Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Billboards and Contracts
Driving down the freeway there are two types of signs we encounter: billboards and direction signs. Direction signs tell us of upcoming exits and towns. Billboards advertise products and services to us. It?s important that billboards use a graphic that grabs the attention and no more than eight words?a driver just doesn?t have the time to read more than that while going along at, um, 65 miles an hour.
As Paul the Apostle talks about the purpose of the law in order to counter those who were trying to make Christians into Torah observant Jews. He says the law is like a billboard in that it pictures Jesus Christ, and God broke the eight word rule a little?doing it in ten?commandments?to reveal His character. But it is also like a direction sign pointing the way towards the coming of Jesus Christ.
Before we get to that, the Apostle gives us a little lesson on contract law in order to show that righteous standing before God comes from believing a promise God made, and kept before the giving of the law.
We?re been talking a lot about legalism. There are really two types of legalism. The first, brought by the Judaizers, brought the Law as a gate to salvation. The second group, called ?Nomists? or ?Labelists? allowed people to come to Christ through the gospel, but then added rules and requirements to them afterwards.
Nomists stress earning your salvation. Today the Seventh Day Adventists might fall into this category. Labelists insist on form to show your piety. You?re okay as long as you perform the right ceremony or use the right method to reach God. A wide range of groups might fit here, but certainly the Catholic Church. But any kind of superstition to gain God?s blessing would make you a labelist.
Bottom line: you can?t improve upon the salvation of Jesus Christ! As we get into this, let me remind you of my definition of legalism: ?Legalism is the application of an external set of principals or goals to your life (or the lives of others) in order to feel better about yourself or your relationship with God rather than letting God transform your life from the inside out.?
Paul calls them ?fools? but it basically means people who know better but are not using their minds to perceive truth. HCSB says ?who hypnotized you.? King James says ?bewitched.? The Greek word means to ?fascinate by false representations.? It?s kind of spiritual sleight of hand. Sometimes someone?s presentation is so slick that you don?t see the problem until it?s too late. We need to pay attention to the words and then check it out with the Scriptures!
He says Jesus was ?vividly? portrayed to them by Paul as crucified. It means as if he?d put it on a billboard it was so clear. The word ?Crucified? is in past perfect, a past action with continued effect. The salvation we get from Jesus? crucifixion cleansed us from sin and continually gives us everything we need to have right standing with God.
See, the presence of the Spirit of God in a life is a key. In the days of the Old Testament Law, the Holy Spirit would descend upon or ?envelope? a person for a specific time and purpose. Gideon, for instance, was empowered by the Spirit to fight the Midianites. Sampson was enveloped by the Spirit to fight the Philistines. But in Joel 2:28 God promised to pour out His Spirit ?on all humanity.? We saw this happen on the day of Pentecost.
Then in Romans 8:9, Paul says: ?You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you.? The word ?lives? is the Greek word oy-keh-oh which means ?to remain.? When you become a member of God?s kingdom through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God?s Spirit takes up permanent abode within you. Jesus called it being ?born again? in John Chapter 3. But the thing about being ?born of the Spirit? is that you can?t birth yourself. You can?t save yourself. God has to do it for you. So when Paul wants them to think about how they got the Spirit was it by ?works? or by ?hearing of faith?? And then the punch line:
Again with the foolish! Paul is trying to goad them into actually thinking. They began their relationship with God by the Holy Spirit regenerating them and coming to live inside of them. He is taking an active part in transforming them. So now they are going to take over for the Holy Spirit to finish the job? Having a relationship with God is not like getting a jump on your car battery. ?Thanks for the new charge, Lord. I can take it from here.? No. You are plugging into a new power source and you must ?abide? or ?remain? connected to that source as Jesus said (John 15:4).
Paul and Barnabas suffered greatly at the hands of the Jews for representing Jesus as the Messiah. It?s quite possible that the Galatians similarly suffered. If after that, why would buy the rap that you need to go back into Judaism after they just caused you to suffer?
Not only did God save them and give them the Spirit, He continues to work in and through them. All this did not come through their works. Their continuing relationship with God and effectiveness for the gospel isn?t the result of their abilities but God?s gift through their response in faith.
6 ? 9
Here is where Paul begins a longer argument about the basis for faith, going all the way back well before the Law was given to Moses. It could be that the Judaizers were trying to get the Galatians to become descendants of Abraham by becoming proselytes of Judaism. But Paul takes them to the Scriptures that show it wasn?t the works of the Law but the hearing of faith that produced righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Further, God promised a relationship to the Gentiles (Genesis 12:3, 18:18). It isn?t just faith in and of itself, though, but faith in Someone in particular.
