Full Text for Galatians- Volume 23 - What does Paul mean in Galatians 3 when he speaks about the hearing of faith and works of the law? (Video)

No. 23 >> Paul seems upset with the Galatians as he begins Chapter 3. Why is he so disturbed and what does he mean when he speaks about the hearing of faith and works of the law? I think all of us are curious about the use of the Scriptures in this regard. >>DR. ARTHUR A. JUST, JR.: At this point in the Galatian epistle there is a shift in Paul's argument. And really in a sense at the end of the Chapter 2, we've come to the end of the defense of his apostleship. If you recall, we just went through a deeply doctrinal section. And now Paul is going to switch now to beginning with Chapter 3 a rebuke of them. This is the second rebuke. The first rebuke was at the very beginning of the epistle when he asked them who -- you know, I'm so amazed you're turning from the Gospel to another Gospel. Here is his second rebuke. This also now will introduce the most densely doctrinal section of the epistle. This will run through the fourth chapter. So the next two chapters, Chapters 3 and 4 will be considered the doctrinal section of the epistle. It is also a deeply exegetical part of the epistle. And what I mean by that is you're going to see the use of a lot of Bible passages. I'm going to be responding to that in this chapter in a moment. But let's begin with the opening. There is a rebuke here. And it is a very, very severe one. Even more severe than the one in the first chapter. What we're going to see as we enter these two chapters is that Paul is going to try to apply the doctrine of the Old Testament to the Galatians once again. And he is going to be in an argument with his opponents. So we're going to have to kind of read between the lines to see what his opponents might be saying and why Paul responds in the way in which he does. But you can see Paul, the pastor here. And here not kind of the gentle shepherd you know leading his flock. But the very stern shepherd who is rebuking his flock as he did in the first chapter for even considering going into different direction from what he taught. Now, the first two lines: Oh, foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? That's how we usually translate it. The word there for foolish is the word that Jesus uses of the Emmaus disciples when they didn't read the Old Testament carefully to see that he was the center of the Old Testament. That throughout the Old Testament shot through from beginning to end Christ is the center. Not just discrete passages. Not just a golden thread that kind of weaves it's way through but the entire Old Testament has to do with him. And I think Paul is using this expression in a similar way. Now, I always tell my students here that when I grew up, we were not allowed to say at home. If we were to translate it in the vernacular, we would probably translate it as stupid. Stupid is -- this is kind of what I would like to say invincible stupidity. They should be able to remember the way Paul unfolded for them the Old Testament and it's meaning in terms of the Gospel. And so this is a very, very strong chastisement of them. And then when he says: Who bewitched you? Literally that is who cast a spell on you? Who gave you the evil eye? Now I think we have to stop for a moment and reflect on what I said earlier. These opponents of Paul are extraordinarily good at communicating their Gospel. They are great rhetoricians. They are great preachers. And they are persuasive. And like I like to translate this sometimes in the vernacular, it's almost as if Paul is saying: You must be on drugs. You must be out of your mind to submit now as grown men to circumcision as a means of getting right with God. How can you possibly think that that is a way in which God is making right what has gone wrong. To use the language, the paraphrase of justification that we talked about in the previous question. And then Paul tells them why they should be chastised. And I think this is a very poignant moment in the epistle where you can see or get at least a glimpse into Paul's preaching. Because he says to them very clearly: Before your eyes, before your own eyes, Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Publicly portrayed as crucified. There Paul is talking about his preaching. He's talking about how he laid out for them the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In all it's horror, in all it's scandal, in all it's embarrassment. Now, I don't think that in our culture today we recognize how severely scandalous Jesus' death was. Not only for the Jews. But also for Gentiles. In the ancient world -- and this would have been so true of the people in Galatia -- honor and shame, a person's honor, you know, how they were perceived by others, what the world thought of them, was in a sense the ultimate goal, to have honor. The ultimate shame, of course, is the cross. And in the ancient world, particularly among the Roman culture, the noble person, the noble death, the noble virtues was highly exalted. And here Paul is taking a man, Jesus, who is also he proclaims the Son of God. And showing that he dies the most shameful, the most ignoble death possible. Now, I think we had a little glimpse of how horrible it is a few years back when Mel Gibson had his movie "The Passion of the Christ." And it shocked people. It shocked people because of its violence. And if you remember, part of the critique was people were saying the movie was too violent. But I will say this -- and I think this is what Paul was getting at here -- that movie, the death of Jesus was the most violent moment in the history of the world. That movie was not violent enough. It didn't show the total horror and scandal and absolute, you know, depravity of the world sins as it killed Jesus. And I think Paul in his own preaching showed how in this scandal, in this shame, in this place where Jesus -- and this is the interesting thing. You know a lot of in the ancient world shame came from being sinned against. And that was a big part of it. For example sexually abused or you are somehow mistreated in a way that wasn't your fault. This is a horrible thing. Here Jesus who is without sin is the most sinned against man in the world. He is the ultimate shame there. And yet in his shame, he brings honor to the world. He brings honor to those who live in shame. Paul preached that Gospel. And he publicly portrayed Jesus the crucified one. Now, that language is so important. The crucified one. That he is the