Rescued by Grace
Faith, the Law, and the Cross
Scripture Text: Galatians 3
In our technology and social media driven world we have probably all watched as someone we love struggled with their faith, walked away from their faith, or fell prey to some form of false teaching. It can be heartbreaking, especially when you see them heading down a destructive path.
That’s exactly what happened to Paul. He poured his life and heart into the people who made up the Galatian churches, and then got word that the Judaizers had come behind him and spread confusion among them. I have no doubt that Paul was concerned for the damage that could be done to these people and future generations by the false teaching that had overtaken them.
Issue: Judaizers were teaching faith in Christ is not enough. Circumcision was also required which was a symbol of submission to the Law of Moses.
Faith of Abraham – verses 6-9
Paul opens chapter 3 by essentially asking, “have you lost your minds?” He put it this way (Read verses 1-5).
Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (verses 6-9)
God would give him a son in his old age
God would give him more descendants than could be counted
These were pretty amazing promises considering that Abraham was about 75 yrs old.
Also, going back a little further God had already given him these promises.
God would give him land
God would give him a great name
God would bless all nations through him
Abraham’s relationship with God was based on Faith. God said it and Abraham believed it. He doubted sometimes, and made mistakes, but he believed God strongly enough to follow His command. So, God credited righteousness to Abraham based on his faith. A faith that was expressed by obedience. His works didn’t save him, but they were the evidence of his faith.
That should sound very familiar to us. We know that we are also saved by faith. We’ve already looked at this verse a couple of times, but here’s another reminder (Eph 2:8-9).
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
The Law of Moses – verses 15-20
But there’s this whole thing that God did where He gave Moses the Law. That just seems to mess everything up. It seems as though Abraham was saved by faith, but the rest of the Old Testament was about obeying the Law, and then with the cross we go back to faith. It’s hard to understand. That’s why the Galatians got confused, and sometimes we do too.
We’ve already talked about how the Law became a place of bondage for us, and that the Gospel has set us free from that bondage (those notes can be found here). Last week Kyle talked us through Paul’s illustration of this in his confrontation of Peter (notes not available). He taught us that it has always been faith that God worked through in order to save us (Gal 2:16). That has always been God’s plan and His method. Both the Old Testament and New Testament tell us the same thing, we are saved by God’s grace and through faith. So, why even give the Law? Why give the Law if it can’t save us and only leads to bondage and confusion?
Let’s answer that by taking a look at what the Holy Spirit says through Paul.
verse 15 – A covenant can’t be changed by something from the outside
verse 17 – the law did not replace faith
verse 19 – why give the law?
The Law exposes our sin (Romans 3:20, 5:13)
The Law intensifies our sin (Romans 5:20, 7:7-10)
So, the Law wasn’t given to replace God’s covenant of faith with Abraham. The Law shows us that we are sinful and even intensifies our sin. So the Law, or our good works, can never save us. God’s requirements were given to show us how badly we need Him, and to make it clear that we cannot restore our brokenness without Him. So, in short the Law wasn’t designed to be our salvation. It was designed to drive us to the One who is our salvation.
The Cross of Christ
I would imagine that it was that very realization that drove Nicodemus to visit Jesus. John 3 records how it happened. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. His life was all about keeping the letter of the Law. Do the right things, don’t do the wrong things. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends, never gives peace, and does not lead to salvation. He saw something different in Jesus, though, so he went to see him. Jesus answer to Nicodemus was straight to the point, “you must be born again.” And that, Jesus told him, only comes by placing your faith in the Son of God.
Everything that we’ve talked about up to this point, and everything God did in the Old Testament pointed forward to Jesus. Here’s why.
Jesus fulfilled the Law
He obeyed it perfectly
He paid the penalty for our disobedience
Jesus fulfilled the Promise (verse 8)
Jesus set us Free
From the Law
Jesus is the object of our Faith – In the Old Testament they believed a promise, but didn’t know the full extent of the promise. On this side of the cross we realize that Jesus was the promise and that He has come. Faith in Him is the only way to salvation and restoration with the Father.
Place your faith in Jesus – A faith that drives you to follow Him as your Lord and Savior
Protect yourself from false teaching – Plug into our discipleship process. Find a small group/ Sunday school class. Make it a priority to come to our worship gatherings.