continuing results. Now Christ was crucified in history, right, 1900 and some years ago. Does that have continuing results? Of course it does. And there's a sense in which, at the moment anybody believes in Jesus Christ, he is at that moment, crucified with Christ. So the crucifixion of Christ, in a sense, continues to go on. Fantastic.
In fact, in 1 John 1:9, it says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins," to keep on forgiving us our sins. And what it literally says, "He is still righteous to keep on forgiving our sins." The cross is an historic fact with continuing results. Now hang onto that thought. Listen, beloved. Legalism, ritual, ceremony, and routine and religious hocus-pocus does not pick up where the cross leaves off. You know why? The cross never leaves off! It has a continuing effect. The cross continues to be that which substitutes for my own sin. It has continuing effect.
Now the Galatians probably, "Well, that was fine, the cross had its moment, but now we've got to add to that works." No. Works never pick up where the cross leaves off because the cross doesn't leave off. Works didn't get me in and works aren't going to keep me in. Works didn't please God to begin with, they were dirty rags, and my own self-righteousness doesn't please Him any more now than it did before I was saved. I can't get to God by my works, I can't add to the cross; the cross keeps on moving through history. It stands forever as living proof that men cannot redeem themselves. And so he says to them, "How could you accept the cross and see all that the cross is, and then come in with this system of works?"
And you know, beloved, this is what’s happened so much in the church today. So many churches have a form of godliness, but no power. They’ve got all the religious folderol going on, but there's nothing there of reality. And people are assuming they’re getting justified by their good deeds and because they are good, better, best or even goody-good-good; they think God is going to let them into the kingdom.
In Acts 13:39, it says this: "And by Him, all that believe are justified from all things,” by Jesus Christ. All that believe in Him are justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Oh, the law of Moses can provide absolutely no justification, no righteousness, no acceptance with God at all. This is the message of the whole book of Hebrews. And at the risk of getting all lost in these verses, let me just suggest a few of them here and try to keep it brief.
Hebrews 7:18. "For there is verily an annulling of the commandment going before the weakness and unprofitableness of it," in other words, the old covenant is passed away, "for the law made nothing perfect." In other words, the law saved nobody. "And the bringing in of a better hope by which we draw near unto God." The law couldn't do anything, but the better hope in Jesus Christ brought us to God. And what does it say in the book of Hebrews? "Through Jesus Christ, we enter into the Father's presence, we enter into the Holy of Holies with (what?)boldness," boldness.
Verse 22 says, "Jesus was made a surety of a better covenant," a better testament. It says, "He doesn't need to daily offer sacrifices as the high priest, for this He did once when He offered Himself, the perfect sacrifice." Well, in Galatians 5:2, later on we'll study what Paul says there. He says, "Behold, I, Paul, say unto you that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing." In other words, Christ wasted His time if you can get saved by getting circumcised. "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law." In other words, if you want to put your... Listen to this one. If you want to put your faith in your own works then all the works of the law you have to keep. And if ever you've violated any of them, you've destroyed yourself. "Christ has become of no effect unto you, whoever of you are justified by the law! You are fallen from grace as a way to God; you have missed it. But we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." There is no salvation in works, absolutely none. No man is good enough to enter the presence of God, for God demands absolute holiness. And the only way you'll ever get it is when you put your faith in Jesus Christ and God gives you the holiness of Christ in a token response for your faith.
John 3:14. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life." It's a matter of believing. It’s a matter of believing. Now there are many, many scriptures we could talk about in terms of faith. That’s just a couple.
So he says to them, "You had such a clear picture of Christ crucified. You saw the necessity of His death; you saw what the cross meant. You saw the continuing character of the cross; you saw that it never left off. What in the world ever messed you up to get you into legalism?"
Secondly, in Galatians 3, he says, "Your experience not only with Christ, but your experience with the Holy Spirit, makes you a blockhead. You should have thought it through. Don't you know what the Holy Spirit has accomplished?" That's in verses 2-4. Look at verse 2. "This only would I learn of you." And I like... He's saying, "I just have one question, just one. “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” How'd you get the Holy Spirit in the beginning?" Well, the answer is obvious. They didn't do any spiritual gymnastics to get the Holy Spirit, they just believed. "Just one question," he says. "How did you get the Holy Spirit?"
