Sunday, May 15, 2011
The letter of Galatians written to answer the big question of personal and Christian Freedom.
We will look at three questions this morning: Whom was it written to? Who wrote it? Why was it written?
Two strong emphases: Paul’s God-given authority and Paul’s Christ-centered message. Once we grasp these points, you have the essence of the whole letter.
#1 Whom was it written to? The answer to the first question is a very easy one: to the churchES in Galatia.
Not one church but the many in this area of what is now present day Turkey. To the many fellowships that came to be as a direct result in the preaching from this man named Paul.
In verse 13, we find “how intensely I persecuted the church of God…” This was the Church, universal. The Whole Body of Christ. Believers everywhere! All who had placed their faith in the Lord Jesus were the target of his deep and personal attacks. He took great pride in seeking Believers out and driving them into jail and killing many that followed this Jesus.
But in this case, it is churchES that he is writing to. This was a group of fellowships in the province of Galatia. People were converted and gathered together to fellowship.Then it was to be passed on to the other churches in the area.
We find from Acts 14, the names of some of them. Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe—all places where Paul was really hurt in some way by the enemies of the Cross!
That is whom it was sent to.
#2. Who wrote it? The first three words in English show us that: PAUL.
This was Paul's first letter to the churches. In his usual style, Paul sets the stage with long introductions, but not in this one. He is quick to get started as he was very serious. It is written like a storm on the horizon. Something was going to happen—all the signs of hardship were present—and Paul was not going to soften the impact one bit.
There was a BIG storm that was about to break in that area. It was a deeply spiritual storm. Paul was concerned with the spiritual storm so he cut to the chase and did not give a long intro—as he usually did. And this was his first letter.
It was like getting on a plane at Narita.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome aboard flight 476 to LA. We should be having a smooth flight today, but we must go over some important information JUST IN CASE! Should the cabin pressure become an issue, oxygen masks will fall from above your seat. Put them on and breath normally---even when the plane is in a tail spin and fire is seen on both sides of the plane…”
On the ground, all is OK but in the air—when there is an emergency, things are said in a different manner. When you are in a storm, it is critical that certain things are said!
God-Given Authority (1:1)
Within the churches here, there were some bad storms just about to hit and YOU HAD BETTER LISTEN! Trouble is creeping into the Church. People are teaching WRONG teaching—Wrong Doctrine. The spiritual health of the local churchES was in trouble. The wrong teaching was that Salvation did not come from Faith in the Lord Jesus alone. Paul taught Faith plus nothing=Salvation. But these false teachers said we would NEED to add things to your Faith. You will NEED to follow the Jewish rules and traditions.
Paul cuts that off right away with verse 1. Here Paul sates that His ministry has a God-Given authority. The risen Lord had directly commissioned him on the Road to Damascus. In fact, those who were challenging Paul’s ‘right’ to speak out was, in fact, challenging the Lord who had commissioned him. Looking back to Matthew 10:40, Jesus gives guidance to us when He teaches: “He who receives you receives Me.” Did the false teachers in that area receive Paul’s teaching as from God? No! They did not really accept the Teachings of Jesus either and that was the problem Paul needed to cover!
Since the start of the Christian Church there in the book of Acts, the first people to come to Faith were Jewish. They were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and 5,000 devote Jews fell in line with the Teachings of their Messiah Jesus. They just added Jesus to the belief system and why not? It followed their teachings that He would be the fulfillment of the Prophecies from the Old Testament. But now, Galatia, these new Believers were not from Jewish backgrounds. In fact, many had no background to follow at all! Called gentile by the Jews. They had been a ‘pagan people group.’ As believers in Christ, the Jewish believers were struggling with a dual heritage. They wanted to be strict followers of the Mosaic Law. Their new found faith invited them to base this new faith on LOVE and not on traditions. They also had difficulty with the concept that non-Jewish people could be part of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Paul wrote that any promise of Salvation that also requires Human effort is no salvation at all. Any belief system in the world that requires effort on their follower’s part to gain salvation denies the finished Work of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. They tried to improve the character of the followers. Only the transforming Power of the Holy Spirit can make us better than we are. Transformation! Newness of life!
#3 Why Was It Written?
Paul sets up his credentials as in vs 1 “Paul—an apostle…” Not an ego trip for him. The Office of being an APOSTLE came from the Lord Jesus. It means to be a Special Messenger. One who was commissioned. Someone sent them out from someone higher than themselves. How did Jesus do this? He called His Followers together to teach them. He then called 12 men out of that larger group—setting them apart to a task He would empower them to finish.
Paul was added later. After the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, on the Road to Damascus. His calling was not from men, not from a committee. He was there in that office by the Will of, not only Jesus but also Father God. He was God’s chosen Messenger. See 1 Cor 9:1 “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?”
Paul said he was the LAST to been chosen by the Lord for a very special task: take the Gospel to the Gentiles. And he had seen Jesus face to face. He had seen the resurrected Lord. He was not part of Jesus’ Band but was added later. By definition: Paul was unique. Not passed on by bloodline. Not like the House of Lords. Not from a privileged class. That did not work for Paul. He had credentials but he counted them ALL as fifthly rags.
His Salvation was based on Faith in Christ---ALONE!!!
Their question was not only directed toward him as a person but also they had a problem with Loyalty to the Apostolic Teaching. Not only did they not like Paul, they really did not want to follow what he said—even when that teaching came from the Lord Himself. They wanted it the old way: works, effort, tasks, heritage, not simply by Faith alone!
The Gospel was at stake here. If Paul was not an Apostle, than what he wrote was worthless. If it could be challenged in the First Century, it could be set-aside in the 21st Century. Just set aside what we don’t like. Marriage, morality, government, roles of men and women…all could be challenged.
It is not a Viking Dinner. Choose what you like and leave the rest. We said this before: Some said: God said it; I believe it, that settles it for me. But I say: God said it; that settles it for me! It is a question of Divine Authority. The Bible either IS the Word of God or it is not. It is! Live with that!
The Message was of Grace and Peace. Grace is the summary of the Gospel. Undeserved Favor from God!
Peace comes from God. The God of ALL Peace… The Father of our (risen) Lord Jesus.
And where is Grace seen? In verse 4 HE RESCUED ME! The Great Rescue! He volunteered to die for me. I HAD not ask Him!
Ill: A doctor who ‘takes on’ the illness. Great! Take it on in his own body.
We don’t deserve it either. Can’t clean up our act by ourselves. Zacchaeus in Lk 19:2 did not say: “I’ll clean up my life and then I will follow Jesus.” Jesus said Today Salvation has come to this house. Because there was a Transformed Life!
We need to be rescued. He died for our sins.
My lack of knowledge does not negate my need of being rescued.
C.T. Studd once said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop a yard from hell.”
1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
~Alistair Begg of Ohio inspired much of this sermon. Many thanks for the help and clarity.