In Galatians 3, Paul writing to the young church is extremely harsh in his letter. In the first 5 verses, it seems that Paul is interrogating them, as he asks them a series of rhetorical questions. Twice in the first three verses he calls them fools. False teachers had come into the church, teaching that in order to be saved the needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law in addition to their belief in Jesus. Why is Paul so harsh in his approach? I believe it is because Paul knows that eternity is at stake, he knows that the false teachers are not simply trying to add to their religious activity, these false teachers have been sent by Satan to destroy the church.
By asking these rhetorical questions Paul makes very clear that it is illogical for these Galatians to try to add to their Christian experience by adding works of the law (ch3:2). The key argument he makes is whether they received the Holy Spirit of God by the law or by faith? Three times in those first 5 verses he implies that they received the Holy Spirit only because of faith and not because of obedience to the law.
When you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you cannot add anything to your salvation by following a set of rules or regulations. The Holy Spirit which we receive when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, completes us. It is by the Spirit of God that miracles are done, it is by the Holy Spirit that we can communicate with God (1 Peter 1:3).
As a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ, you have everything you need because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
In the next few verses of Galatians 3, Paul refers to Abraham five times. What makes Abraham so significant to the issue of false teachers? The key is verse 6, “just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Verse 6 is the continuation of the rhetorical question he began in verse 5, where he quotes Genesis 15:6.
Abraham simply believed God, he obeyed God and left his father’s home in Genesis 12, and in return God gave him great promises about being a blessing to the nations. Abraham knew that he would never see his home again, he would never see his father again, but he went in faith and obedience.
Abraham was promised many descendants by God, and God tests him once again to see if he would sacrifice the son of the promise. Abraham obeyed God and Isaac is miraculously spared.
Abraham was a man of incredible faith, but how did he become such a man of faith?
In Hebrews chapter 11, Abraham gets eight verses recognizing his faith. The key to faith is found in Hebrews 11:6, faith begins with knowing God. Faith, as a gift from God grows in us as we grow in our relationship with God.
The Gospel message, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is only good news if it is received by faith. The Gospel is not an academic pursuit or a following of the law, rather it is a celebration of faith in the provision of salvation through Jesus.
The key difference between faith and the law is relationship. Obedience to the law does not require relationship. Many people obey a set of rules, but they have no relationship with God and therefore they have no faith (Galatians 3:11). Many law abiding people will be in hell, because they chose to obey the law when a relationship was offered to them. The narrow road that Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13 is narrow because it is so hard for people trapped in humanism to walk by faith.
We have the ongoing challenge between law and relationship in our church on a weekly basis.
My mother’s generation would say, “you have to go to church”. A good principle but without relationship it is mere legalism.
We have seen this over and over throughout the generations, we force our children to go to church each Sunday, assuming the church will save them. But we don’t teach our children to love Jesus, and as soon as they can they leave the church because they do not see and encounter the living God. Our default condition is legalism, we think if we put enough rules around people they will turn out alright. However, if we invite them into a growing relationship with the living God, then and only then will they experience life change (John 14:15).
Notice Jesus didn’t say, obey my commands and then you will love me. No, the obedience is as a response to our love for Jesus, obedience is a direct response to our relationship with the living God.
What about tithing? We tithe ten percent of our income to the Lord as an act of worship, recognizing the reality of our relationship with God.
In Malachi 3:8-10 we read a challenging prophecy from God on giving to the Lord, which at first glance seems legalistic, but look a little deeper at verse 10, “and thereby put me to the test”. We test someone to learn something about them. Our children test us all the time, pushing the boundaries and testing our patience, why? It is natural for children to test their parents, because deep down there is one fundamental question every child wants to know, “do you love me?”.
There is no where else in the Bible where God invites us to test him. God is calling His people to a relationship with Him. He invites us to test him in the area of giving, for us to learn that He is able to provide. But not only is God able to provide, He is a good Father, a perfect Heavenly Father who we will only get to know as we grow in our faith.
Don’t regard faith as an academic pursuit, live a life of faith, and you will grow in your relationship with God.