Of all the books of the Bible, no book has been object of more attack, more misunderstanding, and more false teachings than Galatians. It shouldn’t be feared. It should be understood by God’s people.
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Well, brethren, the Church of God has endured a seemingly endless series of trials and attacks on its foundational beliefs in our times. Certainly in Bible times, that was true, but it certainly is true in our living memory.
Sometimes these attacks have been more from within that without, and sometimes these attacks have been more insidious and tricky than other times because sometimes a foundational truth, this is what's insidious about the kind of attack that I have in mind, a foundational truth has been attacked in the name of coming to the most important of foundational truths. I'll repeat that. Sometimes a very important principle has been attacked in the name of coming to a greater understanding of the most important principle of all.
You know, it sounds good. You can put a wonderful title on something, and you can sell it; you can spin it a certain way, and it sounds good, but sometimes an appeal to find and worship Jesus Christ has been a Trojan horse to attack the teachings of Jesus Christ. And the sad truth is that these attacks have been successful to a certain degree.
Many people have had their thinking changed but not for the good in our lifetimes. Some who once believed "X," the truth of God, now believe "Y," the distortions of Satan, the liar and murderer and enemy of God and His people about God's truth.
Now nearly all of you in this room know well the effects of these attacks. We are about to go to the Feast, and we will go to much smaller rooms with fewer people in the chairs by far, by a factor of maybe ten, than in most of our living memory was the case. And even we here can sometimes look around at empty chairs, and certainly many of God's people meet in smaller meeting halls than they once did, and some of us experience the strain in relationships among family members and former friends caused by these attacks, and it's painful.
But I believe that what we've undergone in our lifetime is even greater, more damaging, than I've described so far, and that's bad enough. I believe that there is even further and more extensive damage from these attacks beyond the obvious things I've just mentioned. And what I'm talking about now is the damage that continues on in the minds of at least some of God's people, and to be candid about it, I don't think it's as many as would have been the case maybe a few years ago. But damage that continues on in the minds of at least some of God's people who have not overtly changed from believing "X" to believing "Y." It's more subtle than that. People who have gone from believing "X" to "Y" are no longer with us, but there sometimes is a lingering residue more subtle, but also a problem. Now what I'm referring there could best be described as a lack of confidence, a lack of confidence and sureness, and I could even say boldness in approaching certain portions of God's word.
It's good that we can come with a level of confidence and certainty as we read God's word, and in some people's minds at least, I believe it's still the case that that is gone, or it's least greatly diminished from what it once was in certain sections of the Bible. There are certain passages of scriptures or individual verses or even whole books of the Bible that some now are afraid of. Doubt has been injected into the minds of some of God's people, well, it was injected into all of our minds, and we've had to battle through it one way of the other, to one degree of success or another, but doubt has been injected into the minds of God's people as to whether they can now really understand portions of God's word that they once thought they could understand, and that seemed so clear in the past.
Now spiritually, I've likened this to walking on marbles on a hard tile floor, but you've got a bunch of marbles somebody spilled on the floor. You can imagine how treacherous that would make your footing. You would not want to be in that room knowing that every step you take you might land on one of these marbles, your feet go out from under you, and you'd take a hard fall. People have lost their confidence in some of their footing, in some of their understanding, if you will, of certain areas of God's word.
Now you don't want to be in that room. You want to get out of it, so you avoid it. And if the effect of what's happened over the last decade has been that certain rooms of this house we stay out of because we don't feel comfortable in taking the next step into those rooms, into those books, into those passages, then there is a residual damage that over time I hope we can all, you know, be healed of, or overcome.
Of all the books of the Bible, none has been the object of more attack, of more confusion, of more error-filled teaching than the book of Galatians. Not even close. More people have lost their confidence that they can navigate their way successfully and explain and understand what's really being said in the book of Galatians by far, I believe, than any other book.
You know, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, made an interesting statement once. He said, "His mistress was the book of Galatians." Did you know that? His mistress was the book of Galatians. On the other hand, he called the epistle of James an epistle of straw, that he very much resented was even in the Canon.
The book of Galatians has been the devil's playground. The faith of many has been undermined by deceiving and false teachers who have twisted its meaning. And yet, God's people ought not fear or avoid any of the books of the Bible. The message of the book of Galatians can be understood by God's people, and it should be understood by God's people. The book of Galatians should be read and studied without fear or hesitancy.
Now I will give this caveat at the outset. I'm not standing before you to say, "I understand to the full depth every single portion of every single verse, because there are still some things that reasonable people who believe the truth, who are led by God's spirit might have slightly different understandings of. I think that is still permitted, but the overview, and what it does not say, should be something that we should be confident of and we can navigate our way through.
So in today's sermon, I'd like to cover with you at least the essential points of this marvelous book, and my hope and prayer is that this will be helpful to some of us here today, if not all of us, to regain whatever confidence we might have lost, any comfort level we might have lost regarding the book of Galatians.
Now as with so many other things, the key to understanding the book of Galatians, as with so many other things, is to properly frame the issue. So I'm going to take a little time before we get into the book of Galatians to help us properly frame the questions, frame the issues, to properly state the question. That's one key.
Another key is to have the help of God through the Holy Spirit which guides converted minds into truth. There is much in the book of Galatians concerning the subject of law and grace and the covenants. A lot of it. But it is my strong belief that you do not start in the book of Galatians studying the subject of law and grace. I mean, if you're just new to Christianity; if you're new to the subject of law and grace; if you're new to the subject of the covenants, you do not begin in the book of Galatians.
