INTRO: Let’s review...we have been talking about works versus faith. At the crux of the debate going on in the lives of the Galatian believers was the question of salvation through works or through faith in Christ alone. How are we truly justified? Justification is the gracious act of God by which He declares a sinner righteous solely through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not only how you are saved, it’s how you are sanctified also.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. “You said that last week. And the week before. And you actually have been saying it in pretty much every message so far in Galatians.” To that, I say, you are correct and thank you for paying such good attention! To be honest, this week I anticipated our potential weariness of covering this topic again and again. You may be wondering...”Dude, how many times are we going to have to be presented this argument that justification is by faith and not by works? I mean, I get it, when can we move on to the good stuff?” Let me say first, this is the good stuff! May we never get to the place where we get tired of hearing about grace. Second, apparently, some people who go to church just do not get this point. Much of the Bible is repetition because we are dense, distracted, and deceived. This applies to the churches in Galatia and it applies to the churches in Chattanooga.
Now, to prove his point, Paul uses various tactics. Sometimes Paul puts on boxing gloves and fights back. Sometimes he bases it off his own credentials and experiences with Jesus receiving the grace gospel. Sometimes, he plants his feet firmly in logic. Sometimes, he takes a real-life situation between himself and Peter and James and makes his case. Sometimes, he just points to the cross. Sometimes, he interrogates the believers to get them to turn their brain on. And sometimes, he uses their own patriarch Abraham as an illustration of faith!
I. The Decision of Abraham (6)
– In the first section, Paul asked 6 questions; now, he will quote 6 OT statements to bolster his point. The OT scriptural evidence concerning Abraham proves that justification is by faith alone apart from any works. This is a brilliant move because Jewish people hold Abraham in high regard. They are very proud of their relationship to Abraham. In the Jewish way of thinking, if there was anybody who could work his way to Heaven, it would have been Abraham. He was the founding father of Judaism. Abraham was the man!
– Verse 6 is clear when it states that Abraham was justified by faith because he believed God. Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6 so we have to go back and retrace the context of what is happening there. Turn back to Genesis 15.
– The future patriarch is, in all likelihood, living a very pagan lifestyle with his father in Ur. By His grace, God comes to him and tells him to get up and go to a place that God would reveal later. He tells him that he would have a great name and father a great nation. Abraham takes his nephew Lot with him but they had to separate because of spiritual differences. After Lot left, he got into some trouble and Abraham had to go up against four powerful nations and defeat them with an army of his own servants to rescue Lot. After all that was over, Abraham is approached by the kings of the east but he refused to accept payment from them and instead payed tithes to another king.
– Look at Genesis 15:1-6. God comes to Abraham and assures him that he had done right in turning down their payment and says, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Now get this, because Abraham is very practical. He looks at God in verse 2 and basically says, “Okay, prove it. I don’t have a son and you told me I would.” God tells him to look toward heaven and promises him that his seed would be more numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands of the sea. That’s a stout promise, considering that both Abraham and Sarah would be pushing 100 years old by the time their son arrived. You don’t have to do that math to know that the prospects for that were not good. People of that age hang out in assisted living facilities, not in maternity wards! But this promise wasn’t about what Abraham and Sarah could do, it was about what God could do!
– What happens next in Genesis 15 is that Abraham wants God to put it in writing. He didn’t say that but that’s the idea behind a covenant. God says, “Meet me down at the courthouse and we’ll draw it up.” Back in those days, the way they made a contract was two men agreed to do something. They cut a sacrifice into two parts and put half on one side and half on the other side, then they would join hands and walk between the two halves. That sealed the contract. It was the same as going before a notary at the courthouse.
– So Abraham prepared the sacrifices and waited. Just as he is about to sign the contract, God puts Abraham in to a deep sleep. The reason for this is that Abraham is not to walk with God through the two halves. Abraham is not to promise anything. God is doing the promising. You see, God passed through between those two halves alone because God made the covenant. Abraham's part was only to believe God.
– Listen to me. Abraham went to the place he was supposed to go. He separated from the people he was supposed to separate from. He fought the people God told him to fight. He gave the money God told him to give. He sacrificed what God told him to sacrifice, But none of that gave him a proper standing before God! What made Abraham right with God was his belief and faith in what God had said.
– So Paul’s like, “Argue with this one, you legalists!” Haha, he got ‘em with Abraham as exhibit A for justification by faith.
II. The Descendants of Abraham (7-9)
– Abraham didn’t do anything; he believed something. That first point is actually the big one, the rest just pertains to straightening out the details. Specifically, what about the children of Abraham?
