How can we release the saving power of God in our lives? And once we have become Christians, how can we know more of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives? These are the questions Paul answers for us in Galatians 3. And his answer is a continuation of his argument in Galatians 2. We are saved by faith, not by obeying the Jewish Law. And we receive the Holy Spirit, by faith, not by obeying the Law.
We saw last week that Paul is convinced that Christians are not bound to obey the Jewish Law, the Law of Moses, the Law of the Old Testament. We are set free from that Law by our faith in Christ.
LAST TIME: Gal 2: 16 We know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified.For Paul we are saved by faith. We do not live out our Christian lives by obeying the Jewish Law but by FAITH in Christ who was crucified for us and is risen for us:-
Gal 2:19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This gospel of grace received through faith is the gospel Paul is defending. And he actually gives the Galatians 4 knock-down arguments to prove that his gospel is indeed the true gospel.
First week – Gal 1 – Paul received his gospel on Damascus Road by revelation from Risen Christ Himself
Consequently we know that gospel is true because that gospel has released the transforming power of God into our lives too – we have all, to a greater or lesser extent, had our own Damascus Road experiences!
Last time – Gal 2 – Peter, James and John, leaders of Jerusalem church, approved Paul’s gospel when he checked it out with them
This week Paul offers his fourth defence of the truth of his gospel. Gal 3 – the Galatians have proof that Paul’s gospel is true in their own experience – they received the Holy Spirit when they believed Paul’s gospel!
It is God the Holy Spirit who brings to Christians every experience of salvation, from first to last! It is all the work of the Holy Spirit!
2 ,,, Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?Can you see what Paul is saying here. His whole argument rests on the presumption that
receiving the Holy Spirit, being born again and beginning the Christian life is a VISIBLE experience – something so evident, so dramatic, that it can be used by Paul to demonstrate that HIS gospel is true. That was true of Paul on the Damascus Road. It was true of very many believers in the Early Church. When the Holy Spirit came into their lives it was evident by speaking in tongues or words of prophecy or overwhelming joy or a peace which passed understanding in the midst of persecution and suffering. The work of the Holy Spirit was very often spectacular and public .
ACTS 8 Samaritan Christians:
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit…..Everybody knew that something was wrong when Samaritans were baptised but evidently did not received the Holy Spirit – that’s why they sent to Jerusalem to the Apostles for help! They expected expressions of the Spirit’s arrival – and those signs were missing. Until the apostles prayer and laid on hands and the Holy Spirit was given.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Even an unbeliever like Simon Magus could see when the Spirit was given – and received! It was that obvious to everybody.
19 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”……When Paul arrived the Ephesians were disciples of John the Baptist. They were not Christians. But for Paul the external evidence that they were not Christians was that they had not received the Holy Spirit – and THEY knew they had not received the Holy Spirit!
5 On hearing this, they were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.Here again, the coming of the Holy Spirit was something visible, evident to all. For Paul receiving the Spirit is something people would recognise and point to! Paul even links receiving the Spirit and the working of miracles. He slots them in the same sentence almost as if they are referring to the same events in the experience of the Galatians.
5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?In the early church the arrival of the Holy Spirit is often expressed in miracles of healing and of deliverance from the demonic. Such events were frequent and normal. So everybody would know when somebody had received the Holy Spirit!
Life changing encounters with God! Miracles. Are our experiences of Holy Spirit like that? Some Christians expect too little from God Holy Spirit, 3rd person of Trinity. We give Him too little space in our lives to surprise us!
Think about the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It should really be called the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit. A few months ago I preached on the Book of Acts – not just a few verses or a chapter or two – because throughout the book of Acts you find the same message whichever chapter you turn to. The witness of the early church was very simple. Time after time God did something extraordinary in their midst, the people around asked “how did that happen?” and the first Christians simply replied, “God did that!” Pentecost and all these people praising God in languages they had never learned. God did that! The healing of the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. God did that. The amazing generosity and the bold preaching in the face of fierce persecution. God did that. Ananias and Sapphira struck dead for lying. God did that. Stephen’s triumphant witness as he was stoned to death. The persecuter Saul transformed into the apostle to the Gentiles Paul. God did that. Peter and later Barnabas and Paul miraculously released from prison. All kinds of signs and wonders. God did all these things! That was the witness of the Early Church – “God did that!”