What you do is you go to other clear scriptures in the Bible, including, and especially, I would say the statements of Jesus Christ, Himself, that cannot be misunderstood unless you willfully misunderstand them, but are very clear statements, and let those statements, and we'll see statements like that in James and in Jesus, Himself, and other places in Paul's writing. Paul wrote Galatians, but even other places where Paul wrote more clearly, and Peter, and John, and James, and certainly, as I said, Jesus, and you let those clear scriptures frame the issue. Then you know clearly what the book of Galatians is not saying. And if you come to a particular verse, or part of a verse in the book, and it's not obvious what it means, you could say, "Well, does it fit in the frame or not."
If one possible explanation of this verse is "X," but "X" is outside the frame, then you reject that possible explanation because the framework you've already established from clear scriptures is your guide at that point. It's your filter. You don't start a study of law and grace or the covenants in the book of Galatians. You let the rest of the Bible frame the question, and then you go to Galatians.
I'd like to begin with you in II Peter. II Peter 3:15, Peter, himself, virtually says in his own words what I just said, or another way of saying it, what I just said is in my words what Peter says in II Peter 3:15. We'll break into the thought; he's talking about the writings of Paul, and certainly Galatians is one of the most prominent writings of Paul. He says:
II Peter 3:15 - Account or ". . . consider that the patience (longsuffering) of (our) the Lord is salvation - as also our beloved brother Paul. . ." Now this is near the end of the story, near the end of Peter's life, and it's important that we see that whatever difficulties there might have existed, and there were, to be honest about it, some difficulties between Paul and Peter up in Antioch much earlier, whatever those difficulties were had been resolved, and I think it's very comforting to see the way to he refers to him as "our beloved brother Paul," not that rascal who embarrassed me in front of the whole church back there in Antioch, but "our beloved brother Paul." That had all been patched up long ago. ". . .as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you." So, he's talking about various of Paul's writings.
Verse 16 - "as also in all his epistles," one of which is Galatians, "speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable (people) twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." Now there is an enormous amount of guidance for us in building the frame that I talked about earlier in those couple of verses.
First of all, Paul write things that even Peter says are "hard to understand." We need guidance. If this verse of Paul in Galatians could mean "X, Y or Z," we need a filter, or a rule set, a heuristic to sort out the possibilities that are not according to God's will, and leave on the table those that are, and there might be still left one or two that are possible explanations. As I said, I won't say that every single clause of every single verse do we have a "one, and one only" explanation of. There might be small places where it could mean this, could mean that, but they're both of them in the framework. But the framework says, "That explanation right there, that's outside the framework," that is a false explanation. And he said they're hard to be understood, and he said, "Beware of these writings," as there are people who will twist Paul's writings; they will twist them, and what will be the result? They will lead to destruction, spiritual destruction, as they do the rest of the scriptures.
Now in Matthew, Jesus said something I think that's also pertinent to this that helps us frame the issues, at a conceptual level, Matthew:11:25. Whereas what we just read in II Peter might be kind of scary, "Wow, this is going to be hard stuff! I'm not very brilliant. Maybe I can't understand 'hard stuff.' Maybe I'd be a sucker to be deceived by a clever person who is twisting this 'hard stuff.' Marbles on the floor, I'm afraid to go in that room." But wait a minute, look at what Jesus said.
Matthew:11:25 - "At that time Jesus answered and said, 'I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because (that) You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent. . ." People with high IQ's, a lot of study, a lot of intellectual activity in their past, a lot of letters after their name, but some important things are hidden from those minds, but You ". . . have revealed them unto babes.
Verse 26 - "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight." Even hard things can be understood by ordinary, simple people. That's what that says. Some of the marbles just got taken off the floor, taken out of our path. I Corinthians 2:10. How does that dynamic work? How is it that a very educated, facile mind, high IQ, great talent, multi-lingual, knows the original Greek and Hebrew; how can those people not understand some of these hard things, go off on a wrong track, be either perpetrators of or victim of twisting Paul's writing, and just simple people, ordinary people, average IQ, not much formal education, only speak one language, and that one not very well, how can they understand the spiritual truths of God? How does that work?
I Corinthians 2:10 - "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. . ." There is a spiritual dynamic at work in understanding the truth of God. Mr. Armstrong talked about the Bible being a "coded book." He was exactly right. It's a coded book, and one of the code-breakers is the Spirit of God. Perhaps the chief code-breaker of all is the Spirit of God. "God has revealed these things (them) to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." The Holy Spirit is the influence from God Himself on the mind of an individual such that that individual can understand that which others cannot.
Verse 11 - "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." And in the final analysis you can't really understand the things that could be twisted out of Paul's writings especially in Galatians without the help, I believe, of God's Spirit, not the full extent of it.
Verse 12 - "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit (who is) from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." More of the marbles are being swept away off that floor.
Verse 13 - "These things we (also) speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches,
but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Verse 14 - "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them," Can he know them? It's impossible at a certain level without the Spirit of God. ". . . because they are spiritually discerned."
What Paul writes in his epistles, including Galatians, especially including Galatians, is spiritual truth. Spiritual truth is revealed to the understanding of the human mind by the power of God's Spirit. What Paul writes is difficult to be understood, but it's not impossible to be understood. Even ordinary people aided by God's Spirit can understand.
