As we continue our study of Galatians we come to chapter 3. In the first two chapters we saw Paul defending his apostleship before his gentile converts in the churches of the region of Galatia. Judaizers had been attempting to corrupt them by teaching them that faith in Christ was not enough; that if they wanted to be true Christians, they had to observe the Jewish ceremonial system, including circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath and other Jewish holy days. The Judaizers approach was to discredit the Apostle Paul by teaching the people that Paul was not a true apostle. So Paul defends his apostleship in those first two chapters.
Now in chapters 3 and 4 Paul defends his message of salvation by grace plus nothing. He starts out in chapter 3 by reminding the Galatian converts that they had experienced the joy of salvation by grace alone and he asks them what on earth is going on in their minds that they should embrace legalism when they had already been saved by God’s grace.
Paul is speaking with a mixture of anger, disappointment and amazement; as in deep love for his converts, he attempts to bring them to their senses.
Do you know why people are led away from the truth into false doctrines? They don’t think. They tend to follow their whims and their feelings. They fail to test what they hear by the standard of God’s Word. They are drawn away from the truth by their emotions. Listen to the warnings of Scripture. In Ephesians 4:11-14 we learn that the role of the pastor is to feed his flock God’s Word, strengthening them from the subtle assaults of Satan. Verse 14 says, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Verses 22 and 23 warn us to turn from lust and uncleanness and “be renewed in the spirit of our minds.”
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul urges believers to present their bodies to God and be not conformed to the world’s thinking, but to be so saturated in the Scriptures that it affects our thinking, enabling us to prove to ourselves “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Christianity is an intellectual apprehension of Biblical truth. Emotion is given as a by-product as we grasp the truth of our personal, intimate relationship with Christ and with the family of God.
In Galatians 3:1 he reminds his hearers that they had experienced the reality of salvation as they listened to Paul preach the historical, life-changing facts of the crucifixion of Christ to them. They understood that Jesus had died to save them from the penalty of power of sin in their lives. That life-changing event of the first century still affects us today in this 21st century. His blood shed on the cross continues to cleanse us from sin, according to I John 1:7. We are identified with Christ today in His crucifixion and resurrection, according to Galatians 2:20.
In Galatians 3:2 Paul continues to deal with our experience of the reality of salvation as we consider the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we put our trust in Christ who died for our sins, God sent His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. According to Ephesians 1:13-14 the Spirit of God sealed us, marking us as God’s possession and assuring us that we belonged to God and that He was going to see us through life all the way to Heaven. In fact, Romans 8:9 teaches us that if we do not have the Spirit of God living in us, we are not Christians.
In Galatians 3:3 Paul asks us to consider a foolish thought. If the Holy Spirit now lives in our hearts, perfecting us and seeing us through all the way to Heaven, are we not stupid to think that what God is doing, we can further perfect through our fleshly efforts?
Do you remember that in Romans 7:18 Paul says that in our flesh nature is no good thing? If that’s the case, and it is; why do we think that we can perfect our salvation through fleshly efforts?
Certainly good works are related to salvation. Ephesians 2:8-10 and James 2:14 make that clear. But good works are not the cause of our salvation; rather they are the results, the fruit of our salvation.
Next time you are approached by a well meaning, but confused Christians who asks you, “Wouldn’t you like to have more of God? Wouldn’t you like to have a deeper experience with Him?” you can answer, “No, I have Jesus and Colossians 2:8-10 tells me that “I am complete in Him.”
The Judaizers in Paul’s day were leading young Gentile Christians into the heresy of adding circumcision, along with the observance of the Sabbath, special feast days and other ceremonial laws as requirements for salvation.
Paul in Galatians 1:8-9 recognizes these false teachers as cursed of God and warns Christians to beware of their heresy. The false teachers were teaching that since Abraham is the spiritual father of those in the faith, that to be a true son of Abraham, circumcision and observance of the ceremonial laws were necessary. No doubt, they attempted to prove their position by going back to the Old Testament.
The Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 had already settled the matter, but these Satan-inspired teachers continued to corrupt the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith by requiring the addition of works for salvation.
Down through the centuries, various heresies have arisen that would add baptism or sacraments of the church, or works to the Biblical truth of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Christ apart from any works or self effort
So in Galatians 3 Paul answers these Judaizers by using the same Old Testament Scriptures to show them they were wrong. Let’s examine this interesting and crucial Old Testament evidence.
First of all read the first four verses of Genesis 12. There you learn of God calling Abram (later called Abraham) from his home in Ur of the Chaldees (present day Iraq) and going to his new home in what is now the land of Israel. There God promised to give him the land and bless him and his seed and make them a blessing to the whole world. Abram immediately believed God and began his journey to the land of Canaan. Notice in verse 4 that Abraham was 75 years old at the time of this move.
Now turn to Genesis 17 and read the entire chapter. Note here that God called Abraham to be circumcised and note in verse 24 that he was 99 when he was circumcised. His circumcision took place 24 years after he had been called to follow God’s leading into Canaan.
Turn back to Galatians 3 now and read verse 6-7. “Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that those who are of faith. the same are the children of Abraham.” What was it that caused God to count Abraham righteous? His belief in God. Verse 7 says that those of us who believe God are also counted righteous with Abraham. As sons and daughters of faith in God, we are Abraham’s children, whether we are Jews or gentiles. Don’t forget that Abraham was 75 when he was counted righteous.
The Judaizers in Paul’s day were telling the people that if they wanted to be children of faith, that is, children of Abraham, then they must do what Abraham did. He was circumcised. So the male gentiles were required to be circumcised. But wait a minute! When was Abraham circumcised? Genesis 17:24 says he was 99 at the time of his circumcision. When did God declare him righteous? Genesis 12:4 says he was 75. Twenty-four years before he was circumcised God had declared him righteous. Circumcision had nothing to do with it. The reason he was circumcised was to mark him and his male descendants as different from the gentiles.
Circumcision had to do with his national identity. Faith in God had to do with his spiritual identity. That’s why we who believe God by trusting in Jesus as our Saviour are children of faith just as Abraham was a child of faith. Circumcision and ceremonialism have absolutely nothing to do with our spiritual standing before God. God sees us righteous and blessed simply because we believed in Him.
Now turn to Romans 4 and follow along with me. Verse 3 declares that Abraham believed God and his faith in God was counted unto him for righteousness. That is, God saw him righteous and blessed.
Verse 4 says that if Abraham had been declared righteous by any good work then it would not have been the blessing of God’s grace. Rather God would have been indebted to bless him because of his works. That is unthinkable. God is not a debtor to anyone.
Verse 5 emphasizes that we are not counted righteous through our works, but through our faith alone.
Verse 6 shows that David, another Old Testament saint and a man after God’s own heart, was made righteous; not by works, but by faith alone.
In verses 7 and 8 Paul quotes from David’s 32nd Psalm.
Verse 9 asks the question, “Are only those blessed with salvation who are circumcised, or is salvation also available to the uncircumcised?
In verse 10 Paul reminds us again that Abraham was blessed by believing at the age of 75, twenty-four years BEFORE he was circumcised.
Verses 11 & 12 make the point that though Abraham was circumcised as a sign or a seal of the righteousness he had twenty-four years earlier when he believed God SO THAT he might be the spiritual father of Jews and Gentiles, regardless of whether they are circumcised or not.
Then in verse 13 Paul hits a grand slam by making it crystal clear that the righteousness that it takes to go to Heaven is not a righteousness we earn by keeping the law, but it is a righteousness given to us by the grace of God apart from the law. You can continue reading through the rest of the chapter and this same truth is emphasized throughout the chapter.
Look at Romans 4 once more. How was Abraham saved?
NOT BY WORKS 4:1-8
NOT BY CIRCUMCISION 4:9-12
NOT BY LAW 4:13-16 The Law of Moses came 430 years later. No, Abraham was saved by faith alone and he lived by faith as you will see in Hebrews 11:8-19
God still has plans for Israel in a national sense. That’s talked about in Romans 11. You can learn more about those plans by going to my series in PROPHECY on this web site.But in this present church age, salvation for Jews and gentiles, comes only through faith in Christ apart from any confidence in our own works and apart from any ceremony in the church.
I’m not saying that works don’t matter. Though they don’t help save us, good works are a fruit of salvation. They evidence our love for Christ and our works spring from a heart that loves Christ; not by enslavement to legalism.
Paul in Galatians 3:1-14 is teaching that salvation comes by faith in God’s Promise and not by our feeble, vain efforts to keep God’s Law.
In verse 15 Paul contrasts God’s promise with man’s contracts. When a contract is signed and notarized, it is binding. Woe be to the person who attempts to break a human contract. I encourage you to be very, very cautious when signing a contract to buy or lease anything. Read the fine print. Once you sign, you are bound by that contact. If you fail to fulfill your responsibilities, you could be wiped out financially.
Let me point out from Galatians 3:15-22 how a promise is superior to a contract.
1. A promise is personal and heart-felt rather than legal and cold-hearted. Consider this when it comes to marriage. In which kind of a marriage would you rather be? One based on promise or one based on contract? I think you would agree with me that a marriage based on promise has a better chance of enjoying a loving relationship than one based on a pre-nuptial agreement, which is basically a business contract. That stands as much chance of a loving relationship as a business contract. A marriage based on a contract has more concern for self than the spouse. In a marriage based on loving promise, we each live for the happiness and welfare of the other, rather than ourselves. So salvation based on God’s promise has an infinitely greater chance of a loving relationship with God, than a salvation based on God’s Law and my futile efforts to keep it.
2. A Promise or a covenant is irrevocable. Even a human covenant or agreement, is irrevocable and cannot be changed, once it is signed and ratified. God gave him assurance; perhaps more than he really wanted to know. It’s recorded in Genesis15:8-18. To give Abraham the confirmation, God asked him to take some animals and birds and kill them, cutting the animals in two and laying them in order for sacrifice. Then Abraham went into a deep sleep and had a vision from God. God, as a smoking lamp walked through the animals during the night, affirming that the covenant must be fulfilled on pain of death. God also gave him some information about the future that, no doubt, troubled Abraham. God told him that his seed would be slaves in Egypt for 430 years. If you are familiar with your Bible, you know that is just what happened. In spite of this, Israel will one day inherit the promised land and God’s blessings on them. That is yet to take place one day, as the Bible prophecies. For more on this go to our series on PROPHECY.