Now you say, "Well, why does he make this an issue?" Well, because the gift of the Holy Spirit, listen now, the gift of the Holy Spirit is the most unmistakable evidence of God's favor there is. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the greatest proof of a man's salvation that there is. The Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are what? The children of God. The greatest proof that you’re redeemed is the testimony of the Holy Spirit. When God gives his Spirit, listen to me, He gives it only to those who believe. That's why it's ludicrous, as well as anti-scriptural, to say you can be a Christian and not have the Holy Spirit. That's like saying, "God saved me but gave me no evidence of it and no guarantee of it." No, when a person comes to Christ, God gives the Spirit as evidence of God’s acceptance and as the absolute guarantee of eternal salvation.
Look at Ephesians 1:13 and I'll show you this. Ephesians 1:13 says, "In whom ye also are," that is, you're in Christ. You’re in Christ, "after you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” All right. “In whom also, after you believed, you were sealed” not by, but “with the presence, with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Now when you believed, you were given the Holy Spirit as a seal. Well, what for? Verse 14. "Who is the earnest," or the arrabōn, "of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." Now somebody says, "When you get saved, you’re going to go to heaven." Say, well how do you know that? Because God gave you a guarantee. Who’s the guarantee? The Holy Spirit.
The word arrabōn, translated “earnest,” is also used in 2 Corinthians. And it's a very interesting word. It means “down payment” or “first installment.” When you got saved, God says, "I have an inheritance for you and I'll give you the down payment." That's the Holy Spirit. It also is used to refer to an engagement ring. If somebody says to you, "How do you know that you’re going to go to the marriage supper of the Lamb someday? How do you know that you're part of the bride of Christ?" All you have to say is, "Because I have an engagement ring." They say, "Who’s your engagement ring,” or “What’s your engagement ring?" And simply say, the Holy Spirit, the arrabōn, the earnest of the Spirit is the engagement ring guaranteeing the wedding is going to come off. God verifies His promise with the giving of the Spirit.
Beloved, that's why the denominations and the people, watch this, who do not believe that all Christians have the Holy Spirit also do not believe in the security of the believer. Because if you don't have the Holy Spirit, you don't have any guarantee. So you find that, in the...in the types of Christian groups where they deny that all Christians have the Holy Spirit, and they say you get the Holy Spirit later if you follow certain patterns, they will also usually — and there may be come exceptions, but usually — deny the security of the believer. And say you can lose your salvation. Why? Because they don't have that guarantee within them if the Spirit isn't there. They do, but they don't know it. I always say about people who don't believe in eternal security: It doesn't change security; it just makes them miserable if they want to worry about it.
But they had been given, in terms of their experience in salvation, the Galatians had, the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the statement of Ephesians 1. "When they believed, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” And that seal is until the redemption of the purchased possession. Until God takes that person to be with Him, they are secured by the presence of the Spirit. So He is the guarantee. So the word is used...
Arrabōn is used to speak of a down payment, a guarantee, and an engagement ring. This is absolute proof of salvation.
To give you a classic illustration, we go back to our study of the book Acts, chapter 15, and Peter at the Jerusalem Council. And when he wanted to show the people there that the Gentiles had been saved by faith, this is what he said. Verse 7: "And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them,” Acts 15:7, “’Men and brethren, you know how, a good while ago, God made choice among us that the Gentiles, by my mouth, should hear the word of the gospel and believe.'" All right, the Gentiles heard the gospel and believed. The Jews had a problem with that, of course. They didn't know that they could accept that, Gentiles getting saved by faith. But notice his argument for it in verse 8. "And God, who knows the hearts, bore them witness." In other words, God looked in their heart, determined their faith was real, and He gave testimony to the reality of their faith. How did He give that testimony? Giving them the Holy Spirit. God's corroboration of the legitimacy of a man's faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit, “even as he did unto us."
Now if God gave them the Holy Spirit, Peter says, and purified their hearts by faith, what in the world are we going to do putting a yoke on their necks that our fathers couldn't bear? We don't want to add legalism to it. So, they had believed. They had seen Christ crucified before them, Galatians 3, they had received the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith. Paul says this, "Listen, people, did you receive the Holy Spirit by law works? By religious rites? By circumcision? By all of that stuff, or by the hearing of faith?" Now what was the answer? "By the hearing of faith." Because the Judaizers came late; they came long after they’d been saved. So he's saying, "Did you need legalism to know Christ? Did you need legalism to have the Holy Spirit? Use your heads."
