Galatians 1-6 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight GAL01
The Bible from 30,000 feet, soaring through the scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Would you turn, in your Bible, to the book of--
--Galatians. We made it to Galatians. Let's turn there. I don't know what your favorite book in the Bible is, but it might be Galatians. If it is, raise your hand. It's your favorite book in the entire Bible. Raise your hand.
Wow. So there's a few of you. Well, we have a couple here, Billy and Jessalyn. Would you guys stand up? They were telling me that the book of-- would you just stand up through the whole service? No, go ahead, you can have a seat. So Billy said it's his favorite book. Jessalyn said it's her favorite book, and when they met each other and found out that that was each other's favorite book, it was like a confirmation.
Now, it's interesting that this should be your favorite book, because the tone of the letter of Galatians is a little bit hard, harsh, even acerbic at times. So I'm trusting that your relationship is different than the one that Paul, in this letter, had with the Church of Galatia. And there's probably other and better reasons that it is your favorite book.
It's an awesome book. It was one of Martin Luther's favorite books. You know, though, when you get a letter, sometimes you open it, and you know that the letter is different from other letters you have gotten, maybe even from the same person. The tone is a bit different. And this letter is like that.
The tone of Galatians is, well, much different than many of Paul's other letters. Usually Paul begins a letter with customary greetings-- grace and peace-- which he does here. But typically he begins his letters with a word of praise to God, a word of encouragement for the congregation that he writes to, often a prayer that is specific to that congregation in that letter. Those are absent from Paul's letter to the Galatians.
He begins immediately by defending his apostleship. Paul, an apostle, not by men or through man, but it's from God. And that is because he is addressing in this church that he, himself, founded in Galatia-- he is addressing a problem, a problem that is affecting his own personal relationship with that beautiful group of church people in the region of Galatia.
There were a group of people who had come to the Galatians. We refer to them usually as Judaizers. Have you ever heard the term Judaizers? A Judaizer is a claimant to be a follower of Christ, but is very legalistic, has a Jewish background, and believes that, if you want to get right with God, you have to, yes, come through Christ, but go through the vehicle of Judaism in order to be fully right with God. You have to proselytize into the Jewish religion, keep the Jewish feasts, festivals, regulations, rituals, as well as receive Jesus Christ as messiah.
Now, what's weird about it here is that Galatia was a Roman colony. Those who lived in Galatia were Roman citizens. They were chiefly Gentiles, though there were some Jewish people in the congregation, but mostly Gentile, unbelievers who had come to faith in Christ.
So for people to find them to tell them you have to become Jewish, not just receive Jesus Christ, was strange, and it angered Paul. And you see it here in this letter. He unleashes fury at them. He is crystal clear, and in certain places, he's angry. Why? Because they're trying to mix the gospel with other things.
It's not just Jesus alone. It's not just faith in Jesus alone. It's faith in Jesus plus something else. And anytime you add a plus to Jesus and say that Jesus is not enough, anytime you try to mix just the pure faith in Jesus alone, an act of God's grace through your trusting in Jesus alone-- when you add something to the gospel, it's not the gospel any longer. It's not good news.
Now the good news has become bad news. Now you're saying, well, you're off to a good start in accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but now you need more than Jesus. And suddenly the good news doesn't sound all that good.
So the Judaizers were different than Paul. Paul would go into a territory that had not heard the gospel. He would go into the synagogue, to the Jew first, and then also to the Greek. He would sow the seeds of the pure gospel, many of whom the people that he was speaking to-- many of whom had never heard the name Jesus before. So he would give them the background of the law in the Old Testament. Then he would tell how Jesus fulfilled it.
So he would go into virgin territory and preach the gospel. The Judaizers did not do that. They weren't trying to win unbelievers. They weren't trying to win people to Christ. They were trying to wean the people from Paul.
They were trying to get the people of Galatia to turn on what Paul had taught them. So think of the Judaizers like mistletoe. You know about mistletoe this time of the year. We often sing about it in our songs, but you probably also know that mistletoe is a parasite. It doesn't have its own life. You just don't have a mistletoe tree. It grows as a parasitic element by taking its life from another organism.
So they needed the hard work and established church that Paul had, by the spirit, labored to develop and maintain. And they would come in, and instead of starting their own thing and winning unbelievers to Christ, they would take believers when Paul was absent and say, now let me tell you all that Paul got wrong and how I can enlighten you a bit. And so they would wean people off of Paul the Apostle onto the law.