3. The Promise of Galatians 3:16 is better than a contract because it is based on Christ. Paul makes a point of showing that Abraham’s SEED is singular; not plural. When God speaks of Abraham’s seed, he is not primarily speaking of all the Israelites who would come through the seed of Abraham, but He is speaking of Christ who is the promised SEED. Christ is the one and only heir of every promise of God. For us to inherit the promises of Abraham, we must be IN CHRIST. The fact is that every true believer is IN CHRIST. Romans 8:17 teaches us that we are joint-heirs with Christ.
4. According to Galatians 3:17 the Promise is superior to the Law because is came first. The promise to Abraham and to his Seed, came 430 years before the Law. What the promise gave us, the Law cannot afterwards annul.
5. The promise is superior to the Law because it cannot be changed by the Law. God made the promise and according to Malachi 3:6, God changes not. According to Hebrews 10:23 He is true to His promise. Salvation must be of promise; not law.
6. God gave (Greek karizomai from the Greek word charis which is translated grace.)
In other words, God gave the promise to Abraham by His grace, just as He gives each of us salvation by His grace alone. Salvation has to be either by grace or by law. It can’t be both. Thank God that the promise is clear throughout the New Testament that salvation is by God’s grace alone. Therefore salvation cannot be even 1% by our works.
May God settle this in your heart and mind once for all. Salvation is by grace and not by works. Good works are the fruit of salvation; not the means of salvation.
Perhaps you are thinking, why then the law? We’ll consider this in our next article as we continue our study of Galatians 3 beginning with verse 19.
In our earlier studies of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians in this FREEDOM series we’ve been confronted with and I trust convinced of the truth that salvation is a gift of God’s grace and that all our good works and all our efforts to attempt to keep God’s Law cannot save us nor keep us saved.
As Abraham believed in God’s promise of a Seed (Jesus) who would bless the world and as he was counted righteous by faith alone, according to Galatians 3:6-16; so we are made right with God by trusting in this same Jesus, the promised Seed of Abraham. Other Old Testament men and women, such as Abel, Noah, Rahab, Ruth, David were justified by faith in God’s promise of a coming Saviour. Hebrews 11 lists these and others as men and women of faith, even though they were imperfect and sinned by breaking God’s Law.
The Mosaic Law of God which came 430 years after Abraham, did not change God’s promise to Abraham. God has not changed the plan of salvation from faith alone to salvation by faith plus our efforts to keep His Law. That is made clear in Galatians 3:17-18. Ephesian 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-6 and Romans 3 & 4. We are justified freely by His grace through faith in Christ alone.
Now we come to the question in Galatians 3:19. What then is the purpose of God’s Law? We already know we are sinners. Our conscience convicts us of that, according to Romans 2:14-15. It is written in our hearts according to Romans 1:18-20. But when we read God’s Law in the Old Testament and again in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, we cannot help but be convicted and convinced of our perilous standing in the sight of God.
As a mirror does not make us ugly, but rather shows us our blemishes, so God’s Law shows us how far we have fallen short of God’s righteousness. Because we have broken His law we are Transgressors. As Old Testament people were saved by trusting in the promised Redeemer, Jesus Christ; so we who live today are saved by looking back in faith to Christ who died and rose again to save us from our sins.
To understand the purpose of the Law, consider these two phrases: “before faith came”and “after faith came”
Before Faith Came Gal. 3:23-24
Before we put our trust in Christ, we are guilty and under the crushing weight of bondage to God’s Law.
We are sentenced and condemned to death by the Law as Romans 8:1-2 teaches.
Until we trust Christ for salvation, we are imprisoned by the law; locked up and sitting on death row. Galatians 3:23, Romans 7:11
Because we are condemned and guilt-ridden, we seek a solution to our guilt. That’s why proud, sinful man is attracted to the religion of self-works. It doesn’t matter what its name, just so it enables me to feel self-righteous and good about myself. For the Jews in Jesus’ day and in Paul’s day it was Phariseeism. For many today it is legalism.
That’s why when Jesus began His public ministry, the first thing He did was to shatter pride and self-righteousness by preaching His Sermon on the Mount. I encourage you to read it in Matthew 5,6 and 7. As you read it you will find that God demands heart-purity and perfection. None of us, of course, can live up to it. That’s the purpose of it, to show us how far short we fall and to show us our need of a Saviour. For a full study of it go to our link BEATITUDES on this web site.
We are cursed by the Law which we have all broken. Romans 3:10,23
So before faith came, the Law was our school master. The Greek word used here speaks of the hired slave in a Greek family; a male nanny who was responsible for raising and disciplining the young sons, making sure they got to school on time.
So God’s law goads us and convicts us and drives us to Christ. Once we have put our trust in Christ, we no longer need God’s Law to drive us to Christ. Certainly we love God’s Law, but we no longer feel the weight and burden of it, for Christ is our righteousness. He who fulfilled it perfectly, imputes His righteousness to our account. That bring us to our final point.
After Faith Came Galatians 3:25-26
After faith comes we are no longer under a school master for we are mature sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. The Law has accomplished its work in our lives. But more about this in our next lesson.
We become Christians by recognizing first of all that we are sinners, cursed by God’s Law and under His wrath headed for a Christless eternity in Hell. We place our faith in Christ who died and rose again for our justification. Immediately we are IN CHRIST. What does that mean? When we’ve answered that question, we have answered the question, “What is a Christian?
BEFORE FAITH IN CHRIST
We’ve seen in earlier studies what life was like prior to putting our faith in Christ. We were condemned under God’s Law. Romans 8:1-2 We were cursed by His Law. Gal. 3:10,13 We were sentenced to death by His Law. Romans 3:19 6:23 We were in custody to the Law. Galatians 3:23 We were slain by His Law. Romans 7:11
AFTER FAITH IN CHRIST
When we believed the good news that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead and when we received Him by faith as our Saviour, we moved into the new position of being IN CHRIST as described in Galatians 3:25-29. Death has no more dominion over us. Romans 6:9 Though we still sin and though we have not attained perfection, sin has no more dominion over us. Romans 6:14 Though we love God’s Law and desire to keep it, we are no longer under the dominion of His Law. Romans 7:1
THE TWO MARRIAGES
This freedom from the dominion of the Law is explained in Romans 7 by two marriages.
THE FIRST MARRIAGE
My state before Christ. The Law was my husband. I, the sinner, was married to the Law and the marriage was characterized as a life of bondage. Because I could not keep the Law perfectly, the fruit of that marriage was death. Romans 7:5
Before I could be free of that oppressive marriage, one party had to die. The Law did not die. It is still alive today holding its club over every sinner and saying “Do this or die!” No, the Law did not die, but I did. I died in the person of Jesus according to Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6:1-14. Now that I am dead to the Law, I am free to be in a new marriage.
THE SECOND MARRIAGE
My state after trusting Christ. Christ is my new husband. I, a redeemed sinner, am in Christ pictured as His wife. The fruit of this marriage is mentioned in Romans 7:4 and Galatians 5:22-26 In this second marriage I am free from the bondage and condemnation of the Law and free to bear Christ’s fruit. When I received Christ, the Law had accomplished its work in me. I was now free to live in a personal, saving relationship with Christ. Galatians 3:26-29
Though I am free from the domination of the Law, my freedom is not to live in sin, but in the righteousness I so long for as a Christian. Romans 8:1-4 And one day my body will be totally free from my sinful nature, free to enjoy the glorious liberty of being in Christ. Romans 8:21. That’s what it means to be IN CHRIST.
Followers of Buddha, Confucius or Mohammed cannot say that they are IN those men. Ask an unconverted religious person if he is going to Heaven and he will tell you that he expects to because he is IN a church. Such an answer evidences that he has no idea of a saving relationship with Christ. He knows nothing of being IN CHRIST.
THE RESULTS OF BEING IN CHRIST
First, we are children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:26 Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit as taught in Gal. 3:27 and I Corinthians 12:13 we are placed into the Body of Christ. This baptism has nothing to do with water baptism. That is a totally different event. The baptism of the Spirit makes us one in Christ. Water baptism of believers is an outward testimony of becoming a Christian. See Acts 8 and 16 for examples of the purpose of water baptism.
Second, we are adopted into the Family of God, as is taught in Galatians 4:5 and Romans 8:14-15 But in another sense, we are not only adopted into the Family of God; we are also begotten into His family. John 3:16 tells us that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.
However I Peter 1:3 and I John 4:9 tells us that we believers are also begotten of the Father. How can that be? We are counted as begotten sons because of our identification with Christ. If He is the only begotten Son of God, we also are begotten because we are IN HIM. As God’s children Romans 8:23 assures us that we are joint heirs with Christ. H
Third, because we are born again by the Spirit of God who comes to live in us, He gives us the sense of intimacy with God. We can call Him ABBA FATHER. That is, Daddy, Daddy. As a child has freedom to come into the presence of his loving father any time and for any reason, so we who are IN CHRIST can come into the presence of our Heavenly Father any time and for any reason. That boldness comes through our identification with Christ according to Hebrews 4:14-16
Fourth, He leads us by His Holy Spirit according to Romans 8:14.
Fifth, IN CHRIST, according to Romans 8:16. we have confidence and security that we belong to Him.
Sixth, because we are IN CHRIST we are joint heirs with Him of all God is and has for us. Read these wonderful verses and rejoice in your riches IN CHRIST. Psalm 16:5 Romans 8:17, John 17:5,22, Revelation 21:3. To begin to grasp your wealth in Christ read Ephesians 1. It will about take your breath away! Seventh, because we are IN CHRIST, we shall one day be just like Him. Though we will never be God, we will enjoy His perfect holiness. I John 3:1-3
Finally, because we are on IN CHRIST, we are also one with all who are IN CHRIST. We are all baptized by the Holy Spirit into one body. This is a spiritual unity that no man-made ecumenical unity of churches can ever accomplish. Wherever Christians who are IN CHRIST meet, they almost immediately recognize their oneness in Christ. See Galatians 3:28.
