Center Point Bible Study is currently meeting in homes according to the CDC guidelines until the ‘Safer at Home’ order is lifted.
The notes for the Center Point Study will be posted every Wednesday below with a link to the archived notes here, Center Point Archive.
We encourage everyone to dig into God’s Word together and share what the Lord is teaching them.
We endeavor to journey chronologically through the Book of Acts and read Paul’s Epistles as they fit into the narrative. We are currently going through the Letter to the Galatians.
A link to the Bible Projects website on Galatians is posted below and is a great resource to help with this study. GALATIANS – The Bible Project [Click Here]
This study is open to anyone who would like to take part! We love you all dearly and look forward to the time when we can be together again!
Pastor Colin, Buck Mills, and Jim Conaway facilitate this Life Group.
NOTES FOR CENTER POINT BIBLE STUDY
May 20, 2020
Buck Mills, Facilitator
The Original Covenant Realized
Galatians 3: 1-14 (ESV)
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh? 4 Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”[d] 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit[e] through faith.
Observations / Notes
Coming off the questions posed in Verses 1-5, from last week, the rhetorical nature of his prodding is brought to light through the extension posed in Verse 6. Paul was given direct revelation from Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus and when his eyes were opened, the Scripture was opened as well. We are now privileged to read the Scripture and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, share in this wonderful teaching. I am constantly astounded that the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ are made available to us by those who radically surrendered themselves to Him.
The crux of what Paul is saying is that the original covenant of faith was established with Abraham as the intended covenant for all people that would be fully realized in Christ. The Law the was established out of love through Moses as a guard rail of sorts to provide protection and guidance for His people. But like a loving parent who has a young child, when they place the child in a crib or playpen to learn their freedom in a safe and secure environment, does the crib itself now provide the love of the parent? OR does the parent then stop loving the child until the time when they come back to pick the child up? These are ridiculous questions to even ask. Therefore, if Abraham was considered righteous through faith, before there was a Law, then how can the Law provide righteousness or love beyond what was already established? The quick answer is that it can’t. That was never its intention. This brings the understanding of the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant into light. The New Covenant is not new in the sense that it was brought into existence after the old, it is the same covenant that was established through Abraham. Likewise, the Old Covenant is not old in the sense that it is no longer valid after the new, it has now been fully realized through Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross as the promise given to Abraham. We have the popular phrase: The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.
Let’s say that you wanted to make a set of rules for your children, or house guests, to follow when they are in your house. What would this look like? Now, let’s say that you wanted to make a set of rules for your children, or house guests, to follow when they go into the city (world) outside the confines of your house. Would this set of rules be different than the first? Can you roughly predict what is going to happen in your own house on a certain day? Perhaps, but how about the world? Can you predict what is going to happen in any city block in St. Petersburg (or the world) at a given time? What needs to be applied to the set of rules for those in your house so that they can be taken into the city (world) and have the same affect? For this to happen, the set of rules must be fully realized by having meaning outside the house and expose the nature of the one who made the rules, that of love. When the love of the One who made the rules is realized, we are drawn to love Them back and share Their love with others. Love God, Love Others. Speaking to the Jewish leadership and answering one of their questions, Jesus said this:
Matthew 22: 35-40 (ESV)
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Paul makes use of many Old Testament passages to make his case valid, not only to the Jewish and Gentile believers in Galatia, but also to those who were trying to ‘bewitch’ them. There is no doubt that they would be hearing this letter too as they were present in the region. To give his letter a certain Old Testament flair, Paul uses certain rhetorical devices that are present in the Old Testament. I am leaning heavily on the work of Kenneth Bailey in terms of the analysis, but it stood out to me quickly. The rhetorical device Paul is using is poetic, so let us read the letter in a more poetic style. Galatians 3: 1-5,
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?
It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
Let me ask you only this: 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?
Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?
What can be grasped from this? We see a pattern that is of the form ‘ABC ABC’, called a step parallelism. In verses 1a&3, the word ‘bewitched’ points to an evil will and is directly tied to the idea that they can be ‘perfected by the flesh’. The term flesh is often used to refer to our sin nature or our desires.
In verses 1b&4, our and their suffering, for the faith, must be seen in light of Jesus’ crucifixion. Without that before our eyes, our suffering is in vain.
In verses 2&5, the Spirit was not only received in the past, upon conversion, but is also being supplied in the present and is working in their lives as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit. They know they are changed beings and cannot deny the Spirit’s power in their lives. Was this a onetime event where the Spirit was received, and the experience is just lingering? Or is it a continuous event that will forever mark their lives and in which the Spirit will demonstrate His miraculous powers?
The repetition can go unnoticed and the question posed at the end of both verse 3 and 5 is practically identical. Paul uses another rhetorical device to answer the question from both these verses, in fabulous style, in verse 14. He also supplies the reason he can say this, Habakkuk 2:4, in the climax of his defense. Galatians 5-14,
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith,
preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham,
saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law
for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles
so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
This pattern is called an inverted parallelism and has the form ‘ABCDEDCBA’. This type of rhetorical structure is used so widely among the prophets that Bailey refers to is as the ‘prophetic rhetorical template’. In this template, the climax is in the middle. Although, the climax itself is not the answer to his question in verse 5, Paul uses the words of the prophet Habakkuk as the main point in his defense.
