Two Greek words used to describe Christians are doulos and mathetes. Doulos, meaning a slave, is the second most common word describing Christians in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. The word occurs more than one hundred times, second only to mathetes, which means disciple. Most of our English translations of the New Testament translate the word doulos as servant, rather than slave for the word slave seems too extreme and perhaps politically incorrect.
Another Greek word, diakonos, is also translated servant. This word is used in the New Testament to refer to deacons, or servants of the church.
However, a doulos is lower in rank than a servant. A doulos is bought for a price and is bound to serve his master. We douloi, (plural for doulos) have been purchased by the shed blood of Christ. I Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us that we are bound for life to serve Christ. Romans 12:1-2 teaches us that to totally sacrifice our lives for Christ is our only reasonable service in the light of His extreme sacrifice for us.
The New Testament, especially Romans and Galatians, speaks repeatedly about our freedom in Christ. For the Jews, the freedom of which it speaks is freedom from the oppressive form of Judaism with all its rules and regulations that the Pharisees had placed upon the Jews. That oppression continues today for not only Jews, but multitudes of people around the world who live under the bondage of religion. Satan is a cruel taskmaster and false religions are his major tools with which he keeps his slaves in bondage to him.
When sinners come to Christ today and discover their freedom in Christ, it often tends to intoxicate them and carry them away from the purpose of that freedom, that of serving Christ. Instead, they think that their new-found freedom in Christ gives them freedom and license to continue in sin. They mistakenly believe their security in Christ which the Bible so clearly teaches in Romans 8, as well as other Scriptures, gives them freedom to selfishly indulge themselves in the lusts of the flesh without risking their salvation.
Peter warns us about misusing this new-found freedom in Christ in I Peter 2: 9-16. There he explains to us that we are a peculiar, purchased people who have been called out of the darkness and bondage of sin into the marvelous light of the Gospel to exhibit to the world a life of victory over sin. Yes, verse 16 tells us we live lives of freedom in Christ. We’re not in bondage to the rules and regulations of religion. We’ve found true freedom as douloi (slaves of Christ.)
In the following series of studies in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, you will read of Paul’s burden to free the Galatian church from those who were attempting to bring these young Christians back under the slavery of religion.
As we approach the Epistle to the Galatians, we begin a study of Freedom vs Legalism.
Freedom is perhaps the one over-powering desire above all desires that characterized our founding fathers. It was not security and it was certainly not the desire for the control of big government nor a state religion over us that has drawn us together as immigrants from around the world for the past four centuries; but the burning desire for freedom from governmental and ecclesiastical tyranny to pursue our dreams and happiness.
The Revolutionary War brought an end to British domination and taxation without representation and freed us to set up our own Republic with our own God-inspired Constitution. It is a masterpiece for sinners, complete with all its checks and balances.
It was not long before we awoke to the fact that as long as some of our citizens were slaves, we were not truly a free nation. It took the awful, bloody Civil War of brother fighting against brother to bring an end to slavery. Of course, that did not bring an end to racial intolerance. That has been the battle of the past century. Though the laws are now in place to ban racial discrimination, the only complete and permanent solution to this curse is a heart changed by the power of God. Notice, I did not say religion. Religion is a major cause of bondage and intolerance. However, when one meets Jesus Christ and is overwhelmed by His love for us, it spills out to others in genuine love and acceptance, regardless of whether if it is reciprocated.
Though our Constitution’s Bill of Rights declares our freedoms, the search for true freedom continues. Through the past 150 years, women have sought for and found their freedom to be equal with men, as they should be. In spite of the gains that they made in that struggle, many have lost a freedom and respect and joy that they once had being full-time wives and mothers, the most influential position in all the world.
“Free Love” “Flower Power”
The ’60’s was a decade of tremendous change in America. It was a decade when America was exchanging beauty for ugliness and law and order for anarchy. The Hippie movement clamored for freedom from The Establishment. They sought to change the world with “flower power” and “free love”. The abortionists fought and won their freedom to kill unwanted babies.
At the same time that hippies were seeking their freedom from the establishment, a movement for academic freedom was stirring among teachers. Over the years this so called “academic freedom” has been misused by some to force their far-out liberal agenda on unsuspecting students who want to prepare for life in the real world.
Certainly, as a pastor, I value the freedom to preach whatever I believe God leads me to preach from His Word. I loathe the thought of a preacher giving the people what he believes they want to hear. As an American citizen I value my freedom infinitely more than the financial security government provides me as a senior citizen. Lions and bears are secure in zoos, but they have no freedom to be what God created them to be.
It’s interesting, but sad, that though men boast about their freedom, most have never known nor experienced true freedom. In the articles to follow in this series, we will show from Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians that true freedom is found only in Christ Jesus.
Since the ’60’s man has been talking about the freedom of his “new morality”, but he has no idea that he is under the bondage of sin and Satan. He prides himself on his “free speech”, but unless he is a Spirit controlled Christian, the only freedom he has is to pour forth foolishness. Proverbs 12:23 “The heart of fools proclaims foolishness.” He claims he is for “free love” when actually it is just a cloak for selfishness and lust. As the Israelites were described in Exodus 1:14 and 2:23 living in bitter bondage as slaves down in Egypt, so Jesus describes the lost in John 8:34 as being in bondage to sin.
Man in the depths of his soul, knowing he is created by God and must one day face a holy God and be condemned for his sins, is incurably religious; as through fear of death he attempts to atone for his sins by the legalism of religious ceremony and good works. In Hebrews 2:14-15 we learn that Jesus, the Son of God, became flesh that He might die for our sins and deliver us from a lifetime of the fear of death and the bondage of vain religion.
