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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"By Works of the Law, or by Hearing with Faith?"

The Fourth in a Series of Sermons on Galatians

Galatians is a letter of sharp contrasts.  Paul is writing to Gentile Christians throughout Galatia, who have been told (erroneously) they must now live as Jews.  Their confusion arises from the efforts of false teachers (Judaizers), who secretly infiltrated the churches in Galatia to spy out the freedom enjoyed by these new Christians.  In response, Paul exposes the false gospel taught by these men for what it really is, no gospel.  He reminds them that the gospel which he preaches (the public placarding of Christ) was revealed to him by Jesus, who’s saving merits are received through faith alone, and cannot earned by works.  In Galatians 3:1-14 (our text), Paul contrasts the true gospel which he has preached (requiring the “hearing of faith”), and the false gospel (“works of law”) proclaimed by Judaizers.

Paul is writing to churches which he helped to found not long before through the preaching of that gospel which had been revealed to him by Jesus.  Paul was gone from Galatia for a brief period of time, but already a group of Jewish converts to Christianity (Judaizers) were denying the gospel which he just preached to them.  Telling Gentile believers, “yes, Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God,” the Judaizers added the condition that membership in the church was maintained through continuing obedience to the law of Moses, submission to ritual circumcision, the keeping of certain dietary laws, all of which functioned as badges, or emblems of membership in the people of God (true Israel).  When pagan Gentiles came to faith in Jesus Christ, Judaizers insisted that Gentiles adopt these ethnic badges of Judaism, or else forfeit their right standing before God.  Gentiles must believe in Jesus, but live as Jews.

Discovering what had happened in his absence, Paul composed this letter.  In the opening chapter, Paul expresses his concern.  “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Gal. 1:7).  Paul contends this false gospel was taught by deceitful men “who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery” (2:4).  Things got so bad that Paul was forced to confront Peter to his face, since Peter was living as a Gentile, but hypocritically telling Gentiles to live as Jews.  Peter was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel which is grounded in the work of Jesus Christ, his sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection from the dead.  Justification (our right standing before God) comes through faith, and not through one’s obedience to dietary laws, submitting to circumcision, or through obedience to any other elements of the Mosaic law.  In Galatians 2:16, Paul has made this point clear.  “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”

In Galatians 3:1-6, Paul exhorts the Galatians to consider how it was that they came to faith in the first place.  Exasperated by the state of things in Galatia, Paul warns his readers/hearers not to tolerate the error of the Judaizers.  The harsh label he ascribes to them “foolish Galatians” comes from a term which conveys the idea of an insufficient use of mental powers or a deficiency in understanding.  But a paraphrase like “you numskulls,” is not inappropriate!  Paul is angry, if not furious, with the Galatians.  He minces no words with them.  Many readers of this epistle notice the rather striking fact that Paul calls his readers “Galatians,” and not “Brethren,” nor does he use any terms of endearment to people he knows well and from whom he has recently departed.  

When Paul asks the Galatians the question, “who has bewitched you?” he uses a term which means to cast a spell upon someone using the “evil eye.”  The Galatians are acting like they are under a hypnotic spell cast upon them by the Judaizers, rendering them incapable of sound judgment.  Paul will warn them in Galatians 5:4, that those who have been taken in by the evil eye (spell) risk being severed from Christ.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here

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