Faith in Christ Alone

The 4th message in the Galatians series.
(Find the other messages from this series here)

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Faith in Christ Alone

We believe that scripture holds the promises and principles we need for this life and the next. We believe that our times to gather should be shaped by God’s word. We believe that our lives should be shaped by God’s word.

We also believe that the Bible is not a mere book to be studied, but rather it’s a letter from God written directly to us, and as God wrote this letter to us he had our particular needs, situation, misunderstandings, and desires in mind. We also believe that the Bible is so profoundly deep- it is full of allusions to it’s own truths- The New Testament points back to principles established in the Old Testament. The Old Testament foretold of events that would take place and truths that would be revealed in the New Testament. It was written by 40 different people, across 3 original languages, over the span of 1,500 years- yet it has one singular theme: Jesus Christ.

Because we have this profound faith in scripture, we make it the centerpiece of our gatherings. We do not merely pay it lip-service, but we study it systematically. We trace themes through the whole of scripture or as we are currently doing, trace the points, promises, and principles of particular portion of the Bible.

We are currently doing this with Galatians. We have spent 3 Sundays looking through the first 40 verses and today we’ll look at the next 11 verses from Galatians 2:15-3:5.

 


Just under 21 years ago when I was 14 and in the 8th grade, I was in the junior high choir. It wasn’t an elective at our school- every middle school student had to participate in the choir. We prepared for a Christmas play and I was summoned to the choir room with others that had been given speaking parts. I believe that I was given a speaking part mainly so that I wouldn’t be in the choir for the singing parts. I was given the role of the preacher which was a small role with only a few lines and I’d have the notes before me, so I knew I had landed a simple role.

As other students picked up their parts and lines, we sat and waited for some instruction for the director. Billy was a year older than me and a friend of mine. Billy had been sitting in front of me and when he returned to his chair I saw that I had a great opportunity to pull his chair out as he sat down.

So I did, and several people laughed. But it became clear that I had not pulled the chair out quite enough because when Billy had missed the chair, he went down and hit the chair with his back. On top of the embarrassment, he was hurt. Suddenly it was not funny. Because while I was prankster, I wasn’t intending to be cruel. I felt just awful. I apologized. After the meeting I even went to the director and told him that I would understand if he removed me from the play.

When I studied our passage for this week, I was reminded of that moment- reminded of Billy and the chair because what I see here in this passage is the Galatians being encouraged to put their weight on something that won’t hold them. Evil forces and false teachers are encouraging them to sit, and then pulling the chair out from under them. In this case, more than their pride and backside would be hurt- they would be ruined. They would be wrecked- but that’s what evil is shooting for-

Satan would love nothing better than for you to shift your weight from hoping and trusting in Christ to some other object of your hope and trust, specifically because all the others he can pull out from under you.

Paul says to the Galatians in 3:1- who has bewitched you? Who had tricked you? Who has a cast a spell on you that has caused you to forget how you were saved? Paul is so perplexed by this shift that he wonders who has cast a spell on them… I must say that I share Paul’s bewilderment when I watch people wander from the Christ who has saved them to try and find some fulfillment in stuff, money, career, or self…  I’ve said to myself many times, what has happened?

This is not new. Paul’s first churches experienced this… They had the benefit of having Paul and Barnabas teach them the message of the gospel, and yet they still struggled.

We are so easily enticed by the lure of giving ourselves more credit than we ought to- we enjoy nothing more than stroking our own ego, and what greater compliment to our ego than the idea that we are able to save ourselves… that we have the answers, that we are special, that we know better, that we are better.

The lie satan tells to people who haven’t yet realized they’re sinners is that they’re doing fine. The lie he tells to people that have realized they’re not doing fine is “you can fix this on your own…”

There are a thousand new self help books every because they don’t work. Self help doesn’t help because self is the problem.
– Jared Wilson 

Satan would love for you to shift your weight from the foundation of Christ to the slippery slope of your own effort. Satan constantly welcomes us to have a seat and then pulls the chair out from under us…

If Christ is a sure foundation, your flesh is a banana peel on a steep hill. 

Let me quickly point out that this is not new. Paul’s FIRST churches experienced this… They had the benefit of having Paul and Barnabas teach them the message of the gospel, and yet they still struggled.

We are so easily enticed by the lure of giving ourselves more credit than we ought to- we enjoy nothing more than stroking our own ego, and what greater compliment to our ego than the idea that we are able to save ourselves… that we have the answers, that we are special, that we know better, that we are better.

