John MacArthur – Grace to You
Our study tonight takes us to the third chapter of the book of Galatians in our continuing look at this most exciting and helpful book. We will be considering verses 1-5. Galatians 3:1-5.
Defection is an ugly word. So is the word deserter. Certainly, there is nothing more bewildering, and few things more sorrowing, than to see a Christian who defects, or deserts, the purity of the Christian faith by which he has been born again and by which he has been nurtured, to settle for something less. But strange as it may seem, many Christians do. We find that they begin well. They receive the grace of Christ extended in salvation; they live in humble faith, but soon they fall into systems of legalism, systems of ritual, systems of works. I wonder how many Christians, for example, have come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ in a very personal way and have then fallen into a very liturgical church pattern, where they merely go through formalities and functions that have only external symbolism and no internal significance. I wonder how many people begin well, but then begin to substitute things like confirmation and communion and baptism and the Mass and any other kind of particular church rite for the realities of the Christian faith.
This is an issue that comes to full force in the book of Galatians, because this is the issue that confronts the heart of the Apostle Paul. He had been used as the mouthpiece of God to introduce the Galatians to the truth of the Gospel. He was the one who preached the gospel of grace; he was the one who exposed them to the magnificence of the Christian experience (which was by faith plus nothing) in the perfect and finished work of Jesus Christ. But since that time when he had begun with them, they had defected. They had deserted the simple purity of a grace gospel and substituted a form of religion, inferior and impotent.
This is not to say they had lost their salvation. It is to say, rather, that they substituted for the fullness of their life in Christ a form of religion that had no power and no joy. Furthermore, the unsaved world would get it’s doctrine of salvation from their lives and if they live legalistic lives, the world then is to conclude that salvation comes by legalism and nothing could be further from the truth.
So Paul, in the book of Galatians, is extremely concerned about the defection of the Galatians to a legalism-oriented life. They have: one, robbed themselves of the fullness of blessing, two, robbed the world of a right view of the doctrine of salvation. Though they themselves are saved, they are living in non-conformity to the very doctrine by which they were saved.
Now we know that Satan never stops trying to destroy God’s plan of salvation, so if God’s plan is a plan of grace, Satan will try to overbuild grace with works. If it’s a plan of faith, he’ll try to add, on top of faith, something else. This is his plan. He did this in Galatia as he has done it throughout all of history. Remember a few weeks back when we saw how he did this at the very beginning with the case of Cain and Abel? That was the first conflict between grace and law, it’s raged all through history, and is no different in Galatia. Satan moves in and tries to destroy grace by adding to it law (legalism) and law works as a way to please God, to gain God’s favor.
In Galatians 4:13-15, the Apostle Paul reflects on the gracious, warm reception he received when he came to the Galatians. Notice verse 13. “You know how, through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the Gospel to you at the first. My trial, which was in my flesh, you despised not nor rejected, but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is, then, the blessedness you spoke of? For I bear you witness that if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me!” That’s a startling statement. Paul says, “When I came to you, you received me as if you were receiving an angel, or as if you were receiving Christ Jesus. You would have plucked out your own eyes for my sake. What a reception I had among you!” Fantastic.
But just as amazing as the reception was the defection, and he is astonished, as he says in 1:6. “I am astonished that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.” He marveled over the reception, and he also marveled over the defection. He was astounded at the way they had received him, and he was astounded at the way they had deserted his Gospel. Now, they had not given up their salvation, they had simply, having received Christ by faith, decided then that they would live by works. They decided they would impose works as a way of salvation on others, even though they didn’t get into the Kingdom that way. They were saved purely by faith, but now, because of the efforts of the false-teaching Judaizers, they were going to make everyone else get saved by works. They themselves were going to live by works, thus robbing their own joy and destroying the doctrine of salvation in the eyes of the watching world. So, they had turned from grace to law, from Calvary to ceremony, from freedom to bondage, from faith to works.
Paul writes this epistle to counteract the work of these Judaizers. We’ve seen that the Judaizers were Jewish false teachers who traveled around, used by Satan, to teach people that they were saved only when they were circumcised (a literal, physical operation) and when they kept all the ceremonial law. It wasn’t a question of moral law, that is, of murder and lying and stealing and adultery. It was a question of ceremony. They were saying, “To be saved, you have to be circumcised, keep all the feasts, go through all the sacrifices, do the whole thing.” Paul writes this letter to counteract that.
It falls into three parts. The first section is personal. In chapters 1-2, he defends his apostolic authority. The second section is doctrinal, where he defends his gospel of grace. The third section, in chapters 5-6, is practical, where he defends his liberty living. So there is a personal section in the first two chapters, a doctrinal section in the next two, and a practical section in the last two. We’re at the beginning of the doctrinal section in chapter 3.
Here, Paul fully answers the Judaizers who have condemned salvation by grace through faith alone. You see, the Judaizers came along and said, “You can’t say you’re saved by faith alone. You’ve got to be saved also by faith and works. You have to be circumcised, you have to keep the ceremonies, you have to do this.” They were placing on these people the burden of self-righteousness. As Paul said in Romans, “They go about trying to establish their own righteousness.” So the section of our interest, chapters 3-4, is a classic defense of the doctrine of justification by faith, which Paul stated in 2:16. You remember that statement; look back at it. We studied this last time.
