Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 1
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|We want to hear what God has to say to us in this book. And today, as we introduce it, we’re just going talk about a picture of deception, how deception so quickly comes into a group.|
Introduction to Galatians
Well, many of you have been e-mailing me and calling me and whatever, saying you’re praying that I would know what the next book is that we should go to. You know, when you think about it, you could just throw the Bible up and let it fall, and wherever it opens is a good book. Is that not correct? It’s God’s Word from cover to cover. I even believe in the maps.
But I want to tell you, I’ve honestly prayed. As a matter of fact, I had almost ruled this book out, but I have honestly prayed and I do believe God has laid upon my heart what we need desperately. Would you turn with me to the book of Galatians. I have referenced it many times, but only from chapter 2, and only from chapter 6. The meat of the whole book is chapters 3, 4 and 5, and so, therefore, I want us to go back and look at the book of Galatians.
I want to make sure you understand that when we pray and we’ve asked the Lord to lead us, evidently there’s a message in this book for us as a church and for us individually in this book. We’ve got to approach it that way. This is not just another time just to give out information. We want to hear what God has to say to us in this book.
And today, as we introduce it, we’re just going talk about a picture of deception, how deception so quickly comes into a group. We are going to spend the next several months looking at a group of churches. Now remember, not one church, but several churches that were terribly deceived by the false message of religion. Now have you been with me long enough that you know what I am talking about? Religion is that which a man does for God; Christianity is what God does through a man. And these people were duped. They were mistakenly led into religion. They came out of a relationship is what Christianity is, back into a religion and they would pay dearly for it.
When I was growing up, I’ve always loved to fish I guess. I guess I was born loving to fish. My daddy was a great, great fisherman and instilled that into me. Of course, when I was in the teenage years daddy wouldn’t let me drive till I was 17 and I can’t understand why. And so there were not a lot of places we could go and fish and get there with our bicycles, etc. Finally I got a buddy that could drive and so we could go in his car and we’d go down to the Roanoke River. Roanoke River ran through Roanoke, Virginia, where I grew up. And we’d go by and pick up some catfish bait.
Now anything that smells bad and is rotten is good catfish bait. They’re scavenger fish and they feed off the bottom. We’d go by and daddy had a friend of his had a tire place and we’d pick up an old tire, take it with us, with a big old thing of kerosene. Soak that tire in kerosene and light it, it’d burn all night long. The key is, though, always stay up wind from it. It was bad when the wind changed. That was not the best smell in the world. We’d put that catfish bait on there and throw it out with a heavy weight, let it sink to the bottom, get us one of those little sticks that had a little “v” in the top of it, cut the limbs off and set the rod in it and get back, and we’d have a cooler with, with cokes and stuff, and chips and food and that was one of the best nights you could ever spend—that old fire burning on that tire, burn all night long.
And, you know, those catfish when they would hit they would, they don’t really mess with it like a bass or something else. They just come up and grab it and go. They just choke it down. I mean, they’re not worried about being finicky, because they don’t like good stuff anyway. And that catfish, you can see that rod go boop, boop, and you might as well pick it up, cause it’s gone and this is just as soon as it goes down, jerk that thing back. And you can just, get in your imagination, you can see that old catfish looking at that bait thinking “Whoa, this is good stuff!” And he grabs it, never looks at it very well. He’s so deceived into thinking it’s all healthy for him, swallows the whole thing, hook, line and sinker. And it doesn’t take him long to realize that hook’s in there. And there’s a pair of unseen hands in a world that that catfish has never understood, controlling his destiny. And it doesn’t take long until the hook that’s in there, actually, eventually produces his death. It’s a painful experience for a catfish. It’s a painful experience. He’s been deceived. He’s been duped.
I want to tell you, these people in Galatia that we’re going to study about, they didn’t realize the hook that was in the message they bought into. They didn’t realize—they can’t lose their salvation—but they didn’t realize the death that was going to come from their not experiencing the fullness of Jesus and the joy that He could have produced in their life, and the love for one another. Because when they bought into that message, they didn’t understand the dangers that went with it.
Galatians is a classic book regarding the bondage that comes with law and the freedom that comes with grace. You’ll never find a better one unless it be Romans, and it’s a 16 chapter book, and I didn’t think you were ready for about six years of that. In Philippians we saw living grace. And, oh, what a joy to see that living grace! But in Galatians we’re going to see the doctrine behind it. We’re going to see the liberty that comes with this living grace—how free we are to be what God wants us to be.
