Have you ever been on a trip or been going somewhere before and you’re pretty sure you know how to get there. As you begin traveling though, things no longer look as familiar as they once did. Years ago, we had the assistance of paper maps, that took a special skillset just to fold them. Sometimes they were in the form of books called atlases. The point of them was to help us navigate into places where we had not been before, or had not been in a long time, so that we would arrive at the proper destination. You could always stop and ask one of the locals for directions, but that may or may not go well, depending on where you stopped, where you were going and whether they knew the place you were trying to go.
As we come to today’s passage, the Galatians were given bad directions and as a result, were going the wrong way. They were given directions the way the locals would have given them. You know how that is. “If you turn by cousin earnie’s old tire swing, then go about 3 miles down to cousin ricky’s rock, turn left and then you’ll see old man kelcey’s creek. Cross the creek and then take the first right and then just listen for music and you’ll know you’re getting close. I know it’s going to look like a pasture, but it’s not. If you see the paved road, you’ve gone too far…well, you get the idea. As long as you were from around there, it made perfect sense. But, in fact, while the directions may have been legit, they were leading to a wrong destination.
Paul has written this letter to the churches of Galatia to help put them back on the proper path and that path is to lead them back to Christ. Paul is saying, you’re going the wrong way, re-routing, re-routing.
Galatians 3:10-14 (NASB) – For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” Christ 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”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Last week, Paul began to lead us on a journey. As he was talking to the Gentile Christians in the churches of Galatia, he started to walk them through this journey of the relationship between faith and the law. Instead of going back to Moses and when the Law was actually given in Exodus, Paul took them all the way back to Genesis to look at Abraham, long before Moses, some 430 years before the Law was given. Paul showed them how Abraham was counted as righteous not because of how he observed the Law (which had not been given), and not because of his circumcision (which had not happened yet). Instead, it was because of his faith that God reckoned him (counted him) as righteous. Paul has been trying to get the Gentile Christians in Galatia to understand that it is not the works that sanctifies them, but it is their faith in Christ.
Paul also explained to them that the true sons of Abraham are those who place their faith and trust in God. Which at the heart of what Paul was saying to them was that it was not because of what you do, nor where you’re born nor which family you were born into. No, it was because of faith in God. Paul even took them back to how God had planned to redeem the Gentiles all the way back in Genesis.
So today, we continue this thought and conversation that Paul was having. Let’s start out by asking a question, that I’m sure all of us have asked at a point in time in our life.
1. Are you sure this is the way you want to go?
Now, we chuckle at this question because some of us would never ask this question, at least audibly. And yet, some of us need to ask this question. This is the question you can almost hear Paul asking these churches. Are you sure this is the way you want to go? After taking the Gentile Christians back to Abraham, Paul now takes them to Moses. In verse 10, when Paul says “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them.” Paul is taking them to Deuteronomy 27:26. In Deuteronomy 27, Moses is writing a section of Scripture that talks about obedience and disobedience to God and the results of each. In Deuteronomy 27, the children of Israel had not yet crossed the Jordan River on their way to the Promised Land. The Levites (which are the priestly tribe of Israel) were addressing the people. Verses 15-26 of this chapter in Deuteronomy, Moses lays out a series of curses for disobedience to the commands that God had given. Then when we get to verse 26, the Levites shout this
Deuteronomy 27:26 (NASB) – “Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”
By taking them to Deuteronomy, Paul is addressing what the law actually does. Remembering that they were trying to “work” as a way of deepening their relationship with Christ instead of trusting in and relying on the sufficiency of Christ. Now, you may have heard this verse before or maybe you haven’t. We must understand what is taking place here. You see, this word “cursed” that is used in the Greek means divine judgment that brings about condemnation. So to read the verse with that definition in mind, we see that for anyone who does not do what the law says, divine judgement that leads to condemnation will be on you. The people acknowledged this by saying ‘Amen’. Let that sink in for just a moment. The entirety of the law had to be obeyed. If you disobeyed just one portion of it, you were guilty of disobeying all of it. Paul is reminding them that this is what the Law actually said. And this is what you are wanting to go do?
From there, we can continue by looking at Deuteronomy 28. The first part of chapter 28 talks about the blessings that will come if you obey and keep the commands. The last half of Chapter 28 talks about the curses. Chapter 28 is a heavy chapter. Notice verse 20 of Deuteronomy 28:
Deuteronomy 28:20 (NASB) – The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.
This is very weighty. Curses, confusion, vexation and rebuke, why? Did you hear it? Because you have abandoned who? God! There is this association that existed between who the law pointed to, which was God, and that which you were actually disobeying. Do you remember from last week when we saw the LORD in all CAPS? Remember that was the highest name of God in the Scripture. It encompassed all of who God is. Remember, Paul is trying to help the churches of Galatia to fully understand what they are doing and the path that the Judaizers were leading them down. Early on in our study, we saw how this path they were on was in fact forsaking Christ.
