Freedom to Think: A Sermon Review
Benny's prop statement yesterday in his sermon was this: every idea has a consequence and must be evaluated in the light of Scripture. It must be thought through biblically.
In this letter, Paul was dealing with a fundamental idea: What is the gospel? Paul was dealing with Judaizers who acknowledged Jesus Christ as savior but were saying Christianity is a Jewish entity and grace alone is not enough. They were saying, “We need to make sure everyone is adhering to the law, especially these Gentiles, because they really know how to sin. They need to follow Moses and Abraham.” Paul had already explained that Christ was crucified, and explained justification and the subsequent gift of the Spiritâ€•these are the gospel.
If we assess the idea that “faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone” is all we need for salvation, we need to evaluate this in the light of scripture. And we need to evaluate the Judaizers’ idea that something more than Christ’s sacrifice is needed. Let’s not be too quick to condemn them. They were trying to protect something good: God’s holiness. They were saying, “Gentile Christians need to see the holiness of God and keep his commands.”
1. Living by Faith (vv. 6-9)
In response, Paul used scripture. He quotes Genesis 15:5-6, where God blessed Abraham. God “took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars…. So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
This is the moment that saved Abraham. He believed God, not just in God. Anyone can believe the facts that Jesus died on the cross, was resurrected and ascended to heaven. The demons believe that. We have to trust God, not just recite facts about the gospel. We have to believe Christ alone is sufficient for our salvation.
Paul used scripture to turn the Judaizers’ idea on its head. Abraham lived before the law, and he was justified by believing God. It was not what the Judaizers saidâ€•that to be Christian you have to be a physical descendant of Abraham, observing the law.
2. Living by the Law (vv. 10-12)
Paul answered the question: How can a man be right (be “blessed”) before God?
a. The curse
Paul quoted scripture. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse. If you are trying to relate to God by law, to gain God’s approval, you are bound to observe everything in the law. All of it. You have to keep the law perfectly. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21: “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” This is not saying the law is cursed, but you are. In Old Testament times, when you broke the Mosaic law you were stoned to death. Then your body was hung on a tree to display that you were cursed by God. Paul says, “I live by faith.” To live by something is to rely on it. It’s dependence. Paul says, “I live by faith. I rely on it.” The Judaizers relied on the law. Faith and law are mutually exclusive. “What the law could not do, weak as it was in the fleshâ€•our sinfulness, not the law’s weaknessâ€•God did.”
b. Two aspects of the curse
Theologically: We have all fallen short of the glory of God. We cannot keep the law. It can’t be done. Everything we do is tainted by sin.
Psychologically: If this is true, there will be a hint of this recognition in the way we live. We have a subjective understanding that there’s something wrong with us. Benny used the personal example of how he can’t drive without an attitude. He's incapable. It proves he needs a savior.
In verse 11 we see the inner workings of justification. “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” The law is not based on faith. Christ became cursed for us, our substitute. Our sins were imputed (credited) to him and his righteousness (credited) imputed to us. Crucifixion is a symbol showing a person has received divine retribution; a symbol that every one of us was cursed. But what we could not do, Christ did for us.
3. Living in Christ (vv. 13-14)
The curse has been removed. And now we are blessed in Christ. We receive (are declared) the righteousness of Christ. Jesus was treated as a sinner, liable for our sins. We are declared righteous. We are free to serve God, to live a righteous life. We are declared clean, pure, perfect in God’s sight. Yes, we still sin, and we still need a savior. But we are no longer condemned, under God’s curse. We are “blessed,” as was promised to Abraham.
How does this help us now? The goal of our lives is to serve God and glorify him, not for him to serve us. Health and prosperity are not the goal of life.
We are not obligated to keep the law. We are obligated to trust in Christ. Have you believed God? You can. And the offer stands even now, today, for you to respond to the glorious truth of the gospel.
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