I don’t believe that any of us here today have any idea how inbred the law mentality is in us. I’m telling you, you watch yourself next week. We can talk grace with our lips, turn right around and live under law by our methods and our practice. It’s amazing, even in my own life. I’ve preached this for years, but it frightens me every day. You don’t know this message unless you’re living it. Intellectual knowledge about this message won’t cut it. If you’re not living it you have not learned it.
As I mentioned, this epistle to the Galatians is to several churches, not just one. If you’ll look at verse 2 of chapter 1—and today’s just an overview—it says, “And all the brethren who are with me.” He’s signing on now. He says, “to the churches [plural] of Galatia.” The name Galatia is sort of interesting in history. It’s derived from the barbaric Gaul’s or the Celts, if you’ve studied history. These were very hostile people out of Asia Minor. And after several centuries of plundering the Greek and the Roman Empires—see, they were a very hostile people, fierce people—but in the years that passed on, they began to integrate into other nations and, and that hostility and that fierce warrior mentality was weakened by others coming into their people. And after a while they just sort of settled down. In fact, they were known to question everything. It’s incredible how they change from being so adamant and so fierce to being weak and questioning everything, and you couldn’t trust them. It just sort of evolved over the period of time. By the time Paul wrote the book of Galatians there was a large population of Jews there, which helps explain some of the problems they had, as we’ll discover in our study.
Well, Paul’s first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas established churches in four cities, and you’ve heard these cities, but you might not have known that they were in southern Galatia. They were the cities of Antioch—not Antioch of Syria, but Antioch of Pisidia—Lystra, Iconium and Derbe. Remember those terms? In Acts 13:14, for instance, through 14:23, you find the history of this first journey and how they established churches in that area. That was southern Galatia. You see, they had bonded together in what we would call today kind of an association of churches. And all of them had fallen into the trap of what we’re going to deal with in Galatians. The Galatian epistle itself does not identify particular churches, just the areas in which they were set up. But we do know that Paul personally ministered in these churches.
In Galatians 4:13 he says, “But you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.” Man, they had an instant kindred spirit there that joined together. And Paul had preached this wonderful gospel of grace to these people. The fact that the book of Acts mentions the four churches in southern Galatia probably means that these were the churches he was writing to. There has been a real controversy over the years as to whether or not it was northern Galatia or southern Galatia, and to be honest with you, nobody knows anything about northern Galatia. And since these are the churches that are mentioned, most people—I’m one of them—believe that these were the ones addressed by this wonderful epistle.
While in Galatia Paul nearly lost his life. If you’ve ever studied Acts, some antagonistic Jewish leaders who were just hung up with the Mosaic Law followed him from Antioch and Iconium to Lystra, and there they beat him up. Let’s look at Acts 14:19. It says, “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and, having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” And verse 20 says, “But while the disciples stood around him he arose and entered the city.” You know, when I read those verses I want to say, “No, Paul, don’t go back in there; they just beat you up. They stoned you; don’t go back.” But he did, and the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. You have to understand, he risked his life to preach the message of grace to these dear folks.
After going to Derbe and establishing a church there, Paul and Barnabas revisited these cities. Can you imagine? He just keeps going back. I don’t know if he loved pain or what, but he just kept going back to these cities. Acts 14:22 says, “They were strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith.” You know, the thought just came to my mind. Over in 1 John he says “perfect love,” when you’re totally surrendered to God, “cast out all fear.” And you certainly see that in the apostle Paul. He’s not worried about himself; he’s worried about those believers and making sure they’re growing and being strengthened in the faith.
Well, on his second missionary journey Paul visited the Galatian churches, but this time with Silas. Only this time Acts 16:4 tells us that they were delivering some decrees that had been decided upon in Acts 15, delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem for them to observe. Now, what he’s saying is they had written a decree and it says you’re free from the Judaistic laws. You don’t have to go back up under Moses. You don’t have to be circumcised. Jesus is enough. He is sufficient for you. And it was a declaration of freedom.
So here’s Paul and Silas, and they’re going church to church saying, “Man, you’re going to like this. Let me give you this. This is a letter from the church in Jerusalem.” So the time of Paul’s second missionary journey, as he was passing out these letters, the churches were growing and they seemed to be strong. Here he had been strengthening them. Now they had this declaration of freedom. It says in Acts 16:5, “So the churches were being strengthened in the faith and were increasing in numbers daily.”
