Text: Galatians 3:9-14 (AMP)
Introduction: Some time ago The Wisconsin State Journal surveyed Vice Presidents and Personnel Directors of the nation’s largest corporations for their most unusual experiences interviewing prospective employees. Their stories included the following:
• A job applicant who challenged the interviewer to arm wrestle with him.
• A job candidate who said he had never finished high school because he had been kidnapped and kept in a closet in Mexico.
• A balding candidate who excused himself, then returned wearing a full hairpiece.
• A candidate who wore earphones to the interview and, when asked to remove them, explained that she could listen to the interviewer and the music at the same time.
• A candidate who said she did not have time for lunch, then started to eat a hamburger and fries in the interviewer’s office.
• An applicant who interrupted the questioning to phone her therapist for advice.
• A candidate who dozed off during the interview.
• A candidate who muttered, “Would it be a problem if I’m angry most of the time?”
These people sound pretty incompetent, don’t they? Yet it is not a stretch to say this is the same sort of incompetence we all bring to God when we want to find favor with God.
Have you ever noticed how hard we work at trying to get another person’s approval? People have an instinctive desire to have another person’s approval. We long to have the approval of our neighbors and friends. A child desires the approval of his or her parents. An employee works hard for his employer’s approval. All of us seek the approval of others even though we may not be self-conscious about our actions.
In similar fashion, people have an instinctive desire for the approval of God. People may not know His true name (His name is not allah), but all over the world people are seeking the approval of the Divine. That is why every single people group on the face of the earth is religious in some way. Every person is either consciously or unconsciously seeking the approval of God, even though, paradoxically, the Bible tells us that we are by nature in revolt against him.
Romans 3:10-18 (NLT)
The crucial question that every single religion in the world is attempting to answer is this one: How do we obtain the favor of God on our lives? Alternatively, how do we come into a right relationship with God? The passage of Scripture before us, although it may be difficult in both concept and vocabulary, answers that crucial question.
Before we answer the question from the passage of Scripture, I want you to notice the description of a person who has found the approval of God.
I. A person who has found the approval of God is described in two ways.
A. First, that person has been justified before God.
1. Galatians 3:11 (AMP)
2. To be justified before God is the exact opposite of being condemned by him.
3. To be justified before God is to be declared righteous, to be accepted, to stand in his favor and under his smile.
4. A person who is justified before God has found favor with God.
B. Second, a person who has found the approval of God is described in this way: He will live
1. Galatians 3:11 (AMP)
2. The life referred to here is not physical and biological, but spiritual and eternal.
3. It is not the life of this age, but the life of the age to come.
4. The simplest and clearest definition of eternal life comes from Jesus himself:
5. John 17:3 (NASB)
6. A person who will live, who has eternal life, has found fellowship with God.
C. Therefore, “justification” means to be in favor with God.
D. “Eternal life” means to be in fellowship with God.
1. The two are inseparably related.
2. We cannot be in fellowship with God until we are in favor with him.
3. In addition, once we are in favor with him, fellowship is granted to us too.
E. Now, we come to answer the crucial question: How do we find the favor of God?
1. How do we come into a right relationship with God?
2. Alternatively, how can we enter the favor and fellowship of God?
3. In the terms of the Apostle Paul, how can we be justified and live?
4. The passage of Scripture before us answers this crucial question, plainly and unequivocally.
II. The Condemnation of Legalism
A. Galatians 3:10-12 (NASB)
B. First, notice the condemnation of legalism.
C. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians to refute the teaching of the traditional Judaizers.
1. The essence of the Judaizers’ teaching is what we call legalism.
2. Legalism says that the way to find the approval of God is through our complete obedience to His law.
3. Therefore, the Judaizers taught that in order for a person to enter into the favor and fellowship of God he needed to do everything written in the Book of the Law.
4. However, the scriptures here condemn that teaching by saying that all that rely on observing the law is under a curse.