Paul said, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith [faith of Jesus Christ], even we have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law. For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” There, in three ways, he states the same thing. Nobody is saved any other way than by faith in the historic act of God in Christ, in His death and resurrection.
He has stated it in 2:16, and in chapters 3-4, he defends it. You here have a classic defense of the doctrine of justification by faith. He defends it from two views; just make a mental note in your head and we’ll come back to these in the coming weeks. He defends the doctrine of justification by faith from the standpoint of experience and from the standpoint of Scripture.
The standpoint of experience is in verses 1-5. The standpoint of Scripture is in 3:6 through 4:7. So all the way from 3:6 to 4:7, he defends justification by faith on the basis of Scripture. But his first defense, in our five verses for tonight, is on the basis of experience. Incidentally, from 4:8 on, he makes a plea to the Galatians based on his defense.
Tonight, we’re going to look at this first defense, the defense on the basis of experience. Justification by faith – what do we mean by that? We mean, in terms of justification, to be declared righteous. How shall a man be just before God? How can a man enter God’s presence? How can a man be acceptable to God? The New Testament says, “By faith alone.” That’s the doctrine of justification by faith, that a man is made acceptable to God by his faith in the perfect work of Christ, no other way. Nothing that man does, nothing that man attempts in the sense of self-righteousness, has anything to do with it at all. It doesn’t matter how good he is or how bad he is, it’s only a question of believing in Jesus Christ that justifies a man.
Paul defends this on the basis of the experience of the Galatians. In verses 1-5, he says, in effect, “How in the world could you people ever accept a doctrine of salvation by works when you have already experienced salvation by faith? You found that when you experienced salvation by faith, you got everything there was to get. What are you looking for in works that you didn’t get in salvation by faith?” He does three things. He pinpoints their experience three ways: their experience with Christ, with the Holy Spirit, and with God the Father. So he says in these five verses, “Based on your experience with Christ, your experience with the Holy Spirit, your experience with the Father, you know justification is by faith. What are you doing messing around with a salvation by works doctrine?” That’s basically what he says in these five verses.
Paul, then, already having established his authority, proceeds to defend his message on the basis of experience. In a sense, experience is a great defense, a great apologetic, because while a lot of people have experiences, it is still true that some experiences are true. My experience is a way to defend my faith. In other words, if I say to you, “I believe in Jesus Christ because I have come to Him on the basis of the terms which He laid down, He said, ‘Come to Me, believe in Me, receive Me by faith, and you will live,’ I did it and I live,” that’s an experience verifying the truth of the statement. That’s the thing that Paul is trying to say here.
Look first of all in verse 1 before we get into the formal outline and just get a beginning here. Verse 1. “Oh foolish Galatians.” Remember, the Galatians were not just one city, but an area in which there were at least four churches, so this was kind of a circular letter. “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” Stop there. Now, like so many who are victimized by Satan, the Galatians were bewitched. He says to them, “Oh foolish Galatians.” In looking at that, what is his attitude? With what emotion does he say this? Well, probably a combination of anger and love, mixed in with surprise. Sort of, “I can’t believe this! You foolish Galatians! Who bewitched you?”
The word there for ‘foolish’ is a most interesting word loaded with insights. The word anoetosseems to indicate the stupidity that comes from deadness of intellect. It is very difficult to sometimes pinpoint Greek words in English, but if we can get back into this one, maybe we’ll be able to pin it down a little bit. Literally, it would say this: “You are lacking in the power of perception.” Charlie Brown would say, “Oh you blockheads!” What it literally means is ‘one who does not think.’ It is not talking about the absence of intelligence; it is talking about the failure to use it. It is not saying, “Oh you morons,” or “Oh you imbeciles,” in a categorical sense of an inability to think; it is saying, “You blockheads who aren’t using your brains!” That’s basically what the word is saying. “You’re not using your heads! The Judaizers arrive and teach you a doctrine that you can be saved by works; you are stupid to believe that!” J.B. Phillips said, “Oh you dear idiots.”
What Paul is saying is, “Think it through! Foolish Galatians!” Also implied in the word is an attitude of the heart as well as the mind. The word is used several places in the New Testament, and if we are to look at those places, we’ll find ourselves getting a clear view. Luke 24:25, the road to Emmaus. Jesus is walking along and they don’t know who He is, right? He says to them, “Oh foolish ones [same word], slow of heart.” Notice that. When He said ‘foolish,’ He wasn’t talking about their brains; He was talking about their hearts. In other words, they were stupid for not studying all the prophets had said so that they would have known that He should rise. They were walking with Jesus and moaning about the fact that the Messiah was dead, and they didn’t even know who He was. He said, “Oh foolish. Foolish! You’re not thinking. If you knew the information in the Scripture, you’d know what was going on. Think it through.”
So when we talk about ‘foolish,’ we’re talking about someone, not who is stupid and has no capacity, but someone who doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to learn the truth. What he’s saying to the Galatians is just that. “You never examined the truth. You got into this mess because you never examined the truth. You never thought it through.”
