Well, good evening to you all again, it's good to be back with you in the Iron Hall. I've been enjoying fellowship with you once more, and looking forward to tonight and the next two weeks with you in the Bible Class. I want you to turn with me again to the book of Galatians, we've taken the title 'Life in the Spirit', and we very much want to root it and ground it in this epistle of Paul's. Whilst we've only got four weeks, we're trying to do our best in doing justice to this great epistle - six chapters in total - and we want to look tonight at chapters 3 and 4. God willing, for the next two weeks, we'll look at chapters 5 and 6 - so we're going to take a bit more time on those.
We begin reading at verse 1, please, of Galatians 3: "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, 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. Now 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. And 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. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is 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. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There 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. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise".
"Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free".
Now if you were not here last week, I would encourage you to get the recording, perhaps, to fill in the gaps - but we spoke about the Judaisers, who had infiltrated the churches, plural most likely, of Galatia. They convinced many in the church that the Gospel did not set aside Jewish ceremonies, and therefore Gentile Christians must be circumcised and practice many of the rites and rituals of Judaism if they were to come into the promise that had been given to Abraham the patriarch. So, in other words, what they were teaching was another gospel, and that gospel was 'Christ and...': Christ and circumcision, Christ and Jewish ceremony and ritual. It was Christ and human legalistic requirements. So really, what they were saying was: what Christ had begun, Moses must complete. Christ's work was not enough, and the works of Moses - that is, the law - had to be added to the work of Christ.
Just to remind you, chapter 2 and verse 4, Paul says this matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom that we had in Christ, and to make us slaves. So they were heaping upon these Galatian Christians more rules and laws than Paul had stipulated when he preached the Gospel of free grace received by faith in Christ alone. Paul was at great pains, in chapter 1 especially, to implore upon them that this teaching undermined the very essence of the gospel of grace. What he did, we saw last week - although we didn't look at it in great detail - in chapter 1 and chapter 2, Paul speaks personally of how he himself had a Damascus Road experience, and he was an arch-legalist, a Pharisee himself - yet how Christ, in His grace, came to him and delivered him of all that. He points out in chapters 1 and 2 how our standing is by grace through faith plus nothing - by grace through faith in Christ plus nothing. He says very explicitly that our faith is rooted and grounded in the work of the cross plus nothing. Look at verse 21 of chapter 2 again: 'I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain'. What a verse to share with someone who has the problem of self-righteousness or is particularly religious, and thinks they're good enough to earn heaven! If we could earn heaven by whatever rule or a law - even if it's the laws of God - plainly Christ died in vain, and God wasted the precious blood of His own Son, because a penal substitutionary sacrifice was not necessary if we could achieve salvation ourselves.
So the central issue for Paul in chapters 1 and 2, we saw, was the basis of our acceptance with God: by grace, through faith in Christ, plus nothing. But we also learned last week that not only did this affect the gospel that the Galatians preached, but this very clear message also affected the level at which they tried - and the imperative word is 'tried' - to live their Christian lives. Because not only had they started to preach a message of salvation at a performance-based level - what you can do to add to the work of Christ - but they were also imbibing a message of sanctification at a performance-based level. They were living by law. We applied this by saying that many people would agree with Paul, particularly in evangelicalism, that salvation cannot be achieved by performance. But where the mental and spiritual block comes for them is that they have embraced a message that tells us that sanctification can be achieved at the level of performance. Paul comes to them with the same message - we must remember the Galatians were born again, these were Christians that Paul was writing to - and he says that the same is the case regarding your sanctification, equally the message you have believed is not 'Christ and' for your sanctification, it's not Christ plus law, it's not Christ plus your own performance, it's not Christ plus legalistic requirements.
