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Lowell Brueckner

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Seeking the Spirit of the Kingdom, chapter three





Read the entire book
Paul instructed Timothy, his son in the faith, about the law. “The Law is good,” he said, “if one uses it lawfully… the law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and disobedient…” (1 Tim. 1:8, 9). We can see the benefits of the law, just by observing its effect on society. Man by nature is a transgressor of everything that is good. For that reason, thanks to the law, he is deterred on his way to his own destruction, in which he, at the same time, endangers the whole world. He and society need the law for their protection. “The law… was added because of transgressions” (Gal. 3:19). So the function of the law is noble; it demands nothing that is evil or unjust. Romans 7:12 tells us that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”

The law is necessary so there can be order in society and it avoids chaos and anarchy; it is essential in preserving justice. However, even though it restrains the liberty of man, so that he will not self destruct, it does not contribute in any way to his spiritual well-being. It only condemns him. Paul taught the Galatians that “as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse” (Gal. 3:10). Then he gives the reason: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them.” The argument takes for granted that we all have failed to do what the law requires and, as a consequence, we are under a curse; the sentence is eternal punishment. The law is good, but since we have transgressed, or worse yet, we continue to transgress, we are under the condemnation that the law demands. The law does not provide the power to fulfill it, but only defines sin and chastises it.

Paul said, “I would not have come to know sin except through the law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Rom. 7:7). Anyone might have an opinion as to what constitutes covetousness, but God gives an absolute word, which will judge the entire world at the final judgment. The law of God defines the transgression and the corresponding sentence for those that break it.

Man must know, scripturally, that he has crossed a line, which God has well defined, and he must also know the sentence or condemnation, which that particular fracture receives. It is necessary that each person, with whom we want to share the gospel, should know that he is a sinner: “The Scripture has shut up everyone under sin…” (Gal. 3:22). The law teaches us that we have a tremendous problem with God, which only Christ can resolve: “The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ…” (3:24).

Each one, who enters this world, without exception, is under the demands of the law of God and, as a consequence, he is under condemnation, because of his transgressions. The conclusion to the matter is that we are all sentenced to death. How then can Jesus save us? That is the answer that we must find, because it is our only hope.

However, in the Kingdom of God there exists another principal that was given to man before the law and is superior to it. We can become subject to that other principle, even though all of us, as we have said, are under the law since we were born (Paul explains it in Galatians 4:1-7). God has to open our eyes, so that we can begin to live another way, not under the mastery of the law, but under another master: “Before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed” (Gal. 3:23). We must enter into the covenant of promise, given to Abraham for us and enter as he did. We cannot enter for some deed that we can do, which means, by works (because we are always failing), but by faith in the power of Him, who cannot fail.

The law is based on “deeds”. “The Law is not of faith; on the contrary, ‘He who practices them shall live by them” (3:12). The possibility of taking part in the inheritance of Abraham is based on a promise, not on a law. God made the covenant with Abraham, before the law was given to Moses and that covenant is established upon a promise: “If the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise” (3:18). A legal covenant that is ratified is a closed case, Paul teaches: “Even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it” (Gal. 3:15). There is no way to remove or change it. For this reason, a covenant made by God, in a legal sense, is eternally valid and inalterable. Nothing that comes after it can affect it. The promise to the Gentiles still applies today: “In order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith… The Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise” (3:14, 17).

Everyone in this world is under one of the two systems; he is under the law or under grace (faith). One is a child of the law and the other a child of faith. These are the two opposite ways of existence. He that depends on the law is under a curse and he that depends on faith is under the same blessing that was pronounced on Abraham (verse 14). This blessing is eternal life: “The righteous man shall live by faith” (3:11). The one who depends on faith has entered into life.

We mentioned already that God promised a seed and that the seed is Christ. When Abraham believed God, he believed in the coming Christ. This was a promise that God made, not only to Abraham, but to all that follow his example of faith. The Christ that came took our curse and we, like Abraham, now live by Him.