WHAT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY IN CHRIST?
According to Romans 8:1-4 we are to walk each day under the control of the Holy Spirit and HE will enable us to walk; not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Note the passive tense here. If we actively seek to be surrender to Him, He will enable us to live out the righteousness of God IN HIM. The Christian life is no longer our struggle. If is His work in lives surrendered to Him.
All of us as sinners are convinced by our own conscience that we can never face a holy God and live. Self-righteousness or religion, regardless of its label, is the natural man’s vain effort to make himself presentable before a holy God.
God, is the author of the only way sinful men can come into His presence and live with Him forever in Heaven. That way is through the blood sacrifice of His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus.
Under the Old Covenant with Abraham, man was required to believe God for that promised Saviour who would one day come through the seed of Abraham.
The purpose of the ceremonial system
In anticipation of that promised Seed who would be sacrificed for our sins, God set up an intricate ceremonial system, complete with its temple, priesthood, animal sacrifices and ceremonial laws. That ceremonial system, a heavy burden to the people, had to be carried out to the letter of the law to be accepted of God.
When Jesus died on the cross two thousand years ago, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom by God Himself, thereby announcing that Jesus alone was the only way into the presence of God and that the Old Testament ceremonial system was abolished. For someone to continue in that system or teach it, was to deny the finished work of Christ on the cross and according to Galatians 1:8-9 be under the curse of God.
All of the religions of the world, inventions of Satan himself, teach that we can justify ourselves and make ourselves presentable to God through our own efforts or self-righteousness or through what our church can do for us. We live our lives as slaves in bondage to our pride and religious self efforts.
Jesus, our source of freedom
Hebrews 2:14-18 explains that God Himself, in the person of Jesus, took on a human body and lived among men and then died on a cross to pay for our sins and deliver us from fear of death and from the bondage of man’s vain religions that are powerless to change us and make us presentable to God.
We’ve seen in our study of Galatians 3 that since the death and resurrection of Christ, there is only one way for man to be fit to face his holy God and that is to be justified through faith in God’s gift of Christ, who is Abraham’s promised Seed. Through Him alone we are justified and declared perfectly righteous and made fit to live in God’s presence in Heaven. So Justification is the key thought of Galatians 3 as well as the theme of Romans 3-5. That has been the theme of our previous studies in this Freedom series.
From the bondage of slavery under God’s Ceremonial Law to the freedom of sonship
That brings us to Galatians chapter 4 where Paul teaches us that we are delivered from the bondage and slavery of religion to enjoy a new personal relationship with God. Through the new birth by faith in Christ, we are translated from slaves of Satan into the freedom of sons and daughters of God.
Note, first of all, that we are not teaching that a Christian should not serve the Lord. Rather, we are teaching that we do not attain salvation and spiritual maturity through serving Him. As mature sons and daughters of God by the grace of God alone, we serve him in love and appreciation for His wonderful salvation. That’s the message of Romans 12:1-2.
In Galatians 4:1-3 Paul contrasts the bondage of legalism of a small child, who is under the rules and discipline of his father’s servant, tutor or schoolmaster, with the freedom of a mature son.
The young son, though heir of his father’s estate, has no more freedom than the slaves who care for him. As a child, he lives in fear and bondage to those servants until the appointed time of the father.
Gal. 4:4-5 shows us that in the fullness of time God sent His Son Jesus into the world to die on a cross and rise again, freeing those who trust Him from the bondage of sin and our legalistic struggles to be right with Him. The text says, “God sent forth His Son (Jesus) made of a woman. Jesus had to become a human being to save us. Man who sinned had to die for his sins. Therefore, Jesus, the sinless Saviour, had to become fully man in order to die in our place for our sins.
II Corinthians 5:21 teaches that the sinless Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins that we might be made the righteousness of God through faith in Him.
The blessings of sonship
Gal. 4:4-7 speaks of our blessings as His Sons. Through faith in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary we are made Sons of God. Those who trust Him are given His Holy Spirit to live in us and enable us to experience this personal relationship with Him as His Sons and daughters.
Whereas under the Old Covenant, Israel was given the external rules and regulations for pleasing God, we under the New Covenant are given His Holy Spirit to live in us as the internal evidence of belonging to Him and the internal power to live victoriously.
As God’s Sons, we are no longer slaves, but heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Read in Romans 8:17 what it means to be a joint heir with Christ. Read Jesus’ intercessory prayer for us in John 17, a prayer that He prayed just before He went to the cross to die for our sins. As you read this prayer, be aware of His glory which He desires to share with us as His joint-heirs.
The danger of slipping back into the bondage of legalism
In Galatians 4:8-11 Paul is almost beside himself as he asks the Galatian Christians why, after enjoying the freedom of being saved by the grace of God, are they willing to put themselves back under the bondage of legalism, in order to try to gain favor with God under the Mosaic Ceremonial Law.
Paul warns them not to listen to the Judaizers who were attempting to bring these young converts to Christ back under the legalism of the Mosaic ceremonial law, and rob them of their freedom in Christ.
Let me warn you to beware of anyone who denies the Gospel of God’s grace by requiring you to observe the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week), Old Testament Feast Days, avoiding certain meats that were listed as unclean, such as pork and requiring circumcision of males. Today circumcision is totally a medical/health issue and has nothing whatsoever to do with our standing before God. I would encourage you to read through Colossians 2 and beware of anyone who would attempt to rob you of your freedom in Christ.
I would also warn you that as you rejoice in your freedom in Christ to beware of using that freedom to live a sinful, selfish life, but as Galatians 5:13 encourages us, use it to serve one another and be a blessing to others.
Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is one of the harshest epistles he ever wrote to a church. From its abrupt salutation to it extremely severe judgment on the false teachers who had been corrupting the minds and hearts of the Galatian churches, there is not much pastoral warmth in the letter.
That is, until we come to Galatians 4:12-20. Here he pours out his heart in one of the warmest, and most loving and gentle reprimands he ever wrote to a church. Here he is writing as a loving mother to her erring child.
Be as I am for I am as you are. vs 12
Listen to Paul as he appeals to the Galatian Christians in verse 12 to “become as I am for I am as you are.” As I, a Jew, became free from the Jewish ceremonial law after I met Christ, so you who are Gentiles, and have been corrupted by the Judaizers to bring you under that ceremonial law, need to find your freedom in Christ as I have.
Paul, born a Jew, but now born again as a Christian, learned to adapt himself to Gentile culture, just so long as it did nor involve compromising Christian principles. He teaches this principle of reaching the lost in I Corinthians 9:19-23. There he teaches that we who have been born again through faith in Christ, need to learn to adapt ourselves to the culture of the people of our times, just so long as we do not compromise Christian principles as we are warned in II Corinthians 6:14-18. These two Biblical principles of evangelism must always be lived out in balance.
Remember when I first came to you? vs 13-15
In verse 13-15 Paul reminds the Galatian Christians of his first visit to them. He had been sick and his eyesight was poor. He reminds them how they treated him as an angel and warmly and joyfully received his message of God’s grace. They loved him and appreciated his ministry so much that if possible they would have given their eyes to help him. In verse 15, perhaps with tears, he asks them “What’s happened? Why have you turned from the Gospel of God’s grace to listen to and come under the bondage of the Judaizers? Earlier in verse 11 he had asked them in disbelief, “Have I labored with you in vain?” These are the times of heart-break in nearly every faithful pastor’s ministry.
You’re being courted by false teachers vs 17-18
False teachers are zealous to make converts, just as Paul had been in the past before his conversion to Christ, as he mentioned in Galatians 1:14. But the zeal the Judaizers had for the Galatian Christians was a zeal to exclude them from the Grace of God. Zeal for the cause of Christ is a good thing, but the zeal of false teachers is something to be aware of and avoided.
Labor pains again? 4:19
Paul reminds the Galatian Christians of the labor pains he went through to bring them to Christ. Now he is going through those pains again until Christ be fully formed in them. It’s one thing for a mother to go through labor pains to have her child. Its another thing for both a mother and father to go through labor pains to bring their children to spiritual maturity. Paul describes that continuing process “until Christ be fully formed in you.” Romans 8:29 puts it this way. “conformed to His image”. That’s the goal of the continuing, sanctifying process that God is putting each of us through. We who work with the unsaved and with immature Christians, are also involved in the labor pains of this process, whether we are pastors, teachers or parents.
A mother’s labor process goes on with growing intensity for several hours until her child is born. We, as pastors, teachers and parents, experience these labor pains sometimes for weeks, and months and years for the spiritual development of those God has given us to bring to Christ and nurture in Him.
Believe me, a faithful pastor’s chief desire is not primarily for popularity or for the love of his people; but to see people saved and see their lives changed from one degree of glory to another, until they reflect Christ. Read II Corinthians 3:18 and Galatians 4:19.
We are changed by reading God’s Word and by focusing on His glory. What happens next is all the work of God. We are changed almost imperceptibly from one degree of glory to the next. Others will notice the change. We will, no doubt, be the last to be aware of that change.
If there is anything that should mark a true Christian or a faithful church, it ought to be genuine joy. It ought to be the obvious characteristic that a neighbor or friend or fellow worker or a fellow student senses when they are around you. It ought to be the first thing a visitor senses about a church as they enter the front door. The joy should be obvious in our singing, in our interaction with one another and in our genuine welcome of visitors.
Anyone who lives in fellowship with God should be marked by joy. Note Psalm 5:11. “But let all those who put their trust in Thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because Thou defendest them. Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.”
Psalm 16:11 says, “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy. At Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.”
Psalm 33:1 challenges us to “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely (or fitting) for the upright.” A miserable, sour bitter Christian is an anomaly or a contradiction. Certainly such a person is in no position to be a witness for Christ, nor do they even attempt to be a witness.