The Judaizers were like Santa Claus. I don't know why all these Christmas things keep coming up, but probably because it's the season. 'Tis the season. Santa Claus makes a list and checks it twice. He wants to find out if you're naughty or nice.
The Judaizers had a list. They show up, first of all, in Acts chapter 15 when Paul is in Antioch with Barnabas. It says certain men from Judea came and said, unless you are circumcised and keep the law of Moses, you cannot be saved. Well, that ruffled Paul's feathers. Then it ruffled Paul's apostolic feathers now. Back then, he went to Jerusalem, had a convention over this, a meeting over this, resolved the issue. But here it is popping up again, and so he writes this letter to combat it.
2,000 years ago, some of the strict Jewish rabbis believed that there was no hope for the Gentiles. I'm giving you this background because Paul is called an apostle to the Gentiles. He's called that in this book. God raised him up-- though a Jewish rabbi himself, raised him up to give the message of the Jewish messiah to the Gentile people.
But he also knew that many of his contemporaries, many of the rabbis believed that Gentiles had no place at all in the economy of God. They had sayings. They had sayings that come from their writings. One of them is that God created Gentiles to kindle the fires of hell.
Their belief is that God created certain people-- Gentiles, non-Jewish people-- for the express purpose to just make hell hotter than it already is. That was their saying. God created you to kindle the fires of hell.
Here's another saying they had. See if it rings a bell in something Jesus said, but quite opposite. Some of the Jewish rabbis back then said, there is joy in heaven when God obliterates one sinner from off the earth. Jesus said, there's joy in heaven when one sinner repents.
To counteract that horrible philosophy and theology that God is wanting to obliterate and ruin people, Paul went to Galatia. He labored in Galatia. What is Galatia? It's that region of central Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. Paul went there on his first and second missionary journey. Some of the cities were Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derby, where Timothy was from. He went there on his first journey. He went there on his second journey, and then later on, he writes this letter.
Now, I mentioned Martin Luther, that Martin Luther loved this book. It was one of his favorite books. He called it the great charter, the Magna Carta, the superior charter. It became known as the Charter of the Reformation.
And I brought with me Martin Luther's commentary to the Galatians. I'm not going to read it to you. It's quite lengthy, but I'm going to read a section to you. This particular edition I love because this book was printed in 1749. So I'm holding a book that was printed, used, read, and preached from before this country came into existence.
And in the beginning of his commentary to the Galatian church, he talks about the greatness of the book of Galatians in that it highlights the great doctrine of justification by faith, which you know Martin Luther was all about. And he says, of our justification-- "that is to say how not by ourselves, neither by our works, which are less than ourselves, but by another help, even the Son of God, Jesus Christ, we are redeemed from sin, death, the devil, and made partakers of eternal life." And then he said, "therefore I am compelled to cast away all shame and to be bold above all measure," which he is in this book.
Martin Luther said the letter to the Galatians is my letter. I am wedded to it. It is my wife. I don't know how his wife felt about that statement, but I guess, Billy, she liked it as much as he did, like you guys did. So you're off to a good start if Martin Luther said that about this book.
So Galatians is sort of a mini Book of Romans. It takes those same central themes that are written about in length and in depth in the book of Romans-- justification by faith, especially-- and highlights those because of the particulars that were going on in that church. In this book, the word law appears 32 times. The word faith appears 21 times. So largely he is writing about the difference between trusting in the law and relying on Jesus Christ by faith. That's why you see those words come up so often.
Now, you can divide the book up into three easy sections of two chapters each. There are six chapters-- chapter 1 and 2 form the first part, 3 and 4 the second part, 5 and 6 the third part. The first part, chapters 1 and 2, are all personal. Paul is defending his apostleship. Paul is talking about his relationship to Old Testament law. Paul is talking about his experience in Christ. So personal, chapter 1 and 2.
The second section, doctrinal. He talks about justification by faith, cites several examples, gives several scriptures about how we are saved not by any of our works, but all by Christ. The last section, chapters 5 and 6, are the practical chapters. It's what all of the doctrines should lead to. And in particular, he wants to show the legalists, the Judaizers, that the doctrine of grace leads to good works.
They were worried. If you just preach grace, you're going to let people do whatever they want to do, and they won't obey Christ. They need the parameters of the law. They need the strict bumper guards of the law. Paul says, not so. The quickest route to spiritual maturity is the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. So that is the practical section of the book.
We deal now with the first part, chapters 1 and 2. Let's peruse it and look at a few outstanding verses. In the first two chapters, as I mentioned, they're autobiographical. Paul will defend his own authority as an apostle, and he will defend the doctrine of justification. That's why he says Paul, an apostle, not from men, nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.