THE BONDAGE OF THE CEREMONIAL LAW
Though Israel was freed from Egypt, they soon found themselves in bondage to a tedious, difficult to keep, ceremonial law. With its details about Sabbath keeping and animal sacrifices for sin and its many detailed laws and prohibitions, it became a heavy load for Israel to bear. Peter in Acts 15:10 counseled the early church to avoid putting this heavy load upon the gentile converts. “Now therefore, why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples (the gentile converts) which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
Old Testament saints, such as David, did not consider God’s laws as bondage. David said in Psalm 119:97 “Oh, how love I Thy Law. It is my meditation all the day.” What was he meditating on? He was meditating on the promised Messiah and Saviour who would one day come as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. The ceremonial Law wonderfully pictured that promised Redeemer. It was David’s faith in that promised Saviour that saved David and other Old Testament saints.
So it is with Christians in this New Testament Church Age. We who have trusted Christ for our righteousness love God’s moral law and desire to keep it, even though sometimes we fail and need to confess our sins and short-comings to God. I John 1 is a wonderful chapter to read and hide in our hearts. It shows us how to live a clean, pure life and what to do when we fail the Lord. Thank God, that according to II Corinthians 5:21 even though we keep God’s Law imperfectly, God sees us clothed in the perfect robe of Christ’s righteousness if we have put our trust in Him.
Old Testament Israel was promised God’s blessing in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 if they would keep God’s Law. They were also warned in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 and chapter 30 of God’s curse if they failed to keep it. That bondage of the Mosaic Law continued until Jesus died on the cross and the veil in the Temple was supernaturally torn in two from top to bottom, signaling the end of the Old Testament ceremonial system. Christ is now the fulfillment of God’s Law of Righteousness and all who put their trust in Him are declared righteous through God’s act of justification fully explained in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.
For unbelieving Israel, as well as for every gentile who rejects Christ as Messiah and Saviour, the bondage of legalism continues, as Jesus explained in John 8:32-36. Those unbelieving Jews in Paul’s day were the Judaizers who followed him wherever he preached the Gospel. They insisted that the new converts needed to continue living under the Law of Moses, thus confusing the young Christians. These were the enemies of the Gospel and the enemies of Paul who tried to destroy him and his influence over the people wherever he went. You will read of Paul’s struggle with them, especially in Galatians and I and II Corinthians. They did everything they could to try to destroy Paul’s reputation and influence over the early Church. They even stoned him on one occasion, leaving him for dead; but he recovered and continued his difficult ministry plagued by their opposition.
THE BONDAGE OF CARNALITY
To be carnal is to be controlled by our sinful flesh nature rather than by the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer. It is to quench and reject the conviction of the Spirit when we do wrong. It is to say yes to Satan and no to God. It is an extremely dangerous position for the Christian and he is subject to serious consequences in this life. To be controlled by the flesh and Satan is to be in bondage to the world system, our flesh nature and Satan himself. In Galatians 1:4 Paul declares that he is writing his Epistle to deliver us from the oppression, domination and power of this present evil world system.
The carnal Christian, though bought with the price of Christ’s blood, continues to live his life as though Christ did not matter. He boasts of “his freedom in Christ to do whatever he pleases” but he is actually attempting to live his life in freedom from Christ and from His Word, the Bible. He wants nothing to do with Bible preaching that cuts against his grain and he seeks preachers who give him what he wants to hear. He hasn’t the foggiest idea of Christ’s deliverance from sin. Preachers who preach this diluted, weak gospel are described in II Peter 2.
Is a carnal Christian saved? No one but God knows for sure. Titus 1:16. It is our responsiblity to so live for Christ that we give no one any reason for questioning our salvation. Read II Peter 1:1-11 on this.
Recorded in John 8:32 and 36 Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees and to us says, “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free… If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Jesus is declaring that true freedom is only found in knowing Him through His Word, the Bible. To ignore and reject Jesus and His truth, is to remain in bondage to sin and Satan.
What prompted the Apostle Paul to write to the Galatians about freedom? In Acts 13 and 14 we learn that Paul and his missionary partner Barnabas had evangelized the Galatian area, establishing churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia. On their return trip to Jerusalem, they returned to these churches, spending more time strengthening each of them.
Judaizers, who followed Paul wherever he went, were misleading the people; insisting that these young gentile Christians needed to be circumcised and keep the Jewish ceremonial law, including observance of the Sabbath.
This problem came to a head and forced the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem to settle this issue once and for all. That summit meeting is recorded in Acts 15. After listening to all sides, James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, concluded that these gentile believers in Christ did not have to observe the Jewish ceremonial law, including circumcision and the Sabbath observance. This did not stop the Judaizers who continued their vicious attacks against Paul throughout his life.
Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians to deal with three things. In chapter 1 and 2 he established his credentials as a true Apostle of Christ. In chapters 3 and 4 he established grace alone as the only way of salvation. In chapters 5 and 6 he makes it clear that Christians saved by grace are not only delivered from this present evil world system; but because we have Christ, we no longer need the ceremonial law. It was our school master to bring us to Christ. Now that we are Christians, the school master is no longer needed.
I challenge you to trust Christ and cling to Him and reject anyone who would attempt to teach you any further requirements to be a true Christians. Jesus and His Word is all you need. If you are trusting Christ alone for salvation, His Holy Spirit lives in your heart. You need not seek for Him, nor for any experience with the Holy Spirit. If you are surrendered to Christ, His Spirit will fill (control) you. If you will feed on His Word, the Bible; His Spirit will affirm when you are hearing truth and will warn you when you are hearing error.