He says this very graphically in verses 1 through to 3 of chapter 3: 'O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you' - it's as if someone has cast a spell on you! - 'that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?'. So Paul's message is very clear, the message of the Gospel that brings salvation is Christ, and it's a gift, a free gift by grace, and we receive it from God by the hand of faith, and there's nothing else involved! No works or no merits of our own! But sanctification, Paul is at pains to get across, is exactly the same: it is by grace through faith, not of works of the law.
I challenged you last week, and I challenge you again tonight: how are you living your Christian life? Are you trying to do what God has commanded? 'Trying' again being the operative word - are you trying? Are you, perhaps, trying to do what others expect of you, or the standard that they have ordained for you? Or are you living what is clearly New Testament Christianity, which is a personal faith-based relationship with God the Father, through abiding in His Son by faith, Jesus Christ, and walking in loving obedience to the Word of God through the person and the power of the Holy Spirit? I said that whilst some may think this is splitting hairs, Paul didn't think so. This was such a serious issue that Paul actually accused these Judaisers of preaching a different gospel, whether of salvation or sanctification. It was the difference between doing and being.
Now look with me again at verse 20, we didn't really spend much time on this, but Paul said in verse 20: 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me'. That is how you live the Christian life! I thank God, through the recommendation of some Christians in my youth, I read a little book by Roy Hession called 'The Calvary Road'. There is one statement in that little book that really sums up the whole issue of sanctification for me, and all that the New Testament teaches on it, and indeed what verse 20 of chapter 2 is saying. Roy Hession says this: 'The only life that pleases God is the life of His Son'. You think about that. The only life that pleases God is the life of His Son, and that is why our flesh - who we are in self - must die. Now it has died if we are saved, because we are crucified with Christ - past aorist tense - it's a done deal, it has already happened. But yet we can still breathe life into the flesh, and try and live the Christian life through the flesh, try and do good deeds by the flesh, and we are focusing on doing rather than being - allowing Christ to be in and through us. What Paul is saying in Galatians, and what the Holy Spirit says throughout the whole New Testament, is that the Christian life can never be achieved by law, it can only be lived through the Spirit. The crucified life, the crucified life is the starting point of all sanctification - and if it is not, your sanctification might well be of the flesh.
Now, we also saw last week that if we think that we must perform to gain acceptance with God, equally we will require others to perform to gain acceptance with us. Now, I'm not going to spend time on that tonight because we will deal with that next week in chapter 5 and following, where Paul deals with the practical aspects to this teaching of grace. But this week we want to look at chapters 3 and 4, where he speaks of the doctrinal argument behind the exhortations that he brings in the book. We're going to see tonight why Galatians has been called by some 'the Magna Carta of spiritual freedom for the whole world and for all time'. It is a document that proves that we have the right to be free in Jesus Christ.
Now, let us see how Paul argues this. We start at chapter 3 and verses 1 to 9, and in these nine verses Paul shows us that salvation and sanctification are a work of the Holy Spirit to be received by faith, not to be achieved by works. Now, he argues this in three points. First of all he speaks presently, verse 5, of miracles that are among God's people in Galatia: 'He therefore that ministers to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?'. What a wonderful thing it would be to be in a fellowship where God was performing miracles! That was happening in Galatia in the early church - and Paul was saying: 'Presently, the work of God among you now, is the Spirit doing miracles through the works of the law or is He doing it through His own inherent power?'. That was an obvious answer: the Spirit is doing these miracles.
But he moves on from the present to the previous, the past. He says in verse 6: 'Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' - and previously, he argues to them, Abraham believed, Abraham exercised faith, and it was credited as righteousness to Abraham. Abraham was not justified by acts and works and laws, but by faith. In other words, Abraham depended upon faith for righteousness, and God credited righteousness to Abraham's account because of his act of faith alone. So, presently, he argues, the works of the Spirit among the Galatians are by the Spirit, not wrought by law. Previously, he argues, Abraham believed and it was accredited to him as righteousness. Then prophetically, he argues in verses 7 to 9, the children of Abraham are all who believe in God through Christ, whether they be Jew or Gentile.
