January 27, 2013

Got Galatians? (Galatians 1:1-6:18)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: When Jesus Isn't Enough (Galatians) Topic: Galatians Scripture: Galatians 1:1–6:18

When Jesus Isn’t Enough (Galatians)

Got Galatians?
Galatians 1:1-6:18
(One Truth: Your Word is Truth)
Pastor Bryce Morgan


I. Flying over Galatia

This morning, I have one goal: to get you to get Galatians. Got it?

Over the span of six different months we have spent eighteen lessons trying to understand and apply Paul's letter to the Galatians. And since we finished our study of the last section of Galatians last week, I thought that this morning, it would be good for us to take a quick flight over Galatia; to do what we might call a flyover of this letter.

That's right, this morning we are studying the entire book of Galatians. But don't worry, we are not going to look at every verse again. Instead, I simply want you to be able to explain, to anyone who asks, what Galatians is all about. AND, I'd like this to be a reminder of everything we've looked at in our study, so that it can be a reminder to you, in your everyday life, of what it means to live for Christ in light of the truths we find here.

So as we begin this morning I want you to remember these three words: doing, believing, and walking. (2x) Galatian Airlines flight 1-1, now departing from Gate 6-18!


II. The Passage: “I Live By Faith” (1:1-6:18)

Ready to flip a few pages? Let's do this: using only 30 verses from this letter, let's do that quick flyover of Paul's letter to the Galatian churches.


1. Distorting the Gospel (1:6, 7)

First, look at 1:6, 7. Paul writes:

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.

So right away we know that the reason Paul is writing to these churches is the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, the message of life that Paul first announced to them, that message was being distorted. Since, as Paul expressed it in Romans 1:16, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation”, then distorting the gospel is like distorting the instruction manual for a parachute while on a plane that's going down. That kind of distortion is deadly!

But how exactly was the gospel being distorted? Well look at 2:15, 16.


2. Distorted by Works (2:15, 16)

Paul writes this about this deadly distortion:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; [16] yet we know that a person is not justified [made right with God] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified [made right with God] by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified [made right with God].

This deadly distortion was a distortion based on DOING. What kind of doing? Well, doing the works of the Law of Moses. You see, this distortion was so deceptive because it was based on God's word. False teachers had come from Jerusalem and were teaching the Galatians that if they truly want to be accepted by God as His people, then they needed, like good Jews, to keep the Law of Moses. This meant obeying all 613 of the Old Testament commandments AND God's instructions to Abraham about circumcision.

But Paul is clear that no one will be labeled as righteous through the works of the Law. Instead, our only hope in being right with God is through trust or faith. But wait a minute? Does this mean God scrapped His original plan? That he dumped the Law and decided to try this 'faith thing' instead? No look at 3:5-9. Paul asks them...


3. Insiders through Faith (3:5-9)

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—[6] just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? [7] Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. [8] And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” [9] So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:5-9)

You see, before the Law ever came, God had set in motion this good news of salvation through faith. In fact, Abraham, the father of the Jews, was himself counted as righteous before God by his faith. Therefore, by believing in the true gospel that Paul announced among them, the Galatians had become true sons of Abraham. They were not on the outside, as these distorters had claimed. Through faith, they were blessed. God was in them and God was working through them.

But if that was the case, then what was the purpose of the Law? Was it some kind of mistake? No, listen to what Paul tells them in 3:19, 22, and 24. He writes...


4. The Purpose of the Law (3:19, 22, 24)

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary...[22] But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe...
[24] So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

You see, the commandments of God were given in order to be a thermometer and not a ladder. No one was able to climb up to God by means of perfect obedience to the Law. No, these commandment were given in order to define, restrain sin, and like a thermometer, show all of us how 'sin-sick' we truly are. As prisoners under sin, the Law was given so that we might look for a liberator, for a redeemer.

And that's exactly where Paul takes us in 4:4-7. Look at how Paul describes God's plan...


5. Sons through the Spirit (4:4-7)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, [5] to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. [6] And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” [7] So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

God had an unfolding plan that He was accomplishing through Abraham and Moses. But at just the right time, God's plan came to a head in His Son, Jesus Christ. Through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, Christ had come to redeem us from the shackles of sin and from the shackles of human effort. The Galatian believer had become more than just a kind of 'new Jew'. In Christ, believing Jews and Gentiles had become sons and daughters of God. They were not simply God's people. They were God's family, because the Spirit of Jesus was now in them through faith.

But if this was the case, then what about obedience? Were the commandments of God outdated? If BELIEVING was all that mattered, then had DOING become irrelevant? Look at how Paul addresses that issue in 5:6, 13, and 14. He tells his readers...