The Truth of God’s Word will bring you freedom. The error of Satan will bring you into bondage. My prayer is that this web site will help you recognize truth from error so that you can experience the full freedom Christ offers you. For more on The Sabbath, go to my SABBATH link on this site.
A man was working in his garage. He was the kind of person who did not like to be interrupted while working on a project. Knowing this, his wife walked into the garage and stood quietly at his side for several minutes, waiting for the proper time to speak.
At last her husband looked up, the signal that she was now free to say what was on her mind. Very calmly, without a trace of panic, she said, “The house is on fire.”
There definitely is a time to ignore the customary polite social graces and bluntly sound the alarm in an emergency.
This was one of those crisis times for Paul. False teachers were constantly confusing and corrupting the young converts in the Galatian region whom Paul had won to Christ. So Paul begins his Epistle to the Galatians by getting right to the point. Listen to him as we read Galatians 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him who called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel: which is not another; but there are some who would trouble you and pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel unto you other than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. We’ve warned you before. Let me warn you again. If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which you received from us, let him be accursed.”
The Apostle Paul was constantly being hounded by the Judaizers from Jerusalem who were trying to bring his converts back into the legalism of Judaism. They tried to kill Paul by stoning him at Lystra, but God strengthened him to escape and recover.
The major approach the Judaizers used was to try to discredit Paul by claiming he was not a true Apostle of Christ. After all, Paul was not one of the twelve Apostles that had walked with Christ and learned from Him before His crucifixion and resurrection.
Nevertheless, Paul was a special called Apostle of Christ. He had met the risen Christ who confronted him on the road to Damascus. The story of his conversion is found in Acts 9 and it is exciting to say the least. The Lord Jesus gave him three years of intensive training in the deserts of Arabia concerning the Gospel of the grace of God and personally called and commissioned him to be His Apostle to the Gentiles. He had just as much authority as Peter or any of the other Apostles. Furthermore, his Gospel of Grace, inspired of God, fit in perfectly into the inspired Scriptures. So when you read Paul’s writings you are reading Scripture that has just as much authority as anything that Jesus taught in the Gospels. Why? Because Paul received his Gospel directly from Jesus.
Those false teachers who despise Paul’s Gospel of grace today, are as dangerous as the Judaizers who tried to discredit Paul and his inspired writings.
The Roman Catholic view is that The Church wrote the Bible and these apostles who wrote were servants of The Church. Therefore, they reason, anything that The Church taught in the past or is teaching today has as much weight and authority as the Bible itself. That includes the traditions passed down through the centuries.
However, Paul was not an apostle of the Church. He was an Apostle of the risen Lord Jesus Christ TO the Church. So when Paul wrote by inspiration of God, the Gospel of Grace in Romans and Galatians and other Epistles, he was teaching the Gospel of Christ.
Paul taught in Galatians 1:3-4 that the Gospel is found in Christ and with that Gospel is found true freedom from sin and from the corruption of this present evil world system.
In that Gospel is found freedom from the curse of the Mosaic Law according to Galatians 3:13. Jesus took that curse for us by hanging on “the tree” (the cross).
In that Gospel is found freedom from the power of our sinful self nature, we learn in Galatians 5:13. The fifth chapter goes on to teach how Christians can walk under the control of Christ’s Spirit and thus find deliverance from the power of the flesh nature.
Of course, no Christian lives the Christian life perfectly, I John 1 teaches us. However, as we confess our sins to God, He forgives us and cleanses us, restoring the fellowship that was broken by sin, and enables us to walk in obedience to Him.
God help us to be grounded in the doctrine of salvation so that we bring glory to God by our lives. May God protect us from ever being led astray by a false teacher or even by an angel who would appear to us and pervert the Gospel of Christ. May we be anchored firmly in the Gospel of God’s grace that delivers from the power and the consequences of sin.
The problem of false doctrine creeping into the church will always continue to require constant vigilance and exposure to the end of the Church Age. Because such preaching is considered unloving and judgmental, it is rare today. Hence, false teachers continue to proliferate in these last days, just as Paul warned in many of his epistles, including II Timothy 3:13 and 4:1-5.
Paul had a deep jealousy and fear for the Church. II Corinthians 11:1-15. He was also amazed and shocked how quickly the Galatian Church was abandoning his Gospel of Grace by being drawn into the confusion of trusting law and grace for salvation. Such a gospel is no gospel at all. Instead it is deadly poison. Take a glass of pure water and add only one drop of deadly poison and the entire glass of water becomes deadly poison. It is perverted and kills. That was the problem in the Galatian church.
Satan, our chief enemy, is behind all this false doctrine. His methods of working in the church are exposed in II Corinthians 11:3, 13-15. He was at work in Old Testament times as Jeremiah 5:30-31 describes. Jesus predicted false teachers during His ministry on earth as mentioned in Matthew 24:24. The spirit of Anti-Christ has been at work in this world for 2000 years. This arch enemy of Christ will one day be revealed and rule on this earth. See II Thessalonians 2:9-12 Revelation 12:9 and 13:4 to learn what lies ahead for this earth.
Though there are false prophets and false religions on this earth, our enemy is not man; but Satan himself. Nothing less than the whole armour of God as listed in Ephesians 6 can equip us for battle with Satan.
Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18 that as the Church moves forward, nothing, not even Satan himself, can stop the church in its forward advance. We are promised that Satan will be destroyed under our feet shortly. Genesis 3:15 and Romans 16:20
The primary target of all false teaching is the person of Jesus Himself. To deny His deity as the second person of the Godhead, or to deny his humanity when He walked on this earth, or to deny the value of His shed blood as the full atonement for our sins, or to deny His bodily resurrection from the dead, is a denial of Christ and is the most dangerous of all doctrinal perversions. We can be wrong about many doctrines of the Bible and still be saved and go to Heaven; but one who denies the doctrine of Christ is lost and hell bound. Read the vital importance of the doctrine of Christ in the short, one chapter Epistle at the end of the New Testament just before The Revelation. Read II John 7-11 Read it and obey it!
Read Galatians 1:6-9 and you will see that any gospel that perverts the Gospel of Christ is no gospel at all. False teachers don’t modify the Gospel. They nullify and destroy it.
Don’t be deceived by miracle workers. Though miracles were signs of the authenticity of the Apostles in the first century, they are all gone now. Miracles today do not prove that a preacher is of God. Satan and his false teachers will be working miracles and deceiving people in the end times. See Revelation 20:2-3 21:8 and 22:15.
The only test of the genuine is the Word of God. Test everything you read or hear by the Word of God. Be like the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11. Do not accept a false teacher as a brother in Christ, no matter how sweet his smile and how warm his personality. They are cursed of God. Christians are to have no fellowship with those who are accursed of God. Read Galatians 1:6-9 again.
God’s people do not touch nor have fellowship with that which is accursed of God. Read the story of the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6:17-19 After the supernatural fall of Jericho, God warned Israel to stay away from it and not touch anything in the city. Achan, chose to disobey God and hid some valuable things from the city in the floor of his tent. In Joshua 7:1, 10-26 we learn of the consequences of Achan’s disobedience. He and his family were stoned to death for that sin.
Pastors and elders are warned in Acts 20:17, 28-31 and Romans 16:17-18 to fulfill two major responsibilities in a church.
1. Feed the flock God’s Word
2. Expose doctrinal error and false teachers.
Everything else that goes on in a church is subordinate to these primary responsibilities.
How is your church doing in these two areas?
Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, an enemy of Christ to the extreme. Though highly educated and intelligent, he was like a madman in his hatred of Christ and Christians. If you and I had lived back then, we would have considered him the chief enemy of the Church, hopelessly lost with no possibility of ever being saved. Like a mad dog, he was rabid with rage against Christians, seeking them out and imprisoning them. No human being could have ever reached him. The risen Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, had to personally confront him and knock him out. That He did as Paul was traveling to Damascus to seek out more Christians to persecute.
A blinding light like a bolt of lightning hit him and knocked him to the ground. He was temporarily blinded and could not stand up. Acts 9 describes this event.
The Risen Christ spoke, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”
Saul, recognizing that whoever this was, He was LORD. replied, “Who art Thou, Lord?”
The voice identified Himself, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (or the ox goading). Jesus was referring to the conviction of the Holy Spirit he felt ever since he witnessed the death of the martyr, Stephen. This is described in Acts 7.
Saul not only received Christ as His Saviour, but He immediately surrendered to Christ as his Lord and began to live for Christ and serve Him with the same intensity with which he had hated Him and persecuted Christians before his conversion. His conversion is recorded in several other places, including Acts 22:1-15, 26:9-23, Galatians 1:11-24 and Philippians 3:1-14.
Acts 9:10-31 describes some other interesting details that followed his conversion, including his introduction to the Christians he had been persecuting. I encourage you to read those. Try to put yourself in Ananias’ shoes. Would you have been willing to do what he did?
Saul, who almost immediately became known as Paul, (Acts 13:9) was led by Christ into Arabia where the risen Saviour personally gave him three years of concentrated teaching of Himself and His wonderful salvation. When Christ was finished with him, Paul had a clear, logical, organized understanding of the Christian Faith and was later able to write his Epistle to the Romans with its masterful, organized explanation of what it means to be a Christian.
Because the risen, glorified Christ had personally taught Paul, Christ appointed him to be His Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was just as qualified to be an Apostle as Christ’s twelve with whom He had spent three years prior to His crucifixion.
Now that Paul was saved and on fire for Christ, he was no longer an ally of Satan, but now he was a chief enemy of Satan. From now on he would feel the fury of Satan.
The Judaizing teachers followed Paul wherever he preached and attempted to undermine his ministry by defaming him and corrupting his message of salvation through the grace of God, apart from works.
Paul countered their attacks by defending his Apostleship in Galatians chapters 1-2. After all, if Paul was not a true Apostle, as his enemies charged, then they were right in warning young Christians to reject Paul’s teaching.
Paul also countered their attacks by defending his message of salvation through the grace of God in chapters 3-4. The Judaizers were insisting that Christians must continue to observe the Old Testament ceremonial system taught to Israel. All of that, of course, was a picture of Christ, who was the fulfillment of the ceremonial system.
Paul also countered their false teaching by explaining that the Christian life is lived through the control of the Spirit of God and not through the works of the flesh nature. This is taught in Galatians chapters 5-6.
Note, that ultimately it was not Paul who changed his mind about Christ and finally decided to follow Him. According to Galatians 1:15-16 God chose Paul while he was yet in his mother’s womb. God, knowing the end from the beginning, reached down to Paul and conquered him. He who had been the chief enemy of the Church now became a most ardent missionary evangelist and church builder.
God has always called His servants from birth. Not only Saul of Tarsus, as we saw in Galatians 1:15, but John the Baptist was also called from his mother’s womb according to Luke 1:15. We learn in Isaiah 49:5 that Isaiah was called from birth; as was the prophet Jeremiah, as we see in Jeremiah 1:5.
The purpose of God’s election and calling according to Galatians 1:24 is always that God; not His servants, may be glorified.