Read the verses again: 'Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham'. Now, of course, you know that the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, are the Jewish people. But the spiritual descendants of Abraham are not necessarily the Jewish people, but people who believe in God through Jesus Christ - people of faith, whether they be Jew or Gentile. But those who are certainly not the descendants of Abraham, spiritually, are those who live by works.
I want you to understand what this did to the Judaisers mindset: this shattered their false confidence in their physical ancestry. They thought that because they were Jews, they were safe. They were children of Abraham, but they were only physical children of Abraham. Unless they believed, they would not be spiritual children of Abraham. You remember the Lord Jesus had this battle in His ministry, but before Him, His forerunner, John the Baptist, cited this great obstacle in the way of the Jews. He called them a generation of vipers, a brood of vipers, and he said: 'Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father', for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham'. Your physical ancestry doesn't mean anything unless you have faith alone in God. The Lord Jesus followed on, of course, and the religious Pharisees and Scribes cast aspersions on the Lord Jesus' parentage, inferring that He was an illegitimate. They said: 'We are not of sexual immorality, we are not of fornication', and the Lord Jesus responded in John 8, and said 'You are of your father the Devil, and your will is to do his lusts, you will fulfil his desires'. They pride themselves on having Abraham as their father, but the Lord was speaking to them as legalistic men who were trying to live right in the flesh, and said: 'No, your father is not Abraham, it's the devil'. In John chapter 6 some came to the Lord Jesus and, with their Jewish legalistic mindset, asked the question: 'What must we do that we might be doing the works of God?'. Jesus said: 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom God has sent' - faith! The Lord Jesus, at the beginning of His ministry, challenged this conception.
Greg Morris, in one of his writings, offers four warning signs of traditionalism - and traditionalism is a fruit of legalism, as we'll see, perhaps, next week. But the first sign of traditionalism, which is a fruit of legalism, Greg Morris cites as this: 'One, we begin to worship our history, we lose our effectiveness when our memories are greater than our dreams'. Let me repeat that: we begin to worship our history, we lose our effectiveness when our memories are greater than our dreams. Paul had to come to the Jews and say: 'No, the promise that was given to Abraham was not given to Abraham and his seeds'. Look at it in verse 16, it was given to Abraham and his seed, singular. In verses 15 to 20, we'll not look at it in detail, but Paul uses a human illustration, and he says it's just like a man-made covenant that states the beneficiary of the inheritance in the covenant. Well, Abraham received such a covenant from God, a promise, and it was signed, made to Abraham and his seed - his offspring, singular, not plural. Do you know what that means? Paul tells us in verse 17: the seed that the promise was given to, as well as Abraham, was Christ. His seed was Christ! Therefore, if you want to enter into the full spiritual blessings of the promises that were given to Abraham in his covenant, you must be in Christ, and you must claim it in Christ by faith, not by the works in Moses.
Do you see it? In verse 17: '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. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise'. So God gave a promise to Abraham before Moses was on the scene, and when Moses got the law it did not disannul the covenant with Abraham which was entered into by faith in Christ, who was the seed it was promised to.
Therefore Paul moves on, and in verses 10 to 14 of chapter 3 he argues on this basis that the righteous, the just, shall live by their faith and not by their works. He says in verse 11, quite plainly: 'The just shall live by faith', 'No man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident'. Now here's the reason why the just can only live by faith and not law, let me give you a number of reasons - well, Paul gives them to us here. Verse 10: the law, the works of the law, living by them brings a curse - the first part of verse 10: 'For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse'. Now I don't know whether you have ever operated on the premise of legalism, or ever been in a legalistic system, but there comes a curse with it. A curse, essentially, that robs us of our joy - and we'll see this later on in chapter 4 and verse 15, I like the translation that goes like this: 'What has happened to all your joy?'. We saw last week how our joy will be sapped from us, and legalism brings shame and guilt. In the arsenal of the legalists, they use shame and guilt to get their way, and to impose laws. Perhaps this is one of the greatest dangers of any legalistic gospel, or any legalistic sanctification: it turns people away from the grace of God as it truly is, and from the joyful freedom that Christ intends in His gospel.
