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Jun 14, 2015

Sink...or Swim!

Passage: Galatians 3:1-6

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Freedom

Keywords: doubt, experience, faith, miracles, proof, suffering, the gospel, the holy spirit, trust


This passage looks at five different experiential factors Paul points the Galatian Christians to in challenging them to not add anything to the true Gospel of Christ. They are five powerful experiential factors that should shape and mold our concept of and conviction about faith in Jesus.


Sink…or Swim!

Freedom Series in Galatians

Galatians 3:1-6

June 14, 2015


When was the last time you had serious doubts about your relationship with God?  Maybe you were doubting the very basics of your faith:

  • How do I really know God exists?
  • How do I know Christianity isn’t just another religion?

Or maybe you’ve had questions that weren’t of such a fundamental nature, things like…

  • I wonder if I’m really saved?
  • How do I know that God has really forgiven as big a mess-up as me?


  • Doubts in college--intellectual doubts brought me to the brink of abandoning my faith in Christ.
  • Doubts in Spain--existential, experiential doubts drove me to depression and despair that threatened to sink my soul and future ministry interest. 

Experience can be a very powerful enemy of our faith…or a powerful ally. It can bolster our sagging security about God’s work in and around us OR it can blind us to what God is doing in the moment. 

            We all experience doubts to greater or lesser degrees about our walk with God in this life.  One of the reasons for that is because that is the very nature of the life of faith.  You can’t exercise faith in someone or something when everything is indisputable and self-evident.  It’s only as we are called upon to trust someone or something in issues that cannot be “proved” or even “measured” by the tools of, say, the physical sciences, that we can grow our spiritual or relational faith. 

ILL:  Every human relationship is built upon some level of trust and faith.  The deeper the trust and faith, the deeper the potential and hopefully the actual level of the relationship.

  • Trusting the sales clerk at my local hardware store about which sprinkler head will work best in my yard is one thing.
  • Trusting my wife to make good decisions about molding our children’s hearts and character when they were little when I was away at work all day is quite another level of faith and trust.

But both are built upon faith.  Both can grow or diminish my trust depending upon what the outcome if that trust turns out to be—a greener lawn or a drier one; a well-adjusted, loving and responsible child or an insecure, undisciplined and out-of-control kid.  

APP:  So what are the doubts you’ve been walking through in either the present or the recent past?  What doubts are threatening to remold your relationship to God into something that moves you away from Christ or into deeper doubt rather than more fervent faith? 

            Let’s agree not to play games with our doubts.  Let’s agree to give each other room for doubts, to be honest enough with ourselves and each other to say, “Yes, it occasionally feels like my boat is going to be swamped by doubts…but I’ll be humble enough to admit that to others who can help me bail my boat when the waters of doubt are pouring in.”

In today’s text in Galatians, Paul is going to talk to us about the place of experience in our journey with Jesus Christ.  For two chapters he’s been on a rampage against those who were trying to take the faith of non-Jewish Christ-followers and turn it into something it was never designed to be.  He’s been rallying argument after argument (mostly logical and theological) against people who had gotten it wrong, not about whether or not they were saved, but about what life in Christ was supposed to look like once you’ve been introduced to Jesus.   

And from a big-picture perspective of this book of Galatians, we’re going to find that Paul spends four chapters… virtually 2/3rds of the book…mounting arguments for why we must live out our relationship to Christ in the same way we began that relationship—by faith that works rather than works of faith. 


Read 3:1-6

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.

First, Paul stresses the gullibility of the Galatians. In certain contexts the word “foolish” can imply a lack of “gray matter”—a low intelligence, but this is not Paul’s point here. The Greek term is the antonym of the word for wisdom.

The willfulness of the Galatians in wandering from the truth is evident to Paul. Their foolishness was deliberate and therefore deserving of a rebuke. The bluntness of the word “foolish” is probably intended to jar these saints from their error, and to quicken their interest and attention in what Paul is about to say.

This term “foolish” is not only discomforting; it is humbling. This error, like most which creep into the church, was held with a fair measure of pride. Error of this kind appeals to one’s pride. The Galatians likely claimed a new level of truth, a higher level of spirituality. This was certainly true of the teachers of this “different gospel.” Paul strategically used the word “foolish” to challenge the pride of those who professed to be newly enlightened.

