In Part 3 of our study, we focused on how the Galatian church was beginning to believe that their good works were perfecting their justification before God. We also addressed that same mentality today in the area of sanctification. We cannot work to push ourselves further toward righteousness. It is only through the work of God that we can become more like Him.
In this part of our study, we will discuss how the righteous are to live by faith, and we will discover the importance of the Old Testament law and God’s promise to Abraham.
I am so excited about this week’s study! We will be digging deep into the Bible and making some important connections! I suggest that you have your Bible physically in front of you as you read. Be sure to keep your fingertips moist because we will be flipping to various Bible passages.
In these verses, we find Paul continuing his address to the Galatians belief that they can add to their justification. The Galatian church has begun to seek to rely upon their ability to keep the Old Testament law rather than have faith in Jesus. Paul states that if they have decided to follow the law, then they must meet all of the law’s requirements. No one can perfectly keep the commands of the Old Testament law. (That is except for Jesus, who was perfect in all ways). In verse 11, Paul says that “no one is justified before God by the law.” Paul is telling the Galatians that their pursuit of obeying the law would be fruitless. The Galatians needed someone to meet the requirements of the law on their behalf….Jesus. Throughout verses 12 to 14, Paul describes how Jesus met the requirements of the Old Testament law. He continues to point out that Jesus’ work could be transferred to their account through faith.
That is God’s grace! He offers to give each person, who comes in faith, the status of righteousness that Jesus rightfully earned. It’s clear that we can’t meet the standard of righteousness, but God offers to give us that status of righteousness if we believe and live by faith.
Verses 15 through 18 describe the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 15. God promises to give Abraham offspring more numerous than the stars in the sky, but God does more than that with this covenant. God establishes a relationship with Abraham; He makes a promise to Abraham and keeps it. When God made that promise to Abraham, He had Jesus in His mind. God intended for humans to live by faith from the very beginning.
In verse 19, Paul asks, “Why did God make the Old Testament law in the first place?” The law had to be established before Jesus came. The law made known to man what was right and what was wrong. God established the Old Testament law in order that people might recognize their sins and therefore, make them aware of their need for a Savior….JESUS.
The purpose of the Old Testament law was to point people to Christ. Now as Christians, the Old Testament law still has a purpose for our lives. But we are not called to live by trying to obey the law, for Jesus has done that perfectly on our behalf. Rather, we are called to live by faith in Jesus.
If we live by faith in Jesus, then we as Christians are considered children of God. If we are all God’s children, then like Paul says in verse 28, there is no disunity. We are one in Jesus. Since we are children of God, we have a guarantee of receiving the promise God made with our spiritual father, Abraham back in Genesis 15. What was that promise? It was the promise of a close relationship with God.
Let’s take a side trip and flip to Genesis 17.1-8. (View the passage by clicking the reference). Here God makes another covenant with Abraham. God declares that He will not only be Abraham’s God but the God of Abraham’s offspring. A relationship is established between God and His people.
Now let’s flip back a few pages to Genesis 15.1-6. Verse 6 is what I want to focus on. It reads, “And he believed the Lord, and He counted to him as righteousness.” The Hebrew word for “he believed” is pronounced amen, and it means “to sustain, hold firm.” This makes the literal translation of verse 6 as follows: “And he sustained, held firm in the Lord, and He (God) counted to him as righteousness.” This translation brings more depth to the verse. Abraham is not described as believing God in a moment, but he is described as continuing to believe God. There is an idea of faithfulness here that I want to point out. Throughout the Bible there is an emphasis put on having a faith that endures. I can’t help but wonder if this is how Abraham’s faith is meant to be described. In order to sustain and hold firm, there must be a time frame for which you do it. If we, as Christians, are called to live by faith, doesn’t that mean we are called to live a life in which we hold firm to our faith and to our God?
I am reminded of Hebrews 10.19-25 and especially Hebrews 10.35-39 which reads,
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
This set of verses references Habakkuk 2.4, “my righteous one shall live by faith.” If that seems familiar, it is because Paul references it back in Galatians 3.11. We learn from theses sets of verses that the Christian life is one that continues to strive to have faith in God. Let this be your encouragement to KEEP GOING!
Photo Credit: Aaron Burden