He builds his case beginning in verse 6 by appealing to Abraham and quoting Gen 15:6. When God told Abraham that his offspring would be as many as the stars, Abraham believed. He knew that God had a bigger plan for him than a physical child, but a nation of those who would walk as Abraham walked, in faith.
This is so elegant in verses 7-9, where Paul continues to build his case, that they are an imbedded or a nested inverted parallelism. The climax is that the gospel was preached to Abraham before it was made known through Jesus. In verse 7, the Words of Jesus are echoed from Luke 19:9 after Jesus chose to eat with Zacchaeus, who believed in Jesus by faith, and was called a son of Abraham. To support his statement about the Scripture being preached to Abraham in advance, Paul quotes Gen 12:3. In the moment, God called Abraham to be set apart for His purpose, to be a blessing to all the earth. Was Abraham under the Law when he believed that God would do what He said He would do? Was Abraham righteous before the Lord before he believed? If Abraham is the example for all nations, then we can say the nothing apart from faith in God can make us righteous. This should be refreshing for those who are lost. Even Abraham was walking in unrighteousness before God came and found him. This should also teach us to not give up on anyone in our lives that feels they are unworthy of God’s grace and mercy.
The final point to build his case is found in Duet 27:26 and these words are reinforced in Jeremiah 11 and Ezekiel 18. Outside of absolute perfection, the Law is a curse. The idea that a human can earn righteousness through perfection is lost. With this evident, Paul can say that no one is justified before God by the Law. The climax then that naturally follows which even the prophet Habakkuk, who came after Moses testifies to it, “The righteous (just, in the NIV) shall live by faith.” (Hab 2:4)
“Before those words broke upon my mind I hated God and was angry with him because, not content with frightening us sinners by the law and by the miseries of life, he still further increased our torture by the gospel. But when, by the Spirit of God, I understood those words – ‘The just shall live by faith!’ ‘The just shall live by faith!’ – then I felt born again like a new man; I entered through the open doors into the very Paradise of God.” (Luther, cited in Boice)
To get to his conclusion, Paul neatly identifies Jesus through each parallel portion of his argument. In response to his argument about no one being justified by the law, Paul, in verse 12, quotes Leviticus 18:5 where the One who does them will live by them. Moses is referring to only One who can uphold the entire Law, God Himself made human in Christ Jesus. In verse 13, we see that the curse referred to earlier for those under the law has been fulfilled in Jesus as He became the curse for us. Lastly, Paul describes the blessing of Abraham as Christ Jesus and for all nations (Gentiles). Jesus says in John 10:9 that if anyone enters the door by Him, he will be saved.
The final part of verse 14 answers the questions posed in verses 3 and 5. He does this using the same word ‘receive’ and gives his answer, through faith. By adding the word ‘promised’, in verse 14, Paul again reveals the hidden meaning in the Old Testament through Isaiah 32:15 & 44:3 and Joel 2:28. In these verses, the Spirit is described as being poured out by the Father to the offspring of Israel whose forebearer is Abraham – who was justified through faith alone. God’s original covenant with Abraham is fully realized in Christ.
Does one need to know the intricate details of the structure of Paul’s writing to understand what he is saying? I think not. Given that some of the Gentile believers in the region of Galatia were not steeped in the Old Testament, not all who read this letter would immediately see its relationship to the style of the writings of the prophets. Either way, his defense is clearly outlined and succinct in its coverage. The meaning is not lost on the Gentiles, mainly because the Holy Spirit guided them as it guides us.
So why write in this style if not all would initially grasp its importance? I do not know if we can completely answer this question, but some inferences can be made. First, there were Jewish believers in the region of Galatia. Second, and most importantly, the ones who were ‘bewitching’ the believers in Galatia, called the Judaizers, were either born into the Jewish culture or were converts. These two groups of people would more than likely see the structure of the writing and notice the references to the Old Testament prophets. This would, at the same time, help to strengthen the faith of the Jewish believers through their Jewish roots, and provide correction to the Judaizers using the same scripture that they may have used in their persuasive deceit.
We are called to live by faith, and nothing else.
· Some Christians live by devotions.
· Some Christians live by works.
· Some Christians live by feelings.
· Some Christians live by circumstances.
Each of these is meaningless and perhaps dangerous without faith. (Guzik)
This passage of scripture is exceedingly rich and easily deserves more time to study.
Thank you, Father, for sending your Son to be the Perfect One under the Law and redeem us from its curse. In Him is the life promised through fulfilling the Law, the life from the Spirit that required a payment. You paid our sin debt, Lord, and to those who can receive this grace and mercy have the right to be called children of God. Your Word now lives in us as we walk as ambassadors or sojourners on foreign soil and guides us into all righteousness for Your Name sake. Glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
How has the Lord uniquely loved you today, this week, this month, this year?