Summary: Here is the heart of Paul’s argument in Galatians: the difference between Trusting and Trying, Faith and Law, Human Effort and God’s Grace.


When washing a child’s hair you tell the child to put their head back and they won’t get shampoo in their eyes. Their natural reaction is to put their head forward and rub their eyes, every time the water starts to flow. This illustrates the difference between trusting and trying.

In today’s passage we come to the heart of the matter that Paul has been refering to up to this point in His letter to the Galatians: The conflict between two alternate roads to righteousness: Trusting and Trying. How does one please God? What makes a person truly a Christian-- trying to act in a way that seems pure and Godly or trusting in a Savior who paid the price for sin?

Proposition: Paul Points out that there is a vast difference between these two roads to righteousness.

Interrogative: So what’s the difference between trusting and trying and more importantly which is the right road?

Transition: Let’s begin with the fact that these two roads have a different...

1. Prescription: Law vs. Faith

v. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?

It’s a leading question that Paul is asking, because he knows that they recieved the Spirit when they believed the Good News that Jesus died for their sins--he was there when it happened. These other teachers who claimed that they must follow the external requirements of the law--what to eat, what to wear, how to look--they came along later with their new Prescription.

Paul Asks which prescription, faith or the law led to your receiving the Spirit and salvation?

The law isn’t able to work slavation, nor to change human hearts, all that it is able to do is show the need for salvation.

ILLUSTRATION: The law is like a dentist’s little mirror, which he sticks into the patient’s mouth. With the mirror he can detect any cavities. But he doesn’t drill with it or use it to pull teeth. It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can’t provide the solution.

So the prescription of the Law leaves us sick, But the prescription of Faith leads to salvation. Next let’s consider the difference in Power between these two paths.

2. Power: Human Effort vs. The Spirit

v. 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

What is the goal? Salvation of course, but I think not just in the futuristic, fire-insurance sense, but also in the sense of seeing our lives transformed here and now. God’s plan is to restore us from our fallenness--not just later in heaven, but beginning here and now. The question is how can such a feat be accomplished?

There are two paths we can attempt: Trying by Human effort or trusting in the power of the Spirit. The point I think is that the job is too great to be done by me--that’s why Christ died to pay the price for my sin, but not only that--he won victory over sin and by his spirit empowers me as I yield myself to Him to reach that goal.

ILLUSTRATION: Consider the difference between a sailboat and a rowboat. In a spiritual rowboat the sailor is dependent upon human effort, In a spiritual sailboat the sails are raised in faith and the undying power of the wind of the spirit moves the boat--it is still entirely necessary that the boat move, but the power source of the sailboat is unquenchable.

There is also a difference in Pedigree between Trusting and Trying...

3. Pedigree: External vs. Internal

vv. 6-9 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 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." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

The Judaizers, the teachers who were telling the Galatians they needed to follow an external set of standards, were relying upon a pedigree, an external association with Abraham, that is as Jews. And for non-Jews, they expected adherence to the same set of standards, that is to say to become right with God, they first had to act like members of the family--the Jewish family. The externals were all-important.

To this line of thinking Paul responds, "look, what was important about good-old Abe wasn’t that he followed God’s command to be circumcised, but that he trusted God’s promise, it was because he trusted that he was obedient. Therefore, all who believe, who trust in the Promise of Jesus have Abraham as their father. We have an internal pedigree, the pedigree of people of faith.

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Jerry Sharp

commented on Sep 8, 2013

Without a doubt, one of the best jobs I have seen on explaining this principle. Thank you so much. Blessings

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