That leads us to this obvious but overlooked truth…
2. We don’t know, what we don’t know
The Gentile Christians did not have the law in their history like the Jews did. From everything they knew and heard, from their past, was that those who were considered to be religious had the law, so they must know, right? Now, when they came into a relationship with Christ through faith, they did so without the law. When Paul started the churches in Galatia, he had shared Christ with them and how redemption is available through Christ, and many came into a relationship with Christ. The Judaizers, seeing a possible opportunity, moves in and begins to teach them about the Law. Here is where we need to understand some vital responsibilities that we have as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as a church.
a. Discipleship is vitally important
Once we come into a relationship with Christ and especially right after becoming a new believer, discipleship is vitally important. The leads to the question, what is discipleship. Discipleship is when we walk alongside someone to help them grow in their faith and in their walk with Christ. This takes the form of Bible studies, reading Scriptures together, mentoring, accountability, checking on each other, doing life together. Just so that we’re clear here. What we are doing right now, during this worship, is not discipleship. Discipleship happens in a much more intimate setting, like a Bible Study class or a Sunday School class. Unpacking Scripture and teaching the truths, like we do during our worship service can be a component that helps in that, but it is not discipleship. When a person becomes a new believer, they have turned from a lifestyle that they’ve known their entire life and have now begun down a new path, have started a new life. There are lots of things that are new. And tragically, there’s an expectation among more seasoned believers, that we expect them to know the deep truths of Scripture, what’s the difference between the New and the Old Testament, what church is all about, what’s the meaning of an invitation or an offertory, what is missions, and the list can go on. This is where new believers can be vulnerable. But before we get too carried away, we must understand this. Seasoned believers also need to be discipled. Because if we are not, we can become guilty of becoming spiritually lazy and complacent. As our walk with Christ grows and deepens, He reveals more of Himself to us. When we walk with a new believer, we are pouring into them. Not so much what we know, but who Christ is and what the Scripture says. We are pointing them to Christ because their new identity is now found in Him.
So Paul, after taking them to the words of Moses that is found in Deuteronomy, he then takes them to Habakkuk 2. Let me just tell you, 2 of my favorite books in the entirety of Scripture are Deuteronomy and Habakkuk. I told you last week I was amped. Guess what? This week’s no different. Back to our passage. Paul is instructing them that the righteous or the just, those that have been made right with God, have done so through faith. Not through the law or their attempts to properly follow it. We looked at this verse 2 weeks ago, but Paul quotes it here in verse 11 of Galatians 3.
Habakkuk 2:4 (NASB) – “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.
The proud one that Habakkuk is referring to were the Babylonians or the Chaldeans. We don’t have to time to teach Habakkuk, but the warning for Habakkuk was that those that are prideful, the ones that rely on themselves and their own abilities, their soul is not pleasing or upright. But through faith, the fullest life is possible and that faith is through God. This same verse from Habakkuk is quoted 2 other times in the New Testament, Romans 1 and Hebrews 10. Paul, throughout this section has consistently used Scripture as his basis for leading them back to Christ. Paul is wanting them to shift their focus from doing to believing, from works to faith. And that’s where we find this idea…
b. Progress, not perfection
If you have been here for our Video Bible study on James on Sunday and Wednesday nights with Matt Chandler, you’ve heard this phrase before and that is where I got it from. Just like mature Christians, new Christians are going to fail. None of us are perfect. None of us get it right all the time. Whether you’ve been a Christian for 10 minutes, 10 days or 10 years. We all fall short. Thankfully, through repentance, restoration is possible. As Paul is bringing them back to their faith, it’s that faith in Christ that draws us closer to Him and deepens our walk with Him. That’s what leads us in our progress to being more like Christ. This side of heaven, we’ll never be perfect, but we will make progress on becoming more like Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit as we spend time in Scripture, spend time in prayer and spend time with a community of believers. All of those, working in harmony, through the power of the Holy Spirit to help us in our walk of becoming more like Him. That’s why a community of believers is so important to that process.
Paul continues in his Old Testament pursuit as he now takes them to Leviticus. Paul is now going to contrast what faith can do and what works cannot do.
Galatians 3:12 (NASB) – However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”
In this passage, Paul is quoting Leviticus 18:5:
Leviticus 18:5 (NASB) – So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.
The law says to “Obey this and live”, which is in conflict with what grace says. Grace says “Believe this and live”. The law proved it was something we were not able to do. Grace showed that it was not something that we deserve. The law points to us coming up short. Grace points to Christ being all-sufficient. Because you see….