In a church, everything is to be done decently and in order, I Corinthians 14:40 teaches; but let us never be guilty of trying to stifle joy. The early Church, described in Acts 2:45-47, was immersed in an atmosphere of joy and gladness.
Going back into the Old Testament, Isaiah 12:2-3 links joy with salvation. Joy is as much an experience of salvation as pain and discomfort are an experience of sickness.
The Kingdom of God (Christianity) is characterized by righteousness, peace and joy, as is taught in Romans 14:17. The first three evidences of being filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit are love, joy and peace. See Galatians 5:22-23 for the full description of being filled with the Spirit. Such an experience has nothing to do with noise and confusion, nor losing control of our bodies and babbling uncontrollably. To the contrary, according to this passage in Galatians, never does one manifest self control as much as when he is filled with the Spirit.
As we read through Luke 15 we are aware of three of Jesus’ best known stories: The lost Sheep, the lost coin, and the story of the Prodigal Son. Later in this series we will note that the emphasis is not so much on the prodigal son as on someone else.
These stories in Luke 15 illustrate the truth of Luke 19:10 that “The son of Man, Jesus Christ, came to seek and save that which was lost.” Paul, the persecutor of Christians, now saved, gloried in the same truth he wrote about in I Timothy 1:15 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
Throughout Jesus ministry, sinful people were attracted to Jesus. Self-righteous people, such as the scribes and Pharisees, were offended by Jesus’ teachings and they hated Him, finally pressuring the Roman government to crucify Him. Read the four Gospels to get the big picture.
Getting back to Luke 15, note the joy and celebration that took place when the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son were found. We are all aware of God’s holiness, wrath on sin, His grace, love and kindness. What we as Christian fail to see is His great joy in seeing the lost saved.
What is the great joy of your life? Is it the salvation of sinners or something else? Only as your chief joy is the salvation of the lost, is your heart in tune with God’s heart. Be careful, if when someone is saved, you tend to be suspicious of whether his salvation was genuine and you fail to rejoice with the others. God is not pleased when you adopt the attitude, “Let’s wait and see whether his experience was genuine before we celebrate and rejoice.”
It’s true that we are not to give a young Christians a position of leadership in the church until he has had enough time to evidence spiritual stability and we are aware of his spiritual gifts. Let us rejoice and encourage young Christians. If one turns out to be a fake and a hypocrite, that will become obvious and we can deal with that then; however, if we discourage young Christians and refuse to rejoice with them in their new found faith in Christ, we do irreparable damage to them and to the cause of Christ.
It is better for us to be hurt as a church for giving a new convert the benefit of the doubt of his genuineness as a Christian, than for us to hurt the new Christian by refusing to rejoice with him in his salvation. To put it mildly, God does not look with favor on anyone who harms a young Christian. See His stern warning in Matthew 18:3-5.
May God continue to bless us as we learn in these three stories in Luke 15 our primary responsibilities of seeking the lost and rejoicing with them as they come to Christ.
In Luke 15 Jesus tells three stories with one common theme, God’s joy in finding the lost and restoring them to Himself. These three stories are about the lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son; but the emphasis is on the joy of finding each.
THE JOY OF THE TRINITY
1. Jesus, the Son of God, the Good Shepherd finds a lost sheep.
2 The woman, a type of the church, working with the Holy Spirit finds a lost coin
3. The Father sees his prodigal son return home. The emphasis throughout the chapter, as well as throughout the Bible, is God’s joy in finding and saving lost sinners.
See Luke 15:7, 10 and 32. Anyone whose chief joy is not the salvation of sinners is out of touch with God. That was the condition of the Pharisees who murmured because Jesus ate with sinners and reached out in love to them. We are all aware that God is holy, righteous, merciful, loving, gracious and kind; but are we aware that God rejoices in the salvation of sinners? Luke 15:10 speaks about joy in the presence of angels when one sinner repents. That is speaking of God’s joy and because God rejoices, the angels and all the redeemed in Heaven join with Him in rejoicing over the salvation of the lost. Is that your chief joy now?
If you know you are a sinner and you would like to be saved, but you have heard that only the elect can be saved and you are concerned that perhaps you are not among the elect; understand that election is not your concern. That is God’s concern. The only question that concerns you is, do you long to be saved from your sins and have a pure heart and assurance of going to Heaven? I assert to you on the authority of Scripture that you can be saved if you earnestly desire to turn from your sins and trust Christ who paid the full penalty for them.
II Peter 3:9 assures us that “God is not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance. In I Timothy 2:3-4 we read that “God would have ALL men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth.” In I Timothy 4:10 we learn that Jesus is the potential Saviour of ALL men, but He is the actual Saviour of those who believe.
YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE FOR NOT BEING SAVED
Don’t try to excuse yourself from the possibility of being saved because God has not elected you to be saved. You can’t blame God if you go to hell. It will be your own fault for rejecting His Son Jesus as your Saviour.
Why did Jesus endure the torment of dying on a cross? Hebrew 12:2 explains “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” As horrible as it was to die on a cross, Jesus endured the agony. The joy of seeing people saved far outweighed the agony.
Pharisees shepherds? Ugh!
Let’s look closely now at the well known story of the good shepherd finding his lost sheep. We find the story in Luke 15:3-7. He begins the story by likening the Pharisees who were listening to Him to shepherds. That was a blow to their pride as they perceived shepherds to be at the very bottom of the social ladder. He asks them if they were shepherds, would they not go after one lost sheep? That very question angered them, for they despised shepherds as beneath their status and dignity.
The Bible likens each of us to lost sheep in Isaiah 53:5-6. In that passage we learn that Jesus bore our sins on the cross and paid the full penalty so that those who trust His sacrifice on Calvary, are forgiven and saved from condemnation. John 10 also likens us to sheep and Jesus as our Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep.
THE 99 SHEEP THAT WERE NOT LOST
These sheep were not safely at home in the fold, as most of us are prone to think. They were out in the wilderness where wolves and other predators could harm or kill them. The one thing we know from Luke 15:7 about the 99 sheep is that they represent Christians who have been justified through faith in Christ and they do not need to repent.
It’s true that we need to confess our sins whenever we are aware of them and trust in the cleansing power of Christ’s blood. It’s only as we live pure lives that we enjoy fellowship with Christ and with one another. Study I John 1 on this subject.
These sheep (Christians) have physical, emotional and spiritual needs. They need a pastor who loves them and feeds them God’s Word; but the pastor shepherd has to determine his priorities and make a crucial decision. One of the sheep is lost and needs to be found. Night is approaching and there are dangers. So he leaves the 99 with his under-shepherds to lead them home while he goes out into the night and searches until he finally finds his one lost sheep.
The lesson for pastors is that one lost sheep must take precedence over the feeding and care of justified saints. The lesson for churches is that all the programs of our church, including Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, home Bible studies, church socials must not only meet the needs of saints; but more importantly, they must be outreaches to the lost in our communities. If we fail to reach out to the lost, we are failing, no matter how many programs we have for the saints.
THE ONE LOST SHEEP THAT WAS FOUND
No matter what the cost or how difficult the task, the shepherd keeps seeking until he finds him. According to Romans 3:11 sinners do not seek God. Luke 19:10 tells us that God seeks sinners. He uses His yielded servants to reach out to the lost and make the contacts. Thankfully, He empowers us by His Holy Spirit; otherwise, we would have no power whatsoever.
As a mother travails and agonizes to have her baby, so we must travail in our spirits to win the lost. Isaiah 66:8 says of Israel that as soon as she travailed, she brought forth her children. So our hearts must be broken and we must agonize for sinners as we reach out to them in love and share the Gospel with them.
HOW DID THE LOST SHEEP GET HOME?
It was only one sheep of his flock of one hundred, but Jesus valued it and hunted it down until He found it. The shepherd did not drive it home or force it to follow him. It was too weak and helpless. So he picked it up and wrapped it around his shoulders and tied it four feet together, and carried it home.
The Good Shepherd knows our frame and remembers we are as dust. He only asks us to do what He gives us the strength to do. Whether the sheep arrives back to the sheep fold is totally in the hands of the Shepherd. So is our salvation if we have put our trust in Christ. John 10:27-29, Romans 8:32-39, and Isaiah 46:3-4 and 40:11 all teach us that our security as Christians is in God’s hands.
The normal Christian grows and matures and is soon able to stand on his own feet and be involved in the spiritual battle as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. The Shepherd’s goal is to bring us to spiritual maturity and make us effective servants of Christ. That takes place as we feed on His Word. So although The Good Shepherd babies lost sheep, He does not baby growing Christians. As a good parents wants his children to grow up and learn to stand on their own feet and become mature, so our Good Shepherd allows us and encourages us to stand on our own feet and become mature Christians.
Throughout Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, he has been warning the young churches in the area of Galatia of the dangers of the Judaizers who had been infiltrating these gentile believers, attempting to bring them under the bondage of the Mosaic legal system; including the need to be circumcised and observe the Jewish feasts and sabbaths and all the other ceremonial laws. All of this has been cancelled and done away with through the death and resurrection of Christ, as Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians so clearly teaches, as well as the lessons we are learning in Galatians.
Here in Galatians, Paul is warning of this danger and teaching these Christians of the freedom that we have in Christ. In chapters 1 & 2 Paul defends his apostleship against the lies of the Judaizers who attempted to portray him as a false teacher. Paul, in these first two chapters shows that he is every bit a true apostle of Christ just as the original twelve. Whereas the twelve spent the last three years with Jesus before He was crucified and raised from the dead; Paul, who was converted after Jesus arose from the dead and ascended back to Heaven, spent three years with the ascended, glorified Saviour alone with Him in the Arabian desert where he was given a concentrated, personal knowledge of Christ and doctrine for the Church which he wrote by inspiration of God in his New Testament Epistles.
In chapters 3 & 4 Paul goes on to prove that we are saved by trusting in Jesus, just as Abraham was saved by trusting in God’s promise to him of a Promised Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would come through Abraham’s seed. Abraham was saved through faith in that promised Saviour, just as we are saved by faith in that Saviour who came two thousand years ago.