Second, the term “bewitched” was pregnant with meaning to the first readers of this epistle. A “hex” or “spell” was cast on another by giving him the “evil eye.” In his commentary F. F. Bruce stresses this nuance when he renders the term “hypnotized.”  I think the term here is most likely a metaphor for mental or spiritual confusion

            APP:  We all have the capacity to be confused.  All of us, no matter how smart or no matter how high your I.Q., we all can be fooled and confused.  That’s one reason we need to both hold firmly as well as humbly to the foundational truths of our faith.  That’s why we need to be open to the theological challenges of the broader body of Christ in this world.  None of us is beyond being duped. 

But why does Paul throw in this phrase about “before your eyes…Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified”?  "Crucified" is a perfect passive participle implying that Jesus remains the crucified One.

If you were raised in the Roman Catholic Church, you were raised seeing crucifixes—small reminders of the crucifixion of Jesus that aren’t just a small cross; they are a cross with an image of Christ still on the cross being crucified.

            Growing up in the evangelical church most of my life, I’ve heard people criticize the crucifix as focusing too much on the death of Jesus and not enough on the resurrection of Christ.  The reality is, however, that no true Catholic is denying the resurrection of Christ by having a crucifix.  What they are choosing to focus on is the sufferings of Jesus for us.  And frankly, that’s a pretty good focus according to Paul in our passage here today.

ILL:  one of the few times I’ve been hospitalized in my life occurred when I was 22 and living in Manila, Philippines.  I had come down with a nasty case of food poisoning and had to be hospitalized for dehydration

You think hospitals in the U.S. are no fun to be in?  The room I spent 3 days in barely had room to fit the hospital bed.  It had nothing else in it—no chair for a visitor to sit in, not a single window, no closet.  It practically had no paint on the walls.  Other than that, the room had zip, zero, nadaexcept…a small crucifix on the wall directly opposite my bed. 

I’ve never spent so much time contemplating a crucifix in my life!  But, honestly, that’s not a bad thing to have as the only thing to look at and contemplate when you are suffering.  Thinking about the suffering Savior is a good thing when you’re suffering.  Thinking about His pain is the right thinking when you’re in pain. 

Furthermore, the next time we see Him, He will still have the marks of His crucifixion. This is one of the curious truths of the resurrection, at least of Christ’s resurrection.  His resurrected body is certainly now a “perfect” body in the sense that it will never get sick, never die again, never be subject to hunger or disease or the effects of sin our present bodies are subject to.  But we will be eternally reminded of His sacrifice for us, for our sins, for our salvation.  But those nail holes in his hands and feet and sword hole in his side are now symbols of His victory!

The Gospels actually refer to Jesus as "the crucified One" (cf. Matt. 28:5; Mark 16:6; I Cor. 1:23; 2:2). This may be a title…a name…the early church used for Jesus.  It is a reminder that the true Gospel must never be very far away from a vision of the crucified Christ.  (Thank you, Roman Catholic Church, for reminding me of that when I was a young adult, stuck in a drab, dreary, hospital half way around the world!  That was great preparation for the reality that life is sometimes very drab, very painful and very boring when you are going through suffering…but Christ knows that road far better than we do and will walk through it with us.)

            Another little nugget of truth here from the grammar of this phrase.  It is what we call “the passive voice”.  That means that the emphasis here is on the fact that the person being talked about (Jesus) is receiving the action (the action of being crucified).   This may speak of God the Father as the true agent in the sacrifice of the Son (cf. Isa. 53:10; John 3:16; II Cor. 5:21). 

            This very criticism is often leveled at God by modern day skeptics and critics:  “How could a loving God allow his own son to go through such horrible suffering as a crucifixion?  No decent father would stand by and let his innocent son writhe in pain and suffer so horribly.  Therefore, God must either not exist or if He does, he must be worse than most even sinful fathers on this earth.”

            But Paul puts the focus precisely there in the Gospel.  God the Father poured out His own wrath that was justly required against all human sin on His own Son, Jesus Christ.  Paul doesn’t try to distance God the Father from the suffering of God the Son. No, he plants Him as the very agent of the crucifixion.

            Why?  Because the God of the Bible is perfectly just and holy.  The God of the Bible demands that evil be punished…ALL evil, whether it looks or feels big or small to us. 

But the God of the Bible also loves sinners like us so deeply that He knew the only way for any of us to escape his just and holy punishment of sin was for Someone perfect, Someone infinite, Someone as holy as He, to take our place and take the judgment that has to fall on human sin if God is to remain holy, righteous and morally perfect. This IS the Gospel of Christ—good news, the best news for sinful people like us.