The Judaizers dogged Paul’s footsteps wherever he went. No sooner did Paul win people to Christ, when they were right behind him, poisoning his converts with their legalism, insisting that the young Christians needed to be circumcised and follow all the ceremonial law, including the observance of the Feast Days and Sabbaths; otherwise, they could not be good Christians. These false teachers attempted to discredit Paul’s apostleship. If they could discredit his apostleship, then they could discredit his message.
Liberals today still use that approach. They tell us that only the teachings of Jesus matter; that Paul’s Epistles were just his own opinions and that he was somewhat extreme and out of sync with Christ. If that is so, then the whole Bible is not inspired; only that which the reader considers inspired. If Paul’s writings are not inspired, then His Gospel of grace is not to be trusted. Paul’s Epistles are just as inspired of God as the four Gospels. In fact, the plan of salvation, including the doctrine of justification and sanctification, is most clearly taught in his epistles, especially Romans. If we cannot trust Paul’s Epistles as inspired of God, then we have no salvation and we are of all men most miserable.
Since Paul was not one of the original twelve Apostles, his enemies were claiming he was not a true apostle. The false teachers were claiming they alone from the mother church in Jerusalem were the true servants of God. They claimed Paul went to Jerusalem to be corrected by the Apostles. Galatians 2:2 declares that he went to Jerusalem by revelation of God.
Who sent Paul out in the first place? Acts 13:1-4 tells us the Church of Antioch, led by the Holy Spirit, commissioned Paul as a missionary to the Gentiles. Here in Galatians, as well as throughout his Epistles, Paul defended his apostleship.
In Galatians 1:10-25 Paul recalled the events immediately following his conversion, emphasizing that he did not secure his information and understanding of salvation from the Apostles. He received his spiritual training from the risen Christ Himself out in the Arabian desert for three years.
In Galatians 2:1-10 Paul describes the events that took place as recorded in Acts 15 when he joined the Apostles in Jerusalem to settle some important matters concerning what it meant for a gentile to be a Christian. Notice that in Gal. 2:2 Paul communicated to the Apostles the Gospel that he preached and in verse 9 the Apostles, including Peter, James and John, gave him their blessing. In Acts 15:12 Paul rehearsed the miracles and wonders that confirmed his ministry as an Apostle.
To further strengthen his position before the Jewish leaders of the Church in Jerusalem, and to show that gentiles no longer needed to be circumcised to be good Christians, Paul mentions in Galatians 2:3 that he took Titus with him to the council meeting. Titus, a gentile Christian and a future pastor, was not circumcised; nor was he compelled by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to be circumcised. What a powerful victory this was for Paul as he opposed the Judaizers in Galatia and other gentle areas. The Judaizers in Galatia had insisted that circumcision was necessary to be a Christian. The Jewish leaders of the Church in Jerusalem decided it was not necessary. What a victory that was for Paul against his enemies.
Read in Acts 15:7-11 what Peter said at that Council meeting concerning Cornelius, Peter’s first gentile convert to Christianity. These are lessons the risen Saviour had personally taught Peter in the events of Acts 10.
Notice also in Galatians 2:4-5 that these false teachers were also at the Council in Jerusalem. The passive voice is used. They were smuggled in to that council meeting by Satan himself to do whatever damage they could for the cause of Christ. Read in Acts 20:29-30 and II Corinthians 11:13-15 how false teachers operate.
Read in Acts 15:7-11 Peter’s conclusions concerning the true Gospel that needed to be preached to the gentiles. Read in verse 12-21 the conclusion of James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Read in verse 22 the unanimity of the entire council concerning this matter.
The conclusion for us today is that anyone who is trusting in any good works or any church ceremony to be saved is not saved. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in what Jesus accomplished by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross and by His resurrection from the dead. He paid the penalty for our sins in full. If you are trusting in Him alone, you are saved. If you are trusting in Him plus trusting in the observances of some or all of the ceremonial law of God, you are still lost in your sins. Anyone who insists that other things; such as Sabbath observance, observance of Old Testament feasts, or the rite of circumcision is necessary to be a true Christians, is a false teacher to be avoided.
Since the beginning of time there have always been only two religions: God’s truth as given to us in the Bible and Satan’s lie. False religion is man’s self-effort to try to be worthy of Heaven through religious ceremony, or through efforts to be righteous by following the example of Christ or some other religious leader. True religion teaches the righteousness that is imputed to sinners by God’s grace through faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on Calvary‘s cross. Only one who has come as a sinner to Christ and put His faith in Him for salvation can begin the journey of becoming Christ-like.
These two religions are first contrasted for us in Genesis 4 where we read the story of Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s first two sons. As you read the story you will see Cain, a farmer, bringing an offering of his produce to God. Abel, a shepherd, brings a lamb. God rejects Cain’s offering and accepts Abel’s sacrifice. Why?
The need for the blood sacrifice of an innocent lamb to atone for our sins is taught throughout the Old Testament. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God slew animals, possibly lambs, as a sacrifice for their sins and clothed them with the skins of the animals. Read this account in Genesis 3. The truth of the necessity of a blood sacrifice of an innocent lamb was no doubt taught to their children.
Cain in his pride and self-righteousness, saw no need for a lamb. Abel saw that need and made the sacrifice. Cain could have traded produce for a lamb from Abel and made the required sacrifice, but he refused. His evil heart led to the murder of his brother, as we learn in Genesis 4 and I John 3:12.
False religion fosters pride of attainment. True religion fosters humility and poverty of spirit and a hunger for God’s righteousness, according to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5
According to Hebrews 10:1-10, the Old Testament animal sacrifices in themselves did not take away sin. They only pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ who would one day come into the world as the Lamb of God who would die for our sins. So it wasn’t faith in the animal sacrifices themselves, but faith in the coming Saviour, pictured by the animal sacrifices that made people right with God.
