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Jesus Plus Nothing: Our Righteousness is in Christ Alone (Galatians 3:1-14)

Galatians 3:1–14 - 1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. 10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 

 

What does today’s passage say?

In today's passage, Paul took the Galatians to task. He jogged their memory about how the simple gospel message originally changed their lives completely when they first believed. The good news of salvation by grace through faith shone brightly within them, evidenced by the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. But now they had wandered from that foundation to embrace a distorted gospel which claimed that faith plus rule-keeping merit salvation (vv. 1-5). Paul held up Abraham, the father of faith, who trusted in God's promise. His belief was sufficient and credited to him as righteousness. Unlike the Galatians now striving to attain holiness by works, Abraham simply received this gift through faith alone (vv. 6-9). Seeking justification by law earns only condemnation, for no one can satisfy its demands. Christ alone resolved this predicament by becoming that curse, that we might be set free from both sin and law to inherit the blessing of righteousness by grace through faith (vv. 10-14).

 

How can I apply Galatians 3:1-14 to my life?

In Galatians chapter three, Paul addressed a dangerous false teaching infecting the church and distorting the true gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith. Religious leaders insisted that while faith in Christ was necessary, simply believing was not enough. Adding certain rituals and rule-keeping to their faith is what made someone righteous, they claimed. Essentially, they taught that the finished work of Jesus was not truly finished but needed their efforts to complete it. Paul adamantly refuted this lie and called the church back to the pure truth he first preached - that righteousness is a gift received when by faith alone. As we study this passage, we as believers must evaluate our own understanding of the gospel. Do we add anything to faith that twists the offer of grace? Are we embracing fully what Christ accomplished through the cross for us? Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

1.    Don’t Be Misled by Any Teaching that Adds Works of the Law as a Requirement of the Gospel that You Received by Faith (vv. 1-5): In these verses, Paul confronts the Galatians for drifting away from the true gospel and being led astray by false teaching that undermined the gift of salvation by faith. Even after seeing the power of the Spirit transform lives through preaching of the gospel of Christ alone, they were ready to add extra requirements to faith. So, Paul challenged them in these verses: what happened to that joy and life change you first experienced when you embraced the simple truth of the gospel by faith? Do not abandon that now to pursue a supposed "higher path" based on human effort and work added onto the completed work of Jesus. Like Paul, we must be vigilant against false teaching that pollutes and perverts the purity of salvation by grace through faith. Testing everything against the foundation of Christ's finished work guards us from error. Reliance on self or adding law-keeping to the gospel only leads backward toward bondage, not forward into freedom which Christ secured. As those declared righteous by faith just like Abraham, we walk the same path of simply believing God at His word regarding His Son (1 Thessalonians 5:21, Galatians 1:6-9, Galatians 5:1).


Food for thought: How can we prepare ourselves to quickly identify false teaching? In what ways have we allowed religious ritual to creep into our experience of the gospel of grace?


2.    Live By Faith Just as Abraham Was Declared Righteous Through Faith (vv. 6-9): Paul upholds Abraham as the prime example of righteousness by faith rather than works. Despite his shortcomings, Abraham simply believed God's promise that through him all nations would be blessed, and that faith was credited to him as righteousness. Like Abraham, we must walk the path of living by faith day to day, not sight. Our righteous standing before God comes through faith as a gift, not earning it by stacks of good deeds. Salvation rests on reliance upon Christ’s finished work, not our work. Where do you build your sense of acceptance—on the shifting sands of your own righteousness which always falls short, or on the rock of God’s righteousness supplied as a free gift to all who believe? As we grow in the Lord, our roots sink deeper into His grace. We serve and bear fruit out of the security of our forever righteous position in the Body of Christ (Genesis 15:6, Habakkuk 2:4, Ephesians 1:4).


Food for thought: What areas of spiritual pride or self-effort may God want to address? How can we support each other in walking by faith?


3.    Live in the Gift of Christ’s Righteousness Rather than the Self-Righteousness of the Works of the Law (vv. 10-14): As we read, Christ redeemed us from the curse that comes through trying to achieve righteousness by keeping the law. It is a gift! No one can earn right standing before God by their own efforts, religious rituals, rule-keeping or their own "goodness." Yet how often do we fall into the trap like the Galatians of putting ourselves back under that crushing burden which no one can fully bear. We end up denying the power of the cross and resurrection that purchased our freedom. God declares us righteous already through faith, so we can now live freely by grace to serve others, bear fruit through the Spirit at work in us, and bring glory to the Father. As redeemed children, we turn from striving to simply receive all Christ did on our behalf at Calvary and open our hands to walk in the fullness of that gift. His sacrifice for sins eternally abolished any need for us to endlessly sacrifice and struggle to attain holiness. It is finished! (Romans 6:14, Romans 6:16-18, Galatians 2:20-21)


Food for thought: What struggles are you turning into striving? How can we remind each other of our perfect position in Christ?


The pure gospel Paul preached and so fiercely defended delivers what no human effort or obedience to laws possibly could—a righteousness from God given as a gift to all who simply believe. Through trusting in the finished work of Christ, we stand blameless now and are secured for eternity through God’s grace. May we actively guard against any intrusion of legalism that diminishes the power of the cross. Like Abraham, may we walk by faith in fellowship with the God who declares righteous those who put their faith in His Son. May our roots sink ever deeper into the soil of Calvary love, bearing fruit through lives flowing from the Spirit. Jesus plus nothing is our everything. Stand firm in the freedom He purchased!

 

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that You would give me an increasing understanding of the purity of the true gospel and salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Protect my mind and heart from any corruption of legalistic thinking that diminishes my security in Your completed work for me. Help me fully receive the gift of righteousness Christ died to freely offer me through the cross. As I grow in You, remind me that I am made forever righteous by what Jesus finished, not my own goodness or right actions. Produce healthy fruit through me by the nourishment of Your unconditional love. Give me wisdom and courage to guard the simplicity and beauty of salvation by faith alone, not diluting its power

I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

 

Galatians 3:2 – “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

 

 

With His Blessings,

Pastor Corby

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