Grace and peace to you Beloved in the name of Jesus Christ. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps.118:24) Let us come before God’s throne with thanksgiving and worship the Triune God of heaven and earth. (Heb.4:16, Ps.95:2, Heb.12:28, Ps.45:15)
God has revealed Himself to us in nature as a God of wisdom and power and goodness. (Acts 14:15-17, Mt.5:44-45) And God has revealed Himself to us in Scripture as a God of grace and mercy and love and forgiveness and peace. All bound up in Christ. (2 Tim.3:14-17, Rom.8:32)
We are going to worship God in His word this morning. Please take out your Bible and read along with me – Galatians 1:1-5. Hear the infallible and inerrant and inspired word of 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.
Without the Spirit’s help we cannot worship rightly. (Jn.4:23-24) Let’s ask and seek and knock and pray to God and pray for the Holy Spirit’s assistance and blessing upon our worship today. (Mt.7:7-8) Pray.
Last time together in our first sermon in this new series from the book of Galatians we looked at the truth of God’s grace. It is a common word among Christians. We know sometimes common things are so common that we do not even know what they mean. People raised in the church learn the language of the church without even thinking. It is like the air we breathe. But the truth of God’s grace is so vitally important that we cannot assume upon the comprehension of it, just because we have heard of it, or even because we have spoken of it. We must know it. We must have it.
Grace means fundamentally a gift. Grace as gift in the Bible is often contrasted with works or with works and wages. (Rom.4:4, 11:6, 2 Tim.1:9) In this way we can say God’s gift and our works are utter opposites. (Gal.3:11-13) They cannot be mingled without destroying grace. Even though the language of the perverters of the gospel of pure grace speak like this, oh, we are saved by grace, by graced-faith and by graced-works. Oh beloved, that is what Paul is writing against. Graced works for salvation are works and not grace at all. (Rom.11:5-6, 9:30-33, 10:1-17, 3:28) As an aside beware of teachers that hyphenate anything to faith.
And the gift that grace refers to specifically is the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ the Savior. That is why we speak of grace as saving grace. We call this God’s grace because God gives this amazing grace of salvation in Jesus. It is His to give. He does so because He is sovereign Lord.
And because He is a God of love. (I Jn.4:1-12) God loves sinners. God loves to save sinners. If I would not be guilty of vain repetition (Mt.6:7), I think it would make a good sermon to just repeat that over and over again until we really believed it. Until it got into our hearts. Until we wept tears of love and joy and thankfulness over it.
Beloved, God is kind to ungrateful and evil men and women and boys ands girls. (Lk.6:35-37) He says that He is in His Bible. He proves that He is upon Calvary’s Cross. (Jn.3:16, I Jn.4:10)
We know that He is because we have tasted of His goodness and love and mercy and forgiveness. (Ps.34:8-10) God in Christ the Savior has saved us. It is the kindness of God that has led us to repentance. (Rom.2:3-4, WCF 15.1-6, WLC 76, WSC 87)
And we know what we know. (2 Tim.1:12-14, I Tim.1:12-16, I Jn.5:13, Jn.20:31) The grace of salvation is written in the Bible. The grace of salvation is written in our hearts. (Heb.10:16-26) Christ has changed us. In Christ we are new creatures. (2 Cor.5:14-21) Pure gift. Pure grace.
For this morning we are considering verses one through five. These verses are a salutation or a greeting. Remember the ‘book’ of Galatians is more like a letter than an actual ‘book’. The word epistle actually means letter. So, Paul writes this letter according to the common custom of letter writing in his day. Paul writes this letter somewhere near A.D. 50.
In general, a letter had three parts: a greeting, the body of the letter (with various parts) and then finally the conclusion or the postscript.
As an aside. I listen to Alexander Scourby read through the Bible, the KJV Bible. The other day I listened to him read Galatians, I think it was just over fifteen minutes. By the way, this is a very good practice when you are going to do a Bible study. Read through the whole letter all at once before you descend down to examine the particulars. After all God inspired the letters to at first be read through all at once.
I know this may appear so evident that it does not need mentioning, but I think it does. Beloved even the fact that this letter is written in a real historical style points to the historicity of our holy faith in Holy Christ. The realness of the communication testifies of the realness of the content of the communication, the gospel.