All right, now that's at a philosophical level, the framework, we're starting to see that with the help of God's Spirit ordinary people do not need to be deceived by those who would twist the writings of Paul. At a more practical level, the framework can be built, first by going back to Matthew 5, again, the words of Jesus. We're framing the issues that we will deal with directly, that Paul deals with directly in the book of Galatians. This is a very important part of that framework, Matthew:5:17, words again, which I think should be clear and understandable to us. Jesus' words:
Matthew:5:17 - "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
Verse 18 - "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." Jesus' clear statement that He was not a law-breaker, that he was not a law-destroyer.
Verse 19 - "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them," "He advocated law-keeping and law-teaching, didn't He?" "Whoever does (them) and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Well, as we build the framework, we're starting to see a framework in which whatever Jesus changed when He came, whatever changed from the old covenant to the new covenant was not a change in the basic approach which we have for God's law. He came to expand it, to magnify it, not to destroy it, and yet, there are some very educated people that can say, "When He says, 'I did not come to destroy it, but to fulfill it,'" by fulfilling it, He destroyed it. I mean, the reasoning is so tricky and slivery, like a snake, you know, who are you going to believe me or your lying eyes, you know?
It says, "I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill," yes but what that means is that by fulfilling, He destroyed. And people just, their heads start spinning. We have some very deceitful teachers.
Matthew 19, part of the framework, Jesus' own words:
Matthew:19:16 - "Now behold, one came and said to Him," Now all these scriptures, these framers, you're very familiar with these, these are memory scriptures, so when confronted, and incidentally, I don't in my personal opinion, think that the problem I'm addressing today is as wide-spread and as serious now as it was four, five, six, seven, eight years ago, but I also don't believe it's the last time we're going to be confronted by that. The one who tries to destroy the truth of God, the one who's the enemy of God and man, the liar, the murderer, Satan, the devil; he has a whole arsenal of weapons. He has small arms fire; he's got automatic rifles; he's got rocket-propelled grenade launchers; he's got missiles; well, if he's been heaving, you know, grenades at us for awhile, and we've built up certain defenses, he may put down that particular ordinance, and he may take on small arms fire and come in behind our fortress and try to shoot us in the back with a small pistol for awhile.
But I do not think that the Church of God has been assaulted on the basic subject of law and grace, the covenants and the book of Galatians, for the last time. It's been going on for two thousand years. It comes in episodes; it comes in waves, and so maybe many of us are pretty well armed right now, but from time to time it's good to be reminded and look at it maybe slightly differently than we had before, but to basically reinforce the things that we know, and just file them away in our memory, because I don't for one second think that we've been assaulted on this point for the last time. But anyway, in Matthew:19:16, He says:
Matthew:19:16 - ". . .one came unto Him and said to Him 'Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?'" Now this is the pivotal question of everything, isn't it? Isn't that what salvation's about? Obtaining eternal life? So this is not a minor question. This is not a minor theological argument. This man was cutting to the chase. "What'll I do for eternal life, for salvation?" And Jesus' answer is telling; it helps us build the framework that we can process everything we see in Galatians.
Verse 17 - "So He said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God. But if you want to enter into life. . ." If you want to achieve salvation; if you want to be in the kingdom of God, what does He say? ". . .keep the commandments." That's a pretty powerful and effective screen, a lot of pebbles will get caught on that screen, if we're just trying to let fine dust get through, a lot of rocks will get caught on that screen. That's a pretty fine screen.
Any conclusion, any spin on a particular verse or a clause of a verse, or a chapter in a book, or a whole book that leads to the conclusion, the commandments of God are unimportant, will get stuck on that screen and we'll have to reject it. It's a reject. So whatever Paul is saying in Galatians, he's NOT saying the basic commandments of God are done away with because he doesn't go contrary to Christ, and Christ could not make it clearer. Keep the commandments if you want to enter into eternal life. Somebody says, "Well, that's 'legalism.'" Okay, Christ is a legalist. Don't blame anybody else; don't blame the Church of God; blame Christ. That's His words.
If you want salvation, eternal life, you'd better keep the commandments. And then He clarified:
Verse 18 - "He said (to Him), 'Which ones?' Jesus said, 'You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,'
Verse 19 - "'Honor your father and your mother, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Isn't it pretty apparent He's talking about the ten commandments?
Well, some people say, "No, it's not apparent at all that He's talking about the ten commandments. It's apparent He's talking about six of the ten, because that's all He listed."
Well, if we went with that logic, what's absent? Well, you know what the big number is that's absent, but what else is absent? Don't have idols. So by Jesus not including "don't have idols" here, that means we're free to practice idolatry. Is that right? Does that make any sense whatsoever?
Don't take God's name in vain. I don't see that here. So that is Jesus' endorsement for us cursing like sailors and taking God's name in vain. If the logic, that because the Sabbath isn't mentioned, He endorses breaking the Sabbath commandment, you'd have to say by Him not mentioning, not taking God's name in vain, and not having idols, because He doesn't mention those, that He's endorsing breaking those commandments, or the commandment against having other gods before the one true God. That one's not mentioned.
So again, those who would wrest the words of Paul, would also wrest the words of Christ, but to anybody with any sense, He's talking about the ten commandments, and the fourth one hasn't disappeared, if you're talking about all ten of them. By the way, that is what all of the controversy in the book of Galatians is all about when the shouting's over. It's about the fourth one, because there are those who have this circuitous way of getting there, but they'll say, "All ten of them got done away, reference Paul, reference Galatians, but other places we refind, rediscover the other nine, but we don't refind or rediscover the fourth one, and therefore, Christians don't have to keep the Sabbath. That's the logic of those who spend a lot of time in Galatians.