So Paul starts back at the beginning with Justification and he points out to them that even those who are Jews, even those who grew up learning the traditions and keeping the laws and celebrating the ceremonies- even they can only be saved by faith.

The path to Justification is faith.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ…”

Paul is saying, even those of us who are accustomed to the law, even those of us who have a head start on keeping the rules, even we can only be justified by faith.

He adds at the end of verse 16

“for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

Justification is perhaps easiest understood as the opposite of condemnation.  It means acquittal, pronounced innocence, and freedom.  When a defendant stands to hear the verdict of the trial, he stands to hear their judgement on his status.  When God pronounces us justified, it isn’t that he has rendered his judgement on our condition, but rather he makes it so- he makes us justified.

Our courts only have power to pronounce judgement of a man’s condition, our God has the power to change our condition.

There have been many who through the imperfections of our justice system have been declared innocent who most definitely innocent- they got away with it. They fooled the jury. They got off on a technicality. God does not merely pronounce us innocent, he makes us innocent.   We do not go free on a technicality or escape through a loophole, we are made right or just.  Paul uses this word justified because we are made just.

This seems to good to be true, so we are tempted to make it less good and more real- we are tempted to say yeah, but you have to live for God and keep the rules- but by making it less good, we make it less true.  In fact we make it not good and not true.   We get the false gospel of justification by works….

None of us were justified by the law Paul says, in fact it’s just the opposite. The law does nothing but condemn us, it points our how guilty we are.  The law can’t make us innocent, it shows just how guilty we are.  Thank God because if the gospel is only for those who are good at doing good, we are doomed because none of us are good at doing good…

If the gospel is just for the good people, or just the jews, or just the whites, it’s not the gospel because gospel means good news. It’s not good news if it’s not available to all.

It’s not good news to you and me when the country club adds a new water feature next to the 11th hole of the golf course because that’s something we’ll never enjoy. We don’t belong to the club, so what’s it matter to us? The gospel is good news because it’s accessible to all- you don’t have to be in the club to experience it, to behold it, to take it in.

So Paul is saying, the law doesn’t make us righteous, it doesn’t even make us good. It doesn’t work.  Works salvation doesn’t work.

Oh but it’s popular. If you were to ask a stranger in the street how to be a Christian, they’d probably say something along the lines of- try to be good and kind. Nope!

Now this is appealing because it’s flattering. Everyone loves the idea that they’re so good that they’re headed to heaven- but no one is good enough. Not Paul. Not Peter. Not Mother Teresa. Not your sweet old neighbor. Not you.

Faith in Jesus is not trust in self. It’s distrusting self and trusting him- it’s rejecting our way and going his way.   This means distrusting self when it comes to being and doing good too. The Jews were saying, listen Jesus may forgive you, but if you are going to do good and be good, you are going to have to become dedicated and zealous and do this and don’t do that…

Paul says, no. The path to Justification is faith AND the path to Sanctification (or being and doing good) is ALSO FAITH!

The path to Sanctification is faith. 

Paul’s critics say that Paul’s message leads people to neglect their moral responsibility- if they can be forgive of everything, why do right?

So Paul begins this point by refuting their argument.

He says, that if I return to my sin after trusting Christ, Christ is not the agent of sin. Rather, I have transgressed, not God.

He’s saying in verse 17-19, when I return to my sin after trusting Christ, that’s on me- not Christ.

You can’t blame your sin on Christ’s forgiveness and grace.

v. 18
“For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”

Paul is saying, I return to the chair I used to sit in, the life I used to live, but I destroyed it, I threw it away so that I could follow Christ, if I return to that, that’s on me. I’m a transgressor. That’s not on Christ- that’s on me.

To make this more clear he says, I was crucified with Christ- I killed off my life so that I could live with him.

When I turned from sin to follow Jesus, I left that life behind. I nailed it to a cross.

When I rejected those things which I had trusted in, I nailed them to the cross- I executed them because I’m living for Christ, trusting in Christ.

Paul will get to this later, but baptism is a picture of this-

We are laid back in the water showing Christ died for us.

We are put under that water as Christ was laid in the ground.

Then we come back out of the water as Christ rose from the dead.

But we are also saying, I am dying to my old life, I’m rejecting that life and I am raised to life. I am raised to new life. I am raised to life with Christ.

Paul says, I died and now it is Christ who lives in me. He says, nevertheless I still live, but it’s a life for, and with, and about, and under Christ.