Paul said to Timothy, regarding rich people, in I Timothy 6:9, “They that will be rich fall into temptations and ensnare into many foolish lusts.” In other words, people plunge after money, and don’t think about what the consequences are going to be. It’s just stupidity from the standpoint of the failure to use the perceptive powers that God has given. The same word is used again in Titus 3:3. “We ourselves also were once foolish.” The idea, then, is someone who doesn’t take advantage of all the available information to find out the facts. This is a tremendously important thing. Let me see if I can put it another way so that you can understand it. It is not a question of mental inability; it is a question of sinful neglect of one’s available resources. The Galatians, in listening to the legalizing Jews, were stupid because they didn’t think it through. Incidentally, so is everyone who barters Satan’s lie for the truth of God.
Listen to this: it was a sheer failure to use their brains that led them into the sin of legalism. Hang on to that thought because it’s really important. Paul is going to spend two chapters using his brain to re-think for them.
You know what I believe? I believe that right here, you have a tremendous insight as to why people get into false doctrine. It’s because they follow their hearts, they follow their fancies, they follow their whims, and they don’t think it through. They don’t study the Scripture and apply their mental processes to the available information. You always hear people say, “Oh, they were such wonderful people, it all seemed so good!” Blockhead. Think it through. The Christian faith is not just a bunch of floating whims and fancies. No. Some people just float, you know, just grab onto whatever breeze is blowing, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. They follow their whims and fancies; they follow their emotions rather than their intellects. There are all kinds of things that can stir up your emotions.
Did you know that total misinformation and total untruth, if presented to you in the right salesmanship patterns, can stir up your emotions to wrong behavior? Believe it; it happens all the time. You can respond emotionally to lies just as well as you can to truth. But your mind, when it is confirmed in the truth, can become a rock. Follow your head, not your emotions. That’s what gets people into trouble; that’s why people get wrapped up in false systems. Not because they have been intellectually convinced but because they have been emotionally victimized. Think it through.
Listen to Romans 12. “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Now listen to this. “And be not conformed to the system, but be transformed,” how? “By the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.” The word ‘prove’ implies an intellectual process. If you want to be a transformed person, it’s not going to be an emotional thing, it’s going to be an intellectual thing. Your faith ought to be established not on your emotions but in your head. Your emotions will come along, believe me.
Listen to Ephesians 4:23. It’s a straight shot; one little sentence makes up the verse. “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Listen to Colossians 3:10, a similar statement. “And have put on the new man that is renewed in knowledge.” You are transformed by what you know; you are renewed by what you know. You put on the new man, the new man is renewed in knowledge.
Beloved, let me tell you something about the Christian life. The Christian life is not an emotional gig. The Christian life is an intellectual pursuit. Now, I don’t want that to be cold, hard academics. But it’s basically true. There’s plenty of emotion, believe me. If you could sit through the service tonight and not feel emotional, there is something wrong with you, because there is joy, glory, praise, love, and all the things that come along the way. But those are byproducts of an intellectual apprehension of truth.
I don’t want to be emotionally victimized by people, but I certainly want my emotions to run the gamut on the basis of what I know in my mind. So many people who profess Christ as Savior by faith get sidetracked into legalistic systems because they fail to use their brains to examine Scripture, to think things through, and they listen to so-called experts whom Satan uses to play on their emotions.
“Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” Another very interesting phrase from the word baskaino, which literally means ‘who has fascinated you?’ Now you see, there is the area of emotion. “Who tickled your fancy?” Paul knows that when you get dragged away, it is because you’re not rooted, grounded, settled in the faith. You have not made an intellectual apprehension of truth and committed yourself to that. That’s why we say the study of the Word of God is a great protection against false doctrine, because you get rooted in truth. He says, “Who tickled your fancy and drew you off?”
The Judaizers cast a spell on them. It wasn’t a hocus-pocus, evil eye type thing, even though the word here is used in historic reference to the evil eye. That’s not what he’s saying here. It’s not some kind of sorcery, but they had been bewitched by the words and teachings and emotional appeals of the Judaizers. They were saying to them, “Oh, faith is not enough. If you want to go further than that, you can have works and gain the fullness of God’s blessing.” They were pushing them to a greater thing, a greater experience of God. They were trying to supplement salvation. Hendrickson says, “A supplemented Christ is a supplanted Christ.”
Notice what it says. “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?” That’s an important phrase. What does it mean to obey the truth? It means to receive the Gospel. Basically, that’s all it means, to receive the gospel of grace. Galatians 2:14 has the same phrase. “When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel,” there it is. The truth he’s talking about here in Galatians is the Gospel, the good news of salvation by faith.
Galatians 5:7 is the same thing. “You did run well. Who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?” The point is, he’s saying, “You knew the truth, you heard the Gospel, you heard the facts, you heard it straight, it is by grace through faith plus nothing. Who bewitched you, fascinated your emotions, that you didn’t use your heads and fell into legalism?” You say, “How could Paul call them blockheads? On what basis does he say, ‘You didn’t use your heads’?” First of all, on the basis that they didn’t even look through their own experience. Secondly, on the basis they didn’t examine Scripture.
