RECEIVING THE SPIRIT BY FAITH.
September 29, 1900.
(Gal. 3:1-7 R. V.)
“0 FOOLISH Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified? This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh? Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain? He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Know therefore that they which be of faith, the same are sons of Abraham.”
We have just had a review of the first two chapters of Galatians, but that does not mean that we have finished them, and can now take leave of them. We must remain with them, studying them from the beginning, until we have induced them to stay with us forever. The Word of God is living water, flowing from the fountain of life. If, therefore, it is in us indeed, it will flow forth spontaneously, and will not need to be pumped out. The doctrine of God is not like water that is forced up by machinery, but it drops as the rain, and distils as the dew. Deut. 32:2. In other words, it should not require an effort of memory to bring the words of God to our recollection, but they should themselves be our memory. Careful, prayerful study will enable us to absorb the sacred teaching so that it will be as much a part of our own lives as are the various experiences of the past, or the events of the present. Having thoroughly reviewed the preceding chapters, read carefully and question the verses composing this lesson again and again.
How does the apostle address those to whom he writes?
What question does he ask?
What is indicated by this question?
What had taken place before their eyes?
How was Jesus set forth before them?
What is therefore possible for us?
What question indicates wherein the foolishness of the Galatians consisted?
“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?”
What, then, was their foolishness?
How had they begun their Christian life?
How were they now seeking perfection?
What further question is asked?
“Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain?”
What does this show as to the effect of their present course upon their previous experience?
What further question is asked concerning the supplying of the Spirit and the working of miracles?
What is the obvious answer to this question?
Is it by our works, or by our faith, that we receive the Spirit?
Since the Spirit is received by faith, how must He be retained?
Who is cited as an example of the working of faith?
What did Abraham do?
For what was his belief reckoned?
Who, therefore, are the children of Abraham?
- The Galatians had allowed themselves to be bewitched-that is, charmed and drawn away from God; “for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” 1 Sam. 15:23. The serpent beguiled Eve, that is, he so fascinated her that she forgot God, and saw only what the tempter wished her to see,--the image which he conjured up. So the Galatians had been drawn away from the simplicity, the reality, that is in Christ. 2 Cor. 11:3.
- The churches in Galatia had had a very real and rich Christian experience. They had known the Lord. They had seen Jesus Christ crucified before their eyes as vividly as had John, the beloved disciple. Yet Paul, who brought the Gospel to them, was not converted until years after the ascension of Jesus. This shows that it is every man’s privilege to come actually to the cross of Christ, and to see Jesus crucified for him; then he can really be crucified with Christ.
- No man can call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3); it is evident, therefore, that no one can see Jesus crucified for him, and can receive Him, except by the Holy Spirit. Only by the Spirit can the Christian life be begun. It was “through the eternal Spirit” that Jesus offered Himself for our sins (Heb. 9:14), and it is only through the same Spirit that we receive Him.
- The foolishness of the Galatians was in thinking that by their own efforts they could perfect a work that could be begun only by the Spirit of God. As the work is begun, even so must it be completed. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” Col. 2:6. What utter foolishness for one to suppose that he is strong enough to carry a work to completion when he has not strength enough to begin it; that he can walk a thousand miles when he has not strength enough to take the first step! One who has such an idea may well be said to be bewitched. He is under a spell that deprives him of the use of his senses.
- Let it be constantly remembered that the Galatians did not mean to give up their religion. They had not turned against the law of God, nor were they willfully rejecting Christ, although their present course was leading them unconsciously to all this. The false teachers who were perverting their souls claimed to be children of Abraham, and were setting Abraham before them as the model man, the type of the perfect Christian. But they were misrepresenting Abraham. They were teaching that Abraham was saved because of his circumcision, instead of the truth, that Abraham received circumcision as a sign that he was saved. So the Galatians, led away by the false brethren, were seeking salvation as zealously as at the beginning, but without understanding. See Rom. 9:30-32; 10:1-3.
- It is very evident that if the Galatians persisted in their new course, namely, that of seeking justification by their own works, all their previous experience would be rendered void. All that they had suffered (and the question of the apostle indicates that they had suffered much for the sake of Christ) would prove to have been in vain. If men leave Christ after once having accepted Him, it is the same as though they had never known Him.
- There is obviously only one possible answer to the question asked in verse 5, and that is that the Spirit was supplied, and the miracles wrought, by the hearing of faith, and not by the works of the law, done by any man. The kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared to us, “not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Titus 3:4-6.