APP:  Have you allowed the horrible, Good News of the death of Christ for you change YOU?  Have you embraced the crucified One, Jesus, by an act of faith…by receiving Him as Lord, God and Savior of your life? 

            [Call to faith in Jesus.]

From this place of embracing the crucified Jesus Christ as Savior of our own life by faith, Paul now points to the experience of what that simple faith births.  What happens when life-surrendering faith encounters the living Savior Jesus?

Gal. 3-- Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

            These are a set of 5 rhetorical-type questions that should help every one of us keep swimming when the waves of doubt or bad theology are washing over our face and threatening to push water into our spiritual lungs. 

Question #1:  Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 

The presence of the Holy Spirit was one of the first experiences the early church could look to in order to understand how God was now working with them in a new way. 

            The Jews were not ignorant about how the Spirit of God worked with people.  The O.T. is full of stories of God coming upon or working in people through His Spirit.  They may not have understood that the Holy Spirit was a distinct personage of the Triune God, but they certainly knew that when the Spirit of God came upon people, life was different.  Kings became wise.  Warriors became nation-shapers. Prophets spoke powerfully and sometimes predictively.  All sorts of changes happened to people. 

            That’s why Paul could point to the experience of a whole bunch of new Christians in a whole bunch of churches with regard to the receiving of the Holy Spirit as a powerful argument for faith in Jesus being the standard by which God deals with people NOW, in the church-age.  It’s not the Law of Moses that makes the difference.  It never could.  It is the life of the Spirit that leads people to transformational living. 

            So here is the point of this question Paul is telling us:  We have received or do receive the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ, period.   The Spirit doesn’t come by doing somebody’s set of rules like the Mosaic Law-code given on Mt. Sinai or somebody’s contemporary claim of “how you, too, can ‘receive the Spirit’” through speaking in tongues or having some post-conversion, uniform spiritual experience.

            I don’t have time to develop this point today, but this is why Paul could write in Ephesians 4 that there is only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” not a “second baptism” as some groups will claim.  Either you believed in Jesus by faith and received the Holy Spirit at that moment OR you didn’t and you don’t have the Holy Spirit.  For someone to tell you that you must “learn to speak in tongues” in order to know that you have the Holy Spirit is as misguided as the Judiazers of Paul’s day who said you had to put yourself under the O.T. Law in order to know you have the Holy Spirit.  Paul debunked that argument by asking them this simple question they all knew the answer to:  did you receive the Holy Spirit when you tried to keep the Mosaic Law or when you put your faith in Jesus Christ?  Unanimous answer:  FAITH IN JESUS!

APP:  So what does this mean for us 20 centuries later? I think it is reasonable, particularly during times of doubt and possible confusion that we look back on the beginning point of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Whether that started at some point in time in your life when you were a child or young person or adult OR whether it happened over a longer period of time, every child of God should be able to look back and humbly say, “I don’t know much about how the Holy Spirit works, but I do know that I’ve experienced His work in my life and I know it began after I put my simple faith and trust in Christ.” 

            As I said earlier, this doesn’t eliminate all doubt.  It doesn’t mean that you won’t go through experiences of deep doubt.  But even in the dark valleys of doubt, you will know in the deepest part of your soul that you can never escape the work of the Holy Spirit begun in you at some point.

ILL:  Charles Templeton, Chr. Evangelist in Canada turned chief agnostic for decades.  Lee Strobel, in his book The Case for Faith, records an interview he once had with Templeton.  In that interview, Templeton tells him that his sort of “conversion” experience to agnosticism came the day he saw a Life Magazine picture of a starving African child being held in the pitiful arms of its starving mother and he could not answer or reconcile in his mind how a loving God could permit such horrendous suffering without intervening to rescue starving children.  So he jettisoned his faith in Christ and embraced his faith in his human reasoning and limited perspective. 

            Yet, in the course of that interview, as Strobel asked a question about whether or not Templeton ever wished he was a man of faith, he records how Templeton paused, got tears in his eyes, was silent for a while and then wistfully whispered, “How I wish I could return to those early days when I thought Christ was my Savior.” 

            Call it what you will, I think that was the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life still whispering to him, “Charles, look back on those days of faith…remember what it was like to have communion with God through Jesus….”  Yet the years of doubt had put such a heavy lid on the years of faith that all but the remembrance and the still-faint whispering of the Holy Spirit was gone. 

