How to Live Once You Have Been Saved By Grace
November 26, 2012, 7:07 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

Galatians 3:1-9

In Galatians 3, God now moves us to the main point of the entire letter. Paul, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, keeps returning again and again to one central question: Are we saved by what we do or by what Christ has done for us? Paul addresses the doctrinal inconsistency of the Galatians.  He exposes the seriously twisted reasoning of these Galatians who had abandoned Christ and His Gospel. In order to show you this, let me begin with a simple theological question:  How good do you have to be to go to heaven?
If you want to go to heaven, you have to be perfect. 100% perfect is the only standard that works.  Nothing short of 100% perfection works.  Either you’re perfect or you’re short of perfection.   Paul wants to show the Galatians that the only way to be right with God is by accepting through faith the gift of salvation that God provides by His grace.  Anything else is a worthless counterfeit

The Holy Spirit, through Paul, begins with a harse greeting—“You foolish Galatians.” Here, Paul flatly accused his brethren of spiritual and intellectual stupidity. J. B. Phillips begins his translation of verse 1 with the words: “O dear idiots!” One writer suggests the word “numbskulls.” This is strong language and most pastors today would have a lot of negative comments made if they preached like this.  Paul is amazed that they are “so stupid”.  He only sees one reason for their stupidity; they have been placed under a magic spell.   Paul wants to know who “bewitched” them. This is a Greek word that comes from the realm of black magic and refers to a spell or a hex or an “evil eye.” In Paul’s mind, it is so inconceivable that the Galatians would turn back to “law keeping” after having come to Christ by faith that he thinks they have been “bewitched.” They had allowed themselves to become “bewitched,” or fascinated, by those false teachers among them who had preached a new gospel of salvation by Christ plus the works of the law. What made this sudden abandonment of the truth so inexcusable was the fact that Paul had personally and explicitly held up (“publicly portrayed”), through his faithful preaching, the “crucified” and risen Christ as the only way of salvation. In other words, they knew better than to fall into such a theological trap. They were all guilty of being neglectful, and without excuse in light of the straightforwardness with which Paul had taught them.

Paul lists four consequences of this grave error of leaving the freedom of grace for the slavery of the law:

First, by leaving grace to return to the law, the Galatians were ignoring the cross of Christ (verse 1). They had forgotten how clearly Christ’s death and resurrection had been portrayed or placarded or visualized by Paul’s preaching. So powerful was the truth that the Galatians had felt they had been there when he died. To leave grace was to abandon the Christ who died for them.

Second, by leaving grace they were contradicting their own experience of salvation(verses 2-3). Paul reminded them that they had been saved by grace through faith. Would they now conclude that God saves by faith but they must somehow continue it by their good works? Will they go to heaven because “God helps those who help themselves?” The very thought was absurd.

Third, by leaving grace they rendered their suffering meaningless (verse 4). Suffering is understood as either physical persecution or the physical experiences of being saved.  Either way, by going back under law, they were making their salvation experience a worthless thing.

Fourth, by leaving grace they were denying the work of the Spirit in their midst (verse 5). God had worked miracles among them and in them personally. They had seen the power of God both internally and externally. Prayers had been answered, lives had been changed, old habits broken, bad relationships ended, broken lives mended, marriages saved, families restored, the lost saved, sins forgiven. The grace of God was allowing the Spirit of God to work in their midst.  By returning to the slavery of the law, they were giving up fellowship and freedom as well as grieving and quenching the work of the Holy Spirit.  What advantage was there to going back under the Law?  That’s the choice they were making.  Paul’s scolding words are seen in a series of four direct questions designed to expose their guilt and drive them back to established faith regarding the basic content of the true gospel.

