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Galatians 3:1-3:14
Key Verse: 3:13

In chapter 2 we could see Paul’s great struggle to preserve the truth of the gospel and to act in line with the truth of the gospel against false teachers, the gospel enemies. In doing so he could not but speak emphatically of the great doctrine of justification by faith in Christ Jesus and testify to his own personal life that he had been crucified with Christ dying to the law. In today’s passage Paul contrasts the blessing of those who have faith and the curse of those who are under the law, leading to Christ’s redemption from the curse of the law. All people want to be blessed and live a blessed life. But many people do not know how, and live a cursed life totally against their wishes. May we learn how to be truly blessed and live a blessed life.

First, the blessing of faith (1-9). So far in chapters 1 and 2 Paul talked about himself, his astonishment when Galatians turned to a different gospel, how he himself had received the gospel, and his great effort to preserve and act in line with the truth of the gospel. Now in this chapter Paul deals with Galatians saying, “You foolish Galatians!” The Amplified Bible reads, "O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!" Why did Paul use such language? According to Psalm 14:1 and 53:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” So the fool will have no salvation as they deny God. In Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, God said to him, “You fool!” because he was only concerned about richness and easy-going and merry life in this world. Finally God would demand his life that night, meaning he would have no more chance to be saved (Lk 12:20). And Paul said in Romans 1:22 that fools exchanged the glory of the immortal God for that of mortal human beings, and were degraded to mere physical beings. So fools are not those who are less smart but those who despise God’s salvation and so have no part with God’s salvation. The Galatians were on the brink of losing eternal salvation.

After saying, “You foolish Galatians!” Paul said, “Who has bewitched you?” This is his first rhetorical question in this part. In this expression we can see that behind their foolishness is the devil’s bewitching. The holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15). So God makes us wise for eternal salvation, but the devil makes people foolish into eternal destruction, blinding their mindsso that they cannot see the light of the gospel (2 Cor 4:4).

Then Paul said, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” Pauls message to the Galatians focused on Christ crucified. When Paul preached this, the Galatians felt they were watching Christ being crucified before their very eyes. Historically, Jesus crucifixion had taken place some 15 years earlier. But they felt that it was happening right there before their very eyes. Here we see that Jesus crucifixion is not just a historical event, but it is like a fountain that flows continually. It was effective for the Galatians and continues to be effective throughout time. Why is this so? On the cross Jesus said, "It is finished" (Jn 19:30). The original text uses the perfect tense, which expresses that action completed in the past has accomplished something for all time. He died for mans sins once for all. And after his death on the cross, Christ rose again to life. This proves that his death was acceptable to God as the perfect sacrifice (Ro 4:25). Christ obtained eternal redemption through his death and resurrection (Heb 9:12). This is why his atoning sacrifice is effective to all who believe. It was effective 2,000 years ago, and in the Galatians time, and it is in our time. Christs offering of himself has power now to forgive our sins and save us from eternal condemnation. Now we pray and expect that Jesus Christ may be clearly portrayed as crucified through our 2016 SBC. At Pauls preaching of Jesus crucifixion, Galatians could repent and believe in Jesus Christ as the source of eternal salvation for them. Here Paul seemed to be asking, “Where is now your faith? Why did you lose such faith?” Paul wanted them to think of this.

Then in order to help them, Paul poses five rhetorical questions. In verses 2-5: “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” Through these consecutive rhetorical questions, Paul wanted them to come back to their senses. He wanted them to remember that they had received the Holy Spirit and had experienced the life of the indwelt Spirit when they believed the gospel they heard. He wanted them to think seriously about why they became so foolish. He wanted them to be set on the right track to attain their goal of salvation by keeping their faith through the Spirit not by human effort. He wanted them to consider whether it really was for nothing to suffer for Christ and the gospel by faith, and know that it was rather full of meaning and glory. He wanted them to know with certainty that God gives them his Spirit and works miracles continually when they keep their faith in the words of God they heard.

Here we learn that the life with the Holy Spirit, being wise, attaining our goal in God, meaningful suffering, and the powerful work of God, all these things come through our faith, faith in the gospel and in the words of God, not through the works of the law and human effort. These are two different levels of life. One is life with God; the other, life with only man, so in that there is no Spirit, no true wisdom, no true accomplishment, no meaningful suffering, and no power of God.

Now Paul supports the blessed life of faith based on the Scripture, especially through the example of Abraham. Look at verse 6. “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” This verse refers to Genesis 15:1-6. When God had called Abram, God gave him a promise that God would make him into a great nation. However, even after 10 years of his life of faith, Abraham did not have any visible fruit of his life of faith. He complained to God for not giving him even a son according to Gods promise. When he was in despair lying down in his tent, God took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” If he had thought of his childless situation and his wifes barrenness, not to mention their old age, it would have been impossible to believe the words of promise. But amazingly, regardless of his human conditions Abraham believed God. He believed that that his descendants would be as countless as the stars in the sky. He believed, honouring God as God and considering him faithful who had made the promise. God was very much pleased with this Abraham because of his faith and it was credited to him as righteousness. In other words he was justified and accepted by God due to his faith, although he was also a sinner.

