It’s Not What You Think

It’s Not What You Think

As you probably are aware, I can get a little excitable at times.  I’m going to go ahead and warn you.  I’m really amped for this week’s message.  And here’s why.  The entirety of Scripture points to Christ, both Old and New Testament. I love the Old Testament and I love seeing Christ revealed in the Old Testament.  And you’re probably saying, I’m not sure if you know this or not, but Galatians is in the New Testament.  And yes, you’re right.  Today, though, Paul is going to take us on an Old Testament journey.  So I’m going to go ahead and warn you, hang on.  We’re going to be spending a good amount of time in Genesis this morning.
Coming in to our passage today, we are continuing Paul’s thought from last week.  So as to not feel like we’re in mid-sentence, we need to go back and read what is taking place just so that we hear it all in context.  So we are going to re-read last week’s passage as well as this week’s together.
Galatians 3:1-9 (NASB) – “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
In Paul’s relentless pursuit to bring the Galatians back from their “bewitchment”, as we saw last week, and being led astray by this “false gospel”, Paul is going to walk them down the path that they were currently on (works based sanctification) while at the same time leading them back to an understanding of faith in Christ.
1. Let’s start at the beginning 
Why?  As the old saying goes, because it’s a very good place to start….No, I’m not talking about re-teaching all of Galatians.  But, it is important to understand where we’ve been and where we’re going.  We saw last week how Paul began to drill down into this mentality of trying to “work for their salvation and sanctification”.  He asked them was it because of what you have done that has sustained your relationship with God or was it because of your faith in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit?  If it is your works, or the things you’re doing, how’s that working out for you?  Twice, in just these introductory verses of chapter 3, Paul has chastised them, calling them spiritually lazy or foolish.
It’s against this backdrop that Paul now begins to walk them down a path to help them understand the error in their way of thinking.
Because of what the Galatians were being taught, Paul says, “OK, if you are wanting to follow the law, these list of some 600 plus commands, let’s take a trip down memory lane” and let’s look at the relationship between faith and the law.  600 plus commands?  I know what you’re thinking.  I thought there were only 10.  The top 10 if you will, are the ones that get all of the attention.  But there were over 600 commands.  Do you remember the book of Leviticus when we read through the Bible in 90 days?  So Paul begins with this:
  a.  It doesn’t start where you think it does
Instead of going back to when the law was given (Exodus 20), Paul goes back even further.  He goes back to father Abraham.  You remember him.  Now why is this an important starting point?  If the Judaizers were leading the Galatians to live by the Law as a means of their sanctification, becoming more like Christ, growing in their relationship, then why not start with the Law and when it was given?  That would seem like a logical starting point, right?  For Paul to lead them back to Christ, he chooses to take another strategy, one that we would be wise to observe.  Paul uses Scripture to walk them through the birth of faith, and I wonder if they even realized what he was doing.  Isn’t that what Jesus did when he was being tempted in the wilderness?  He used Scripture to battle the inaccuracies and falsehoods being presented by Satan.  Remember, Biblical worldview.  The sword of the Spirit.
Instead of starting in Exodus with Moses, Paul goes all the way to Genesis.  So why go back that far?  Well, watch what Paul does.  Let’s look at verse 6:
Galatians 3:6 (NASB) – Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 
Paul goes all the way back to Abraham.  Abraham believed God.  That seems like a given, right?  But we must understand the context of what Paul is referring to here.  Depending on your Bible, you may have some footnotes or reference points to verse 6.  If you do have a footnote, that footnote will take you back to Genesis 15.  Just as a side note, those footnotes are a really good tool for you as you study Scripture.  Don’t ignore them.  Paul, going back to Genesis 15?  Wow, you say, Paul is going that far back?  That’s only a couple of pages from creation.  Yea, God’s been interacting with people for a while and still does today, and that should encourage us greatly.  So let’s take a brief trip back to Genesis 15.  In Genesis 15, God had promised Abraham a son.  Now remember at this point, Abraham still had his old name of Abram and he was not a young man.  He doesn’t get The name Abraham until Genesis 17.  Not only were Abram and Sarai old, but they had no offspring.  When we come to Genesis 15, God had told Abram that he would give him a reward and it will be great.  Abram ask God “what will you give me since I don’t have a child…”. In Genesis 15:5, we read this:
Genesis 15:5 (NASB) – And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
Abram had just told God that he didn’t have any children and yet God said, look up and see the stars, that’s how many descendants you’ll have.  Now, if you’re Abram, you’ve gotta ask, “Um, God, I know you know everything, but were you not just listening to me?  I said that I don’t have any children.  I’m pretty sure that in order to have descendants, I have to have some children.  Do you not know how old I am?  Look at me!  I feel like I’m talking to myself here.”  How many times are we like that?  How many times have we asked God, “God, are you not listening to me?  We don’t seem to be on the same page here.”  We often feel as though our prayers go unanswered and that God is no where to be found.  Often times, this is where we stop.  We get frustrated with God because God just doesn’t seem to get it.  We have the entirety of Scripture where God has revealed Himself and proven Himself over and over and over again.  He has shown His faithfulness to His promises and yet, we don’t think God hears us.  We have to slow down a minute though and remember, this is not about us.    We need to turn this lens around.  Not only does it not start where we think, but it’s not even about us.  We must recognize that….
