Sermon notes: Galatians Number 3...

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NOTE: This is number 3 in a series on Galatians. If this is your first time reading sermon notes here, please take time to read a helpful explanation at the bottom of this post.

From the Pulpit of Church of the Good Shepherd (now Clearnote Church, Bloomington)

November 9, 2003; AM

Galatians Series No. 3

Grace to You and Peace

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:1-5

This Lord’s Day, we have our third in a series of sermons on the New Testament book of Galatians. And for this, our third week, we will read the entire introduction to this book, verses one through five.

* Galatians 1:1-5 This is the Word of God, eternally true...

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), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 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, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” Galatians 1:1-5, NAS95.

The Author of the Book of Galatians: His Office and Authority:

The book begins, “Paul, an apostle.”

In common use, this word, ‘apostle’ delineated someone with a commission, so it was similar to the English words ‘emissary,’ ‘diplomat,’ or ‘ambassador.’ An apostle, in the ancient world, was one sent by a person in authority to carry out specific assignments delegated to him by that authority.

And the apostles were a gift to the Church for its planting and protection, that souls might be saved and kept safe until the Return of our Lord. As it says in the passage of Scripture our House Fellowship Groups will be studying one week from tonight:

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15, NIV).

It’s clear that these men, the apostles, had a key role in the Church from the beginning, a role echoed and affirmed by the battles over apostolic authority recorded in the epistles but assigned to them by the Lord Jesus prior to His Ascension:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19,20, NIV).

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8, NIV).

Paul was different, though, because he was the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” and it was because of the despised position the Gentiles occupied in the Jew’s thoughts and attitudes that extreme controversy always surrounded their apostle, Paul.

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry (Romans 11:13, NIV).

The Recipients, or Addressees, of the Book of Galatians: Who Were the Galatians?:

Paul, the apostle, is the author of the book of Galatians; but to whom is Paul writing—who is this book addressed to? Who receives and reads it?

Geographically:

First, geographically, the people who received this book all lived in Galatia. And Galatia was the region encompassing the central plateau of Asia Minor—largely the area encompassed today by the nation of Turkey. Turkey is the main land-bridge between Europe and Asia, stretching from Greece on its northwestern corner, the Mediterranean Sea its southwestern border, Syria and then Iraq its southeastern border; Iran and a few other nations on its eastern border, and the Black Sea running across most of its northern border. Its border with Iraq is what made it such a critical nation in the United States’ effort to get permission to use its airspace prior to the recent invasion of Iraq.

Today the area which, in Paul’s day, was known as Galatia, is largely Islamic; it has lost the budding Christian witness so evident at the time of Paul’s missionary journeys, and instead has returned to the idolatry it dwelt in prior to the first entry of the Gospel.

Current Religious Climate of Galatia:

No one considers Turkey a part of the Christian world today, but rather an Islamic stronghold, albeit not as conservative in its Islamic practice as a number of other nations are today. The current population is around sixty million, of which Christians make up somewhere around 150,000, a number that is in significant decline. And Protestant Christians number around a thousand.

Galatian Christians at the Time of Paul’s Letter:

We have several records of Paul’s journeys through the area of Galatia:

Since Paul had preached the Gospel to, and pastored (Acts 13,14,16, and 18 has the record of this work of Paul’s in Galatia) the Christians in this region, the Galatian church had been infiltrated by false teachers who tried to rob them of the freedom they had received through faith in Jesus Christ; to place them, again, under the bondage of the law.

We think that Paul is likely in his late forties as he writes this letter—it’s been about fifteen years since he met the Lord on the road to Damascus—and it’s just prior to the Council of Jerusalem  recorded for us in Acts 15, when the Jerusalem church adjudicated the disagreement between Paul and the Judaizers who had come into the church in Antioch, just south of Galatian, trying to force the Gentile Christians to come under the Jewish law in order to have, what we today might refer to as, “full assurance of salvation.”As this false gospel infiltrated Antioch, it was carried slightly north into the Galatian region, and Paul wrote this letter to rebuke these false teachers, and to warn the Galatians against listening and following these false teachers.

The Two Great Themes of Galatians:

Two themes are prominent in Galatians, working their way through every other theme:

First, justification by faith, apart from the works of the law; and

Second, the gift of the Holy Spirit; that this third member of the Trinity is freely given by God to all who believe in Jesus Christ and it is His power which works within us according to the redemptive will of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Two separate times, Martin Luther lectured on the book of Galatians; it was his favorite book of Scripture. In his table talks, he said this about Galatians: The Epistle to the Galatians is “my own epistle, to which I have plighted my troth (been married). It is my Katie von Bora (his wife).” (p. 5 of the British edition of Luther’s commentary).

And in the introduction to his commentary on Galatians published in 1538, Luther said, “In my heart reigns this one article, faith in my dear Lord Christ, the beginning, middle and end of whatever spiritual and divine thoughts I may have, whether by day or by night.”

