This Path of Faith
The 5th message in the Galatians series.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
This Path of Faith
It’s great to have my parents in town this weekend. They flew in because my father retired from Delta Airlines, but if they were returning by car, they would take interstate 64 which is just a couple of miles away and follow it 750 miles to Virginia and get off on an exit just a couple of miles from their home.
From here to there it’s the same road the whole way.
Interstate 64 runs all the way back.
When Paul wrote the people living in Iconium, Phyrga, and the other towns and cities of Galtatia- he wanted them to realize that the path of faith that he had spoken to them about in the first 2 chapters, that this means of relationship with God, it didn’t start here, but rather it ran all the way back to the very beginning.
He wanted them to know that
The path of faith runs as long as time.
The path of faith was promised by God from the beginning.
Paul shows that the original promise that God made to Abraham was one of faith. He says in 3:6
6just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness…”
Verse 7-14 give two supporting ideas that we will get to in a second, but Paul illustrates his point in verses 15-17:
15Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
16Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
When the National was in Louisville this past summer, that was the execution of a plan that several years old- the contracts for using the large facilities and convention centers in these cities have to be setup years and years in advance.
“Before you sign the contract you can negotiate, after you sign the contract you can only beg.” – Keith Burden
Paul says, the law came 430 years after God’s promise to Abraham and after Abraham believed and it was counted as righteousness.
This isn’t something new- this path of faith is not just something that came along- it’s been the way all along.
Paul says that just like you can’t alter the contract after the fact- God didn’t alter his plan after the fact.
Grace was not a plan b.
Grace was the plan all along.
Faith was the means of Abraham’s righteousness. It is the means of our righteousness.
He also points out in verse 7 that the original promise was for all people, not just the Jews. This is that first supporting idea I mentioned earlier.
This matters because the Jews were the ones teaching the people that to really be saved they needed to become as Jewish as possible.
The very promise that the Jews rested their idea upon was one that God had said from the beginning would be available to everyone through them.
How ironic that the very people that God promised to bless the world through, were being an hindrance to the distribution of that blessing…
The second supporting idea that Paul puts out there is that the law is a means of the curse, not a means of blessing.
God’s promise to Abraham was that through his descendants all the world would be blessed- Paul is saying if the gift that the Jews give to the world is the law then that’s not a blessing, that’s a curse- the law brings the curse because verse 10 says:
10For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, (Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26) Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Then, I just love this about Paul, he can’t carry on with his argument without slipping into the gospel.
13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, (DEUT 21) Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Paul is saying, the law brings the curse upon us.
So Jesus became the curse so that we could receive the blessing.
Here’s the gospel in a nutshell.
Jesus took the curse so we may receive the blessing.
When I was in high school we went to a church camp in a addition to the 2 classes in the morning, the service in the evening, they would also have a devotion in the evneing. One night the guy leading the devotion said, I just want to give you a quick devotional that is the gospel in a nutshell.
45 minutes later he was done.
As we were walking back to our bunks my buddy Josh Roth said, man that was a pretty big nutshell.
The path of faith runs as long as time.
The path of faith runs alongside the law.
The path of faith was defined by the law.
Paul’s critics then say, if the law didn’t alter God’s plan and if it is not the way to justification, then why have it? What’s the use? What’s the purpose of the law? (Verse 19)
In verse 21 Paul asks the question that some of them were wondering, so is the law in opposition to faith and the gospel?
21Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
I want you to key in on that 2nd phrase
if there had been a law given which could have given life
IF there had been a way to righteousness- a path to justification and sanctification by the law we would have been given it.
Christ prayed in the Garden, if it be possible let this cup pass from me. That’s God the Son asking God the Father to bring about our righteousness by some other means if it is at all possible because what he was about to face was a great heart ache…
It’s not that the law run’s contrary to the gospel, it runs alongside the gospel, but it doesn’t go far enough.
The law runs alongside the promises of God, but it can’t bring us to a relationship with God. It can not carry us far enough.
You ever drive on a stretch of highway that has a road right next to it? You’re driving on the interstate and then just across a barrier, or a fence, there’s another two lane road running right alongside the highway…
That service road or state road may run alongside the interstate for a while, but it will not follow through all the way till your destination. There will be some boundary it will not cross…
The law runs alongside the promises of God, but it can’t carry us where we need to go.
Paul says, the purpose or the service of the law is that the law highlights transgressions.
Paul would go into greater detail on this in his letter to the Romans, but he is saying that the law made it clear that we are lost and in need of a savior.
He says here in verse 22 the scripture has concluded all under sin. He says the law makes it clear that all are in sin, that all are under the curse. The law serves the purposes of showing us that we are lost.
Roy Helms – with no law there is no grace.
If no one has ever done anything wrong, what do we need to be saved from? What charge can be made against us?
Roy’s passion is fro the 10 Commandments to be visible, to be seen, because if people are clueless to the laws they’ve broken, they see no need for forgiveness…
Have you ever broken a rule that you didn’t know existed?
Ever gotten in trouble for something you didn’t know was a problem? God used the law to make sure that mankind understood that there is a standard and we are far from meeting it.
Paul argues that Faith and the law are not in opposition to one another, but rather they work together because they are from the same source. They are from the same God.
(V.20 says God is One- He is not a different God…)
In verse 15-18 he argues that the law does not contradict grace, in 19-22 he argues that the law contrasts with grace, thereby illuminating it…
The law defined our need but it is unable to meet our needs. In God’s grace we are free and we are plucked from the prison walls of sin and the shackles of sin and placed in Christ-
The law imprisoned us and sin enslaved us.