APP:  You may feel very confused today.  But if you have had a genuine faith-encounter with Jesus Christ, you are never going to be able to deny in the deepest recesses of your heart, that God did something by his Holy Spirit that brought you to spiritual life when you believed in Jesus Christ.  It may not have been dramatic.  It may not have been emotional.  It may not have involved any outwardly visible sign like speaking in tongues or flames of fire or a voice or a vision. Like me and millions of others, it may be just a memory that God sealed to your mind and heart of the moment Jesus sent new life, the Holy Spirit, into your soul.  That’s what Jesus talked to Nicodemus about when he said the Spirit is like a wind that blows across your face.  That is what being “born again” is.  When you trust in Jesus Christ, your heart becomes the home of the Holy Spirit. 

            If you can’t point to anything of your experience that confirms that, then perhaps you need to take that first step of faith in Christ.  Perhaps what you have experienced to this point is not the kind of faith Paul is talking about—surrendering faith, trusting faith, accepting faith of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, who took your punishment and mine for sin and simply offers life to the full in return. 

Let’s move to the second question of Paul:   

Question #2:  Gal. 3:Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 

Here Paul is essentially asking, “How is it that you have actually grown up in Christ—through going back to the Law of Moses and trying to be super-moral, super-religious people?”  Obvious and expected answer? “NO!” 

The early church believers may not have known exactly HOW spiritual growth was supposed to take place.  But one thing they were all pretty sure about:  it wasn’t going to happen by their “flesh” natures.  It wasn’t happening through their human effort.  It had to be something the Holy Spirit was working in them and through them as they were learning to walk by faith day in and day out.  `

Paul is moving from the initial salvation experience or chapter to the initial sanctification or growth chapter of every true Christian’s life. 

ILL: Sandy and I have a friend who is younger than us but her kidneys are failing.  She’s been put on the transplant list for a kidney transplant it has gotten so bad.  For some apparently genetic reasons, her kidneys are failing to work as they should.  Yet she looks to all the world as healthy. 

            Now imagine that this woman has to go on dialysis to stay alive.  Two or three times a week, she will have to get hooked up to a dialysis machine and spend 4-6 hours having her blood pumped out of her, into a dialysis machine that cleans her blood and pumps it back into her.  It’s a pretty consuming process.  It leaves you in a constant boom-to-bust situation, feeling great for a few hours but feeling pretty awful or whipped out much of the time. 

            Now let’s imagine that Tiffany goes through this experience for years.  Her whole life has to be ordered around dialysis. As grateful as she is for dialysis that keeps her alive, she’s desperately hoping and praying for a “match” that will enable her to live a new life. 

            Imagine that day comes.  Imagine that her daughter is found to be a perfect match.  And her daughter, out of the deep love and respect she has for her, offers her second kidney for a transplant.

            So the day arrives.  Mother and daughter are both prepped for surgery.  They lie side-by-side on the surgery tables, holding hands as they both drift off to sleep under the anesthetic.  The next thing they know, they are waking up side-by-side in recovery, and Tiffany never has to spend another day of her life going to dialysis or even feeling horrible in between. 

            Now what would you think if, having experienced such a radical change of quality of life, Tiffany were to start going back to the dialysis clinic as soon as she was released from the hospital?  Her new kidney is functioning perfectly.  In fact, it’s functioning better than her old ones ever did because her daughter isn’t a genetic carrier of her old, defective gene.  And her new kidney is 20 years younger than she is.  So she’s experiencing a quality of life she has never really known in her adult years. 

What would you say to someone like that who started showing up again at the dialysis clinic when their new kidney was functioning perfectly? 

“Are you crazy?  Have you lost your mind?  Who has bewitched you into thinking this way?”  Fact is, doing dialysis when you don’t absolutely have to have dialysis will cause even a healthy kidney to shut down.  Going back to those old ways of doing things is a disaster to the new life you have.

APP: this is precisely Paul’s argument for life by the Holy Spirit.  Since you’ve been given the Holy Spirit by faith, you know by experience that you can’t get the ongoing life of the Spirit in you by human effort.  It comes by a faith-abiding in Christ. It comes by calling out to God in faith every day, every moment of conscious need, every temptation and challenge.  We can’t get life in Christ by going back onto the “spiritual dialysis” of trying to get God through some set of human works. 

            Remember that the next time you are tempted to just “try harder” or “work harder” from the flesh.  Yes, the Spirit of God will prompt us and invite us to experience God afresh every day through spiritual practices and spiritual disciplines.  But that is very different from looking to the Old Covenant, to the Law of Moses and to some check list of human effort to bring us the life of God’s Spirit.  Having begun by the Holy Spirit, we simply cannot keep growing by human effort.

