Lord, I give You thanks today for Your Law and its demand of perfect obedience. By showing me I am hopeless in myself and my good works, You graciously point me to Christ, His penalty-bearing death, and His perfect life of righteousness. Help me never lose sight of that glorious truth but to live each day resting in Your grace and striving to live honorably. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Galatians 3
Paul reminds the Galatians that just as they were initially saved, so now they must continue to rest by faith in Christ’s redeeming work, not trusting in the Law and its impossible demand for perfect obedience. In Christ, the Galatians have One who both paid their penalty for their disobedience and perfectly obeyed on their behalf.
Galatians 3:1–9 Still astonished that the Galatians have so quickly abandoned the truth of justification by faith alone, Paul began asking questions in order to drive them back to this truth. He first asked if they became believers on the basis of keeping God’s Law or by hearing the gospel and believing. The answer, of topic, is that they became believers through faith, not by having obeyed the Law perfectly. Because of this, they should understand the Lord didn’t save them by faith in order to have them now seek righteousness on the basis of their good works.
THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW
See an Animated Explanation of the Law. (6 minutes)
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Galatians 3:10–14 Paul then showed why relying on good works as the basis for justification is hopeless and will only leave us condemned. The reason all who rely on good works are under a curse is because God demands perfect obedience. That is, if we seek to be justified on the basis of our good works before God, then we must understand God demands absolute perfect obedience. Otherwise, we’re cursed. Paul thus concludes: “all who rely on works of the Law are under a curse.”
If God demands perfect obedience, what then is our hope? The answer is found in Christ. On the cross, Jesus “redeemed us from the curse . . . by becoming a curse for us.” He took the penalty we deserved for our disobedience to God so we might trust Him and receive His righteousness. This is the heart of Christ’s atoning work: He pays our penalty as our substitute. This should lead to us boasting not in ourselves but in Christ’s gracious and powerful work for us.
Galatians 3:15–29 If God did not give the Law to us that we might obey it and be saved, then why did God give us the Law? This is the question Paul asked and answered in the final verses of Galatians 3. God’s plan was always to justify us by faith. Paul showed this by noting that Abraham was justified by faith 430 years before the Law was even given.
This doesn’t mean, however, the Law is bad. God gave the Law to us as a teacher so that its demand of perfect obedience might show us we are hopeless in ourselves and need to look to the One to come—Christ. Therefore, the Law is good, because it shows us how hopeless we are. At the same time, it points us to the answer in Christ, and if we trust in Him, then we’re not only forgiven, cleansed, and credited with Christ’s perfect righteousness, we’re also made sons of God and heirs of the promise. Because of all this, it’s good for us to pause and thank God for his Law. Without it, we might have thought ourselves sufficient for righteousness and found ourselves empty-handed before God and condemned on the last day.
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written,’Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ 12 But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
- Paul noted astonishment that the Galatians turned from the message of justification by faith to a “gospel” of works. Have you ever noticed a tendency in your walk with the Lord to revert back to thinking you are right with God on the basis of your good works? In those moments, we can ask ourselves the questions Paul asks the Galatians, hopefully jarring our hearts back in line with the truth.
- The truth that God demands perfect obedience can actually be a weapon against Satan’s attacks. When the Devil points us to our failures, saying the Lord wants nothing to do with us, or points us to our successes, saying we’ve finally earned the Lord’s favor, we can point to God’s demand for absolute obedience, reminding ourselves that our only hope is the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to us by faith. This week create a plan on how to fight Satan’s attacks by reminding yourself of God’s demand for absolute obedience and His provision for that righteousness in Christ. We need to cultivate this discipline in our lives. Think of someone who might be struggling to believe that faith in Christ is enough; encourage them by reminding them of Christ’s work for us (Galatians 3:10–14).
- For the passage you chose last week, prepare the “Reflect and Change” section. Think about how to ask questions to get to personal applications of the text, not inductive study type questions. Share it with your friend again and get their input. [Teaching Simply]