That’s the whole argument of the rest of the chapter. First of all, you’re a blockhead because you didn’t check out your own experience. Secondly, you’re a blockhead because you didn’t check out Scripture. Beloved, that is a great pattern for you. When anyone comes along and offers you some ‘greater’ experience, some ‘new thing,’ some ‘fantastic new experience with God,’ or some ‘greater way to be blessed by God,’ to know more of God, to have more of the Holy Spirit, or something that goes beyond what you’ve got, you check it out two ways. One, check your own experience with the Lord and with the fullness you have in Christ and two, check the Scripture. If you haven’t done that and then get caught in it, you’re a blockhead.
Let’s see what he said. He really comes in just a crushing indictment on the heads of these Galatians. He says, “Your experience should tell you this, because you’ve experienced the Trinity. First, your experience with Christ, secondly, your experience with the Holy Spirit, thirdly, your experience with God, that’s how the rest of the verses divide. Your experience with Christ is in verse 1, with the Holy Spirit is in verses 2-4, your experience with God is in verse 5. All of these experiences that you’ve had with the Trinity ought to show you, once and for all, that you do not need legalism.
First, let’s begin with our experience with Christ. What a fantastic statement he makes. Verse 1. “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified among you?” He’s saying here, “You have openly seen the Gospel presented in a crucified Christ. You have had that experience.” Now the Gospel of Christ had come to them with clarity, it had come with power. They had received and believed it; they had been transformed from meeting Christ. Their yielding to the false teachers was totally inexcusable. Why? Because Jesus had been presented to them as the source of all salvation, simply to those who believed. It had been clearly and publicly proclaimed to them. There was no excuse for them to believe anything else. Paul is really recalling their conversion.
Let’s look at the features of the statement. “Before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been openly set forth.” Or evidently set forth – a most interesting word, prographo. This word refers to the placards that were publicly displayed in the forum or the marketplace, the agora, when there was an announcement to be made. Today, we get all of our announcements in the newspaper. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think the newspaper gets to be rather uninteresting after a while because you don’t know what’s important and what isn’t. But in those days, you knew what was important simply because there were no newspapers and the government or the city officials would nail a placard all around town with a public notice on it. Everyone would read that and that was the important information that needed to be known. That is the word that is used here. He’s saying to them, “Christ has been placarded in front of you! There’s no doubt; you have seen clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ openly and publicly proclaimed. You saw that He was crucified.”
You know, I’m sure Paul was a dynamic and dramatic preacher. I’m sure if they had sat at his feet and listened to the Gospel, they could honestly say, “Yes, He has been openly set forth as crucified.” Perhaps that audience even felt they could hear the ringing of the hammers as they hit the nails that went into His hands. Perhaps there was a sense in which they could hear His cries, sense His tears, feel His hurts, and perhaps even visualize the blood that was dripping from His body, so vividly was He presented to them. They could see Him crucified. They were convicted of their sins. They repented, accepted His perfect sacrifice, forsook their sin and paganism, and by faith had entered the Kingdom. They had seen it all, become new creatures. Paul says, “It was all open, all public, and you responded to it. The miracle happened and a multitude of you Galatians rose to walk in newness of life. You saw Him crucified. How then, how then, could you ever conclude that legalism saves a man? When you saw so clearly that there is only one thing that can redeem and that’s the death of the perfect sacrifice? Why? Because by the deeds of the law, no one can be saved. Go had to send a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty.”
If you jump back to 2:21, there is an interesting comparison. Paul says in the middle of the verse, “If righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. If you can save yourself by your own good deeds, then Christ died needlessly. Now, you foolish Galatians, who bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been openly set forth crucified?” In other words, “You are now saying, in effect, that He didn’t need to die. How can you say that when you heard the gospel of His death so clearly presented, believed it with your whole heart, and were redeemed on the spot when you believed? How can you now deny the necessity of His death? How can you substitute a system of works?”
Let me tell you something, beloved, Jesus never would have died if He didn’t have to. In the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “Let this cup pass from me.” But He said, “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” Through His life, He said, “I must needs to go Jerusalem.” He had to go there, He had to die. He said Himself, “To this end was I born, for this cause came I into the world.” Why did He have to die? Because no man can ever get to God, no man can ever be right with God, no man can ever be accepted by God except through a perfect sacrifice paying the penalty of sin. You can’t do it for yourself.
When they accepted a system of works, where one could be saved by making sacrifices, going through religious folderol and hocus-pocus, they were, in effect, denying the absolute saving character of the Cross. He says, “How can you do it when you’ve experienced the Cross? Visually, right before your eyes, you saw it so clearly with the eyes of faith! Now you’re going to back up to legalism and deny the Cross?”
