Freedom from Works

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 2/7/2021

What is the hardest problem you’ve ever tried to solve? The internet is full of them. In Medicine, mathematics, physics, science. engineering. One of the most common and stubborn of all problems has simply gone into hiding. In less than a year, because of all the things were doing to avoid COVID-19, incidences of the flu have practically vanished worldwide! They are testing for influenza as much as ever, it's just nowhere to be found. Some experts fear it will come back with a vengeance.

According to Scripture, there are three problems common to man. Technically, these are “spiritual pandemics”, because they affect all people, everywhere, across all ages!

Our first unsolvable problem is justification. Every single one of us sins, and we continually fall short of the glory of God. If you are irreligious, your conscience accuses you. If you are religious, both your conscience and the law of God accuses you. As human beings were perpetually justifying ourselves, making excuses, deflecting, blaming, pointing fingers. The thought of being morally judged is too much to bear. Yet what does the Bible tell us? There is nothing that is hidden that won’t be revealed. There is no one righteous, not one. Our righteousness is like filthy garments before a Holy God. Hebrews 9:27 tells us man is appointed to die once, and after this, to face judgment. Galatians 3:10 tells us curses is anyone who doesn’t do everything written in the book of the law! Our flimsy justifications might pass with man, but will they pass with God? Nope.

Now, we’ve already been talking about this problem. By God’s grace, in Jesus’ name, we’ve been set free from our sin, our past, our ignorance. Galatians 1:4, Jesus “. . . gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age.” Galatians 2:16, “… we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we ourselves have believed in Christ Jesus. This was so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because we by the works of the law no human being will be justified.” Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”

Now here is the problem. The Galatians had started trusting Jesus to deal with their sin, their past, their ignorance… but then they began to turn away from Jesus as their solution! In Galatians 1:6-7a Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another. . .” In our text, Galatians 3:1 Paul asks, “You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?”

Paul is rebuking these believers. He’s saying, you clearly understood your need for grace, for Jesus Christ to be your righteousness and justification, and yet look at you. How quickly you shed the garments of Christ’s righteousness to stand their naked in judgment before a holy God. You are all so pitiful! Who “bewitched” you? Galatians 1:7b, “. . . some are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Religion appeals to our pride. I don’t need Jesus, I can be self-reliant. I can do this, do that, I can work for, I can earn, I can achieve my salvation before God. The only gospel, the only deal, is grace. Believe in Jesus, and he forgives, justifies, advocates, rescues, he saves you from sin.

Our second unsolvable problem is sanctification. Yes, we are forgiven of sin in Christ Jesus. But as we know, “freedom from sin” is an altogether different matter. How do we break free from the power (and control) of these cursed thoughts, these destructive feelings, moods, attitudes, our contemptuous habits, behaviors, and vices? How do we get healed? How do we become whole? How do our wayward hearts get drawn back to worship, singular devotion to God? How do we fix the web of broken relationships surrounding us? How do we change the very nature of the life-sucking spider in the middle of the web… you, and me!

The only answer is that God doesn’t just forgive us by Christ’s blood, he also fills us, and indwells us, and takes up residence within us, and sanctifies (makes us holy) by his Holy Spirit. Once again, God in his grace solves what we cannot solve! Dozens of times Paul will mention the Holy Spirit in Galatians (oh were just getting started!).

Allow me to summarize the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives with a snippet from The Bible Exposition Commentary.

The Holy Spirit convicts the lost sinner and reveals Christ to him (John 16:7–11). The sinner can resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51) or yield to the Spirit and trust Jesus Christ. When the sinner believes in Christ, he is then born of the Spirit (John 3:1–8) and receives new life. He is also baptized by the Spirit so that he becomes a part of the spiritual body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–14). The believer is sealed by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13–14) as a guarantee that he will one day share in the glory of Christ.

Since the Holy Spirit does so much for the believer, this means that the believer has a responsibility to the Holy Spirit, who lives within his body (1 Cor. 6:19–20). The Christian should walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25) by reading the Word, praying, and obeying God’s will. If he disobeys God, then he is grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), and if he persists in doing this, he may quench the Spirit (1 Thes. 5:19). This does not mean that the Holy Spirit will leave him, because Jesus has promised that the Spirit abides forever (John 14:16). But it does mean that the Spirit cannot give him the joy and power that he needs for daily Christian living. Believers should be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18–21), which simply means “controlled by the Spirit.” This is a continuous experience, like drinking water from a fresh stream (John 7:37–39).

