Hi, this is my dad’s sermon.
Galatians 3. We have been studying Galatians chapter 3 for about a month now, and this is really an amazing chapter. As I was studying this passage this week, it came to me that we could boil everything down in chapter 3 to two main points. Here they are: #1: how to be right with God. #2: how to be free habitual sin. So those are the two things we are going to look at this morning. How do we get right with God, and how do overcome addiction.
In the Book of Galatians we’ve seen that some people were teaching that in order to be right with God we must obey God’s Law. So Paul corrects them by saying, no, we are not saved by keeping the Law, or by following a set of rules, we are saved by believing in Jesus. And when we come to chapter 3 Paul is going to teach us how to be right with God, and how to be free from sin. And he does that by contrasting the Law and the gospel. He lists 7 contrasts in this chapter, and we’ll look at all 7 of them briefly and then we’ll close with an illustration. Let’s pray first.
Contrast #1 is in vss. 1-5: The contrast is between human effort under the Law, and receiving the Spirit by believing the gospel. In vs. 2 Paul reminds these Galatians that they received the Spirit by believing the gospel, not by their human effort at law keeping. The way to be right with God is by believing in Jesus and receiving His Spirit to live in you. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
That’s the first contrast: under the Law we strive in our own strength and we must be perfect. Under the gospel the Spirit of God lives in us and through us and “sticks out” in various ways.
Contrast #2 is in vss. 6-14: Under the Law we’re cursed, by believing the gospel we’re blessed. When we talk about being cursed sometimes we think of witches brewing up a curse in a black cauldron, and putting a hex on someone. But that’s not it. The curse of the Law is to be separated from God. Vs. 10 says “all who rely on observing the Law are under a curse”, they are separated from God because we can’t obey perfectly.
But vs. 13 says that Jesus became a curse for us, for it is written “cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Consider for a minute that as Jesus hung on a tree, God cursed Him. Jesus endured separation from God, which is why He cried out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why have you turned your back on me? Why are we separated? And the answer is given in vs. 9. That all who believe will be blessed.
He gives the example of Abraham in vs. 6. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Paul says, that’s how to be right with God, by believing what God says about Jesus. Think of it, by believing the good news you will never be cursed, will never be separate from God. “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”…”I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Know why? Because Jesus was separated from God. He was cursed that we might be blessed.
So contrast #2 is that we are cursed under the Law, or blessed by believing in Jesus.
Now we left off last week around vs. 19 that says “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” Paul reminds them of the temporary purpose of the Law. It was given to reveal our sin, and to reveal our Savior. I want to show us this clearly, please turn with me to Romans chapter 3. Here we will see exactly what the purpose of the Law was. Paul says in vs. 19: “19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” That was the purpose of the Law, to make us conscious of sin.
Think of it like this: in your bathroom, among other things you have a mirror and a sink. Think of the Law as the mirror that makes us aware of dirt, shows us our sin; and the gospel is the sink where we clean up. Now what would you think of someone who looks in the mirror and they see a big smudge of dirt on their cheek. And as you watch, they lean over to the mirror and try to rub off the dirt on the mirror. Call the psychiatrist. A mirror isn’t supposed to clean off the dirt, it is only supposed to reveal the dirt. And yet people turn to the Law, and try by their own efforts try to make themselves right with God. The Law is just a mirror which shows us our faults. But, thank God, there is a sink underneath. As the hymn writer puts it,
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
That is where you remove the spot, at the fountain of the cross.
There’s an ancient proverb that says “Hunger makes the best cook.” When our kids were little and they were finicky eaters, we just delayed lunch by an hour. Suddenly everything tasted much better, because “hunger makes the best cook.” The Law was given to make us hungry for a Savior. When we see that we can’t live as we should, we can’t measure up, it should cause us to crave and yearn and hunger for Jesus.
Contrast #3 is in vs. 19: The Law was temporary, the gospel is permanent. According to vs. 19, the law was “added because of transgressions, until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” The Law was temporary; it was added at Mt. Sinai, until Mt. Calvary. It revealed our sin until Jesus came to remove our sin and make us right with God. That’s why Jesus died on the cross was to make you and I right with God when we believe in Him.
Contrast #4 is in vs. 19 and 20: The Law required mediators, but we get direct access to God through faith in the gospel. “19 The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.” Moses is up on this mountain that is on fire, it’s filled with smoke and the earth is shaking; the mountain has a fence all the way round it saying “keep out.” He then got the Law by God through angels and Moses became a mediator to the people. Nobody could talk to directly to God under the Law you had Moses, and angels and the priests who were mediators. There’s all these go-betweens, mediators. But compare Moses and the Law with Abraham and the gospel. Abraham got the promise of the gospel directly from God, friend to friend.
See if we believe the gospel we become the friend of God, and have direct access to Him. Jesus is our only Mediator and He is God. We now come to God through Jesus face to face, friend to friend.
And now Paul anticipates a very important question. In vs. 21 he asks, “Is the Law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?” In other words, “the way you’re talking Paul, the Law must be bad”. Should we just remove the Law from our Bibles and just stick with the gospel? And Paul’s answer is “absolutely not!” The Law is not bad, and the gospel good. The Law and the gospel work together; the one reveals our sin, the other removes our sin.
Contrast #5 is in vs. 21. The Law brings death, the gospel gives life. Vs. 21 says: “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.” See what that tells us? The Law brings death, it cannot give life. You want to know how to kill your family spiritually? Just set out the Law for them, tell them that this is what God requires, and they better measure up. And you’ll end up with people who have no interest in God, because they know they don’t measure up, and they don’t care to. They will, in a sense, be dead to God.