Question #3:   Galatians 3:  4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

Here Paul is probably referring to suffering that 1st century believers went through because of their faith in Jesus.  It could have been at the hands of pagans who hated to be reminded what a holy life looked like because it reminded them of their guilt before a holy God.  Or maybe it was suffering at the hands of anti-Christ zealots like fanatical Jews or Caesar-worshiping Romans.  

            Regardless of the exact cause, the Judiazers advocating for Mosaic Law-keeping rather than life in the Spirit were probably saying to new believers, “You know, if you would just try keeping the O.T. Law, you could avoid a lot of suffering.  God blesses people who keep the Law.  Trouble comes to those who don’t.  So face reality and flee trouble by embracing the Law-keeping too.” 

            While Paul doesn’t give an extensive answer to this argument, he clearly expects a “NO” answer again.  Paul’s theology of Christian suffering, far from running from suffering, sees real purpose and meaning in suffering.  Far from teaching Christ-followers to expect less suffering, Paul teaches us to expect more. 

APP:  Is that your expectation of life in Christ?  Or do we have the Old Covenant belief in the back of our head that if we’re rally living in Christ we’ll be freer of suffering? 

            This, too, is an exchange we’ll have to make in faith-living.  And I think we will have to make it more frequently and more deeply than any other generation in American history.  It is time came to embrace what most of the world has learned and is learning in unprecedented numbers—that suffering in Christ and for Christ is part of the faith-package of following Christ. 

Question #4:  Galatians 3:Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

            There are two parts to this question so I’ll take it in two points. 

            While this sounds a lot like the first question about receiving the Holy Spirit, I think it has a different focus. The word “supplies” is what we call a present active participle.  That is, it is something that started at a particular time but has present, ongoing effect in our lives. 

            While God certainly supplied the Holy Spirit to us when we first believed, God also keeps supplying the Spirit to us day after day, ear after year in a way that keeps changing and growing us. 

What is more, this word has the sense of abundance or ample supply.  Unlike what we might be tempted to think is reality about God…that he is miserly with his presence in us…God is in us in a very full, generous and abundant measure. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always feel that truth.  In fact, I often look into my life and say, “Where is this abundance of Your presence you promised?  Where is this supply of the Spirit you have said is ongoing today?”  And often I’m tempted to try legalism just like the Christian Jews in the 1st century were tempted to try the Old Covenant to bring about a better sense of the Spirit’s work in me.  But it doesn’t work. 

ILL:  Let me illustrate it this way.  When I was a kid, I would spend summers on Coeur d’Alene Lake.  That’s where I learned to swim. 

            Now both my parents had been on their college swim teams.  My mother had set records for Vassar during her college days.  So I guess you could say they were “pretty good swimmers.”  J

            But my Dad had a unique ability.  He could float like a cork.  I kid you not!  All he had to do was roll over onto his back, take a deep breath, bring his feet to the surface, and he would be 3-5 inches above the water!  It was almost like he had this hydroplane ability when it came to water. 

            So when it came to swimming, what do you suppose was one of the first things my parents tried to teach me?  No, it wasn’t to swim the butterfly or freestyle stroke.  It wasn’t even to try and learn every novice’s favorite Olympic stroke, the dog paddle. J  No, the first thing they wanted me to learn was that the water would actually support me if I would just take a deep breath, relax, tip my head back into the water and let the water do the work.  I just needed to learn to float. 

            Right about now, some of you who either don’t know how to swim or have never learned to float are thinking, “What kind of nut job are you, John?  I’ve been in the water before.  I’ve felt the panic that takes over in the deep end of the pool.  I’ve filled my lungs a few times with water trying to stay above the surface.  There is no way this dead-weight is going to learn how to “relax” in the water. 

            You know, when I was doing my senior lifesaving and Water Safety Instructor training in college, I remember that one of the things they taught you was never approach a panicked, drowning person head on.  If you do, the chances are they will put a vice grip around your neck and take you to the bottom with them. 

            But if you approach them from the back and under the water where you can wrap your arms around them from behind, you’ll be in control enough to put them on their back (probably the last position they want to be in if yo

u’re afraid of the water) and pull them to safety as you both let the water do its work of buoyancy. 

            That’s a whole lot like what life in the Spirit is like.  The more we try to thrash about, struggle in our human effort, make it happen by our own power, the more we seem to sink into the depths of life and lose life.  But the more we learn to take God at his word, the more we learn to relax and let the Spirit carry us, the more we’re going to enjoy the experience of swimming in the Spirit. 