Now in Galatians 4:21-31, Paul uses an allegory to further teach us truths about this promised Saviour.
First of all, you are familiar with an allegory, are you not? An allegory is a method of teaching truths through a story. The best known allegory is Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, in which Bunyan teaches the only way to salvation and the Christian life.
In Galatians 3, we learned that salvation came through Abraham’s promised supernatural seed, Isaac, who was conceived when Abraham was 100 years old and his wife Sarah was 90. Now in this allegory in ch 4, based on the true historical facts of Genesis, it is emphasized that this promised Saviour came through Abraham and Sarah and not through Abraham and Sarah’s slave, Hagar. You remember the story, do you not? Read it in Genesis 15-18 and 21.
So in the passage before us, Galatians 4:21-31, Paul contrasts the two unions.
The natural, sinful union was that of Abraham and the young slave girl, Hagar, with whom Abraham begat a son, Ishmael. There was nothing supernatural about that birth.
The supernatural union was between Abraham and his aged wife, Sarah, who was barren, far beyond the age of being able to become pregnant and bear a child. Through this union because of God’s promise came Isaac. Isaac begat Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. He became the father of the nation of Israel. One of Jacob’s twelve sons was Judah, through whom the Lord Jesus, the promised Saviour of the world, was born.
So we see in this allegory two ways to attain salvation and Heaven. One way does not work. The other does.
The way that does not work is represented by Hagar and her son Ishmael, Note the words associated with this way: the flesh, Arabia, Sinai, bondage, earthly Jerusalem, and the vain attempts to be saved through our works.
In contrast, the true way to salvation is represented by Sarah and her promised son, Isaac, through whom came Jesus in the fullness of time. Note the words associated with this true way: freedom, faith and the destination of those who are saved by faith, the Heavenly Jerusalem which is from above.
Whereas, Ishmael was born a slave; those of us who are born again by faith in the Promised Seed, Jesus, are born into a life of freedom. We are born free to do right, to do the will of God from our hearts.
As Ishmael, the slave child, mocked and persecuted his young brother Isaac; so the Christless religionist mocks and persecutes Christians.
But note also that the spiritual descendants of Ishmael will not share in the eternal Heavenly inheritance of Isaac, and his spiritual progeny, Christians.
In this allegory where are you? Are you a slave to sin, and a spiritual child of the bondwoman, struggling through your vain works to earn Heaven; or are have you been born again through faith in the promised Seed of Abraham and Isaac, the Lord Jesus and been made a joint-heir with Christ, as taught in Romans 8? Are you a citizen of the Heavenly Jerusalem described in the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21 & 22? Paul reminds us as Christians in Philippians 3:20-21 of our heavenly citizenship and the wonderful glory that awaits us.
Jesus continues with His stories about the joy of finding that which was lost. First, in Luke 15:3-7 it was the shepherd finding the lost sheep. Now In Luke 15:8-10 it is the story of a woman finding her lost coin. Of her ten silver coins she had lost one, probably a Greek drachma, equivalent to a Roman denarius; about a day’s wages. It was probably part of her dowry given by her husband. The Bible says she lit a candle and swept the house, searching diligently until she finally found it. She was so happy that she called her friends and neighbors together and they rejoiced together.
WHAT BEST DESCRIBES HEAVEN?
Certainly Heaven could be described by holiness, righteousness, peace and rest. But the word that may best describe heaven is JOY! Jesus, in Matthew 25:21 invites His good and faithful servants to “enter into the joy of Thy Lord” God’s joy is eternal and we will share that joy with Him eternally.
That joy begins to a limited degree from the moment we pass from death unto life when we receives Christ as our Saviour. Oh, how I remember the joy and peace in my heart the night, as a nine year old boy, I put my trust in Christ and He saved me!
As Peter puts it in I Peter 1:8 “we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
The Psalmist in Psalm 36:9 described God as a fountain of life. When we have God’s Spirit in our hearts through faith in Christ, life just starts bubbling up each day as fresh, pure water from a fountain.
Jesus in John 4:14 described to the Samaritan woman this fountain of eternal life. “Whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Isn’t that amazing! We don’t just get a cup of water when we are saved, we get a fountain of pure fresh water in us that constantly supplies us with all the refreshing water we need for life, even into everlasting life. We have it for eternity.
Psalm 16:11 speaks of the path of life for God’s children. He reminds us that in God’s presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
You may have the pleasures of this world if you wish. I choose the eternal pleasures of God any day to the fleeting pleasures of this world. I enjoy those pleasures even now in this life, for it is “in His presence” that we find eternal pleasures. We don’t have to wait till we die and go to Heaven to enjoy His presence daily right now. That’s the message of one of my favorite songs by Oswald Smith.
“The Glory of His Presence”
I have walked alone with Jesus in a fellowship divine,
Nevermore can earth allure me, I am His and He is mine.
I have seen Him, I have known Him; for He deigns to walk with me;
And the glory of His presence will be mine eternally.
O the glory of His presence, O the beauty of His face.
I am His and His forever, He has won me by His grace.
On the mountain I have seen Him, Christ my Comforter and Friend,
And the glory of that vision will be with me to the end.
In my failure, sin and sorrow, broken heart and crushed and torn,
I have felt His presence near me, He has all my burdens borne.
In the darkness, in the shadows, with the Saviour I have trod,
Sweet indeed have been the lessons, since I’ve walked alone with God.
The Psalmist in Psalm 17:15 describes what it will be like for us when we are in His presence. “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness.” Romans 8:28-29 reminds us as Christians that Christ is in the process of daily conforming us to His image and He uses all sorts of good and seemingly bad things to bring that about.
Jesus concludes the story of the joy of finding the lost coin by likening it to the joy in Heaven over one sinner that repents. Rather than deal with that topic here, I encourage you to go to my REPENTANCE link on this web site for a full treatment of that subject.
One further thought before we conclude this study. I believe the coins could represent the woman (the Christian’s) spiritual gifts and talents. God gives us those gifts for one reason only and that is to use them for His glory. Those who fail to do so often find that they lose their talents and with it their joy. Down in Babylonian Captivity, Judah sighed in Psalm 137 “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? And then Judah along with every backslidden Christian agrees, ” If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill. If I do not remember Thee (My God) let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not (Thee) above my chief joy.” But when she found her talents and used them for His glory, God restored the joy that only comes by serving Jesus. What have you lost that needs to be found and given to your Lord and Saviour?
There are only two religions in the world, Satan’s religion which comes under a variety of labels and God’s Gospel (His Good News)
Satan’s religion is all about human achievement and our attempts to merit God’s favor through our works of righteousness. That is legalism, the error false teachers were promoting among the Galatians churches. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was written to counter that false doctrine with God’s Gospel of freedom through His grace. Requiring us to live a perfect life is certainly not Good News. That’s bad news!
God’s true religion is all about His grace and what He has done for us as sinners. He loved us and sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, to live among us and then die for us, paying the full penalty for our sins. Jesus rose again and is in Heaven today. Those of us who trust Him are given the gift of eternal life. We are also given the gift of His Holy Spirit, who lives in us, enabling us to live pleasing to God.
God’s Law, though good, curses us for it demands absolute, perfect obedience. Those who fail to keep it perfectly, (that’s the entire human race, including you and me) are cursed with death. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23
The Good News, the Gospel, is that Jesus delivers us from that curse, being made a curse for us. Galatians 3:13. Those who receive Christ by faith are saved and delivered from that curse of God’s broken Law.
In Galatians 5:1 Paul challenges us to stand free in the liberty we have through Christ. Don’t go backward by putting yourself back under the curse of God’s Law. You see, we are not only saved by grace, but we live the Christian life by His grace also. As Christians, we are never to put ourselves back under the bondage of the Law to where we try to keep our salvation through our own efforts.
WE ARE NOT TEACHING ANTINOMIANISM
Antinomianism is the false doctrine that says that once you are saved, you are free to ignore God’s Law and live anyway you wish.
God’s Law is holy, just and good according to Romans 7:12. Verse 14 teaches that His Law is spiritual. That is, that it deals with heart issues, not just conduct issues. There is nothing wrong with God’s Law. In fact, the Psalmist says “It is perfect.”
The only problem with God’s Law is me; not His Law. I can’t keep it perfectly, even though I’m commanded to in Matthew 5:48. So how does God solve the problem?
GOD’S SOLUTION TO THIS DILEMMA
First, He took our punishment in His own body on the cross so that we are delivered from having to pay that penalty in hell. Galatians 3:13
Secondly, He gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit to live within us, empowering us to live the Christian life. That’s the message of Galatians 2:20 It is the Spirit of Christ who lives within the body of every Christian as is taught in Romans 8:9.
So you see, the new life you live is not by your feeble effort. It is by His almighty power. Living this life is no longer a heavy burden and bondage. It is a new life of freedom such as you have never experienced before.
Galatians 5:1 encourages us to stand in that liberty and refuse to ever put ourselves back under the bondage of self effort.
That freedom is also taught in Romans 8:1-4. and John 15, just two of many passages on the subject.
There we learn that we are enabled to live the righteousness of God Law. That it is by His internal power, not by our effort to keep an external code of laws.
In John 15 Jesus likens this new life of freedom to being a grape branch in a vine bearing grapes. The branch makes no effort to produce grapes. It just stays united to the vine (Christ) and the life of that Vine flows through us producing His fruit.
It changes the Christian life from a struggle of self-achievement, to simply resting in Christ. Read Isaiah 30:15, 21, 32:17-18, Matthew 11:28-30.
DO YOU INSIST ON TRYING TO SAVE YOURSELF BY YOUR OWN EFFORTS?
1. If so, Christ profits you nothing. Galatian 5:2 His death on the cross is worthless to you.
2. You are a debtor to keep the whole law perfectly yourself. Galatians 5:3 Not only that, but if you take one misstep and break even one point of the Law, you are guilty of breaking the whole law and are cursed. James 2:10 Galatians 3:13
3. You are fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4 That is, Christ death on the cross for you is meaningless for you.
4. You are excluded from righteousness. Galatians 5:5-6 You and I have no righteousness apart from Christ.
WHERE THEN DO WORKS COME IN?