Down in Verse 6, he lays it right on the line right from the beginning. I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel, which is not another, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. I scratch my head when I consider the predicament that the Church of Galatia had gotten themselves into.
What I mean is they had heard the greatest Bible teacher in the world next to Jesus Christ himself, and very quickly after the founding of that vibrant church in Galatia, they started going backwards. It doesn't take long. It doesn't take long into the next generation often in church movements when churches start slipping backwards, sliding sideways, giving up on core values and core issues, compromising in this area and that area. I marvel, says Paul, that it's been so quick. You've done it so soon-- that you have moved away or turned away from him who called you to a different gospel.
Now, notice Verse 7. He uses a very important word. He said, it's not another, but there are some who trouble you. That's the Judaizers, and they want to pervert the gospel of Christ. The word pervert could be translated turn back or reverse.
Think of it this way. Instead of making progress in Christ, instead of putting it from first gear into second gear, you're moving your Christian vehicle in reverse. You're going backwards. You're going back to the Old Testament, back to the law, when the law was simply meant to be a place holder for grace. You've put your Christian walk in reverse. You're going the opposite direction.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that, after Jesus was crucified, there were still sacrifices going on in the temple. I bring this up because the Bible tells us that, when Jesus was crucified, something in the temple itself was torn. Do you know that was?
The veil-- the veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies. It was enormous. It was very tall. There weren't ladders high enough to get up there and rip it. It was ripped from top to bottom, not bottom to top. The implication is God tore the veil, was making the statement that you, who are on the outside, can come in. You can draw nearby faith. I'm giving you access to me now by the death of my son.
The only way the sacrifices could have continued after that is for the veil to be sewn up again. That's what religion does. God rips open the veil and says, come close. Man says, let's sew it back up.
Let's take the freedom that we have, and get rid of the freedom, and go back into bondage, into rituals, into religion, into rights and ceremonies. Man always has the tendency to take the veil that God ripped and sew it back up, to put things in reverse instead of moving forward, just like they did an Acts chapter 15-- those certain men from Judea who said, unless you are circumcised and keep the law of Moses, you can't be saved. Well, that was news to them, because they just believed in Jesus, and Paul and Barnabas said, you guys are saved.
Now these men from Judea are saying, not so fast. Have you become a Jew? Have you been circumcised? Are you keeping the covenant commandments? Are you keeping the laws of Moses? Because if not, you're not saved. They're going back in reverse.
Here's what's unfortunate. You say, well, that was then. Today things are far different. Not so fast.
Religion tends to grip our souls with an ironclad kind of a grip. I meet people who come to faith in Christ. They get all excited about Jesus, and freedom, and liberty, and salvation, and growth. But then they meet a group of Christians who are saying, well, we've decided to keep the Sabbath, and the Old Testament rituals, and we're getting in touch with the Jewish roots of our faith, and we're practicing Judaism. And it sounds fun and fascinating to kind of look at the biblical feast of the Old Testament, but if you read Galatians, you realize that you can go too far, and it's more than a celebration. Some people are told you really, as New Testament believers, should keep these practices if you really want to be pleasing to God.
They're going backwards. They're saying here, put the handcuffs back on me. Put the shackles back on me. This freedom is way too much. I need to do something. I need to keep a ceremony, or this free kind of worship is a little too much. I would rather go back to an older liturgical form of worship that's a little more rigid.
Now, why is that tendency so prevalent? Here's why. It's really the pride of mankind. There's something within us that says, if I do something, if I add my effort, and my ritual, and my ceremony to the work of Christ, somehow I'm going to be better off, and God is going to love me more. It's hard for human nature to accept a free gift, to just say, really? I just believe and I'm right with God? Don't I have to do anything? Nope. It's been done.
You need to believe in what has been done for you. You need to run and cling to the one who did the work for you.
Yes, He did.
Don't go backwards into religion, or ritual, or ceremony. It's fine to study it and acknowledge it for what it is, but you are free in Christ. That is the large point of the book of Galatians.
In Verse 8, "but even if we are an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you, then what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." But this is in chapter 1. This is in the area where he's usually saying, dude, you're doing awesome. High five. Praise God. You guys are awesome.
He's saying, he who gives you something different than what you've received, let him be anathema-- is the Greek word, anathema. It's a word that means devoted to destruction or Hades. Let me translate it so you understand how strong Paul is here. He's angry, and he is to the point.
He's saying this. If we are an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than what you have received, to hell with him. Let him be damned. That's as strong of a language, or wording, or idea that Paul the Apostle ever postulates. Let it be cursed, anathema, devoted to destruction.