Now this is what I want you to see; sometimes when you’re growing we become the most vulnerable. When I’m the most sincere in my walk with God is when I become the most vulnerable, because I don’t want to miss anything, and sometimes we can fall right into the trap of error. Something happened. They were growing; they were being strengthened; but something happened that infested the whole area. That whole association of churches fell into its trap. It is to this problem that the book of Galatians was written under the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God.
You’re going to see an angry preacher in Galatians. You say, “That’s an oxymoron.” Well, no, not really. There’s two kinds of anger. There’s a righteous anger and an unrighteous anger. And you’re going to see a man righteously angry when he writes this. You see, one of the things that makes any teacher of the message of grace angry in a righteous way, is when the people he’s teaching, somehow somebody comes into them and begins to explain a doctrine that’s not comparable to the message of grace. When they begin to add law to the message of grace, that’s going to anger any preacher of grace. I’ve discovered over the years the more you preach grace, the more sensitive you become to law. You can spot it 150 yards off.
And, you see, that’s what angered the apostle Paul, that these men had come. But not so much that these false teachers had come; the people had listened to them. And, by the way, the best way to stop false doctrine is to quit listening to it. That was the problem. Paul wasn’t surprised that the Judiazers had come, he was surprised that the people had listened to them. And he was sensitive like a mother watching over her children, a shepherd watching over the sheep.
Up in Alaska at the university there was a 70 year old man stomped to death by a moose. It was a cow; she had a calf with her. And all day long the kids on the campus had been throwing snowballs at it, and irritating it and frightening the moose. And here comes a 70 year old guy; bless his heart, he wasn’t hurting anybody. He was just going to work out in a gym and he made a huge mistake. He got between the moose and the calf, and you don’t do that. The instinct of the animal is to protect her own. And so she attacked him and stomped him to death. They were going to shoot the moose because of it, until finally somebody had enough sanity to realize that the moose was just doing what instinctively it should have done.
That’s the way it is when you have a church, when you have a pastor, when you have teachers that teach grace, they become sensitive to the people that they’re teaching. And when that law comes in, that’s when the righteous anger begins to arise, because somebody’s trying to add something to Jesus. You know why we have elders now. Elders protect this very message of grace. That’s what they’re for. If you ever want to see righteous anger, you bring law into a place that is established upon grace.
Well, Galatians is Paul writing the book of Romans mad. I know I’ve said that before, but it just really hits me this time. You know, it took 16 chapters to say the same thing in Romans; it takes him six chapters in Galatians. You ever noticed how your momma got to the point real quick when she was mad? There wasn’t any dialogue. There wasn’t any commentary. There wasn’t any introduction. Just boom, right in your face. As you enter the text now, Paul’s going to come out both guns blazing. He never thanks God for these people one time, not one time. He thanked God for the Corinthians and they were a mess, but he didn’t thank God for these people. But he came out with both guns blazing. It doesn’t take you long to realize what the problem is and this is what the epistle to the Galatians is all about.
But what I want you to do is make a connection. Nothing’s new under the sun, Solomon tells us. You see, we’re living in days when it’s the same thing. We would much rather do something for God than we would relate to Him, and that’s exactly what our flesh wants. “Let’s go work for Him; let’s go do something. I’ve got to do something or He’ll not accept me.” And the message of Christ says, “No, you do what you do because you’re already accepted.” Isn’t that beautiful? “I’ve got to do something so He’ll love me.” No, no, He already loves you. That’s why you do what you do. It changes the whole mentality. That mentality of law will cripple your life and it’ll bring pain you didn’t ever think could be there.
Well, first of all, let’s look at the deceivers that troubled them. The term “Galatians” is found in 3:1. Notice what he says. He says, “You foolish Galatians.” There’s a lot in that. When we get there we’ll study it. “Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” Now Paul says who, and the emphasis is on that who. Who has bewitched you? Somehow, some way, somebody had bewitched them. The word “bewitched,” which we will study in depth when we get to it, but let me just go ahead and preempt it, is the word baskaino. It has the idea of being put under a spell. A.T. Robertson says it has the idea of being fascinated with somebody. It’s like being mesmerized by an eloquent speaker, even though the message was false. They’re not listening to what he’s saying, they’re listening to how he says it. And now they’re controlled by that very thing. The word carries the idea of charming someone.