The Old Testament heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 are a representation of the minority of those Old Testament saints who looked forward to the coming Saviour. To offer animal sacrifices without faith in the coming Saviour was vain and hypocritical, as God explained through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 29:13. Malachi also wrote about the hypocrisy of religious people who went through the motions of the Old Testament ceremonial system with no love for God.
When we get into the New Testament we see the same majority of Israelites following the leadership of the Pharisees who led the people in empty, vain hypocritical religion that rejected Christ.
But always, down through history in both Old Testament times as well as New Testament times. there has always been a minority remnant of Israelites who trusted and worshipped God. See I Kings 19:1-18 and Romans 11:1-5 concerning this remnant. Other Old Testament references to this remnant include: Isaiah 1:1-9, Jeremiah 23:3-6, Ezekiel 6:7-8, Amos 5:15, Micah 2:12, Haggai 1:12-14, Zechariah 8:9-13, and Malachi 3:16-18.
As we open the New Testament we find a samplings of God’s faithful remnant; including Joseph and Mary, Zacharias and Elizabeth and their son, John the Baptist. There is Simeon and Anna in the temple, eleven of Jesus’ disciples, Mary, Martha and Lazarus and other true followers of Christ. Then there is the Apostle Paul and the church continuing down to the present. Always through history Christ has had His faithful remnant, a small minority of those who trust in Christ alone for salvation, in contrast to the masses who go down Satan’s broad religious road towards destruction. Read Jesus’ warning of this in Matthew 7.
The title of this article is “The Error of the Judaizers”. What’s this about? The name, Judaizers, is not even found in the Bible. However, we see them as the chief enemies of the Apostle Paul as he evangelizes and builds churches throughout the known world.
Though you do not read the word Judaizers, you see them described as Paul’s enemies in Galatians 1:6-7, 2:4 3:1 5:1,12 as well as in II Corinthians 11:12-23 and Acts 20:28-31. In Philippians 3:2 they are designated as “the concision”; that is, those who cut or circumcise, but without faith in Christ. The Judaizers were those who tried to bring the early Christians back under the bondage of the Old Testament Ceremonial Law.
Prior to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Paul), was the chief Judaizer. He hated Christ and Christians and was the chief persecutor of the early church. After his conversion to Christ, those same people came after Paul to try to kill him. They did all they could to try to destroy his credibility and influence, and corrupt the doctrine that he taught, doctrine that he had been given directly by the risen Christ.
Throughout Galatians, as well as in some of Paul’s other Epistles, he dealt with the Judaizers and their false gospel, which was no gospel at all. They and their kin have corrupted God’s message and have persecuted God’s messengers since the beginning of time and under different names and they will continue to perpetrate their evil work until the end of time.
True religion that saves from the penalty and power of sin comes only through faith in the shed blood of Christ on the cross. This true religion was carried out in the Old Testament through the shedding of the blood of animal sacrifices, a type of the blood that would be shed by Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
Those sacrifices were made by true Old Testament believers who looked for the coming Saviour. You can read about their faith in the promised Saviour in Hebrews 11.
False religion, on the other hand, went through the motions of offering animal sacrifices, but there was no faith in the coming Saviour, nor was there any desire for Him nor concern for their sins. To offer those sacrifices and observe all the ceremonial law with no concern about sin and no desire to be right with God, was sheer hypocrisy.
Paul shares his testimony in many places in Scripture, but perhaps the passage that shows the greatest contrast is in Philippians 3. In the first six verses Paul describes his heart as a Judaizer before he met Christ and contrasts the difference that Christ made when he became a Christian in verses 7-14.
Paul’s ministry was that of evangelizing and teaching God’s Word to the converts and warning them of the dangers of the Judaizers; those going through the formality of Judaism and rejecting faith in Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians in response to the attacks of the Judaizers as they attempted to destroy his influence, corrupt the doctrine he preached, and bring his converts under the bondage of having to observe the ceremonial law of the Old Testament.
So today a Bible preacher’s responsibility, as found in II Timothy 4:1-5, is to preach the Word, evangelize the lost, build up saints in the Word and warn them of false teachers and their false doctrine.
About five hundred years ago, Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses against the error of the Roman Catholic Church and nailed them to the door of the WittenbergChurch. When Luther was called before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms (pronounced Vorms) he hoped to defend his position. Charles insisted that he recant. Instead, the story goes that Luther spoke his famous words, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.” Luther asserted that his conscience was captive to the Word of God and that he could not go against conscience. Already excommunicated by Rome, Luther stood for the Word of God. He continued, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason, for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves; I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.
Since the beginning of the Fundamentalist Movement over a century ago, the phrase,”Taking a stand” has been used to describe one who courageously stands on a Biblical doctrine which is under attack by the Liberals. It is a Biblical term. In Ephesians 6:11-13 twice Paul urges Christians to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Again in II Thessalonians 2:15 Christians are urged to stand fast by the traditions Paul had taught or written to them. This is not a command to follow church traditions. Rather, Paul, an Apostle personally taught by Christ, wrote and spoke by inspiration of God. We are to follow the infallible Word of God as taught by the Apostle Paul as well as the other Apostles.
The doctrines designated as the Fundamentals of the Faith include:
The verbal, plenary (meaning entire and complete) inspiration of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation
By that we mean that God breathed His very words into the minds of the human authors of the biblical manuscripts so that, using their own vocabularies and styles of writing, they wrote without error: including doctrine, history, science or wisdom for life. The Bible is absolutely pure and trustworthy as the very Word of God.