5. Deuteronomy 27:26 (NKJV)
D. Here in our text in Galatians 3 the scripture beautifully shows the utter impossibility of obedience to the law—even the law of God—as a means of entering into favor with him. Why? Three reasons.
1. First, anyone seeking favor with God by means of obedience to the law must continue everlastingly at it.
a) There is no respite for the legalist.
b) He must continue day after day to obey the law.
2. Secondly, he must continue to do everything.
a) He must obey the law 100%.
b) He cannot stop short of 100% obedience to the law.
c) He cannot select which of the commandments he will obey and which he will not obey.
d) He must do everything in order to enter God’s favor.
3. Third, he must continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.
a) The legalist must not only obey the moral law of God, that is, the Ten Commandments.
b) He must obey the entire Law, including the ceremonial law.
c) What a burden!
E. Do you see that obedience to the law of God, as a means of entering into favor with him is utterly impossible?
1. You and I are incapable of perfectly obeying the law of God.
F. The scriptures clearly teach that everyone who does in fact try to earn favor with God by attempting to do everything written in the Book of the Law is cursed.
1. The word cursed does not mean “to denounce,” but actually “to reject.”
2. Disobedience to the law of God always brings us under the curse of God, and exposes us to the awful penalties of his judgment.
3. Again, the scripture clearly says in Galatians 3:11 clearly no one is justified before God by the law.
G. Favor with God does not come by means of obedience to the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”
1. Habakkuk 2:4 (NASB)
2. That scripture serves as proof that favor with God comes not by obedience to the law but by faith.
3. The legalist tries to earn favor with God by obeying the law.
4. The scriptures teach that a person enters into favor with God by faith and not through legalism.
H. What we have here are two roads to entering into favor with God.
1. The first promises life to the doer.
2. The second promises life to the believer.
3. The first makes obedience the way of salvation.
4. The second makes faith the way of salvation.
5. The first implies that we can make it by ourselves, the second says that only God can justify (because the whole purpose of faith is to trust God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves).
I. You see, legalism and faith are mutually exclusive as a means of entering into favor with God.
1. Galatians 3:12 (NASB)
2. Hypothetically, a person could enter into favor with God if he perfectly obeyed the law.
3. This is what the scripture is saying in Galatians 3:12.
4. Leviticus 18:5 (NASB)
5. However, both Scripture and our own experience tell us that we are utterly incapable of obeying the law.
6. Romans 3:23 (NASB)
7. Therefore, any attempts at even trying to obey the law as a means of earning God’s favor bring us under condemnation.
J. Legalism never brings life.
1. The purpose of legalism is to condemn.
2. So, if legalism brings us under condemnation, and if it brings us under the curse of God, how can we be set free from the curse?
III. II. The Cure of Christ
A. Galatians 3:13-14 (NASB)
B. We can be set free from the condemnation of legalism by the cure of Christ.
C. Galatians 3:13-14
D. The scripture introduces Christ as the cure for legalism.
1. The scripture tells us that it is Christ who has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.
2. The word redeemed was a word commonly used of buying a slave’s freedom.
3. Christ justifies those who place their faith in him by buying them back from their slavery to sin.
4. The price he paid was the only one sufficient to redeem us, the “precious blood of Christ.”
5. 1st Peter 1:18, 19 (NASB)
6. Christ redeemed us . . . by becoming a curse for us, that is, he bore the personal judgment of God.
E. The curse of Galatians 3:10 that was resting upon us was transferred to Christ.
1. He took it voluntarily upon himself, in order to deliver us from it.
2. When Christ died on the cross, he bore the penalty of our sin and not his own.
3. When he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, he had lost favor with his Father and their fellowship was broken.
4. Moreover, this happened, not because of his sin, but because of our sin.
F. Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 (NKJV)
1. Criminals executed under the Law of Moses were usually stoned and then hung on a tree as a symbol of divine rejection.