We saw that in the gospels when the Lord Jesus encountered the Pharisees, and we saw last week that His strongest denunciations were against the Pharisees. In Matthew 23 and verse 13 He says: 'But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in'. That is the curse of legalism, it essentially dangles a spiritual carrot in front of people's faces, and they cannot achieve it because the carrot keeps moving, the standard is too high! This is what the Pharisees were doing, and we'll see in more detail how they did it next week - but they were effectively shutting the door in the face of those who needed to enter the kingdom.
Christian legalists do the same. They block God's people from the way of freedom by making the Christian life a cumbersome journey of religious performance. The Lord Jesus cited this against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 and verse 4, He said: 'They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger' - and I think the inference is, 'their little finger'. So they're prescribing rules and regulations that even they themselves know they can't live up to, and they rob everything that is meant to be a spiritual life of joy and satisfaction. Legalism brings a curse. It is like the proverbial hamster's wheel, and the hamster goes round and round, and round and round, and when he has a thought to get off, he gets off and he's puffed - what does he do? He gets back on again, and keeps going round and round and round. Each time he gets off he's as empty as he's ever been.
Paul says the righteous must live by their faith, because living by the works of the law brings a curse. But here is a second reason why we must live by faith and not law: law demands perfection. Verse 10, the second half, shows why this is the case: 'For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things', all things, 'which are written in the book of the law to do them'. Verse 12 as well, 'The law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them' - the implication is that he needs to live by all these laws in perfection if it's going to be a success. Now if traditionalism is a fruit of legalism, equally perfectionism is a fruit of legalism. Someone has said, and I think it's right: Jesus was perfect, but He was never a perfectionist. What does that mean? Well, you might be retorting in your mind: 'Well, did the Lord Jesus not say, 'You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect'?' - yes, He did. But if you think of that statement as the Lord inviting broken sinners to pull their socks up, and step up to the mark, and live like God when they can't - you've got it completely wrong. When the Lord Jesus said: 'You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect', and when He said that your righteousness must exceed the righteous acts of the Pharisees, He was showing that such a standard is unattainable without the Gospel of death to ourselves through crucifixion with Christ and life in the Spirit. The life of Christ living through us, the only life that can and will please God!
Now, if you're living under law, it is likely that you will be a perfectionist, or it's likely that those who are enforcing law upon you will be perfectionists. Richard Walters describes perfectionists like this, he said: 'People who must think and act without a flaw, punishing themselves when they don't meet this unattainable goal. They are people who leave behind them a trail of frustration. They remember the past with regret, don't enjoy the present as much as they might, and usually dread the future'. It's very likely that their perfectionism makes those around them miserable as well. Paul says the righteous must live by faith, because living by law brings a curse, it demands perfectionism which is not possible.
Thirdly, and perhaps most pertinently, it doesn't justify. The reason why it doesn't justify is, if I can take you out of Galatians for a moment into Romans chapter 8, the reason why the law does not justify is because it is weak through the flesh. Turn with me to Romans 8 please, Romans 8 verse 1, Paul again says: 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus' - note - 'who walk not after the flesh', and his implication is that walking by law, whether it's the laws of Moses or your own little Mount Sinai that you've come down with your list of rules and regulations, there is no condemnation for people who don't live by such laws, but who walk after the Spirit. 'For the law of the Spirit of life', no death or curse there, 'in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death'. Now I don't have time to prove this to you, but you will find that the law of sin and death here, Paul is not speaking about a law that works in our members that he has spoken of in previous chapters. He is actually referring here to the Holy Law of God as the law of sin and death. Now that's strong language, and here's the reason why he calls it the law of sin and death, verse 3: 'For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh'. The reason why the law cannot justify us to save us, and cannot justify us to sanctify us, is because it's weak in the flesh. In other words, it tells us what to do and what not to do, but it doesn't give us the power to do it! It only shows us that we can't do it! It shows us that we've fallen short of the mark!
