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Galatians: A Life of Faith







"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”


Galatians 2:20 (NIV)






Charles Blondin, a man of extraordinary courage and skill, was born in France in 1824. From 1855 to 1897, his life was a testament to his unique talent as a tightrope walker, which he brought to the United States in 1855.


Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Blondin crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope 1,100 ft. long and 160 ft. above the water. He first did this in June of 1859 and included several other tightrope walks across the Falls, adding variations such as doing so blindfolded. Perhaps most noted is when he carried his manager, Harry Colcord, across the Falls on a tightrope with Harry on his back. I am curious to know who was braver, Harry or Charles Blondin.


We are continuing our studies of Galatians and are in Galatians 3. Last week, we spoke about Paul's confrontation with Peter. Some from the circumcision party were causing Peter to pull back from fellowship with the Gentiles. Paul in (2: 11-21) talks about our justification and how Christians are not justified by works of the Law but through Christ's faithfulness. In Christ, we take on a new identity. Our life in Christ is lived by faith in the Son of God (2:20). As Paul continues this thought, he moves forward in discussing faith and what faith is. As Paul will explain, faith not only brings us to Christ, but we grow and are justified through faith.


Text


Galatians 3:1–9 (NIV)

"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”


Hearing and Believing


Paul begins with some very harsh words, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" His tone is direct, almost like the Galatian Christians were brought under some spell. Embracing circumcision and the keeping of the law would make the cross of Christ void. As Paul drives his point forward, he asks a rhetorical question, "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?" He sets up a life in the Spirit as contrasted with a life in the flesh. "Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?"  


Can you imagine Harry starting across the Falls on the back of Charles? Halfway across, Harry decides to climb off the back of Charles to finish the crossing on his own. Untrained, untested, and without the skill needed, the result would be disastrous. We can all understand how foolish this decision would be. In many ways, this is what Paul is saying to the Christians in Galatia. After starting in the Spirit, how do you think you are now to continue in the flesh? Paul's use of the word "flesh" distinguishes the difference between a life lived in the Spirit and a life lived by human efforts. After starting in the Spirit, how do you think you will reach the goal of maturity in Christ by your merits or efforts in keeping the law and circumcision?  


You began by believing what you heard. Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. Paul vividly portrayed Christ crucified; he vividly portrayed the gospel of Christ. This is the message they heard and believed. God confirmed His word among them through the working of the Spirit and signs. The Spirit was given to them and worked among them through hearing and faith, not through the meritorious works of the law.


God's Redemptive Plan


Those of the circumcision party insisted on keeping the Mosaic Law and circumcision. They would say salvation is dependent upon it (see Acts 15:1). Our identity as Christians, they would say, must be bound to the traditions and customs of Israel. Without following the laws of Moses, you are not fully God's covenant people. Paul disproves the argument by reminding the Galatians of Abraham's faith and God's redemptive plan.


Galatians 3:6–9 (NIV)

"So also Abraham "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."


For Christians and the circumcision party, Abraham is the father of faith. Paul speaks of Abraham's faith before the Law was given through Moses. Paul returns us to the promise given to Abraham in (Gen. 12).  


Genesis 12:1–3 (NIV)

"The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. ”I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."


Abraham heard, "The Lord had said to Abram" (Gen. 12:1) and believed, "So Abram went, as the Lord had told him..." (Gen. 12:4). Before the Law was given through Moses, the father of faith heard and believed. God's promises to Abraham included the good news (gospel), "... All nations will be blessed through you" (Gal. 3:8). God's plan of redemption through Messiah Jesus was for the nations. Before the Law was given through Moses, God's purposes included the Gentile nations, their salvation, and their justification through hearing and faith. Those who hear the gospel and believe are blessed, along with Abraham, the man of faith.


Crossing the Context


I don't know who had more courage, Charles or Harry, who climbed on his back. However, the only way Harry would continue across Niagara Falls successfully was to remain on Charles's back. Climbing off and walking the tightrope of his merits would have resulted in disaster.


Today, we have the blessing of hearing the gospel of Christ, the gift of hearing and receiving His good news. Believing in Christ and His sufficiency grants us life in the Spirit. In Christ, we are Abraham's children and participate in the blessings of promise. Our identity is sealed in Him.  


Are we demonstrating a faith that relies on His sufficiency?




Notes:


Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from: ”Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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