Summary: Exposition of Galatians 3:6-14
Text: Galatians 3:6-14, Title: How did OT people get saved? Date/Place: NRBC, 2/18/07, PM
A. Opening illustration: I remember trying to teach and adult Sunday School class on Youth Sunday when I was a brand new Christian. The passage that I was teaching was from the OT. And like much of the preaching that I had heard on the OT, I was trying to make the point that the text indicates that this OT figure was saved. And I remember the question coming to my mind, “How did they get saved before Jesus?”
B. Background to passage: Again, Paul is making a series of arguments to underscore how that justification by faith alone through Christ alone is a superior theology to requiring Gentiles to be circumcised and follow the law to become Christians. Last week he used the example of how that they first received Christ. This week he looks further back to Abraham and the Law to show that salvation is and has always been by faith. He probably does this because the Judaizers were probably making the appeal not only to the law, but to Abraham to justify their claims of the necessity of circumcision.
C. Main thought: So in our text, we will see three truths about salvation in the OT
A. Example of Abraham (v. 6-9)
1. Circumcision and law-keeping had been a big part of the Jewish faith for about 2000 years. It all began with Abraham in Gen 17, and of course, was reinforced by the law about 800 years later. And during the intertestamental period it had been taken to a new level by the Maccabees and the Pharisees. In their teaching, they would highlight all law-keeping in the lives of every OT saint, even to the point of trying to demonstrate that Abraham was a law-keeper (800 years before the law existed). They began to develop a theology that gave them automatic entrance into the Kingdom because of the lineage to Abraham through the sign of the covenant. Paul reminds these Judaizers that 14 years before Abraham received the command to be circumcised. And he brings them to one of the most important verses in the OT about salvation. He demonstrates that God declared or reckoned Abraham righteous based on faith, not works. Extend the explanation to Romans 4. Our text even says that Scripture preached the gospel to Abraham ensuring him of one final way to deal with sin through a Redeemer, and he believed it.
3. Illustration: After many more excruciating miles, however, he came to the point of admitting he was through, and then I was able to pick him up, put him across my shoulders, and carry him the rest of the way. He had no option but to trust himself to me to do for him what he was incapable of doing. It was hard for him to be so humiliated, but it was his sole recourse, and it is hard for proud people like Paul and other good people to admit that there is no way of justification through self-effort, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. “This doctrine is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church cannot exist for one hour.” –Luther, “Whenever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown.” – Calvin,
4. Justification, or a right standing before God is not something that you attain, but something that is given to you. The word used in the NT and in theology is “imputed” righteousness. That is why this verse in Gen is so important. It teaches that righteousness is credited to our account with God by God when we believe in Him. The moment that you believe God imputes or credits you with the righteousness that Jesus earned. So, this argument was to state that all down through the bible the promises made to Abraham were based on faith, not works. You and I are heirs to the promises of Abraham, and co-heirs with Christ because of faith. It doesn’t matter who you are related to in the church. It doesn’t matter about your heritage and family as to whether it is godly or not. It doesn’t matter how much you do in the church, or give to charity, or do good things as far as your standing before God. Because righteousness is imputed by faith alone. You might say, “well, what about the law?” I am glad you asked.
B. Ineffectiveness of the Law (v. 10-12)
1. Paul quotes three OT passages that demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the law itself to make one righteous before God. The Jews would have been very familiar with the passage from Deut about blessings and cursings from which he gets his first quote. And his argument is showing that the standard for the law is perfection. And if you wanted to keep the covenant, you had to keep all the law, and if you broke it at one point, you were cursed. What about the sacrifices, feasts, ceremonies, prayers, the temple, weren’t those able to deal with sin? No, not in reality, only in foreshadowing. These things were to point to Christ who would once and for all take away sin. Then Paul says that even the OT teaches that salvation is by faith by quoting Hab 2:4. Quoted 3X in the NT, this is a powerful teaching that lies behind the law. Then Paul ties it together with a quote from Lev 18:5, that if you strive to do the law, you live by it. He is saying that all the commands of the law were meant to be done in faith in God, or else they are all in vain.