            When you know how to float in the water, then you can really start learning how to swim.  But if you’re always all tensed up and afraid of sinking, you’ll really never become a good swimmer and probably will never really enjoy floating.

So it is with life in the Spirit.  The leaky, always-sinking “boat” of the Law of Moses was never designed to teach us HOW to swim; it was just designed to show us that we really needed to learn how to swim by entrusting our lives to God by faith and learning to let go of our best attempts to become spiritual Olympians before we become spiritual floaters.  

Finally, Paul’s last questionQuestion #5:  Galatians 3:Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Does God “work miracles among us” because we’re such great Old Covenant, Old Testament, Law-of-Moses rule-keepers OR because we’ve become good “faith-hearers”?  Again, the expected answer is the latter—because we’ve heard the Gospel of Christ and combined that hearing with God-trusting faith. 

            Now at first glance, this last question might seem like more of a problem to some of us than a solution.  Paul is inviting the early church to look at the miracles that they’ve seen since becoming Christ-followers as just one more proof that life in Christ is a result of faith, not a result of law-keeping.

            I’ve noticed something about the nature of miracles:  you can’t earn them.  You can’t merit them.  You can’t even twist God’s arm through moral living or religious ritual.  However miracles happen, they are a sovereign choice by God to do something beyond the realm of human effort or ability.  If ever there were something that proved that God’s work on our behalf is not a result of our work, miracles are it.   Miracles are not a regular cause-effect event.  They are not a do-the-work-&-get-the-reward experience.  When they happen they usually happen simply because someone believes God can do the miraculous and asks Him to do just that—a miracle.

            I think this verse is a powerful argument for why we should continue to trust God and ask Him for miracles.  Our faith is not built upon miracles.  But neither should it be void of them.  Paul could write to a whole group of churches and remind them to look at their experience with miracles as just another experiential proof that reconciliation with God comes through faith in Jesus Christ, not hard work keeping the Law of Moses. 

            Paul at this point reintroduces us to Abraham, whom he will go on and use to prove his point of redemption based on faith.  This illustration is taken from Genesis 15:6 where God once again promises to Abraham, now well over one-hundred and still childless by Sarah, that He (God) will make his descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky, i.e. super-abundant.  In the midst of this exchange between God and Abraham, Abraham expresses his angst that this is never going to happen.  If he dies as he his now, all he has and what he will still gain because of God’s promised generosity, will be left to his servant, not his son. 

So God simply promises Abraham again that he and Sarah will have a child.  And Abraham simply believed God again and “He [God] counted it to him as righteousness.” In the face of a childless reality for over 100 years, God simply invites Abraham to believe him for the miraculous.  What better historical argument could Paul have chosen for proof that God does miracles through faith, not works?

While miracles will not be the everyday norm of experience in Christ, I would go so far as to say that our God still is in the business of using miracles to bring him glory and build us up in faith. 

APP: Two weeks from today, we will start meeting in the main meeting room of an international ministry called The Healing Rooms.  The Healing Rooms is a ministry that fully believes God is still in the business of miracles.  They recognize that not everyone is healed miraculously all the time.  But they pray for divine healing for everyone who asks, whether it is physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, mental or any other type of healing that is needed.  And they see God do miracles.  They simply believe God and pray. 

            I do not think it is a mistake that God has led us, as we have waited on Him, knocked on doors and sought out where God wants us next in this town, to a ministry that has over 3,000 centers of healing around the world in 70 countries and whose international headquarters is right down the street from us in Spokane.  What is God doing with us?  I don’t know.  But I do know what God has put in our hearts to see happen in the community will take miracles.  And it will hopefully lead us to need many more.  And for that, at this time in our shared experience as a church, God is planting us right in the middle of one of the world’s foremost ministries when it comes to miracles. 

            So how about we take the next step of this journey by simply thanking God for the miracles he’s already done and trusting God (not ourselves and not the Healing Rooms ministry) for miracles we still long to see happen?

[Time of PRAYER asking for Spirit-led miracles among us.]

1.) The gift of the Holy Spirit…

2.) the way we all grow up in Christ…

3.) the suffering we experience because we follow Christ…

4.) the ongoing supply of God’s presence in the Holy Spirit…

and 5.) the miracles we see happen along this journey

they all are powerful proofs that this journey with God in Christ is not a result of our effort and work but of God’s gracious gifts to those who put their living trust in Jesus Christ.