Sunday, July 23, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "You Foolish Galatians!"

“You Foolish Galatians!”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
July 23, 2017 :: Galatians 3:1-14

Last time we were in Galatians together, our study culminated in our Hide the Word Verse, Galatians 2:20.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

That’s the truth of the gospel.

Paul says that he lives by faith in Jesus Christ.

And he’s been arguing all along that he is justified by faith in Christ and not by doing works of the Law.

He’s been preaching grace. And he will not stop.

He ended chapter 2 by saying, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

And Paul did not believe that Jesus died for nothing. He believed that Jesus died for his salvation.

And for the salvation of the Galatians. Those Gentiles from the region of Galatia to whom Paul had brought the gospel message.

The good news of grace in Jesus Christ.

But these same Galatians were in danger of losing the good news of grace in Jesus Christ.

Some false brothers had infiltrated their ranks, discredited Paul and Paul’s gospel, and had introduced what amounted to a similarly-sounding but actually completely different alternative gospel.

A gospel that was Jesus + Doing the Law.

Jesus PLUS doing the Law.

Yes, Jesus, but not just Jesus. Jesus PLUS.

Plus circumcision, plus kosher diet, plus feast days, plus law-keeping, plus law-doing.

Nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves, but they are not the gospel.

They are not what a Christian should put their hope in.

They are not something to rely upon for justification, for being declared righteous.

They are not a part of our salvation.

Paul insisted in verses 15 and 16 that “by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So, he’s got to the heart of his message in this letter. The next two whole chapters will be driving this point home. What the gospel of grace really is and why it's better than the false alternatives that are being held out to the Galatians.

And he’s going to be urging them to return to the gospel of grace and reject the gospel of grace plus works of the Law.

That’s what he’s been up to and that’s what he’s still up to.

In chapters 1 and 2, his approach was biographical. He told parts of his story and how they related to the issue at hand.

Chapters 3 and 4 are much more theological than biographical. He goes back in Scripture to make and prove his points.

But he starts out very personal.

Not about his experience, but about their experience. The experience of the Galatians themselves.

I can’t get over the tone of Paul in the first 5 verses. Can you?

I can’t imagine ever talking that way to a congregation.

I should. I should imagine it. This is God’s Word. This was exactly the right thing for Paul to say to these people.

And we need to hear it today.

But I shy away from confrontation whenever I can.

I might not sound like it when I’m up here preaching away, but I can be very fearful around others, even when they are clearly in the wrong.

Even when the gospel is at stake.

But Paul will have none of it. Paul is bold. Paul is rip-roaring angry.

Remember how astonished he was in chapter 1?

Well, it’s not over. He’s feeling it now. Righteous indignation. And total concern for these people and for the gospel of grace.

“You foolish Galatians!”

There’s an “Oh” there untranslated in the NIV.

“Oh, you foolish Galatians!”

He’s so furious with them.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a talking-to like this one?

When I was a teenager, some of my friends and I were out one night and we decided to play hide and go seek in a cemetery.

Now, that’s a bad idea.

It’s disrespectful, it’s dangerous–jumping over gravestones and stuff like that.

And it was probably illegal, too. We jumped a fence to do it.

And we got caught.

I don’t remember by whom, I just remember that a car drove up with some adults in it, and they stopped our game and sent us home.

And when I got home, I preparing what to say to my parents.

Ever think through one of those?

And I got their and parents had this look on their faces.

They had already heard. The other adults had called them while we drove home.

I don’t remember what they said to me. I just remember how I felt.

And I know how I would talk to my teens if they came home in the same situation.

It might sound a lot like Paul did in Galatians 3.

“Oh, you foolish Galatians!”

Now, Paul does not fly off the handle. Paul is in control of himself. And the Spirit is, too.

And Paul isn’t just venting to feel better because he’s expressed his exasperation.

Paul has a purpose for these words. He wants to persuade the Galatians.

