Wednesday, May 31, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "To the Churches in Galatia"

“To the Churches in Galatia”
The Truth of the Gospel – Galatians 2017
May 28, 2017 :: Galatians 1:1-5

The Epistle to the Galatians...FINALLY!

I know that I’ve been promising it for several weeks, and not delivering. But we are here today!

I still don’t feel ready. If I hadn’t told Marilynn to put it on the back of your bulletin, I might have pulled up again and taken more time to study.

Galatians a short book, but it’s a challenging one. And it’s important to get it right.

I’m going to call our sermon series on Galatians, which I expect to run at least until Fall, “The Truth of the Gospel.”

That’s a phrase that the apostle Paul uses a number of times in this book to describe the message of the good news of Jesus Christ and how important it is.

This letter was written because the truth of the gospel was in danger of being lost.

And if the truth of the gospel was ultimately lost, the results would be unbelievably tragic.

That’s why Paul has taken up his pen.

And that’s one of the reasons why we need to read it today.

You might be wondering why I picked the book of Galatians as our next Bible book to study together.

There are a lot of reasons why I think God has this book for us next.

One is simply that we’ve spent a lot of time in Old Testament together. It’s time to return to the New Testament for a while.

I know that some of you were hoping we’d go back to the Books of Kings again soon (just kidding), but I do think we need us some good New Testament teaching. Some grace upon grace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

And this book is full of grace. High octane grace.

Another reason is that I wanted to reinforce what we learned in the book of Romans in 2014, 15, and 16.  Do you remember what we learned in Romans together about justification?

It’s really important.

Well, Galatians is sometimes called, “The Little Romans” because it’s so short but it covers similar ground. It was written for a different group of people in a different situation, but it covers similar teaching in a few short, power-packed chapters.

Another thing I wanted to do was to fill in for us a little more of the connections between the book of Acts and the letters of Paul.

Do you remember when we did the book of Acts back in 2011? The years are piling up since then, and I want to tie what we were learning there together with what we’re learning now.

Another big reason I was drawn to Galatians was its connection with the Reformation in the history of the church.

This year is our 125th anniversary as a local church, and it is also the 500th anniversary of the rediscovery of the gospel that historians call the Protestant Reformation.

And Galatians was the book that probably had the biggest impact on Martin Luther and the rest of the Reformers in the 16th century. Maybe Romans, but definitely Galatians was used powerfully to rediscover, recapture, and restate the gospel of grace once again to reform the church.

Galatians was Martin Luther’s favorite book of the Bible.

He loved it. He once said that he was married to it.

You know that joke kids say?

“I love pizza.”  “Why don’t you marry it?”

Well, Luther felt like he had married the Book of Galatians. He called this book his “Katherine.” Which was the name of his wife.

I don’t feel married to this book yet. It’s not my “Heather.”

But I know that Galatians is good and glorious and worthy of our attention.

To be honest, I’ve been intimidated by this letter. And that’s partly right. Because it’s a thunderously powerful book. It is challenging at points to interpret.

But just because I’m intimidated by it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t read it together.

In fact, it means we should read it together!

So another one of the reasons why we’re studying this now is so that I get over my fears, and we get into the potent message of this epistle.

But here’s the biggest reason of them all:

This is God’s Word. And I want what this little book teaches for our church family.

I want the gospel.
I want the truth of gospel for our church family.
I want us to be able to recognize and repudiate every threat there is to the gospel.
I don’t want us to lose the gospel.
I want us to know the gospel backwards and forwards and spot every counterfeit as it comes our way.

I want us to live our lives in accordance with the truth of gospel.

We can say we believe the gospel and live in such a way that denies the truth of gospel. We’re going to see that one of the apostles was doing just that!

I want us to finish with the gospel. Not just start with it. But finish with it.

And I want to understand the implications of the truth of gospel.

Which means freedom and fruit.

Some people call Galatians the “Freedom Letter” because of how often Paul uses the word “free.”

And that’s our middle name, right?  Lanse Free Church?

Because of the truth of the gospel we are free.

