Summary: Grace is God’s ability to declare us to be free from the prison and faith is the only key that unlocks the prison door.
One of my favorite WWII movies is “The Great Escape,” released in 1963. My favorite scene is where Steve McQueen, who became a superstar after the movie, escaped from the German soldiers by riding a motorcycle through a field. He jumped a fence on his motorcycle, but was soon captured by the Germans. FYI, Steve McQueen rode the motorcycle for most of that scene, but it was a stunt man who jumped the fence.
The movie was based on a true story of WWII prisoners of war who made several attempts to escape from a high security German Prison camp built to be inescapable. After months of digging tunnels, several dozen POWs escaped. The Great Escape wasn’t all that great, because all but three POWs were caught or killed. But three of them did make it to freedom. The movie added some fictional elements to enhance the story. For instance, no American prisoners were part of the final effort, and there wasn’t a motorcycle escape scene. The movie is called “The Great Escape,” not because a great number of them escaped but because of their great efforts to plan and execute the escape plan and their great success in undermining the moral of the German soldiers.
Our passage today speaks of a successful great escape. The Bible says every person on planet earth is or was held as a prisoner in the most maximum-security prison ever built. The prison is called sin—and none of us can escape from this prison on our own. There have been many attempts through the years to escape this prison, but all have failed. Grace is God’s ability to declare us to be free from the prison and faith is the only key that unlocks the prison door. So today we’re going to talk about “Grace: The Great Escape.”
The context of our passage is found in verses 6 and 7. Paul was using the Old Testament character of Abraham to drive home his point. He wrote: “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:6-7)
Now let’s look at our text beginning in Galatians 3:15. This scripture involves a lot of Jewish history taught in the Mishnah (a rabbinical commentary on the Old Testament). If you haven’t read the Jewish Mishnah lately, some of these verses can be confusing, so I’ll drop in a few explanatory comments as we move through the passage.
Galatians 3:15-25. “Brothers, 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. [Abraham’s covenant with God can’t set aside. The example from everyday life is when you sign a contract to buy a house or a car; you can’t just toss aside the contract without suffering the consequences.] The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later [Moses received the Ten Commandments 430 years after God’s promise to Abraham], does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. [God’s grace goes all the way back to Abraham!] What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator [That means angels delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses who mediated the law to the people]. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. 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. 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. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
God hates religious legalism so much, He devoted an entire book in the Bible to address it: Galatians. Paul had started these churches in the area of modern day Turkey by preaching the gospel of grace. His message was “Jesus + nothing = salvation.” But some Jewish teachers had infiltrated the church and were teaching “Jesus + obeying the law = salvation.” For instance, these legalistic teachers demanded Gentile men be circumcised, and that they had to observe the Sabbath and all the Jewish dietary rules, like a Jewish soup Nazi, “No pork for you!” When Paul heard about this, he fired off this scorching letter exposing these false teachers and encouraging the believers NOT to fall away from the gospel of grace. That’s why I’ve entitled the series, “Don’t Stray from the Grace-Way.”