You and I are slaves to sin, which is the transgression of the law and, although we would like it to be otherwise, we cannot free ourselves from it. The law of sin that is within us obligates us to disobey God and transgress His law continually. For this reason, we have three big problems with God. The first has to do with our condemnation for our transgressions; the second has to do with becoming free from a nature that wants to transgress constantly, and the third, with acquiring a new nature that is in agreement with God and longs to do His will. Only by faith in Jesus Christ can we find the solution to these problems. Only Jesus could say to the woman taken in adultery, “I do not condemn you.” Now that the justice of God has to be satisfied and the law must be fulfilled, He had to take her condemnation. She, as well as ourselves, must trust in Him and in the work that He has done for us. Jesus took our curse to the cross: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” (verse 13).

Freedom from the law of sin within, meaning the evil and rebellious nature, also has to do with faith in Jesus. He not only took our sins to the cross, but he also took this old man. The I man was crucified with Him: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live…” (2:20a). I also trust in Jesus to obtain a new life: “… But Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God…” (2:20b-KJV). The conclusion to the entire teaching of the book of Galatians is this: “Neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (6:15). This new creation took place in Christ Jesus and you and I enter into it by faith in Christ. Having done that, we are no long obligated to fulfill the law, nor will we be judged by it. Now we live under a new creation, under the dominion of the Holy Spirit and as free sons of God with our eyes fixed on Christ.


Because throughout this book Paul is facing the religious doctrines of men, who have come from Jerusalem (Gal. 4:3), we can see that he, when he speaks of the rudiments or elemental things of the world, is referring fundamentally to religion: “We… were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.” Every human being is religious, but his religion is according to the rudiments of the world. To be under the law is to be religious or to be what is commonly called legalistic. This person is governed by external and visible rules and is limited to natural intelligence. His mentality is worldly, because it is according to the logic of human reasoning. The danger for Christians is to be enslaved to the world (4:3) and to men (1:10).

When I speak of the world’s religion, I am not referring to a system exactly or a certain church, but to a way of thinking and living that comes from the heart of humanistic man and conforms to the course of this world. This religion spreads throughout society and is bound to and limited to this world. It is the religion of one who intends to live a spiritual life by his own strength and by what the world offers him. He does not know what it is to be led by the Holy Spirit and cannot capture what it means to live by true faith. As all the attractions of the world, this also is attractive to carnal man. His friendship with the world converts him into an enemy of true spirituality, as it states in James 4:4. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”(1 Jn. 2:15). As Billy Sunday, the famous evangelist, said, “To speak of a ‘worldly Christian’ is like speaking of a ‘holy devil’” Neither one exists.

The world, together with the flesh and the devil form this evil trinity, of which we wrote earlier. They are three enemies of the Christian and they cooperate and fight constantly against him. Now I will speak more about two of them. One, our flesh, is permanently with us and we can do nothing to disconnect from it. Daily, we have to reckon it to be dead. But, if we also let the world enter, it will join with the flesh and together they will do battle against the spirit. I ask you, why should we let this occur? Doesn’t the flesh give us enough trouble by itself? Isn’t it bad enough to have the flesh always present? Why do we also permit the world to enter into our lives and our homes? Why are we so interested to dress according to the latest styles? How can we ignore so easily the counsel of Paul, about dressing modestly, and prefer to expose our bodies, as much as possible, in the street, as well as on the beach, just like the world does? Why do we invest our time and money in the movie theaters and some even attend dances? Then, confused, we ask ourselves, why can’t we understand the Bible and why do we misinterpret it? I ask, isn’t it logical? If we want to be as close to the world in every sense possible, then as a consequence, we will also find ourselves accepting its religion. This spiritual position will disable us from receiving the riches of God, since our spirit is not free to receive His blessings.

How can some Christians interpret so incorrectly the meaning of liberty in the Spirit? They believe that in order to not be religious, they are free to please the flesh, coming as close to the world as possible without practicing the dirtiest habits – things that even the decent, unbelieving world avoids. The thinking goes something like this: “Since I’m not a legalistic or religious Christian, I can drink alcoholic beverages, if I like, dress however I want, go wherever I please, listen to the music that I like, and rejoice in Christ at the same time.” It’s a major deceit. When the mind of the carnal man interprets the doctrine of the liberty in Christ, automatically he converts it into licentiousness: “Do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (5:13).

