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- Galatians 3:7 - 14
Galatians 3:7-14 “Christ, our substitute”
Before I pray I want to make an acknowledgement regarding today’s message. I am well aware that some of you may not like the title of this sermon. Maybe you don’t want a substitute. Most people don’t want to be taken out of the game so to speak, or to admit that they cannot win in life. But life is a game you do not want to play on your own. In fact, life is not a game at all. There is a just, holy God. There is a hell where sinners suffer eternal punishment. There are demons and angels and spiritual battles happening all around you. Life, if nothing else, is a deathly serious matter that you do not want to take lightly.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
Some of you are happier than you should be right now. Some of you are laughing at a funeral, not knowing that now is not the time to laugh but to mourn. Some of you are laughing 5 minutes after the joke was told and the time for laughing has come and passed. Some of you are so out of touch with the Spirit, you don’t know when a good day is and when a bad day is.
Let me explain it to you very quickly. A good day is when you weep for your sins and accept Christ as your Substitute. A bad day is when you are happy and think that you do no need a substitute to take your sins from you. “God? Who is God? Why do I need God?” you say to yourself. You need God for this reason, “He has the power to throw both your body and soul into hell.” And He will do it. Do not presume upon the grace of God. For in the very hour you need, it will no longer be there. One person can save you from the wrath of God: God Himself, the Christ, the Messiah, the Substitute. He is your one escape. He is your one Advocate. There is no other. There are no others.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
We will all meet God one day. The question is “will you meet him being escorted by Christ, hidden in Christ, covered by Christ.” Or will you meet God, just as you are, no Substitute, no Covering, no Advocate, no Savior. If that is how you meet God, then the joke of life will be over. You will have no reason to laugh. No reason to smile. The game is over and you have lost your very soul. Don’t let that happen this morning. Be saved. Be substituted for.
We have been following Paul through his book to the Galatian church and I pray that your faith is being strengthened through it. Imagine the Bible like a lake that is frozen over with ice. You hesitantly take a step out and bounce a little bit. Nothing moves, nothing cracks, no steel cable sound. So you step out a little farther. Again you jump and nothing happens, no cracks, whistles through the ice. You go out the middle of the lake to drill a hole down into the ice. You take your (really gigantic) auger and begin drilling, down, down, down. Suddenly you hit something dark and soft. It’s dirt. The lake isn’t just frozen over with ice. The lake is ice. You cannot fall in. It will not crack. It can support your weight. So if you feel heavy with doubt this morning and you are hesitant to step out onto the ice, please come. You are under a firm foundation.
So the hardest thing to do in life is to move your mind from one place to another. It’s like 4th and inches. Getting that mind to move 3 inches is a well fought, well earned victory. It does not come easy. So when we approach a word like, “Know.” We understand that the knowing is the crux and essence of our faith and the greatest task we have in this life.
This is an imperative. The Galatian church needs to know this. This is acquired knowledge. People are not born with the knowledge that only those of faith will be saved. In fact it is the opposite. So, when the scriptures say, “there are none who seek God,” it is true. No one seeks God for who He is. People seek God to prove themselves to Him or to get something from him. But nobody goes to God out of a humble heart in order to seek forgiveness and grace through the death of Christ. God must put this desire in a person’s heart. This is called faith. Such an activity is supernatural. And that is why Paul is reinforcing it here. Even though, you don’t naturally know this, you need to know that only those of faith are “sons of Abraham” and only they will be saved.
Those of faith are the sons of Abraham
So just as we discussed last week that there were two options for being saved, “hearing by faith” and “works of the law,” now we are presented with two types of people: Physical sons of Abraham and spiritual sons of Abraham. One does not equal the other. One can be a spiritual son of Abraham but not a spiritual son of Abraham and one can be spiritual son of Abraham and not a physical son of Abraham. So in the same way that works of the law did not save so also being a physical son of Abraham does not save.
It seems that the Galatians were being told that they must be circumcised and become like physical sons of Abraham in order to be saved. But Paul is arguing that they already are sons of Abraham, spiritually. There is nothing more they need to do.