So somebody had come in and incredibly, with great ability, had bewitched these people, put them under a spell. It sounded so good. It sounded so good they didn’t see the hook that was in it, and it had taken them off the message of grace. It seemed that there was one person behind every bit of this. Look over in 5:7 as we continue to get an idea of what we’re going to be studying. He says, “You were running well [they were doing great; the church is being strengthened], who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Again, this idea of who; there’s a ringleader somehow.
Have you ever thought about it? One person in the body of Christ is enough to bring the whole thing down, in the sense of crippling the walk of other people. One person that gets into a church that has a law mentality and if he has a gift of being able to say it in such an eloquent way, it’s not going to take long before others give in to it. And then you’ve got a cancer growing in the body, and people don’t seem to understand what Christianity really is. They completely are taken off the path of what grace is all about.
It’s amazing how quickly we turn to what our flesh wants to hear, especially when we hear somebody say it well, without even thinking about what they’re saying. You know, I wonder today in the 21st century where the Bereans are, to check it out and see if it’d be so. Our flesh loves the message of what we can do for God.
You know, over the years I grew up under it. How many of you grew up under it, besides me, anybody else? Yeah, and some of you just won’t be honest. Yeah, all of us did. Matter of fact, you go to work tomorrow, and if you work out in the secular world, it’s totally a works mentality. But see, you’ve got to be careful to be deprogrammed. When you come into God’s kingdom He doesn’t operate the same way. “My way is not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts.” We love to do something so we can measure it and then take some credit out of it. How many did you have in church the other day and how much money are you taking up? You see, we love that kind of thing. It’s numbers; it’s figures; it’s give me a list and I’ll go do it so that I can be spiritual. Our flesh loves that instead of wanting to relate to God and have to deal with the ugliness of flesh and have to deal with the sin that’s in our life. How quickly we respond to the message of works!
Galatians 1:6 says, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel.” Paul says “So soon, so soon! You were doing great. What are you doing? You’ve gone right back to what you’ve been set free from.” He continues in Galatians 1:7 and explains there really isn’t another gospel. He says, “which is not another.” Notice what he says in the rest of verse 7, “But there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” The word “trouble” is the word tarasso. Tarasso means to stir up. You ever noticed a body of believers that’s stirred up? You can just about bet on the fact they’ve bought back into the message of works.
To frighten, to trouble. Now, I want to make sure we understand that when we have conflict here and when we see things arise, it’s coming from somebody that’s going after their flesh. That’s what stirs up the body. It turns it upside down. The message of grace puts it right-side up. But the message of law will turn it upside down. It’ll stir up the body. It will trouble the people. There’s not going to be any joy to the message of law. This works mentality will destroy a people.
“There are some who trouble,” he says. And you see, I told you there was a ringleader, but now he’s got “some.” There are others now that have bought into the message. These are eloquent in how they speak and they’re convincing, and people are buying into it just right and left. Why? Because their flesh is susceptible to it. These deceivers had come upon them with a doctrine that would really trouble and disturb and stir up in a wrong way those who love Christ.
Paul gives us another clue in 1:8 as to how they get the message out. Where do these people come from? First of all, they come from within. They’re already there. Verse 8: “But even though we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Verse 9: “As we have said before so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
Now, what was the method? It was through teaching and it was through preaching. And I’m telling you, times have not changed. Times have not changed. If somebody says it well, throws Jesus into the message three or four times, we tend to buy right into it—boy, if he sheds a tear that’s even better—without checking out what’s being said. “Is this what the Scriptures say?” And evidently they bought it.
Now do you see why I say that Galatians is Paul writing Romans mad? Here’s a preacher that sees his flock; he risked his life to preach this message to them, and now he’s sees his very flock go after a message that Paul had been set free from for years, that old religious mentality, that old “do” mentality. He’d been set free from it and they’re embracing it and he’s angry, and righteously angry.
Paul tells them that this false doctrine that was being preached was totally of man, not of God. I’ll tell you, anything—always remember this—anything that’s of man will appeal to the flesh, and it may produce numbers, but that doesn’t mean it’s of God. He says in 1:11, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me [and here’s the contrast] is not according to man.”