Beloved our holy faith is not an old wives’ tale or a worldly fable. (I Tim.4:7-16, 2 Pt.1:16) The Bible is not written like Sci-fi, because it is not science fiction or any other kind of fiction. The Bible is written as fact because it is fact. And we should believe every word of it as real and true and as the very word of God. And then build our lives upon it. (Mt.7:13-29, Lk.6:46) The Christian faith is both a historical faith and an experimental faith. It is true. We believe it is true.
Now within the greeting there were also customary parts and Paul includes them. The sender will identify himself. So, from whom. From the apostle Paul. The audience will be identified, to whom. To the churches of Galatia. The sender will formally greet his audience. Paul does that. Paul and the brothers to the churches in Galatia.
Paul is writing to the churches of Galatia. Notice that Paul says church(es) plural. Galatia is a region in central Asia Minor (modern Turkey) within the Roman empire.
Saying Galatia in a way it is like saying ‘New England’. New England is a region, it consists of six states. They are Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The states that comprised Galatia were Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. There may have been more cities within Galatia. (Acts 16:6, 18:23, I Cor.16:1, Gal.1:2, 2 Tim.4:10, I Pt.1:1)
The NT records the three missionary journeys of the apostle Paul. Paul evangelized in Galatia on his first missionary endeavor. This is recorded in Acts 13 and 14. So we can say that God used Paul to start churches in the region. And now the Holy Spirit inspires him to further help these brothers and sisters in Christ stay in the Narrow Path of Christ.
Then finally there will be some expression of thanksgiving and or blessing. In this case, Paul gives a Biblical blessing. And what I would call a NT blessing or a Gospel blessing.
Within this greeting I want us to look at two things this morning, the messenger and the Message. The apostle Paul. And the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s begin with the messenger. The apostle Paul did not begin life as the apostle Paul.
What Paul was by nature.
The Bible tells us that before Paul was a disciple and an apostle of Jesus that he was Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 9:11-12)
He was born a Jew. He was born into the household of faith. He was born having the oracles and the ordinances of God that taught and represented Christ crucified. (Rom.3:1-2)
And he was a Jew that hated Christ and hated Christians, by his own profession. So, he was an unbeliever. He had no faith in God. But he thought he did. The Bible says if you reject Jesus the Son of God as the Messiah then you do not know or love God the Father. (I Jn.1:3, 2:22-24, 4:14-15) He had a Bible and sacraments and he was unconverted. But he thought he was converted.
And he was of the strictest sect of the Jews. He himself tells us, in Philippians chapter three, that he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. (Phil.3:1-14)
He tells us that he had one of the best religious teachers of his day, Gamaliel. So, we would say, he had the best seminary education of his time. (Acts 22:3, 5:34) The best religious professor of the day did not know Jesus Christ. He was a blind guide. He taught Saul-Paul, a blind man, to also be a blind guide. All the while thinking they were guiding lights to God, to salvation, to heaven. But utterly lost, still on the broad path to damnation for their sins. (Mt.15:14, Rom.2:17-29) In fact, he was helping others stay in their sins? Oh beloved, the power of unbelief and self-deception is unbelievably powerful. Only the grace of God can overwhelm it.
Saul’s hope for his salvation was in himself. He trusted in his Jewishness. He trusted in his own observance to various laws, both the perversion of the divine law, and also the addition of the laws of men. He tells us he did. (Phil.3:5-6, Mk.7:1-13)
Beloved, he was a legalist. Legalists try to earn their salvation by their own works. You can tell a legalist because they always add the laws of man to the law of God. They always hate salvation by pure grace in Christ because real grace robs men of their merit. Real grace strikes at the unbeliever’s real god, their pride. The legalist worships self. So, they oppose the Savior.
