The worship of God.

Today is an exciting day. Today is the day we gather to worship God in His word, which is always exciting. (Ps.122:1, Ps.16:11) But it is doubly exciting for me because we are starting a new sermon series. Today we are beginning the book of Galatians. What an amazing book. A book that extols the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, while at the same time warns the church from defecting from the true gospel of grace for a legal, man’s-works based gospel which is no gospel. (Col.2:13-23)

The Christ of God.

Luther called this book ‘my Katherine’, meaning ‘my wife’. He believed that the truth of this book was utterly inseparable from being a true Christian. The truths of the true gospel are utterly necessary to be believed to be saved. (Jn.3:16,36, WCF 14.2, WSC 85-86)

God used this book to free the gospel of grace from the tyranny of the Roman Church, which among other things taught the necessity of man’s good works to merit justification. We think of Martin Luther writing his 95 point thesis against the Roman doctrine of indulgences which is connected with the Roman doctrine of ‘the Treasury of Merit’ which refers to doing more good works than the moral law of God demands. Doing more good than the law demands is not possible. (Rom.3:9-18)

Nevertheless, they call this supererogation. And so, these extra good works get placed into this fictitious treasury to be dispensed by indulgences by the pope for ‘regular’ Christians that fall short of doing what the law demands. What spiritual slavery.

This was one of the NT books, if not the NT book, along with the book of Romans, that God used for the Protestant Reformation, from which we get the five solas.  Sola Scriptura. By Scripture alone. Sola Fide. By Faith alone. Sola Gratia. By Grace alone. Solus Christus. Through Christ alone. Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God alone.

Beloved, the gospel is the truth that the devil and his servants always attack. They never give up. Believers always have to guard the truth of Christ Crucified from corruption. We always have to stand firm that Christ and His blood alone are our only hope in life and death. (Heb.10:23, 4:14, I Thess.5:21, 2 Tim.4:3, Titus 2:1)

The flesh of man always wants to present his so-called good works over Christ’s perfect work. (Lk.18:9-14), Mt.19:16-22, Phil.3:1-14) To add just one of our works to Christ’s work destroys grace as Paul says in the book of Romans. (Rom.11:5-6) What a needful book Galatians is.  Our God is Jehovah Jireh. (Gen.22:14) He provides for the protection of His Gospel and therefore of His people.

The revelation of God.

With that said, please open up your Bible to Galatians chapter one. I will read verses one to five. Hear the perfect word of our holy and perfect God. Read.

Galatians 1:1. Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. 

The assistance of God.

We need the assistance of God the Holy Spirit to help us understand His word.

Christ tells us to ask in His name, to ask believing and He will do it for us. (Mk.11:24, Mt.18:19, 21:22, Jn.14:13, 16:23-24) James tells us if we lack wisdom in the Word that we should pray in faith and not doubt that God will illuminate our understanding. (Jas.1:5-8, 1:17) John tells us that if we ask anything according to His will that He will grant it to us. (I Jn.5:10-15) We know it is God’s will for us to know His word. (Jn.17:1-17, 2 Tim.3:14-17) All these blessed promises taken together give us confidence that we need just ask our heavenly Father and He will give it. (Mt.7:7-11, Heb.4:14-16, I Jn.2:20-27) Let’s pray.

The grace of God.

The overall theme to the book of Galatians is the defense of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Good New of salvation by pure grace. (Jn.1:14,16,17, Acts 20:24)

Since this is our first sermon, I think it is necessary to first understand this fundamental truth of God’s grace.  Next week Lord willing we can unpack the particulars of this salutation in verses one through five.

Today we will look at the grace of God as expressed in V.3, which is obviously connected with V.4 to the person and the work of Jesus Christ.  We are going to define grace and to see how it is related to the gospel.

In V.3. Paul uses this phrase, Grace to you. This is probably a phrase that many of us are familiar with because of John MacArthur and his Grace Community Church which are in the news lately. His popular ministry is called “Grace to You”, obviously taken from V. 3.

Let’s understand what the grace of God is.

Hebrew. The prevalent OT Hebrew word for grace is (c)hen with a guttural ‘h’ sound. It means favor, a gift.  For our purposes, it primarily means God having saving favor upon His people. So we would call this saving grace.

Greek. The main NT Greek word for grace is charis, this is the word that Paul uses here in V.3. It is clearly being used in connect with salvation in Jesus. Again, saving grace or gift or favor. Sometimes called special grace.

I understand that some people also speak of what they call ‘common grace’, I prefer the term the common goodness of God, which refers to God’s goodness upon all men giving rain and sunshine and the like. (Mt.5:45, Acts 14:15-17, Ps.19:1-6)  But let’s save that discussion for another day. The grace of God that I want us to see today is saving grace. Saving from sin. Saving from the wages of sin. Saving for God’s love and service. (WCF 20.1) This is what Paul is speaking about in our passage.