Though our works do not save us nor keep us saved, good works are certainly a fruit of salvation. That is clearly taught by James. Paul also teaches the place of works in Ephesians 2:8-10. Though they do not save us, we are saved to live a life of good works, empowered by the Holy Spirit just as we are saved to bear the fruit of the Spirit as taught in Galatians 5:22-25.
If you have never known God’s grace or if through faith in your self-effort you have fallen from grace, turn to Christ now and cast yourself on His mercy and grace and He will receive you. Listen to the Prophet Isaiah plead with you in Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon Him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
In this story that Jesus told, found in Luke 15:11-32, are three major characters: A loving, forgiving father, a prodigal son and his older bitter brother. In this article we will concentrate our attention on the prodigal son. He certainly pictures a sinner repenting of his sins and coming to God. I believe, this son is also a picture of a Christian who has wandered away from God and destroyed his life in sin, but who repents and returns to His Heavenly Father and receives full forgiveness.
Note in vs 12 that he is willful. He demanded that his father immediately give him his full inheritance. It was as though he wished his father dead. He demanded his independence. He demanded what he considered his rights. He demanded freedom from the restrictions of his father.
His father wisely and lovingly gave in to his demands, gave him his inheritance and let him go. That is a fearful situation in which to find yourself. God did that for rebellious Israel in their wilderness journey to Canaan. Psalm 105:15 says, “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls.” God will give you your freedom also to run from Him and allow you to suffer the consequences. Running from God always appears as freedom, but it always ends in bondage and misery.
Note in vs 13 that this prodigal son wandered as far as he could get from home. He wanted to be totally free to live life recklessly with no restrictions. He’s like the sky diver who jumps and is exhilarated by his freedom until he discovers he has no parachute.
He acts totally unaware that he must face God for his ungodly living. King Solomon wrote to young people about this kind of reckless living in Ecclesiastes 11:9 through 12:1, a sobering passage for every young person to read and ponder.
Luke 15:13 also tells us that he wasted his life in riotous living, such as many young people celebrate on their infamous spring breaks.
God gives us gifts to enjoy and use for His glory. Sinful man perverts and wastes those gifts. He turns hunger to gluttony, thirst to drunkenness, the gift of sight and affection to lust and sexual orgies. The gift of our mind can be used for God’s glory, or it can become the object of our worship. The gift of time and energy can be wasted on self interests.
Satan is always pleased when churches are not fulfilling God’s will; the evangelization of the world and the edification of believers. We are wasting our time, energy and resources when, regardless of our activity, we ignore these core reasons for our existence.
The prodigal son, verse 14 tells us, soon came to want. Waste always leads to want.
According to Psalm 34:10 those who seek God’s will never lack anything, Psalm 23 promises us that if the Lord is our Shepherd, we will lack nothing. On the other hand, those who go their own way, wasting God’s gifts soon come to want. The husks of this world do not satisfy. The road of self-will leads to the garbage dump of sin and desperation. Proverbs 13:15 warns that “the way of the transgressor is hard.”
It wasn’t long before he found himself a slave of the world, feeding pigs; one of the most offensive jobs a Jew could ever imagine doing. We cannot escape slavery. Romans 6:12-23 teaches that each of us finds ourselves serving a master. We either serve our loving Master, the Lord Jesus, or else we find ourselves as slaves of Satan.
This prodigal son soon found himself starving. No man would help him. Ultimately he was forced to share the pigs feeding trough and I’m sure he had to fight the pigs for anything he got. What a contrast to the way God provides for those who love Him, as shown in Psalm 103:1-5
Note, The father was not out in the far country seeking for him. He left him alone to allow his life of rebellion to run its course and for his wayward son to get his fill of the pig slop and the loneliness and misery of his choice. All the time he was praying for his son and watching for any trace of his homecoming. God does not force us to live surrendered to Him, but He controls our circumstances to bring us to desperation and back to Him.
Gradually the prodigal son was awakened by his God-given dissatisfaction. The Bible says “he came to himself”. He was coming to his senses. As he was coming back to his father, a picture of God; he was coming to himself, realizing that he was made to live for God. That’s repentance!
Humble and broken, he sensed his utter unworthiness to receive anything from God. He determined to return home and make a full confession, making no excuses for his sin. There in that far country, he formulated his confession. In Luke 15: 18-19 we read the words that he determined to say to his father. “Father, I have sinned against God and against you, and I am not worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.”
Then he began the long journey home. We’ll discuss the homecoming next time. Just a hint of what lay ahead, He never got a chance to complete the confession he had formulated in his mind.
The world’s definition of freedom is the liberty to do whatever you wish with no restrictions, no accountability, no one confronting you and no adverse consequences. That, of course, is not freedom, that is anarchy as in the days of the Judges when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. Judges 21:25
Jesus said in John 8:34-35 that the one who sins is a slave of sin and that freedom is only found in knowing Him. Did you know that Christians are the only free people on the face of the earth? Though in the past we were in bondage to sin; as Christians, we have been freed from that bondage through faith in Christ.
Liberal preachers over the past century have forsaken the Gospel of Christ that delivers from sin and its consequences and have replaced it with the false gospel of the Christian Liberation Movement, that of vainly attempting to deliver the masses from poverty and disease by destroying capitalism and ushering in Socialism. Actually, forms of this false gospel have been around since Bible times. Peter warned of these false teachers in II Peter 2:9-22 who preach freedom, but they themselves are slaves to sin.
The Galatian Christians had been set free from the oppression of sin by the Gospel of Grace that Paul had preached to them. Then Galatians 2:4 tells us that false teachers had infiltrated the churches and were drawing the young Christians back into the bondage of attempting to keep the Mosaic Ceremonial Law which was abolished when Jesus died and rose again.
WHAT IS CHRISTIAN LIBERTY?
First, it is freedom from the power of sin to enslave us. That freedom is found only in Christ who perfectly fulfilled God’s Law and then paid the penalty for our inability to live it, imputing His perfection on all those who trust Him. We are also freed from the oppressive burden of the ceremonial system with its feasts and observance of sabbaths and holy days that Israel had trouble keeping. Paul writes about this in Colossians 2:8-23 As believers in Christ, we have been given the gift of His Holy Spirit who lives the righteousness of the Law through us as we allow His Spirit to have control in our lives. That is taught in Romans 8:1-4.
THE PURPOSE OF GOD’S MORAL AND CEREMONIAL LAWS
Unconverted, carnal men need God’s Laws to show them what is right and wrong. He also needs punishment severe enough to control his behavior because he lacks the inward control of character. The unconverted religionist can’t imagine life without laws and punishment to control passions. On the other hand, the believer whose trust is in the grace of Christ has the Holy Spirit living within him as the restrainer from sin. That restrainer is referred to in II Thessalonians 2:7 The Old English word let in that verse in the King James Version, is a word for restrainer or hinderer.
The Judaizers thought Paul was throwing off God’s Law. They didn’t understand that the Law of God is written in the heart of every Christian and we delight to keep God’s ethical standards and are empowered to do so by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Old Testament saints, as David, also delighted in God’s Law and it was written in their hearts. David writes about this in Psalm 40:7-8.
So when we Christians do right, we are not reacting to a code of laws. Rather we are responding to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. As for the Old Testament Ceremonial Laws, we study them to see pictures of Jesus; however, we are under no obligation to observe them, for according to Colossians 2:16-17 Christ is the fulfillment of those laws.
OUR CALLING IN CHRIST IS TO LIBERTY, PURITY AND LOVE.
God’s moral law has not changed. The change is in the fulfillment of it. Read the beautiful story in Exodus 21:1-6 of the slave who was set free, but chose to stay with his master and serve him the rest of his life. Note that the slave continued with his duties as a slave, but now his motive for serving had changed from coercion to love.
God’s moral standards regarding murder, fornication, adultery, and deviant sexual behavior are still an abomination in the sight of God and are punishable by death. But now the Christian’s behavior is no longer motivated by fear, but by his love for God. If you determine to live by God’s standards because you love God and appreciate his gracious salvation, expect to be misunderstood and labeled a legalist, even by some Christians who lack a knowledge of God’s Word.
Christian freedom is not to be used as an occasion to cast off restraint and live a licentious life, doing whatever comes naturally and harming others. Rather, Christian freedom according to Galatians 5:15 is the ability through the indwelling Holy Spirit, to walk in holiness, serve others and glorify God.
Love enables us to fulfill God’s Law even as it did for Old Testament saints, Obedience should flow from a heart that loves God. That’s why God commanded Israel in Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:4-8 to love Him and love one another and that’s why we in the New Testament are given the same commands and that’s why the Apostle Paul challenges the Galatian Christians and us to “stand fast” in the liberty which is in Christ Jesus.
The world’s understanding of freedom is the liberty to do whatever one wishes with no restrictions, no accountability, no negative consequences and no one confronting them regarding their actions. That’s what Israel thought during the time of the Judges, but as you read the final chapters of that book, you see that it was not freedom, but anarchy. The reason for the anarchy is found in Judges 21:25. “Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.” Jesus declared in John 8:34 that “the man who sins is a slave to sin.” In verse 36 of the same chapter we learn that true freedom comes only in knowing Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Christians are the ONLY free people on the face of the earth. We know nothing of bondage, except as we remember our past when we were slaves to sin.
Liberal socialist preachers who promoted The Christian Liberation Movement a generation ago, believed that the Gospel was not one of saving souls from sin and hell; but delivering the masses from poverty by destroying Capitalism and ushering in Socialism. Actually this dangerous false philosophy has been around since Bible times. The Apostle Peter warned of it in II Peter 2:9-22 where he described these false teachers as promising freedom, when they themselves were slaves of sin.
WHAT IS CHRISTIAN LIBERTY?
Christian liberty is the freedom from the power of sin to enslave us. That freedom is found only in Christ who perfectly fulfilled God’s Law and then paid the death penalty for us sinners who are unable to live it. Through faith in Christ, God has justified us by imputing Christ’s perfect righteousness to our account. Thus Christian freedom is freedom from the depressing awareness that we fail to measure up to God’s moral standard.