3. The price has been paid
According to the law, we’ve seen that if we break one law, we’ve broken all of the laws. The price and the penalty for that is death. Through Christ, redemption is available. We’ve heard this term redeem, redeemer, and redemption a lot throughout this series. So let’s take a moment and actually understand what this means.
To redeem comes from the idea of buying back or to purchase for the purpose of setting free. It was used in reference to a slave who was purchased with the purpose of setting that which was bought free. So when we say that someone has been redeemed, it means that they were enslaved, that is they were slaves to sin. Sin was their master and that master leads to death. Salvation is not exchanging one form of bondage for another, like the Judaizers were trying to lead the Galatians into. Salvation is being set free from the bondage of sin and the law into the liberty of God’s grace through Christ, then willfully serving Christ as our Lord and Savior. Redemption.
So as Paul is bringing them back to Christ, he stays in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. In verse 13 of Galatians 3, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:22-23.
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (NASB) – “And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.
There’s a couple of things that we need to be mindful of in what Paul does here. By going back to Deuteronomy and the law, he is continuing to engage the Judaizers. They would have been familiar with not only this passage, but the others we’ve looked at. What Moses was laying out in this passage from Deuteronomy was that according to the law, sin that was worthy of being put to death over, the offender was to be hung on a tree after being put to death.
We need to pause here for a moment. We hear this passage and we immediately think about Christ and His crucifixion. But before we go there, we need to put the brakes on for just a moment. The Jews did not crucify people. Crucifixion was a Roman way of capital punishment and that did to come about until much later. Jews typically stoned people. In Deuteronomy, when someone committed such a heinous crime that was punishable by death, they were put to death and then they were hung on a tree as a sign or an example of the wretchedness so that all could see them. So the body would just hang there, baking in the sun, birds of prey coming to feast on them. It was a grotesque and shameful thing to see.
Paul was quoting this passage in verse 13 of Galatians 3, he is reminding them of the penalty, but is also pointing them to Christ. We know that Christ did die on a cross as a payment for sin. It was a gruesome sight. Look at Isaiah 53:6:
Isaiah 53:6 (NASB) – All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
And then in 1 Peter 2:24, Peter is describing the example Christ had set for us we read this:
1 Peter 2:24 (NASB) – and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
When Jesus went to the cross, He took all of our sins upon Himself, not just a couple of them. All of them.
Warren Wiersbe says this “Does the law put sinners under a curse? Christ has redeemed us from that curse! Do you want the blessing of Abraham? It comes through Christ. Do you want the gift of the Spirit, but you are a Gentile? This gift is given through Christ. All that you need is in Christ. There’s no reason to go back to Moses.”
As we begin to draw this to a close, let’s bring it in tight here. In verse 14, Paul wraps up his reasoning as to why Christ came to die on the cross. Could it be that the Galatians didn’t know this? I don’t think so. Paul had reminded them earlier in Chapter 3 about that. So why would Paul bring that out in verse 14? Paul went to great lengths in this chapter as he walked them back to Abraham and then to then brought in the law. As he has exposed the penalty of the law, he does not leave them with just the penalty. He closes this portion with a reminder of why Christ died on the cross.
If you remember, last week we looked at Abraham and the promises of God found in Genesis 12 and 15. We saw how that promise is extended to the Gentiles as Paul explained earlier in Chapter 3 through Christ. There is great hope through these promises as redemption is available to us through Christ’s death and resurrection. He took our sins when He went to the cross. We saw in our James study how there’s no sin that the cross does not cover. Not only is that good news. Not only is that great news! Not only is that awesome news! That is LIFE-CHANGING news! God does not want a better you. He wants a new you. For the unbeliever, new life is available. For the believer, restoration is possible.
If you are here and have breath in your body, which you do, and if Christ is still on the throne, which He is, then there is still time for you to repent, turn to Him, allow Him to rule and reign in your life and to proclaim His Name. 2 things in that previous sentence I can guarantee. The first is that Christ will always be on the throne and that is never in question or in doubt. The 2nd is that no one knows whether or not our current breath will be our last.
Billy Graham said “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
So today, I ask you, have you accepted His redemption that is available to you? If not, you can place your faith and trust in Him today. Each of us, is born with sin, which separates us from God. We can’t earn our way to redemption. But, through Christ, a way was made through for us. Admitting that we are sinner, separated from God, in need of a Savior and that Savior can only be found in Jesus Christ. By turning from our sins, repenting, and allow Christ to rule and reign in our life, we can have a personal relationship with Him.
If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, are you like the Galatians, in that you are in need of coming back to the cross of Christ and allowing His power through the Holy Spirit to reign supremely in your life?
Before Christ, the path only led to death. But with Christ, a way has been made for the fullest life and it is an everlasting life through a relationship with Him.