As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed, for do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? If I still please men, I would not be a bond servant of Jesus Christ.
Paul, relax. Why are you so up in arms, man? Show a little freedom yourself. Chill out.
Think of it this way. If you go into the doctor and after a few tests he diagnoses that you have an aggressive form of cancer, would you want him to chill out, relax, use grace with it, hope for the best, give your patient a pat on the back, let him go? No, if you're a good doctor, you will deal very aggressively with-- you're angry at that cancerous organism that is eating away at your patient. You want to do everything you can to stop it, cut it out, deal with it.
Same is true for a shepherd. David said the Lord is my shepherd. He said his rod and his staff bring me great comfort. Now, a staff was what the shepherd would use to direct the sheep, but a rod was a little club hung from the belt used to beat up wolves.
Paul is trying to direct his sheep with the staff, but like a good shepherd, he's got the club out. He's saying, where are those wolves? I'm ready to consign them to anathema. I'm going to beat up some of them. I want me some wolf flesh.
Now, suppose an angel appeared right here on this stage. We're having church now, and a big, fiery angel appeared. Well, first of all, there's never been an angel on this platform, except for last night there was one. Lenya was up here with the woman. It was a great event. Any woman show up for that? Excellent event.
But let's say an angel came, and an angel started speaking. We would be wowed, oohed, awed, amazed, but we should be asking questions. What is the angel directing me to do? What is he saying?
And is what he is saying different from what the Bible says? Because there have been apparitions that people have seen. It's awesome. You had to have been there, man. Mary appeared to us in a tortilla. It was so amazing. Or our Lady of Fatima, or Medjugorje, or in the 1800s when the angel Moroni appeared to young Joseph Smith with the golden plates, and gave what is today known as Mormonism-- an angel from heaven. But if that angel gives to you a different gospel, let him be accursed.
Now, he goes on. In the rest of the chapter, he gets personal. He talks about his background in legalism in Judaism. Go over to chapter 2 Verse 4. "And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty, which we had in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage." That happened in Antioch, and it's happening again now in Galatia.
Now, back into that instance in Antioch, Acts 15-- "to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour that the truth of the gospel might continue with you." The chapter continues. He's still dealing autobiographically. He talks about a run in he had with the apostle Peter, who came from Jerusalem, that Peter played the hypocrite and acted like a good Jewish person when Jews were around. But when Gentiles were around, he's hanging out with the Gentiles, but compelling them to live like Jews. So Paul said, I called him out on that.
Go over to Chapter 3. That brings us to the second section of the book. This is the doctrinal section. He gives several arguments about salvation by grace. And look at Verse 1. "Oh foolish Galatians." I told you it was a different letter. The tone is different.
When you get a letter from somebody and it says, I think you're foolish for doing this, you know it's not a friendly letter. "Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?" or beguiled you, or cast a spell on you, "that you should not obey the truth before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?" "Oh foolish Galatians."
In another translation of the New Testament by JB Phillips, the Phillips translation, he translates it this way. "Oh you dear idiots of Galatia." That sort of captures the flavor that Paul is writing with.
Now, he is obviously referring to the fact that, whoever these preachers were, these Judaizers, they wowed the Galatians enough, they made an impact enough by their preaching, their style, whatever it was, that they're turning away from the gospel that Paul gave them. And I notice how we are as human beings whenever we discover a new truth, a new book, a new author. We're wowed by it. Wow, man, I'm reading things I've never seen before in the Bible.
Well, maybe you've never seen them before in the Bible because they're really not in the Bible. You have to read their book to discover it's not in the Bible, but it should be in the Bible because I think it really is in the Bible. I'm not saying we shouldn't be wowed by good authors, but we should always use discernment and ask ourselves what saith scripture? We should be like the Bereans who check out what Paul said to make sure it goes along with the body, the bulk of all of the rest of the scripture.
So he continues. "This only," Verse 2, "I want to learn from you. Did you receive the spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish having begun in the spirit? Are you now being made perfect in the flesh?"
I'm going to read a little portion of JB Phillips's incredibly capable translation in this section, beginning in Verse 1. "Oh you dear idiots of Galatia, who saw Jesus Christ, the crucified, so plainly, who has been casting a spell over you? I will ask you one simple question. Did you receive the spirit by trying to keep the law or by believing the message of the gospel? Surely you can't be so stupid as to think that you begin your spiritual life in the spirit and then complete it by reverting to physical observances."