Furthermore, Christian freedom is freedom from the burden of the religious ceremonialism of the Old Testament, with its animal sacrifices, observance of Sabbaths and holy days. Read Colossians 2 for a better understanding of this wonderful freedom. As Christians who have the Holy Spirit living in us, we are free to live in the Spirit as He lives the life of Christ through us. See Romans 8:1-4.
THE NEED FOR GOD’S MORAL LAWS
The unconverted carnal man needs laws; not simply to show him he has sinned. He already knows that, for his conscience convicts him when he does wrong. But God’s Laws show the awfulness of his sins, in that he has defied God and is deserving of death, God’s penalty for sin. The natural man needs punishment severe enough to control his behavior. He lacks the inward control of character. The unconverted religionist can’t imagine life without laws and punishment to control his passions. On the other hand, the believer has the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit, living within him, restraining him from doing wrong. II Thessalonians 2:7
The Judaizers who troubled the Galatian Christians thought Paul was discarding God’s Law. They did not understand that, for the Christian, God’s Law is written on our hearts and that we delight in His Law, just as the Old Testament saints did, as recorded in Psalm 40:7-8
WE DON’T REACT TO A CODE OF LAWS
Christian freedom is not to be used as an occasion or opportunity to be a libertine, living a licentious life, casting off restraint and doing whatever comes naturally and harming others; but as Galatians 5:13 teaches, Christian freedom is the freedom and power we are given to do right as we walk under the control of the indwelling Holy Spirit and thus glorify God.
WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVE FOR OBEYING GOD’S LAWS?
There has never been a change in God’s moral Law. The only change is in our motives for obeying them. As the slave in Exodus 21:1-6, our motive for obeying our Master is our love for Him. May God help you to know Christ as your Savior and may you live a joyful, surrendered life to Him as the world around you continues to live in anarchy to Almighty God.
In the story of the Prodigal son found in Luke 15, we see three major characters: the prodigal son, the loving, forgiving father and the bitter elder brother. In our last article we discussed the prodigal son. In this article we want to concentrate our attention on the amazing, kind, loving, gracious, forgiving father. He, a type of our Heavenly Father, is a picture of what we as earthly fathers should be.
In the last article we looked at the younger son, who dared to demand his inheritance before his father had died. He lived as though his father were already dead. He took his inheritance and squandered it in riotous living, ending up as an outcast of society, even as a hog, eating their food when he could find it. The prodigal son had sunk about as low as any man can go. No more parties with his friends. No money. no friends and now he was on the skid row of life. His life of freedom from his father had turned into crushing bondage.
Then he began to think. The Bible says he came to himself. That is, he began to realize who he was and that God had made him for a purpose. He came to the first step of repentance, coming to himself. Up to that time he was living an insane life with not a thought of anything but his own pleasure.
The Bible says in Jeremiah 51:7 that the whole world is insane apart from God. The sinner lives in his make-believe world, thinking he is in the real world. No, he is not in the real world. Only the Christian knows anything about the real world. The insane live in the world of television soap operas, and rock concerts. They talk about their “reality” programs.” Actually they are living in sheer insanity. Many lost people spend their time in drinking and sexual immorality and drugs. They think they are living it up. Actually they are living in vanity.
The prodigal son came to this realization as he fought for his dinner with the pigs. It was then that his mind turned to his father. What did he know about his father? He knew he was wealthy and generous. He knew that his hired servants were treated well, eating good meals and getting paid more than enough. As he sat there in the pig pen stinking like the pigs and thinking of home, he realized that he had to return home to his father. His only alternative was to die of malnutrition and starvation. He knew his father was not vengeful; but that he was gracious and forgiving. He had observed that in his father all his life.
As he sat there dreaming of home and loved ones, he determined to go home and face his father and the consequences of his sinful rebellion. He had learned that those who walk in pride, God is able to abase. He was about a low as a person could be. He hoped that perhaps his father would be so kind as to give him a job as one of the hired servants. Perhaps over several years, he could be forgiven and get back into the good graces of his father. Perhaps over the years, he could earn enough money to repay his father for a squandered inheritance. So the young man, clothed in his filthy rags, started for home.
He had even memorized the speech of confession he would make to his father. “Father I have sinned against you and against God in Heaven. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Please, make me one of your hired servants?” His confession was genuine. It came from a heart that was broken with remorse for his sin. He deserved no intimacy with his father. He did not even deserve a room in the house. Perhaps there would be a bed for him out in the servant’s quarters. Like the Pharisees of that day and the self-righteous today, he thought that he could possibly work his way into the good graces of his father. That’s what dead religion is. It is attempting to gain favor with God through our good works and through the sacraments of the church.
What happened next was incomprehensible to the Pharisees and perhaps it will be difficult for you to grasp. His father had been going out on the road and watching for him to return. This had probably been going on for days, perhaps for weeks or months. Finally, one day the father caught a glimpse of someone off in the distance. As the traveler drew closer, he began to recognize that this was his lost son. What did he do?
Let me remind you what the father did not do. He did not wait for the wayward son to knock on his door. He did not send a servant to the door and coolly welcome him and tell him to go out to the servant quarters and find a bed for himself. The father did not think within himself, “I knew he would wake up and come home one of these days. Now let him go out to the servant quarters. Let him prove to me how faithful he can be and how hard he can work. Perhaps some day, I will forgive him and restore him as a second-class son. But he has blown it. Things can never again be as they once were. He has shamed and dishonored me. He wasted his inheritance. I have nothing left for him.”
No, that’s not what happened. He gathered up his robes and began to run towards him. Faster and faster he ran as his heart pounded for joy. The father ran to him and fell upon him giving him the biggest bear hug he had ever had. He fell on his neck and kissed him with kisses of acceptance and love. Notice that the prodigal son had not even said a word yet. The fact that he was coming home, spoke volumes to his father.
Remember the planned confession he had memorized? He started out to confess, “Father I have sinned against God and in your sight and am no more worthy to be called your son. “ That’s as far as he got. The father interrupted him. He called to his servants, “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him.” This was like a father’s tuxedo, used only on very special occasions. Put my ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. Bring out the fatted calf and roast it. We’re going to have a celebration tonight. Call the musicians. We’re going to have singing and dancing. This is going to be a night to remember, for this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and now is found.” And they began to be merry!
When this gracious, forgiving father had heard the son confess that he had sinned and was unworthy to be called his son, he had heard enough. He did not want to hear his son’s ideas of how he could perhaps earn favor with his father again through his works. He just wanted to pour out his love and grace on his son. The Apostle John in John 1:16 wrote about how God pours out his grace upon us, heaping grace upon grace. That’s what this father did. As soon as he heard his son’s confession, he had heard enough. He heaped his gracious gifts on his son: the restoration of full sonship, the beautiful robe, speaking of the robe of Christ’s righteousness, the signet ring that gave the son power and authority over his financial affairs, shoes on his feet. (Shoes were only worn by the family. The servants wore sandals or went bare-footed.)
The feasting and merriment had only begun. It only begins when we come as sinners to our Heavenly Father, trusting in the merits of Jesus’ shed blood as the full atonement for our sins. The merriment goes on forever and ever. Heaven is a place of eternal joy and celebration of God’s gracious gift of salvation.
It’s too bad the story can’t stop here on a happy note, but there is another son in the family and he is not so happy. We will deal with him in the next article.
It is impossible for anyone to live the Christian life unless he is a Christian. Only Christ can live the Christian life. Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” to describe the position of a Christian. Jesus used the same picture when He spoke to His disciples in the Upper Room just before He was crucified. In John 15:1-8 He pictures Himself as a grape vine and Christians as branches in that grape vine. “I am the true vine,… Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in Me.”
When we trust Christ as Saviour, He frees us from condemnation of God’s Law which we fail to keep perfectly and the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus, comes to live in us and enables us to live the righteousness of the Law as explained in Romans 8:1-4.
If we are not in Christ we stand condemned by God’s Law we have all broken. James 2:10 Romans 3:10, 23, 6:23. Without Christ’s Spirit living in us John 15;5 we cannot walk one step of the Christian life.
Earlier in our study of Galatians we saw that we cannot be saved by our works; that it is all by God’s grace. So Paul asks us in Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” The answer is, “Of course not!” Salvation is God’s work from start to finish. Receiving Christ is taking the first step by faith and trusting Him for salvation. Walking the Christian life is a matter of continuing to take one step at a time under the control of His Spirit.
Under the Old Covenant people were scared into obedience. “Obey My commands, or die.” Under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit produces obedience without fear and bondage. Hebrews 2:14-15
Can you imagine the joy of the prodigal son and his father as they gathered for the homecoming feast?
We come now to one sour note in this otherwise beautiful ending to a sad story; the negative response of the older brother. The prodigal’s older brother was missing from the festivities. He was still working out in the fields, fuming at all the love and attention that was being showered on his worthless younger brother and disgusted by his father whom he perceived to be an unfair, sentimental, forgiving “old man”.
First, let’s contrast those two brothers. The younger brother, known as the Prodigal Son, was self-willed, insisting on his freedom from all authority. He wasted his substance and his life and his search for freedom led him to the pig pen of despair. The older brother’s thought was, “He made his bed. Let him lie in it.”
The older brother was an obedient, hard working young man; but now he was ruining things for his father and others by his selfish, bitter, peevish, legalistic spirit. He had no compassion whatsoever for his prodigal brother. He felt only disgust and envy for all the attention his father was showering on his younger brother. To show his disgust he stayed out in the field working, attempting to impress his father with his faithfulness as a worker. Surely his attitude was dampening the joy of the celebration.
I remind you that Jesus has been teaching with his parables what it means to receive sinners and eat with them. That was what the Pharisees were murmuring about. So Jesus answered them with three stories: the joy of a shepherd finding his lost sheep, the joy of a woman finding a lost coin and now the joy of father finding and restoring his lost wayward son. All of these stories show God’s love for repentant sinners.