Let’s begin to add up what we’ve learned. We’ve got a ring leader. He started this whole thing. He’s been sitting there waiting for an opportunity, and now he’s in a teaching position, and now he’s beginning to propound the message of works: You’ve got to do this; you’ve got to do that; you’ve got to do this; you’ve got to do that. And the believers in Galatia were so mesmerized by this guy they were as if they were under a spell, as if they’d never heard Paul, they had never even heard what the message of grace was all about. Hypnotized; that’s what the word means. These false teachers are preachers who are preaching man’s gospel, not God’s.
Now who are these people? We ran across these in Philippians. Paul runs across them in every epistle. He’s not surprised that they’re here, as I said. He’s surprised that the people would listen to them. They’re the Judiazers, the legalizers, those who wanted to put men that are believers back up under the law of Moses. Some scholars believe that the Judiazers were planted in these early churches by the Jews themselves in order to corrupt this threat against their personal religion. You see, Christianity is a threat to any religion because it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship. So these people were planted.
When I read that to my study I got to thinking, I think that plan’s still around here today. I think there’s a school that trains these people and they send them wherever you try to preach the message of grace. And they’ll get right in your face with it and they’re good. They’re good at what they say, particularly preying upon people that really don’t understand to start with. The saddest thing was that many Jewish people had a so-called relationship with Christ, but they didn’t really have one, got into the churches and then began to propound the Mosaic system. Paul alludes to these Judiazers in 2:4. I want you to see what he says about them. He talks about them spying on him, spying out his liberty in Christ. You can just feel the hostility these people have towards Paul.
In verse 4, “and this occurred because of false brethren, secretly brought in [and then he puts a parenthesis] who came in by stealth.” You know what stealth means? That means, buddy, they were there, and you didn’t even realize they got there. A stealth bomber; I mean, that’s one of those things that can fly so fast and you don’t even pick it up on a radar screen, and it’s there before you know it, “who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus [and that’s a fact; our liberty is only in Christ Jesus] that they might bring us into bondage.”
In fact, they tried to force Paul to circumcise Titus who was a Gentile believer, and that will be in chapter 1 as we study it later on. But Paul would not bend; Paul would not do that, because Christ is enough. Peter, James and John stood beside him and said, “He’s exactly right.”
These Jewish leaders, these Judiazers, out of which group the ones who stoned Paul at Lystra came, no doubt had added the churches of Galatia to their hit list. Now they’re going to prey on these little churches that Paul had begun in Galatia. Like the false teachers about whom Paul warned the Ephesian believers, they came up from within; they came up from within. As Acts 20:30 says, “And from among your own selves, your own selves, men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them.”
These Judiazers were creating such confusion in these Galatian churches. They didn’t even know what grace was anymore. They were buying back in to a system rather than a relationship they had with Christ. They taught the Gentiles that they had to be circumcised, the men had to be circumcised. Why the man? Because he passes the seed on from generation to generation. And therefore his whole family now can be considered to be Jewish because that’s the physical mark of Abraham and they told him that you have to have this. They told them that if they remained bound to the Mosaic Law, regulations and ceremonies, then they could make it all the way to heaven, and that’s what they were propounding to these people. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do this.
You say, “They’re not around anymore. Why do we study this?” Oh, they’re around folks. It’s just a different system that’s propounded. I’ve told you this before, but I remember the book I read once, to wake up at 4:00 in the morning and have your quiet time and somebody said, God doesn’t use anybody that doesn’t get up at 4:00 in the morning. I was so sincere. I said, “O God, I want to be used.” I got up at 4:00 in the morning. I got on my knees. Did the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, closed my eyes. I woke up about 7:20 with a cramp in my right leg that I thought I’d never get out. “Somehow, God, I don’t think this is what You’re talking about, but this is what they told me that if I did would achieve something in my life.”
You don’t achieve anything in your life; you receive it. And the doing in Christianity is not obeying a set of rules. The doing in Christianity is bowing before the One who already has accomplished those rules and then He dictates and you just simply say yes to Him. You’re not attaining anything. Jesus is your spirituality. By the way, I found out what time those guys who got up at 4:00 went to bed. Hey, check that out. They go to bed with the cows. They didn’t have TV back in those days when those books were written. Sometimes I don’t even leave the church until 8:00, and what are you doing going to bed at 8:00?
Paul had warned the Galatian believers before about these people. You see, again, he’s not surprised that these people have come. His biggest surprise is that these people, taught the message of grace, would listen to them. Galatians 1:9 says, “As we have said before, so I say again now,” the apostle reminded the believers there, “if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” Cut him off. Get away from him. There’s no doubt that they knew this message, but paid no attention to it, paid no attention to it.
