Summary: Paul turns to Abraham to show that he too was justified before God by faith and not by works.
When asked about Christianity, actress Sophia Loren was reported as saying several years ago in the USA Today, “I’m not a practicant, but I pray. I read the Bible. It’s the most beautiful book ever written. I should go to heaven; otherwise it’s not nice. I haven’t done anything wrong. My conscience is very clean. My soul is as white as those orchids over there, and I should go straight, straight to heaven.”
In a Reader’s Digest interview, Muhammad Ali stated: “One day we’re all going to die and God is going to judge us—our good deeds and bad deeds. If the bad outweighs the good, you go to hell. If the good outweighs the bad, you go to heaven.”
Another Reader’s Digest article told of a 67-year-old man named Bill who had donated over 100 pints of blood over the years. No doubt many people owe their lives to this man’s kindness. How do you think this man’s good deeds go over in heaven?
Here’s what Bill thinks: “When that final whistle blows, and St. Peter asks, ‘What did you do?’ I’ll just say, ‘Well, I gave 100 pints of blood,’” Bill says with a laugh. “That ought to get me in.”
Bill was probably joking. But if he was serious, if he truly believes that his good deeds will give him a ticket to heaven, then he has perfectly articulated the gospel of works. If Bill is counting on the giving of 100 pints of blood to get him to heaven—he is trusting in the wrong blood.
Today I would like to continue our series in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In the section we are going to study today, we shall see that the only way to get to heaven is by faith and not by works.
Let us read Galatians 3:6-9:
6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The 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.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6-9)
One Monday morning several years ago I woke up early. After my devotions I read the Center Daily Times. It had become my habit to read the “Obituaries” section of the newspaper. (I’m told that is the pastoral thing to do!)
I was shocked to read that Matthew Babb had died. Matthew Babb was the eleven year-old son of Perry Babb, pastor of the Church of the Harvest, and his wife, Jackie. Matthew died the previous Saturday as a result of a horse riding accident.
I went to the viewing for young Matthew Babb on Monday night. I arrived early and there were only twenty people ahead of me. I left thirty minutes later, and there were about one hundred and fifty people in line, and cars were streaming in to the Assembly of God church parking lot for the viewing. When I got to talk with Perry and Jackie, it was very difficult and very emotional, perhaps more for me than for them. After all, how do you console a family struck by a sudden and tragic accident that has taken the life of their oldest child? I told them how sorry I was for them, and they told me that nothing in life had prepared them for this experience.
But as I spoke with them, I sensed something that I always sense at a Christian funeral. Do you know what it was? Hope! Yes, they had a hope that, although the loss of Matthew was excruciatingly sad and painful, it was, nevertheless, only a temporary parting. They knew that one day they would be reunited with Matthew in heaven. Why? Because they, like Matthew, were basing their hope for salvation upon their faith in Jesus Christ.
Just a few days after the funeral for Matthew Babb I had a haircut. There was no-one else in the barber shop the entire time my hair was being cut—which was a first! I suppose because there was no-one else around, my barber felt more inclined to talk about spiritual matters—also a first! He told me that he did not go to church anymore because he was fed-up with the church.
“The way I figure it,” he said to me, “God will accept me because I’m a pretty good person.”
And so my barber was basing his hope for salvation upon his good life, his works.
One of the things I have noticed over my few years in the ministry is that almost everyone has an opinion about how to get to heaven. Unfortunately, that opinion is seldom grounded upon the sure foundation of truth.