Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Apostle Paul's Letter To The Galatians. Day 7, Gentiles Are Also Children Of Abraham

Paul will explain today that although the Gentiles are not children of Abraham by genealogy, they are the children of Abraham by faith. God imputed righteousness to Abraham because of his faith. He was not considered righteous in the eyes of God by the works of the law, for he lived in a time before the law was given. In this same way Paul wants everyone to understand that the Gentiles, who don't have the law, are made right with God through faith. This makes them the spiritual offspring of Abraham.

Unfortunately, some of the Galatian believers have been confused by the teachings of those who are telling them that they are not fully saved by Christ and must live by the law if they want to have right standing with God. They have been confused to the point of believing this must be true. In a way it's easy to see why they were so accepting of such doctrine. They were not a chosen nation like Israel. The ten commandments and the law had not been given to them. Prophets were not called from among them. It wasn't that difficult for someone to make them feel inferior because deep down inside they already feel inferior. But they don't need to feel this way. Christ loved them and died for them as much as He loved and died for anyone else. Christ offers the Gentiles the opportunity to be the children of the living God, children with the same rights and privileges as everyone else. So Paul, although he likely understands where they are coming from, scolds them for being so foolish as to believe that their faith in Christ is not enough to make them "full Christians" in the sight of God and man.

"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain---if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?" (Galatians 3:1) Paul is saying, "When the gospel of Christ was presented to you, you believed it. And when you believed it, you received the Holy Spirit. You weren't living by the law then, were you? And yet you received the Holy Spirit because of your faith in Christ. Why do you think anything is lacking in your salvation? Why do you believe that there is anything you can add to what Christ has already done?"

The proof that righteousness has already been imputed to these Gentiles is that they received the Holy Spirit when they accepted the gospel by faith. Paul now uses the example of Abraham, to whom righteousness was imputed because of his faith. "So also Abraham 'believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" (Galatians 3:6) This quote can be found in Genesis 15:6.

"Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 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.' So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith." (Galatians 3:7-9) The Lord promised Abraham not only a son of his own, but a descendant through whom all nations would be blessed. This was fulfilled when Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, came to the world and gave Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Now through Him people of all nations can become the children of God, whether they are Jew or Gentile. It is faith that makes a person a child of God, not works. When we think back on all the great men and women of the Bible we can clearly see that God did mighty things for them not because they were zealous for the law but because they were zealous for a relationship with Him.

The Galatians find something attractive about submitting themselves to the law because they think it will make them feel more included---more like a "chosen people". Paul warns them that making themselves obligated to the law is not what they want. "For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'" (Galatians 3:10) Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 and we have to keep in mind that he isn't saying anything is wrong with the law itself. The problem is that man is incapable of perfectly keeping the law. So if a man is trusting his salvation to his keeping of the law, he is going to come up short. What is the remedy for coming up short? Faith! It has always been faith! None of the famous characters of the Bible lived perfect lives, yet they were justified by their faith in the One who could have mercy on them and who could impute His own righteousness to them. The law told man how to behave toward God and others, which was necessary because without laws societies wouldn't be fit to live in. But even more than that, the law told man what a holy God expects of him and the law revealed that man could not do everything a holy God expects of him. So the main purpose of the law was to lead man to faith in the One who could make him right in spite of his faults.

"Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because 'the righteous will live by faith'. The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, 'The person who does these things will live by them.' 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 pole.'" (Galatians 3:11-13) These quotes are from Habakkuk 2:4, Leviticus 18:5, and Deuteronomy 21:23. Paul is asking the Galatian church, "So you want to live by the Old Testament? This is what the Old Testament says about the law. It says if you trust your salvation to the keeping of the law, and if you fail to perfectly keep the law, you are under a curse. Why do you want to put yourselves in bondage to the law when you can have freedom in Christ? Christ put His law into your hearts by giving you the Holy Spirit when you believed. You are to be led by the Spirit. Of course you will make mistakes, but Christ has taken care of that too. He took the penalty for your sins onto Himself when He became a curse in your place as He hung on the cross."

If we follow the law, our minds are on ourselves and on our own performance. If we follow Christ, our minds are on Him and on what He did for us and is still doing for us. This is the difference between works and faith. Abraham understood the difference. God made great promises to Abraham simply because Abraham believed in him, and those promises were not only for Abraham's biological descendants but also for his spiritual descendants---for all (Jew or Gentile) who would follow his example of faith in the Lord. The Lord kept His promise by sending Christ to do the work we couldn't do for ourselves. "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." (Galatians 3:14)

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