The answer is obvious. They had received the Holy Spirit by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. And beloved, that is the pattern; that is the norm for faith.
Remember our study of Acts 19? He meets those wandering disciples, followers of John the Baptist, Paul meets them. He says to them, "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" In other words, what he's saying is, "I want to know if your faith is real, and the way I'll know it is if you have the Holy Spirit." Saving faith always brings the Holy Spirit. He is God's guarantee that you're saved. If God saves you and doesn't give His Holy Spirit, then God goes against His own guarantee. "There is an experience," he says, "that you have had with the Holy Spirit, that shows you that by faith you receive it all. You receive it all." What an argument, pretty potent. Believe me, pretty potent.
Over in chapter 3 verse 13, he says the same thing. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. For it’s written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.' That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." You know how you get the Spirit? Through faith. Through faith in whom? Through faith in Jesus Christ, that's it. That's it. That's God's guarantee.
Well, the Judaizers, you know, they’re like groups today. They want to introduce special laws and special conditions. And if you do this, you'll get a greater filling of the Spirit, or a greater experience of the Spirit, or a greater fullness of the Spirit, or you’ll get a fuller salvation. Some people call it the “full gospel,” as if there was a half-gospel and a full gospel. And people... It's amazing what contrived means people use to get the Holy Spirit in this particular format. The vehicles that they use are nothing but works. "If you do certain works, if you put out certain efforts, you will get the Holy Spirit."
You know, if you look at Romans 8 you'll see how that that is impossible. Romans 8 verse 1 "There is now, therefore, no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” Now verse 2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” That’s good. Look at verse 3. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,” works couldn’t do it, “God sending His son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." What he's saying there is this, "The law couldn't give me the Holy Spirit." The only way you get the Holy Spirit was when God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. The righteousness He provided I accept by faith and receive the Spirit. No works can gain the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is procured by faith in Jesus Christ, which sets us free from the law.
And may I add a thought? The Holy Spirit is not the goal of the Christian life; the Holy Spirit is the source of it. The Holy Spirit is not the goal of the Christian life; He is the source of it. So Paul shoots down the idea, so prevalent today even, that there is a fuller kind of gospel which will bring the Holy Spirit in fullness if we just do some certain spiritual acts, some certain works. No. He comes fully by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, don’t you see what Paul is saying here? He's saying, "Their whole experience is so complete. What are they looking for?" Beloved, everything is ours through faith.
Now look at verse 3. "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit," and he knows that the answer is they received the Spirit by faith, they have the Spirit. "So since you've begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?" What a ridiculous thought! I mean that is really stupid. "Yes, we began in the Spirit, but we've taken over." Oh, great, great. Only the Holy Spirit can bring you to maturity. Are you perfected by the flesh? Are you kidding? Paul says, "In my flesh dwelleth no good thing. Do you think I'm going to say, ”Well, Holy Spirit, it's nice to have you and you've done a good job so far, I'll take over from here on out”? Now you’d never say that but we do that sometimes, don't we? What a sad thing. Anyone who puts his hope in flesh, in self-effort, is fallen from the work of the Spirit back to his own impotence.
If you want to really be impotent, if you want to really be a nothing, just do it yourself. And...and what we’re talking here about is not to say, you know I’m not saying, now that you're a Christian, don't do any good things. I'm simply saying don't put your hope of salvation in your good things. And what the Judaizers were talking about weren't even moral things, they were just ceremonies. They weren't really good or bad. They were just there. It would be like saying you can be saved if you come to church three out of four Sundays a week. I mean that wasn’t even a moral issue. It was just a ceremony, just an arbitrary ceremony at that.
You say, "Well, John, you're not condemning works?" No, no. I'm not condemning works. Listen to what James said in James 2 and let's get the other balance here. James 2:14. "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith but hath not works. Can faith save him?" In other words, James says this, "There need to be works, yes, as a verification of your salvation." Now notice, it's a difference in attitude. The Old Testament says this, "Do this and you'll live." The New Testament says, "You live, so do this." That's the difference. If you're doing works to earn God's favor, that's legalism. If you're doing works because of His favor, that's spirituality. And I'm talking about moral works, good deeds, good works. The attitude is the key.
