Sunday Evening Bible Study
February 4, 1996
Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.
After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.
The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.
What is at issue is whether or not a Christian is supposed to strive to keep the law.
Even today, there are groups that try to tell you that you must do certain things or not do others if you're a Christian.
Does keeping a list of do's and don'ts make you a Christian?
Last week Paul pointed out that these people received the baptism of the Spirit simply when they believed, not by somehow keeping a certain number of laws or such.
And Paul has also reminded them that Abraham himself received God's righteousness simply by believing God's promises, not by keeping the law or being circumcised.
We ended with:
Galatians 3:9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
:10-14 The curse of the law
Here's Paul's most straight forward statement yet about following the Law.
If you are going to put it in your "statement of beliefs" that in order to be a Christian you must obey the ten commandments, you are placing yourself under a curse.
If I were to ask you, "Why should God let you into heaven?"
And you were to answer me, "Because I try to keep the commandments", or better yet, "Because I try to keep all the Old Testament Law".
Then Paul is saying that you are "under the curse".
The corrrect answer to that question is:
I'm here not because I deserve to be here, but because Jesus paid the penalty for my sins, and gave me His own righteousness.
I'm not here on my own goodness, but because Jesus has given me His goodness.
The correct answer contains no merit on my part concerning the law.
It's kind of important that we understand what the curse of the Law is.
There are lots of "curses" that are promised to those who do not obey the Law.
But there is one overall principle that sums it all up - death.
Ezekiel 18:4 ... the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Paul is now going to quote from the Old Testament.
Paul is basing his ideas on Scripture, not just because he has some crazy idea about God.
Watch how many of the next few verses are simply Paul quoting Scripture.
Base your beliefs on absolute truth.
A lot of people come up with a lot of crazy ideas about God.
But what I'm always curious about is to find out where they get these ideas from!
Usually people just say, "Well because I say so!".
Let's say that you meet someone down on Harbor blvd. who is marching up and down the street with a big sign that reads "Richard Cathers for President!"
Then you ask them, "I didn't know Richard was running for president!"
"Of course he is, and he's just a great guy!" they tell you.
Then you ask, "Can you tell me a little about Richard Cathers?"
"Well" they answer, "He's a great big good looking guy, who stands about 7'2" tall, is incredibly smart, handsome, and charming, and stands for everything I believe in."
"That doesn't sound like the Richard I know" you say. "Have you ever met Richard?"
"No," they reply.
"Well how do you know he's running for president?" you ask.
"Because I just believe he is."
That's utterly stupid!
Just because a person says they believe something doesn't make it true!
What absolute fact do you base your beliefs about God in?
It had better be the Word of God.
It had better be what God Himself says about Himself.
Paul is quoting from Moses' law itself:
Deuteronomy 27:26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.
The point is that the Law itself says that a person must perform all the things that are in the Law in order to avoid the curse of the Law.
This is why James writes:
James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
With the Law, you either have to bat 1000, or you're out of the game.
No man is declared completely free of sin by keeping the law, at least not when God is the one doing the inspecting.
It's as if there's a great big factory machine, manufacturing little toy dolls.
The name of the manufacturing machine is "The Law".
At the end of the conveyor belt is a station marked "Inspector".
If you or I were sitting in the Inspector's chair, it's very possible that a few of the toys might get approved.
"Well it's not all that bad" you think, as you put your little "Inspected by No.12" sticker on it.
But in reality, you or I are not who is sitting in the inspector's seat.
God is the inspector sitting at the end of the conveyor belt, and each doll gets inspected like it's never been inspected before.
And as each doll comes out of the machine, God has to throw it in the "Reject" bin, because nothing made by the great big "Law Machine" is perfect enough for God's standards.
Paul says it's clear because of what Scripture says, and he now quotes again from the Scripture.
This time he quotes:
Habbakuk 2:4b ... the just shall live by his faith.
It's not just saying that a just person is going to live his life by living by faith.
Actually, it might be more accurately translated "the just by faith, shall live".
The idea is that the person who has received God's stamp of approval, "the just", is a person who is approved "by faith".
The person is approved because they are trusting, they have faith that God will take care of whatever is necessary to become approved.
And because they are receiving their approval by simply trusting, they "shall live".
In other words, rather than face the penalty of rejection, which is death, they receive the reward of acceptance, which is spiritual life.
The two are mutually exclusive!
To try to achieve righteousness according to the Law, a person has to be trusting in their own abilities to fulfill the whole Law.
But when a person expects to achieve righteousness by faith, then they are living in a relationship of trust in God.
Or, "live by them"
Here Paul goes again, quoting again from the Law:
Leviticus 18:5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
This verse is the exact opposite of that in Habbakuk.
This verse is saying that a man shall receive the reward of "life" by keeping the Law, but only by doing it, by doing the whole thing.
redeemed - exagorazo - a compound of "ex" (out of) and "agoradzo" (to buy or sell in the market place, especially the place of buying slaves); to redeem; by payment of a price to recover from the power of another
The idea is that we were sold into slavery to the curse of the law (which is death).
And there we are up on the auction block, waiting to be sold.
When up walks Jesus, and He pays the price of our slavery, and then turns around and sets up free.
Jesus took on Himself the price for our freedom, and died.
Again, Paul quotes Scripture:
Deuteronomy 21:23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
Here's the blessing of Abraham:
Genesis 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Abraham's blessing was to be on "all families of the earth".
And so Jesus' death was not selective, covering only Jews.
It was enough to pay for the sins of anyone who would choose to accept God's forgiveness.
I think that Paul is now coming back to the argument that he started back in verse 2
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Last week we made it clear that Paul was talking about receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Last week we dug out and found that the phrase "received ... the Spirit" is used pretty much most of the time for the baptism of the Spirit.
The promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit could only be fulfilled if a person's sins were taken care of.
It could only be fulfilled if Jesus Christ paid the price of their sins.
And the fact that they have already experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit shows that they have already received the payment for their sins by faith.
And receiving the baptism of the Spirit itself, over and above having Jesus pay for your sins, is something that is received by faith.
Out of five verses we've looked at tonight, Paul is quoting Scripture in four of them!
Everything we've seen tonight is summed up with one phrase, "by faith".
:15-18 The covenant of promise