You might say: 'Well, why is that?'. Well, here Paul tells us in Galatians, if you go back to chapter 3, the reason why is that the law was never intended to justify. God never gave it for that intention in the beginning. In chapter 3 in verse 21: 'Is 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'. God never gave a law that could bring life, He only gives a law that could bring death, and that was why it was given: to show us that we could never achieve the righteous standards of God in the flesh and by our works. If you ever needed a reason why we should not live by law, it is this: it doesn't justify because it's weak through the flesh, it was never given for that intention in the first place, but ultimately this is the reason why Christ died, to redeem us from the law!
Chapter 3 verses 13 and 14: 'Christ has redeemed us', brought us back, 'from the', bondage and, 'curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith' - and you can read verses 26 to 29 which state the same. Now Paul has argued in verses 1 to 9 that salvation and sanctification are a work of the Spirit received by faith, not achieved by the works of the law. Presently miracles were being performed in the Galatians' midst, and it was by the Spirit, not by law. Previously Abraham had believed, and it was accredited to him as righteousness, not by works but by faith. Prophetically those who believe, the promise is to the Seed - that is, Christ - and those who are in Him who believe. The righteous, verses 10 to 14, shall live by their faith, not works, because works brings a curse, works demands perfection, works doesn't justify - weak through the flesh, it was never intended for that reason. Christ has died to redeem us from the law!
Now come to chapter 4, we need to understand a bit more about the purpose that the law was given for. In chapter 3 verse 24, there is that famous verse that tells us that the law was given to us as a schoolmaster, or a tutor, to bring us to Christ. He expands in chapter 4 and verses 1 to 3 by saying that the law is like a guardian that was getting us ready, managing us for our inheritance. It was wanting to show us that we were not up to the mark, the purpose was to show us how in bondage to sin we were. In verse 8 and following, he spells it out even more, chapter 4, he says: 'Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God', in other words, known His grace by faith, and 'are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?'. In other words, the law has done its job, Galatians, its job was to inflame sin in you - that's what the law does, do you realise that? It inflames sin in you! It brings sin to the surface to show you what it is - that's why, if you live by laws, you will be constantly frustrated and you will be miserable, because all you will see is your inherent sinfulness.
That's why Paul says: 'Why on earth do you want to return to that?'. To return to the law is to return to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world. To return to the law, Paul says, is to become slaves again to sin - when what you should be are sons and daughters of God! He cites how they were enslaved in verse 10 of chapter 4, he says: 'Ye observe days', holy days, 'and holy months, and times, and years'. You're enslaved to a whole load of religious rules and regulations, and what is the effect of all this? Verse 15, that wonderful verse better translated: 'What has happened to all your joy?'.
It's very sad when you read verses 15 and 16, because Paul says that when he was with them - this might infer that he had bad eyesight, I don't know - but he said they were such a loving and a gracious people, that they would have plucked out their own eyes and have given them to Paul. But now, all of a sudden, he has become their enemy because he is telling them the truth. Let me tell you something: that's what legalism will do to you. It will rob you of your joy, and it'll take away your love. Here's a lesson, if ever you need to learn one, it's this: you become like the god you worship - that's a big one. If you believe in Allah, you'll cut people's hands off and heads off if they offend the law of Allah. Make sure you don't have a Christianised Allah.
In verses 4 to 7 of chapter 4, Paul is at pains to bring to their attention that they were slaves - past tense. Look at it, verse 4: 'When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore you are no more servants, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ'. Now, I want you to get this tonight: you're not a slave to law, you're a son or daughter to God. God's Word says that you have the Spirit of God's Son Himself in you, inside you, crying out: 'Abba, Father'. When was the last time you heard that, or you felt that inside? Let me put it another way: when was the last time you were in touch with the Father-child relationship that you have with God as your Father? Or, conversely, are you living your life, your Christian life, like a slave?