And that is the principal witness of Christians in the world today. Not just pointing back to the saving life and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But testifying to events in our own lives and in our church where we can say “God did that!” Answers to prayer. Miracles of healing and deliverance. Transformed lives. God speaking to us not only through His Word but also in dreams and visions and words of prophecy and knowledge and wisdom and discernment. God did that! The ongoing work of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of his children even today. Tonight when you get home, take a little time to reflect. What has happened in your life and in this church which we can point to and say “God did that”? Consider – and be thankful! God did that!
This wonderful salvation and this gift of the Holy Spirit, Paul argues, does not come from obeying the Jewish Law. Instead it comes by faith, as we claim God’s promises in our own lives. Salvation rests on God’s promise – received by faith
6. Consider Abraham: `He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. ‘(GEN 15:6, ROM 1,4)
7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.In Paul’s gospel FAITH not just intellectual assent to some doctrines, but putting our trust and confidence in God. It means going out on a limb and believing that God’s promise to us can be trusted. Paul is arguing that God’s original promise to Abraham is channelled to us through Jesus Christ
15 ,,, Just as no-one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds”, meaning many people, but “and to your seed”, meaning one person, who is Christ.
So Paul is saying that God’s promises to Abraham of blessing and security are fulfilled in Abraham’s greatest descendent, Jesus Christ.
17 ,,, The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
Abraham did not receive God’s blessings by obeying the Law. That was only given to the Israelites centuries later, to show them how to live in ways which are pleasing to God. Abraham was saved by his faith, and we are saved and receive for ourselves God’s promises to Abraham, through our faith in Christ’s death on the cross for us!
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
As an aside, it is very interesting to see what Paul identifies as the content of God’s promises to Abraham. The original words concerned blessings and descendents and Land. But Paul sees those blessings transformed through Christ.
14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
So in Paul’s eyes, all the blessings of land and descendants that God promised to Abraham, and the whole Jewish nation, all these blessings and much besides, are given to US all wrapped up in gift of Holy Spirit! The Spirit is the fulfilment of the promises, not land, not descendents, not some `nation state of Israel’ , but the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So if all of this comes to us through faith in Christ, what was the purpose of the Jewish Law?
The Jewish Law never saved anyone!!!
10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no-one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”Law only brings condemnation. Not even the most pious Jews could have been saved by obeying the Law, because none were holy enough, none lived up to God’s standard of perfection – and its same today! Noone can live a good enough life to be acceptable in God’s eyes, which are too holy even to look upon sin!
Rom 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.We are saved by grace through faith, not by obeying the law!
19. What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
Law cant save anyone – but it has two purposes.
1. it LIMITS wickedness
2. and 2. it shows up sin – pointing us to our need of a Saviour
John Wesley – Before I can preach love and grace I must preach sin, Law and judgement!
22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge (our custodian/guardian) to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
Purpose of law is not to save anyone but to LEAD US to Christ so that we can be saved through faith in Him by claiming God’s promises. Once the Law HAS led us to find salvation in Christ, Law has NO hold on us as Christians at all! So the Judaisers, circumcision party in Galatia were wrong!
And as Christians WE are not bound to obey Jewish Law in the least- its part in
salvation history is complete! We are no longer under law, but under grace.
25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (Law is no longer our guardian/custodian)
This is the true gospel, says Paul – salvation by accepting the promises of God through faith, not by obeying works of Law. Paul’s argument in Galatians 3 is that the Galatians KNOW this gospel is true because it was that message which released the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit into their lives when they believed it!
And so the letter to the Galatians says to us, WE will know this gospel is true because of the Spirit’s power it brings into OUR lives too! Because of all the blessings we have received. Because of all the occasions we can point to in our own lives and say, “God did that!”
2 ,,, Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
And here is a sad truth. We know that we are saved by faith. But so many Christians seem to think that will only know the power of Holy Spirit if we live according to God’s Laws. So many Christians seem to think and lives as though we need to EARN the gift of the Spirit by living good lives and doing good works! That is not true.
5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?Here is an ONGOING PROCESS – we continue to receive Spirit by our faith in God! By claiming God’s promises. We will continue to release God’s Spirit in miracles of healing and deliverance through faith, not through good works!