  b.  Our weakness is His glory
Do you remember what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10?  Remember we find these verses in the passage where Paul is praying to God to take away this thorn that he has that was causing him torment but his “thorn” was given to prevent Paul from exalting himself.  He had prayed 3 times to God to take it away.  But it’s here, we find God’s response:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB) – And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
In verse 9, we hear that His power or strength is perfected in our weakness.  This power or strength is the same word that is used in Acts 1:8 when Christ, just before His ascension, talks about the Holy Spirit coming to live within us and sending us out to witness for Him.  And this word strong in v. 10 means to “be able, bear trials, calamities with fortitude and patience; mighty, able to excel.”.  Paul was saying he would rather keep his weakness if it meant Christ’s power would be on display instead of his own.  If it’s something that only God could do, God gets the glory.  Our weakness leads to His Glory…..
When we left Abram in Genesis 15:5, he was looking up at the stars.  His weakness was that he did not have any children and he was old and unable to, but yet God told him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  Thankfully, the narrative doesn’t stop there.  Let’s keep reading into verse 6 of Genesis 15:
Genesis 15:6 (NASB) – Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. 
Now wait a minute.  Didn’t we just hear that somewhere?  In Galatians 3:6, Paul was quoting Genesis 15.  Abram believed in the promises, character and sufficiency of what God told him.  But notice, in your Bibles, in Genesis 15:6, you see that the word LORD is in caps.  This is significant.  When Abram believes in the LORD, he is believing in the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-sufficient, Sovereign, divine Yahweh God.  This is the highest name of God given in the Scriptures.  It represents the fullness of who God is.  Because Abram believed in the fullness of God and all that He is, God reckoned him to be righteous.  Don’t let that word reckoned confuse you.  Paul’s not talking to the “southern Galatians” and dipping into their slang.  It’s not a southern word for I suppose.  Depending on your translation, you may see the word, counted or credited.  The idea here is that because of Abram’s belief in who God is, God credited righteousness to him.  Another word that you may hear used is the word imputed.
By Paul taking the Galatians back to Genesis 15, he is reminding them that the Law had not been given yet.  It would be over 400 plus years before the law was given.  Paul is reminding the Galatians that, the law had not even been given yet and Abram was considered righteous, made right with God.  Was it because of his works and his adherence of the law?  It couldn’t have been, it was there yet.  You can almost hear Paul saying “I know the Judaizers are wanting you to adhere to the Law, let me show you how the father of the Jews went about it because the law didn’t exist when he was around”.  Not only is Paul working to bring the Galatians back to Christ, he is also discounting the Judaizers arguments all at the same time.
2.  It’s not about where you come from 
We’ve talked about this before.  For these Gentile believers, they had been outsiders.  They had never been on the inside.  They did not have the Jewish past if you will.  But, what they did have was the finished work of Christ on the cross.  The Judaizers were trying to force these Galatians back to “their” past, trying to Judaize the Galatians, and Paul is continuing to address that issue.  As we saw in verse 6, Paul went straight to faith and showed it’s impact well before the law was ever given.  Paul has addressed “the law of the Jews” and now he addresses “the family of the Jews”.  Paul continues in verse 7:
Galatians 3:7 (NASB) – Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
You can almost see Paul tightening that vice up and squeezing things tighter and tighter to get to main point.  He’s now going directly toward the the family tree if you will of these very Judaizers.  The Judaizers, as well as the Jews, were very proud of where they came from, that being Abraham.  That’s one of the reasons why Paul takes them all the way back to Abraham.  Keeping in mind that the Judaizers were telling the Galatians that they needed to be circumcised, in addition to following the law and traditions.  After all, God commanded that Abraham be circumcised, right?  The answer is yes, but.  Remember, where we were in Genesis when we looked at Abram’s faith?  Genesis 15.  God did not give Abram the covenant of circumcision until chapter 17, at least 14 years later.