Let me give you an illustration. You read your Bible. OK? Why do you read your Bible? Well, the basis on which you read your Bible... It’s a simple illustration. It could be why you go to church or why you do anything, pray. But let's just take reading your Bible. Why do you read your Bible? Do you read your Bible so that God will like you better? You say, "Well I read two chapters, oh I imagine the Lord is really happy with me today!" That's legalism. That is legalism. If you read your Bible to give glory to God, that's spirituality. If you read your Bible to get glory for yourself, that's legalism. See the difference? It's an attitude. It’s an attitude. If I pray to be pious, that's legalism. If I pray out of the passion of my heart for God that's spirituality. It's an attitude. And incidentally, friends, one is a rotten stench to the nostrils of God and the other is a sweet-smelling savor. And it's an attitude that's at the heart of it.
The Judaizers had come along and they said, "Really spiritual people keep all the rituals and all the ceremonies." That's a bunch of bunk. But at the same time, really spiritual people do do good works, not to gain glory for themselves - that's legalism - but to give glory to the God who saved them. That's spirituality.
Paul sums up this section in Galatians chapter 3, verse 4. "Have you suffered so many things in vain, if it be yet in vain?" Two possible interpretations here, quickly; “suffered” is a neutral word. It can be translated in any way and it’s given its meaning by the context. It literally means “experience.” And if it was in a context of suffering, it could be translated “suffered.” But since here there’s no suffering at all in the context, it seems best to me to translate the word “experienced.” "Have you experienced so many things in vain?" In other words, that's the key to the whole little section. "Haven't your experiences taught you anything? You blockheads, have all these experiences gone for naught? You've experienced Christ crucified among you! Put your faith in Him; been redeemed. You've experienced the indwelling Holy Spirit with His power and His presence. Verse 5, he’ll say you've experienced God the Father. Has all of this stuff been for nothing? Can't you think it through?" Paul is saying, "You've experienced salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ; you've experienced the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Didn’t it... Didn't it matter? Didn't it make any sense? Was it all needless? Having begun in the Spirit, you’re now going to make yourselves perfect by...by works?" No.
But then he softens the blow at the end of verse 4. "If it be yet in vain," and there he kind of says, in effect, "And I... I hope it isn't true. I hope it isn't true." A touch of tenderness, hoping it isn't so. And he does this all through Galatians. He wales away, you know, just smashes down their whole deal, and then he sort of backs off and says, "Oh I hope it isn't so." 4:11 he does it. "I am afraid of you, lest I've bestowed on you labor in vain." 4:20. "My desire is to be present with you now, and to change my tone, for I stand in doubt of you." In other words, "I'm not too sure. Maybe it’s so, maybe it isn't." Verse 10 of chapter 5: "I have confidence in you, through the Lord, that you will be not otherwise minded." In other words, I'm hoping that you're going to change, you’re going to listen to what I say. And I hope it isn't in vain. You know the full blessing of faith in Christ. You know the fullness of the indwelling Spirit. Doesn't that mean something? What are you looking for? What else could you want but all of Christ and all of His Spirit? What are you going to get from works that you didn't get free from faith?"
Finally, he says, your experience with God, verse 5. "He, therefore, that ministereth to you the Spirit." Who’s the One who gives the Spirit? God the Father. Jesus said in Acts chapter 1, "Go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father." And what was the promise of the Father? Luke 11 where the Father says...the Father would give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. God gives the Spirit. God gives the Spirit. In the case of Jesus, God gave Him the Spirit not by measure. God gives the Spirit.
So here, he says, "He, therefore, that ministered to you the Spirit," that's the Father, "and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?" And here is the...the summum bonum of the argument; he brings God into it. The construction of the Greek here requires us to recognize that the One who ministered the Spirit is the One who worked the miracles. It is indeed God the Father. It is indeed God the Father.
