Chapter 3:1-9 (ESV) O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Question to consider: We are a lot like the Galatians. We came to faith by putting our trust in the finished work of Jesus but can begin to think our faith is perfected by works of the law. Why is this such a struggle for us?
It starts out innocently enough. You heard the gospel message and took it to heart, drawing comfort from the knowledge that you were saved by God’s grace through the work of Jesus on the cross. You began to mature in your faith and wanted to know God better and hopefully developed a hunger for scripture since it is through scripture God has revealed Himself to us. You also (hopefully) joined a church that focuses on teaching God’s word in its intended context to help satisfy this hunger. Over time, your focus began to change from remembering how you were saved to learning how you can grow as a believer. The members of your congregation have all been growing spiritually and encouraging your pastor to go deeper with his sermons to help you mine truths that you can apply to your Christian walk. Your pastor still preaches the gospel, but it starts to become more like something that gets tacked on to the end of a sermon for the sake of unbelievers. The other 35 minutes is spent on the difference between the Greek words: phileo, agapao, and eros (3 manifestations of love in scripture). Then comes a sermon series on how we can choose agapao love in our own lives. From here it does not take long before we convince ourselves that even though Jesus died to save us, the real work of Christian growth is done through what we do (our law keeping).
Now we live in a time where many churches give a steady diet of law with no gospel, and it’s soul crushing. The gospel is not just something we learned in the past in order to be saved. It is the very lifeblood of our ministries.We don’t pursue holiness to earn God’s favor. It is the natural response of gratitude from a heart that is continually being forgiven. And we continually need to be reminded of this.
Paul proves this truth by appealing to the promises made by God to Abraham which was hundreds of years before Moses was given the law. Abraham was counted as righteous at the moment in which he put his faith in God’s promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. This is important because this happened before God gave him circumcision. How then could the Judaizers claim that Gentiles needed circumcision to be saved, when it wasn’t true for their father Abraham?
Dear heavenly Father, please remind us as often as possible that our faith was won by Christ on the cross and not our good deeds. Help us to grow deeper in our faith without abandoning the very reason for it, and as we teach others about you, please help us to focus on telling them what Christ has done for them far more often than what God expects from them. Amen.