You see the legalist thinks by his law-keeping he is entering into the doorway of heaven, but by rejecting the grace of God in Christ alone they are actually shutting the door of salvation. (Mt.23:13, Jn.10:1-10)
And for Saul-Paul he was a true believer in his own false gospel so much so that he tried to stop the preaching of the true Gospel. So much so that he arrested Christians and threw them in jail. He breathed out murderous threats against them. (Acts 9:1) He held the coats of those that stoned Stephen to death. (Acts 7:58, 22:20) He thought by murdering Stephen that he was doing a pleasing work to God! (Jn.16:2)
Beloved, legalists are often the busiest religious people you will ever meet. They have to be busy. They are earning their salvation. And not only are legalists busy, but they are also unloving, they are unmerciful, they are unforgiving, they are bitter and mean-spirited. Legalism has no place for mercy, mercy is love for the guilty sinner. Legalism pleads no mercy. Righteous people do not need mercy. (Mk.2:17, Lk.5:32)
And legalism gives no mercy. Legalism says, do or die. This is the Law Beloved. The Law has no mercy. Only the gospel has mercy, God’s provision for the broken Law.
Oh beloved, I am almost trembling that any Christian should be unloving and unmerciful. It shows we think we are good before God. It shows we disdain men. It shows we do not know Christ. It shows we are legalists. It shows that we are strangers to grace or fallen from grace. (Jn.7:49, Jn.9:34, Lk.18:9-17, Lk.7:36-50, 15:11-32, Mt.6:14-15)
Beloved hear the word of God.
James 2:13. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Luke 6:36. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure– pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
What Paul became by grace.
Oh beloved, what a wicked, wicked self-righteous sinner Saul was. What should God do such a wicked man, a man that helped men commit cold blooded murder of one of Christ’s lambs? The wages of sin is death. (Rom.6:23, I Cor.6:9-11)
But what did God do to Saul? Did He give him what His Law demanded? What Saul deserved? No. God gave Him Christ. God gave Christ what Saul deserved. God gave Saul grace. And God gave Christ justice, on behalf of Saul. That is the Gospel. (Ps.32:1-11, Rom.4:2-8)
Beloved it was grace that changed Saul into Paul. It was Christ that made him a new creature, a new person.
While Paul was in the very act of opposing Christ, Christ came to him. Oh beloved, please get that. Christ the Savior moved to the sinner when the sinner was still dead in his sins and trespasses. Saul was not asking for Christ. Saul was not looking for Christ. Christ was looking for Saul. (Eph.2:1-9)
Christ was not sitting in heaven wishing and hoping sinners would come to Him. Beloved, sinners do not want Christ. Christ wants sinners. Christ calls to sinners.
Jesus sent another disciple named Ananias to minister to Saul. But Ananias was afraid to go to Saul because he hated Christ and Christians so much, but Jesus said this,
Acts 9:15. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Saul was a chosen instrument. He was one of God’s elect. Beloved being elect and being saved are not the same things. We are all dead in our sins and trespasses by fallen nature. Even the elect. We were children of wrath even as the rest. Election ensures in due time Christ will be applied to us with efficacy. So, God in due time gives us faith. (Eph.2:1-9, Acts 13:48)
The Holy Spirit graced Paul with faith in Jesus. Paul has gone from darkness to light, from death to life.
Jesus has saved Paul a Jew, an unbelieving church member. Unbelieving church people need saving. Christ alone saves them. Oh beloved think of that. Do not be offended. The church does not save. Christ saves.
The Bible says that Christ is sent to the Jew first. And then to the Gentile. Christ saves the lost sheep from the house of Israel. God fulfills His word. In Paul. In Peter. In James and John. Almost all of the early apostolic church came from the Jews. Salvation is of the Jews. And to the Jews first.
But then in the wisdom of almighty God, look at what Christ will do with this man the once zealous Jew and a hater of Gentiles, Jesus makes him an apostle to the Gentiles! (Rom.11:13, Eph.3:1-12, Acts 11:18-26, 9:1-18)
Oh beloved, this is the power of the Gospel. And I will say, only the power of the Gospel. The love of God in Christ transforms us. It makes us love people that we once hated. It makes us revel in the mercy of God. It makes us lavish mercy on other sinners. As Christ has lavished mercy on us.
God is the One that places each Believer where God wants us in the body of Christ. Read Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12. Christ called Paul as a mouth, a herald, an ambassador, a preacher, a teacher, an evangelist, a missionary.