Listen to how grace is used in the Psalms.

Psalm 84:11. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Ezra 9:8, Ps.45:2, Prov.3:34, Zech.4:7)

Divine gift.

We learn that saving grace or gracious salvation belongs to God, it is His to give.

Notice that the covenantal name for God is used, Yahweh or Jehovah, I AM that I AM. (Exod.3:6-15) This means that saving grace only comes to us by the true and the living God of the Bible, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; one blessed God, who alone is God.  (Dt.6:4-9, Mk.12:29-31)

James says this…

James 1:17. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Grace does not come from man. It is not a gift that men can extend to other men. Not in the way that we are considering grace as saving grace.

I once heard a preacher speak about Believers extending ‘grace’ to God. Beloved, that is wrong. God does not need saving grace. The same error is seen when men say things like this, I ‘forgave’ God for doing such and so. Beloved, this is ignorance at best, blasphemy at worse. Forgiveness cannot be extended to God. He is perfect. Sinners need grace. Sinners need forgiveness.

Think: God’s gift. God’s grace. God’s favor. God’s salvation.  He is the possessor of all good that we need.

Grace is the one word used to denote every good thing or blessing of God. For the recipients of God’s saving grace or favor God has given us every blessing He has. Stop and think about that Beloved!  Saving grace is what John Newton sung about – Amazing Grace!

This is what Paul says God has graced us with, gifted us with in Romans chapter eight. God has given us His Son. And in His Son every other good thing. (Rom.8:14-39) Divine gift.

Mediated gift.

Now the next thing I want us to see about this divine grace is that it comes to us through a Mediator. And the only Mediator between God and Man is the God-Man Christ Jesus. (I Tim.2:1-5) 

We know that Christ Himself takes this covenant name LORD, I AM, ego emi, to Himself. I am the bread of Life. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the good shepherd who gives eternal life. (Jn.14:6) Before Abraham was, I AM. (Jn.8:58)  His name shall be called Immanuel, God with us, and He shall save His people from their sins. (Mt.1:21-23)

See how our passage implies the Deity of Christ. The divine gift of grace comes through the Father and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, because our Savior is fully God and fully Man. His true Humanity makes it possible for Him to die for our sins. (Heb.10:4-12, Ps.40:6-8, WLC 38-40)

Galatians 1:3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Beloved, saving grace only comes through Jesus Christ. (Eph.2:8, Jn.1:14-17)

The Holy Spirit through the apostle John tells us this…

John 1:14. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

Paul states this same truth by saying that there is salvation in no other name than in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12)

Sovereign gift.

And the Lord gives saving grace in Christ as He sees fit. God sends the revelation of Christ to those He wishes. And God graces or gifts saving faith in the Savior to those He wishes as well.

Listen to the word of God.

John 1:10. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Acts 13:48. When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Ephesians 2:1. And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Beloved, this is why we speak of grace as sovereign grace. We mean sovereign-sovereign. The God of the Bible is Lord of all. He does what He wants. Men may intimidate other men to do what they want. But no man intimidates God. He sits in heaven and laughs at the threats of man. (Ps.2:1-12)

Unregenerate man thinks he or she is the sovereign lord of their life. But God is sovereign Lord. This is why Natural Man hates true saving grace because it testifies God is Lord and Savior and not man. Man lusts for man-made salvation so man can be his own savior, his own god.

Our flesh is opposed to divine grace. Our flesh perverts God’s grace into man’s works. We are all legalists by fallen nature.

Beloved, again God bestows saving grace in Christ upon whom He wishes. No one merits it. All have demerited it. (Rom.3:9-18, 6:23) No one can induce God to give it. He gifts salvation to sinners in His Savior as He sees fit. And no one can charge Him with wrong. The pot may not speak back to the Potter. Though they often do. (Dan.4:28-37)

Listen to how Paul speaks of this sovereign gift of salvation in Christ. 

Romans 9:11. for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (Rom 9:17-23)

Loving gift.

Now hear what God says about His saving grace through His prophet Jeremiah. 

Jeremiah 31:2. Thus says the LORD, “The people who survived the sword Found grace in the wilderness– Israel, when it went to find its rest.” 3 The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.

The aspect of God’s saving grace in the Savior I want us to see here is love. God’s saving grace is an expression of His everlasting love. God’s saving grace draws us to Him savingly with lovingkindness, with hesed, with covenant mercies. And this is because of the covenant of grace or because of the gospel of grace.