He wants them to feel the fiery red hotness of his words, but be persuaded by them to return to and to stick to the gospel of grace that he had presented to them.

He’s pulling out these rebuking words and dressing them down, not to humiliate them not to just call them on the carpet, but to awaken them from their dangerous slumber and get some gospel sense into them.

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?”

What are you thinking? Are you under some kind of a spell? What evil influence are you listening to?

How could you think that this teaching was an improvement on what I taught you? V.1

“Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

Paul is saying that he had one message when he was with them and that was Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

He said it again and again. He presented, not Jesus and the Law, but Jesus and His Cross.

“Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

And that was enough! Wasn’t it? 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?”

You know he’s like a parent there, right?

“I’ve got just one question for you, buster. And there’s no way you should get it wrong.”

“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”

What’s the answer to that one?

How did these get the Spirit?  How does anyone get the Spirit?

By circumcision? By dietary laws? By being a good Jew? By being a good person?

Does anyone get the Spirit of God?

By putting your faith in the good news of Jesus.

By faith alone in grace alone in Christ alone.

“By believing what you heard.” The gospel. V.3

“Are you so foolish? [So silly, so sluggish, so wrong?] After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? [Literally, by the flesh.]”

Is that what you’re going to do?  Is that how this works?

You know better than this. V.4

“Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing?”

Everything you’ve experienced as believers in Jesus, everything good you’ve received like the Spirit of God–that comes from faith.

But what about bad things you’ve endured because you’ve trusted Jesus. You used to think it was all worth it.

I believe it’s all worth it! But now you’re throwing it away.

“O you foolish Galatians!”

v.5 “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

Which one is it?

You see how he wants to wake them up and see what dangerous ground they are on?

There’s two options on the table:

Observing the law or believing the gospel of grace.

Trusting in the your own work or trusting only in the work of Christ.

Those are the options.

Paul has presented one (that they started with), but they are now in danger of believing the other and rendering everything he’s said as null and void.

So, now Paul begins to contrast these two approaches to justification and to tease out some of their implications.

And he starts with one of his favorite Bible characters, Father Abraham. V.6

“Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’”

“The story of Abraham is on my side,” Paul says.

Remember when he did this in Romans 4? How he played the Abraham card?

I’m sure that the Judaizers (that’s the name we often give to the false teachers here) loved to talk about Abraham.

He was the model of obedience. Remember, how left Ur of the Chaldees and how he was willing to sacrifice Isaac at the command of God?

But Paul says, “What does the Old Testament say?”

Before he was noted for his obedience, Abraham was noted for what?

For his faith!

In fact v.6 is quoting Genesis 15:6 and that happened before Isaac and before circumcision and before the Law!

Abraham “believed God, and it was credited [reckoned] to him as righteousness.”

That’s the book of Genesis.

Justification (righteousification) is by faith and not be works of the Law.

And it always has been, even back in Abraham’s day! V.7

“Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.”

Not through biology.
Not through circumcision.

But through faith.

Really?  Is that in there in Genesis? Paul says, “Yes!” Verse 8.

“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles [like the Galatians, like us here at Lanse Free] by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ [Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, Genesis 22:18] So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”

There’s so much there!

And it raises all kinds of questions, of course.

But the point Paul is making is clear.

The blessings of justification come (not by works of the Law) but by faith, trusting in the promises of the gospel. Just like Abraham did.

Now, of course, we know more about the promises of the gospel than Abraham ever did. But the gospel was announced in advance in seed form in the Abrahamic covenant, “All nations will be blessed through you.”

Through having the same faith as you do.

Faith eventually placed in your greatest descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ.

So much blessing!

If we put our faith in Jesus, we get blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Isn’t that amazing?

Of course, the opposite is also true.

If you follow the alternative gospel, you will not get blessing but cursing. V.10

“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ [Deuteronomy 27:26. Scary words.] Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ [Habbakuk 2:4. You see how he’s dipping back into the Old Testament to make his points? He loves Habbakuk 2:4. He used it in Romans, as well. “The righteous will live by faith, not by doing but by trusting. V.12] The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’

Sure. If you keep the law perfectly then you will have eternal life.