  • Question 1 (v. 2)—“Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” We might put the question this way: “How did your lives as Christians begin? The tension is drawn here between two competing plans of salvation; the only two options available to men. Either one attempts to save himself by means of personal accomplishments, in this case the “works of the Law,” or, one sees salvation purely as a gift of God’s grace that comes “by hearing with faith.” A blend of these two, which seems to have been the nature of the false gospel being taught among the Galatians, is impossible. It is either works or grace. Paul argued in the book of Ephesians that this faith, which links a person to the saving power of Christ, is itself a gift of God’s grace and is not the ground of any boasting whatsoever.
  • Question 2 (v. 3)—“are you now being perfected by the flesh?” If salvation is a work of grace, then the transformed life is a work of grace, not works. Sadly, the “foolish” people of Galatia had essentially changed belief in mid-stream! They had, perhaps, been saved by the marvelous grace of God through faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ. However, their trusting the “flesh,” an outward system of conformity to the Mosaic law or the traditions of man would never produce spiritual maturity. Paul saw this as unbiblical and unreasonable and would only frustrate the grace of God.
  • Question 3 (v. 4)—“Did you suffer so many things in vain?” Scholars are unsure how the word “suffer” should be translated. It is either physical persecutions or spiritual experiences after reception of the gospel. Whatever they had experienced by virtue of believing in Christ for salvation would be empty and meaningless (“vain”) if there was another way of being made right before God.
  • Question 4 (v. 5)—“Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit . . . do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” Paul once again, mentions the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit as an act of grace.  He saw the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of one redeemed as an act of grace on God’s part and not the result of blessing obtained by living up to a standard.  That would minimize the work of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing may be added to the grace of God.

In order to more firmly press his point into their hearts, Paul introduced the patriarch “Abraham” as the classical sinner that God had saved by grace, not through works. Using the Old Testament, Paul made it clear that Abraham had simply “believed God,” and that his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness” in Genesis 15.  Two chapters later, Abraham was circumcised.  Salvation had nothing to do with works in the life of Abraham.  It was an act of grace alone.  This contradicted the message of the Judaizers who considered Abraham the father of the Jewish people. Paul’s point is that Abraham was saved by faith when he believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness.  The Law was given to Moses 430 years later.  Abraham was saved by faith before he was circumcised  and before the Law was given.

Paul then expands the point in verse 7 by pointing out that anyone who believes the gospel is a true child of Abraham. In Paul’s mind, the true children of Abraham were those who like him, were made right with God by grace alone.  Abraham trusted in God’s promises that were made to him and God counted or considered his faith to be “righteousness” in the eyes of God by grace alone. The Law or traditions played no part in Abraham’s standing before the Father whatsoever.  In verse 7 Paul declared that the real “sons of Abraham” are “those who are of faith.” This establishes that God has always had only one plan of salvation through the ages. He saves those who, like Abraham of old, “are trusting God to do what they could not do for themselves.  No works make us right before God.  Paul diffused the Judaizers argument that they were the true children of Abraham and destroyed their basic assertions. Paul, being led by the Spirit, used the phrase “those who are of faith” in direct contrast with “the party of the circumcision” (2:12).

Paul’s argument appealed to “the Scripture”—the Old Testament—which announced the truth that “God would justify the Gentiles by faith.”  Paul claimed that Abraham had actually heard the “gospel” as he received and believed the ancient promises made to Him by Yahweh (Gen. 12:3). This establishes the fact that Abraham was saved in exactly the same way as we are—by grace through faith. While Abraham looked forward through the eyes of faith to the work of Christ on his behalf, we have looked backward to the work and ministry of the same Savior and Lord. As Abraham was justified before God—accounted as righteous in his sight—so are all who believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. In this way, “those who are of faith” share in the very same blessings given long ago to Abraham, “the believer” (v. 9).

We can draw several important truths from this. First, the plan of salvation in every age is always by grace through faith apart from human effort. God has only one plan of salvation—not two or three or four. Don’t let anyone tell you that in the Old Testament people were saved differently than in the New Testament. It’s always by grace, always through faith, and always apart from human efforts to attain righteousness.

Second, God’s plan to include the nations means all are included in the church of Jesus Christ. There is no room for excluding people on the basis of race, ethnic origin, language, appearance, skin color, or any other issue. He wants his bride include all . God’s church is as big as God’s heart.  Christ has built the perfect church for imperfect people.

Third, this is the foundation for world missions. God always intended to save people from every nation. That’s the basis of missions around the world.





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Nice job

Comment by Ben

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