Notice the last phrase of verse 1. “Crucified among you.” It’s just one Greek term, really, perfect passive participle: ‘Christ having been crucified in your midst, in your view.’ It’s a fantastic thing because this form of a Greek verb expresses, watch this really deep thought, it expresses an historical fact with continuing results. This is one form of a Greek verb that expresses a historic fact with continuing results. Now Christ was crucified in history, right, 1900 and some years ago. Does that have continuing results? Of course it does. There’s a sense in which, at the moment anyone believes in Jesus Christ, he is at that moment, crucified with Christ. So the crucifixion of Christ, in a sense, continues to go on. Fantastic.
In fact, in I John 1:9, it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” To keep on forgiving our sins. What it literally says, “He is still righteous to keep on forgiving our sins.” The Cross is an historic fact with continuing results. Hang onto that thought. Listen, beloved. Legalism, ritual, ceremony, routine, religious hocus-pocus does not pick up where the Cross leaves off. You know why? The Cross never leaves off! It has a continuing effect. The Cross continues to be that which substitutes for my own sin. It has continuing effect.
The Galatians probably were saying, “Oh well, that was fine, the Cross had its moment, but now we’ve got to add to that works.” No. Works never pick up where the Cross leaves off because the Cross doesn’t leave off. Works didn’t get me in and works aren’t going to keep me in. Works didn’t please God to begin with, they were dirty rags, and my own self-righteousness doesn’t please Him any more now than it did before I was saved. I can’t get to God by my works, I can’t add to the Cross; the Cross keeps on moving through history. It stands forever as living proof that men can’t redeem themselves. So he says to them, “How can you accept the Cross and see all it is, then come in with this system of works?”
Beloved, this is so much of what has happened in the church today. So many churches have a form of godliness, but no power. The have all the religious folderol going on, but there’s nothing there of reality. People are assuming they are being justified by their good deeds and because they are good, better, best or even goody-good-good; they think God is going to let them into the Kingdom.
In Acts 13:39, it says this. “And by Him, all that believe are justified from all things. By Jesus Christ, all that believe in Him are justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses.” Oh, the Law of Moses can provide absolutely no justification, no righteousness, no acceptance with God at all. This is the message of the whole book of Hebrews. At the risk of getting all lost in these verses, let me just suggest a few of them and try to keep it brief.
Hebrews 7:18. “For there is verily an annulling of the commandment going before the weakness and unprofitableness of it,” in other words, the old covenant is passed away, “For the law made nothing perfect.” In other words, the law saved nobody. “And the bringing in of a better hope by which we draw near unto God.” The law couldn’t do anything, but the better hope in Jesus Christ brought us to God. What does it say in the book of Hebrews? “Through Jesus Christ, we enter into the Father’s presence, we enter into the Holy of Holies with boldness.” Boldness.
Verse 22 says, “Jesus was made a surety of a better covenant.” A better testament. It says, “He doesn’t need to daily offer sacrifices as the high priest, for this He did once when He offered Himself, the perfect sacrifice.” InGalatians 5:2, later on we’ll study what Paul says there. “Behold, I, Paul, say unto you that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” In other words, Christ wasted His time if you can get saved by being circumcised. “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” In other words, if you want to put your faith in your own works then all the works of the law you have to keep. If ever you’ve violated any of them, you’ve destroyed yourself. “Christ has become of no effect to you, you who are justified by the law! You are fallen from grace as a way to God; you have missed it. But we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” There is no salvation by works, absolutely none. No man is good enough to enter the presence of God, for God demands absolute holiness. The only way you’ll ever get it is when you put your faith in Jesus Christ and God gives you the holiness of Christ in a token response for your faith.
John 3:14. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” It’s a matter of believing. There are many, many passages we could talk about in terms of faith, those are just a couple.
So he says to them, “You had such a clear picture of Christ crucified. You saw the necessity of His death; you saw what the Cross meant. You saw the continuing character of the Cross; you saw that it never left off. What in the world ever messed you up to get you into legalism?”
Secondly, in Galatians 3, he says, “Your experience not only with Christ, but your experience with the Holy Spirit, makes you a blockhead. You should have thought it through. Don’t you know what the Holy Spirit has accomplished?” That’s in verses 2-4. Look at verse 2. “This only would I learn of you.” He’s saying, “I just have one question. Just one. Received you the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? How’d you get the Holy Spirit in the beginning?” Well, the answer is obvious. They didn’t do any spiritual gymnastics to get the Holy Spirit, they just believed. “Just one question,” he says. “How did you get the Holy Spirit?”
You say, “Why does he make this an issue?” Because the gift of the Holy Spirit is the most unmistakable evidence of God’s favor there is. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the greatest proof of a man’s salvation that there is. The Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God. The greatest proof that you are redeemed is the testimony of the Holy Spirit. When God gives his Spirit, He gives it only to those who believe. That’s why it’s ludicrous, as well as anti-Scriptural, to say you can be a Christian and not have the Holy Spirit. That’s like saying, “God saved me but gave me no evidence of it and no guarantee of it.” No, when a person comes to Christ, God gives the Spirit as evidence and as the absolute guarantee of eternal salvation.
