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Message – The Promise of the Spirit
The Promise of the Spirit
Now we get to the real issue of the letter…
Galatians 3:1-29, “(1) You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified!
(2) The only thing I want to learn from you is this:
Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?”
The Holman translation words it this way… “by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?”
“(3) Are you so foolish? Although you began WITH the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?”
The wording here clarifies the nature of our relationship. The Spirit supplies the power, the ability, the clarity, the desire, the authority we lack in the weakness of our human efforts.
1Thess. 2:13, “And we also [especially] thank God continually for this, that when you received the message of God [which you heard] from us, you welcomed it not as the word of [mere] men, but as it truly is, the Word of God, which is effectually at work in you who believe [exercising its superhuman power in those who adhere to and trust in and rely on it].”
John 1:12, “But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name–[Isa. 56:5.]”
Php 2:13, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Col. 1:29, “For this I labor [unto weariness], striving with all the superhuman energy which He so mightily enkindles and works within me.”
This last one illustrates part of the mystery of the Gospel.
Notice Paul says he labored to the point of weariness, striving by God’s power within him.
So it is God’s power that was effective in Paul, but it was Paul’s striving to the point of weariness that enabled the power to do its work.
It isn’t God doing FOR or THROUGH WITHOUT ANY human input at all, but rather taking hold together WITH us!
Even though we are powerless in ourselves to produce any virtue or goodness, any fruit unto the likeness of Christ or even an attitude or motive which in itself would be truly pleasing to God – we do have a will and THAT is what we bring to the table.
God has not and will not ever produce in a human being what He desires apart from their cooperation.
God instigates the relationship by shining the light of the Gospel into our hearts. Here is where we begin our journey with Him IF we respond by belief and reliance which produces surrender.
Once God has secured our surrender He is able to do in us what we could never have done for ourselves… and that is in truth the daily story of our walk with Him. It never changes.
The writer of Hebrews said it this way,
“(1) Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering His rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it. (2) For we had good news proclaimed to us just as they did. But the message they heard did them no good, since they did not join in with those who heard it in faith. (3) For we who have believed enter that rest, as He has said,
“As I swore in My anger, ‘They will never enter My rest!’”
And yet God’s works were accomplished from the foundation of the world. (4) For He has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this way:
“And God rested on the seventh day from all His works,”
(5) but to repeat the text cited earlier: “They will never enter My rest!”
(6) Therefore it remains for some to enter it, yet those to whom it was previously proclaimed did not enter because of disobedience.
(7) So God again ordains a certain day, “Today,” speaking through David after so long a time, as in the words quoted before, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts.”
(8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken afterward about another day.
(9) Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. (10) For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from His Own works.
(11) Thus we must make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience.
(12) For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.
(13) And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.” – Heb 4:1-13
Michael Card in his typical simplistic beauty captures some of this in his song, Live this Mystery
When I consider the secret
Of the One who dwells in me
That there is truly a presence
In the heart that will believe
To listen to a silent call
The quiet hunger to give it all
As the river seeks to be
Forgotten in the sea
So my soul is so thirsty
It longs for Thee
Like a moth around the flame
Drawn to the light
And to the pain
Since my life is hid in Thee
I must live this mystery
In Him we live, in Him we move
In Him all things are new
The mystery of life in Christ
Is Christ can live in you
I hear the silence, it’s clamoring
There is only Christ, He is everything
In the language of the soul
It’s burning like a coal
There’s a voice that is saying
“You can be whole”
A life where all is new
Of timeless moments waits for you
With the heart alone you see
You must live this mystery
” (4) Have you suffered so many things for nothing? – if indeed it was for nothing.
(5) Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?
(6) JUST AS Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, (7) so then, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham.”
As we closed last week we established exactly how Abraham believed God?
It wasn’t simply a notion of just believing IN God, but rather trusting what God said and then RELYING upon God to be the One Who fulfilled it.
So it is faith, patience and resting altogether!
It is THIS kind of faith Paul says makes us sons of Abraham!
“(8) And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying,
“All the nations will be blessed in you.”
(9) So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer.
(10) For all who RELY ON doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law.”
What are these relying upon their keeping the works of the law to do?
- To save them!
- Produce righteousness – a means by which they can make themselves acceptable and well-pleasing to God.
In reality however, it can produce nothing of the kind.
Self-reliance produces pride and pride produces distance from God.
As James says, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” He then encourages them to submit and draw near which is the opposite of self-reliance! Self-reliance in ANY of its forms is a curse which brings death!
“(11) Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith. (12) But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them.”
This wording is so clear!
Again it all goes back to the garden and the mountain.
Man wants to provide for and protect themselves.
In the garden, just the hint in Eve’s mind that God’s motives were not pure, that He was holding out on her was enough to evoke a lack of trust in Him and a pursuit of her own path.
