Author, Date, and Recipients
The apostle Paul wrote this letter in the late 40s a.d. The Galatians were probably members of the churches of the southern region of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul is more critical of his audience here than in any of his other letters because they are allowing false teachers to obscure the gospel itself.
REASON FOR WRITING: A crisis has hit the church in Galatia. The church came into being as a result of God’s Spirit at work in Paul’s proclamation of the gospel (3:1–5; 4:13–15). But within the brief of time since Paul left (1:6), the church has been visited or infiltrated by false teachers whom Paul calls those “who trouble you” (1:7) or “those who unsettle you” (5:12). Although the Galatians appear to have come under the spell of these teachers and have become convinced of their teaching (1:6), Paul does not regard the situation as hopeless (3:4).
Looking to Christ, the culmination of all the promises of the Old Testament, sinners can be freely counted righteous in him. Perhaps nowhere in the Bible is this clearer than in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
Now Paul has some harsh words for the Galatians…they are trying to fall back into performance based living instead of promise-based living. Paul declares this to be absolutely foolish! In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit would come and visit the people, but he did not permanently live inside the people until after Christ was crucified. But now, the Galatians and us live in a time after the death and resurrection of Christ and the Spirit lives in us. So Paul is saying it’s crazy to go back to living the Law.
Galatians 3New Living Translation (NLT) 3 Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
6 In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 7 The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.
Paul has some words for the Galatians. He calls them foolish for trying to go back and get circumcised and try to follow the Old Testament laws. He reminds them of the fact that the Spirit of God was not given to them because they were so good and so righteous. Then Paul reminds the Galatians and us, that the real children of Abraham are those who put their faith in God.
—- who has cast a spell on us and made us feel we can’t go to church because of something we did the night before? —— we’ve heard the clear preaching of the gospel for those of us coming from the states. There is plenty of Christianity there. Now for our Japanese friends maybe you haven’t clearly heard the gospel but by God’s grace I pray you would hear it clearly here at Neighborhood. ——So I’ll ask everyone here…God didn’t give you the Holy Spirit because you were righteous already, did he? He didn’t give me the Holy Spirit because I was already righteous? NO! I said, have mercy on me, a sinner, and then God saved me and filled me with his Spirit!! —In spite of our sins, in spite of our brokenness, God is still doing the miraculous here! You guys, we are going to the hospital in Hachinohe in November!!!! But all this is happening in spite of our sins!! The beauty of the Gospel message, and the beauty of life in Christ, is that it’s the promises of God that empower us to change.
We are people of promise, not of people of performance —- Again, it is the Word of God that will change us and sanctify us and purify us and make us whole. That word “sanctification” means to be set apart, set aside, separated from or away from something or several things for God to use you. A newer term for sanctification that I learned in seminary is “spiritual formation,” meaning the gradual changing of your old nature to the new creation through faith in Christ Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Gospel of Christ Jesus is what produces righteousness in us. See, Jesus told the Samaritan women that to truly worship God, our worship has to be two fold: we have to worship him in Spirit and in truth:
John 4:24New Living Translation (NLT) 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Spiritual formation is going to be a life-long process for us. It is not a race.
Every Christian is an endurance athlete.
But what exactly does it mean to worship? And what exactly does it mean to worship in Spirit and in truth? The Greek word for worship in the New Testament is proskynéō, (pros-koo-neh’-o); meaning to kiss, to fawn over or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):—worship, to kiss the hand in a token of reverence, 2 among the ancient Easterners, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence 3 1 used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank.
See! I don’t know where I heard this, but I heard this somewhere, and it messed me up. The Greek word for worship that is used is basically prostrate, where we literally are on the ground, nose touching the floor, in the ultimate expression of submission and humility. The way this verse in John applies to Galatians is that our hearts have to be completely in God’s hands for the Spirit to truly move in our lives. If the Bible says we are a new creation, and one day we are going to get new bodies……doesn’t it make sense that God is going to give us a whole new set of values, ideals, hopes, dreams and aspirations when we turn to Christ? Let us keep our faces to the ground, and let God take control…[JESUS take the wheel!]
TRANSITION… in relation to worshipping in the Spirit and in truth, The promises of God are the truth, and worshipping in Spirit means our approach to God, our relationship with God, must be Spirit-generated, Spirit-operated, Spirit-led, Spirit influenced and Spirit-driven. So we can’t be Spirit-led and performance led at the same time.
“Our theology and experience of the Spirit must be more interwoven if our experienced life of the Spirit is to be more effective.”
[Example in entertainment].
