Sunday morning we are studying through the book of Galatians. The last couple of weeks we have been focusing on Galatians chapter 3, and I want to try to describe some of the highlights we have come across.
The entire book of Galatians is dealing with the role of works in our salvation and our Christian life. A group of Judaizers have come into the Galatian church and have taught that in addition to the work of Christ, one needed to be circumcised according to the law of Moses to be saved. Paul is writing this letter to correct this fallacy.
In chapter 3 he specifically discusses the role of the law and what happens to the one who attempts to follow the law to be justified. In particular, he makes the statement in verse 10 that those who attempt to live under the law are cursed if they do not abide by all the things in the law. This is a specific quote from Deuteronomy 27:26. He goes on to quote from Habakkuk and say “The righteous man shall live by faith.”
Most people who say they are Christians would tend to agree with these positions without too much difficulty. However, we took our discussion much deeper the past two weeks and it brought us to a startling realization
Specifically – we are no different than the Judaizers! In our churches today, what is the message that we communicate? Isn’t it something like some of the following?
- If you are a good Christian you don’t smoke.
- Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol.
- In our church, we don’t dance.
- Christians don’t go to movies.
This is no different than the Judaizers who were calling on the people to be circumcised! You see, when we create a list of things that we do (or don’t do), we are creating a list of “rules” or “laws” that we say people need to follow.
But salvation isn’t about following rules or laws!
Look at verse 6 of Galatians 3: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” It’s not about the things we DO. It’s about our faith and belief in Christ. Later in Galatians Paul talks about walking by the Spirit, and not carrying out the desire of the flesh. You see works can have absolutely no role in our salvation. We should not try to “do good things”! When we strive to do good things, we are working in the flesh.
Rather, we need to walk in the Spirit, and let the SPIRIT guide our steps and the things we do. Yes, we will perform good works. But not because WE tried but because we allowed the Spirit to work through us.
I am convinced that we always get Galatians 5:22 – 23 messed up. This is where Paul lists the Fruit of the Spirit. You know – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. Typicaly, when we study these things it is with the following mindset: “OK, let’s see – I’ve got Love down pretty good, and joy and peace. I guess it’s time to work on patience.” And then we go at life trying to achieve patience.
Our approach OUGHT to be the following: “OK – I’m lacking patience in my life, so that is evidence that I’m not walking in the Spirit the way I ought to be, but walking in the flesh. I need to allow the Spirit to guide me in these circumstances, so that HE produces a spirit of patience within me.”
Do you see the difference? We spend our lives trying to live up to a checklist of good and bad things, always striving to do what is right just so that we look better to those around us. But we do that out of our own flesh, not through the Spirit. This is what the Pharisees did – look at what Jesus says about them in Matthew 23:27:
In Hebrews 11 we find the passage of what many have referred to as the “Hall of Faith”, where the author lists numerous individuals from the Old Testament, talking about their faith. When I read through this, I was struck by how it kept saying “By Faith, . . ” and then described how someone did something that we would consider to be a “Good work”. But the emphasis is on “FAITH”, not the “WORK”.
In fact, in Hebrews 11:6 is says that without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. We cannot please him by doing “Good Things” out of our own strength, but only by living according to FAITH, and allowing the SPIRIT to do those good things.
Every time a church communicates the message “You need to stop doing this”, or “You need to start doing that” in order to be part of our fellowships, we are no different then the Judaizers that Paul was addressing.
Instead, we need to communicate to people “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
If you want to hear our discussion from the last two weeks, you can find them on the First Baptist website, under the “Listen to our Messages” section. Go to http://www.kingfieldbaptistchurch.org/Messages/58.asp for the messages on Galatians, and be sure to give me your thoughts in the comment section below!.