Well, we’ll deal with all of this as we come to it in the text. I hope you can now see that these Galatian churches have had false teaching come into their midst, teaching that appealed to the flesh. I would be willing to say every church in our country has had false teaching get into it. And you can stand and preach grace until you fall over in the floor, but there’s some people who will not hear you. They don’t want to walk with God. They want a religion. They want to go do something for Him, because they still have that mentality “if I do it, I can achieve it.” It’s not that. You do because you love Him and because it’s already achieved. He is our spirituality, not what we do or don’t do. They went back to the old performance mentality of the flesh. The deceivers that troubled them.
Let me ask you a question today. How many of you have already been deceived? You’re already deceived. You’re struggling with this message of grace. You’re struggling big time. You know why? Because you have bought so much into the message of works you can’t seem to see the difference, and you’re thinking that what I’m saying is wrong and what Paul is saying is wrong. It’s like Watchman Nee said one time, “We live such subnormal lives that when we see something that’s normal, we think it’s abnormal.” That’s where we are in the 21st century. People don’t understand, this is normal Christianity that we’re talking about. They have bought into a lie.
Secondly, the doctrine that tricked them. We see the deceivers that troubled them, but now we have the doctrine that tricked them. We looked at this a little bit, but let’s look at it a little bit more. Doesn’t take long to realize what Galatians is approaching. The word “law” is used 32 times in six chapters. Does that tell you what it’s all about? He’s dealing with the law.
Now to understand this, I’ve got to be very careful here, and I’ve really prayed that God would help me to help you understand and to help me understand what I’m saying. There are two parts of the law. There was the moral part of the law; that’s your Ten Commandments. God never did away with the moral law. He wrote it on our hearts. God lives in us to perfect that and to produce that. Now, remember that: When you say doing away with the law, never even think about the Ten Commandments. No, sir; that’s God standard He requires of everybody and that’s the very standard that condemns every one of us as sinners, because nobody can attain it.
It’s the second part of the law that He put away. And that’s the ceremonial law which was the rules and regulations that governed their behavior, the way they did everything that they did, and circumcision being one of the top rules that they had. You can eat this; you can’t eat that. You can drink this; you can’t drink that. On certain days you can carry a burden; on certain days you can’t carry it, that kind of law. And, in reality, He used it for their benefit. It set them apart as a nation, but it did not save them in any way, shape or form. And so this form and rules they’ve drug back into their Christianity, when Jesus had fulfilled every bit of it. God has not thrown away the moral law. He lives in us to enable us to be everything it requires.
Now, the ceremonial law even included circumcision, as I’ve said. I mentioned circumcision because we’re going to hit this several times. It’s mentioned six times in the book of Galatians. So that you’ll understand that’s the beginning, that’s the physical mark that identifies them physically with Abraham. The spiritual mark is being circumcised of the heart. This is an external mark. Look over in 6:12-14 and I’ll show you just a little bit of what I’m talking about that we will address in days ahead.
Verse 12, “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the Law.” That’s an interesting phrase right there. They’ve got all the rules and don’t keep them themselves. “But they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”
Isn’t it interesting that all of religion addresses external things and never touches the moral law? Why is that? Because nobody can fulfill it. You see, somebody would rather address you on the fact that you’ve been divorced, or the fact that you this, that and the other, rather than the love that God produces in your life that is the standard of character He demands from every believer.
Over in 5:14, look at this. I want to make sure you see this. It’s a beautiful verse. It says, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in [how many words?] one word.” Now, that makes it simple, doesn’t it. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Now what is the word then that fulfills the Law? Would you tell me? Love, that’s right. Now, can we produce this love? “Oh, yes. Why, I went to a seminar the other day and they told me to go home and love my wife.” Now, that’s where your story ended, wasn’t it. Because when you got home you didn’t realize you cannot even do what you sincerely desire to do. Why? Only Christ can produce it.
Look down in 5:22. Where does this love come from? From the one who fulfills it and the one who produces it. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love [the characteristics of which are], joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Look at the last phrase, “against such things there is [what?] no law.” Why? Because when this love is present, the law has already been fulfilled. I don’t have to worry about a bunch of rules. I bow before Him and He produces in me the character that I could never be. You see, Christianity is not me trying to produce what I can’t produce. Christianity is Christ coming to live in me, producing through me what He demands of me.