This is important, and it comes to the very heart of what Paul is arguing here. Let me bring you back to Luke chapter 15, where we were last week. We looked a little bit at the prodigal son, and quickly, if you turn to Luke chapter 15, you will see the great difference there is between being a slave and a son. You remember that the prodigal has been in the far country and he has wasted his inheritance in riotous living, and he has come to his senses and now he's beginning to return. He's thinking out beforehand what he's going to say to his father who has been offended by him, and he says in verse 19 - verse 18: 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son'. Now, see that, he felt 'I am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of thy hired servants'. Do you understand what he's saying here? He felt that because he had sinned, like you have sinned, and because he'd let God down, like you've let God down, that God wouldn't have him as His son anymore and he could only expect to be like a hired servant. Now listen: if that's you tonight, you need to get your eyes off yourself, and your eyes off the prodigal, and get your eyes on the father! I want you to do it: see the father as he is. Now, I want you to see him before the prodigal made the mess up. The prodigal comes to him and says: 'Give me your inheritance' - and I've told you here before that that was tantamount to saying to this old man, 'I wish you were dead so that I could get my hands on your money'. What did that father do? Was he like a legalistic father that some of us may have had, that would have pummelled him into submission? No, he didn't. He gave him it and he let him go!
Some of you could think about that, but I want you to see how the father spotted the son first - have you ever seen this? Verse 20, look at what it says: still a long way off he saw the son returning. Now that infers, I believe, that this old man was waiting on the rooftop, perhaps daily, perhaps for years. He was squinting day on day at the horizon, looking for the son coming back - that's the father! Now it's the Lord Jesus telling this story, and He wants you to see the father! When he sees the little speck, silhouette of that young boy, what does he do? He races out of the house, shouting instructions for a feast to his servants! This parable is a picture, you know, and the Lord, I think, pictures this father hurriedly stumbling toward the boy - maybe tripping over his skirt to get to the boy - who he longed to embrace.
Now I want you to see this, because this is wonderful, verse 21. He starts dictating the spiel that he had rehearsed in private, what he would say: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet'. Now, see this: the father stifles the speech of repentance halfway through. He couldn't even say what he intended to say, 'Make me like one of your hired servants', the father didn't even give him time to get it out until he was ordering the servants to kill the fatted calf, and bring a new robe, and a ring for the boy's finger. Now that is the heart of the Father, and I want to ask you tonight: is that your understanding of your God? Because if it's not, you're way off the mark. Or let me ask you this: do you call Him 'Abba'? Or do you know Him as 'Abba'? This is the picture, this is an Aramaic word, the picture is of a little Jewish boy running with his arms wide open to greet Daddy after his day's work, and he's crying with excitement, 'Abba, Abba, Abba!'. It is the picture of the childlike awe and affection that a toddler has for his Daddy. We are meant to experience that intimacy, that affection toward our Father in heaven.
Now I know the reaction, I know some of you are saying in your head and your heart: 'Oh, that's too familiar, you're being too familiar with God, that's irreverent'. Now let me tell you, if that's your reaction, can I say: you have never known it, you've never known it. John White calls that kind of thinking, 'A carnal sort of dignity that must go, and a humble heart and trust be added'. When you know Him as 'Abba', your faith will be simpler and clearer, and your prayers will be more reverent. Yet at the same time as being reverent, they will be intimate and they will be informed. Now don't misquote me and say that David Legge is saying we should call God 'Daddy', I'm not saying that, but what I am saying is: the intimacy we ought to have is the same as a child with his Daddy.