A higher bar
In some ways, the bar is higher. Now you do not simply have to be circumcised, you have to be of faith, or you have to persist in faith and be a person marked by faith. We do not want to live under the false assumption that faith, like circumcision, is a one-time act. It is not a one-time act. It is an ongoing activity. So salvation begins and ends with faith. It not only has a beginning but it has an ending or a final goal: your salvation and sanctification. Faith is not a notch on your belt. It is a cross. It is that which you carry with you each day. It is challenged. It is tested. Like a muscle, it is strengthened. So when we say we are people of faith, that does not mean that we are people who had faith on January 24th of 1986. Instead, it means that we have ongoing faith in Christ and are trusting in his promises to us. It is not static, but active. It has works. It has fruit. And ultimately, its goal, is total transformation into the image of Christ. So what is harder: one-time act or ongoing faith? In many ways, it is faith.
The nation of Israel: created for faith
Remember why God created the nation of Israel? It was for his own possession. It was not for a one-time act. Israel was not meant to formulate a religion but rather live under a relationship with God. In the same way, we do not formulate a religion with God or a list of activities to do for him. Rather we live as his covenant children, bought with the blood of Christ, redeemed for His own possession.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.”
We are God’s people not by a work but by the faith that He grants us, not for ourselves but for His good pleasure.
Some of you may be wondering, “wait a minute, weren’t people saved differently back in the Old Testament?” Let’s find out
3:8 Gentiles and Jews justified by faith
Sometimes we think of salvation in terms of two modes: Old Testament salvation and New Testament salvation. But according to verse 6, Abraham was saved the same way we are saved, “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” How then were you saved, “you believed God and it was counted to you as righteousness.” That’s what verse 8 says, “God justifies Gentiles by faith.” So all people, for all time have been saved the same way: through faith in Christ. And God made Abraham the example set forward for how all people are saved: “and the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘in you shall all the nations be blessed’.” So the “in you” refers both to his physical descendents (ultimately Christ, the Messiah) as well as spiritual descendents who would be saved the same way he was: by faith. We get saved the same way Abraham got saved” by faith. There is no other way to be saved.
3:9 Our common identity
“So then those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
There you have it. Abraham was a man of faith. So also are we men and women, sons and daughters of faith.
Faith didn’t save you
This is not to say that the faith saved you. It was Christ who saved you, remember? Like I said earlier, we do not want an erroneous view of circumcision to be replaced by and an erroneous view of faith. Your faith did not save you. Christ saved you by putting faith in you to believe. Hopefully that distinction is clear.
That’s like drowning in a river, being saved by someone and then saying “I was saved by two arm and two legs.” No you were saved by a person. Not two arms and a leg. Or its like an infant thinking that it is the spoon that feeds them or the sippy cup that gives them juice. No it’s mommy and daddy. So, Jude makes the “more” sign and then the “milk” sign. But he does not make it to the bottle. I have never found him in his room motioning to his bottle to give him “more.” No he always motions to us. He asks us for more. So, in the same way, we do not worship our faith as though the faith saved us. We worship God because He saved us.
3:10 Why faith is important
So why is this such a big deal? Why do we carry on and on about faith as the only method of being saved? Does it really matter that a person has faith to be saved? Yes. It matters for this reason: If you don’t believe that faith alone can save you, you will go to hell. Look at verse 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.”
If you rely on the law for your good works, you will curse yourself. If you accept the standard of the law as your pathway to God, you will be damned for it. Why? Because no one can keep the law of God. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Do you do that perfectly? No. No one can. Guilty, depraved sinners cannot please a perfect and holy God.
Imagine this as an illustration:
Your house is dirty and needs a good cleaning. So you ask your 8-year-old daughter to take the broom and a washcloth and clean the house. You make it clear to her that you do not want to see any dust, any dirt. You want every part of it clean. And you want it done before 5:00 pm that night. So you go to work. She starts out making some progress around the living room but soon discovers that she can’t move the couch in order to get underneath it. She pushes as hard as she can but the couch won’t budge. Frustrated, she decides to take a break. She grabs some lemonade out of the fridge and pours it into a cup, but while she is pouring her hand slips and the picture of lemonade falls to the floor spraying liquid all over the kitchen. Doubly frustrated she begins cleaning up the mess with a washcloth but the task takes more time and energy than she expected.
