Freedom to Change: A Sermon Review


Jesse continued our Galatians series this Sunday with a message on Galatians 3:1-5. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing (here) but here is a brief recap.

Jesse began by talking about the concept of change. Turning away from unwanted behavior is something common to everyone. Whether it is silly habits, or more serious addictions, we all have aspects of behavior that we want to modify. 12 step programs abound for every sort of sin, addiction or compulsion. Many of these programs borrow from biblical wisdom in their approach, and can be helpful. However, behavior modification, while important at times in and of itself, is not what is most important. The human condition requires more than behavior modification; it requires redemption and sanctification.

Jesse then recapped the previous few messages in the Galatians series which touched on the redemption part of the equation, before jumping into 3:1-5 which turns to the sanctification part of the equation. He showed through the passage Paul is arguing that sanctification is as much a work of grace through the Spirit of God as redemption. Paul communicates this through a series of rhetorical questions, including verse 2 where he says “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

Jesse explained the type of foolish thinking Paul is referring to through an illustration. He asked us to imagine someone who had never experienced a central cooling AC system before. Imagine them walking into a house, and thinking how amazing it was that no matter where you went in the house, it was significantly cooler than outside, even in the shade! Now imagine them thinking to themselves, well, that was awesome, now that it is cool I’ll turn off the AC and use my rotary fans to keep it cool from now on. That is a glimpse of the level of intelligence Paul is accusing the Galatians of exercising. The law was powerless to save, how do you expect it to sanctify? Both our salvation and our sanctification are wholly dependent on the Spirit of God.
Jesse followed this up by pointing out that this doesn’t make works meaningless. Good works bring glory to God and are evidence of his empowering grace. They are simply what attains right standing with God for us, since that has already been imputed to us through the only one capable of pleasing God through his perfect life, and substitutionary death.

We tend to talk about these issues in relation to the Legalist. That is what Paul is specifically addressing after all. But this isn’t just a corrective to those who think they can earn God’s favor through their own effort. This is the best news in the world to those who are weak and weary. God’s gift through Christ means that not only are we placed in right standing before God, but He is going to keep us there as he inexorably transforms us from one degree of glory to the next.

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