And we need to understand that.

And not just freedom but fruit. Our Wednesday night prayer group is spending the next two months on two verses in Galatians chapter 5.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, and ... we’ll find out the rest as we go.

This book is full of glorious gospel truth that has the power to change our lives forever.

That’s why we’re studying it. Sound good?

Alright. We’re not going to get very far this morning.

I just want us to put our toes in the water of chapter 1.

Just the first 5 verses.

In verse 6, Paul really takes off. He doesn’t have very much opening material.

But that’s all we’re going to take time for this morning. Just verses 1 through 5.

Just 5 verses, but so much there!

You can tell that this is a letter. Letters in this time period began with the author of the letter and then the recipients and some kind of a greeting.

This one does, too.

Kind of like some email programs. The top field is who is sending it. From what address do you want this to go out.  The next field is whom it is sent to. And then in the subject line or the body of the email you put a greeting. “Hey there!” “Greetings!” “Good day to you.” “Hope you are doing well.” “We miss you here.” Or whatever.

That’s pretty much what you have here, except that every line of it is dripping with  a deeper meaning with spiritual significance.

Paul doesn’t throw away his words. He doesn’t just throw some words out there buckshot. He aims every one of his words with rifle precision.

And every one is worth studying.

So it’s Paul and his spiritual family (verses 1 and 2) writing to “the churches in Galatia” (v.2) and then the greeting in verses 3, 4, and 5.

Here’s an outline of what we’re going to see in these first five verses. And I’m going to have an application point for each item.

Author, Prayer, Gospel.

The author is the Apostle Paul.

But that’s not all that he says about himself. Look again at verse 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...”

Do you see how much is in there?

He doesn’t just say, “This letter is by Paul.”

He’s got a lot more crammed in there, and that’s for a reason.

You see, we’re going to learn in the next few weeks that Paul was and Paul’s gospel  was under attack.

Some false teachers had infiltrated the churches in Galatia and they were undermining what Paul had taught the Galatians about the truth of the gospel.

And they were throwing suspicion on the credentials and qualifications of Paul.

Did you ever have that happen to you?

“Who taught you that? Oh, Pastor Matt, did, eh? Well, who is he? What does he know? Where did he get his facts. I understand he went to Moody and Trinity and Westinster. Those schools are a little flaky, I think. I wouldn’t trust everything he says.”

And that’s probably true! But they were apparently saying it about Paul.

“Who is this Paul guy? Where did he get his take on things? Where did he go to school? Who authorized his message?”

Here’s what Paul says, “I am an apostle. And nobody sent me, but God.”

An apostle is an authorized representative.

Somebody who is sent from another person and authorized to speak for him.

And Paul says that he is an apostle sent but (note the negations), “not from men nor by man.”

His apostleship is not by mere human origin.

It is divine. His apostleship is by divine origin.

He has been sent directly by God.

Now, that does not mean that there aren’t human beings who are behind him and supporting him. The church at Antioch, we learned back in the book of Acts, was in some ways his sending church. They prayed and supported and sent.

But they didn’t give him his message. And they didn’t give him his calling.

He isn’t the authorized representative of the church of Antioch.

He is an authorized representative of (v.1) “Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead!”

Here’s our first application point for this book.


Paul is going out of his way to say that what he has to say is from God.

These are not just his thoughts and opinions.

He is not just speaking out of his own ideas.

He is writing as an apostle sent by Jesus Christ Himself...and God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead!

Are you listening yet?

In this letter, Paul is going to use some really really really strong language.

He’s very concerned about the situation in Galatia.

And he’s going to sound the alarm.

We’ll see that next week. You might be surprised how strong he gets with his language. It’s because he thinks the problem warrants it.

One author says, “The book of Galatians is a tornado warning” (Timothy George).

Like that siren in Winburne that goes off if a tornado is approaching (or there’s a fire). It’s strong stuff. I’m glad I’m not standing there at the fire station when it goes off.

Paul is saying here that the Galatians need to listen.