Look, if you can't be saved by the law, then why are you going back to the law? It's an ironclad, logical set of statements. That's the idea here.
Go down to verse 5 of chapter 3. "Therefore, 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? Just as Abraham--" this is just like he did in Romans-- "just as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham."
As Jews, they were incredibly rooted in Abraham. They were incredibly proud that Abraham was their spiritual father, the father of faith, the father of their faith, their belief system of Judaism. Men were sons and daughters of Abraham. And they believed that being related to Abraham genetically was a guarantee of their future salvation, so Paul takes them way back to the Old Testament to Genesis chapter 15 after the battle Abraham had with the kings when he won with Omar, and you know that story.
In chapter 15, Abraham is getting older, and he's kind of mopey. He's like 86 years old, and he says, Lord, what are you going to give me, seeing that I'm old and I have no one who's my heir. The only one I have is Eleazar of Damascus. God says, Abe, step outside. Look up. Look at those stars. Can you count the stars? If you can, know this-- so shall your descendants be.
I'm going to make your descendants, you old childless man. You're going to have a progeny, a nation-- nations will come from you. And instead of Abraham going, oh, God, that's a funny one. That's awesome. You're a joke teller. That's great. It says Abraham believed God.
Whether he said amen out loud-- the word in Hebrew is amen. Maybe Abraham said, amen. Or maybe he just in his heart said, I believe that.
At that moment, it says God accounted that act of faith to Abraham as righteousness. He's right with me. He's justified. That's that seminal statement that Paul so often goes back to.
"Therefore--" Verse 7-- "know that only those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham." Abraham was 86 years old when God gave them that promise. At 86 years of age, Abraham-- get this-- a Gentile. There was no Jewish nation.
He was an unbeliever. He was from Ur the Chaldees. He was Iraqi. He was between the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley. He was a Gentile. He was not circumcised, but as an uncircumcised Gentile, Abraham believed God, and God said, you're right with me. You're justified.
He will be circumcised, but not until he's 99, which I don't even want to talk about that. It's OK when you're eight days old because you never remember it, but a 99 year old male would. But the act of circumcision did not justify him. He had been justified for years already.
So Paul goes back to the calling of Abraham. Abraham believed God. It was accounted to him for righteousness.
Abraham obeyed. He was circumcised. You could call that a work, a human work, a human endeavor. But he wasn't saved by that. It was simply an attestation of his faith.
Now, that is always what we deal with. We are always dealing with inhumanity, no matter what part of the globe we live in, no matter what culture we are confronted with, no matter what religious background or backgrounds we have around us. All of humanity, all culture, all time frames can be boiled down to one of two religions.
There are only two religions in the entire world, two ways to approach God. One is the religion of human achievement. The other is the religion of divine accomplishment. It's either I'm going to do something. I'm going to work hard. I'm going to subscribe to this and go through these rituals, or pilgrimages, or whatever. Or God is going to do it, and I'm simply going to believe him, and that faith is enough to transform my behavior, and work on me from the inside out, rather than the outside in. All of the world can be divided into one of those two camps. It's either human accomplishment or divine.
Go down to verse 10 of chapter 3. "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. For it is written--" now he's quoting from the law. See, Paul is smart at this. They trust the law. We believe in the law.
So he goes, OK, I'm going to quote from the fifth book of the Torah, from Deuteronomy chapter 27. "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse of the law, for it is written in the law cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." So the law doesn't bring a blessing. The law brings a curse, unless you are perfect. If you are perfect and able to do all the requirements of the Mosaic law, then it's good for you.
But because no one is perfect, therefore it is not a blessing. It is as the law says it is. It brings a curse. Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Verse 11-- "but then no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident." Now he's quoting that great verse from second chapter of Habakkuk. "For the just shall live by faith, and yet the law is not a faith, but the man who does them shall live by them."
Now, let me explain that one. That is a direct quote out of Leviticus chapter 8 verse 5. "The man who does them shall live by them." Leviticus 18-- excuse me-- verse 5. So the law doesn't ask a person to believe in it. The law doesn't ask a person to try really, really hard and do your best to keep it. The law demands strict, complete, and perfect obedience.
That's why Paul says there's no blessing in that. We're not perfect. Nobody can keep that. Nobody has kept that. It's a yoke of bondage, he will go on to explain. It demands strict, complete obedience.
So here's Paul's argument. Since the Bible says, since the scripture says in the Old Testament the just shall live by faith, if you are under the law, you're not living by faith. If you're not living by faith, you're not just. You get his argument? It's like a lawyer in a courtroom. It's very, very logical, almost pedantic, one link to the other. And his syllogism is ironclad. The just shall live by faith.