- “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” Mark the connection between verses 5 and 6. Remembering the obvious and necessary answer to the question in verse 5, we may read it thus: “He that minstereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth it not by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith;” and then in continuation of the thought we read, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Paul’s Gospel work was in exact harmony with the Gospel that Abraham had. The men who were now troubling the Galatians, although “Jews by nature,” and boasting of their connection with Abraham, and claiming to be his children, had nothing in common with him. Only they who are of faith are the children of Abraham. The Galatians who had been led to think that by being circumcised, and working out for themselves the righteousness of the law, they would become children of Abraham, and heirs of the promises to him, were shown by Paul that they were being led astray. From this point we have Abraham, and God’s dealing with him, set before us as the example. Only as we know the truth about Abraham, can we know the truth of the Gospel. Therefore study his life closely.
THE CURSE OF THE LAW.
October 6, I900.
(Gal. 3:5-10, R. V.)
“HE therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Know therefore that they which be of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
For the sake of the connection, this lesson includes three verses of the preceding lesson, taking only three in advance. The earnest student will be glad of this opportunity to get the verses already passed over more firmly fixed in mind, and will find the lesson sufficiently long to occupy all the time and thought he can bestow upon it. Let us put a few questions to it; examine the text closely, and see how it answers them.
How is the Spirit ministered, and by what means are miracles worked? Is it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? What is the obvious answer?
With whose experience is the ministering of the Spirit and the working of miracles identical?
How did Abraham get righteousness?
Who then are the children of Abraham?
What was foreseen in the Scriptures?
What, therefore, was done?
In what words was the Gospel preached to Abraham?
Of what was the preaching of the Gospel to Abraham a proof?
Who, then, are blessed? With whom are they blessed?
Who are cursed?
Why are they cursed who are of the works of the law?
What, then, would be their condition if they should do, and continue to do, all things written in the law?
- “They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Abraham is the father of all them that believe, whether they be circumcised or uncircumcised. Rom. 4:11. No one, no matter of what nation or people, will enter heaven except as the child of Abraham. The faithful followers of Christ are the real seed of Abraham.
- From the very beginning, long before the days of Abraham, it was foreseen that God would justify the heathen through faith. Faith is the only possible means of salvation; and unless it was the heathen who were justified by it, no one on earth could be justified, since all were heathen. In the fall of Adam, all men became heathen--wanderers from the one true God.
- The preaching of the Gospel to Abraham was the proof that God would justify the heathen through faith; for Abraham was born a heathen. “The father of Abraham and the father of Nachor” “served other gods.” Joshua 24:2. The very existence of the Jewish nation, therefore, and their separation from the nations of earth, was a standing witness to the fact that it was God's plan to save as many heathen as would believe.
- The Gospel was preached to Abraham in the words, “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” If you wish to know what this blessing is, read Rom. 4:1-9. It is the blessing of forgiveness of sin. It is the blessing of the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ. This blessing has come upon all men, for “as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Rom. 5:18. What a pity that all will not take the gift thus freely bestowed!
- All, however, who believe, who “are of faith,” that is, of faith alone,--not faith and works, but faith which works,--are blessed with faithful Abraham. Righteousness--right-doing, obedience to the law--comes by faith alone, and not by any works of law done by man. Christ is not dead in vain. See Gal. 2:21. Whoever would be justified by his own obedience is seeking to frustrate the grace of God, and to prove that it was not necessary for Christ to die. Every such attempt will fail.
- Since they who are of faith are blessed, it follows that they who are of works are cursed, else God would be denying Himself. What is the matter with the law? Is it not good?--Oh, yes; it is all right! “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Rom. 7:12. Then why is the one who does it under the curse?--He is not. Here is where so many stumble in their reading. It is written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” This is of itself proof that the law is good, and that “blessed are they that do His commandments.” If men did, and continued to do, all things that are written in the law, they would be blessed.
- But “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Rom. 8:7. Therefore it is that “by the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified” (Rom. 3:20), and as many as seek justification by it are under the curse. Note that not only the wilful transgressors, but even the seekers after righteousness, if they seek it by their own works, are under the curse. Yet some will be blessed. Yes; “they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham,” because faith works by love, and love is the fulfilling of the law. We are made righteous by faith, and by faith are we kept righteous. “The just shall live by faith.”
THE CURSE REMOVED.
October I3, I900.
(Gal. 3:9-14, R. V.)
“THEY which be of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them. Now that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident; for, The righteous shall live by faith; and the law is not of faith; but, he that doeth them shall live in them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Do not forget to review from the beginning each time. Before you begin the study of this lesson, be sure that you know every word of what precedes it in the chapter, not, by rote, but in reality. Do not forget the first two chapters either. You should read care fully from the beginning of the epistle several times each week, so as to keep everything fresh in mind. Very frequent reviews and constant application are the only means by which the epistle can be mastered; but it can be done by every one, and the result will more than repay all the effort expended.