This is very important. Some Christians try to silence the herald. They say, oh do not speak about Christ, show people Christ. Do not preach Jesus. Live Jesus. Oh beloved, that is not biblical. It is not right. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom.10:1-17)
We come to know Jesus savingly by believing the truth of the gospel. The Gospel is the words of the work of Jesus. Written words or spoken words. The devil wants to silence the pulpit. The devil wants to silence the evangelist. The devil wants to silence you. Jesus says shout what I have taught you from the rooftops. (Mt.10:27)
God has called Paul to speak of Christ. Paul says woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. (I Cor.9:16) I am not saying every Christian is a preacher. They are not. But I am saying every preacher must speak the words of God, they must preach the Law, they must preach the gospel. That is the call of God on their life.
See how this has worked for Paul. Unbeliever. Sinner. Saved. Did not know Jesus as Lord and Savior. And then he comes to believe Jesus is the Christ. He comes to believe Jesus alone saves.
Then Christ sends him out to preach Christ. Oh beloved, we cannot give away what we ourselves do not possess. A saved sinner can tell other sinners that Jesus saves sinners. Now in Jesus Paul can go to Jews and say, Jesus saves Jews. Now in Jesus, Paul can say to legalists, Jesus saves legalists.
In fact, what better person to write the defense of the true gospel against the legalistic counterfeit gospel than the apostle Paul?! This is exactly what he says in Philippians 3:1-14.
Listen to what Paul himself owes his commission to.
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),
Jesus saved this persecutor of the church. The one who tried to stop Christ, is the one that God changes to promote Christ! Grace. Great grace. (Gal.1:23) God Himself sends Paul out.
Part of the reason why Paul tells the Galatians that his authority to preach the Gospel of Jesus comes from God and not man is that lying teachers had crept into the church and they were opposing the gospel that Paul taught.
These deceivers refuted Paul’s authority. These deceivers refuted Paul’s Gospel. (Acts 20:28-30)
They rejected the gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. (Acts 15:1-5) Oh beloved, this is not strange. Men did this to Christ. Men do this to Christ’s servants. Jesus says, if you listen to Me then you will listen to My apostles. If you do not believe Me, you will not believe My apostles. (Jn.15:20, Jer.7:27, Ezek.2:7)
Paul says, God sent me. Paul asserts his authority because he wants to assert the authority of the gospel. The gospel is at stake. God Himself gave me this Gospel. The Risen Jesus gave me His gospel.
Oh Beloved, do you see that ancient lie of the devil at work here in the letter to the Galatians as regards to salvation? (Gen.3:1-8) It is one of authority. And ultimate authority at that? Will we submit to the word of God? Or will we follow the word of Man, as he himself follows Satan?
And Paul tells us a summary of what Jesus Christ Himself sent him out to preach.
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,
Christ. Paul has been sent out by Christ to preach Christ. We have been saying this all along. Jesus is the main subject of his teaching. Christ Crucified, Christ risen fills his sermons. He leaves social, political, culture things to other people. (2 Tim.2:3-4) He is solely devoted to Christ. Listen to his advice to pastor Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:1. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
I Timothy 5:15. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
Look at how Paul summarizes the gospel.
Christ died for our sins.
Christ died to rescue us from this present age.
Christ died according to the will of the Father. (Isa.53:1-12)
The gospel is a very explicit message. It is an exclusive truth about the unique and exclusive person and work of Jesus Christ. We are sinners. Christ is the Savior of sinners.
Beloved, sin is lawlessness. Either doing what God forbids or not doing what God requires. And the divine penalty for any and every sin is death, separation from the friendly presence of God. Oh men think so lightly of sin. And they is why they see no need of Savior Christ.
There is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. We have peace with God the Father because Christ shed His blood for our peace. Christ made peace with God for us on Calvary. Christ bore the curse for sins, so that we would not. (Gal.3:13) This is the message of the Cross.
Then Paul tells us that the death of Christ rescues us from this present evil age. The idea is one of ransom from slavery, freedom from debtors’ prison.
I Timothy 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man
Titus 2:13. looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
Ephesians 5:2. and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
One man writes, Christianity is a rescue religion. (John Stott) I love that. Very insightful.