Look at Ephesians 1:13 and I’ll show you this. “In whom you also are,” that is, you’re in Christ, “After you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. In whom also, after you believed, you were sealed with the presence, the Holy Spirit of promise. When you believed, you were given the Holy Spirit as a seal.” What for? Verse 14. “Who is the earnest,” or the arrhabon, “of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Now someone says, “When you get saved, you will go to heaven.” How do you know that? “Because God gave you a guarantee.” Who is the guarantee? The Holy Spirit.
The word arrhabon, translated ‘earnest,’ is also used in II Corinthians. It’s a very interesting word. It means ‘down payment’ or ‘first installment.’ When you got saved, God said, “I have an inheritance for you and I’ll give you the down payment.” That’s the Holy Spirit. It is also used to refer to an engagement ring. If someone asks you, “How do you know you’ll go the Marriage Supper of the Lamb someday? How do you know that you’re part of the Bride of Christ?” All you have to say is, “Because I have an engagement ring.” They ask, “Who is your engagement ring; what is your engagement ring?” Simply, the Holy Spirit, the arrhabon, the earnest of the Spirit is the engagement ring guaranteeing the wedding is going to come off. God verifies His promise with the giving of the Spirit.
Beloved, that’s why the denominations and people who do not believe that all Christians have the Holy Spirit also do not believe in the security of the believer. Because if you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you don’t have any guarantee. So you find that, in the types of Christian groups where they deny that all Christians have the Holy Spirit, and they teach that you get the Holy Spirit later if you follow a certain pattern, they will also usually (and there may be come exceptions) deny the security of the believer. They will say you can lose your salvation. Why? Because they don’t have that guarantee within them if the Spirit isn’t there. They do, but they don’t know it. I always say about people who don’t believe in eternal security that it doesn’t change security, it just makes them miserable if they want to worry about it.
The Galatians had been given, in terms of their experience in salvation, the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the statement in Ephesians 1. “When they believed, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. That seal is until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Until God takes that person to be with Him, they are secured by the presence of the Spirit. So He is the guarantee. The word arrhabonis used to speak of a down payment, a guarantee, and an engagement ring. This is absolute proof of salvation.
To give you a classic illustration, go back to our study of Acts 15, with Peter at the Jerusalem Council. When he wanted to show the people there that the Gentiles had been saved by faith, this is what he said. Verse 7. “When there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them, ‘Men and brethren, you know how, a good while ago, God made choice among us that the Gentiles, by my mouth, should hear the word of the Gospel and believe.'” Alright, the Gentiles heard the Gospel and believed. The Jews had a problem with that, of course. They didn’t know that they could accept that, the Gentiles getting saved by faith. But notice his argument for it in verse 8.
“And God, who knows their hearts, bears them witness.” In other words, God looked in their hearts, determined their faith was real, and gave testimony to the reality of their faith. How did He give that testimony? Giving them the Holy Spirit. God’s corroboration of the legitimacy of a man’s faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Even as he did unto us.”
“If God gave them the Holy Spirit,” Peter says, “And purified their hearts by faith, what in the world are we doing putting a yoke on their necks that our fathers couldn’t even bear? We don’t want to add legalism to it.” So, they had believed. They had seen Christ crucified before them (Galatians 3); they had received the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith. Paul says this, “Listen, people, did you receive the Holy Spirit by law works? By religious rites? By circumcision? By all of that stuff, or by the hearing of faith?” What was the answer? “By the hearing of faith.” The Judaizers came late; they came long after they had been saved. So he’s saying, “Did you need legalism to know Christ? Did you need legalism to have the Holy Spirit? Use your heads.”
The answer is obvious: they had received the Holy Spirit by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and beloved, that is the pattern. That is the norm for faith. Remember our study of Acts 19? Paul meets those wandering disciples, followers of John the Baptist. He says to them, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” In other words, he’s saying, “I want to know if your faith is real, and the way I’ll know it is if you have the Holy Spirit.” Saving faith always brings the Holy Spirit. He is God’s guarantee that you’re saved. If God saves you and doesn’t give His Holy Spirit, then God goes against His own guarantee. “There is an experience,” he says, “That you have had with the Holy Spirit, that shows you that by faith, you receive it all. You receive it all.” What an argument, pretty potent. Believe me.
Over in 3:13, he says the same thing. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’ That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” You know how you get the Spirit? Through faith. Faith in whom? Faith in Jesus Christ, that’s it. That’s it. That’s God’s guarantee.
Well, the Judaizers were like groups today. They want to introduce special laws, special conditions. If you do this, you’ll get a greater filling of the spirit, a greater experience of the Spirit, a greater fullness of the Spirit, a fuller salvation. Some people call it the ‘full gospel,’ as if there were a full gospel and a half-gospel. It’s amazing what contrived means people use to get the Holy Spirit in this particular way. The vehicles that they use are nothing but works. “If you do certain works, if you put out certain efforts, you will get the Holy Spirit.”
If you look at Romans 8:1-3, you’ll see how that is impossible. “There is now, therefore, no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” What he’s saying there is this, “The law couldn’t give me the Holy Spirit.” The only way you get the Holy Spirit is because God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. The righteousness He provided, I accept by faith and receive the Spirit. No works can gain the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is procured by faith in Jesus Christ, which sets us free from the law.