Abram, believing in God, was counted as righteous because of His faith, not because of any works he did.  Abram was promised, by God, to have numerous descendants.  Many nations would come from him.  The Jews, were very proud of where they came from.  It was a lineage that caused them to puff their chests out, become elitists and they were not afraid to name-drop it either.
Paul addresses the issue by saying, let me tell you who the real descendants of Abraham are.  We see in Romans 4:9-10, Abraham was credited as righteous while he was uncircumcised.  Paul is bringing out that, like Abraham, it was not the circumcision that led to Abraham being counted him as righteous, it was because of his faith.  It was not the law, it was his faith.  But Paul doesn’t stop there. It’s not your family, where you’re from, or your past that defines who you are.  So if it’s “NOT” about these things, then what is it about?
3. It is about the One who knew you there and brought you out
By saying, in Galatians 3 verse 7, that all who place their faith in Christ are the actual sons of Abraham, he has just shattered the pride and pompousness of the Jews and especially the Judaizers.  He shattered everything that their identity was tied up in.  Our identity is not found in any of those things.  If we strive to find our identity in family, friends, relationships, church or our past, we will be consistently disappointed, disillusioned, and discouraged.  If we have a relationship with Christ, our identity is found in Him which, as we’ve seen, produces a joy, peace and fullest possible life.  Watch this:
Galatians 3:8 (NASB) – And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”
In the midst of laying out his arguments of why living by the law and circumcision does not lead to sanctification, Paul continues his walk through Genesis. Having taken them back to Genesis 15, Paul now goes back even further.  So while we looked at Genesis 15, the promise of Genesis 15 starts back in Genesis 12 when God called Abram to leave his home country of Ur and go to a land that God would show him.  Abram did not grow up in a God-fearing home.  His family were non-believers according to Joshua 24:2.  Abraham had faith in God long before circumcision came about.  In Galatians 3:8, Paul takes them and us back to Genesis 12:1-3.
Genesis 12:1-3 (NASB) – Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
As God is speaking to Abram, while he is still in his homeland, God tells Abram to leave everything he knew.  He places his full trust in YAHWEH God.  There’s that ALL CAPS LORD again.  Remembering that Abram, even at this point, is still not a young man.  Genesis 11 tells us he was 75 when he arrived in Haran after leaving Ur.  So, Abram is starting his faith journey at a much later stage in life.  That should give us encouragement to know that no matter how young or how old, God has a plan for us and can use us AND if you are hearing this, you still have breath and you still have an opportunity to place your faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  Paul has shown God’s plan of redemption and it is all built on faith.  God had a plan for redemption going all the way back to Genesis.  Now watch this.  So we are in Galatians, Paul led us back to Genesis to show that justification is through faith.  Now when we read genealogies, our eyes glaze over and we quickly jump through them b/c most of the names we don’t know or can’t pronounce and we undervalue their significance.  But you don’t want to miss this.  This is good:
Matthew 1:1 (NASB) – The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Lookie there.  Right there, in the line of Jesus.  Did you see it?  Jesus came through the lineage of Abraham.  To repeat what Paul said:
Galatians 3:8 (NASB) – And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 
We see that in the first book of the Old Testament (old covenant) and the first book of the New Testament (new covenant) it’s all about Christ.  And that’s true for the entirety of Scripture.
What Paul has just done is to show them that God, going all the way back to Abraham, had plans for all, not just the Jews.  And that plan was fulfilled through Christ.  Again, this is great news to hear.  Paul has removed everything for their redemption and sanctification except Christ.  And now Christ stands alone.  Because it is only Christ and Christ alone.  In verse 9:
Galatians 3:9 (NASB) – So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
What we have seen, going all the way back to Genesis is that God’s promises are true.  He is faithful in fulfilling those promises. We know God has consistently and faithfully kept His promises.  This is something that we cannot say of ourselves.  We may try with all our might to keep all of our promises, but we fail and fall miserably short.
As we start wrapping this up…
Paul has laid out a compelling case for how faith is the key to our relationship with Christ, not works.  What is so incredible is that Paul is not arguing a case before a jury where the verdict is in question.  The case Paul has laid out is one of absolute truth.  What Paul has been repeating throughout this entire book is that nothing we can do can bring about the fullest life possible and peace with God.  That can only be brought about through Christ.  Ephesians 4 tells us that our sins grieve the Holy Spirit, but there is joy and peace through Christ.
But I have to ask you two very poignant questions.  Do you have a relationship with Christ?  What could possibly be more incredible that pleasing the Son of God and allowing Him to reconcile you to Himself?  If you do have a relationship with Christ, what could possibly be more awe-inspiring that to know that through our repentance, our turning away from our sins and back to God, causes joy in heaven?  Are we in need of repentance?  Are we in need of redemption?