The deity and trinity of God. God is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The accuracy and veracity of all the miracles listed in the Bible including:
the creation of the world in six twenty-four hour days,
the world wide flood in Noah’s day that covered the entire earth and drowned every air breathing person and animal, except for the survivors on Noah’s ark and
the resurrection of Christ’s body from the dead after three days and three nights in the tomb. For a solution to that supposed “three day, three night” problem, go to the article on “Jesus, Our Passover”, under the RESURRECTION category.
the virgin birth of Christ, which made possible Jesus’ deity as well as His full humanity.
Christ’s blood atonement There is no salvation from sin apart from faith in His shed blood.
Christ bodily resurrection from the dead and His ascension back to Heaven.
Salvation by the grace of God, apart from our works, through faith in Jesus shed blood alone
His bodily return to this earth in power and great glory to set up His kingdom and judge the world
Heaven and Hell, the eternal abode of the saved and the lost
There is no salvation except in the God of the Bible. The one who claims to be saved, but denies the truth of God’s Word is not saved. If he denies these truths as a Bible teacher, he is a false teacher under the condemnation of God. On the Fundamentals of the Faith there is no room for compromise. We must take a stand for these.
On everything in the Bible, but the fundamentals of the faith, there is room for differences of interpretation and opinion. On such issues we may remain seated. We may discuss and debate them; but we must not divide the church over them.
Those who hold to the Fundamentals of the Faith are commanded to have no fellowship nor attempt to serve God in cooperation with those who deny these Fundamentals. See my series on SEPARATION for more on this topic.
However, we are encouraged to have fellowship with those with whom we differ with doctrinally, as long as those differences do not extend to the Fundamentals of the Faith.
Years ago, our oldest son, who had graduated from BobJonesUniversity, wrote his younger brother who was still a student there. In his letter he counseled him to “know when to stand up and when to sit down” on issues. That is, know what is worth fighting for and know the areas that are not worth a fight.
This brings us to Galatians 2:11-21 and a doctrinal conflict where the Apostle Paul had to stand up to the Apostle Peter over a major Fundamental of the Faith. Peter, one of the leading apostles, went to Troas where he met Paul and some of his gentile converts. There he enjoyed fellowship with these converts by sharing a meal with them.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door and who should appear but some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem. Peter was embarrassed and chagrined to be caught eating and enjoying fellowship with these gentile Christians.
He did a shameful, cowardly thing. He withdrew himself from the gentiles, not wanting the Jewish leaders to see him enjoying fellowship with gentiles. He feared what those Jewish leaders would think of him. Peter’s example caused other Jews: including Paul’s missionary friend Barnabas, as well as some others to join with Peter in this shameful, cowardly act.
Paul, in righteous indignation, immediately confronted Peter publicly and said in my paraphrased words of Galatians 2:14 “Peter, if you being a Jew are now living as a Christian Gentile in freedom from the Jewish ceremonial laws, why are you compelling the Gentiles by your example to live their lives as Jews under the ceremonial laws?
How did the Apostle Peter take this rebuke from the Apostle Paul? Evidently he was humbled and repented of his duplicity. Evidently there was no broken fellowship with Paul. Later on Peter referred to the Apostle Paul in II Peter 3:15 as “our beloved brother Paul” and referred to the wisdom God had given him in the writing of his epistles.
May God help us to know when to stand for a doctrinal issue and when to sit and avoid conflict over lesser issues that are not worth a fight.
As we focus our attention on Galatians 2:14-21 in this article, we can see the Christian life can be summarized in two verses in this passage. Galatians 2:16 teaches us that we are justified by faith in Christ. That is, we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and made fit for Heaven through His blood sacrifice on the cross and by His resurrection. The second major truth is found in verse 20. We are sanctified or enabled to live a holy life through surrender of our bodies to Christ. He lives His life in us through His indwelling Holy Spirit.
Satan hates that message
He fights it wherever he can. Satan used the Judaizers to fight Paul wherever he went as they attempted to corrupt his message and confuse his converts. They denied Paul’s authority as an Apostle, replacing his authority with their own authority. They denied his message of salvation by grace alone apart from works and they replaced it with a false message of salvation by works. They denied his message of liberty in the Holy Spirit and replaced it with their message of legalism.
Previously we dealt with Peter’s duplicity at Antioch when he, who knew and preached the Gospel of the grace of God, just as Paul and the other Apostles did, frustrated that Gospel by caving in to the pressures of some of the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem. You remember that Paul confronted him about it and rebuked him publicly before the others. Peter’s life was contradicting the message that he preached.
Paul’s gracious, straight forward correction of Peter
Now here beginning in verse 16 of Galatians 2 Paul summarizes the Gospel of Grace and further shows Peter how inconsistent he is being. Notice in verse 17 that Paul uses the pronoun “we” to refer to Peter and himself. Both of them were Jewish Christians who had been justified by faith in Christ. He was recognizing Peter as a true preacher of the Gospel along with himself. But in verse 21 he was reminding Peter that to put himself back under the Jewish ceremonial laws of the Old Testament as a New Testament Christian was to frustrate the gospel he was preaching.
Jesus, a Minister of Sin?
In verse 17 he shows Peter that by his duplicity he is implying that the Judaizers are correct in insisting on the observance of the ceremonial laws and those who do not keep those laws are sinners and false teachers. Worse yet, if the observance of the ceremonial laws is necessary to be a good Christian, then JESUS is a minister of sin for teaching that Jews and Gentiles are one body in Christ and that the ceremonial observances of the Sabbaths and the Jewish feast days and the abstaining from certain meats are no longer necessary for Jews and Gentiles whose faith is in Christ. Can you imagine how Peter must have been feeling by this time?
