Why this sermon title? Not because this is the last Sunday before Halloween! Rather, in Galatians 3:1-5, Paul uses the term figuratively, showing how foolish the Galatians were to be turning away from the Christ who had been so clearly preached to them. Paul can’t talk about Christ and his work without also talking about the Spirit.

Who bewitched you? Christ was crucified. You know that Christ died. Christ had been portrayed (clearly set forth) as crucified. Paul has in mind the preaching he had done in Galatia. Billboards are obvious because they seek to communicate. Ancient Pompeii had billboards painted on walls. That is the kind of clarity with which Christ’s death had been presented. Christ’s death is a crucial part of his work. Paul is concerned about the way the Galatian Christians are living, but he deals with that problem by emphasizing doctrine. There is no dichotomy between doctrine and evangelism. Paul has not hesitated to remind the Galatians of the substitutionary atonement, Galatians 1:4; 2:20. Paul had not literally painted a picture for the Galatians, but his teaching was so clear that the Galatians could see Christ as crucified. Continue reading “Bewitched!”

Alive in Christ!

How important is the resurrection of Jesus Christ? How often do you think of yourself as having been resurrected? In Galatians 2:20 Paul focuses no only on the death of Christ, but also his resurrection. He ties it to his life and, by implication, to your life as well.

You died with Christ. You are dead to the law. Don’t underestimate these words. Paul is saying more than that you are dead to the ceremonial law. You are dead to any kind of law-works salvation, whether it is the ceremonies of the Judiazing teachers in Galatia, or the decisionism of some modern evangelism, or the salvation by good character that characterizes modern American suburbia. The heart of the gospel, the principle of salvation by grace alone, is at stake here. “This verse is the key verse of the Epistle to the Galatians; it expresses the central thought of the Epistle. The Judaizers attempted to supplement the saving work of Christ by the merit of their own obedience to the law. ‘That,’ says Paul, ‘is impossible; Christ will do everything or nothing: earn your salvation if your obedience to the law is perfect, or else trust wholly to Christ’s completed work; you cannot do both; you cannot combine merit and grace; if justification even in slightest measure is through human merit, then Christ died in vain.’” (Machen’s Notes on Galatians, p. 161). Yet, Paul is not against the law of God. The law is important. It remains as the standard of conduct, Galatians 5:22; Romans 7:12. To be dead to the law involves being alive to Christ. Your death to the law happened when Christ died in your place. Paul is talking about Christ’s death, but can say “I died to the law,” Galatians 2:19. You are free from the penalty of the law, not because you have somehow removed yourself from the jurisdiction of the law, but because Christ died in your place, taking upon himself both your guilt and the penalty you earned. Continue reading “Alive in Christ!”

Justified by Faith

Imagine a dispute between two of the apostles—and that in public! In Galatians 2:15–16 Paul gives what lies behind his strong rebuke of Peter, which he describes in the last half of Galatians 2.

You are not justified by observing the law. The question about justification arose because of Peter’s actions. Justification, as Paul uses the term here, refers to God declaring sinners not guilty, or just in his sight. We’ll come back to the concept in a few minutes. One of the reasons, a subordinate one, for Paul bringing up this conflict that had taken place in the past, was to emphasize that his apostleship was not dependent on the earlier apostles. Not only had his call as an apostle come directly from the Lord Jesus, but he was not subordinate to the other apostles. Acts 11 contains the account of the church expanding at Antioch to include Gentiles as Christians. And there the title “Christian” was first used. A huge barrier between Jews and Gentiles were the dietary laws of the Old Testament. In Acts 10 you have the record of the vision the Lord gave Peter to show him that he could go to the home of the Gentile centurion, Cornelius. In Antioch, Peter first ate with Gentile Christians, but when some Christians from Jerusalem arrived, he withdrew, and ate only with Jewish Christians. (The men coming from James does not imply that James approved their actions.) Paul is concerned about Peter’s action, strongly enough concerned to rebuke him to his face. While we must pursue the peace of the church, it is not peace at any price. Some sins and errors are serious enough to warrant public rebuke. Not only was the unity of the church threatened, but the truth of the gospel was at stake. “A man who tries to earn his salvation, or to do anything towards earning it, has, according to Paul, done despite to the free grace of God.” (J. Gresham Machen, Machen’s Notes on Galatians, p. 143). Continue reading “Justified by Faith”


The sound of military jets doing touch and go landings is apt to be described as “the sound of freedom.” In Galatians 2:1–10 points you to something more important than political or economic freedom. It is the freedom you have in Christ.

You are free in Christ. Jesus Christ has set you free. Having described his conversion in Galatians 1, Paul goes on to describe his limited contact with the apostles and other leaders of the church in Jerusalem. In that context he uses the language of espionage, attempted conquest, and enslavement to describe the efforts of false brothers to force Titus to submit to the ceremonial regulations of the leaders of Israel. What is the freedom you have in Christ? Christ has set you free from the condemnation of the law. The law can only condemn and bring death, Romans 7:7–10. The law cannot set you free from condemnation, not because of any defect in it, but because of the sinfulness of flesh (human nature), Romans 8:1–4. You cannot be justified by the works of the law, Romans 3:19–20. God does not grade on a curve. Salvation by works is bondage. (Keep that in mind as you witness to members of cults, or to American pagans.) You are free from the guilt, condemnation, and punishment of your sins, for that has been borne by Christ and you have been united with him in his death and resurrection. Christ’s righteousness, his death and resurrection, is all that saves. The Exodus is the great picture of salvation in the Old Testament. God’s people were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord stretched out his arm and set them free. What the Passover lamb pictured is now a reality in Christ. You have been set free, not from the hard labor slavery, but from bondage to sin and from the punishment that the law of God pronounces upon it. “Law, as law, has no expiatory provision; it exercises no forgiving grace; and it has no power of enablement to the fulfillment of its own demand. It knows no clemency for the remission of guilt; it provides no righteousness to meet our iniquity; it exercises no constraining power to reclaim our waywardness; it knows no mercy to melt our hearts in penitence and new obedience…. The word ‘grace’ sums up everything that by way of contrast with law is embraced in the provisions of redemption…. Believers died with Christ and lived again with him in his resurrection (cf. Romans 6:8). They have, therefore, come under all the resources of redeeming and renewing grace which find their epitome in the death and resurrection of Christ and find their permanent embodiment in him who was dead and is alive again.” (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, pp. 185–186). Continue reading “Freedom!”