May I add a thought? The Holy Spirit is not the goal of the Christian life; the Holy Spirit is the source of it. He is not the goal; He is the source. So Paul shoots down the idea so prevalent today, even, that there is a fuller gospel that will bring the Holy Spirit in fullness if we just do some certain spiritual acts, some certain works. No. He comes fully by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you see what Paul is saying here? He’s saying, “Their whole experience is complete. What are they looking for?” Beloved, everything is ours by faith.
Look at verse 3. “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit,” and he knows that the answer is they received the Spirit by faith, they have the spirit. “So since you’ve begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” What a ridiculous thought! That is really stupid. “Yes, we began in the Spirit, but we’ve taken over.” Oh, great. Great. Only the Holy Spirit can bring you to maturity. Are you perfected by the flesh? Are you kidding? Paul says, “In my flesh dwells no good thing. Do you think I’m going to say, ‘Well, Holy Spirit, it’s nice to have you and you’ve done a good job so far, I’ll take over from here on out’?” We do that sometimes, don’t we? What a sad thing. Anyone who puts his hope in flesh, in self-effort, is fallen from the work of the Spirit back to his own impotence.
If you want to really be impotent, a nothing, just do it yourself. What I’m talking about is not to say now that you’re a Christian, don’t do any good things. I’m simply saying don’t put your hope of salvation in your good things. What the Judaizers were talking about weren’t even moral things, they were just ceremonies. They weren’t really good or bad. They were just there. It would be like saying if you come to church three out of four Sundays a month. It was just a ceremony, and an arbitrary ceremony at that.
You say, “Well, John, you’re not condemning works are you?” No, no. I’m not condemning works. Listen to what James said and let’s get a balance here. James 2:14. “What does it profit, my brothers, if a man says he has faith but has not works. Can faith save him?” In other words, James says this, “There need to be works, yes, as a verification of your salvation.” Now notice, it’s a difference in attitude. The Old Testament says this, “Do this and you’ll live.” The New Testament says, “You live, so do this.” That’s the difference. If you’re doing works to earn God’s favor, that’s legalism. If you’re doing works because of His favor, that’s spirituality. I’m talking about moral works, good deeds, good works. The attitude is the key.
Let me give you an illustration. You read your Bible. Why do you read your Bible? Well, the basis on which you read your Bible is a simple illustration. It could be why you go to church, or why you pray, or anything. Let’s just take reading your Bible. Why do you read your Bible? Do you read your Bible so that God will like you better? You say, “I read two chapters, I imagine the Lord is really happy with me today!” That’s legalism. If you read your Bible to give glory to God, that’s spirituality. If you read your Bible to have glory for yourself, that’s legalism. See the difference? It’s an attitude. If I pray to be pious, that’s legalism. If I pray out of the passion of my heart for God, that’s spirituality. It’s an attitude. Incidentally, friends, one is a rotten stench to the nostrils of God and the other is a sweet-smelling savor. It’s an attitude that’s at the heart of it.
The Judaizers had come along and said, “Really spiritual people keep all the laws and ceremonies.” That’s a bunch of bunk. But at the same time, really spiritual people do have good works. Not to gain glory for themselves – that’s legalism – but to give glory to the God who saved them. That’s spirituality.
Paul sums up this section in Galatians 3:4. “Have you suffered so many things in vain, if it be in vain?” There are two possible interpretations here. ‘Suffered’ is a neutral word. It can be translated in any way and is given its meaning by the context. It literally means ‘experience.’ If it was in a context of suffering, it could be translated ‘suffered.’ Since here there is no suffering at all in the context, it seems best to me to translate the word ‘experience.’ “Have you experienced so many things in vain?” In other words, that’s the key to the whole little section. “Haven’t your experiences taught you anything? You blockheads, have all these experiences gone for naught? You’ve experienced Christ crucified among you! You put your faith in Him; you’ve been redeemed. You’ve experienced the indwelling Holy Spirit with His power and presence. You’ve experienced God the Father. Has all of this stuff been for nothing? Can’t you think it through?” Paul is saying, “You’ve experienced salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ; you’ve experienced the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Didn’t it matter? Didn’t it make any sense? Was it all needless? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now going to make yourselves perfect by works?” No.
Then he softens the blow at the end of verse 4. “If it be yet in vain,” and there he says, in effect, “I hope it isn’t true. I hope it isn’t true.” Such a tenderness, hoping it isn’t so. He does this all through Galatians. He wails away, just smashes down their whole deal, then sort of backs off saying, “I hope it isn’t so!” In 4:11 he does it. “I am afraid of you, lest I’ve bestowed on you labor in vain.” 4:20. “My desire is to be present with you now, and to change my tone, for I stand in doubt of you.” In other words, “I’m not too sure. Maybe it is so, maybe it isn’t.” 5:10. “I have confidence in you, through the Lord, that you will be not otherwise minded.” In other words, I’m hoping that you’re going to change, to listen to what I say. I hope it isn’t in vain. You know the full blessing of faith in Christ. You know the fullness of the indwelling Spirit. Doesn’t that mean something? What are you looking for? What else could you want but all of Christ and all of His Spirit? What are you going to get from works that you didn’t get free from faith?”
