The Hudson and Our Inheritance – Galatians 3:1-18

Galatians 3:1-18

The Hudson River isn’t too far from where I live. It kind of reminds me of a dirty salty version of the Mississippi River, but that is beside the point. Imagine you are feeling a little risky – a little adventurous. You think, “I can swim across this thing.” So when the weather gets right, you go to the bank, wetsuit on, and just jump right in. Unfortunately for you, sitting on the couch everyday doesn’t count as proper training for something so strenuous, and you very quickly get winded. You are reaching the point of exhaustion, and to your grim despair, you aren’t even half way across. But you can’t go any longer. As soon as you accept your fate and make your peace with God, a friendly old man in a fishing boat comes and offers you a lift across.

I know at first you might be wondering why a man is out on the Hudson in a small fishing boat, but that doesn’t matter. You are just happy he was at the right place at the right time. You hop in and thank him for his hospitality. Though after a few seconds, your stubborn self catches wind and tells the man you want to get out… You can swim the rest of the way across by yourself.

I’m not too much of a swimmer. Even though I grew up right next to a private lake where I would swim EVERY day during the summer, I am not a strong swimmer. I don’t know the right strokes or how to breathe properly in the water. Not to mention I am incredibly out of shape. So anytime I go across a long bridge or see a wide river or a big lake I just think how hopeless I would be if I tried to swim across it. So, this illustration speaks to me.

After Paul shares his proposition for writing the Galatians in 2:16, He goes on in chapter 3 to explain that God has already given His Spirit to the Galatians, and that the Galatians don’t have to follow the Law if they already have the Spirit. And since they have the Spirit, they no longer have to feel like they need to mark up their flesh through circumcision. Here Paul takes a considerable amount of time to contrast; The Law and faith, the flesh and the Spirit, and being cursed verses being justified.

This is a persuasive argument from Paul. When I read this section I think of how I would write persuasive papers in high school. Appeal to emotion, refer to someone who has some level of authority, and weave some modus ponens in there like a fiend. Paul is the same way here.

First, he starts by appealing to the Galatians’ personal experience. For the Galatians to deny what God has done in their lives through the Spirit would be ignorance. In verse 5, Paul reminds them that God worked miracles among them and the Spirit moved through them because of their faith, not because they followed the Law. Paul even described the crucifixion of Christ to them so vividly when he first presented the gospel that he says in verse 1 that it was as though Christ was crucified before their own eyes. How can they deny what God had done in their lives?

Paul then goes on to present an argument from authority. Now, when we present an argument from authority, we usually quote doctors or specialists. Paul quotes a ton of Scripture in Galatians 3:10-14. If the Galatians were getting tempted by Jewish Christians to become more “Jewish” and follow the Mosaic Law, it would be harder for them to make an argument if Paul is arguing from the same source of authority that the Jewish Christians are.

Here Paul uses the promise of Abraham, the first “Jew,” the Pillar of the People of God. Paul is showing that God fulfilled the promise made to Abraham in Genesis – the promise that God would bless all the nations through him. This was only done through Christ, who is Abraham’s chosen offspring. God not only is fulfilling something that predates the Law, but is using an example of some one who was made right with God before being circumcised. Paul even says in Galatians 3:7 – “That it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” The Galatians, by being people of faith, now are considered welcomed in to the People of God and hold equal status to that of the Jews. This was without the Law, but was through their faith in Jesus Christ!

Here’s what happened. The Galatians were drowning and God saved them. They were warm and safe, but they are thinking about jumping back in the cold and dirty Hudson. Paul is trying to show them that if the Galatians go back to thinking they can do it on their own they will sink. They no longer need to follow the Law of Moses. It hasn’t helped them thus far. It won’t help them in the future. Next Paul will show them that they need to follow the Law of Christ – following the one who perfected the Law of Moses. This can only be done through faith.

Have you jumped out of the boat?

Maybe you are like the Galatians, and denying something God has done in your life. How can you deny what God has done in YOUR own life? It doesn’t matter if it was last week or in the last century, don’t forget the moments when God spoke to you. Don’t forget how God changed your family. Don’t forget that time that God healed you when the doctors said it was hopeless.

Sometimes what God has done in the past is the only thing that will keep us going in the present.

Or have you forgotten what the Gospel is about? It isn’t about following a set of rules and regulations. It isn’t about the Law of Moses. It isn’t about attending church, or going to Sunday School, or playing on the worship team. The Gospel is about how Christ came to reconcile a world that was condemned. Let’s not lose sight of Christ. Let’s not jump out of the boat – not even for humanitarianism, hedonism, or “morally sound deism.”

Remember what God did in history when Christ came and made us Children of Abraham – Children of His inheritance. Remember what God has done in your life through His Spirit. And never forget… It all centers on Christ’s faithful act on the cross and our faith in him.

Moses, the Messiah, and the Mountain.

