The greatness of the blessing and the goodness procured by the Lord Jesus Christ in His death is both eternal and heavenly. He did not give Himself on the cross in death to save us from sickness, to save us from sadness, to save us from loneliness, to save us from loss, to save us from lack of purpose, to save us from poverty, to save us from trouble, but to save us from everlasting hell.
It is God’s most wondrous and necessary work that He prepared a way for sinners to be rescued from hell and brought into eternal heaven. Therein lies God’s greatest work. In fact, He created the entire universe, the world in which we live, as a stage for that redemptive purpose. He sent many prophets to announce and promise salvation. He designed many ceremonies to illustrate salvation.
God established a priestly service to provide the sacrifices and offerings that depicted salvation. He worked many great acts of providence to prepare the way for the Redeemer, the Savior. He inspired Scripture that told of the Savior’s coming and His purpose in coming. He designed every book of the Bible to carry on the redemptive story to its culmination in the glory of Christ in the book of Revelation.
He designed the gospel. He designed the incarnation, the birth, life, death, resurrection and the ascension of Christ. He called the apostles and worked through them to preach the glories of the gospel. He empowered them and other preachers by the Holy Spirit to spread the good news across the world. God made all His works of creation, all His works of providence subordinate to His work of redemption.
God created heaven as a dwelling place for the redeemed. He created angels to minister to both the Savior and the saved. He designed and conducts the whole history of the world from beginning to end to serve the plan of saving sinners and bringing them to heaven. You can only understand the greatness of God’s work if you understand the misery of hell and the greatness of heaven.
And since the work of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – to bring salvation is so immense, so inconceivable, an effort that has no equal in all of the universe, it demands that we consider the misery of hell and the greatness of heaven. The end must somehow be correspondent to the means. God did astonishing things, including the incarnation and death of the Son of God.
The writer of Hebrews then asks in Hebrews 2:3, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” How do sinners receive that great salvation? How has God designed for us to escape hell and to enter heaven? By what means do we do that? False religions say, “Well, it’s a matter of doing moral things: being a good person, going to church and attending the sacraments. It’s a matter of faith and works. But that is false.
An illustration of false gospel is the Roman Catholic Church who at the Council of Trent, says, “If anyone says salvation is by faith alone, let him be damned.” Compare that with what it says about our Lord in John’s gospel. John 1 says, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” It’s all about believing in His name.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” In Romans 3:21 it says, “Apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all those who believe.” Again in verse 25: “Christ is God’s satisfaction in His blood received through faith.”
Verse 26: “God then becomes just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Verse 28, “A man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith; not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” In Acts 16:31 there is a question, “How can I be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” says Paul.
That is the Christian gospel, and that is what was rediscovered in the Reformation: salvation by faith alone; sola fide. Not faith and works, but faith alone. Now, Galatians makes this truth clear. And in the book of Galatians, Paul’s entire intention is to clarify that salvation is by faith alone. Why? Paul had planted many churches in Galatia, and the gospel was preached.
And people had come to faith. And these churches were based on this truth. But some Jews came from Jerusalem who claimed to be believers in Christ, who told the Galatian believers that their salvation was not valid because it required more than faith, it required works. Namely circumcision according to the Mosaic Law, and adherence to the Mosaic Law, so that their salvation was by faith and works.
Paul identified this as a false gospel. He says in Galatians 1:6-8, “If you believe this, you are deserting Him who called you, for a different gospel; which is not really another gospel. 8 And if anybody does that, whether it is we or an angel from heaven, he is to be accursed!” Cursed are those who distort the gospel. And that is what the Judaizers were doing by adding works to the gospel.
In Galatians 3:11, Paul says, “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Galatians 2: 16 says, “Man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law. Because “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”
So why did God give the law if we’re not saved by the law? The answer is, “It was added because of transgressions.” Everybody now knows what is right and wrong; it’s built into human thinking by God. The law describes sin as not just something wrong, but as a rebellion against God. The law is also given to declare to us that when God is dishonored, the result is death. “The wages of sin is death.”
And now the purpose for the law is that it was an example to the world that the law cannot save. It was given to the people with the best opportunity to keep it, God’s people. If any human being could be saved by the law, they had the best chance. But look at Israel from the time the law is given until the time of Christ, they constantly violated every law and thus received continuous divine punishment.