That doesn’t happen because I try hard- that doesn’t happen because I just decided things are gonna be different now- that doesn’t happen because I’ve written out a list of dos and don’ts that I’m going to adhere to- that happens because of Christ!

It’s Him, not me! I trust in him. Not me!

So he says in verse 20

“and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

It’s not me, it’s Him! Yeah, it’s me. This is my flesh, but it’s him living in me and living for me- the one who loved me and gave himself for me and made me, made me righteous!

When I thought on this verse, I thought of Lincoln. My adorable son who just absolutely loves life… I thought of times that I’ve picked him up and carried him like he’s flying. He’s giggling and laughing- he’s having a ball. Haven says, “Lincoln! You’re flying” and Lincoln is still laughing and giggling and he says, “no, it’s daddy.”
Lincoln in his 3 year old mind feels the need to make sure people don’t really think he’s really flying.

Paul says, yes- this is me, but really it’s Christ in me.

In verse 21 he says, I do not frustrate the grace of God.

He’s saying, I don’t ignore it or set it aside. I don’t hold it back in my life thinking that I’ve got it on my own…

Paul says, I do not set aside God’s grace. After all, if righteousness comes from my effort or the law, then why did Christ die?

He continues in chapter 3 with several questions.

v.1 Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched or hypnotized you?

v.2 Riddle me this, did you receive the Spirit through the law or through faith?

v.3 are you so foolish to think that what started in the Spirit will be finished in the flesh?

v.4 have we gone through all of this in vain? Have we done all this for nothing?

v.5 finally- when we ministered among you teaching you and doing miracles, was that the result of faith or the law?

He’s saying- HEY! Everything good that God has done, was that because you did or because you believed in HIM?

Paul is beside himself. I’ve got to say, I absolutely get where he’s coming from because there are times that I look at my own life and I say, goodness Daniel. Why in the world would you think that any of this depends upon you? Your life is a constant illustration of the fact that everything good comes from God and all the bad are places where you have tried to do it on your own…

I absolutely get where he’s coming from because as I’ve tried to minister to some of you, I’ve wanted to say

HEY! Wake UP! Everything good thing in your life is because of God’s grace and suddenly you don’t need it anymore?

Hey! Do you remember the last time you walked away from him? Do you remember when you trusted in yourself or money or whatever????

Don’t you remember how the chair was pulled out from under you? Don’t you remember how evil laughed over your life as you lay there hurt and broken? Don’t trust him! I know it looks appealing. I know it strokes your ego. I know that it makes you feel better about yourself, but it’s a lie!!!!

Paul is saying

Just as faith got you here, faith will get you there.

I want to go back to verse 1 of chapter 3.

Look at this with me.

who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Paul says, how are you fooled? How are you tricked, with a false vision or an illusion set before your eyes when Christ was so evidently set before you.

He’s saying how are you looking at something false when the true Christ has been set before you…

What is it that the Galatians are being convinced of? They are being convinced that something other than Christ can perfect them. In this scenario it’s a zealous adherence to the law.

For other churches it was in myths and fables. In others it was in ecstatic experiences…

Paul says, look at Christ.

The path that leads to justification and sanctification- it’s the path of faith, but its the path to Christ.


The path of faith points to Christ.

All of this is about Christ.

2:16

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law,

but by the faith of Jesus Christ,

even we have believed in Jesus Christ,

that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,

2:17

we seek to be justified by Christ

2:20

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I,

but Christ liveth in me:

I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

It’s all about Jesus.

It’s all about looking to Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;

Literally the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Jesus made our faith possible.  Jesus will make our faith perfect.

The only way to walk a straight line is to look ahead.  Paul said about Peter, he did not walk straight in accordance with the gospel- the reason that happened was because Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and placed them on the party of Jews who’s opinion he feared.

Trusting in something else other than Christ is like a cancer that spreads. It’s contagious AND it spreadS to new chambers of our heart. A trust in self becomes a trust in money, stuff, career, etc.

At each step, Satan is there with another chair that he offers to us. Though we are on the floor because we fell for his last trick, we stand up and walk toward the latest chair he offers us…

Whenever we take our eyes off of Jesus, whenever our eyes land on the things of this earth, the stuff that we want, the house we’ve got to have, the new car, the impression that others have of us, this all leads us to walk crooked and unparalleled with the gospel, and eventually away from the gospel.

While Satan is always looking for another chair to offer and then pull out from under us, Jesus has added a chair to his table just for us. It’s a strong and sturdy chair, but even better, the table it’s at is set with everything we’ll ever need.