In Galatians 3:1-5, Paul asks a series of questions to the Galatians which are intended to show them the foolishness and impossibility of growing in their faith through works of the law (i.e., trying to be perfected by the flesh, v. 3).
The Galatians did not start their Christian lives by works, they did not receive the Holy Spirit by works, they did not experience miracles in their midst by works and they did not come into God’s favor by works (i.e., to be counted righteous as Abraham was, cf. Gen. 15:6).
The answer Paul gives for the way in which the Christian life is to be lived is found twice in a short but important phrase in vv. 2, 5. In both verses Paul writes, “…by hearing with faith.” This little phrase captures the difference between a gospel-driven and a law-driven life (i.e., grace vs. performance; favor vs. disfavor; blessing vs. curse).
Paul’s point is this:
The Christian life begins “by hearing with faith,” and it continues day by day, moment by moment “by hearing with faith.”
This is why it is critically important to know and resolutely adhere to the gospel (cf., Gal. 1:6-9).
“…where there is no knowledge, there is no faith. That the Galatians, who were otherwise disposed to obey the gospel, might not wander hither and thither, and ‘find no rest for the sole of their foot,’ (Gen. viii. 9,) Paul enjoins them to stand steadfastly by his doctrine. He demands such unhesitating belief of his preaching, that he pronounces a curse on all who dared to contradict it,” (Galatians, p. 32; emphasis mine).
“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” (Rom. 10:17). Paul just stated in Galatians 2:20 that the strength and motivation for living the Christian life comes from living “by faith in the Son of God,” who loved him and gave Himself for him!
Mark This: A distorted or insufficient knowledge of the gospel will cripple the believer’s pursuit of sanctification or result in self-righteous legalism (i.e., Pharisaism).
“where there is no knowledge, there is no faith.”
What are you listening to find motivation to move you forward (i.e., drive you) in your walk of faith? Are you hearing the word of Christ daily? Or, is your focus more on what you do than on what Christ has done for you?
You and I need massive doses of gospel placarded before us on a daily basis. Why? Our tendency is to drift back into a performance mindset (and quite quickly, Gal. 1:6). We don’t get the gospel as we should. We don’t understand grace.
We do understand legalism. The mortgage business provides a perfect paradigm for understanding a law-driven life.
Those of us who work or have worked in the mortgage business have a vivid reminder of how legalism works. The mortgage business works on one principle, law, period (I know there is the mortgage “grace period,” but this isn’t grace!).
If someone is in debt and cannot pay their mortgage, the relationship between the debtor and the lender is paralyzed. There is no intimacy. The last person in the world the debtor wants to see or hear from is his or her lender!
This is what happens in the lives of many believers. Because they have deserted Christ (Gal. 1:6) and begun to rely on works of the law (Gal. 3:2, 5, 10), they come to see themselves as debtors rather than adopted sons. A debtor mentality will cripple a believer’s pursuit of faith.
Christ is not a “lender.” He is no Moses. Christ is a Savior and Redeemer (Gal. 1:4, 3:13)!
Tragically, we can become quite impressed with our self-righteousness and little moved by the righteousness of Christ. This is why Paul reminds the Galatians (and us) that if righteousness were through the law, grace is nullified, Christ died for no purpose (Gal. 2:21) and we come under a curse (3:10). Heaven and earth meet at the focal point of the cross not our performance.
The Christian life begins and continues “by hearing with faith.” Therefore, forget about your performance (i.e., the works of the law!). We do not endear ourselves to God with our imperfect obedience.
Instead, be arrested by grace and immerse yourself in the Good News of Christ!