Who are blessed? With whom?
Who are under the curse? Why?
What is evident? Why?
By what are men not justified?
How do the just live?
With what is the law not connected?
On what condition only can a man get life from the law?
From what has Christ redeemed us?
Who has redeemed us from the curse of the law?
Has He redeemed us, or will He redeem us? (Note the text carefully.)
How has He redeemed us from the curse of the law?
What is the evidence that He became a curse for us?
By what, then, is the curse removed?
Why did Christ redeem us from the curse of the law?
Upon whom does the blessing of Abraham come through the cross of Jesus Christ?
What do we receive? By what means?
- “The righteous shall live by faith.” That makes it evident that no one is justified by works, for if it were by works, then it could not be of faith. Notice how the one thought throughout this epistle, as far as we have studied, is the sufficiency of Christ as the Saviour from sin. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
- “The law is not of faith.” The law says, “Do this!” or “Do not do that.” The written law, either in a book or on tables of stone, is of course what is referred to here, not the law in Christ, the Living Stone. “The man that doeth them shall live in them.” That is the one condition on which a man can get life by the law. But none have done the requirements of the law, and so there can be no doers of the law; for even though one should from this moment do everything that the law requires, yet, since he can not do more than his duty, his former transgressions rest upon him. Thus he would be a law-breaker at the end, in spite of all his good efforts. That man who is of the law alone, which means that he trusts in his own power to do the righteousness required by the law, is necessarily under its curse, condemned as a law-breaker by that in which he trusts.
- “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.” It is a work finished, complete. Our part is but to accept what Christ has done for us. It is as true of all mankind as it is of a single individual, that they have been redeemed. The price has been paid, and they belong to the Lord. Only the knowledge of this glorious truth can save any soul from sin. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance.
- Never forget that it is from the curse of the law, not its blessing, that Christ hath redeemed us. There is a blessing pronounced on those who do the commandments (Rev. 22:14), and from this Christ has not redeemed us. It is from the curse-failure to do the law--that He redeemed us. He is not the minister of sin, but of righteousness.
- What is the curse of the law?--It is disobedience and its consequence, death. “Cursed is every one which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Also, “cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” These two statements, taken together, show that if “all things” that the law requires are not done, and done continually, the man is cursed and must die. The curse of disobedience carries with it the curse of death. But from all this Christ hath delivered us. He has redeemed us, brought us back, to be faithful servants of God. He has redeemed us from disobedience, so that we may continue in all things which are written in the law, to do them. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Rom. 8:3, 4. By the Spirit the law is written in the heart, so that he who walks after the Spirit must necessarily continue in the law. What a blessed redemption!
- What has Christ done to redeem us from the curse of the law--from disobedience to the law?--He has been made a curse for us. Isa. 53:12. God “made Him to be sin for us,” although He knew no sin, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21. Being made sin, He necessarily suffered death as a sinner; for the evidence that He has redeemed us from the curse of the law is the fact that He was hanged on a tree. This shows us that death is the curse of the law. Disobedience means death. All this Christ gladly suffered to redeem us from disobedience and death. It is in the cross that Christ redeemed us; the cross removes the curse. In this one fact all science is embraced.
Why did Christ redeem us from the curse of the law?-“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Do not let the following items escape your notice, as you read these verses:--
- The apostle Paul was a Jew, writing to converts from among the Gentiles; yet he classes himself with them. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.”
- Christ was made a curse for us, “that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.” Here again the apostle shows that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. His being made a curse for us, brings the blessing on the Gentiles.
- Again is the same thing shown by the further statement that this occurred “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” By one Spirit do all men, of whatever race, have access to the Father. Eph. 2:18.
- The blessing of Abraham comes only through the cross of Christ. It was the blessing of sins forgiven,--the gift of the perfect righteousness of God; and this comes only through Christ. Therefore Abraham's faith was in Christ and His cross.
- “The promise of the Spirit.” Note well that this does not say the gift of the Spirit, but the promise of the Spirit. Now it is true that the Spirit is sent by Jesus Christ; but that is not what is spoken of here. The promise of the Spirit is what is spoken of. But all the sacrifice of Christ was not made merely that God might make the promise that we should receive the Spirit. The promise of the gift of the Spirit is in the very sacrifice of Christ. So it is very evident that “the promise of the Spirit” means not the promise of the gift of the Spirit, but the promise which the Spirit makes to us. The expression is used in the same signification as “the promise of God.” The Spirit is given to all, and what is here spoken of is a promise which comes through the Spirit,--the Spirit's promise to us. What that promise is, will appear as we proceed.