He is not an imposter.
He is not just some guy with an opinion.
He is an apostle sent, not by any human, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead.

He’s trying to get their attention.

Now, I’d like to spend some time talking about Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road and his call to ministry. And I’d like to talk about how Jesus Christ and God the Father are equals here. There’s Trinity language here.

But I also want to get all the way to verse 5 and not get stuck in verse 1 this week, so we’ll keep going.

But notice the resurrection.

The most important event in human history. Jesus came back from the dead, raised by His Father.

And that changes everything.

The resurrection changes everything.

And there is no turning back to way things were.

We’re going to see that some of these false teachers were trying to turn back the clock to before Jesus and His resurrection.

But now that the resurrection has happened, everything has changed.

And if the God who brought back Jesus from the dead has personally sent Paul as his authorized representative to share a message, we better listen up.

We better put our ears on. Amen?

That’s why we are taking this book so seriously. Because it’s a word from God!

V.2 “and all the brothers with me.”

Paul wasn’t alone when he wrote this letter. And even though these brothers and sisters around him were not sending him or authorizing his message, they agreed with it, too. He isn’t alone with this message. Even if he alone is the apostle composing it.

V.2 “To the churches in Galatia.”

Now, that’s the title of our message. And it reminds us that this is a letter from a real person to real people.

There is a little debate about which Galatians these are. There were people of the ethnicity of Galatia that lived in the Northern part of the province of Galatia.

By the way, Galatia isn’t a city. It’s a region.

Like saying, “Central Pennsylvania.”

That’s not a city, it’s an area.

And there were folks who were ethnic Galatians in northern Galatia.

But most biblical scholars believe that this was written to the churches that Paul established on his first missionary journey through Southern Galatia.

Remember this map from the book of Acts?

Places and routes from Paul’s first missionary journey?  Acts chapter 13 and 14?

Starting in Antioch, going to Cyprus, then eventually to Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Do you remember those names?

Those are cities in Galatia.

And there were churches there that Paul established.

These were his children in the faith.

And he cares deeply about them.

But he doesn’t praise them.

He doesn’t thank God for them.

He doesn’t tell them what he thanks God for when he thinks about them.

Did you ever notice that Paul normally does that?

In his letters, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, right after the part where he says their name, he normally tells them how thankful he is for them.

Now, this is probably the oldest of Paul’s letters. It’s one of the first documents of the early church. Written between 47-49 AD. Long before the gospels were written!

So he isn’t necessarily breaking his usual pattern. Because he hasn’t set that pattern yet that we know of.

But he sure does skip any thanksgiving!

There is a problem here with these churches.

Things are not as they should be.

These churches that Paul established are in danger and potentially have lost their way.

He does not give thanks for them.

But he does tell them what he wants for them. What he prays for them. V.3

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...”

Grace and peace.

That’s what Paul wants for them.

In a second, he’s going to turn on the tornado alarm, but the point is not disturb their peace but to seek their peace.

Grace and peace.

Those were normal, standard greetings in Paul’s day.

Especially “Grace” for the Gentiles. “Grace! Charis.”
And “Peace” for the Jews. “Peace. Shalom.”

Somebody sent me an email this week that signed off, “Pax.” The Latin for peace.

But Paul means so much more by these words than, “Hello. Hope you’re having a good day.”

He means, GRACE and PEACE.

He means the gospel of grace and the peace that comes from it.

These are not just little insignificant words. These are the deepest prayers of Paul for these people whom he loves.

Here’s application #2. RECEIVE GRACE AND PEACE.

And pray for it for it, too, for others.

Grace is unmerited favor. Unearned blessing.

Spiritual benefit given to you as a present, a gift.

Grace is one of the most important themes in Galatians.

We’re going to talk about it just about every week we are in this book together.

God’s free gift. That’s grace.

And when you have that grace, you have peace.

Peace with God, peace with others, and inner peace all flow out of grace.

Each one of Paul’s letters starts with a mention of those two things.

Grace and peace.