one who has given his life. This is the antidote for foolishness, the proclamation of Christ crucified. Now we can see later on in his epistles, this is the center of what Paul preaches. And after talking about how they've been bewitched, after talking about how the antidote of that is Christ crucified a total irony. What we call in Lutheran theology, the theology of the cross. That things are exactly the opposite of what we would expect humanly speaking. After that Paul gives five rhetorical questions. And these five rhetorical questions are absolutely critical to understanding the rest of the epistle. In Verse 2, he states it very plainly. He says: Let me ask you this -- he says: This only I wish to learn from you. And this is the first time that we see the use of the Spirit. Now, isn't that interesting of the third chapter we've heard about the Father and certainly about the Son. And now we have the Spirit for the first time. He says: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by the hearing of faith? And I would like to translate that. Not as the hearing of faith. But by the proclamation of the Gospel that elicits faith. I think that's really what he means there. Now, look at what he's talking about here. He's talking about the reception of the Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit that gives life. How does that come? Does it come by our own works? By circumcision? By keeping the law? Or does it come by hearing the Gospel that then elicits faith in us? Now, I know that translation may not seem to jump out at you from the Greek. But that is -- I mean it's a good Lutheran translation. But that is what Paul is talking about. He just talked about publicly portraying Christ as crucified. He's talking about the proclamation of the Gospel. And when you hear the Gospel preached, people believe. That's what the hearing of faith is. It's a response to the preaching of the Gospel. And here you have, again, repeated in different language what we heard in the previous section where he was talking about justification. Works of the law or Christ's faithfulness and our faith in Christ. There are the two categories. And he's going to repeat it again in Verse 5. But before he does, he returns to foolishness. He says in Verse 3: Are you so foolish then? Are you so foolish? And this is again an interpretation now. This is the way Paul argues. And I think you have to see this. He is a good rabbi. He'll state something. Then he'll state it again with a tone of interpretation. Now he's going to interpret a little bit of what he said in Verses 1 and 2. He says: Having begun in the Spirit -- the Spirit is repeated -- are you now going to bring this could conclusion in the flesh? Now here you have to have the key where he refers to flesh here, he means circumcision. So if you've received the Gospel and believed in the Gospel by means of the Holy Spirit who proclaimed Christ to you through the preacher, if that is how you received the Spirit, are you now going to bring all of this to conclusion by being circumcised? He's going to get even more graphic in a sense and talk in more kind of even derogative terms of circumcision. But here he is putting the question plainly. Is it Spirit or is it circumcision? You can't have both. And then he goes on in Verse 4. Did you suffer -- and I think this is an important word -- did you suffer -- meaning did you kind of bear the humility of Christ after receiving the Spirit in vain? I mean was this something that was just you know this preaching of the theology of this cross, this embrace of Jesus and me as he's going to say in Chapter 4 as a sick man, as a man who is broken and Jesus in his cross, did you embrace that in vain, if indeed it is in vain he says? Really you can see Paul is still rebuking them. And then he comes back one more time, Verse 5, and he's going to refer to the Spirit again. But he's going to take it up to the next level. Notice that in Verse 2 he's talking about the reception of the Spirit. Their reception of the Spirit. Now he's talking about the one who gives the Spirit. So Verse 5: Does he -- namely, I think the Father here -- who supplies the Spirit to you and works powers in you by the Spirit -- and these are present participles -- even now the one who is supplying the Spirit, even now the one who is working these powers in you -- and then he comes back into it again. And they are just beautifully paralleled. Is it by works of the law or is it by the proclamation of the Gospel that elicits faith? Which one is it? How does the Father work? Does he work through works of the law? Does he work through circumcision? Or is that the old dispensation? And now in Christ, it's a new one. So you can see in these first five verses, Paul puts it plainly to them again. Now, I want you to see the brilliance of Paul here. And as I said earlier, he's one of the most extraordinary intellects in the history of the world I think. But I want you to see his rhetoric. At the end of Chapter 2 he puts on the table works of the law and faith. Faith in Christ and Christ's faithfulness. He now comes back to it but in a little different way. So he's giving you another look at the same issue but from a different way. And he brings the Spirit in. And how do you receive the Spirit and the one who supplies you the Spirit, how does he do that? So you can see, this is a deeply Lutheran text. You can see why Luther loved this text. The end of Chapter 2 is objective Gospel. It also has subjective Gospel, faith in Christ. But now Paul makes it more personal, the reception of the Spirit, the one who supplies the Spirit. Is it by your own works or is it by the proclamation that elicits faith? Those are the two alternatives. And you can see if you read the history of Christianity, those are essentially the two issues that are always before us. Many years ago when I was a seminary student I used to think that it was much more complex than simply works of the law and Christ's death and our faith in Christ. But you know what? It's that simple. And the simplicity here of Paul's categories, two simple categories, one is all God's doing, the other is when we begin to cooperate with God in some way. Those obtain today. And all you have to do is turn on the Christian radio stations. All you have to do is tune into our American Protestant religious culture and you will see that within Christianity I'm talking about, within Christianity, these two categories are critical to the way in which we come to understand our God and he comes to us.