Devotions May 15-19

Friday, May 19
Bewitched
Galatians 3:1-9

1 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 the flesh? 4 Did you suffer 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 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. (Gal 3:1-9 ESV)

Chapter 3 begins with a stinging rebuke of the Christians in Galatia. “Who has bewitched you?” While we may think of it in terms of spells, this was not Paul’s meaning. Here it denotes the idea of having your fancy tickled or hearing something you like and turning to it, even though you know it is wrong. Paul wants to know why are they turning from the grace, which saved them, the true Gospel, to a spurious gospel, which just tickles their ears.

In this case the ear-tickling gospel is one of legalism. The pull to works-based salvation is strong. It says to us, “You can do this all on your own.” We believe we can do something, anything, to assist God in our salvation. The Bible is full of stories where people attempted to assist God. They never went well. Grace says you can’t do it on your own. It is a free gift from God.

Why is the pull to works-based salvation so strong? Could I suggest it is a tactic from Satan? Satan would like nothing more than for people to believe they can earn their salvation, only to find out in the end they missed it. This is a good plan because, as Christians, we should be engaged in work. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). If Satan can convince us those works are a requirement for salvation and not a result of salvation, then we will always fall short of salvation. As good as it may sound, we can never work our way to righteousness before God. If you hear someone tell you otherwise, don’t be seduced their impressive words and your tickled ears.

“Father, guard our ears and our hearts so we will not be enticed to believe our works can save us. Equip us to walk in the works you have laid out for us, in the understanding we work as a response to your grace, not as means to obtain your grace. Amen.”

Wednesday, May 17
Galatians 2:19-21
Dead, Yet Alive

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal 2:20-21 ESV)

Did you know that you are a dead man walking? This is what these two verses tell us. If you think about it, it is a curious and humbling thought. It is curious because we want to know why we died and when, especially since I seem very much alive at the moment. It is humbling to realize what had to happen to make us both dead and alive at the same time.

When is the easier question to answer. You died the same day, same time, same moment Jesus died on the cross. You were crucified with Christ. How is that possible? Jesus died for you by proxy. Put another way, Jesus died not just for you but took your place. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, in essence, you were hanging there, too.

So why exactly did Jesus do this? Jesus died to free us from the condemnation of the law. Before Jesus Christ the law was our master. The law as master placed us under a death sentence because we are not capable of perfectly keeping the righteous demands of the law. Something had to happen to change our relation to the law so we could live for God. The something was Jesus’ dying on the cross to fulfill the demands of the law (see Matthew 5:17-20). Since those demands are now fulfilled, we can live to God through Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur uses a vivid analogy: “If a man is convicted of a capital crime and is put to death, the law obviously has no more claim on him. He has paid his debt to society. Therefore, even if he were to rise from the dead, he would still be guiltless before the law, which would have no claims on his new life. So it is with the believer who dies in Christ to rise in new life. He is free forever from any claim of the law on him. He paid the law’s demand when he died in Christ. His physical death is no punishment, only a release to glory provided in his union with Christ.”1

This is the humbling part. If we read verse 20 carefully, we see it is Christ who lives through us. Not only did Jesus love us enough to die to fulfill the demands of the law for us, He wants to live through us, giving us a better life than we could live on our own. It is humbling to think the God of the universe, our Creator, loves us this deeply. That is worth celebrating.

“Father, thank you for Jesus who fulfilled the demands of the law so through Jesus’ death on the cross, we would be set free to live. It is humbling to think you loved me and gave yourself for me. For that, we express our external gratitude and praise. Amen.”

1 MacArthur, James. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galataians. Chicago:  Moody Publishers, 1987.

Monday,  May 15
Gal. 2:15-19
Justified

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. (Gal 2:15-19 ESV)

Do you think you can obey all the laws in Germanton? Stokes County? North Carolina? America? I do not know how many laws are in Germanton, Stokes, North Carolina, or America. In fact, no one actually knows how many laws there are. There are around 4,500 federal statues that carry fines or prison terms along with over 300,000 federal regulations. Law professor John Baker hypothesized in 2011, “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime.”

There is another set of laws, laws given by God Himself. There are 613 laws in the Old Testament and 1050 commands in the New Testament. How many do you think you have kept? Do you think if you keep them all God will justify you? Neither you nor I can keep all the laws perfectly. Even if we could, “man is not justified by the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16). We need someone to declare us innocent of breaking God’s laws.

Because we are not justified by works, it means we can do nothing to earn our salvation, and we need an external source to be our salvation. The external source is Jesus Christ. Verse 16 continues, “but by faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” We are justified by faith through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

But what does it mean to be justified? To be justified means to be declared righteous. God in His role as the righteous judge can declare us righteous, not through our works but through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God is placing on us the righteousness of Jesus so that when God looks at us He does not see our guilt. Our guilt is completely absorbed by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, you have been freed from guilt. Today, if you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you are free to sing loudly:

When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh, may I then, in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness, alone
Faultless to stand before the throne.

“Father, thank you for the righteousness of Jesus which will allow us to stand before your throne. May my life point others to your righteousness. Amen.”

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