2. A person who was under the curse of God was hung on a tree.
3. Perhaps you can appreciate a little more now why the Jews had such a hard time believing that Jesus was the Messiah.
4. How could the Messiah, the anointed One of God, instead of reigning on a throne, be hanged on a tree?
5. It was incredible to them.
6. It just did not make sense.
7. The fact that Jesus died hanging on a tree remained for Jews an insurmountable obstacle to faith . . . until they saw that the curse he bore was not his curse but their curse!
8. That is why those words for us are so important in Galatians 3:13.
9. Christ did not die for his own sins; he became a curse for us.
G. Does that mean that everybody has been redeemed from the curse of legalism through the sin-bearing, curse-bearing cross of Christ?
2. Verse 13 must not be read without verse 14, where it is says that 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.
3. Christ Jesus bore the curse of the legalism.
4. The curse of legalism is lifted from us by faith, that is, when we trust in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.
H. Dr. D. James Kennedy, pastor of the Coral Ridge Church, defines faith in the following way:
1. Faith is “trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the gift of eternal life.”
2. He stresses the adverb alone to indicate that the gift of eternal life is received by trusting in Jesus Christ plus nothing else.
I. Faith is looking to Christ alone for the gift of eternal life.
J. It is very striking to see the contrast between the curse and the blessing in verses 13 and 14.
1. We read that Christ became a curse for us so that we might inherit the blessing.
2. The blessing given to Abraham includes justification (being put into favor with God), eternal life (being received into fellowship with God), and the promise of the Spirit (being regenerated and indwelt by him).
A. The scripture sets before us a stark contrast: two destinies and two roads.
B. Two Destinies the scripture calls the two destinies “blessing” and “curse.”
C. Now, we come to answer the crucial question:
1. How do we find the favor of God?
2. How do we come into a right relationship with God?
3. Or, how do we enter the favor and fellowship of God?
4. In the Apostle Paul’s terms, how can we be justified and live?
5. The passage of Scripture before us answers this crucial question, plainly and unequivocally.
6. All of us live under the blessing of God or the curse of God.
7. Only those who live under the blessing of God have entered into the favor and fellowship of God.
D. Two Roads
1. Paul tells us that there are two roads.
2. The first road is called “legalism.”
3. Those who travel the road of legalism are those ‘who rely on observing works” (3:10).
4. Those who choose the path of legalism are under a curse.
5. The second road is called faith.
6. Those who travel that road are people of faith.
7. They inherit the blessings and the favor of God.
8. The first group trusts their own works.
9. The second trusts in the finished work of Christ.
E. Imagine that you just found out you have a rare and terminal illness.
1. You sit down with your doctor.
2. “Is there no hope?” you ask.
3. “Well,” he says, “there is one thing. Without this one thing, it’s over. But with this one thing, you will be completely healed. But let me be utterly clear: It’s impossible for you to live without this one thing.”
4. What would you say?
5. “Listen, Doc, you’re boring me. My favorite sitcom is starting in five minutes, and I would not miss it for anything. I do not have time for these silly cat-and-mouse games. See you!”
6. Alternatively, you could say, “Well . . . that’s interesting. However, Doctor, that is your opinion. You are completely entitled to it, and I am sure it makes you feel better for having expressed it. However, I resent your attempt to impose it upon me. I really do not need this kind of psychological blackmail, this medical fascism. Good-bye and good riddance.”
7. Or, “What? What is it? Tell me now! I have to know, and I won’t leave until I do!”
8. Of course, the only sane response is the last one.
F. If we are saved by faith, and if we live by faith, and if it is impossible to please God without faith, the only sane response is:
1. “What is it? What is this faith? You have to tell me! I have to know, and I’m not leaving until I do!”
G. The challenge of this passage of Scripture is clear.
1. We must renounce the foolish notion that we can establish our own righteousness or make ourselves earn the approval of God.
2. Instead, we must come humbly to the cross, where Christ bore the curse of God for us, and cast ourselves entirely upon his mercy.
H. Then, by God’s sheer grace, because we are in Christ Jesus by faith, we shall receive justification and eternal life.
I. The blessing of Abraham will be ours.