As we transition from a time of an interim with Pastor Mike to a time of preparation for our next pastor, we’re facing some unknowns. Satan would love nothing more than for us to cower back in our pews and be anxious about the unknown. But rest assured, we are pressing fully into the sufficiency of Christ and the fullness of His Glory and we are pursuing Him. As a result, we are not going to give Satan an opportunity to settle in due to our idleness.
We live in a day and time when we have things coming at us from all directions. Our young people are facing pressures today that were unheard of just 5-10 years ago. But the pressure is not just isolated to our young people. As adults, we also face pressures that previous generations never conceived. If we are not careful, and in the words of the old saying, we can let our guard down, and we can become complacent, and before we know it, we have allowed things to creep in to our life that we never intended to let happen. We have to be alert always! We must continue to pursue Christ.
Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia, serves as a warning to us about the need to be aware that things can enter the church that can and will lead us away from being what Christ desires us to be, more importantly, can lead us away from being the bride that Christ gave Himself up for. So with that,
Galatians 1:1-9 (NASB) – 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), and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 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, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
Normally, Paul opens his letters in such a way that says “he’s an apostle of Christ…and then he gives a warm greeting and thanksgiving to them…” However, when we start looking at Galatians, the introduction is a bit different. Because of that, we need to find out why.
1. Who we are
Paul starts his introduction by stating that he is an apostle. He’s done this in his other letters. However, here, he approaches his apostleship by looking through a different lens. Paul lays out that it is Christ who sent him. Not a church, not an organization, but Christ Himself and God the Father. This is important. The word apostle typically has 2 meanings. One meaning is one who is sent, like an ambassador or messenger. One that is sent by a person or an organization. The other typical meaning is one of the 12 who personally saw the resurrected Jesus and who were commissioned and empowered by the resurrected Christ to proclaim the gospel to the nations. Paul was being accused of not being a real apostle after his first missionary journey, going back to Acts 13 & 14, after setting up the churches in Asia Minor. So Paul begins by saying, “I am not sent by man nor anybody associated with man. I am sent by Christ and God who raised Him from the dead”.
By first establishing who was the “sending authority”, Christ Himself, Paul laid to rest the idea of “discount the messenger, discount the message”. We know what this is like. A common phrase that we use when we hear information is “consider the source”. The implication is that depending on where the information came from or who the information came from, will determine how much value or credibility we place in that information. You may have seen or heard this phrase. “If a blind person hears me, could they tell I was a Christian? If a deaf person sees me, could they see Christ living through me?” The point is that does the way we live our life reflect the message that we are trying to deliver to people. Or, do we provide opportunities for people to discount our message by the way we live and talk. Think back over this past week. How well did we do at reflecting Christ?
Paul then starts his greeting to the churches of Galatia. Unlike his other letters, this letter was sent to several churches, not just a specific church. So what we learn from that is, there was more than one church that was battling this problem? What problem was that? There was a group of people called the Judaizers. These were a group of people who were trying to tell the Gentiles, the non-Jews (you and me) that there was more to being a follower of Christ, someone redeemed by Christ, than just accepting by faith, believing in Christ crucified on the cross as the way to being in relationship with God. More on that in a minute. As Paul greets them, notice that he greets them with the phrase “Grace to you and peace from God….” This almost seems too casual to us because these are phrases that we’ve heard before and hear often. But Paul does something pretty spectactular here. He says “Grace to you”
a. Grace – Given by Christ alone
Grace is the receiving of something that we do not deserve. So when Paul greets them with “Grace”, he is reminding them of what they had been taught before, and that was Salvation comes by Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is important given the teachings that had crept into the church. This is also a reminder to us. Nothing that we have done, are doing or can do can earn us grace. By definition, we cannot earn it. There is no store I can go to and purchase grace nor is there a task I can do to earn grace. Grace is given by Christ alone. PERIOD.
b. Peace – Comes through relationship with Christ
Once we have been redeemed, entered into that relationship with Christ, we experience the peace that can only come through that relationship (Romans 5:1). Peace does not mean the absence of conflict or turmoil. Peace is the presence of God, dwelling within us through His Holy Spirit and the assurance of knowing that no matter what happens, we are not facing it alone. I’m sure we could go around this room for countless testimonies of how brothers and sisters in Christ have felt His peace in situations where peace would not seem at all possible.