All right, now how about James 2, in helping us to complete this framework. We are going to get to Galatians, believe it or not, but the framework's the important part. Then you can have all the marbles swept away, and you can make some time for the book. James 2, the brother of Jesus, you would think he would be someone who would know what Jesus thought and taught.
James:2:24 - "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." That's why Martin Luther called this an "epistle of straw." He choked on that verse, because he wanted the doctrine of justification by faith or grace alone, only, over there in Romans, but right here, James just says, "That is not acceptable." He says, "You are not justified by faith only, but are justified by works." Works is a part of it. And then back also in:
James:2:12 - "So speak. . ." you Christians, after Christ was crucified, and resurrected, and ascended to the Father, and the new covenant is in effect, he said, ". . .So speak and (so) do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty." Law of liberty? Judging Christians? Where's that from? I thought all law was done away, reference Galatians, you see. No, don't reference Galatians for the conclusion for the conclusion that law is done away with, even the fourth one. Reference the framework here in James:2:12 that the law is very much intact.
What law? Again, if you back up to Verses 10 and 11, it's obviously talking about the ten commandments.
Verse 10 - ". . .Whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
Verse 11 - "For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' (Now) if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law." If you don't commit adultery, but you do break the Sabbath, you could say you've become a transgressor of the law,
Verse 12 - "So speak, and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty."
A couple more verses to finish the framework. Romans:3:31. Now, Paul here, again is in very clear language helping us devise a framework that we could then see if something that we're wondering if he's saying in Galatians fits, well if it falls within the borders of this frame, yes it fits. It's possibly a correct conclusion. But if it falls outside the borders of the frame, then, no, we have to reject it. How much clearer could he be than in Romans:3:31.
Romans:3:31 - "Do we then make void the law through faith?" In the book of Galatians he talks a lot about faith, and law, and he contrasts apparently faith and law, but we make void the law through faith? Well, he says, "Certainly not!" What a ridiculous assertion. Same as Jesus said,
Matthew:5:17 - "Do not think that I came to make void or abolish the law." "Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law." Wow! Rather than faith doing away with God's law, it establishes it.
And then finally in the book of Revelation, you say, "Well, that was all while, you know, the early apostles around, full truth has not yet been revealed, progressive Revelation, the last book of the Bible; if there's ever going to be an opportunity to get away from the commandments of God, you'd think you'd find it in the last book of the Bible. We certainly haven't found it in James; we haven't found it in Jesus' words; haven't found it in Peter's words; haven't found it in John's words. Well, what about John - late? Late John. Old John. Maybe he finally got the picture and told it to us.
Revelation:12:17 - Can't get much later in the Bible than this. ". . .the dragon was enraged with the woman,. . ." that's the church, the New Covenant Church of God, ". . .and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, . . ." And who are the offspring of the Church of God? Those " . . .who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." No tension whatsoever between trusting Christ and law-keeping. None at all.
Revelation:14:12 - "Here is the patience (or the character) of the saints;" New Covenant Christians. ". . .here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ." Like Siamese twins, you know, they're joined together. There's no tension between them; there's no separation; there's no hostility. ". . .the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ."
Revelation:22:14 - Yes, I know there's an alternate translation, but this is the one, this was the preferred translation, wasn't it? That's the one that made it into the King James version of the Bible. How do you get much later in the Bible than this? "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." All right, there's the framework. Now let me summarize a couple of final points and then we'll go to the tile-covered room and see if we slip and fall on any marbles. See if we can know how to navigate through the book of Galatians.
One additional point before we get into the book of Galatians is this. The word for "law" in the Greek language is "nomos," "nomos." The Anglicized version. Paul uses the word "nomos" many, many times in his writings, in Romans, in Galatians, in Colossians. He refers to "nomos" in different ways. He uses the same term to mean different things, and he isn't in the habit of spelling out exactly which sense of "nomos," that is "law" that he has in mind every time he uses the word. That's not the way Paul does. It is left to the reader to dig out the intended meaning of "nomos."
Some readers, aided by God's Spirit, having framed the issues by other clear scriptures arrive at the proper understanding of "nomos" in any particular context. But other readers arrive at false conclusions and misunderstanding and often this is because they are misled by those who are untaught and unstable; that is false teachers whose spin on the book of Galatians is really, as Peter said, not a "spin" but a "twist." It's a twist which leads to spiritual destruction. So we have to be aware that Paul can use "nomos" many times and have different things in mind and the context in other clear scriptures and our frame helps us to understand what he means each time.
And another overall point is; there were false teachers in Galatia, that's obvious, and we'll see that as we get into the book. It appears that there were really two types of deceivers there, and Paul combats them both. There wasn't a single heresy, or there wasn't a single strain of heresy that Paul was dealing with. All throughout his ministry he had to deal with different false teachings, and it appears at least that there were two varieties of heresy or false teaching that he was dealing with in the book of Galatians. Now the prominent one was that of Judaizers, that is legalists, whose fundamental and deadly error was the teaching that forgiveness of sin, justification, was achieved in some way other than the only way God makes available; that is the sacrifice of Christ.
There were those who one way or the other were convincing these people that there was some way other than faith and the sacrifice of Christ that a person could have their sins forgiven could be justified. There is no other way. And Paul was a warrior when it came to that point. He would not tolerate any teaching in the church that took away people from the centrality of Christ's sacrifice as the only way we can have our sins forgiven; the only way that we can have our dirty past cleaned up. There is no other way.
