Galatians 3 – By Faith, Not Works.

Galatians 3:1 – “O foolish Galatians!” Paul says. Why? Because they were buying into the notion that they had to follow the law to be justified. What law? Well, specifically he refers to circumcision in chapter 2, but not directly. I don’t think it’s clear here what law or laws they were relying on, the sense to me is bigger than that. It’s not that this law or that one isn’t needed, nor that the law isn’t valuable, it’s that it is powerless to save. Not only that, but they were taught not to rely on the law but on faith in Jesus, so Paul calls them fools.
If Paul came back, i suspect he’d enter many of our churches and cry out “You foolish Americans!” hearing sermon after sermon on proper moral living and how to improve ourselves. We like to think that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, that we can work hard to fix ourselves. We cannot, and to preach, teach or live by that philosophy is the height of foolishness.
In fact, if we could fix ourselves, it was Jesus who was the fool for coming here to be tortured and die for nothing.
Galatians 3:10-14 – The standard of the world is that if you follow the rules, things go OK. Well, that’s conventional wisdom anyway, we see examples all over of folks who skirt the rules and get ahead anyway, at least superficially. but Paul here refuses even to pay lip service to conventional wisdom, pointing out the elephant in the room – that we simply can’t follow the letter of the law. We forget the rules, we defy them, we are simply pulled into disobedience by the attractiveness of sin. So, if we rely on good behavior, we are finished before we’ve begun.
But, he says, Jesus turns the conventional wisdom (that’s patently false in reality) on its head. He becomes the one and only human in all of history to follow the rules, the only one qualified to receive the prize on his own efforts, then he swaps rewards with us. We get his (eternal life with the father), he gets ours (death on a cross). Remember Monte Hall and Let’s Make a Deal? You’ve won a new set of cookware, but do you want to trade it for the mystery behind door number 3? It might be junk, might be a new car, who knows? Well, Jesus took the deal and swapped rewards with us, except he knew both prizes ahead of time and that His rightful reward was far superior to what we earned. But he knew that the only way that we would earn anything but death was if he earned it for us, so He made the deal.
So don’t pretend that you are all that and have worked hard for that which Christ has gave you. And don’t fall into the trap that, somehow, if you’re not good enough, Jesus is going to switch back. He’s not.
Galatians 3:15-29 – Most of this stuff goes over my head. I squint my eyes, cock my head and read it over and over and I still don’t quite get it. One thing I do get is that Jesus is the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham long before (centuries before) the law was given. No number of laws can make that covenant void. The law was given temporarily, our guardian is says in Galatians 3:24-25 (ESV), until the promised faith was revealed completely in Jesus. Now that He is here, its purpose is complete, its job done, and we have no need of it. Wow, cool.

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