Sep 17, 2023 | Greg Johnson
What Saves You, Sustains You
I love to watch football, especially NFL - I am an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan – There is a principle that is often carried out, that you get a lead, and then you protect the lead – the challenge is, often a team will get a lead by playing a certain way, but then stop doing the things they did to get the lead in the name of protecting it – as a result, they begin playing NOT TO LOSE as opposed to playing to win.
In Galatians 3, Paul is explaining this same concept in the spiritual life – these young believers have experienced salvation through Jesus, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the miraculous life that accompanies – yet, after hearing a different gospel – what Paul called in Galatians 1:7 really no gospel at all – they are now shifting their focus to justifying their salvation by following the law of Moses and the outward sign of circumcision – in short, they were living as if the faith that saved them was not a faith to keep them.
In recent weeks, we have talked at length about the simple truth of the gospel: We were created by God for relationship, but were unfaithful – And because God is faithful, he sent Jesus, who lived, died and rose again, to restore us to relationship with God – Today, we will talk about what happens AFTER salvation – For many of us, myself included, I fall into the trap of believing in Jesus for salvation, but then believing in myself to live what I believe to be “Christian” – Paul will challenge that thinking in the passage today – In short, what saves you will also sustain you. Galatians 3:1-14
V1 – Paul starts by saying, “How dumb are you?” Remember, in most of Paul’s letters, he writes from a place of deep affection – but the tone of this letter has been a bit more harsh and urgent – chapter 1:6 – “I am ASTONISHED by how quickly you have deserted the gospel…” Who has BEWITCHED you? This word here carries the connotation that they have been placed under a spell. This was a common belief in Greek culture. Paul does not literally believe they are under a spell, but is questioning their ability to SEE the truth – He says you SAW him portrayed as crucified, but now you are living as if you are in control of your righteousness.
Take a second to remember when you first started following Jesus, and the excitement that went along with your newfound faith – If you are not still excited, what happened? When your eyes were opened to the reality of what Jesus did for you on the cross, you trusted him for salvation – but the question is, are your spiritual eyes still open? The reason the church in America is typically full of sleepy people that identify as “Christian” is because the same faith needed to trust Jesus as Savior is not perceived to be needed to follow him daily.
Remember, the context of 3:1 – Galatians 2:20-21 – Not only has Christ been crucified, but I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH HIM – I NO LONGER LIVE, BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME – the implication is that when Christ takes over, he is in FULL CONTROL – AND, if I gain righteous status by following the law, my own good works, then I invalidate the cross.
V2-3 – Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions here in making his case: How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Through the law or by faith? He’s saying, “So let me get this straight: you received the Spirit when you believed in Jesus by faith, but now you are living as if it all depends on you?” He is challenging the thinking of the Galatians – This is a great question for you today? If you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, and the Holy Spirit now lives in you, why are you still trying to be in control by just being a better version of yourself? Question for you today: What is the power source of your faith today? Is it you trying hard to look more Christian, do the right thing, or sitting in the Secret Place with Jesus every day, letting him continue the work he began in you?
V4 – The word “experienced” here is translated as “suffer” – Paul is asking if their suffering for following Jesus was worth it or in vain? Remember, in this culture, if you followed Jesus, you suffered – but here is an interesting twist: The Romans were trying to squash this Jesus movement, with Roman emperors like Nero and Domitian claiming deity – but now, even within the church, there was in-fighting over HOW to follow Jesus – As if following Jesus wasn’t hard enough from outside pressure, now the Judaizers were making it difficult WITHIN THE WALLS – Paul was a poster boy for suffering, in fact, in Acts 14, he is stoned and left for dead in Galatia for preaching the gospel. He understood the implications of relying on Jesus and the gospel for righteousness – he is saying here that falling back into a works-based sense of righteousness is worthless.
V5 – According to the book of Acts, the early church experienced many signs and wonders the accompanied receiving the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion – Paul was saying here, “Before you received Jesus, you didn’t have the work of the Holy Spirit among you. The law didn’t offer you the extraordinary – why would you return to something dead when you have been made alive?
