Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—
Gal 1:2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
Gal 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
Gal 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
Gal 1:5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Pastor Michael Hansen and VCDC started a new series on the book of Galatians. It was one of his best sermons that I have heard so far. He discussed that in this letter, Paul was ticked that other teachers were teaching a gospel in which was not the message that Paul gave to the Galatians. Paul was writing to those that we would consider Christians or those that have accepted Jesus as God’s messiah which ushered in the “New Exodus”.
In the salutation of this letter (Gal. 1:1-5), Paul lets the Galatians know that it is he who is writing this letter to the churches which he planted in Galatia. His status is an Apostle called through Jesus Christ and God the Father (Gal. 1:1-2).
One of the key themes in this letter is that of what Grace is and what it isn’t. Paul explains that this grace (this gift) is from both God the Father and our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.
The Gospel literally means “good message” for which Paul is a herald of.
Michael’s first point is that the gospel is all about grace. Tim Keller writes:
The gospel comes and turns them all upside down. It says: You are in such a hopeless position that you need a rescue that has nothing to do with you at all. And then it says: God in Jesus provides a rescue which gives you far more than any false salvation your heart may love to chase. (Keller, Timothy. Galatians For You (God’s Word For You) (p. 5). The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition)
He then illustrated the point that the good news of the Gospel is embodied in Jesus Christ. He highlighted John 15:5 to give us a word picture of how we cannot do anything apart from him. John 15:5 says:
Joh 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
He said that the gospel that saves and rescues also keeps and preserves. When we become cut off from our vine and try to plug into vines that do not provide nourishment we become cut off from our life source who is Jesus. Do to the human condition of sin and brokenness, things will not be made right until Jesus takes us home. By us abiding in Christ, God is glorified.
Gal 1:6-9 ESV I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— (7) not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (8) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Michael’s next point is the attack of the gospel. Again, the purpose of this letter to the Galatians from Paul was to remind them of why they are part of the Kingdom. Many Jewish Christians tried to make the gentile believers living in Galatia Jews first, and then Christians and added Torah living as part of being a Christian. I call this Jesus and. The gospel is simply embodied in Jesus (nothing else). Keller writes about three perversions of the gospel:
- In some churches, it is implicitly or explicitly taught that you are saved through your “surrender” to Christ, plus right beliefs and behavior. This would be most “evangelical churches”.
- In other churches, it is taught that it doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you are a loving and good person. This is a typical mistake in “liberal” churches.
- A third example is found in churches that are extremely intolerant of small differences of dress or custom. The false teachers of Galatia wanted (as we will see) to impose many old rules and regulations having to do with dress, diet and ritual observances. Some fundamentalist churches resemble this today.
None of these methods or ways of salvation is the gospel. They are God’s grace plus something else. Paul uses extremely strong language to condemn those that preach something other than the good news of Jesus. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot surrender in our strength and do right things. We cannot do good and negate the fact that we are broken sinners that need our sins atoned for and live in broken perverted world that we won’t be fully free from until Jesus takes us home. We cannot just live moral and upright lives which will lead to enlightenment and salvation. Lastly adding things like giving up alcohol, gambling, and living a holy life will not save us as well. All of these fall short of what is true about God’s Passover mission in bringing in the “New Exodus” where we are delivered (rescued) from our sins and the curse of death.
Lastly, Michael’s last point was that the gospel and God’s grace produces fruit. Prior to meeting Jesus, Paul violently persecuted God’s church (Gal. 13-24). Paul did not go to Jerusalem for 3 years and after his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), he allowed Jesus to instruct him re-interpret the scriptures in light of the “New Exodus” ushered in on Calvary. The grace or gift that Paul received was a relationship with his God. Many people heard of what God was doing through Paul. Genuine relationship with Jesus always produces fruit. This was the case with Paul.
“There is no middle ground between Christian righteousness and works-righteousness. There is no other alternative to Christian righteousness but works righteousness; if you do not build your confidence on the work of Christ you must build your confidence on your own work.”
(Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, Preface)
Keller, Timothy. Galatians For You (God’s Word For You) (pp. 6-7). The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition.
Why this is important to me
The above is a quote from Martin Luther. I became a Christian in 1987 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church. When I was being confirmed, I met with Jim Wessel who was UALC’s Senior Pastor at the time. He reminded me of God’s Grace and that I could never be good enough to God. He also said that grace is a gift that I have to receive. Likewise, Luther was tormented by his own demons and desires to live such a pious life he drove his confessor crazy because he was constantly at confession. He believed he could lose his salvation. His confessor had him teach a class in Wittenburg to bring some clarity and understanding of some of the Pauline Epistles that may help his twisted view of God. While reading Romans and Galatians, he had an “aha” moment, that he could never be good enough for God. All he had to do was receive God’s gift of salvation through the work of Jesus. For the first time, he felt free and alive. That is what Galatians is all about. It is about freedom. Our human condition wants to earn our righteousness through tangible works and things. Grace is God coming to us, not us coming to God.