God revealing Himself as powerful and worthy of awe was enough to provoke the Israelites into setting up terms for relationship with God.
You stay over there, we will stay over here.
You tell Moses what You expect, he’ll tell us, WE will do it. You will be appeased as God and we will be safe from Your presence.
Remember their words? “For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” – Deut. 5:26
“(13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)
Hanging a person on a tree was not the method of killing them, it was done to make their death a public statement – shaming the dead man and his family. This was a horizontal decision made by man, not by God. In fact God’s command was that if anyone WAS hung on a tree after death, they were to be taken down and buried before sunset so the land would not be defiled.
Those deemed worthy of such an action were those supposed to be cursed by God. According to Deut. 27:26 & Jeremiah 11:3 – that would be ANYONE who does not perpetually live by the words of the Covenant.
So in reality, that would be EVERYONE!
So the curse of the law was that it was an impossible standard – it was the hill everyone must die on! It WAS life, but through it we experienced death, until someone could come and become a curse for us.
Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal
This was perfectly illustrated for us in Deuteronomy at the reading of the law with the blessings and curses for obedience or disobedience. You may remember that Moses had half of Israel stand on one mountain and the other half on another.
One mountain was called the mount of Blessings – namely Mount Gerizim and the other the mount of cursing, namely Mount Ebal.
What makes the illustration so pointed and clear was that all the descendants of Jacob who were born through the handmaidens of his wives were represented on the mount of cursing, and those who were born of Rachel and Leah were on the mount of blessing.
God did this to symbolize the offspring of Abraham and Sarah which was the promised seed – Isaac, and the offspring of Abraham and Hagar – Ishmael… who was the son of the flesh who would NOT BE BLESSED with the heir of the promised son.
Now as the words of the law recorded in Deuteronomy 27-28 were read they were all to say amen at the end of all the blessings and curses mentioned.
However, at the beginning of Deuteronomy 27 God offered hope. It states that an altar was to be built – NOT on the mount of blessing, but on Ebal, the mount of cursing.
God’s sacrifice met us right where we needed it – on the mountain of curses which fell on us all because NONE of us were able to keep the law and therefore we abided – ALL OF US – under God’s curse.
So Jesus was crucified outside the city of blessing on a hill and bore the curse for use by becoming not only a curse, but sin itself FOR US!
As I was thinking about this it occurred to me the level of faith the man on the cross next to Jesus must have had. He was literally hanging on a tree and therefore had the curse of God upon him. This meant he was entirely lost, for who could redeem what God has cursed? But he placed his faith in Jesus Who was ALSO cursed of God, since He too was hanging on a tree. This man was able to see with the eyes of faith DUE to the work of the Holy Spirit influencing the heart of this man even as he hung there bleeding and dying of asphyxiation. He was not alone – the Spirit was there doing His work until the very end and THAT man was with Jesus in paradise that very day!
So now, Paul moves on to the blessing of the Spirit…
“(14) in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, SO THAT we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.”
- Isa. 44:3, “For I will pour water on the parched ground and cause streams to flow on the dry land. I will pour My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your children.”
- Joel 2:28-29, “(28) After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. (29) I will even pour out My Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days.”
“(15) Brothers and sisters, I offer an example from everyday life:
When a covenant has been ratified, even though it is only a human contract, no one can set it aside or add anything to it.
(16) Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. Scripture does not say, “and to the descendants,” referring to many, but “and to your descendant,” referring to one, Who is Christ.
(17) What I am saying is this: The law that came four hundred thirty years later does not cancel a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to invalidate the promise.
“(18) For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise, but God graciously gave it to Abraham through the promise.”
Who can tell me Who is the down payment and guarantee of our inheritance? The precious Holy Spirit of God!!!
“(19) Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of The Descendant to Whom the promise had been made.
It was administered through angels by an intermediary.
(20) Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is one.
(21) Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not!
For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law!”
That verse has spoken volumes to me over the years.
It speaks to intent!
What was going on in the heart and mind of God in creating a law that pointed to righteousness but could never produce it in the heart?
What was God saying by stepping away from an external observance of that law and making righteousness available under grace?
Was righteousness really what God was after?
Is it simply because God can’t tolerate how we act, are we so repulsive in our character that God did all this just to clean us up and make us more presentable, or is there more to the story?
This passage affirms there is indeed more to the story with a resounding YES!
God desired and does desire intimacy with us! He wants to know us and be known by us!
“(22) But the scripture imprisoned everything under sin so that the promise could be given – because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ – to those who believe.
(23) Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed.
(24) Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. (25) But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
(26) For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.”
Not just trust but also reliance.
“(27) For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
(28) THERE IS NEITHER JEW NOR GREEK, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”
Paul said all of this after having already told us what the promise was – who can tell me what the promise was? The SPIRIT!