Paul is using both of these greetings, Grace and Peace to remind people of who Christ is. Additionally, grace and peace was a common way of greetings for the early Christians when they approached each other. We see this same greeting in Paul’s other letters; those being Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians.
But notice that Paul does not just “greet” them, he also reminds them of who Christ is. He says “Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age”. So let’s put verses 3 and 4 together to see the image Paul is painting.
“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 gave His very life, freely, as a payment of our sins, in accordance with the will of God the Father, and this payment that was made rescues us or delivers us. Did you hear the richness of Gospel in Paul’s greeting? When Paul talks about being rescued or being delivered, he uses a word here that would resonate with the Jews in his audience. The word Paul used here, eks-ī-re’-ō (ex-eye-re-o), was used back in Acts 7 to describe how God rescued Joseph from his brothers and how God rescued the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. This word has a connotation of plucked out, totally delivered from a situation where you are trapped or enslaved and have no means of getting away. And Paul is telling the people that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the payment for sin has been made. This payment saves us, delivers us, rescues us from the penalty of eternal death. Christ came to earth and died for our sins. In turning to a system based off of “other things”, they, as well as us, ignore and discount the finished work of Christ on the cross. If Christ had not died on the cross, we could not be reconciled to God. (1 Peter2:24). Paul concludes his introduction reminding the church that God deserves all glory not just today, but forever. And that’s a good reminder for us today. 1 Corinthians 10 reminds us thatwhateverwe do, we do it for His glory. Think back over this past week. Can that be said of everything that we did?
Paul then leads into addressing the problem that existed within the church. Remember we had talked about theJudaizers. They had told the new Gentile Christians that in addition to them “accepting Christ’s work on the cross”, as a means of salvation, they also had to do other things, Jewish things. They had to be circumcised and observe the Jewish customs.
2. Jesus +NOTHING = Salvation
This is a statement that you’ve probably heard before. But what does it mean? For the youth here, I’m sure all of you love doing word problems or algebra problems. Remember that to move something to the other side of the equals sign, you have to do it to both sides of the equation. Let’s phrase that another way.
Salvation- Jesus =Nothing
And that’s what we have. You remove Jesus from Salvation and you don’t have salvation. And you can’t add anything to Jesus and get salvation. That is what Jesus meant on the cross when He said tetelestai, it is finished. It has been completed. The payment has been made. Salvation is now possible.
Upon confronting the church, Paul said that he was amazed, other translations say marveled, or astonished. The idea is that this was not what Paul had expected out of them. But notice what he was amazed at. He was not amazed at the false teachers. He was amazed that they had not only deserted God, but they did it so soon or quickly. The KJV says that they removed Him. The Greek word metatithēmi (me-täh-tih-thā-mē), has a meaning of transfer one for another or to give up one thing for another. We’re not talking about swapping out Pepsi for Coke. It’s a military term used to describe a soldier who deserted his position during a battle and was punishable by death. Ephesians 6 tells us our battles are not against flesh and blood but against spiritual darkness and wickedness.
Let that sink in for just a moment. They were abandoning the core and genesis of their faith. But let’s bring that in here. Do we do the same thing? Do we transfer the freedom from sin that comes through the redemption of Christ, for the slavery of trying to “keep the Mosaic Law”. Since we are not Jews, that doesn’t carry the same weight for us as it did for the people in that culture. Remember that the purpose of the Law, which was given to the nation of Israel, was to reveal the sinfulness of man and point people to Christ. But for us, we could apply that by saying are we a slave to our “traditions and customs” or “to our familiarity” or “our way of doing things”. Do we want people to look like us, talk like us, dress like us and worship like us in order to become one of us? Or, do we rest secure in the sufficiency of Christ crucified and celebrate His finished work and allow Him to work as He sees fit in us and through us? This is a vital thing for us to hear from Paul. It has to all be about Christ. It’s not about what we can do or have done. It’s about who He is. And that brings us to our last point.