One commentator writes, “‘Grace and peace’ are a succinct summary of the entire Christian message...Grace is God’s unmerited goodwill freely given and decisively effective in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Peace...on the other hand, denotes a state of wholeness and freedom that the grace of God brings” (Timothy George, Galatians, pg. 85).

Grace and peace.

That’s why we are reading this book together this Summer.

Because I want grace and peace for you and me.

That’s going to be my prayer for you every day this Summer.

“Grace and peace.”

Will you make that your prayer for this church as we work our way through Galatians together?

“Grace and peace.”

And from where? Not from ourselves. Not from our families, or our government, or our jobs.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...”

There they are again. He’s switched the order from verse 1, but it’s the same two persons working together. God OUR Father (notice the “our” like in the Lord’s Prayer) and God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And look what he says that Jesus did! V.4

“[Jesus] gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age,”

There is so much there! It’s the gospel, right?

Jesus gave Himself.

He sacrificed Himself.

He chose death. He chose the Cross.

Remember all that stuff we read in Psalm 22?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

He chose that!

We won’t get to my favorite verse in the book of Galatians for a few weeks, but it’s chapter 2, verse 20.

Paul just can’t get over how Jesus loved him.

He says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, [catch this] who loved me and gave himself for me.”

That’s where grace and peace come from!

They don’t come from hard work and effort.

They come from knowing the love of Jesus Christ.

The sacrificial love of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

V.4, “[Jesus] gave himself for our sins.”

He’s talking about the Cross.

Why did Jesus have to die like that?

I was talking to a pastor last night who was asked by an attender at their church why the Cross had to be so drastic. Why couldn’t the salvation we have be a little less dramatic, a little less bloody, a little less deathish?

And I don’t know all of the answers to that, but one thing I do know is that my sin is that ugly, that corrupted, that putrid and offensive to a holy God that it took the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to pay for it.

And to rescue me.

V.4 “[Jesus] gave himself for our sins to rescue us...”

We couldn’t do it on our own.

We needed a break out. We needed a rescue mission.

And Jesus volunteered.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day when we who are Americans remember those servicemen and women who fought and died for our protection and for the freedoms we enjoy in this country.

We are thankful for all of the ways we were rescued by their sacrifices.

And their sacrifices are a kind of echo, a reverberation of the greatest sacrifice ever made in the greatest rescue operation ever launched.

Jesus came to die and rescue us from present evil age.

The Jews of this day divided up history into the present age and the age to come.

And when Jesus died, He broke the power of the sin, He broke the power of the world, and He gave us a new freedom to live as citizens of the age to come.

We who are Christians have been busted out of the power of this world.

We still live here, but we are not longer enslaved to this world.

We are no longer enslaved to sin.

We have been busted out. Our Exodus has come, and we’re on the road to the Promised Land!

So, don’t go back!

That’s what the threat is here. We’re going to see it next week.

Don’t go back.

The penalty of sin has been paid.
The power of sin has been broken.
Someday, even the presence of sin will be no more.

Because of what Jesus has done.

He gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age...

And He did it (v.5) “according to the will of our God and Father.”

They worked in perfect tandem.

Isn’t it interesting how often God has been called a Father in Galatians and we’re only 4 verses in?

Here it says that the Father willed the sacrifice of His own son.

That’s what Isaiah 53 says, right? “ was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer...” for our sins.

How terrible for the Father!

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This is the gospel.

This is the truth of the gospel.

It’s at the center of everything, and it changes everything!

And it’s where you and I can find grace and peace.


“ whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Paul hasn’t even started the letter yet.

But he’s already praising God.

He can’t help himself.

He feels these things so deeply.
He sees these things so clearly.
He can’t help but praise the Lord for what Jesus did for us.

“To [Him] be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Do you feel that?

Do you agree with it?

Do you feel that amen?

Sometimes the best application of a Scripture passage is simply to worship God and thank Him for what He has done.

Let’s do that. Let’s sing hymn #345 about the amazing blessings of knowing God through Jesus Christ.

And let’s not stop singing and worshiping God.

Let’s bring Him the glory forever and ever.