What is the solution? Verse 13-- "Christ has 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. That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith." Jesus was put on a cross, a Roman method of execution, not a Jewish. The Jews never crucified.
It was a humiliation. It was a curse because of an Old Testament scripture that talks about curses is anything that hangs on a tree is a signal of a curse. So Jesus, because He became the curse of sin, or He took the curse of sin on Him, and He died in a way that is humiliating to the Jews. He became the substitute whereby God is able to impute or confer the righteousness of that sinless sacrifice onto anyone who believes in him. That's the transaction called justification. That's how it works. Cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ, that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith.
If you like to write in your Bible, like I do, write in the margins 2 Corinthians 5:21, which we looked at last time. God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. That's the substitution and the imputation. Now, go down to verse 19, because he's still in that doctrinal section.
What purpose, then, does the law serve? What good is it? He says, I'm glad you asked. "It was added because of transgressions until the seed--" capital S referring to Christ-- "should come to whom the promise was made, and it was appointed through angels at the hands of a mediator."
Now, the only religious institution that God ever initiated, inaugurated, developed was Judaism. Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship with God through the Jewish messiah. The only religious system that God ever initiated is Judaism, and God put it there for a purpose. It was a stopgap measure. It was a place holder measure until the seed should come.
Paul says this. Here's what the law does. Here's the benefit of the law. The law acts like an amplifier-- an amplification system. Let's say I had an electric guitar up here, and I'm playing it not plugged in. You could hear it, but you would not hear the richness of it, because it's thin. It's usually hard wood. It might be a semi hollow guitar with the pickups on it. And you could play it, and you could hear it, but it doesn't have the whole sound.
Once you plug it into an amplifier, turn up the volume and the gain to get a little grit on it, and then-- it takes that and amplifies it, makes it larger. The law does that with sin. Our sin, before the law, was like playing the electric guitar unplugged. Once you have the law, the law acts as the amp and just says, man, have you blown it. Man, are you a sinner. Boy, do you need help, because you have all these dos, and all these don'ts, and all these regulations that no one has ever totally kept. So we walk away going, man, I blew it again.
So it is that amplification system, or it was added because of transgressions until the seed should come, to whom the promise was made, and it was appointed through angels by the hands of a mediator. Go down to verse 24. "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith, but after faith has come--" that is, you just believe in Jesus-- "we are no longer under a tutor." Couldn't be any clearer.
The word that Paul uses for tutor is the Greek word [GREEK]-- literally a child tender, a babysitter. A [GREEK] was, in the Greek world, in the Greco Roman world, usually a household slave employed by the household whose job it was to be a guardian of a young child, usually aged 7 to 18. Would supervise, superintend, take to formal classes, instruct in certain things up until the time when that child grew up, and then you don't need the tutor any longer. So the law was a temporary guardian.
Go down to chapter 4 verse 3, see how he applies it. "Even so, we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world, but when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son born of a woman born, under the law to redeem those who are under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons, and because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of His son into your hearts, crying out Abba Father."
I love that text. You know it's one of my favorites. I preached it last Christmas Eve. Great truths in Galatians now. Now we're getting the amplification of the whole justification by faith thing. The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.
God treated Jesus like we deserve to be treated so that God could treat us like Jesus deserves to be treated. We've been given the adoption as sons, and this is what Christmas is all about. It's the side of the Christmas story that is never told.
It's OK to have a cross or Jesus on a cross inside of a church building. Typically a Catholic Church has that at the front of the altar. But you only see Jesus in a nativity set outside most churches and only at Christmas time. That's because the world can handle that Jesus. They can't handle that Jesus. Like the family who was out looking at Christmas lights one year, and they loved all the lights in the neighborhood, and they finally came to a church where there was this huge, beautiful nativity display all lit up. And the father said, isn't that just stunning? And the little boy, the son-- there was a couple boys, and girl, and mom, and dad.
One of the little boys said, yeah, but something bothers me. Doesn't Jesus ever grow up? He's the same size this year as he was last year. Well, for some people, Jesus never grows up. They don't want Jesus to grow up. They want Him to stay a cuddly little infant in a manger scene, not grow up and call people out on their sin, and then get hung up on a cross to bleed for their sin. They don't want that Jesus. But Jesus was crucified, and then He rose from the dead. We have the adoption of sons whereby we call Abba Father.
Now we come to chapter 5 and 6. That's where we end the book. As the book ends, it comes to the third great section of this book. That is the practical section.