Then Paul says in verses 7-9, “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” This promise of God was given to Abraham at the very time of God’s calling (Ge 12:3) and later on it was confirmed as Abraham grew to be a coworker of God (18:18) and when he passed God’s test of obedience (22:18). Paul said that this promise of God was the gospel announced to Abraham. The gospel is for the blessing of all nations through Abraham. This is God’s heart desire for all sinners of the world that he would justify them by faith. Therefore verse 9 says, “So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” God’s blessing of justification comes to all those who have faith, just as it came to Abraham through his faith. Faith has such a deep root in the history of God in the Scripture. This is the historicity and authenticity of faith. What can be a more blessed life than the life to be blessed along with Abraham! It is through faith.

How precious one’s faith in God through his Son Christ Jesus is! This faith must be kept and maintained. Those who have faith should all the more live a life of faith with assurance of justification through Christ’s merit alone, and following the footsteps of Abraham, the man of faith, to please God.

Second, the curse of the law (10-14). Look at verse 10. “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the law.’” The blessed life of faith is based on the Scripture. The cursed life is also on the basis of the Scripture (Dt 27:26; 28:15). Whether one is under a blessing or a curse makes all the difference in life. Under a curse, Cain became a restless wanderer on the earth (Ge 4:11-12). What is the life under a curse like? It is written in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. Those who are under a curse are destroyed and come to sudden ruin. They are plagued with various kinds of incurable diseases and unknown sicknesses. They are to be defeated before their enemies. They will be afflicted with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. They will be unsuccessful in everything they do. Their hard work will be fruitless. They will sink lower and lower and become the tail, while unknown people rise above them higher and higher and become the head. In extreme hunger, the most gentle and sensitive man among them will have no compassion even on his wife and children; the most gentle and sensitive woman among them—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own children. Those who are under a curse will find no repose, no resting place. They will be given an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. They will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of their lives. Finally eternal punishment will wait for them. The life under a curse is too horrible to think of. Yet, according to the Scriptures all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.

Before God who can continued to do everything written in the Book of the Law? No one. So verse 11 says, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘because the righteous will live by faith.’” And verse 12 says, “The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’” The words, “the righteous will live by faith” is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4; it can be paraphrased, “He who through faith is righteous will live.” And the words, “The man who does these things will live by them” is from Leviticus 18:5. In both cases “live” is eternal life in right relationship with God. These two ways of life, both the life by faith and the life by the works of the law, these two roads, are presented in the Old Testament. The one is impossible for any man, with no way to eternal life; the other is possible for human beings with sure way to eternal life.

Why? Look at verse 13. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” This is from Deuteronomy 21:23. And the body of the one who is hung on a tree is not to be left there overnight. In the book of Joshua he hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset Joshua ordered his men to take the body from the tree (8:29). Another time Joshua struck and killed five kings of the enemies and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening (10:26). We know that Romans executed Jesus by crucifixion, the most terrible way of killing a fellow human at that time. Strictly speaking, Jesus’ body was not hung on a tree. Yet, Apostle Paul could see in light of the Scripture from God’s redemptive perspective over the whole history of God that for Jesus to be nailed to the cross was equivalent to his being hanged on a tree, for it was evident that Jesus died on the cross in the place of sinners under God’s curse and punishment. Apostle Peter also had the same view and said before the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:30, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.” Later he also said in 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”

When I did not know the life of faith in Christ, I was legalistic and lived under a curse. I could not think that my life was a blessed one, but a cursed one. I only thought that the worst thing would happen in each life situation such some family members’ sudden death, contracting terrible diseases, car accident, being stolen or robbed, etc. I thought that whatever I do, I would fail in whatever I do and finally be destroyed. I realize anew that my thought world was like that because I was under a curse as I did not know to live by faith in Christ. But what a change has happened that now I know I have assurance of blessedness in life and whatever I do as I live by faith. I am not talking about a blessed life in terms of worldly success and blessing, but before God. The assurance of the blessedness is in me, because I am not under a curse anymore but under a blessing in Christ Jesus my Lord. Praise Jesus.

What a grace it is that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us! We remember how he became a curse for us. It was so hard to take our curse upon himself. He had to pray on the Mount of Olives, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Lk22:42). In anguish he prayed more earnestly until his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Receiving all the blames and false, he was crucified and died on the cross. In his pain and great anguish, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46), and breathed his last. This was the cry of a cursed one. The innocent holy Son of God was condemned, cursed and punished in our place in such a way so that we might be redeemed from the curse of the law.

Look at verse 14. “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” We see that Christ redeemed us not only from the curse of the law but also the Gentiles including you and me would receive the blessing of Abraham through his redemption. We have thought of how great the blessing given to Abraham was. It was to have a right relationship with God in eternity through justification by faith and to live a blessed life and a blessing to others. And in Christ’s redemption we receive the promise of the Spirit. In this passage the Spirit is mentioned three times. (2, 5, 14). We can say that the fundamental problem of mankind is “spirit” problem; what kind of spirit one has matters, evil spirit or the Holy Spirit. Evil spirits torment people and make them evil and slaves to sin. But the Holy Spirit give us joy and peace and true freedom. The Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of those who believe in Christ who redeemed us through his death on the cross.

In this passage the word “believe” or “faith” is written 10 times (2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9, 11, 12, 14). In this way Paul really stress that Galatians would come to their faith.

In this study we learn deeply that to live by the works of the law, human effort, is a cursed life under a curse, but to live by faith is truly a blessed life along with Abraham in right relationship with God justified before him and indwelling of the Holy Spirit through Christ, who redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. May we all the more pursue and enjoy the life of living by faith, full of thanks for the grace of Christ’s redemption.

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