Only one problem: Nobody but Jesus ever kept the law perfectly.

And now in the New Covenant, the Law has been fulfilled and doesn’t even sit in the same place it did. We’ll see that next time.

‘The man who does these things [the Law] will live by them.’

But nobody does.

So we’re under a curse.

Verse 13. But “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written [Deuteronomy 21:23]: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”

He did that for us!

Jesus became accursed for us.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

There is power in the blood.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”

Why did He do that?

“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles [in Galatia, in Central Pennsylvania] through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

You see that Spirit there? He’s big in this book.

We get Him by faith.

Just like we get every one of God’s blessings in Christ.

By faith.

And not by doing the Law.

That’s what Paul is trying to drive home.

It’s foolish to think that you’ll get all of these blessings by adding circumcision or by adding obedience to the 10 Commandments.

If you rely on observing the law, you are under a curse.

Cursed God.

But you don’t have to be!

Rely on Christ. And Christ alone.

Because “He redeemed us.” That means He bought us back to set us free.

That’s what it means to be redeemed. Bought back to be set free.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us...”

And we get into that by faith.

Let me give you four quick points of application from this passage.

Paul’s not done with his argument, but we’ll pick it here next time.

Let me suggest four implications and applications from these fourteen verses.


If you have you not yet, then I urge you today, to put your faith in Jesus Christ.

You see what it’s worth!

You see what Jesus did.

You see what blessings come for those who trust in Jesus and Jesus alone for justification.

Jesus became a curse to bring His people blessing.

Joint His people today by faith.

I’ll bet you can guess what point #2 is. It’s what Paul is trying to get them to do.


Don’t move from the gospel.

Don’t try to add anything to grace.

Don’t allow yourself to be betwitched.

Don’t get taken in by another gospel.

So many people think they can move on past the gospel of grace.

They turn to something else, often while still thinking of themselves as Christians!

Stay awake to the gospel of grace. And don’t deviate from it.

Any other way is cursed!


Don’t keep it a secret.

Be like Paul in verse 1 and clearly portray Jesus Christ as crucified.

That’s what our church is all about.

We exist to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Tell other people about Him.

Have you done that recently?

What He went through for us?!

He became a curse for us.

And we can’t bring ourselves to tell other people about Him?

Oh foolish Pennsylvanians!


Don’t be afraid to confront false gospels when you have to.

I chickened out this week.

I was in a social setting where the gospel was probably at stake, and I didn’t compromise, but I also didn’t speak up.

I couldn’t figure out what to say.

I just sat there with my head down and my brow furrowed.

I normally had a lot of words, but I didn’t right then.

In this particular situation, I should have said something like, “My conscience won’t allow me to go along with this because of the gospel.”

But I just shook my head, “No,” at one point when asked a question and waited for the moment to pass.

And then I had to preach this passage.

Oh foolish Pastor Matt!

You can do better than that.

When Martin Luther was called before the gathering of church leaders at Wurms, he was asked to recant (to repent of) his gospel of grace.

He was given time to consider his response.

And he was shaking in his boots.

Sometimes Luther was bold, but this was a big deal.

He probably could have lost everything, including his life.

All he had to do was say he was wrong.

But Luther believed that he had correctly understood what Paul had taught the Galatians.

So he basically said, “Here I stand on the gospel. That’s all I can do.”

I want to be more like that.

And I want to be more like Paul who cared enough about these churches to light into them when they threatened to careen off the cliff.

“Don’t go there! Don’t leave the gospel of grace! Don’t be a fool!

Every other gospel leads to cursing.

But faith in Jesus leads to blessing. The blessings given to Abraham. The blessings of justification. And the blessing of having the Holy Spirit of God.

Let’s stand up for that.

Let’s sing about it, too. Let's sing "At Calvary.”

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
(Not by works of the law!)
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary.

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary!


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