Verses 20 and 21 of chapter 2 are the key verses, but we won’t stay there too long today. I’ve preached on them here before; but don’t worry, we’re really going to preach on them in days to come. He says “I have been crucified with Christ.” Paul says that old legalist that I used to be doesn’t live anymore. “And it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives [where does He live?] in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith [how do you appropriate all this?] by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me. I do not,” Paul says, “nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Now when he says I do not nullify, the word means I don’t hinder, atheteo. I do not frustrate the grace of God. I’m not going to go back up under the law. That frustrates the grace of God. The grace of God is His enabling power, His transforming power. I’m not going to frustrate that. If I can do anything and God says that’s a righteous work right there, whoa, I like that, then Christ died needlessly.
He goes on to say I can’t produce righteousness. Jesus has become to me righteousness and redemption and sanctification. “For if righteousness comes through the Law then Christ died needlessly.” You see, when you add a law to Christ, you’ve just detracted from Him. That’s why He came to fulfill the Law, dotted every “i,” crossed every “t”. He knew what we couldn’t do, and He comes to live in us to produce through us what we would never be able to do.
Chapter 4 verse 17 we see the motive of these false teachers. “They eagerly seek you out [that means that they’re not in any way passive about coming after you]. But they wish to shut you out in order that you may seek them.” Shut you out from what? Chapter 5 verse 4: “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
That has nothing to do with a believer losing his salvation, by the way, and I can’t wait to teach that in its context. Where we grab a verse here and a verse there, here a verse, there a verse, everywhere a verse, verse, and we build a theology that hasn’t got anything to do with theos, which means God. It’s no theology it’s “us”-ology.
Now why would they do this? “In order that you may seek after them.” You know what? These false teachers want a following and they use the Law, put you back up on a works mentality, telling you that if you don’t do this you cannot achieve righteousness over here. And they use that to control the people.
I’ll tell you one thing I cannot stomach is somebody who tries to put a believer who’s been set free under the message of grace, put him back up under the law mentality, telling him he’s got to do this, this, this or he’ll never spiritual. My friend, that’s in the book of Hesitations. These people had come in and taken these precious believers that were set free to walk in the fullness and the joy of Jesus, free to be what God wants them to be and put them back up under law and robbed them of all the joy that Christianity could bring them. No wonder Paul’s disturbed.
Now, I want to explain one thing and I may have to quit. I thought I was going to get another point in, but hey, I’m not competing with anybody. My son came to me one day and he said, “Daddy, my school is legalistic.” I want to make sure you understand the difference here. What he meant was they have a lot of rules. Don’t equate rules with legalism. That’s not what I’m saying. The mentality of legalism is you have to obey the rules in order to be spiritual. You see the difference? It’s the attitude with which you look at a rule. Rules build character. Some of you are going to say, “Well, the constitution and bylaws has a bunch of rules in it.” Rules build character; they do not make anybody spiritual. They give us parameters; they give us boundaries.
It has nothing to do with my spirituality. Rules are simply there to build the character in my life. Because as you run to the Lord, then He enables you to be whatever. But your spirituality is never determined by how many quiet times you’ve had. It’s not determined by how many times you come to church. It’s determined when you bow before Him. He is your spirituality. That’s grace. But don’t confuse rules with legalism. Don’t confuse that. It’s the way you look at those rules, that’s what confuses everybody. “Throw the rules away.” That’s the antinomianism in Romans. You can’t do that. We have commands, etc., but that does not make us spiritual. In fact, when we obey them, truly it points to Him and not to us, because it’s His enabling us to obey the very rules that we have.
Be not deceived. He’s going to say that in chapter 6. God’s not mocked, “for whatsoever a man sows this he will also reap.” What are you sowing right now? You bought in the message of works? Are you trying to be more spiritual than everybody else in here because you do this and this and this and this? Or have you discovered that doing this, this, this and this just gets to help you know Christ better and doesn’t elevate you in the kingdom at all? It just simply means that you can know Him and His fullness and walk in the joy that He has, and there are no brownie points by doing this. It’s a relationship, and doing those things that you once did, to prove yourself spiritual, are really the things you do just because you love Him and you’ve already been accepted and you’ve already been loved. You see the difference in the mentality? The Galatians bought a lie and it brought a lot of pain.
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.