By the time Christ comes you have a completely apostate nation of Israel who have totally corrupted the law and convinced themselves that even though they incessantly violated it, God somehow will accept them, because they kept some of it superficially. So when Jesus first arrives, the first thing He does in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 is attack the Jews for their false righteousness.
He destroyed their self-righteous religious confidence. The law was to manifest sin, personally and historically. You don’t want to try to come to God through works; that’s impossible, because if you have broken the law once, you’ve broken it all. You want to come by faith alone. The covenant of promise which was originally given to Abraham is the only covenant that saves.
Galatians 3:23-29 says, “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” You can recognize in those verses the dominant term there is Christ. We are no longer under the law, we are in Christ. The contrast is in verses 23-24, what the law did to us.
Then in verses 25 and following, we see what faith did for us. When we were under the law, as in Romans 8, we were in the flesh, hostile toward God, we couldn’t obey God, and could not please God. Now that we are in Christ, we can obey, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and we long to obey; and that is the pattern of our lives. The law punishes us with guilt and hopelessness, and shows us that we need Jesus.
Paul said the law is two things: it is prison and it is a tutor. Look at verse 23, “Before faith came.” Paul means not only historically when Christ came, but he sort of personifies faith in the person of Christ and the gospel of Christ. “Before Christ, before the gospel, before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.”
It also applies to the Jews, because the Jews were imprisoned by the law; and for the most of them they were never freed from that. “We were all in bondage to God’s law.” What does that mean? “We broke it, we were condemned by it and sentenced to death.” Notice in verse 23, “We were kept in custody under the law.” This means, “We were in bondage to the law. We were incarcerated by the law.”
Jesus even described them as poor prisoners, blind and oppressed, in the gospel of Luke. That is the condition of all men before faith comes. Romans 2: 14-15, “those without the law still have a law to themselves; and that’s demonstrated, because they do instinctively the things of the law.” Every nation, every ethnic group in the history of the world has had similar moral laws. It’s written in their heart.
Verse 15: “They show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” The Jews and all other religious legalists try to cover over that reality by inventing superficial, external behaviors, rites and rituals that convince them that they are okay as they are. But actually the whole human race is cursed, headed for hell.
Verse 24-25, “Therefore the Law was our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” Now what is this “tutor”? This is a personal guardian, a mentor. Typically a tutor would be a disciplinarian, someone who would discipline the person if he got out of line. That is what the law did. The law was a disciplinarian.
The law is a severe disciplinarian that troubles our conscience, that cuts our freedoms down, that locks us in; because to set us free in our hostility and fleshliness would be to do more damage. The law functions that way corporately. And despite that Law people continue to things that God does not like. We also have laws in our nation to keep people from doing what they would otherwise do.
So what does it mean to be in Christ? What is the benefit of salvation? What do we receive? Well, first of all, our death sentence is reversed, and we now have the promise of eternal life in heaven. Secondly, we’re free from external bondage and dread and we now have in our hearts an eagerness to obey God out of love and gratitude. So we are now free. You are now a new creation.
Here are the blessings that are in Christ. Look at verse 26, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Not just a son of Abraham, but a son of God; anyone who believes God, in a sense, has a connection to Abraham; and now is a true son of God. And the “we” here becomes “you.” You used to be sons of Satan. Now you have become sons of God, who obey out of love and desire.
No Jew would ever say, “Father,” even, let alone, “Abba.” “But you as sons of God not only can say, ‘Father,’ but, ‘Abba.’” Those are the words that our Lord Jesus used to speak to His Father. We are sons of God with all the rights, all the authority and all the privileges. We possess the Holy Spirit; we have an inheritance; we will one day be glorified. We have everything as joint heirs.
Verse 27 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” What does it mean to be baptized? It’s not water baptism. “You were immersed into Christ,” like Romans 6:5, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” Being a son means there is no circumcision necessary.
Verse 28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there’s neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; you’re all one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, those distinctions are meaningless, because in Christ we are one. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” This is not saying that women ought to be equal to men in all their functions and roles. Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives.”
Finally, we are heirs of the promise, verse 29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Abraham’s seed is Christ, you’re in Christ who is the one true seed, and therefore you receive the promises that belong to Christ. Do not remain in the prison and the discipline of the law when you can come to freedom and joy and heaven in Christ. Let us pray.