6. Faith through Love (5:6, 13, 14)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love...[13] For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. [14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

You see, faith in Christ did not take the Galatians through the door of salvation into some kind of heavenly waiting room. No, faith in what Jesus had done had set these men and women on a new path: the path of love. As Paul describes here, true saving faith expresses itself in true serving love. In Christ, freedom from sin is freedom for service.

And, in fact, this kind of faith-fueled love fulfills the heart of the Law of Moses. Things like circumcision were external symbols that God used to set His people apart. But these symbols were always pointing forward to a people who would be set apart by the power of God's own Spirit at work within them. And this is what Paul emphasizes in 5:16, 17, 22-25...

7. Walk by the Spirit (5:16, 17, 22-25)

Look at how Paul calls these Christians forward in 5:16...

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do...[22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

There was no heavenly waiting room. God had called these believers to a journey of faith. And He had called them, as He does here through Paul, to walk that path “by the Spirit” and “in step with the Spirit”. The distorters were calling them to a life of DOING according to their strength. Paul was calling them to a life of WALKING according to the Spirit's work within them. If the eyes of their hearts were fixed on Jesus, then God would produce new life in them through His Spirit. There would be a harvest of Christ-likeness in them!


8. The Eternal Harvest (6:7-9)

And so in light of these things, Paul brings his letter to a sober challenge in 6:7-9. Look at what he tells them there...

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. [8] For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. [9] And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

The gospel-distorters who came to Galatia were deceivers. And some of the Galatians were being deceived by their distortions. But Paul reminds them here that God cannot be deceived. If they “give up” on the gospel of grace that Paul first announced to them, then they will be depending on their own flesh, their own strength instead of God's Spirit. And if this is what they are sowing now, then in the end, when the harvest comes, they will reap the only thing the flesh can bring: corruption; death.


9. Boasting in the Cross (6:14, 15)

But look at how Paul sums things up for them by pointing to his own perspecitve. This is 6:14 and 15. Paul is not interested in boasting in his own flesh. No, he writes...

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [15] For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

The cross of Jesus, the death of Christ, had brought about a radical change, not only in Paul's life, but in the life of every person who trusts in Him and Him alone.
Because of the cross, the world can no longer claim us as its own, and we can longer walk according to the world's way of doing thing. And the world's way is all about DOING, about human effort and human wisdom. But Jesus died to bring about a new creation, one defined by the Spirit and not the flesh; by change on the inside, not simply conformity on the outside.

So in light of all this, in light of these 30 key verses, I think we can make better sense of those three key words: doing, believing, and walking. I think we might say...

It is not by DOING that we are right with God, but by BELIEVING that Jesus did it all for us; and as a result of such faith, we will find ourselves WALKING, by the Spirit, in a new life lived for God.

Paul's letter to the Galatians is a powerful reminder that we cannot be right with God based on DOING what God requires, because, in sin, we simply cannot DO enough. But instead, we are spiritually rescued by BELIEVING that Jesus is enough; that what Jesus DID on the cross is what we needed most. And as we trust in this gospel of God's grace through Jesus, we will be WALKING in a new life marked by what the Spirit is doing in us for obedience to God's commands. Two verses that really summarize the whole book are found at the end of chapter 2:

Paul declares: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me [that's WALKING by the “Spirit of His Son” (4:6)]. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith [by BELIEVING] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [21] I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law [through DOING], then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:15-21)


III. Passionate about the Gospel

One thing that you cannot miss when you study this letter is the fact that Paul had an incredible passion for the gospel. He embraced it. He proclaimed it. And as we've seen here, he fought for it. He passionately fought for it. His heart, his mind, and his reputation were all staked to the gospel of grace.

Can the same be said about you? Are you passionate for the gospel? Do you, will you fight for the gospel of grace? I'm not talking about just fighting people out there who want to distort the message (and there are plenty of those). I'm talking about fighting the impulses, the tendencies, the desires, the temptations inside of us to distort the gospel because of our own pride or fear or desire for worldly acceptance.

If there is one thing this letter should do for us, it is to turn us away from our own to DO, and turn us toward the power of what Jesus DID, and toward the power of what the Spirit wants to DO in us and through us. The Galatians wanted to strive in order for God to receive them because they believed Jesus wasn’t enough. But the true gospel inspires us to strive because God has already received us, because Jesus IS enough. His work was sufficient!

Is that what empowers you? Is that the life-fuel coursing through your soul? Hopefully our flight this morning has been helpful. But God’s question for me and for you is this: “How will the trip change you when the wheels are back on the tarmac?” Let’s ask God to make us passionate about the gospel. Let’s pray.

other sermons in this series

Jan 20


Jan 13


Jan 6