Chuck had a tough decision on his hands. As a juvenile probation officer, Chuck played a major role in the growth and discipline of youth in the area. He was tough, yet somehow he was also compassionate. Maybe it was because he himself had children. With kids of his own, it was easy for him to put his own offspring in delinquents’ shoes.

So, when kids who were friends with one of his sons came into the courtroom, the sight of them came as sort of a shock.

These were kids who were in the same class as his son in elementary school. They were kids who played on the same sports teams and did the same extracurricular activities. Their parents and him would small talk at school events or if they saw each other in public. These weren’t kids with drug problems. They weren’t from a bad neighborhood. These were good kids, and their actions did not reflect their characters.

Moses also had a tough decision on his hands. His people were being held as slaves, and he was called by God to deliver them. Moses was educated in the ways of the Egyptians, who were holding the Israelites captive. Moses was even raised by them. So you could imagine the shock from the Pharaoh to hear that Moses was threatening to plague the land if the Israelites were not set free.

After God used Moses to set His people free, He brought Moses to Mount Sinai. This is where God gave Moses “the Law.” The Law was a contract between God and the Israelites. If the Israelites were to be God’s people, they had to obey certain rules. This also meant that God had stipulations He would follow. If the Israelites obeyed their end of the deal, God promised He would never leave them. He would be with them forever. Mount Sinai was where this all happened. It was where God presented the Ten Commandments to Moses.

Throughout the years, the Israelites failed to keep the Law. When it said not to marry people who weren’t Israelites, they married them anyway. Where the Law said not to worship other gods, the people put up altars to Baal. Time and time again, the Israelites would be disobedient, and God would remain gracious and not punish them. Eventually, through their own disobedience, the Israelites became slaves once again.

They were again slaves, and they again needed a Deliverer. This time they were determined that they weren’t going to break any of the rules of the Law. So, they tried to obey the Law as closely as possible, because they did not want to upset God. They tried to figure out all the rules God wanted them to keep, so that God would look down on them and deliver them from their captivity. And despite the fact that the Israelites didn’t keep up their end of the contract, God still kept up His.

This is when Jesus came.

Jesus arrived to the scene when the Israelites were under Roman captivity. And like Moses, he was sent by God to deliver the people. But, Jesus came to present the people a NEW Law – a New Covenant. He didn’t come to do away with Moses’ Law. Jesus came to fulfill it. Like Moses on Mount Sinai, Jesus went up on a mountain and shared what is now known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” This is where Jesus presented his message of grace and truth. Where the Law of Moses pointed to the world’s problems, Jesus was offering the solution – himself.

Because of Chuck, I didn’t have to go to prison. When some friends and I broke into a house on my fourteenth birthday, we thought it was a pillar pointing to the end of our lives. I imagined myself going to jail. I imagined all of my friends and family looking at me as though I were a terrible person… because I acted terribly. But Chuck delivered me from a future that was looking grim. He was able to talk to the judge. I’m sure it was Chuck’s testimony to the judge which brought our sentencing down to a small fine. After everything, my charges were removed. It was through that experience, I gave my life to Christ.

It was Christ who delivered me, along with the rest of the world, from spiritual slavery.

Where Moses presented the people with the Law, Jesus perfected it. This is why Moses is the only Old Testament figure whom Jesus ever compared himself. Jesus fulfilled the Law in its entirety. We no longer follow the Law. We follow the One who fulfilled it. Does that mean that we still have to obey rules that were once a part of the Law? Yes. But we do it out of obedience to Christ, because of the grace and power he has given.

We do it because we are following Christ.

“And the LORD said to me… ‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” – Deuteronomy 18:17-18

The Day That Death Was Defeated

Imagine a Jew living during the time of the Second Temple. Nehemiah might have brought some of the Jewish people back to their Promised Land, but the Jews were still in disarray. A Temple might have been built to replace the former one, but the Israelites were no longer a nation of God – they weren’t a nation at all. The Israelite people were floating from nation to nation – Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans. They might have been “post-exilic”, but they were definitely not out of exile.

Imagine an Israelite who was alive amidst the captivity in Egypt. Their ancestors might have freely come to the land, but that isn’t the case for them now. People through whom God said he would bless the world are now captives in a foreign land. The Israelite people weren’t “people” at all – they were slaves. They might have been promised a blessing, but their children were still getting slaughtered by the hundreds.

Moses was sent by God to deliver the Israelites in Egypt from their physical bondage. God parted the Red Sea, and from Mount Sinai Moses presented to the people of God how they should live according to the Law.

They were to be God’s chosen people.

Through them the whole world was to be blessed.

But they took the Law and saw it as a way in which to separate them selves from the world they were supposed to bless – a Law they couldn’t even keep. They needed a truly Faithful Jew through which Abraham’s covenant could be fulfilled. But they were looking for a way out of their physical bondage of exile during the Second Temple Period. They lost sight of the promise that God made to them. They lost sight of their purpose as the People of God.

