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Liberated from Legalism pt 13 [7-25-21]

Last week, we ended with three main points from verses 10-14 that John Piper says are really important. Simply put, they are:

1. Those who rely on works of the law are under a curse.

2. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.

3. We have been justified through faith, which is a gift of the Spirit.

First, as Paul says, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse." What is the opposite of curse? Right…blessing. Easy answer. As Paul says a few verses later, Christ became a curse for us that we might have the blessing of Abraham. Jesus took on what was negative to impart to us what was positive. In Christ, we are adopted into the family of God through faith, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, that we might be saved by grace alone. To put it in a very negative way, if you think you need to earn God's favor and forgiveness through works of the law, then you are cut-off from God and are still under the curse of His wrath.

The last thing the Galatians needed was to be thinking they were saved by works of the law. Nothing must be added to the finished work of the cross.

The Galatians were in danger of falling back into thinking they needed works of law to show their worth to God. How many times do we get caught up in that kind of thinking? This is the trap of looking at obedience as a way to earn God's blessing. If I worship regularly, God will bless me. If I give generously, God will be gracious to me. If I am sick, it means there are things I've failed to do to please God. If my disease isn't healed, it means there are things I've done to displease God. How many times have people wondered, when a place in their lives is falling apart, how they've so offended God that it would lead to that, or what they need to be doing a better job at to return to God's favor? If I maintain an orderly schedule of virtuous do's and don'ts, then God will be for me, not against me. It's all driven by a legalistic mindset. That's what the Galatians were on the verge of slipping back into.

Here's what I think happens. I think we sometimes look at obedience to the law as a way to signal virtue to others. Look at how good I am…look at what a good person I am. See all these things I do and see all these things I abstain from. The false teachers were setting themselves apart by their understanding of the things you should or shouldn't do.

Here's something you might want to remember:

Grace means on your worst day your Heavenly Father still looks on you

with favor, because of the work of His Son on your behalf.

- Paul David Tripp


The second point Paul makes is that Christ redeems us from the curse of

the law. Previously, we looked at the original intent of the Old Testament law using the analogy of a train going down the track. As imperfect as most analogies are, this served the purpose of helping us understand what was good about the law. God gave the law to show us the route to Him along with the engine of the Spirit which would pull us toward that goal if we were coupled to that engine by faith. But what did the Judaizers do? What do some people do today? They turn that track into a ladder which by effort they think they can climb up to heaven and stand in the presence of God by their own power. Habakkuk 2:4 puts it this way:

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith."

I think that's exactly what Paul had in mind. That is the pride of self-confidence. God wants us to live by faith, and faith alone.

Make no mistake. If we could keep the law, we would be justified by the law. But we can't…so we aren't. But what we can't do, God sent His Son to do it for us.

Here's what that word, "redeemed," from verse 13 means. Here's how

Jesus puts it in Matthew 20:26-28:

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Here's what that means. Out of the context in which Jesus and Paul use this analogy, a slave could be liberated through the payment of a ransom. The Greek word, "redeemed," literally means to buy someone out of slavery. The slave would be liberated through the payment of a ransom.

Here's how Peter puts it in 1 Peter 1:18-19:

Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

What was the cost to free us from our slavery to sin? That Jesus had to endure God's curse. Jesus had to pay this priceless ransom by hanging from the cross until he died. As the Bible says, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree." It was the worst form of punishment…the most wretched, painful, humiliating, and abhorrent thing to God. And Jesus paid

that price for us.

Here's something that captures the shocking nature of the cross:


-Philip Graham Ryken

That is about as jarring as you could put it - a man so cursed by God that he was crucified. And rather than run from that truth {cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree} the apostles embraced it. That is the transformational power of the cross.

J.C. Ryle sums up our redemption this way:

Christ's death is the Christian's life…

Christ's cross is the Christian's title to heaven…

Christ lifted up and put to shame on Calvary is the ladder by which Christians enter into the holiest and are at length landed in glory.

Which moves us into our third, and final, point. We have been justified through faith, which is a gift from God.

Look at it this way. Through Scripture alone, we know we are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Therefore, our obedience is born in response to what God has done for us in Christ. There are no strivings of the flesh. There's no sense of we have to do these things in order to earn God's grace. The gospel truth is that because Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, we want to be faithful in obedience. Instead of earning God's grace and mercy, we serve Him in response to His grace and mercy. Amen?

The last, and best way to sum up Galatians 3:10-14, in all its richness and denseness, is, simply put:


You do that, and you'll know what it means to be redeemed for good works, not because of good works. How much freer and happier are we when we're serving God not to save ourselves from hell, but because Jesus endured the curse of the cross to save us from hell. Instead of our own effort, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.

I love how this wondrous love of Christ is expressed in an old American folk hymn:

What wondrous love is this,

O my soul, O my soul,

What wondrous love is this,

O my soul!

What wondrous love is this,

that caused the Lord of bliss

To bear the dreadful curse

for my soul, for my soul,

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

What was a curse for Christ becomes a blessing to us by faith!

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