God the Father gave to God the Son a people to save – out of love. God the Son went to the cross out of love. This is loving grace or gracious love. (Jn.17:1-17)

Jeremiah 31:2, The people who survived the sword Found grace in the wilderness. God gives His grace to the afflicted, to the needy, to those in the wilderness. God’s saving love to needy sinners is His mercy.

God’s saving grace gives the weary rest.  Christ says this… 

Matthew 11:24. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 “Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Saving grace is God’s to give, but He does give it beloved. Because He is a God of love. (I Jn.4:1-21) And because He delights to save. (Zeph.3:17, Ps.147:11, 149:4, Ezek.18:23, 33:11)

John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Free gift.

Next, I want us to see the free nature of this saving grace.

In the strict sense of things our gracious salvation is connected to the idea of cost or merit or works; just not ours. Our salvation cost God the Father the death of His dear Son Christ Jesus. (Isa.53:1-12) Jesus Christ satisfied the justice and the wrath of God for us. Christ paid. (WCF 7.2, WLC 30-32, Rom.5:12-21, I Cor.15:45) We do not pay.

Beloved, do not listen to any minister that speaks against what they call “cheap grace” and what they offer in its place is the works of man. Beloved, be careful that men do not cheat you out of Christ’s obedience and throw you back on your own obedience. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Instead, listen to the word of God.

Galatians 1:4. who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Romans 3:21. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

Salvation to us is all gift, all grace. God’s gift to us is without cost to us, otherwise it is not a gift.

I know that sounds silly. But this is ‘the’ great problem that was plaguing the Galatians. They added man’s partial payment to God’s gift of salvation. Grace is gift-gift, otherwise as Paul says elsewhere salvation becomes a wage, something we (in part) earn for which God is obligated to pay our wages. (Gal.2:15-21, Rom.3:27-28, 4:2, 5:1-9, 1:17, Hab.2:4, Eph.2:8-9, Gal.2:21, Phil.3:9)

Romans 4:4. Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.

In this way, in the Bible, when God speaks of grace it is a contrast to man’s works.

We will pick up this truth in future sermons. But what I want us to see here as regards to this sovereign gift of salvation in Christ is that God gets all the glory. It is His from top to bottom. If I could put it this way, God the Father plans redemption, God the Son accomplished redemption, and then God the Holy Spirit applies redemption. All His doing. All pure gift to us.

Jonathan Edwards said this, we contribute nothing to our salvation, except that our sin made it necessary.

Effectual gift.

The last thing I want us to consider about saving grace is that it is effectual. Of course in this I would include the classic reformed idea of irresistible grace.  God making the new creation, the new man, the new woman in Christ. (Gen.1:3-5, 2 Cor.4:6)

Titus 3:4. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Philippians 1:29. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, (Jn.6:65, Acts 10:40, 11:18, Gal.3:18, 2 Tim.1:9, 2 Pt.1:3-4)

God the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of a new heart. God does it. God the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith. He grants us graced repentance over our sin. We mourn for our sin. He hate our sin. We see that there is the mercy of God in Christ Jesus and so we fly to Him.

Listen how Zechariah puts this.

Zechariah 12:10. I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Rom.8:14, I Cor.2:10-14, 1 Cor.6:11, 12:3, I Pt.1:1-23) 

Lastly, see that God connects grace with glory. 

Psalm 84:11. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Ezra 9:8, Ps.45:2, Prov.3:34, Zech.4:7) 

The notion is that the gift of salvation that God gives to us here on earth will have its completion in heaven. Paul will tell us the good work that God began in us, He will bring it to completion. (Phil.1:6) God by His saving grace is conforming you into the image of Jesus Christ. He is doing it. (Heb.7:25, 13:5-6, Ps.118:6)

Now in Christ we are in the kingdom of grace. Soon and very soon we will be in the kingdom of glory. (I Pt.5:10-12) All gift. All in Christ, God’s gift to us. Our Christ loses no sheep. (Jn.6:37-39, 17:1-24, 10:27-28) All the recipients of grace will arrive in glory.

Amen

Study Questions.