10 ? 12
This is Paul?s quick lesson in how the Old Testament really works:
Deuteronomy 27:26 says ?Cursed is anyone who does not put the words of this law into practice.?
Habakuk 2:4 ?The righteous will live by his faith.?
Leviticus 18:5 ?Keep My statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am the Lord.?
So you are cursed if you don?t obey, and can?t be justified by obedience anyway. Yet the only way to live is to keep the Law. It?s kind of a Catch 22, but purposeful because of what Jesus did.
13 ? 14
I mentioned this last time. Deuteronomy 21:23 says that if you are hung on a tree you are cursed. Jesus, though innocent, allowed Himself to be hung on a wooden cross so that God?s curse for our sins could fall on Him. He obeyed the law, was cursed by the Law, but raised from the dead because He was pure. Jesus then gave us His life by our faith, trust and reliance on Him?and not just any life. This isn?t human created life, it is Spirit given, eternal life.
15 ? 18
Paul?s point is pretty clear. Once two parties make an agreement you can?t just decide not to honor it or change it. Even more so with God who made a covenant with Abraham. Genesis 12:7 says God will give the land to Abraham?s ?offspring.? So Paul clarifies the meaning of this Old Testament Scripture?yet another pointer to the Lord Jesus Christ. But his main point is that the law, which came hundreds of years later, did not nullify the contract God had already entered into with Abraham?that of righteousness by faith, a blessing to all the nations, and that the promises would come through Abraham?s seed. We do not receive those promises through obedience to the Law but are inherited by God?s offspring, which you become when you belong to Jesus.
So why the Law, then? Glad you asked.
The Law really had two purposes: to reveal the goodness of God, and to reveal the impossibility of being able to be like God on our own. People sinned before the law came about, but once they saw how pure God really is, it makes us realize we simply can never measure up. The law was also to be a pointer to Jesus.
Jesus said: John 5:39 ?You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me?
The law was temporary ? ?until the Seed ? would come.? Jesus is permanent. That?s because Jesus fulfilled the law and now fulfills it in us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, more and more.
19b ? 20
It was a Jewish belief that angels gave the law to Moses, who was the mediator. It was between one God and a group of people (Israel). Israel did not live up to their end of the bargain, but God did. But when God dealt with Abraham it wasn?t through a mediator but directly.
21 ? 23
?So which is it?? people might ask. Are we to please God by obeying the law or having faith in Christ? The question to ask is: ?which gives life?? Which is efficacious? Which actually makes you like God? If you could have eternal life through the law then that would be the way to go. But you can?t. Again, look at John 5:39. In fact, the law showed us that we are enslaved to sin until Jesus came to set us free by faith.
24 ? 26
The law acted as a ?guardian? or ?disciplinarian.? In the Greek culture such a person was a slave put in charge of a child. They took them to and from school, looked over their lessons, taught them manners, morality, and strictly disciplined them. This was temporary, until the child reached around 16 years of age. The Greek here can mean that the law guided us to Christ or guided us until Christ. Either is correct and perhaps both are good. We learn what God is like and what sin is like and so the law helped us not walk the wrong direction until Jesus showed us to trust and rely on Him. Without it we might have gone so headlong into idolatry we would never recognize Jesus, or have annihilated ourselves before He came. In another way the law led us to Christ as every page of the Old Testament speaks in some way about Jesus.
After Jesus came, we no longer needed the law to guide us to Christ. But faith does not do away with God?s character as revealed in the law. In fact, having faith in Jesus means depending on Him for everything and trusting your entire life and opening up your entire life to Him. Now we are not under a tutor but are ?sons? or ?children? of God. We have a direct relationship with Him.
So let?s talk briefly about the types of legalism we can find ourselves in. The two main types are nomists and labelists.
Jason Dulle came up with a great list of the types of legalism that further define these types:
- 1.A reliance on one\'s own performance to merit favor before God, rather than relying on Christ\'s performance at Calvary on their behalf (Nomist)
- 2.Relating to God on the basis of works rather than on the basis of faith (an extension of the former) (Nomist)
- 3.Confusing personal convictions/persuasions with Biblical mandates, ascribing equal authority to both categories (Labelist)
- 4.Enforcing extra-Biblical moral standards on other Christians (an extension of point 3) (Labelist).
The Law is an expression of God?s character. When we follow the law we act like God. But you cannot either 1) actually perform the law without the Holy Spirit doing it and 2) interpret and force obeying principal or law on others.