By noon, she was exhausted and just wanted to take nap. Summoning what little strength she had, she turned her attention toward cleaning the bathroom. She quickly discovered that the tub was filthy. Trying with all her might, she was unable to remove some major stains around the rim of the tub and decided to come back to it later in the day. By now it was 2:00 and she still had allot to do. She hurriedly went to one of the bedrooms and began cleaning the hardwood floors with her washcloth. But what she didn’t realize was that she had forgotten to rinse out the rag and the rag had now turned into a ball of dirt, dust and grime. Rather than cleaning the floor, she had made it worse. She glanced up at the clock: 3:30. She had an hour and a half to make it right and to get this house cleaned. Panicking, she raced downstairs to inspect her previous work. The floor around the kitchen, where the lemonade spilled looked pretty good, but she notice cobwebs up above cabinets. Knowing that she couldn’t reach it with a broom, she decided to set up a couple of chairs and climb up them for a better reach. Extending herself as far as she could she brushed at a web only to lose her footing and fall to the floor in a heap. Impossible, she thought to herself. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I’m too small. I’m too weak. This task is more than I can bear.
Just then you walk into the house. “How did your day go honey?” You say. “Not good,” your daughter replied and breaking down she proceeded to tell you of all her mishaps, mistakes and failures to properly clean the house.
Now how would you respond to your daughter? With anger? Or with compassion? If she came to you humbly and said, “I can’t do it?” would you respond with anger? Of course not. But if she responded, “I can do it. Just leave me alone. I will try again tomorrow. I do not need anyone’s help.” Would you respond with compassion? If she would not let you embrace her and hold her in your arms, could you respond with compassion? No. She is judging herself on an impossible standard that no one can arrive at.
And those who judge themselves by the law are resisting the grace of God and rejecting His sympathetic compassion. “Those who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.” For they cannot accomplish what the law requires.
Vs. 11 no one justified by the law
“It is evident that no one is justified before God by the law.” Why? “for the righteous shall live by faith.” No one can fulfill the law completely and the law is not the method for being saved.
As Leon Morris notes:
The law is concerned with doing things; it prescribes conduct. But faith is not concerned with doing things; it means trusting someone (oh, how hard is trust!). And because scripture speaks of faith as the way to God, salvation cannot be by works. Faith and works may well exist together in the one life; indeed they should exist together. But faith and works cannot both be the way to salvation. Doing something to merit salvation is one thing; trusting God to do what is needed is quite another.
So trusting God is the answer for how a person is saved. What does that mean? What are we trusting God to do for us? Look at verse 13
Verse 13 Christ becoming a curse
So we are in a bind or in a major pickle. We are under a curse. Those who don’t obey the law are under a curse and this not only for Jews but for Gentiles as well. We didn’t and can’t obey the law. The law is like a mansion that needs a deep cleaning and we are like little children who can’t possibly clean it to perfection. What is our hope? It is that Christ would become a curse for us.
Did you catch that? Christ became a curse. He voluntarily subjected Himself to the curse of the law, not so he could save Himself, or to atone for His own sins, or to justify Himself before God. He Himself was God! But in order to redeem those who are under the law, He had to become as One under the law and take the curse of the law from us. He did it, as the end of verse 13 says, “for us. This is called “substitutionary atonement.” Christ substituting Himself for you.
Football players have substitutes right? Teams make a substitution, one player for the other. So Christ comes in for you and has to block the biggest guy on the field, and get a cleat in the throat and suffer a broken arm and have the crowd boo at Him and shout profanities. That’s substitutionary atonement. You should be in there getting pummeled and taking the biggest hits but instead Christ does it for you, not because he’s weak and can’t defend himself but because he needs to accurately reflect you. And you are weak and prone to injury and pain. Jesus essentially joins the pee-wee league, slaps on the pads, puts on the mini-helmet and heads out on the field.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, 2 being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He became sin, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God.
As we turn to the Lord’s Table, would you thank Christ for accomplishing this great work for us? We really have been saved. We have been saved from more than we can over know. Thanks be to God-
Pray with me.