In chapters 1 and 2 of Galatians Paul gives a personal defense of the gospel and in 3 and 4 he gives a theological defense of the gospel. It helps to hear the gospel restated in many different ways in order to really get it. It means to stop trusting our own goodness, morality and efforts to be accepted/loved by God and to start trusting Christ and His work (His perfect life, His atoning death and His resurrection to prove His deity) alone for our love and acceptance by God.


Once we grasp this truth by faith we now have a new motivation for all of life – to live for God and not ourselves. We also now have His power, the power of God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit, living in us both to change our desires to live for Him versus to live for self and to give us His power to do it.   [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.” (Phil. 2:13 Amp.)


You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” (Gal. 3:1) You can hear Paul’s strong feelings as the people begin to revert back to self-effort to please God. They had not actually seen Jesus crucified but Paul’s and Barnabas’ preaching in the power of the Spirit “clearly portrayed” His loving, sacrificial death for them.  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” (1 Thess 1:4) Preaching Christ crucified in the power of the Sprit paints a picture to the listeners of His atoning death for them personally. It is truly supernatural when a person “hears by faith” the gospel and receives the Spirit and is thus “born-again.” “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2 NKJV) In other words, being born-again is more than an intellectual understanding and belief in the gospel. It moves to the heart and is a personal trust in a Person (Christ) to forgive all our sins and come into our very being and empower us to know, love and serve Him.


“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard (“by hearing with faith”)? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal (“being made perfect” –complete, mature) by human effort (“the flesh”)?” (Gal 3:3) Paul says spiritual growth is either sought by self-effort (observing/obeying the law) or by God’s grace. Saving faith brings God’s grace and gives us both unmerited favor with God and God’s power to “attain our goal” – maturing in Christ- likeness – which is God’s goal for our lives. (Rom 8:29)


So what keeps people from simply trusting God to save them? People want to be their own savior – i.e., “I am a good person; I don’t need a savior.”  For others it is an issue of control. “If I admit I need God to save me (versus my own goodness to enter heaven) then I am indebted to Him and owe Him my thanks, my praise and my obedience. I thus have to live life His way and I don’t want to give up ____________, ___________, __________, ___________, etc., etc., etc.”


And what keeps us as Christians from simply trusting God to sanctify us (spiritual growth) versus our own self-efforts? For example, why don’t we just trust God to deliver us from anger or worry, or hurt/self-pity versus trying so hard in our own efforts? It is because I want something other than the gospel (God’s work to save me) in order to feel good about myself. This is nothing but self-righteousness.  Based on our personality it may be man’s Recognition, or getting Results at work or in sports (winning) or committed friends – Relationships or having order and perfection in my work, my home, office, car, i.e., getting it Right doing it Right. And when I don’t have one of these, I get hurt or angry even though I know God loves me and accepts me. So when this happens we do as the Galatians above and forget the gospel and work hard to get what we want to meet our own needs for self-worth. (Tim Keller lists Comfort, Approval, Control or Power for things we want (more than God) to feel good about ourselves. See under Discussion Questions)


Paul would say to us, You foolish Americans! Who has bewitched you?” And we must answer, the world, the Devil and the flesh. And then we must repent of wanting the recognition or results or control or power or whatever we want more than God Himself for our sense of self-worth. Then our anger or worry will be replaced with God’s peace. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we  have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1)




                         Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD’S WORD


You have died and you are standing before God. He asks you in a kind but forceful way, “Why should I let you in heaven?” What would you say based on the teaching from Galatians above?  


Based on the personality profile system Performax Systems International (for tests on line see: using D I S C (Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, Compliance) D’s want Results; I’s want Recognition; S’s want Relationships (close family and few close friends) and C’s want it done Right. Knowing your personality profile may help you discern where you are still looking to something you want more than the Lord Himself (the gospel) to feel good about your self (self-righteousness) and the corresponding feelings of anger, hurt , etc., when you are not experiencing this. Have you observed this in your life?  Which of these do you most relate to?


Below Tim Keller refers to a psychologists who uses four basic ways people seek meaning and self-acceptance (apart from the gospel and the corresponding issues (sins) related to each. Which of these do you most relate to?

What we seek/want       Price we will pay          Greatest nightmare        Others often feel        Problem emotion

COMFORT               Reduced productivity     Stress, demands               Hurt                                Boredom Privacy, lack of                                                                                                               stress, freedom

APPROVAL                      Less independence          Rejection                     Smothered                     Cowardice    ffirmation, love,                                                                                                                                                      relationships

CONTROL                        Loneliness;                         Uncertainty            Condemned                 Worry                 Self-discipline,                    lack of spontaneity                                                                                               certainty, standards

POWER                             Burdened, responsibility  Humiliation              Used                     Anger                     Success, winning,                                                                                                                                                          influence


 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25) It is in doing God’s Word, not in just hearing it, that we are blessed. What action will you take to apply these truths to your life?




Scripture memory verse:   “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard (“by hearing with faith”)? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal (“being made perfect” , complete,  mature) by human effort (“the flesh”)?” (Gal 3:3)

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