Sermon – January 14, 2018
Galatians 3:10-14 – The Incompatibility of Works and Faith (mp3)
Paul has argued that the experience of the Spirit should have been enough to clue for the Galatians to know that they belong to the people of God. Why, then, is he so against the idea that some want more assurance? What if circumcision helps the weak in faith; what is so wrong with that? It this practice not a helpful way to encourage them in the faith, to keep them assured of their inheritance from Abraham? Paul has argued positively, that the Spirit is assurance enough. He will know begin to argue negatively that any mixture of works stands against faith. Works and faith are incompatible.
1. Identity built on works requires doing the whole law (v. 10)
Paul reminds the Galatians that the law requires keeping the entirety of the commands, and there is no room for error. Hence, all who attempt to do so are under a curse. The law isn’t built on good-faith attempts, but on doing them. Intention, as nice a sentiment as it is, is not good enough in the law. You cannot be a “mostly” law keeping follower of the law; either you keep the law or you don’t.
2. Identity built on faith in Christ is the alternative (v. 11)
Paul does not argue for justification in 3:11; rather he simply reminds the Galatians of the core confession of Christians everywhere and at every time: you are not justified by the law. “Because in the law no one is justified before God, it is evident that ‘the righteous will live by faith.’” Therefore, the only answer must be that you are justified by faith alone.
3. Works-identity is incompatible with faith-identity (v. 12)
Why, then, can’t the two be mixed? Because, while those who are justified live by faith, those who take their identity from the law build that identity off of production and doing. Here, then, is a simple choice: will you build your identity before God on the basis of what you have done, or on whom you have believed?
4. Christ supplants the law (vv. 13-14)
In 3:13-14 Paul begins to explain why it is that faith in Christ is the means of justification, and not the law God provided. The law was not a mistake, nor is it something that is simply forgotten, an ill-fated attempt at righteousness. While Paul addresses those issues later, here he simply argues that the law is supplanted by faith in Jesus. It is faith in Jesus that connects us, through the law, to Abraham.
We must be a people defined by our faith and trust in the vision that God has provided. We accept by faith in God’s word that the sacrifice of Jesus was provision for our sin. This alone is what we must build our identity on. But, this restriction is nothing but good news: Jesus alone is a solid rock, sure in the storm, and faithful to the end. All other ground is sinking sand!