There was another strain or variety of this teaching, I believe, that we run across in Paul's polemic in Galatians. Polemic is just an argument against someone else's believe, and that's what the book of Galatians is, it's Paul's argument against the belief of these false teachers.
There were others that emphasized pagan superstitious religious practices as a way to please God. Perhaps they put this on top of the teaching of the Jewish legalists. Perhaps they took the Jewish legalists one step further, and they added to the "I can earn salvation," thought of the Judaizers by something I do by superstitious pagan practices, and we see Paul combating that influence as well.
Now with all of that, I hope we have a framework that will allow us in the book of Galatians not to be twisting in the wind to our destruction, but to understand what's going on. Let's go to the book of Galatians. It was probably written from Ephesus, this isn't crucial, but it was probably written while Paul was in Ephesus around 52 AD. He had visited the churches in the Galatian region, which was a Roman province up in Asia Minor. He had visited them at least twice, and now he's in Ephesus, and he gets a report of what's going on, what are some of the teachings, what are some of the beliefs of those back in these churches in Galatia. He's quite concerned by them, by those reports. And so he writes this letter.
Galatians:1:1 - "Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),
Verse 2 - "and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
Verse 3 - "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ," Okay, that's a typical Paulian introduction. Then he gets right to the heart of the matter. The next verse or two gives us the thesis of the whole book. He's talking about Jesus Christ, at the end of verse 3, and then in verse 4. What did Christ do?
Verse 4 - ". . . gave Himself for our sins," That's what is the answer to "my sins, your sins," "my guilt, your guilt." It's nothing else. It's the sacrifice of Christ. Christ gave Himself for our sins. ". . . that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
Verse 5 - "to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." That is the thesis. How is it that on Tuesday, when I recognized that I messed up on Monday, and I sinned on Monday, what can I do on Tuesday to make that record of my guilt go away, and make God forget what I did on Monday? There is one, and only one answer. I can ask God to apply the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to what I did on Monday. That's what, and only what, I can do. Nothing else that I do on Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, will take away my Monday guilt. But having said that, when I come to myself on Tuesday, and repent of what I did on Monday, part of that repentance should be a commitment on Tuesday not to repeat it. And on Wednesday, not to repeat it. So I should still be dedicated to keeping the law of God, which I broke on Monday. I should be dedicated to keeping it on Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday.
So faith in Christ's sacrifice and dedication to keeping God's law today and in the future are not at odds with each other. In fact, they are joined together, those two concepts. Those who twist the book of Galatians will get our minds away from this central point and will try to find a tension between law and grace, between old and new covenant, as far as are there laws still to keep? As far as - if I trust in God to save me through crises, does that mean I can be impervious, or oblivious, or cavalier about God's commandments? And the answers are no, no, and no to those questions.
Verse 6 - "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel." Well, in 1994, I would have said, "Ah, I've been around the Church of God, this Sabbath, holy-day-keeping church, for, back in that period of time, I've been around thirty years, and I don't see any circumstances in which anybody could stand up in front of the mass of God's people and in any way lead them down a road of no Sabbath-keeping, no holy-day-keeping. I just through it was impossible. So were all those crazy Galatians back there in the first century, but today, we know too much. It can't happen.
I wonder how many of you thought the same thing. Well, were we wrong? And I marvel how in the course of just two or three years, the whole thing could be turned on it's head, a one-eighty. And seventy, eighty, ninety percent of people who used to believe "X,", or we thought believed "X" now believed and practice "Y." It's a marvel thing to see how fast that thing can be spun around, and Paul was marveling.
Now he talks about a different gospel, but then he brings us back in Verse 7, there's really only one true gospel, and then there's a lot of perversions of the one true gospel:
Verse 7 - "which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Verse 8 - "But He says even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel. . ." I don't care who tells you why, Paul is saying. It's wrong, because "X" is true. What I taught you, "X" is true, and I don't care who tells you "Y." They're wrong. "Even if we, or an angel from heaven. . ." I don't care if it's Peter, and we're going to see here in a few verses. ". . .preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." Right is right, and it doesn't matter who says it. It doesn't matter who doesn't say it.
Verse 9 - "As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel. . ." Or any other part of any other gospel than the one true gospel. ". . . to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." So this is pretty serious business he's talking about. This is not minor in importance.
Verse 10 - "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a (bond) servant of Christ.
Verse 11 - "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
Verse 12 - "For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Verse 13 - "For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism. . ." Now it's important here to understand that there was a competing religion in the times of the early New Testament Church called Judaism, and sometimes we might tend to think, if we're not careful, "Now, isn't that just a poor man's Christianity? I mean, didn't they have the Torah? Wasn't that the descendent of what God gave to Moses? And He revealed to the nations of Israel and Judah, and coming down, weren't they just a little bit off? Wasn't that pretty close to the truth? No, no. It was an entirely different religion that might as well be Hinduism or the Muslim religion as far as Paul was concerned. That's another religion; there was so much error that had been crept in, so much misunderstanding.
In one sermon, we obviously don't have time to go to all the scriptures where Jesus went head to head with the leaders of Judaism, and you wouldn't come away from those combat zones thinking that it was just a slight variance from the truth. He says, "You make your proselytes two-fold times the child of hell that you are." Pretty directly he said that in Matthew 23.