Here's what I love about it. Paul is basically saying, listen, grace-- the doctrine of grace, salvation by grace through faith alone-- promotes spiritual maturity. The very opposite of what the Judaizers said it would. I feel that grace is often misunderstood.
Just don't tell people all they got to do is believe in Jesus. If you tell people that, man, they'll go wild. They'll go crazy. You need the fence, man. You need the bumpers. You need the parameters. Otherwise they'll live without restraint.
No, not if they understand the gospel of grace, because if they understand the gospel of grace, it's going to do something to their heart. Their heart will be changed. God puts His Holy Spirit that energizes the new nature that is put within us at the second birth. So you don't strive to keep the law because you're saved by grace and just believing. You want to obey. It motivates you to obey. You don't turn into a rebel, man. You turn into a disciple.
The law is different. The law can command you to do something, but it can never enable you to do that something. Do this. Do that. Like that little poem I've often quoted, "do this, do that the law commands, but gives me neither feet nor hands. A better word the gospel brings. It bids me fly, and then it gives me wings."
So the law says, don't do this. Here's a command. But it never gives you the enabling. The new covenant gives you the enabling. You have a new birth. You have a new relationship with God. All things are passed away, all things become new. The spirit of God lives within you, et cetera.
So chapter 5 verse 1-- "stand fast, therefore, in the liberty in which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." Now he is picturing a poor animal, like an oxen bowed over from too much weight that he is carrying that's laced to his neck in this plow. "Indeed, I, Paul, say to you that, if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law."
Interesting terminology. Stand fast, and don't be entangled with the yoke of bondage. It's the same terminology Peter used in Acts chapter 15, that counsel at Jerusalem, because the Judaizers had gone to Antioch. Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem. Peter is there, and Peter says, why are you trying to put on the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers were ever able to bear? We couldn't keep the law. Our predecessors couldn't keep the law, but now you're trying to tell Gentiles you have to keep the law.
It's a yoke. We couldn't bear it. Nobody can bear it. Jesus said the same thing to the Pharisees. Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, you hypocrites, for you bind heavy burdens hard to bear. And you lay them on men's shoulders. That's what the law did. Paul says, don't be enslaved again.
Go down to verse 11. "And I, brethren, if I still am preaching circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish--" now he's getting-- wow-- very strong. "I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off."
Now, that translation doesn't really help us get the idea. The word cut themselves off is a word that is translated in many ancient Greek texts as to emasculate oneself. You know what that is? I don't have to describe that, right? You get the picture?
Why would he use such a term? Such a crass term? Because there was a cult, a group of worshippers that worshipped Sabelle, and part of their devotion was to cut off the anatomical parts of the male, emasculation as a proof of devotion. So Paul is saying, really, if you're really devoted, you're preaching circumcision. Just go emasculate yourself. I wish you would just get cut off. Wow, Paul.
"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty, only do not use your liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love. Serve one another, for all the laws fulfilled in one word, even this. You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Here's his point. Grace doesn't make you indulgent. Grace makes you a servant. Grace, if you really understand it, will put a new to love for people within you-- not legalism, not pettiness. You'll fulfill the law, which is love.
Go down to verse 16. "I say walk in the spirit. You will not fulfill the lust of the flesh, for the flesh lusts are wars against the spirit, the spirit against the flesh. These are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish."
You have two natures as a believer-- the old nature you were born with, the new nature you were born with at your second birth. Everything was good until you got born again. There was no battle. You just sinned.
But once you come to Christ, now you have the Holy Spirit energizing that whole new nature because you're now right with God. Now there's a battle. It's worse than Star Wars. It's flesh wars-- flesh wars against the spirit, one nature against the other. And you cast the deciding vote.
So what Paul does here is he gets 17 works of the flesh contrasted to nine graces of the spirit, and he says, "the works of the flesh--" verse 19-- "are evident, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, , lewdness idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envies, murders, drunkenness, revelries--" yuck-- "and the like, of which I tell you beforehand just as I also told you in time past. Those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God."
Now he tells you what grace produces. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law.
It's called the fruit of the spirit. You know how fruit is produced, right? You have these little twigs and branches on a tree, and you see them. You walk by an apple tree. Do you ever walk by a tree that's bearing apples and go, man, look at how hard that tree is working to produce fruit? I think I see it sweating.
No, it never happens that way. You know how easy it is for a branch to produce fruit? All the branch has to do is hang in there. Just stay connected, man. Just hang in there, and fruit will happen.
You want to be a fruitful Christian? Hang in there. Abide in Christ. Hang in there with Him. Stay connected to Him. Fruit will happen naturally. You don't have to push, sweat, force. It will happen. That's what happens in grace.