What does it mean to be dead to God? I’m dead to watching sports. People find out I live in Cleveland and they’re like “how ‘bout them Indians” and I’m like “which ones? The Cherokees or the Navahos, or..?” And they’re like, “no the sports team” and I’m like “oh, I’m not into soccer, or football, or whatever they play.” I have no interest in it. You may like it just fine, but I’m dead to watching sports. And that’s what it’s like to be under the Law; you just have no interest in the things of God. No interest in prayer, or Bible study or church. Paul says, “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” Rom. 7:10.
J. Vernon McGee describes it like this: 3 construction workers are on the roof of a very high building. And the supervisor on the ground gets worried because they look too close to the edge, so he radios up and says, “guys, look out, be careful, don’t fall off.” And one of the guys is like, “that supervisor is always telling us what to do, never wants us to have any fun. I personally like being close to the edge, and I even like dancing” and he starts to dance but pretty soon loses his step and falls off. A window cleaner on the 10th floor notices him falling and asks, “how are things going?” and he says “so far so good.” Then he adds, “I’m turning to the Law of gravity to save me.” He will soon discover that that is not the purpose of the Law. The Law kills.
The Law brings death, but the gospel gives us life, forgives our sins, and reconciles us to God, and thereby making us alive to Him. Some of us long to be at prayer meetings on Wednesdays and hate it if we can’t make it, we long to be in church, to pray to our God and to see Him in each other. You don’t have to command us to be there, we’re alive.
Contrast #6 is in vs. 22-23. We are in prison under the Law, but free in Jesus. Notice vs. 22: “22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.” Notice these words “prisoner of sin”. This is what the world calls addiction. We are sinning and we can’t stop, anymore than a man in prison can just walk out of prison. This is because the Law is keeping us under guilt and condemnation. That’s it’s purpose, to keep us locked up. And we can make vows, and promise to try harder, and to stop doing that. And we will find we have a ball and chain, we are shackled to sin, prisoners of sin.
So how do we get out? Notice vs. 23. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners. Well obviously when we put faith in Jesus we escape the prison of sin. There it is. Simple. A 1-step program. I don’t mean at all to make light of it. But friends, we have hundreds of 12-step programs where you work the program for 90 meetings in 90 days. But here is God’s way. Turn to Jesus, put your faith in the fact that when He died, He removed your guilt and took all your condemnation on Himself. Therefore you are free from both. And when you get free from guilt and condemnation you walk out of sin’s prison.
Now, look with me at Luke chapter 4. And remember the prison of the Law, the shackles of the commandments. And let’s look what Jesus came to do. Here’s His first sermon and He stands up to read and in vs.17 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Ah, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Contrast #7 is in vs. 24-25. The Law is for the immature, the gospel is for the mature. “24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” The picture here is of an underage child who must be guided to school by a schoolmaster who supervises him. Under the Law we are immature, a young child who needs rules. But when we believe the gospel we have come of age, and come into the full rights as sons of God (notice vs. 26). The coming of faith is the coming of age. We have matured, we’ve grown up. “for the law made nothing perfect, and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:19 (NIV)
So let’s summarize: the Law required us to be perfect on our own, by human effort. It brought a curse, and it was temporary. Under the Law, we had no direct access to God, we had to have a Mediator. The Law was for when we were immature, it kept us in sin’s prison of addiction, and it brought death. Whereas believing the good news about Jesus gives us God’s Holy Spirit, brings a blessing, is the permanent pathway to God, gives us direct access to God, makes us mature, frees us from sin’s prison and brings life. Which path are you on? Law, or the gospel? Works or grace? Self-effort or the Spirit?
And let’s close with this illustration. If you would turn with me to Numbers chapter 21. We’ve looked at this story before, but maybe we’ll see it in a new light. This story teaches us how to be right with God and how to be free from sin. It illustrates the points we’ve seen in Galatians 3. Here the Israelites were complaining because they were thirsty. We should never complain in any situation. And so pick up the story in vs. 6: “6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
So here they were, bitten by snakes and they had venom running all through their veins. Imagine someone who was bitten saying “Ok, I’m going to remove this venom. I’m going to work at it. I’m going to cut the spot, I’m going to suck out the venom, I’m going to heal myself through my own efforts.” But he would find that there is a problem inside of him that he can’t overcome. The venom is causing him to be weak, and to lose hope. He’s trying real hard but he feels like he’s under a curse; and now he’s getting blurred vision and he finally collapses and dies. There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death.
What if he turned from his own efforts, his own work, and just believed God’s Word that told him to turn and look at the uplifted snake on a pole and live. Well he would discover that He was miraculously healed. What he could not do for himself because of the venom, God did for him when he put up that pole.
The reality is that we have been bitten by a serpent, all of us have the venom of sin running all through us. And we can try hard to obey God’s law, we can put forth all the effort we have, but we will find that there is a problem inside of us. And it prevents us from measuring up and living right. So God has given us the Solution. He has lifted up a cross-like pole and on that pole He hung a Savior. And if we will turn and look we will live. “By His wounds we are healed.” By looking and believing in the cross we become right with God, and free from habitual sin.
And then our message to other people will not be “here’s the rules you better keep them” but rather “oh my, look at what Jesus did for me. Have you looked at the cross? Just look and see Jesus becoming sin for you, taking your curse upon Himself, and just dying to forgive you. And by His wounds, you will be healed. Believe and live.” Let’s pray