So our “theology,” our teaching, or belief system, and our experiences in God must go together. Paul told Timothy to guard both his life and his teaching, because in doing so Timothy would save both himself and those who heard him. (1 Tim 4:16). So it’s our life and our doctrine, Spirit and truth, theology and experiences; they have to balance each other out. So let’s look further into what the scriptures have said in the past about this new life of faith that we are to live…
Galatians 3:8-14 (NLT) 8 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.
10 But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” 12 This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.
—— Paul is moving into the whole purpose for evangelism and for missions, which is the fact that the Gospel is a message for everyone on earth, because God desires that all would be saved, and that none would perish.
—— Paul then said that anyone who tries to depend on the law to make them right with God are actually cursed! Because if you disobey one law you have disobeyed them all! —— Paul then goes on to say that Christ has rescued us from this curse. He absorbed the wrath of God which was brought upon us because people were disobedient to the Law, all the way from the time of Adam to the present time. Christ became a curse for us, so we could become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Everything that was promised to Abraham is now promised to the Gentiles, which mean you and I.
One of the things we need to share with the Japanese and other people groups here in the Pacific is that when Paul says that Christianity is for Jews and non-Jews, he is speaking from the perspective of an eastern Christian. Paul was from Tarsus which is modern-day Syria. And we are a for the most part a western audience in the East, bringing the Gospel BACK to eastern people! This is only fitting because today the East has eclipsed America in sending out missionaries. Christianity Today did a survey in July 2013 and their data was from 2010.
The country that received the most missionaries in 2010? The United States, with 32,400 sent from other nations.
Also interesting is the fact that South Korea, which previously occupied the No. 2 spot (as detailed in a 2006 CT cover story, “Missions Incredible“), now appears to have been eclipsed by unlikely contenders. According to the CSGC, Brazil, France, Spain, and Italy all sent more missionaries than South Korea did in 2010.
However, the United States still tops the chart by far in terms of total missionaries, sending 127,000 in 2010 compared to the 34,000 sent by No. 2-ranked Brazil.
But examine the data differently—in terms of missionaries sent per million church members—and Palestine comes out on top at 3,401 sent, followed by Ireland, Malta, and Samoa. (Interestingly, South Korea ranks No. 5 at 1,014 missionaries sent per million church members, a sign of the continued strength of its missions movement compared to the No. 9-ranked United States at 614 missionaries sent).
If you wanna be technical about it, Israel is on the continent of Asia, Jesus is Asian. It might sound weird, but it’s the truth. The only reason we have terms like “Middle East, Far East and Near East,” is because of politics and physical distance. But everything EAST of Europe is the EAST. BUT Here’s the point!
 Everybody needs Jesus — It doesn’t matter where you are from, what language you speak, what religion you grew up in, everybody needs the forgiveness that is ONLY found in the cross of Christ. Atheists can’t explain guilt, they don’t know what to do with guilt. Because if we are all animals and our behavior is only based on instincts and animal urges that have evolved, why feel guilt? Atheists can’t explain it. People who believe in reincarnation keep doing good in the hopes that they can reincarnate better, but there is no concrete, universally agreed upon guideline to how much is good enough to reincarnate higher and how much bad is bad enough to reincarnate lower, and so no one really knows. In the karmic system people are basically rolling dice with their souls and with eternity and hoping they get a lucky seven. We all need Jesus! No one is so good that they don’t need Him, and no one is so damaged by sin that they cannot be resurrected, emotionally, mentally, socially, and eventually physically, by Jesus.
And speaking of the need for Jesus, General McArthur had some choice words about Jesus and Christianity in Japan, immediately after World War II.
General MacArthur landing in the Philippines during World War II.
The mainstream media is almost breathless with the shocking revelation that after World War II, Allied Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur thought that Japan needed Jesus.
In this day and age — when it is unthinkably politically incorrect to even whisper that Christianity is true, that Jesus is, indeed, the only Way, the idea that a historical figure such as General MacArthur thought so, too, is … scandalous!
In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, MacArthur spoke freely that post-war Japan was in a spiritual vacuum. MacArthur, sent out word: “Send missionaries,” he pleaded to a number of religious groups, “and Bibles.”He made no secret of it, either.
“Over the next five years, some 5,000 missionaries from all different kinds of churches went to Japan,” writes Dr. Jeff Sanders. “The land was flooded with millions of Bibles.”
But in today’s politically correct atmosphere, this is suddenly big news and a startling controversy.
In his 1945 Under the Shadow of the Occupation: The Ashlar and The Cross, Japanese investigative journalist Eiichiro Tokumoto documents MacArthur’s efforts to persuade missionaries to intensify their efforts.
In the wake of the missionaries’ efforts, the Bible became a best-seller in Japan.