Finally, he talks about experience with God in verse 5. “He, therefore, that ministered to you the Spirit.” Who is the One who gives the Spirit? God the Father. Jesus said in Acts 1, “Go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father.” What was the promise of the Father? Luke 11 says, “The Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.” God gives the Spirit. In the case of Jesus, God gave Him the Spirit not by measure. God gives the Spirit.
So here, he says, “He, therefore, that ministered to you the Spirit,” that’s the Father, “And works miracles among you, does he do it by works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” Here is the summum bonum of the argument; he brings God into it. The construction of the Greek here requires us to recognize that the one who ministered the Spirit is the one who worked the miracles. It is, indeed, God the Father.
The word ‘ministers’ is a fantastic word. It is a compound word, and compound words always carry a loaded kind of meaning. It means ‘to supply bountifully.’ Get that? Listen to that. “He, therefore, that supplied in a bountiful, abundant fashion to you the Spirit.” Don’t ever think, beloved, that when you get saved, you only get part of the Spirit. He gives the Spirit in a super-abundant way, a bountiful way. The root word of this complex word, this compound word, is choregeo. That is a very interesting word.
In ancient times in Greece, they used to have great festivals, great plays. Sophocles, Euripides, and other playwrights would write them and people would put them on. All Greek plays had a chorus to do the musical background, but it was very often expensive. So in some of the classic Greek writings, we find out they had a difficult time getting choruses together unless someone in town would foot the bill. So public-spirited, chamber of commerce-types would be glad to pay the bill so that the public play could go on. They would defray the cost and allow this thing to happen. Later in wartime, the same word, choregeo, is used of patriotic citizens who gave contributions to the state to support the army. That’s choregeo. In later Greek papyri, the same word is common in marriage contracts to describe the support which a husband, out of love, promised to give his wife. It has to do, then, with benevolent support, benevolent giving.
Here, the word speaks of the benevolent giving of God as He is giving out of love. In those cases, it was a love of a man for the play, or the love of a man for the state, or a love of a man for the woman, and that’s a dim suggestion of what choregeohas to say to us here when we see the love of God. By it, He super-abundantly and bountifully pours out His Spirit. Man, when the Spirit came, they knew it. Oh yeah. Because it says, “He ministered to you the Spirit and works miracles among you.”
There are two thoughts there. ‘Miracles among you’ could be translated that way. In other words, they saw miracles happening around them. God was approving the truth of the Gospel by miracles. But the word ‘miracle’ there is dunamis. It can well be translated ‘power within you.’ Power in you. “You received the Spirit and not only miracles around you, but power in you.” God gave them the power. Now he says, “Did you get that by works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Well, the answer was obvious! By the hearing of faith they got it. All the miracles they saw, all the power they knew. He says this then, “Friends. If you received Jesus Christ and all His fullness, the Holy Spirit and all His fullness, God the Father and all that He could give and you got it all by faith, what in the world could you ever add to the Trinity by works? Oh foolish Galatians, who bewitched you?” Pretty potent argument, isn’t it?
The whole thing is yours by faith, beloved. Isn’t that exciting? Boy, that’s our salvation. I’m not interested in legalism; it offers me nothing. You say, “What was it good for?” To condemn you. You say, “Well, you don’t need that, do you?” No! Why? Romans 8:1. “There is therefore now condemnation for them that are in Christ.” Listen to II Corinthians 3:6. “Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament. Not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the Spirit than the law. “If the administration of death,” that’s the name of the law, “Written and engraved in stone was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away, how shall not the administration of the Spirit be more glorious? For if the administration of condemnation is glorious, much more the administration of righteousness exceeds in glory.” In other words, the Old Testament patterns were glorious, how much more glorious the New! Who would ever sacrifice the new for the old?
When someone comes to me and says, “John, wouldn’t you like more of God?” I say this, “No, because I have Christ, and in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Thank you.” I don’t need any more, and I’ll not add to the absolute gift of God by faith anything procured by my own self-motivated righteousness. Rather, I’ll accept what He gives by faith. Let’s pray.
Father, we’re so thankful again for all that is ours. The statement of Paul is, “You’re complete in Him.” Father, thank you that we don’t have to strive in the flesh to be made perfect, but that He has perfected forever them that are sanctified by the one offering of Himself. Father, thank you for giving us everything by faith. Help us never to adulterate the simplicity of faith with works. Yet, at the same time, Father, help us to serve You out of good deeds. For we were ordained unto good deeds. Not saved by them, but saved that we may do them, not for our glory or to secure our righteousness, but for Your glory. May our works always be those things that are to redound to Your praise, never to ours, for that is legalism.
God, we pray tonight that if there is anyone in our midst that has never come to the foot of the Cross to see the crucified Christ and to receive Him by faith, and all that He is and all that He has to give, to receive the blessed Holy Spirit and the gift of the Father bountifully and fully, may this be the night that he or she does that. May their hearts open to receive what You have to give. In Jesus name, Amen.
HL : http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1657 – (To listen/download this sermon follow the link)
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