* Excerpt from Luther’s Introduction to His Commentary on Galatians:

I have taken in hand, in the name of the Lord, yet once again to expound this epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians; not because I desire to teach new things, or such as ye have not known before, since that, by the grace of Christ, Paul is now thoroughly known unto you, but for that we have to fear lest Satan take from us this doctrine of faith, and bring into the Church again the doctrine of works and men’s traditions. Wherefore it is very necessary that this doctrine be kept in continual practice and public exercise, both of hearing and reading.

And although it be never so well known, yet the devil, who rageth continually, seeking to devour us, is not dead. Likewise our flesh and old man is yet alive. Besides this, all kinds of temptations do vex and oppress us on every side; so that this doctrine can never be taught, urged, and repeated enough. If this doctrine be lost, then is also the doctrine of truth, life, and salvation, also lost and gone. If this doctrine flourish, then all good things flourish; religion, the true service of God, the glory of God, the right knowledge of all things which are necessary for a Christian man to know. Because, therefore, we would be occupied and not idle, we will begin now where we made an end, according to the saying of the song of Sirach: “When a man hath done what he can, he must begin again.”

-Martin Luther, Introduction, Commentary on Galatians, p. xi in the Kregel Edition edited by John Fallowes, p. xi.

The Apostle Paul, having established his authority for teaching the true doctrine of Christianity, begins that doctrine with these words:

* Galatians 1:1-5 This is the Word of God, eternally true.

3 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, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” Galatians 1:3-5, NAS95.

And it is the beginning of this greeting we now turn to,

3 Grace to you and peace…

In many ways, the culture in which the Church was founded and grew, in her first years, was an amalgamation of Roman, Greek, and Jewish culture, and here we see another example of this simply in the way Paul addressed his letter. We’ve pointed out earlier that whereas our own letters begin with the name of the person to whom the letter is written, and the name of the person who writes the letter is placed at the letter’s end, Paul followed the (much more sensible) practice of his time, placing his name as the writer, and the name of the addressees—the Galatians—right at the top of the letter.

Thus, verse one:

“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), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia….”

Similarly, Paul followed the conventions of his time in his first words of greeting:

Verse 3: Grace to you and peace…

The Greek letter began with the greeting, “Rejoice;” and the Jewish letter began, and likely still today begins, with the Hebrew word, ‘shalom.’

So here Paul compresses these two conventions and begins his letter with the greeting, “Grace and peace.”

And right here, the battle is directly joined.

“Grace” is the unmerited favor of God and peace is the absence of conflict; so the Apostle Paul is immediately engaging the enemy—not simply following a letter-writing convention. And were there any question as to the meaning of these two words of immediate greeting, it would become immediately clear as the Apostle continues to write, showing with his next words the origin, the source, of these two supreme goods:

3 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, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.”

Not grace and peace as a sort of wishful thinking—goods to be gotten wherever they may be found—but grace and peace from the only possible source, the One from Whom all good is to be sought:

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17, NAS95.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift.”

Thus the Apostle Paul does not send general wishes for wellbeing—the sort of bonhomie we send—hail hearty fellow well met, season’s greetings, happy thanksgiving, merry Christmas, and all that. Each of these has little connection to God the Father from Whom comes every good and perfect gift as the world uses them. But when a Christian uses them, what does he mean?

God rest ye merry, gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Saviour

Was born on Christmas day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

 

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,

“Let nothing you affright,

This day is born a Saviour

Of a pure Virgin bright,

To free all those who trust in Him

From Satan’s power and might.”

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

Or what has grown to be one of my favorite carols in recent years:

Good Christian men, rejoice

With heart and soul and voice

Now ye hear of endless bliss

Joy! Joy!

Jesus Christ was born for this

He hath ope’d the heav’nly door

And man is blessed evermore

Christ was born for this

Christ was born for this

 

Good Christian men, rejoice

With heart and soul and voice

Now ye need not fear the grave:

Peace! Peace!

Jesus Christ was born to save

Calls you one and calls you all

To gain His everlasting hall

Christ was born to save

Christ was born to save

“O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…”

“Now ye hear of endless bliss Joy! Joy!” “Now ye need not fear the grace: Peace! Peace!”

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), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 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,

This is the very center of the Christian message, the capital upon which the Christian world has inherited whatever understanding of peace and joy still resident in our cultural holiday greetings and the only path still today to the supreme emotional and spiritual goods that all men must seek if they are not to give themselves over to sin, guilt, despair, death, and damnation.

But make no mistake about it: we have a choice.

We can choose to continue in our sin and to lose our true selves in unbelief. We can harden our hearts against God and the good news He has revealed in His Word. This is, after all, the broad path that leads to destruction that “many” shall find and follow, as our Lord Jesus said when He was here on earth. But how perverse and twisted that, having been given a path of salvation—a path of grace and peace—men should thrust it aside and choose Pilgrim’s Progress’ slough of despond and Vanity Fair. What would possess men to follow such a path which certainly leads to such destruction?