Okay, now just imagine this. In Galatians 3:1-6 rebukes the Galatians two-fold. First for rejecting Christ, but then rejecting the Spirit! “You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing—if in fact it was for nothing? 5 So then, does God give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law? Or is it by believing what you heard. . .”

Here is Paul’s complaint. You trusted Jesus by faith, he forgave you, and justified you by his blood. You trusted Jesus by faith, he gave you his Holy Spirit, and started working miracles of transformation in your life, he started setting you free from your strongholds of sin. SO WHY ARE DOUBLING BACK? WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO FINISH WHAT GOD HAS STARTED BY THE FLESH?

When I was a young Christ, I learned to practice fleshly religion. When I was religious, I was giving lip service to Jesus, I didn’t know the Holy Spirit at all, and I was putting all my faith in myself. “Jon, you can do this. Try harder. Be Holy as God is Holy. Be Perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Be an imitator of Christ. Forgive as Christ forgave. Love as Christ loved. Take every thought captive. Guard your heart. Guard your tongue. Be patient and kind. Do not envy, or boast, or be arrogant, or rude, or self-seeking, or irritable, or unforgiving. Do no keep a record of wrongs, do not delight in evil, rejoice in truth, bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.”

Love never ends, but I sure came to end of myself fast! Early on, it was like I’d endeavored to swim across an ocean. I nearly drown. But what Paul is talking about is the spiritual life. What does it look like to hoist our sails of faith, and be filled with the mighty wind of His Spirit, and let His Holy Spirit carry your boat across the seven seas? Why after experiencing the power of the spirit, have let down your sails, and taken to paddling again? Who bewitched you? You crazy?

  Our third unsolvable problem is glorification. I’m not going to waste many words on this point. Not a day goes by that were not reminded of our mortality. Speaking of being under a spell, or being deluded. We’re fools to think we will live forever in these bodies. We’re fools to think ourselves exempt from death, even sudden death. The Bible asks what is our life? We are but a mist that appears for a while and disappears.

It’s interesting how in Galatians 3:6-9 Paul brings up Abraham’s faith. Paul has a profoundly unique reason for mentioning Abraham’s faith that we will talk about in-depth next week. But let’s just talk about Abraham’s faith at face value.

In Genesis 12:1-3 God appeared to Abraham, and he asked Abraham to leave everything he’d ever known. He said, “Go from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

 Paul reminds us that like Abraham, we at some point “heard and believed” God’s promises. We staked everything in our past and present, trusting God with our future. We don’t control the future, we can’t control our destiny, we can’t raise our own bodies from the grave, we can’t! But God sure can! Galatians 3:6-9, “6 just like Abraham who believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness? 7 You know, then, that those who have faith, these are Abraham’s sons. 8 Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and proclaimed the gospel ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. 9 Consequently, those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

God’s promise to Abraham was that God would see him through. God would bless Abraham. God would bless all nations through Abraham’s seed, his offspring, Jesus Christ. In Romans 4 Paul reiterates again and again that God’s promise to Abraham would be by faith. He couldn’t work for it, or attain it, in any other way. Romans 4:18-24, “He believed, hoping against hope, so that he became the father of many nations according to what had been spoken. . . He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about a hundred years old) and also the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, he was also able to do. 22 Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, 24 but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Scripture Verses

Galatians 3:1-9; Hebrews 9:27; Genesis 12:1-3; Romans 4:18-24

Worship Playlist

Tremble by Mosaic MSC

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong

Spirit of the Living God by Vertical Worship

Run to the Father by Cody Carnes

Study Questions

1. Why do you think Paul uses the Greek word for ‘faith’ seven times in this short passage? How were the Galatians being so foolish?

2. Why would anyone switch from being saved by the Spirit to depending on human effort (vs.3)?

3. Why do you think Paul brings up Abraham in this passage and why is Abraham so important to us today?

4. Read Acts 2. What do you learn about faith and belief and salvation?

5. Reflect on God’s goodness and the importance of your faith in Him. Ask Him to guard you from foolishly depending on your own law-keeping for salvation.

Apply It!