Faith or Works of the Law
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[c]
7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
The Law and the Promise
15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Children of God
23 Before the coming of this faith,[j] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 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.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
As you read that chapter, what verses stood out to you? Write down why you think that is.
Our application tells us that the reason Paul is continuing to stress the fact that it is not by works that we are saved is because he felt the Galatians had taken a step backward, in fact some of these believers were actually in Jerusalem and received the Holy Spirit there, they knew it wasn’t because of laws they had obeyed, yet they were giving into the thoughts that it simply was not enough. Have you ever felt that way? That simply having faith in Christ just couldn’t be enough?
Paul’s hope in this letter is that the Galatians would refocus their faith and bring Christ back to the center of their beliefs.
There are a couple additional things we can learn from our application in regards to this section of the letter: “God promises to save us when we trust in Christ and take him at his word…We know in greater detail how God worked out his plan of grace in Christ. We have much less excuse for our unbelief” (v. 17) It is reiterated here that the law is still so important. “The law has two functions…it reveals the nature and will of God and shows people how to live…it points out people’s sins and shows them that it is impossible to please God by trying to obey all his laws completely. [that does not mean that we get a free ride to not try to obey them in full!!] … the law focuses on actions… [the law] shows that faith is the only way to be saved; [it] shows how to obey God in grateful response. Faith does not annul the law; but the more we know God, the more we see how sinful we are. Then we are driven to depend on our faith in Christ alone for our salvation.” (v. 18 & 19) How does this impact your current view of the law and salvation?
Throughout this section of the letter, we see Paul mention Abraham from the book of Genesis and the promise God made to him and I think it is important to note here that God’s promise to Abraham, was his promise to all believers, not just his direct descendants. Therefore we are all a part of the promise and all considered his heirs.
I want to leave our time today with one last quote from our application, “The law teaches us the need for salvation; God’s grace gives us that salvation. The Old Testament still applies today. In it, God reveals his nature, his will for humanity, his moral law, and his guidelines for living. But we cannot be saved by keeping that law; we must trust in Christ.” Does this change your view at all? Does it clarify things? How can you see God working through his law for us to live today? Is there an area in your life right now that you haven’t been able to fully trust in Christ with?
Let’s end our week with some worship:
Heavenly Father, Lord, this is another section in Galatians where we have so much in-between the lines knowledge. We see just how important this message of salvation is to you, we see it in Paul’s persistence and preaching, we know you put the message on Paul’s heart of what to write and we pray that we can trust in you God. Know that Christ dying and sending the Holy Spirit is enough. We thank you for your laws so that we have a guideline and that we are able to see your will through them, but help us to not try and earn our place in eternity, but rather work at trusting in Christ and the rest will follow. We know that you are good, we know that you love us and we do want to please you by following your rules, but we recognize that we are all sinners, and you knew that about us, so you sent Christ and for that we are so incredibly grateful. In your gracious and loving name, AMEN!