“FOR IN THE GOSPEL, A RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM GOD IS REVEALED, A RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT IS BY FAITH FROM FIRST TO LAST.” ROM. 1:17
Paul continues to call the Galatians (and us) to repent of works righteousness (or performance based acceptance) by believing the gospel. Why do we need to hear this message over and over again? Simply because the world, the Devil (the accuser of believers – see Rev. 12:10) and the flesh – the sinful, rebellious element of man’s nature even as believers – Rom 7:14-25) are always telling us to earn our self-worth by performance or keeping the law. So we compete and compare and live on a tread mill of guilt and condemnation or of judgment and pride depending on how our daily performance goes. Of course, no one admits to this. “Even Gentiles (unbelievers) who do not have God’s written law, (who don’t know what the Bible says about morality) show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim – that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.” (Rom 2:14-16).
So again Paul makes his point for the gospel versus the Jewish laws (esp. circumcision) by going back to the first Jew – Abraham, who came before Moses and the Law, to show that we are justified by faith alone. “CONSIDER ABRAHAM: “HE BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Gal 3:6 quoting Gen 15:6) Paul quotes the authority of Scripture here to prove his point. And Abraham’s righteousness by faith came before he was circumcised. (Gen 17:9-14)
“For in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.” (Rom 1:17) Actually, the gospel, salvation by God’s grace through faith, goes back to Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned and God promised a Savior. “And I will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; (Jesus Christ) It (He) shall bruise thy head, (defeat Satan) and thou shalt bruise His heel.” (the cross) (Gen 3:15) God Himself provided the first blood sacrifice when He killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with its skins (Gen 3:21) and they taught this to Cain and Abel. Cain is an example of a legalist who kept the ritual of sacrifice but not as God had called him to do. Abel offered his best lamb (Gen 4:4) a blood sacrifice, which points to Christ – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by His shed blood. So from the beginning we see faith is trusting in what God says to trust in to make us right with Him. “But now, a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.” (Rom 3:21-24)
“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.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “THE RIGHTEOUS WILL LIVE BY FAITH”. The law is not based on faith; on the contrary. “THE MAN WHO DOES THESE THINGS WILL LIVE BY THEM.” 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.” 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.” (Gal 3:10-14) Here Paul quotes Old Testament Scriptures showing why the law is a curse: Deut 27:26; Heb 2:4; Lev 18:5 (Adding verse 4 in the NLT makes this clear) “YOU MUST OBEY ALL MY REGULATIONS AND BE CAREFUL TO OBEY MY DECREES, FOR I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD. 5 IF YOU OBEY MY DECREES AND MY REGULATIONS, YOU WILL FIND LIFE THROUGH THEM. I AM THE LORD.” (Lev 18:4-5); and finally Deut 21:23. Then James says the same in the N. T. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)
So to avoid the tread mill of guilt/condemnation or pride/self-righteousness we as believers must live in the gospel of grace by faith even as Paul exhorts us to do in Gal 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, (saved by grace) are you now being perfected (trying to grow spiritually) by the flesh (as contrasted to dependence on the Lord’s Spirit)?” And thus we are to be merciful to others as the forgiven tax collector versus proud and judgmental like the Pharisee. (Luke 18:9-14) Knowing we are regularly forgiven much by God we become merciful forgivers of others. (Luke 18:9-14) And like the beggar who has found free bread that is fresh and nourishing (a sinner saved by grace) we are quick to tell other beggars like us where to find this bread – quick to tell others about the grace of God in Christ.
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD’S WORD
In prayer, think back over the past few days or week. Have you been on the old tread mill of guilt and condemnation? (See Rom 8:1) Or have you found yourself strongly judging others? Read the parable in Luke 18:9-14 and record your response to either condemnation or pride.
Why is the law a curse per Galatians 3:10-14? How does that apply to us today?
We as believers are like the beggar who has found free bread that is fresh and nourishing (sinners saved by grace) and thus should be quick to tell other beggars like us where to find this bread – quick to tell others about the grace of God in Christ. Maybe we have forgotten that
1) we are beggars – not aware of how much we need God’s grace to live for Him.
2) or maybe we have forgotten how good and nourishing God’s free grace is – i.e., lost the joy of our salvation.
Be ready to share your thoughts on this at your table Friday.
“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: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.” rom. 1:17