  1. Why should Believers rejoice in corporate worship? What parties are involved in corporate worship? What does corporate worship teach us? What are the ordinary elements of corporate worship? (Jn.3:16, Ps.122:1, Ps.16:11, Phil. 4:6, Ps. 65:2, Jn.14:13-14; 1 Pt.2:5, Rom. 8:26, Mt.6:12-15, Acts 15:21, Rev.1:3, 2 Tim.4:2, Heb.12:28, WCF 21.5)
  1. What is the Roman Catholic teaching on ‘indulgences’ and ‘the treasury of merit’? How does this strike at the sufficient sacrifice of Christ? (Rom.3:9-18, Jn.19:18-30, Heb.10:11-14, Eph.1:20, Acts 7:55-56, Rom.8:34, Heb.10:23, 4:14, I Thess.5:21, 2 Tim.4:3, Titus 2:1)
  1. What is prayer? And why is prayer so vital to vital faith in Christ? What does it mean to pray in faith? What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? How can we pray doubting? Who assists us in our prayers? Why should we pray before, during and after we read the Bible?  Do you pray? 😊  (Mk.11:24, Mt.18:19, 21:22, Jn.14:13, 16:23-24, Jas.1:5-8, 1:17, I Jn.5:10-15, Jn.17:1-17, 2 Tim.3:14-17, Mt.7:7-11, Heb.4:14-16, I Jn.2:20-27)
  1. What is the main theme of the book of Galatians? (Jn.1:14,16,17, Acts 20:24, Gal.2:15-21, Rom.3:27-28, 4:2, 5:1-9, 1:17, Hab.2:4, Eph.2:1-9, Gal.2:21, Phil.3:9)
  1. What is the main Hebrew OT word for grace? What is the general meaning of this word? What is the main NT Greek word for grace? What is the general meaning of this word? Why do we often refer to grace as saving grace? (Ps.84:11-12, Ezra 9:8, Ps.45:2, Prov.3:34, Zech.4:7, Gal.1:3, Rom.1:5-7, Rom.5:15, Gal.1:15)
  1. How is saving grace a divine gift? And not a gift from Man? What does this teach us about God? About grace? About Man? (Ps.84:11, Zech.4:7, Exod.3:6-15, Dt.6:4-9, Mk.12:29-31, James 1:17, Rom.8:14-39, Eph.2:8, Gal.2:20, Titus 2:11-14, Acts 15:11, Rom.3:24, 11:6)
  1. Is it right to ‘forgive God’ for something that God has done to you or to yours? Why? Why not? (Gen.18:25, Job 1:18-22, Dan.4:34-37, Job 40:1-10, Job 42:1-6, I Jn.3:9, Heb.6:18, Titus 1:2, James 1:13, I Pt.1:16, Isa.6:3, Ps.73:1-28, Isa.29:16, 64:8, Jer.18:1-9, Rom.9:14-24)
  1. Why is God’s saving grace given to us via a mediator? Who is the mediator through whom we receive the saving grace of God? What is the nature of this mediator of grace? What are the works of this mediator of grace? (WCF 7.1-3, WCF 21.2, Gal.1:3-4, I Tim.2:1-5, Jn.14:6, Jn.8:58, Mt.1:21-23, Heb.10:4-12, Ps.40:6-8, Eph.2:8, Jn.1:14-17, Acts 4:12)
  1. What is God’s sovereignty? How is saving grace an expression of God’s sovereignty? Does God give saving grace to all human beings alike? What are we taught about God by this? What are we taught about man and salvation in this? (Jn.1:10-13, Acts 13:48, Eph.2:1-9, Rom.9:6-23, Jn.6:65, Jn.17:1-17, Eph.5:23, Acts 20:23)
  1. How is saving grace an expression of the love of God to us? Does God ‘delight’ to damn sinners? Does God delight to save sinners? (Jn.3:16, Jer.31:2-3, Phil.1:29, Mt.11:24-30, I Jn.4:1-21, Zeph.3:17, Ps.147:11, 149:4, Ezek.18:23, 33:11)
  1. Does our salvation cost God anything? Did Christ pay anything to redeem us? Do we pay anything for our salvation? Why is God’s grace and man’s works as regards to meriting salvation opposed to each other? If Man merited his or her salvation by a good work of theirs what would that do to God’s grace? Why do men lust for works based salvation?   (Isa.53:1-12, WCF 7.2, WLC 30-32, Rom.5:12-21, I Cor.15:45, Gal.1:4, Rom.3:21-25, 4:4, Gal.2:15-21, Rom.3:27-28, 4:2, 5:1-9, 1:17, Hab.2:4, Eph.2:8-9, Gal.2:21, Phil.3:9)
  1. Interact with this quote by Jonathan Edwards, we contribute nothing to our salvation, except that our sin made it necessary.
  1. How is saving grace effectual? What will saving grace do for us? What will it accomplish? Why? (Gal.1:3-4, Gen.1:3-5, 2 Cor.4:6, Titus 3:4-7, Zech.12:10, Rom.8:14, I Cor.2:10-14, 1 Cor.6:11, 12:3, I Pt.1:1-23)
  1. What is the connection between saving grace and glory? (Ps.84:11-12, Ezra 9:8, Ps.45:2, Prov.3:34, Zech.4:7, Phil.1:6, Heb.7:25, 13:5-6, Ps.118:6, I Pt.5:10-12, Jn.6:37-39, 17:1-24, 10:27-28)
  1. Interact with this quote by Matthew Henry, grace in the soul is heaven in that soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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