– The Jewish people were very proud of their relationship with Abraham. The trouble was, they thought that this relationship guaranteed them eternal salvation. Jesus made a clear distinction between "Abraham's seed" physically and "Abraham's children" spiritually (John 8:33-47). Some people today still imagine that salvation is inherited. Because mom and dad were godly people, the children are automatically saved. But this is not true. It has well been said, "God has no grandchildren."
– The Jews thought and still do think that they are in a right status with God simply because they are physically related to Abraham. Most of these people rely on their Jewish history and law keeping. Paul says this is not the way it is. In this context, those who believe they are right with God by faith and not works are the true sons of Abraham.
– Illus: I used to dislike singing Father Abraham in elementary chapel. No more!
– Paul emphatically states, “Nobody acts more like Abraham than the person who is exercising faith.” When people have faith, they look more like Abraham’s family than those who are the physical descendants of Abraham who don’t have faith. Jewish people might not like to hear this, but you are more Jewish when you have faith than when you are circumcised, or have a bar mitzvah, or keep the commandments.
– That’s why it says in verse 8 that the “gospel” or good news was preached to Abraham and how all nations of the world will be blessed. In my opinion, what sealed the deal was when Abraham had enough faith to radically obey God and kill his son Isaac in Genesis 22. He believed that God was able to raise his son Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). God stopped Abraham from killing his son and provided a ram as a sacrifice and Abraham understood all this to be a type of Christ.
– God preached the grace gospel to Abraham and now Paul preaches the grace gospel to us by Abraham. God will save Jewish people by faith and He will save Gentile people by faith. In that sense, we are all children of Abraham.
III. The Deficiency of Law (10-12)
– The Bible says here that if a person does not keep all things of the law all the time, they are under a curse. Salvation could never come by obedience to Law because the law brings a curse, not a blessing. Paul quotes from Deut 27:26. Law demands obedience, and this means obedience in all things. The law is not a "religious cafeteria" where people can pick and choose. Again, James 2:10 is helpful, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
– People want to pick and choose a few laws and then think they are really right with God because they keep a few laws. What they don’t realize is they have missed keeping so many laws that they cannot possibly be right with God.
– Anytime a person says that they are going to try to earn heaven by their own morality or good works, that person is contradicting what the Bible teaches because the Bible teaches you can’t keep all the law and you can’t work your way to heaven. That kind of plan puts them under a curse which is not the expected eternal destination of a person who tries to live a good life.
– The works system is contrary to the grace system. Verse 12 drives home the point that any attempt to keep the law is contrary to faith. You must choose
one or the other. You either rely upon yourself or you rely upon Jesus Christ.
– By the way, we know that Abraham could not be justified by keeping the Mosaic Law because he was justified well over 400 years before the Mosaic Law was even given. So just exactly how was Abraham justified? Not by the law. And not by tradition. Neither can it be said that he was justified because of circumcision because that did not happen until 14 years after he was declared righteous by faith.
IV. The Deliverance of Christ (13-14)
– All this leads us to the wonderful truth that since I can’t save myself, I have to throw myself at the mercy of someone who did keep the law perfectly. I have to trust the One who took my curse upon Himself – Jesus Christ.
– Illus: He became sin, who knew no sin. That we might become His righteousness. He humbled himself and carried the cross. Love so amazing, love so amazing. Jesus Messiah, name above all names. Blessed redeemer, Emmanuel. The rescue for sinners, the ransom from Heaven. Jesus Messiah, Lord of all.
A. Jesus died to replace me. Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He was my substitute. He took my place. I deserved to die for my sins.
B. Jesus died to redeem me. I was a slave on the auction block of sin and Christ paid my ransom. I can’t redeem myself because I am bankrupted by sin. I can’t redeem myself because I am a slave and slaves can’t redeem other slaves. A free man has to redeem slaves. That’s exactly what Jesus did. He bought me back from the slave market of sin and set me free to live in the Spirit by faith.
– Illus: Let us say that you want to travel to some destination out west. You are trying to decide whether to take an Amtrak train or fly. If you take the Amtrak train, you will travel longer but you will see more. If you fly, you will get there quicker but see less. Now let us say you are discussing this with your travel agent and your travel agent says he thinks you should do both at the same
time. He thinks you should travel both by train and plane. You would say that is impossible, are you out of your mind? You have to choose because you cannot do both at the same time. One choice is up in the sky and the other choice is down here on earth.
– So it is with God and so it is with law and grace. You have to choose because the two systems are contrary to each other. One is heavenly and one is earthly. You must make a choice. If you choose law, you are under a curse; if you choose grace, you are right with God.
– Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay for your sins and mine. God is not asking you to say your prayers or be a nice little Sunday school boy or girl to be saved. He is asking you to trust His Son who died for you. He makes the contract. He is the One who makes the promise, the covenant, and He will save you.