But we must be clear here: when “God so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” most men who have hear this message since this supreme act of grace and peace have turned their backs on it and thrust it from themselves; they have resisted God’s grace and fallen into Hell.

* Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam

(From Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York album)

 

Jesus, don’t want me for a sunbeam

Sunbeams are never made like me

 

Don’t expect me to cry,

For all the reasons you had to die

Don’t ever ask your love of me

 

Don’t expect me to cry

Don’t expect me to lie

Don’t expect me to die for me

 

Jesus, don’t want me for a sunbeam

Sunbeams are never made like me

 

Don’t expect me to cry,

For all the reasons you had to die

Don’t ever ask your love of me

 

* Lake of Fire

(From Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York album)

 

Where do bad folks go when they die?

They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly

They go to the lake of fire and fry

Won’t see them again 'till the fourth of July

 

I knew a lady who came from Duluth

She got bit by a dog with a rabid tooth

She went to her grave just a little too soon

And she flew away howling on the yellow moon

 

Where do bad folks go when they die?

They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly

They go down to the lake of fire and fry

Won't see them again ‘till the fourth of July

 

Now the people cry and the people moan

And they look for a dry place to call their home

And try to find some place to rest their bones

While the angels and the devils try to make them their own

 

Where do bad folks go when they die?

They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly

They go down to the lake of fire and fry

Won’t see them again 'till the fourth of July

 

What did the Lord say to the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land?

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; 16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. 17 But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. Deuteronomy 30:15-20, NAS95.

Has the fraternity brother who lives to buy his beamer chosen life?

Has the Nirvana groupie who waits breathlessly to see what Courtney Love’s next self-destructive act will be as she follows in the footsteps of her dead husband, day by day walking into the grace with him, but oh so much slower—has this woman or her idol—have either of them chosen life and blessing, or death and the curse?

Has the man who lives for his next dose of oxycotin chosen life; the woman who lives for her wine; the cheerleader who lives for her looks; the bodybuilder who lives for his body; the flight jockey who lives for his hours at the stick; the politician who lives for his power; the corporate head who lives for his efficiency; the narcissist who lives for himself—has one of these men or women chosen blessing and life, grace and peace?

You see, it’s always about sin, idolatry, death and judgment; or, it’s about righteousness and faith and grace and peace and eternal life.

And the Apostle Paul was writing souls who had turned away from death, who had chosen life—the life hidden in their Lord Jesus Christ. And because of this, the Apostle Paul was able to write to them and begin his letter in all sincerity with these words:

Verses 3 and 4:

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,

These two words, ‘grace’ and ‘peace,’ contain all the Gospel. As Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation, said:

“…these two words (grace and peace)…comprehend in them whatsoever belongeth to Christianity. Grace releaseth sin, and peace maketh the conscience quiet. The two fiends that torment us are sin and conscience. But Christ hath vanquished these two monsters, and trodden them under foot, both in this world and the world to come. Only Christians have this kind of doctrine, and are exercised and armed with it, to get victory against sin, despair and everlasting death” (p. 40).

Now let us ask ourselves the question whether the world needs either grace or peace? Does the world seek a way to escape sin and a guilty conscience? Is the world even aware of sin, and does it feel the torment of its conscience?

* * *

EXPLANATION: Sermons are pastoral, and therefore of only limited value to those who are not present when a pastor feeds the flock God called him to serve. Yet, knowing even notes may be of some value to others, I'm posting past sermon notes here on Baylyblog. Because the notes weren't written for publication, no editor has cleaned them up for reproduction on the web. So, for instance, although the notes I take into the pulpit have formatting that highlights quotes, I haven't taken the time to reproduce that formatting here.

Please keep in mind these are only notes and not a transcription of the sermon that was preached. It is my commitment to depart from them, seeking freedom from the Holy Spirit to proclaim and apply God's Word to the souls under my care in a way that is helpful to them and gives all glory to God.

Bible quotes are from the New American Standard Bible (Updated '95 Edition). This is the best Bible available in the English language, having by far the closest correspondence of any English Bible in common use today between the original Hebrew and Greek and the English translation. We should all own a print Bible and it should be a two or three decade investment, so here are the NASB Bibles that will read easily and hold together best for twenty years. Their paper is opaque, their type is clean, their binding is superb, and I have no hesitation saying you would do well to spend one or two hundred dollars on one for yourself, your wife, and each of your children.

If the reader has good eyes, buy the Pitt Minion. It's very small and light and will last for decades. If the reader has fading or poor eyesight, buy the Clarion Reference. It has the larger typeface and, again, will last for decades. If the reader likes writing notes in the margin, buy the Wide-Margin Reference. It's big and heavy and you will be able to write to your heart's content.

Finally, near the beginning of each week's notes you will often notice repetition from the previous week. Each week I pick up where I left off the previous week.

May God bless you, dear brother and sister, as you study the Word of God and, only by faith, find it sweeter than honey.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!