There is a picture I saw recently in the press, I don't know whether you saw it as well - it's on the screen just now - a photograph of Barack Obama in the Oval Office, and his youngest daughter, Sasha, has crept in unawares to her father. The press article had that photograph, and right beside it had another photograph - because that most recent photograph was reminiscent of the famous image that some of you here might remember in 1963 of another president, John F. Kennedy, at the desk of the Oval Office during the Cuban missile crisis. Many of the dignitaries assembled in the Oval Office of the White House to discuss this crisis - what was happening, what their response should be to it, what should go out to the public about it - this photograph was taken during the discussions, but it reveals that while these leaders were in serious discussion, little John Jr was playing under the president's feet. Now all the VIPs had to show their credentials and prove them as they entered the White House that day, and as they entered the Oval Office, but the president's son hadn't. If you had asked the question: 'Why did he not need to?', it was simply because of who he was - who he was.
Do you know who you are? You know there's a hymn, and I know I'll get shot down for saying it, but I hate it - it goes like this: 'I'm only a sinner saved by grace' - you are not only a sinner saved by grace! You are a child of the King. You are a son or a daughter of God - but many don't know it! Many don't know who their Father is. Do you know what legalism does? It turns our Father, as God, into a despot, or a harsh legislator. Yes, we are to have fear of God, but do you know what 'fear' actually means? It literally means, in a New Testament sense, 'faith'. It means a reverential awe of God, but it doesn't mean that we are to be trembling in our boots!
Let me say this, and this comes very near the raw flesh for some: not only have legalists given us a warped view of God as our Father, but often our earthly fathers have done quite a good job of this themselves. Do you know that this is what happens? Because of our childhood experience of our parental fathers, we often superimpose upon the personality of God the Father some of those negative characteristics. A father who was absent, a father who was too busy for you, and it's hard for some Christians to understand that that is far from the case with their heavenly Father. A father who is distant, or disinterested, insensitive or un-caring. A father who is stern and demanding, a taskmaster. Maybe a father who's just laissez-faire, passive and cold; or a father who is competitive in nature, and he's never satisfied with what you do, or maybe he's impatient or angry. He's maybe mean, cruel, or even abusive! Or maybe you've a father - and we've all been this father if we've been fathers - who tries to take all the fun out of life, who is controlling, or who is manipulative, or is condemning, or unforgiving, or nitpicking. Jesus and Paul want us to know that our Abba in heaven is not like that!
Now, I know some of you might have a problem with this. Philip said to the Lord: 'Look, we've heard enough, just show us the Father and that will do'. Jesus said: 'Have I been so long with you, Philip, and you don't realise that whoever has seen me has seen the Father'. Now you listen to this: do you want to know who God the Father is like? Look at Jesus! Now maybe you're here, and you're saying: 'I want to enjoy such an intimate relationship with the Father like that' - is that you? Is that what you're saying? 'I want to enjoy such an intimacy with Abba Father' - listen, now listen: you have it! You have it! It was bought for you at Calvary, but you will never enjoy it if you insist in living by laws like a slave. You must live by grace through faith as a son of God and a daughter of God.
In the United States Civil War, over the issue of slavery, Charles Sumner, on November 5th 1864, drew the battle lines between the two warring sides - and he declared this, I quote: 'Where slavery is, there liberty cannot be; and where liberty is, there slavery cannot be' - that is the message of Galatians. Where slavery is, there liberty cannot be; and where liberty is, there slavery cannot be - that's the message of the Bible. Now what is the remedy to this Galatian controversy? Well, it's found in chapter 4, if you look at it, we're almost finished, chapter 4 verses 21 to 28, and I want to read it in the English Standard Version, because it's clear. What Paul does is, he uses an allegory, an illustration of Hagar and Sarah - verse 21 of Galatians 4: 'Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh', Ishmael, 'while the son of the free woman', Isaac, 'was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written...', verse 28, 'Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise'.