God’s grace available to us in faith free us from both.
The path of faith runs as long as time.
The path of faith runs alongside the law
The path of faith runs among us.
The path of faith is portrayed in baptism & adoption.
26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Paul will go on to say in chapter 4 that we’ve been adopted into God’s family. Here in the end of chapter 3, he says that we are baptized into Christ.
In God’s family and in Christ we are no longer defined as Jew/Greek, Male/Female, Slave/Free – we are in Christ and in Christ we receive all the blessings that come to those who are in Christ.
The churches in Galatia were divvying up based up Jew and Greek. There was this growing divide.
Paul says, forget about Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free- the designation that matters is In Christ.
If you have that, all the rest of it matters little.
So he says in verse 28 right after saying that they have put on Christ,
28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Paul is communicating to them that what matters and what connects them is the gospel which means they belong if they believe.
The idea of connection is one that I’ve tried to emphasize in these messages because Paul’s letter to the Galatians emphasizes that the gospel brings them together across distance, across genders, across ethnicities, across divides in background, status, class, nationality, and more…
As these distances and barriers are crossed by the connection of the gospel, the church takes shape. As people see that what brings us together is not our shared interests or our shared backgrounds or our shared level of wealth-
When the gospel brings young and old, black and white, rich and poor, yankee and hillbilly, day laborers and business owners together- what truly connects is made visible…
What’s incredible about this is that we can choose to belong.
We belong to the family of God if we believe.
Right now our world desperately wants to be able to assign their own labels to themselves… If I want to label myself as a different ethnicity, then I can.
If I want to label myself as a different gender, then I can.
The truth is that none of us are well represented by any label, because we are more than that.
You are more than any label- you are eternal.
There will be a time that all of those labels no longer matter and you will continue to exist because you are an eternal being….
Here’s the incredible thing, God has given you the freedom to choose whether or not you are in Christ… You can be in Christ- God has made that possible. The very reality of who you are can be changed by God’s grace and power.
It’s no wonder that people are unhappy with who they are- how they’ve been labeled – who society sees them to be…
The most important label is one that we get to choose- one that we can have if we give ourselves to it, one that is ours if we believe…
The label of “in christ.”
Now because belief is an invisible element- because it is something that is within and can’t be seen, we have a means of making it visible in baptism.
Through baptism we make the invisible visible.
We make a personal decision public.
We take on the God given label of in Christ.
For the Galatians, when they had taken this step of being baptized- it had communicated powerfully to their friends and family that they were no longer jew or gentile, they were no longer greek or barbarian, no longer a part of this class or another- they were in Christ.
Baptism communicates I believe and therefore I belong to Christ.
In our day we have improved the setting of baptism.
In Galatia, most of the baptisms would have been in a pond, lake, creek, or river.
Today we have nice baptisteries with heaters and the like…
We’ve improved the settings, but I think we’ve lost the significance. For many, baptism is like a rite of passage.
For many, baptism is a decision their parent made for them- had them baptized when they were a child…
You and I know that the setting can be illustrious and the significance meaningless because we’ve been to weddings that were extravagant and the marriage that wedding produced lasts no time…
For the Galatians, the idea of baptism wouldn’t have been very elaborate, but it would have been incredibly meaningful.
Today on mission fields, we have people coming to Christ and being baptized in the watering holes and the setting is pretty rustic, but the significance is huge.
Clint Morgan wrote of riding a motorcycle through trails in the African bush that were so curvy and winding that his fellow missionary Mike Cousineau had to stop because he was getting sick.
They arrived at the service just in time for worship, afterward they made way to a 8 foot wide water hole. They pushed the scum off of the top of the water and got in.
The water was only knew deep and Morgan saw leeches darting across the water, but he said “I cowboyed up” and we baptized the believers that day.
I read about the area in Galatia and where the people would have been baptized- one archeology book pointed out that early baptistries in these areas looked similar to ceremony pools at synagogues, suggesting that perhaps they had used these for the earlier baptisms- they are small, small pools of water that might have required some creative bending to do the baptism in cold seasons when it wouldn’t have been advisable to use a large body of water.
So today, we are going to use a baptistery pool that’s similar. Today worked best for Betsy to be able to be here for Shelby to be baptized and I’m glad that it worked out this way so that we can have an illustration of baptism right here in the middle of this message.
Paul says in this passage that we are baptized into Christ.
The ceremony pools that would have been at the synagogues would have been for cleansing- and people often think that baptism signifies cleansing-
More than that it signifies Christ.
Christ died for our sin and was laid in a grave.
We are laid back in the water when we are baptized.
When I met with Shelby, she knew that she needed to be forgiven of her sins. Betsy said that Shelby had talked to her several times following Vacation Bible School. They had talked about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
They came to talk to me in my office and Shelby was ready to believe in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of her sins.
Christ died on the cross for us and we demonstrate that death and burial in being laid back in the water, but Christ wasn’t done. He rose from that grave demonstrating his power over sin, death, hell, and the grave.
SO we are laid back in the water to signify his death and we are raised out to show his resurrection.
We are dead to our sins and raised to life in Christ.
As Shelby dries off, I want to ask you.
Have you become part of God’s family?
Have you believed? Are you in Christ?
You can take that step today.
Have you made that decision public? Have you portrayed that commitment through baptism? We are holding a baptism service on September 10 and we’d love for you to take that step.
If you believe and you’ve been baptized, if you belong, let me encourage you to take full advantage of what is your’s in CHrist and the family of God.
29And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
There are privileges that are your’s as a child of God. Stop living like a slave.