Galatians 2 The Gospel of Grace Freedom in Christ
What’s Worth Fighting for in Church? Costly Grace Defending the truth of the Gospel, and being willing to be persecuted for it is the mark of a Christian
Costly grace in action A story from history about slavery in Britain The unsung heroes of abolition For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Cor 12:10
Galatians-- the Magna Carta of Christian liberty for the freedom it generates. • History story shows us that proclaiming emancipation and possessing liberty are two very different things. • The abolition of slavery in Britain took over a hundred years and many years after that before all slaves were given their full freedom as equal citizens.
Paul speaks about God’s Grace that comes to us as an unmerited gift reaffirming one of the most important doctrinal truths of the Gospel There is nothing you can do yourself to merit salvation. • Salvation is by grace through faith alone. Paul says that nothing can be added to the Gospel of Grace. “those men added nothing to my message”
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8 I suggest today that even when we have heard and responded to the Gospel of Grace that sets us free, it takes us a lifetime to learn to live in full freedom as citizens of God’s kingdom.
As we heard last week from John, some prominent officials from the church in Jerusalem “false brothers” were throwing the Galatians into disarray by arguing that Gentile converts had to be circumcised before they were saved. The ceremonial Jewish laws insisted that circumcision was the mark of someone who fully belonged to their community. And we see that written down in the Scriptures. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised (Lev 12:3)
So determined was Paul in his understanding of Salvation by grace alone—given to him by revelation and not through human words that he undertook the journey to Jerusalem to see if his preaching was in alignment with the apostolic church. • Taking Jewish Barnabas and Greek Titus along with him was a bold decision
Couldn't have been sure of the reaction he might get but for Paul, establishing this doctrinal truth for all times was something worth fighting for and risking persecution. 15"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Privately, Paul spoke to “those who seemed to be leaders” (2) of the Jerusalem church receiving confirmation--offered the right hand of fellowship. 6As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance. 3Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.
Ceremonial law and the Ten Commandments • Arguing over ceremonial Jewish law and Christian grace can be hard for us to understand—not too many debates about circumcision in the contemporary church. • Every church has its own ceremonial laws or social conventions—act like a kind of initiation into the social order • Churches have never been easy places for people--always been arguments about who and what is important and who thinks certain jobs are theirs to do alone or about who makes the decisions.
Churches often pride themselves in the way they do things e.g. • Famous churches with a long “successful” history • Having “important” people in their membership • Who gets to help with certain ministries • The way baptism or communion is conducted • Churches who think they are in touch with the world How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?(14)
So influenced by the world that we often times forget that it is grace alone that leads and guides us. • Ceremonial laws teach a very strong message to newcomers and this is it. The Gospel of grace is not enough. In this church, if you don’t fit into the way things have always been done so you are not as acceptable as others. • Grace speaks to the heart—of individuals, whole churches and denominations
In God’s eyes, as Paul proclaims, by grace through faith all this is nonsense. • No one Christian is more important in God’s eyes than anyone else. • No one church has the monopoly on God’s favour. • In Christ’s kingdom there is not such a thing as a second best Christian and there is no such thing as a second best church either.
27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:27-29)
Discrimination exists in one form or another in all churches • Acts as a reminder to us to us just how far short we humans fall of God’s intention For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Rom 3:23 • Today, Paul’s takes us into the deep recesses of our hearts where God speaks most clearly if we are willing to set aside our own sense of righteousness and listen to what the Gospel of Grace is all about.
Not just about the things we do, or assert we’ve been called to do but about the motivations of our hearts that underlie our actions. • It’s our righteousness that causes us to fall into sin--trying to justify ourselves. • Exactly what the “false brothers” were doing in Galatia. • How disappointing to discover that the Gospel of grace meant no grace at all? • Must ask--who are we doing it for?
When we behave like the “false brothers” we are striving to please God and win favour for ourselves. • Adherence to ceremonial law acts as a mirror that shows us our flaws. Martin Luther, the great Reformer called it “Trying to do our best.” • Aiming to please, hoping we’ll get special notice for our efforts • Acting on our own righteousness
Adherence to ceremonial law doesn’t actually do anything to change us • Only God’s grace can do that and we can only receive that through faith. • Our culture thrives on meritocracy, on competition, on independence, attributes that we’re too prone to holding onto--Who will sit at Jesus right hand? Mark 10:40 • There is no room for any of that stuff in Christ’s upside down kingdom that we claim we adhere to.
Only in utter despair at our own feeble efforts to do our very best, like an alcoholic who bottoms out, do we discover that God’s Spirit is already there with us, changing us, transforming us, making us new, raising us up so that we want to do things God’s way and not our own way so we can get a reward.
We’re called to preach from the mountain tops that nothing but Christ saves us. Grace through faith alone! • Nothing else can be added to the message. • It’s what marks out our Christian faith from every other faith in the world. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!“20-21
Whether or not you are a Christian, do you have to do some business today with Jesus? • Do you want to stop being a slave to sin? • Would you like to be set free? • Are you fed up “trying to do your best” to please? If you are, tell Jesus how you feel and let his Holy Spirit descend on your life.