What is the remedy to this problem? The remedy is very simply verses 30 and 31: 'Cast out the bondwoman', that's Hagar, the law, a picture of it, 'and cast out her son', Ishmael, a son of the flesh, of the works of the flesh - cast her out, and live by the promise! That's God's will. Now there's a warning in verse 29, that if you live like this, you'll be persecuted - Ishmael always persecutes Isaac, and the carnal legalists will always persecute the children of promise. But listen carefully: Paul is very clear, 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son' - and let me tell you this: we need to be as ruthless with this issue in our lives as the Lord Jesus Christ was with the Pharisees, because that was exactly the same issue He was dealing with.
Charles Swindoll has a great book I could recommend to any of you called, 'The Great Awakening', and I adopted one of his stories in it for our benefit in our country here. Listen to it as I close tonight, he says this: 'Suppose you began a family holiday in a new car, and you filled it with petrol. You put the family in it and took off, and the car operated beautifully, and the engine purred. You zipped along at 65, maybe 70 miles an hour down the motorway - however, the further you got down the way, it wasn't long before you needed to fill up with petrol again. You noticed that some people along the way, very strangely, were pushing their cars. They would wave at you as you go by, and you would wave back at them and keep on driving. Finally you came by a lay-by to rest, and while you stopped to relax a little, somebody who had been pushing his car comes into the same lay-by and asks, 'How are you doing?'. You reply, 'Fine', and the car-pusher asks, 'Where are you going?'. You reply, 'Well, we're taking a trip up north, we're going to get up to the coast and enjoy the seaside and the fresh air'. Then he asks you, 'Well, why are you driving? We are all pushing!'. 'Yes, we noticed that, but we don't understand why', you remark back to him. 'Oh, if you push your car the air stays clean, it makes a lot of sense you know, to push your car. We used to rely on petrol a lot, but no longer. Now that we really understand what it's all about, we are pushers, we are not drivers!', was his explanation. So you let your car run out of petrol, and all the family gets out and you begin to push this beautiful, lovely, comfortable new car to your holiday destination and back'.
Now, this is what Swindoll says: 'That's what Paul is writing about in Galatians 3:2-3. In essence he is saying, 'You are telling me that you who began on a full tank of the Holy Spirit are now pushing your way through life? You're telling me that that's an advantageous message?'. Paul says, 'I'm, telling you that it's a denigrating message, it's a degenerating message. That means that Christ, the miracle working One, now He lays back and watches you as you, so-called, pull off a spiritual life that you never had before. Who are you kidding?', Paul says, 'Cars were made to drive, not to push''. That's it - cars were made to drive, not to push.
Some of us say: 'Oh, is there not something for me to do?' - of course there is something for you to do, but it's not what you do that will sanctify you. Galatians 6 and verse 14: 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world' - that is the message. You must come as a Christian, here is how to be sanctified: you must come as a Christian to the cross as you did as an unsaved person, and you must admit that in the flesh this Christian life is impossible to live, it must be lived in the Spirit. You must allow yourself to be broken before Calvary, and come with your empty cup and allow God to cleanse it, and allow God to fill it, and allow God to live His life through you - that's it! Nothing more and nothing less!
It all starts, and it all ends, at the cross.
Hallelujah, praise the Lord, the Almighty, the Living God, the only Eternal, Everlasting, Unchangeable Ancient of Days - but my Abba. My Abba!
Lord, may we all be able to say that from the depths of our spirit, for it ought to be Christ's Spirit crying to You: 'Abba'. May we live in such an intimacy, a faith, grace-based intimacy through the Holy Spirit. Free us and let us stand in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and not be enslaved by any yoke of bondage - but may we be free, for it cost the blood of Christ, Your Son, and we thank you for it, Father, to set us free! For who the Son sets free...Lord, may there even be a prodigal - and I know there are prodigals here tonight - who sees the Father, and finds Him. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in the Iron Hall Evangelical Church, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Life In The Spirit' series, entitled "The Magna Carta Of Christian Freedom" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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