Allowing the Holy Spirit the freedom and full access to operate in your life is incredibly difficult in the US – The American Way is very independent, courageous, self-motivated – However, if you want to see real spiritual power, it ONLY comes through relinquishing control of your life – The enemy’s playbook is not particularly innovative – what he was doing to these churches in Galatia he is still doing here today – His goal is to distort the gospel just enough that you have what Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 3:5: “Having a form of godliness but denying its power” – But here is the truth: Romans 8:11 – you have the RESURRECTION POWER of JESUS coursing through your veins – You have the DNA of Jesus in you, not just for salvation, but for holiness and a godly life.
V6 – Now Paul makes an argument using the Father of faith, Abraham – He quotes Genesis 15:6 – First, Abraham BELIEVED GOD – He didn’t simply believe IN God, but believed that God’s promise of generational blessing was true, and walked by faith according to it – And, it says that Abraham’s belief was “credited” as righteousness – Let’s unpack this, because it is a foundational truth – the concept here is IMPUTED righteousness, meaning someone else did the work, but I get the credit – For instance, someone works hard for $10K, and then deposits it in my account – I did nothing to earn that money, but I now OWN it – Once it has been credited to my account, it is mine regardless of anything I did to own it – That is salvation in a nutshell – you did NOTHING to earn salvation – in fact, you couldn’t on your best day – but Jesus earned your salvation, paid for your sin on the cross, and by believing in his work, it is credited to you as righteousness – God sees you as righteous not because of you, but because of Jesus – and it is important to note that Abraham was credited as righteous BEFORE he was circumcised in Genesis 17 – Abraham, the Father of many nations, Jew and Gentile, was declared righteous because of his FAITH, not because of his WORKS.
V7-9 – I love that Paul is not abandoning the story, but connecting it to the present day – Genesis 12:3, “all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you” – He is saying that the covenantal blessing that Abraham received was by faith, and generationally passed down, but ultimately fulfilled in JESUS – To Abraham, God promised blessing, and through Jesus, the completion of the blessing came.
V10-11- The blessing came through Jesus, but the curse came through the law – Deut. 27:26 – Again, the law was given as a reminder that you can’t live up to it, and when you don’t measure up to the law, you are CURSED - but notice the key word used twice: “RELY” – What Paul is NOT saying is that the law is obsolete – what he is saying is that RELYING on the law is worthless – Being a LAW KEEPER is not what justifies you, because you can’t completely KEEP the law, so relying on the law keeps you under a curse – It is the difference in living FROM Jesus vs FOR Jesus – FOR Jesus means I am doing all I can to look more like Jesus – SONDS GOOD, but living FROM Jesus means he is the one living out the law through me – I am IN Jesus, he is the full embodiment of the law, so it is expressed through my life because he is IN ME.
V12-14 – Talking with Gavin this week, he was showing me the power of this imagery – I have mentioned 2 Cor 5:21 recently: Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on my behalf so I could be made righteous – here Paul says it in a different way: Jesus redeemed the curse by becoming the curse for us – Deut. 21:23 – he is using the law to declare freedom – “Cursed is the one who hangs on a tree” – here is the power of this image – in Genesis 3:17-18, the result of sin is a curse of the ground, which produces thorns and thistles – When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he wore a crown of THORNS, which represented the curse – Jesus became the curse of Genesis 3 to RESTORE EDEN to all who would believe in him BY FAITH.
So, Paul is connecting the Galatians to the bigger story, and reminding them that the same POWER that SAVED them is the POWER that will SUSTAIN them – It is the same for you and me – Living off a religious checklist will not move you toward Godliness, but will enslave you – But living in the Secret Place with Jesus will change you – Living FROM JESUS is not just “HE SAVED ME”, but “HE IS SAVING ME”, meaning everyday, I am becoming more like him, walking like him, talking like him, thinking like him, and my works are an outward sign of an inward POWER SOURCE.
If you aren’t experiencing POWER in your life, could be that you are trusting in self to look like Jesus instead of allowing the Spirit to change you – stop playing not to lose.