So, you could do a study of Jesus combating the leaders of Judaism who were the custodians, yes, of the Torah, of the traditions, of the teachings, and they had done that part. They had maintained the writings, but in their spiritual teaching, they were completely off. They rejected the Son of God when He came, and they plotted to put Him to death. That's not just a "poor man's Christianity," a slight variation; that's completely absent spiritual understanding.
But Paul was in that religion as he came up. And he said, "I persecuted the Church of God." So, Judaism, persecuted the Church of God, and part of the problem we have in Galatians is the practitioners of Judaism, false members, he calls them in the church here, had infiltrated into the church and were taking the people away from the rock that was rejected, the cornerstone, Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
And he says it was taught to him through the revelation of Christ in Verse 12, again, without taking the time to go there, there was a period of time that we have very little record of in the book of Acts and in Corinthians, in Paul's recounting of his story of his conversion where he was most likely out in the wilderness being taught by the resurrected Christ Who he saw personally maybe for a period of maybe close to three years that the resurrected Christ appeared personally to Paul and taught him the truth between when he first was struck down on the way to Damascus and when he later went up into Jerusalem and then later to Antioch. But anyway, he was taught the truth personally by the resurrected Christ, so he had personal teaching time with Christ just as the original twelve disciples did, except his was after Christ's resurrection.
Galatians:1:14 - "And I advanced in Judaism. . ." This other religion that was full of error. You know, it had some truth in it, but it was also full or error, and it had virtually no spiritual understanding. "I advanced in that religion (Judaism) beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of (my) the fathers." Nothing about the law of God, but there's a lot in Paul's writing that shows he understood the extra things that had been added on to the law of God by the leaders of Judaism, the oral traditions, and Jesus did combat with much of that as well. He says, "You're very careful in these physical things, in these rituals, and even these oral traditions, but some of them are directly contrary to the intent of God's law.
God says, "Honor your father and mother." You have this Corban rule that if you give an offering or dedicate some of your wealth to the temple, then you can let your parents starve to death. By your oral traditions, you've negated and done violence to the intent of the law of God. And that was, many of those things, in Judaism, this other religion. So he said:
Verse 15 - ". . .when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace,
Verse 16 - "to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,
Verse 17 - "nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus." And let's go to Galatians:2:1.
Galatians:2:1 - ". . .after fourteen years. . ." Fourteen years after he was converted, which is about 35 AD; now we're at about 49 AD, ". . .I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and (also) I took Titus with me.
Verse 2 - "And I went up by revelation. . ." God showed him that he should go up because there was a big controversy in the church. ". . .and I communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.
Verse 3 - ". . .and (yet) not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised." There were those who wanted Titus, this Gentile convert of Paul, to submitted to circumcision. Paul and Titus both said, "No Way." Probably Titus said, "No way," with greater feeling even than Paul. But, "No way," because it wasn't just a physical matter. This got to the heart of the matter; this became a spiritual error that was being injected into the church, that is, could you be as good of a Christian as a Jewish Christian if you were a Gentile convert, if you did not submit to circumcision and then all of the things that might accompany that, becoming a member of the Jewish community?
Did you have to do all that? Did you have to keep all of Torah, and all of the oral traditions and even some of the purification and ceremonial and even sacrificial rites that still were practiced at the temple in Jerusalem but were made unnecessary after the anti-type of those things, Christ came and was sacrificed? Did you have to pledge allegiance to all those things and the entryway into that way of life was the act of circumcision? Or was all that made unnecessary now, those carnal ordinances, those purification rites, animal sacrifices, oral traditions; was all that made unnecessary, done away with once the sacrifice of Christ came along? And weren't your sins forgiven, and weren't you justified before God by that one thing? Forget about all this. This is unimportant. And that was the controversy. So:
Verse 4 - ". . .this occurred because of false brethren. . ." Now Paul calls a spade a spade. This is false teaching that was being injected into the church, primarily by a Judaising element, those who wanted the whole rig-a-ma-row that accompanied the physical rite of circumcision, becoming a Torah-keeping Jew, and a tradition-keeping-Jew. He had to do that. Christ's sacrifice wasn't enough, and Paul wouldn't give a moments yielding to that. ". . .(who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us again into bondage.)
Some of you might be familiar with the mythical Greek figure, Sisyphus, who did something that the mythical Greek gods didn't like. He was a man; he got himself in trouble, and so they condemned him to an eternal fate of rolling a heavy boulder up a steep hill. And then you would get to the top, and was he thrilled, or his labors over? No, it would roll back down, and he's have to go back down and roll it up, just leaning into it, back-breaking work, and all eternity this endless cycle of futility, rolling this boulder up a hill and then it would roll back down again.
Well trying to earn salvation, trying to earn God's forgiveness by something we do, whatever it is, is the faith of Sisyphus. And that is a bondage, trying to earn God's grace which He freely gives but only through Christ, faith in His sacrifice, and allegiance to Him. And they wanted to bring people back into bondage.
Verse 5 - "To whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Verse 6 - "But from those who seemed to be something - whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God does not show personal favorites (shows personal favoritism to no man) - for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me."
So when he consulted with Peter and the other apostles, they said, "You're teaching the same thing to the Gentiles that we've been teaching here." Now, let's skip forward a little bit, Verse 11, that all sounds pretty good. There's harmony, and there's peace, but the Bible shows the heroes with their warts and their shortcomings, which can be overcome and repented of, but we see a problem with Peter, who at an academic level understood that Gentile Christians were no dirtier than Jewish Christians, even though Gentile Christians didn't engage in certain rituals or purification rites, or even sacrifices or oral traditions, that was at the intellectual level. But at some level way down deep, Peter hadn't completely gotten rid of that notion.