The gospel of the Cross is weakness to the Jews. The Gospel of the Cross is foolishness to the Gentiles. But the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe. (Rom.1:1-13)
I will point out something. Paul is a Jew writing to Gentiles. He is a Jew saved by the gospel of the Cross. He is giving to Gentiles the gospel of the Cross. The same Gospel for Jew and Greek. All people have the same spiritual need before God. (Rom.3:9-18, 6:23, Jn.3:16)
External differences do not matter before God. They are all important to man. But they mean nothing to God. A black sinner and a white sinner are both guilty sinners before holy God. The difference is as trivial as one sinner wearing one color coat and the other one a different color. The same is true for wealth. A wealthy sinner and a poor sinner are equally utterly morally destitute before God. (Gal.3:13-29, Rev.5:9)
Beloved, I was the will of the Father to put the Son of His love to death for your sins that He might save you and receive you to Himself. It was God’s will to save you in Christ.
Oh, what a God we have!
Oh, what a Savior we have!
Oh, what a Salvation we have!
- What does God’s grace mean? What does it do for man? Does man work or earn his salvation? Why? Why not? (Rom.4:4, 11:6, 2 Tim.1:9, Gal.3:11-13, Rom.11:5-6, 9:30-33, 10:1-17, 3:28)
- What does it means when the Bible says God is love? Does God love sinners? Does God love to save sinners? Explain your answer from the Bible? And from experience. (I Jn.4:1-12, Lk.6:35-37, Jn.3:16, Ps.34:8-10, Rom.2:3-4, WCF 15.1-6, WLC 76, WSC 87, 2 Tim.1:12-14, I Tim.1:12-16, I Jn.5:13, Jn.20:31, Heb.10:16-26, 2 Cor.5:14-21)
- What are some things we learn about the churches in Galatia? (Acts 16:1-24, I Pt.1:16, Mt.28:18-20, Acts 1:1-10, Gen.22:18, Gal.3:14-29, Rev.5:9, Jn.10:11-16, Rom.10:1-17)
- Can you be a member of the church and unconverted? Why? Why not? Who and what was the apostle Paul before he was converted? (Acts 8:1-4, Acts 9:1-5, Acts 22:1-7, Phil.3:1-14, Rom.3:9-18, Acts 22:3, 5:34, Mt.15:14, Rom.2:17-29, Gal.1:23, I Tim.1:11-16)
- What is a legalist? Is loving God’s law legalism? What are some marks of a legalist? (Phil.3:1-14, Mk.7:1-13, Lk.15:25-32, Lk.18:9-14, Jn.16:2, Mk.2:17, Lk.5:32, Jn.7:49, Jn.9:34, Lk.18:9-17, Lk.7:36-50, 15:11-32, Mt.6:14-15, Gal.1:6-10, Gal.2:11-21, Gal.3:1-11)
- Who and what was Paul after he was converted? How was he converted? (Acts 9:1-20, I Tim.1:11-14, Gal.1:1-5, Rom.1:1-7, I Cor.1:1-9, Jn.3:1-9, Eph.2:1-9, Titus 3:1-7, I Cor.6:9-11, 2 Cor.5:14-21)
- Why does Paul states his office of apostle? Why use his title of authority? (Gal.1:1, Mt.28:18-20, Acts 20:28-30, Acts 15:1-5, Jn.15:20, Jer.7:27, Ezek.2:7, Jn.13:16-20, Mt.10:40, Lk.10:16, I Jn.4:6, Jn.15:20, Rom.10:1-17)
- What is the gospel? How does Paul summarize the gospel in Galatians 1:3-4? Can you ‘live’ the gospel to another person? Why? Why not? How is the gospel conveyed? (I Cor.15:1-6, Jn.3:16, Rom.5:1-10, Eph.2:1-9, John 17:1-17, Rom.10:1-17)
- How is Christianity a ‘rescue religion’? Rescue from what? Or from whom? Of for what? Who is the kinsmen redeemer-rescuer? How does he redeem-rescue? (see WCF 20.1, Isa.61:1-3, Col.1:13)
- Why is the gospel the only remedy for all types of people? (i.e. black and white, rich and poor, democrats and republicans)? What does this teach us about man? What does this teach us about the gospel of Christ? (Rom.3:9-18, 6:23, Gal.3:14-29, Revl.5:9, Mt.28:18-20)