Brethren, chapter 6 verse 1. "If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you, who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ, for if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." One of the big differences between legalism and grace is this. Legalism points the finger. Grace opens wide the arms, seeks to restore. Legalists love condemnation. People who are into grace love restoration.
So you messed up. So did I. Come on in, man. We want to get around you. We want to lift you up. We want to restore you. We may get in your grill and be honest with you, but we want to restore you back to fruitfulness, not just tell you your faults, but restore you. Unfortunately, the church has become really good at shooting its own wounded, rather than bandaging them up and getting them back on the field again. We should be really good at restoration.
Go down to verse 11. We're bringing this letter to a close in the last minute and a half. "See what large letters I have written to you with my own hand." I'm bringing that up to your attention because I'm puzzled as to what that means. The King James says see what a large letter I have written to you, which would infer that he's saying, man, see I've written-- this is a big, long letter. The thing is, Galatians really isn't a long letter. Compared to Romans, 1 Corinthians, it's not long. It's relatively short.
It could mean that he is writing a longer letter than he intended to write to them. That's one thought. There is another thought, and that is by the translation here. See what large letters I have written to you.
The thought is that Paul had an eye ailment, an eye disease. We don't know why. It's thought that, when he was stoned at Lystra, when they threw rocks at him at Lystra, and they almost stoned him to death, that he suffered effects from that. And one is that he suffered from poor eyesight. And that is what he referred to in 2 Corinthians 12-- "my thorn in the flesh--" an ailment.
We don't know, but it could be that Paul had to write really large letters. You know what it's like when you get older, and your Bible-- you used to carry that little tiny little Bible that you could not read unless you had a microscope anymore. And so you get the Bible with extra large print. It's like about that big. One word, it's real big. Perfect. So it could be that Paul, not just age, but because of that ailment-- maybe age-- I had to write large letters.
There is a third thought, if I may. It could be that the letter was written normally because he had an amanuensis, somebody he dictated it to who wrote it out, but that, at the end, when Paul wanted to make a point, he wrote large letters or had him write large letters. We would write something, and then we would do all caps. And it says, don't miss this, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point. And then we'd tell what it is.
It could be that he's highlighting a certain section in large letters. Take your pick. We don't know. I think I know what it is, but I'll keep my opinion to myself. You've heard it before, anyway.
Go down to verse 16. "As many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God." In other words, those Jews-- not Judaizers, but those Jews who simply believe in Christ, as well as the Gentiles. "From now on, let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."
You know what he was referring to? He was referring to the marks of persecution, the beatings, the stonings. Remember, he said three times I was beaten with rods. He said that in Corinthians. He's saying you are boasting in your marks on your body, which is circumcision. I am boasting about the marks on my body, which is suffering for the sake of the true gospel. So he is contrasting their mark of circumcision with that. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Here it is in a nutshell. About a week or so ago, I was at California Pizza Kitchen having a salad. I finished the meal. I was ready to pay my bill, and the waitress smiled and said, your bill has already been paid in full. Gratuity has even been added. So you don't have to pay anything. Congratulations.
I said, well, who was it? They said, well, I can't tell you that, and they don't want to be known. So what a gift. What a what a gracious act, when somebody does that.
Jesus came along and said, I'm going to pick up your tab. All of the debt you have accrued by all of the bad things you have ever said, done, thought, messed up on I'm going to pay for. It's going to be on my tab.
So I'm giving you a free meal, a free ticket to heaven. Will you believe me? Now, what if I were to say to the waitress, that's great. Can I go back to the back and wash dishes? Well, why? Well, I should earn something.
Well, that would be weird, number one. Probably against a health code, number two. And number three, it would be an insult to the one who gave me the gift. When you say, I want to add something to the gospel by a regiment of works, what an insult it is to the one who paid for your sins and mine on the cross and is willing to give you freely salvation by believing in Him.
So don't go back into bondage. Stand fast, stand firm in the liberty, but don't use your liberty to cause anybody to stumble or an occasion to the flesh, an excuse to the flesh, because if it's truly grace you're saved by, it's going to be manifested in love, and compassion, in restoration, in the fruit of the spirit that comes by just hanging in there in your relationship with Him. Father, we close by thanking you for the work of Christ on the cross and that it is a finished work.
We stand in grace. We stand firm in grace. We stand in our liberty, and we thank you for the freedom we have in Christ. In Jesus's name, we pray. Amen. Let's all stand.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from the Bible from 30,000 feet.