Paul has a lot to say about the cross in this book: “I have been crucified with Christ (2:20)… Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified (3:1)… “the stumblingblock of the cross (5:11)… “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (5:24)… “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14). The world had completely lost its attraction for Paul. He saw it in the same form as a figure on a cross – repulsive and ugly. The world also saw him, as it saw Jesus crucified – foolish and weak, disfigured and horrifying.

The message of the cross is not an attractive message for those not enlightened by the Holy Spirit. When He opened their eyes, the Galatians received a revelation of the hidden beauty of Jesus the Nazarene. As they heard the teaching from God’s word, they entered into a sphere that they had never experienced before. Paul taught that even through his own person, God was teaching by a different and opposite manner than what is learned from the rudiments of the world. The Galatians received a messenger who, according to the world, would attract no attention. His personality was not especially attractive or charismatic and besides, he seemed to have some physical defect: “That which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself” (4:14). The fact that they so appreciated the word, accompanied by heavenly gifts that they were receiving, turned the bad appearance of the human vessel, who shared these things with them, into an angel (messenger) of God in their eyes: “It was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time… I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me” (verses 13, 15).

I don’t know if Paul’s unattractiveness was something temporal or permanent, but in whatever case, the Corinthians gave the following description of him: “His personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor. 10:10). It seems, according to what they said, that even his faculty for speaking was not at all compelling. Paul said this about himself, “I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1), and even more surprisingly, he confessed, I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). Something in Corinth had frightened Paul, because when he was there, the Lord said to him, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you…” (Acts 18:9-10). Maybe it is difficult to imagine the great apostle afraid and some people might think that Christians should never be afraid. However, Paul himself tells us that he was in Corinth in fear and trembling.

In the biographies of many men of God also, I have observed that all had their weaknesses and this causes me to understand that we do not triumph by our strength, but by putting our trust in the strength of the Holy Spirit. No lack in the personality of Paul was an obstacle for the work of the Spirit, either in Corinth, or in Galatia.

Isaiah prophesied of Jesus, “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men… like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem him (Is. 53:2, 3). That was God, when he came down from heaven, but… How the believers loved Him! How Zaccheus wanted to see Him! How the woman with the issue of blood wanted to get close to Him! How content Mary was at His feet! Only by the Spirit is it possible to see this beauty and only by Him can we experience this sublime love of God that passes all understanding.

Now can you see how important it is to think the thoughts of God and to be able to see things as He sees? Can you see that the weaker we are the stronger God can manifest Himself through us? The great contrast between the weakness of Paul and the charisma of the religious experts of the world made it easier for the Galatians to discern between that, which was of the flesh, and that, which was of the Spirit. If you believed the gospel because you were impressed by the wisdom, the charisma, the jokes… of a doctor, a professor, or a scientist… How do you know that the work was of God? And who gets the glory? “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord… so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:31; 2:5).

After all the good that the Galatians had received, they began to see things in a different way. Other influences had quenched the powerful work of the Spirit and they had been sidetracked. The Scripture was the same, but the teaching and the manner of seeing it were now different. The motivations of Jerusalem’s teachers were different, as well. Because they had not been sent by God, the only thing that they could do was to seek something for themselves, instead of having a jealousy for Christ. “They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them” (4:17). They only sought to control and manipulate people.

The great difficulty for the Galatians, if we want to arrive at the root of the problem that existed in Galatia, was that they were resisting the truth. “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (4:16) The truth hurts, disturbs our plans, contradicts our opinions, and detains our ambitions. The truth is a friend that is difficult to appreciate. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6). Paul was faithful in loving them; he spoke the truth and for it, he paid the consequences. God could have said the same to him that He said to Samuel, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me” (1 Sam. 8:7). Jesus said, “I am the truth”, and he who rejects truth, does not reject man, but Jesus Himself.


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