Jesus was sent by God to deliver all of mankind from their spiritual bondage of sin. God’s Spirit fell on Jesus during his baptism, and from there Jesus presented the Sermon on the Mount, where he showed the people what it meant to live by faith.

He was God’s Chosen One.

Through him the whole world had been blessed.

But the people crucified him. When given the chance to free this man who knew no sin, the people chose an insurrectionist instead… How fitting. They took an innocent man and gave him a death sentence expected for the worst of people. Just as Moses and his people were the first to celebrate the Passover, Jesus was presented as the final Passover Lamb the day he was crucified during that Passover week.

The Passover. The Passion.

Moses. The Messiah.

Physical Bondage. Spiritual Bondage.

God’s Deliverance.

If Christ’s story ended there, then this wouldn’t be a story worth being told. When Jesus was taken to be crucified, the disciples fled. After his death they left in shame believing that they were merely following an allusion of grandeur that he was there to set them free from Roman rule.

But Christ’s story didn’t end there. When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved his reign as King! Christ didn’t ignore death; he defeated it! And by defeating death, Christ showed how he was the Ultimate Deliverer. He isn’t just Christ – but he is Lord! He is the I Am! And though the Jewish people were expecting their Messiah to come and deliver them from their bondage from Rome, he came and delivered all people from their spiritual bondage of sin.

This is the day in which death was defeated.

We now know that there will be a day when we are resurrected.

We now know that there will be a day when all things will be reconciled to him.

We now can go to the world knowing that he has ALL authority.

We can now go bringing this news of reconciliation.

Because this is the day in which death is defeated.

“It’s About the Call.”

“For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…” -Prov 2:6

It is always an encouraging moment for a pastor when they realize that something has finally “clicked” with a person to whom they are ministering to.

I remember Pastor Heather had an open forum one night at youth group (yes, I had a female youth pastor). At this time, I had committed my life to Christ, but not everything had “clicked” yet. My older sister had gotten saved six months after me, and she had quickly grown more mature than me as a “new believer.” I remember at the forum someone had asked a question about the existence of God, and I raised my hand to respond… once Pastor Heather allowed time for peers within the youth group to give their opinions on the questions asked. What I responded with was the Teleological Argument for the Existence of God – though I didn’t know what that was at the time. I remember Pastor Heather’s countenance turned from interest to bewilderment as I explained that the world around us shows design and that must point to a Designer – a very profound thing for a young teen to understand and articulate.

Recently, I heard my good friend Osheen preach at my college alma mater. Her text was that from Exodus – when Moses gets called by God to deliver the Israelites (she craftily referenced the movie, “The Prince of Egypt”). Her application of the text was focused on insecurities and the call of God. Moses believed that God would deliver His people, but Moses didn’t think that he would be the means of that deliverance. But he wasn’t – Osheen made that clear. Oftentimes we put Moses as the main character when it is God through whom deliverance came.

I think a lot of one-liner’s are platitudinous. But one that I think holds merit is that God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips the called.

When I first got saved in 2003, I didn’t know anything about the Bible. I literally didn’t know what the “Book of John” meant. I ended up settling in 1John because I thought that the 1, 2, and 3 before John’s name were chapter marks. I remember also being confused as to why the Psalms didn’t rhyme, and why all the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were practically the same story about Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. The Bible was just a book to me.

After I got saved, I found that Proverbs was known as the “book about wisdom” in the Bible, so I thought that I would start there. Every single night I would read Proverbs 1-4, one passage from the Old Testament, and one passage from the New Testament, and I would ask God to give me wisdom so that I would understand Him more, and in understanding Him, find more reasons to love him.

Today, I have my B.A. in “Bible & Theology.” I graduated Cum Laude, and I got to serve on various ministries at my school: student government, traveling ministry teams, and even as president of my school’s philosophy club. I owe so much to Central Bible College, whose slogan was, “It’s About the Call,” at the time when I applied. They helped equip me and helped me to learn how to use wisdom and the Holy Spirit to make God’s Word be more than just a book, but come to life!

It is so humbling for me to look back and remember who I was when I got saved – a rebellious teen that listened to Metallica and knew nothing about the Bible whatsoever. But it is crazy that God will use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. God has done so much through me intellectually that there is no way I can say that I learned this all on my own… I am not that smart! It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that God’s Word was illuminated to me. And I need to always remember that.

If you feel like you aren’t qualified for the task that you feel God has called you to just remember that you are feeling the same way almost all of the prophets of the Old Testament felt. Ask God for wisdom and seek it. And remember that God is going to do things bigger than your own capacity, because He will get the glory for it! It is truly a miraculous thing for God to do the extraordinary through ordinary and mundane human beings. Don’t get discouraged. Be firm. Stay faithful.

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding…” -Prov 3:13

To God be the glory forever and ever,

Amen.