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Empowering Grace Blog

"The importance of grace, part 4"

We have been studying Paul’s writing of the book of Galatians, and saw how Paul emphasized the gospel message of grace, showing how it operates by our faith (or believing). 

In the book of Galatians, Paul stresses that the gospel does not contain the compromising mixture of law and grace. 

He tells us plainly 2 times in the beginning of this letter that any messenger bringing another kind of message should be “anathema” (cursed or, should be quarantined, see Gal 1:6-9. It’s important that you see the word anathema as someone that should be quarantined, and not someone who should be damned to hell. Because most of our preaching today has drifted away from Paul’s gospel as seen in his New Testament letters). Paul makes his gospel simple by telling us that grace is God's ability working for one's life apart from his works; as law is man's ability working for God as he seeks to achieve apart from His work. There are 2 big takeaways we get from this:

- With grace, one is resting in the finished work of Christ; as with law, one depends on his continual works for Him, Gal 2:20-21

- With grace, one receives God’s favor in Christ; as with law, he seeks favor with Him, Gal 2:17-19

I hope that you’re seeing the simplicity of grace, not only in one coming to Christ, but also for living our daily lives. The grace message is so simple that a young child can operate in it (Anyone who can believe, can receive grace. See what Jesus said about this in Matt 18:1-4). This is why the Judaizers of Paul’s day, ministers who mixed law and grace, hated him (Just think about it. When Paul left a certain city, they would come, and correct his pure message of grace.) And as we know, sadly, there are still many people who have the Judaizers’s message of mixing law-based theology.

Now we come to some pertinent questions that Paul asks in chapter 3. He asked — “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” When Paul was there with them, they clearly saw the gospel message that he was proclaiming; that it is all about Jesus and Him crucified (His Redemptive work). He went on and said that because they were entertaining and giving heed to another message, they had been “bewitched” (tricked). He called them “foolish”. Someone who is foolish is not using good, or common sense. One could only imagine that if Paul were here today, he would be saying the same thing over us. Because just like these Galatian believers, we know clearly that we became saved by hearing and believing the simple message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, but somehow after we came to Christ, we start thinking that we need rules to live by (law) instead of letting Christ rule our lives (grace); which is the polar opposite of Gal 2:20 in letting Christ express Himself in us as we believe. 

Paul asks them another important question in v.2 — This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Now Paul starts appealing to their common sense by giving them some basic multiple-choice questions. This is much like what he did in the previous chapter in dealing with Peter, see 2:14-16. He leads off with the words, “This only I want to learn from you”, and it sounds like he’s only going to ask them 1 question, when in fact, he asks them several. But these 8 words are the foundation for the questions he asks. In other words, we don’t need to know a lot of things to be able to answer these questions correctly. We only need to know Jesus and Him crucified. Because it’s by believing that, we become children of God! He asks these Galatian believers, “How did you receive the Spirit (become born-again)?” We all would answer this by choosing answer #2:“by the hearing of faith”. When we heard the gospel, we BELIEVED it, and as a result, we received the Spirit. 

So from this, he asked in v.3 — “Are you so foolish? Having begun in (by) the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” For the 2nd time, he called them foolish for overthinking our walk in Christ. He says that in the same way that we come to Christ, is the way that we walk (behave) as Christians. We all begun in the Spirit by believing; so it’s completely silly (foolish) to think that it is, by our flesh (works), we could perfect our behaviors and actions. Our behaviors are not changed for the better — actually, they are made worse — by our fleshly attempts at the law. 

If our common sense hasn’t returned yet about the simplicity of how we are to walk in Christ (by God’s grace), he goes on in v.5, asking something else — “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you (works His favors in our lives), does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” For this 3rd question, he combines the 1st in becoming saved, and 2nd question in growing in Christ, together in showing us the simplicity of “the hearing of faith”, and not “by the works of the law”. The simplicity of the Christian life is by grace through faith, not by the law through works, (See also Eph 2:8-10).

He goes on in the next few verses by using Abraham, in the making of the Old Covenant, showing that it started with the gospel of grace and not works — “6 just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” Sadly, some people have been derailed with the blessings of Abraham, using what Paul said here in showing how we, too, are blessed with the physical wealth and riches that Abraham had. But this wasn’t what Paul is emphasizing here. He started with the words, “JUST LIKE ABRAHAM”, relating this old event of making the Old Covenant with what God did for us through Jesus Christ in living by faith in His grace. Paul said that “Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was accounted to him for Righteousness (grace).” This covenant was made by faith alone before the law was added 430 years later (the law was added to it). So, what is the blessing of Abraham that Paul mentioned in v.9? It is God’s Righteousness imputed to Abraham through his faith. 

Paul then, in the next few verses, explains to us the dangers and footholds that the law presents to those who were under it — “10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’  13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” As the law commands, “do, do, do”, grace instructs, “done, done, done”! Not only did the law command people to do ALL 613 requirements from the law in the Old Testament — not 10 of them (the 10 Commandments), but all 613 of them — but if they were able to keep 612 and disobeyed 1, they were cursed (You can read about the curses that would befall the disobedient one in Deut 28:15-68. But I have to warn you, it’s not a pretty picture). 

We see the dire picture of the law in v.11, “no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident”, because no one was able to fully keep what was required. Paul, then, precedes and tells us the reason why this is true: “the law is not of faith” (also see Heb 11:6). From this, we see that the law produces a curse because it’s not of faith, and yet, people want to tell us today that we need a balance of grace and law. 

Those people are saying that we need to live partly by our works to please God, so we can experience curses in our lives. This is pure nonsense! 

The law didn’t die, neither did the curse (we see it all over this world), but through the body of Christ, we have died to the law and have been redeemed from its curse, so that we should bear fruit to God, see Rom 7:4. The whole idea behind these verses in Galatians 3, is that Jesus came into this earth, a man born under the law, fulfilled it and thus ended it; so that, the original promise and blessing given to Abraham by God concerning His Righteousness may be given to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

What did we learn from these verses in Gal 3 — any teaching that places its emphasis on us and what we have to do for God is law-based teaching, resulting in a faithless life of the curse. 

On the other hand, any teaching that places its emphasis on the finished work of Jesus Christ and causes us to believe and receive from Him is grace-based teaching, resulting in a faithful life of blessing, see James 1:12.


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