My grandfather used to lament how America had missed an enormous opportunity to evangelize in Japan in the post-war period. Somehow, a better job was done in South Korea, which today has a strong church — so vibrant that it has some of the largest congregations in the world. The Korean church is sending missionaries worldwide, including to Japan, China and America.
But again, the message of Christ is coming back to the East and is being preached by Easterners. Palestine is a world leader in sending out missionaries, you’ll never hear this on the news; I’ve never heard this on Fox, MSNBC or CNN! Palestine is a little strip of land that borders Israel on the west, right on the Mediterranean Sea. I makes me think about Paul and how the Gospel is for everybody. You know, I have to go back to Abraham. It’s very interesting, but did you know, Abraham was actually not born in Israel. Abraham was actually born in Iraq; southern Iraq, in a city called Ur. In 2003 I actually visited the city of Ur it was right outside of Talil Air Base in Nasiriyah, Iraq, made famous because of private Jessica Lynch who was captured there in 03. The list goes on….The Apostle Paul was from Syria. And today, their have been many, many asian and specifically Japanese scholars who have contributed to Christian thought….
[JOYFUL CHAPEL AOMORI TESTIMONY]
So we see in this beautiful island nation of Japan that Paul’s words have proved to be true, and people have responded to the idea that the gospel needs to go to the ends of the world. And our Eastern brothers and sisters are praying for us as we take the gospel back to the West!
Let’s look at the rest of our text and see what else Paul has to say on the relation between Law and faith, of performance and promise…
Galatians 3:15-22 (NLT) 15 Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. 16 God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children,” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”—and that, of course, means Christ. 17 This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. 18 For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. 20 Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham. 21 Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. 22 But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.
So we see that Christ was prophesied to come as early as the time of Abraham. God’s agreement with Abraham was not cancelled out just because of the Law of Moses when it came on the scene much later .
The reason people were given the law was to show them how impossible it was for them to live performance-based lives. The law exposed the sins of the people to them.
So Paul is comparing the situation with Abraham with the situation with Moses. Moses mediated between God and the people of Israel, but earlier, in the time of Abraham, there was no mediator. In a contract or a legal transaction, a mediator is often needed. But when it came to God’s promise to Abraham, it was a much more intimate transaction and relationship, with points toward our relationship with Christ now that we are people of promise.
There is no conflict between God’s law and God’s promises. God’s promises are always tied to principles, but the difference is that the principles have changed. Since Christ has been crucified and resurrected, we are freed by believing in Him instead of by performing endless animal sacrifices over and over
So again..the Law was never supposed to be permanent. From the very beginning, God wanted our relationship with Him to be based on faith and trust. Now it is up to us to simply operate in that faith and trust.
[NO APPLICATION WITH THESE PASSAGES]
Now we took a look at verses 23-25, which state that the law was our guardian and our protector until Christ would come. And now we see that our identity as God’s children comes through our walking with Christ.
Galatians 3:26-28 (NLT) 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
Paul tells us that we are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. We are all his heirs and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to us.
Our transformation into people of promise and people of the Spirit is now complete. We have put on Christ literally like putting on graduation robes! So we can throw our caps into the air! Christianity is the only belief system in which you get your degree without taking any final exams, there are no long hours of study, no dissertations, no group projects or discussions, no Capstone speeches or thesis papers! Christ did all the work! All the long hours he spent agonizing on the cross get credited to us. We all get robes that say, “Blood-covered, and “blood-bought,” and “valedictorian,” summa cum laude. Aren’t you so glad that we are children of God?!!
 Everything is based on who Christ is and what He’s done —- Through Jesus, we have complete access to the presence of God again! The Holy Spirit has been released from Heaven to live in us. Gordon Fee writes:
“Above everything else, as fulfillment of the new covenant the Spirit marked the return of the lost presence of God.”
See…all of this is about us being reunited with God, having a relationship with Him again like Adam and Eve had. And because God’s Spirit is now here with us permanently, and is permanently living in the earth through the church, we have regained that lost presence of God. We have regained the Garden of Eden!
John 14:26 says:
But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
AMP But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.
Again….scripture from the very beginning has been prophesying about a permanent solution to the problem of mankind’s sin. We’ve talked about Abraham a lot in this message and he was an Old Testament guy. But even in his story we see snapshots, or trailers, or previews of Christ. When we are done with Galatians we will take a look at Genesis 22.
TRANSITION TO BENEDICTION
So today, as people of promise, and as people of the Spirit, because of what Christ has done, we don’t have to fear our Father. We can follow Him with reckless abandon, we can ask the Spirit to lead us where our trust is without borders like the Oceans song says!
If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.”