The word “ministers,” fantastic word. It’s another compound word, and compound words always carry a loaded kind of meaning. It means “to supply bountifully.” Get that? Listen to that. "He, therefore, that supplied in a bountiful,” or an abundant “fashion to you the Spirit." Don't ever think, beloved, that when you get saved, you only get part of the Spirit. He gives the Spirit in a super-abundant way, and in a bountiful way. The root word of this complex word here, this compound word, is chorēgeō. And that is a very interesting word.
In ancient times in Greece, they used to have great festivals, and they used to have great plays. And oh you know, Sophocles and Euripides, and other playwrights would write them and people would put them on. And all Greek plays had a chorus to do the musical background, but it was very often expensive. And in some of the classic Greek writings, we find out they had a difficult time getting choruses together unless somebody in town would foot the bill. And so public spirited, you know, chamber of commerce types would be glad to pay the bill so that the public play could go on. They would defray the cost and allow this thing to happen. Later in wartime, the same word, chorēgeō, is used of patriotic citizens who gave contributions to the state to support the army. That's chorēgeō. In later Greek papyri, the same word is common in marriage contracts, and it described the support which a husband, out of love, promised to give his wife. It has to do, then, with benevolent support, with benevolent giving.
And here, the word speaks of the benevolent giving of God as He is giving out of love. And in those cases, it was a love of a man for the play, or the love of a man for the state, or the love of a man for the woman, and that's a dim suggestion of what chorēgeō has to say to us here when we see the love of God, and by it, He super-abundantly and bountifully pours out His Spirit. And man, when the Spirit came, they knew it. Oh yeah. Because it...the Spirit, it says, "He ministered to you the Spirit and works miracles among you."
Now there’s two thoughts there. “Miracles among you” could be translated that way. In other words, they saw miracles happening around them. God was approving the truth of the gospel by miracles. But the word “miracle” there is dunamis. Power, and it can well be translated, “power within you,” power in you. You received the Spirit and not only miracles around you, but power in you. God gave them the power. Now he says, "Did you get that by works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Well, the answer was obvious! By the hearing of faith they got it. All the miracles they saw, all the power they knew. He says this then, "Friends. If you received Jesus Christ and all His fullness, the Holy Spirit and all His fullness, God the Father and all that He could give and you got it all by faith, what in the world could you ever add to the Trinity by works? Oh, foolish Galatians, who bewitched you?" Pretty potent argument, isn't it?
The whole thing is yours by faith, beloved. Is that exciting? Boy, that's our salvation. I'm not interested in legalism; it offers me nothing. You say, "What was it good for?" Condemn you. You say, "Well, you don't need that, do you?" No! Why? Romans 8:1. "There is therefore now no condemnation for them who are in Christ." Listen to 2 Corinthians 3:6. "Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." I don't know about you, but I'd rather have the Spirit than the law. "If the administration of death," and that's the name of the law, “the administration of death, written and engraved in stone was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away, how shall not the administration of the Spirit be more glorious? For if the administration of condemnation is glorious, much more the administration of righteousness exceeds in glory." In other words, the Old Testament patterns were glorious, how much more glorious the New! Who would ever sacrifice the new for the old?
When somebody comes to me and says, "John, wouldn't you like more of God?" I say this, "No, because I have Christ, and in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Thank you." I don't need any more, and I'll not add to the absolute gift of God by faith anything procured by my own self-motivated righteousness, but rather accept what He gives by faith. Let's pray.
Father, we're so thankful again for all that is ours, for the statement of Paul, "You're complete in Him." Father, thank you, thank you, that we do not have to strive in the flesh to be made perfect, but that He has perfected forever them that are sanctified by the one offering of Himself. Father, thank you for giving us everything by faith. Help us never to adulterate the simplicity of faith with works. And yet, at the same time, Father, help us to serve You out of good deeds, for we were ordained unto good deeds. Not saved by them, saved that we may do them, not for our glory or to secure our righteousness, but for Your glory. And may our works always be those things that are to redound to Your praise, never to ours, for that is legalism.
And God, we would pray tonight that if there is anyone in our midst who has never come to the foot of the cross to see the crucified Christ and receive Him by faith, and all that He is and all that He has to give, to receive the blessed Holy Spirit and the gift of the Father bountifully and fully, may this be the night that they do that. May their heart open to receive what You have to give. Pray in Jesus name, amen.
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