3. There is no other Name
The churches in Galatia had begun to turn to another gospel, another good news. But Paul is reminding them that there is no “other Gospel”. There is only one Gospel and that is through Jesus Christ. As Paul is reprimanding them, he is also reminding them that there are people out there that will try to “trouble you or disturb you” and try to distort the gospel. We kind of read that phrase and we think of people that try to aggravate or try to bother us. But the meaning is much deeper than that. The meaning here is to agitate and stir something up as it relates to the Gospel. They do that by distorting or perverting the Gospel of Christ. This idea of distorting or perverting the Gospel means to turn around. It’s used in Acts2:20when Peter is speaking and he is quoting the prophet Joel talking about the sun being turned to darkness. That is the idea that Paul is talking about here. These people were totally turning the gospel of Christ into something that it was not. We must remember Acts17:10-11:
Acts17:10-11(NASB) – The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
We must test everything against Scripture. We should not just blindly trust whoever is preaching or teaching. Whether that’s in SS/Bible Study or from a pulpit.
Additionally, when Jesus was talking to His disciples about His second coming we read this:
Matthew 24:4-5 (NASB) – And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.
That’s why, we must:
a. Be alert
What do I mean by be alert. Would you recognize false teachings or false teachers? I would imagine that we would recognize blatant heresy. However, what about more subtle ones? We need to be grounded in our knowledge of Scripture s that we are not lead away. Paul has some very strong words for them in regards to those who are leading them astray. His words are that they are accursed, or some translations say anathema. That’s not a word we use much today. The word means destined for destruction or condemnation. The enemy has been deceiving people for a very long time and he has gotten very good at it. He knows each of our weaknesses and areas where we are most susceptible to being led astray. Wendy had made a comment at the business meeting last month that was comical, but very poignant. During the meeting, Allan had sneezed and without looking up, she said, “Bless you Allan”. She knew him so well, that she even recognized his sneezes. She had spent time with him. Talked to him. Listened to him. Recognized him. That’s how we should be with Christ. We will talk more about this next week, but time spent with Christ. So that we will know the truth from a lie.
Lastly, because there is no other Name, we must:
b. Be all in
You’ve probably heard it said “I tried Jesus but it just wasn’t my thing”. Or “I tried church, but it just wasn’t for me”. Let me be as honest as I can be. You can’t “Try Jesus”. If you’ve truly come into a relationship with Jesus, then you don’t get just a little bit of Jesus, you get all of Him. Jesus created this wonderful thing called the church. Once we enter into that relationship with Christ, we have the opportunity to come into a fellowship such as this and walk alongside each other. In fact, it’s no coincidence that shortly after his ascension back to heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the church was established. The church is such an important part of our walk with Christ and I would even say as a believer in Christ, we should desire to be a part of a fellowship like this. The church is a living, breathing body of believers. The church is the bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5). Christ loves His church and gave His life for her. When we look at the New Testament church, we see a flawed group of people, who through the grace of Christ alone, are commanded to show His love and proclaim His Name and an outflowing of that in the words of Pastor Mike, is transformed lives. When the church is passionate about the finished work of Christ on the cross, the outflowing of that will be showing the love of Christ (John 13). It’s not easy but as we walk alongside each other, we encourage each other to be more like Christ. But don’t confuse being all in with always here.
All throughout this message we have heard about Christ crucified on the cross and his resurrection. As Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, it is through trusting in, placing our faith in who Christ is and what He did on that cross, admitting we are a sinner in need of a Savior, and turning from our sinful ways that we can enter into a personal relationship with Christ.
Freedom is a beautiful thing. It’s hard to for us to comprehend what life is like without it, because we have always had it. And yet, we often are enslaved because of the choices that we have made that have led us down some paths that are dark. Today, there is a Savior who wants to release you from that bondage so that you can experience His Freedom and a life lived in relationship with Him. Are you trying to carry a load that you were never meant to carry? Are you trying to work for something that you will never attain?
As you stand and before we sings, I want to ask the deacons to come up to the front so that you will know there is someone here ready to talk with you, pray with you, for you. I want close with this. When we started the message, I asked this question,
Has Your Freedom Been Robbed?
I’m a terrible speller. When I typed this slide up, I had to think hard whether robbed had two Bs in it or not. I think I figured it out. Robbed has two Bs. But when you only put 1 B in there, you can an entirely different message. So I answer that original question with this,
Our Freedom Has Been Robed
Robed by the righteousness of the only one who could free us, rescue us, and redeem us, and that is Jesus Christ, who paid it all by giving His life on the cross as an atonement for our sins. As we sing, you respond.