The Essence of Legalism
John Piper gives an excellent illustration of the purpose of God’s laws. Picture the Old Testament Law of God as a railroad track with its two rails and cross ties upon which the nation Israel was to travel, led by the engine of God’s grace and coupled to the engine by faith.
Even today, Christians in this Age of Grace are saved to live in obedience to God. So, as Christians, we also travel down that track of God’s moral law, pulled by the engine of God’s grace and coupled to Him by faith. Of course, this way of salvation by the grace of God apart from our works is not a popular message and the natural man rejects it. So did the Judaizers of Paul’s day reject it. Instead, they took that railroad track, so to speak, and lifted up one end and leaned it against the door of Heaven as a ladder. The railroad ties became the steps in the ladder for us to climb our way into Heaven by attempting to keep God’s Law. That is the very essence of Legalism! Legalism is making God’s Law a long list of steps which we must climb to demonstrate our moral fitness to attain Heaven.
That was Peter’s duplicity. He preached salvation by grace as Paul did, but he contradicted what he preached by the way he lived and so frustrated the grace of God. Peter by his actions was building that ladder again that had been torn down. He was guilty of what verse 18 says, “Building again the things which the Gospel of Grace had destroyed.”
To attempt to justify myself before God and make myself fit for Heaven through my feeble attempts to keep the Law of God is to reject Jesus as my Saviour who has already kept it perfectly and paid the penalty for my failure to measure up to its high standards. It is to frustrate the Gospel of God’s grace.
The doctrinal explanation of Galatians 2:20 is found in Romans chapters 6-8 where Paul explains sanctification.
Romans starts out with the bad news that I, along with every member of the human race, am a sinner; condemned and under the wrath of God. As Romans 5:12-18 explains, we inherited our sinful nature from our first father, Adam.
As sinners, we have broken God’s Laws and must pay the penalty of eternal death in hell. See Romans 3:10, 23, and 6:23 Revelation 20:11-15
Since I am a helpless sinner, I can do absolutely nothing to save myself.
Since God is loving and gracious, He has devised His own plan of salvation, by coming down to earth in the person of Jesus. Through faith in the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the tomb for my sins, He has declared me perfectly righteous and fit for Heaven. This is all explained in Romans 3-5, and summarized in II Corinthians 5:21. It is also stated in our text, Galatians 2:20
In Romans 3-5 the truth of Justification is explained and the key word is SUBSTITUTION. As lambs in Old Testament times were offered as substitutes for payment for sin, so in the fullness of time God sent His Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, to pay the full payment for the sins of the world. Those who receive Him as Saviour are given the Gift of Eternal Life. Those who reject Him as Saviour turn their back on eternal life and choose damnation. Read Romans 3-5 carefully and then see this truth summarized in II Corinthians 5:21 and in Galatians 2:20.
L.E. Maxwell, in his book Born Crucified illustrates the concept of Substitution.
“During the Civil War a man by the name of George Wyatt was drawn by lot to go to the front. He had a wife and six children.
A young man by the name of Richard Pratt offered to go in his stead. He was accepted and joined the ranks, bearing the name and number of George Wyatt. Before long Pratt was killed in action.
The authorities later sought to draft George Wyatt into service. He protested, entering a plea that he had died in the person of Pratt. He insisted that the authorities consult their own records as to the fact of his having died in identification with Pratt, his substitute. Wyatt was thereby exempted as beyond the claim of the law and further service. He died in the person of his representative. “
But there is more to Paul’s wonderful testimony of salvation if Galatians 2:20.
Christ not only died in my place to take the condemnation and punishment for my sins;
but His death and resurrection also delivers me from the power of sin as a Christian.
As substitution is the key word to understand the doctrine of Justification; so Identification is the key word that helps me understand the doctrine of Sanctification. Note the second part of Galatians 2:20 “nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in my fleshly body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
God doesn’t stop with Justification. With those He justified, Romans 8:29 explains that He begins a life long process of conforming us to the very image of His Son, Jesus. Romans 8:30 tells us that the process will be completed and perfected when we stand before God in Heaven glorified as perfect as His Son, the Lord Jesus.
THE MECHANICS OF SANCTIFICATION
The how to of sanctification is explained in three steps found in Romans 6.
KNOW this fact in Romans 6:1-10
I was crucified in the person of Christ.
I was buried in the person of Christ.
I arose from the dead in the person of Christ.
RECKON this fact to be true. Romans 6:11-12
That is, count this fact to be true, especially in moments of temptation.
YIELD to Christ. Romans 6:13-16
Yield to Christ’s Lordship in every decision of life and every time I am tempted to sin.
When I yield to Him, His Holy Spirit, who lives in my heart, takes over in my life and I begin to live the life I could never live by my own effort. Christ lives in me!
That’s the wonderful secret
THE TWIN TRUTHS OF JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION MUST NEVER BE SEPARATED
These two truths, though separate truths, must be accepted together if we are to grow to spiritual maturity. I encourage you to read through the following passages and see how both truths always go together.
Ephesians 1:4, and 12,
Ephesians 2:8-10, 4:11-13, 5:5-6, 5:25-27
Philippians 1:6, 3:10-15
In Justification I am judicially declared a Christian, Through faith in Christ’s shed blood for my sins, God counts me as righteous as His own dear Son, the Lord Jesus.
But the purpose of salvation is not to simply give me a free ticket to Heaven, but to bring me into a life of victory over sin through my identification with Christ as a believer.
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.
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.