Now in this third story Jesus shows the hearts of these wicked, proud, self-righteous Pharisees who refused to rejoice with the restoration of lost sinners. The elder brother pictures the Pharisees who stood by suspiciously and angrily while Jesus ate with sinners.
As we proceed in our study of this story we are going to better understand the heart of Christianity. Is it a master/servant relationship or is it a father/son relationship? The older brother, like the Pharisees, had it wrong. Listen to the older brother. “For all these years I’ve been serving you.” “I’ve never neglected a command of yours.” He talked as one who had no comprehension of the father/son relationship. He represents one who perceives Christianity to be a master/servant relationship.
It’s true that every Christian ought to surrender his life to Christ and serve Him faithfully all his life; but that surrender and service should spring from a heart filled with love and gratefulness for our relationship with God as our Heavenly Father. Otherwise, our service originates from a sense of legalism and becomes drudgery. The motto of Columbia Bible College in Columbia, S.C. (now Columbia International University) is “To know Him and to make Him known.” That is the best and most complete motto and mission statement for a Christian that I have ever known. When I found my wife there over 53 years ago, I adopted that motto as my own. It set my purpose and direction as a preacher. If my concentration is on knowing Christ, my glad service will flow from that relationship. That takes all the legalism out of it. It’s a service of love. To emphasize only the service for Christ with Christians and ignore their relationship with Christ tends to produce self-righteous, legalistic Christians.
Let’s look a little closer at this older legalistic son. As the younger son could very well represent a backslidden Christian who has thrown off all restraints and is living as a heathen, so the older son could also represent a backslidden Christian who has no fellowship with his father because of his self-righteous, legalistic attitude.
I tend to believe that both boys represent Christians, rather than lost people, in that they are both sons. The only way one can become a son is to be born a son or adopted as a son. The only way you and I can become sons and daughters of God is to be born again through faith in Christ. So looking at this older son as a legalistic, self-righteous Christian, let’s describe him.
1 He fails to care about sinners or fallen Christians and tends to ignore them.
2. He is suspicious of new converts who have been saved or of backslidden Christians who have returned back to God and he is resentful of the attention given to them. He refuses to rejoice in their conversion and restoration because he feels he is being overlooked and is not being shown the appreciation he thinks he deserves for his faithful service.
3. He has no vital relationship with his Father God, nor with his family of believers. Notice in verse 30 how he refers to his brother as “When this son of yours came” instead of “When my brother came”. That statement shows a disdain for his brother. Because he is relating to his father in a servant/master relationship, rather than a father/son relationship, all his other relationships are ruined. Because he is so focused on LAW; he cannot grasp the concept of GRACE, nor show it in his relationships.
Note finally how the father deals in grace with his legalistic son. Verse 28 tells us that the father came out to the son. When he heard that his eldest son was angry and refused to join them at the feast, he did not send a servant out to persuade him. He did not shout from a distance. He did not command him. Rather he himself came out to his bitter son and dealt with him in grace just as he dealt with his prodigal son in grace. So Jesus came to save self-righteous, legalistic hypocrites as well as flagrant prodigals.
Notice in verse 28 and 29 that though the older son complained that his father had commanded him, the father is not commanding him, but entreating him. The father is not angry with his eldest son who is ruining the party; rather he is broken-hearted for his cold-heartedness. He entreats him just as the Apostle Paul entreats his brother Philemon concerning his dealing with his slave, Onesimus, in Paul’s Epistle to Philemon. The father addresses his bitter son as “son”. The son complained that his father had never given him a party when, in reality, all that he owned was his. The father reminded his eldest son, ” You are always with me.”
Why do we sometimes complain that we do not get all the rewards and glory that we think we deserve for our faithful service? It’s because we get our eyes off God’s grace and His glory and concentrate our gaze on ourselves. Many preachers or Christian workers have gone this route and in the closing years of their ministry ruined a life time of otherwise faithful service.
Jesus is entreating the Pharisees as he entreats us, whether prodigals or Pharisees,
“Come in from the far country, bankrupt, broken and ruined by sin.”
“Come in from your field of service, exhausted, burned-out and miserable because you don’t feel you have received what you believe you deserve” In the Father’s house is a banquet and in the words of Peter, there awaits for us “An inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, that fades not away. reserved in Heaven” for all who live by faith in God’s grace and not by attempting to gain merit through our own works.
The natural, unconverted man is at home in this world of sin. He thoroughly enjoys living in sin to please himself with no sense of guilt. He knows nothing at all about a struggle with his sinful flesh nature.
On the other hand, the Christian loves God and desires to please Him. A true Christian cannot enjoy sin. His guilty conscience makes him miserable and takes all the fun out of sin. A Christian is constantly living in tension with his sinful flesh nature. It never improves with age. Too many mature Christians have come crashing down because they underestimated the power of their sinful flesh nature. Though we Christians are in a constant process of sanctification, our fleshly nature will never be sanctified in this life. It will always be rotten to the core. We won’t be perfectly sinless until we have our new glorified bodies in Heaven.
Don’t confuse your body with your sinful flesh nature. There is nothing wrong with your body. It is fearfully and wonderfully made. Our bodies don’t cause us to sin; rather our sinful flesh nature takes control of our bodies and we sin.
In Romans 7 the great Apostle Paul describes the struggle of a Christian to do right, while at the same time being continually tempted to do wrong. As you read verses 14 through 25 it sounds as though you are listening to a crazy man who is almost beside himself in his struggles with right and wrong. This is the cry of a godly giant of a man.
He likens the sinful fleshly nature to a decaying corpse chained to his body. He cries out, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Then he concludes, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with my regenerated mind, I myself serve the Law of God, but with my flesh nature, the law of sin.” Or to put it another way, whenever self reigns I sin, but whenever Jesus reigns I live victoriously over sin.
Paul is teaching us here in Galatians 5:16-17 that we Christians live in constant tension between walking under the control of the Holy Spirit and giving in to the lusts of the flesh.
Whereas Old Testament saints struggled and often failed to live under God’s external code of Laws, we under the New Covenant discover that God’s Law is fulfilled internally in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit, according to Romans 8:1-4.
The Holy Spirit living within us convicts us and restrains us from doing wrong. If there is anything we don’t need it is legalism forced on us. The more legalism attempts to control us externally, the less room the Holy Spirit has to control us internally.
Let me caution you that living under the freedom of the Holy Spirit does not give us an excuse to indulge our fleshly passions. Listen to the axiom again in Galatians 5:16 “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
Attempting to live the Christian life by rules and regulations is plain old stinking Phariseeism.
Walking under the control of the Holy Spirit leads to freedom. (Galatians 5:1) holiness, (Galatians 5:16) and fruitfulness (Galatians 5:22)
Christians often blame Satan for their failures. Normally, Satan pays little attention to us because our more subtle enemy is our flesh nature. While some preachers are talking tough to the devil and commanding him in the name of the Lord, they are being distracted from their more dangerous enemy, the subtle flesh nature.
Romans 7:18 teaches us that there is nothing good about our flesh nature. Never trust it. Never put yourself in a situation where the flesh nature has an opportunity to express itself. Let us stay surrendered daily to the control of the Holy Spirit and He will give us His victory.
We become Christians by coming to God in our lost, sinful condition trusting His sacrifice on Calvary as full payment for our sins and believing that God raised Him from the dead for our justification.
We live the Christian life as we walk in obedience to His Word each day. The Christian life is more than standing up in a worship service looking up to Heaven with our arms stretched in the air, floating on a cloud of pious emotional feelings and calling attention to ourselves. The act of lifting our hands up to God in prayer, as I Timothy 2:8 teaches, is not a sin. I sometimes lift my hands to God in prayer in my private prayer life. However, the lifting up of holy hands describes a practical, down-to-earth walk of holiness, step by step, in the midst of a sin-cursed world. This walk ought to be our lifestyle and our testimony. If it isn’t, all our talk about loving and praising God and all our public displays of piety are vain hypocrisy.
The Christian walk ought to be worthy of the high calling as Christ’s saints. See Ephesians 4:1 and I Thessalonians 2:12. None of us feel worthy to call ourselves Christians. As salvation is all of God’s grace, so the ability to walk the Christian life continues to be of His grace. He enables us to walk worthy of that high calling as Colossians 1:10-12 teaches.
None of us have arrived yet and none of us will arrive until we are in Heaven, but Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:12-15 reminds us that we press on each day.
Specifically, we are to walk in love and humility Ephesians 4:2-3, in purity and honesty Romans 13:13-14, contentedly Philippians 4:11, and by faith and not by sight II Corinthians 5:7
Our walk is to be different from the lost all around us who walk in the vanity of their minds. Ephesians 4:17-32. We are to walk in love. Ephesians 5:2-7. We are to walk in the light of God’s Word Ephesians 5:8. We are to walk circumspectly, watching every step we take so that we don’t sink in the quick sand of a sinful world. Ephesians 5:15 and we are to walk in The Truth of God’s Word. III John 3-4.
God walked with some Old Testament saints, such as Enoch, Abraham and Moses. But we have it even better than they. He walks in and through us by His indwelling Holy Spirit. That brings us to our text in Galatians 5:16
What does it mean to walk by His Spirit?
Ephesians 5:18 compares the Holy Spirit to the influence of wine. As wine controls one who has drunk too much and causes Him to lose self control, so the Holy Spirit fills and controls us, giving us self-control.
Ephesians 5:19-21 shows us three evidences of that filling.
1. God puts a song in our hearts that enables us to rejoice in every circumstances and at all times.
2. God enables us to be filled with thanksgiving to Him for every situation in life.
3. God enables us to have a submissive heart towards Him and towards one another. We no longer need to have our own way to be happy.
The rest of the 5th and 6th chapter of Ephesians shows us how this Spirit filled life affects every relationship of our life: including with our spouse, with our children, and with our employer or employees at work.
Colossians 3:16-25 goes on to show us that being filled with God’s Word effects the same changes as being filled with the Spirit. That’s why we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, as we learn in II Thessalonians 2:13 and I Peter 1:2, and we are sanctified by His Word, as we learn in John 17:7. One who is filled with the Spirit is also one who is filled with His Word.