Verse 11 - ". . .Peter had come to Antioch. . ." Now that's north, in a Gentile area where Paul was, ". . .Peter had come to Antioch and I withstood him. . ." Surely, Paul, if you've got a problem with Peter, you'd go off in a corner; you wouldn't embarrass the whole church. Un huh. This was so important that in front of everybody, they had it out. "I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;
Verse 12 - "for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles. . ." This is in the church. They had a potluck. He would sit with the Gentile Christians and eat with them until these false brethren associated with the headquarters church in Jerusalem, associated in some people's minds with James came down to spy out, and then when Peter looked up and saw these guys at the door, he got up, took his potluck dinner and went over and sat at the Jewish table because - you're dirty. You're a dirty Gentile Christian. You haven't been circumcised. I'm not going to eat with you. And when Paul saw that, he saw red. ". . .before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.
Verse 13 - "And the rest of the Jews also played (the) hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
Verse 14 - "But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, 'If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles. . ." Now, what does that mean? Well you can go back, just make a note, Mark:7:4, when Peter was still a lowly disciple of Jesus, he was accused of not washing his hands properly when they came back from the marketplace.
Jesus said, "Don't worry about it. That's not important that you have this ritualistic scrubbing. Surely, you should wash your hands, but the ritualistic scrubbing and the purification rite, that's not important." And so Peter was freed from that by Jesus, Himself. ". . .you live in the manner of Gentiles and not (as) the Jews. . ." You don't practice that yourself, Peter, at least Jesus taught you didn't have to. . . " 'Why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?' " Why are you laying that stuff back on the Gentile converts, at least, by your actions?
Verse 15 - "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Verse 16 - "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law. . ."
Now again, what is it I can do on Tuesday that will clean up my Monday mess? Nothing, except ask God humbly in a repentant attitude to apply the sacrifice of Christ. I can't force God to forget what I did on Monday; I can't force God to remove the record of my guilt. But He's willing to do it I come to Him through Christ. That is the issue. That is the central issue in the book of Galatians.
But having said that, if I broke any of God's laws on Monday, and I repent of it on Tuesday, and I ask for forgiveness and ask God by grace to clean up my Monday mess, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I should be committed to not repeating the error. To be just cavalier about it and say, "Grace, no law; I'll go out and commit any sin I want to," would make a mockery of Christ's sacrifice.
So, that is the way that Paul's teachings can be twisted unto people's destruction.
Verse 20 - "I have been crucified with Christ; it is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God. . ." . . .and His sacrifice.
Galatians:3:1 - "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you. . ." Pretty emphatic language. ". . .that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?" Again and again, he goes back to the central point - it's Christ's death on the cross, His shed blood that makes it possible for God to clean up our sins, and we can be viewed as clean.
Verse 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?
Verse 3 - "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" You once believed that God would accept us through Christ's sacrifice, are you now going to buy into the notion that unless you do this or that or the other physical ritual that God won't accept you anymore? That's foolishness; that's stepping back spiritually from revealed truth.
Verse 5 - ". . .He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?-
Verse 6 - "just as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Verse 7 - "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham." Abraham, it says in Genesis:26:5, kept God's commandments and statutes and laws. So, the children of Abraham would do the same things Abraham did, but they would also have to understand justification by faith.
Verse 8 - "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations (Gentiles) by faith," Again and again, we see the theme as - How are you justified? How are you made right before God? It's nothing you can do. ". . .preached the gospel to Abraham before (beforehand), saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.' " So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
Verse 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.' " If you hook your wagon to the star of law-keeping is the way to salvation; that law-keeping is the way to earn justification; if law-keeping is the way to earn forgiveness; if you hook your wagon to that star, you're going to slip off and fall because one mistake, curtains.
If you say, "Look, if I can just perfectly keep all of God's law, in this sense, even the generic concept of law - ten commandments, rituals, it doesn't matter." If you hook your wagon to the idea, "If I can just perfectly, from the moment I'm born to the last breath I draw, perfectly obey everything that God says, then I can achieve salvation." You're not going to achieve salvation because all have sinned. Everybody falls short.
So if law-keeping, and working, and doing something to earn salvation is your philosophy, you're doomed to death. That again is the argument Paul is making. It's not about should we be committed to keeping God's spiritual law. Of course we should be. That's what Christ said, "I came to establish, to fulfill, to make it even broader." But what do you do about your mistakes? That's the issue. What about your mistakes?
Now if you say, "I don't need Christ's sacrifice," then you say, "I'll never make a mistake," and if you make one, there is no way to be justified because the very way to be justified, perfect obedience, you just blew by the first mistake you ever made.
So the curse is the curse of death for those who have a blemished record. And law-keeping on Tuesday doesn't take away law-breaking on Monday. Your blemished record is still there, but Christ's sacrifice can take away the blemished record. That's the point, again and again.
Verse 11 - ". . . that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for the just shall live by faith.
Verse 13 - "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law. . ." What's the curse of the law? Death. The wages of sin is death. That's a curse. Can law-keeping on Tuesday take away the penalty of law-breaking on Monday? No. What can? Christ's sacrifice, again, and again, and again, that's the point.
Verse 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.
Verse 15 - "Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man's covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.
Verse 16 - "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ.
Verse 17 - "And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect." Nothing that happened at Sinai will take away the promise that God made to Abraham that there will come a promised Seed who will make salvation possible.
Verse 18 - "For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham. . .
Verse 19 - "What purpose then does the law serve?" Now in this particular instance, I believe Paul is talking about the temporary, carnal ordinances of the law that were added at Sinai. The ten commandments did not originate at Sinai, nor did they end at the cross, but something did originate at Sinai, and something did end at the cross, and that was certain temporary aspects of revealed law. They're elsewhere called carnal ordinances, temporary ordinances. Look at the language here. "What purpose then does the law serve? It was added. . ." Okay, it was added to something that already existed. "It was added because of transgressions." If there wasn't already a law being transgressed, how does that make any sense?
We have transgressions, and then later something is added. Well, what was being transgressed? A previously existing law? The eternal spiritual law of God, the ten commandments, and other things based on it have always been revealed from the garden of Eden. But certain things were added at Sinai. ". . .it was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come. . ." So it had a temporary life and then it went away. Then it was no longer necessary. I think that language is a perfect fit, don't we see, in Hebrews 9. If you'll notice there just real briefly with me. Something was added. It was to last until the Seed should come. What does Hebrews 9 say?
Hebrews:9:8 - "the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was (still) standing.
Verse 9 - "It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience -
Verse 10 - "concerned only with food and drinks. . ." That is food offerings, drink offerings. . . ". . .various washings, purification rites (and) fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
Verse 11 - "But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come." The overlay, the parallels is almost perfect. Something was added; it was temporary in nature, until the Seed should come, until the time of reformation.
So I believe that what is specifically being talked about in Galatians:3:19 were not the spiritually eternal law of God, but the temporary things that were added at Sinai and the need for which ended at Calvary, if we could put it that way.
Without time to go through every verse, I think we've covered the most important verses, I do want to go to Galatians:5:16.
Galatians:5:16 - "I say then: Walk in the Spirit,(and) that you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Verse 17 - "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
Verse 18 - "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." You're not under the penalty of breaking God's law if you're a Christian, if you have access to God through Christ, if you repent of your sins. The guilt is taken away through the sacrifice of Christ. You're not under the penalty. You are viewed as righteous because God sees Christ being formed in you.
"For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, (and) the Spirit against the flesh . . .you cannot do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." But does that mean that you're free to break God's law? Again, we want to see that that twisting of what Paul is saying is not a conclusion that fits in the framework. Well the very context here shows that doesn't fit. Let's look at the next few verses.
If when he says, "You're not under the law," that means you're free to break the ten commandments because now you're under grace. Is that what he means? It can't possibly mean that because look at what he says.
Verse 19 - ". . .the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery. . ." Now the last I checked, that's the breaking of the seventh of the ten commandments, so what in Paul's own words is the result of a Christian breaking the seventh commandment. Well, skip ahead a couple of verses to the end of Verse 21.
Verse 21 - ". . .those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." So even right here you can see that breaking that particular one of the ten commandments means that you will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So it must still be important to God to be committed to keeping His law. He mentions others: ". . .fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry. . ." Last I checked, that's the breaking of the second commandment. What's the consequence of a Christian? "Well, I'm not under the law. I can have idols." You will not inherit the kingdom of God.
"Good Master, what do I need to do to inherit eternal life?"
"Keep the commandments." The lesson of Paul, the lesson of Christ; it's consistent; there's no tension at all.
Verse 21 - "envy, murders. . ." Last I checked, that's the breaking of the, what is it, the sixth commandment. What's the consequence? You will not inherit the kingdom of God. ". . .of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." And one of the other things that is like that, this isn't an exhaustive list, is Sabbath-breaking. That's just as much a part of - if you do this as a way of life, you will not inherit the kingdom of God, and that's what the twisting of the book of Galatians when all is said and done is really about. It's what it was really all about in 1995; it's really what its always all been about because false teachers can find ways to resurrect the other nine, but that's the one they want to get rid of.
One final little passage, and then we'll finish with this. Back in Galatians:5:6, notice this:
Galatians:5:6 - "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith (working) works through love." Now what in the world does that mean? Faith. That's the only thing that's important. Law, no law, it doesn't matter, if you want to be a Christian who thinks law is important, go ahead. If you want to be a Christian who thinks law is unimportant, go ahead, as long as you have faith. Is that what it means? Well some would twist it. It's okay if you keep the Sabbath; it's not a big deal one way or the other. If it means something to you, go ahead and do it. If it doesn't mean something to you, don't go ahead and do it. But if you have faith, that's all that's important. Is that what that verse means?
Well, if that's all we had, if we didn't have any framework, we didn't have any other clear scriptures to filter it through, I suppose you could reach that conclusion. But what I find interesting is that verse has a twin brother elsewhere in the scriptures written by the same author, a slightly different ending that shows us what's really being said.
Galatians:5:6 - "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but. . ." Something that does avail. . . ". . .is faith working through love." I wonder if you would go with me to I Corinthians 7 and notice something. The same writer, Paul, I Corinthians 7:19 - you see anything familiar here? It starts out:
I Corinthians 7:19 - "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. . ." Starts out exactly the same way. But now notice the way he concludes this verse to give it clear meaning - I Corinthians 7:19 - "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. . ." But what is something? What is important? ". . .but keeping the commandments of God is what matters."
Matthew:19:17 - "If you will enter into life, keep the commandments."
Sometime we might come back and answer other specific points about Galatians, but with this overview, and with the framework of clear scriptures, I think we can be among those who do not need to be deceived unto destruction by those who would twist the words of Paul.