November 19, 2006 Series: Galatians
Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 1:10–1:24
November 19, 2006
In our church there are those things there are those things we hold in the open hand and those things we hold in the closed hand. The open handed things are those things we are willing to disagree on, but not willing to divide over. In other words, there are various opinions on various issues all deemed acceptable. Such things include, worship style, spiritual gifts, how we run our service, etc.
The closed handed items are those items that we consider essentials to believe as a church. Most of these things include doctrinal issues that make us orthodox. Others might include things we have deemed closed handed because we desire agreement-even though there are godly men and women who hold differing opinions. Paul's letter is about standing for the truth. The problem is, you must make sure you are standing for the important, essential ones. Otherwise you become a zealous freak for the wrong things-the things not found in the Bible.
Paul is writing the church of Galatians to clarify what the gospel is and chastise them for abandoning it. The gospel of grace is THE CLOSED HANDED ISSUE. Last week we read how ‘astonished' and shocked Paul was, not that there were false teachers attacking, but rather that they abandoned the water of life for toilet water so quickly. While we can add to the purity of the gospel, thereby poisoning and ruining it all, we can also replace it. Something else becomes our savior, something else the source of our security, our acceptance, our value-and if we lose that one thing, suddenly our savior is gone and we find ourselves in despair. We ended with Paul wishing a curse upon himself, an angel, or any person who teaches anything other than faith in Jesus alone.
The truth that Jesus is the only name given under heaven by which we are saved quickly offends people. In a world of pluralism, they want a five-lane freeway with multiple exits and options. When you say that the road to God is one, and that a narrow one, people get fired up. Usually, that is where preachers, teachers, or anyone standing for truth begins to wither. As soon as the accusations of "arrogance" or "narrow-mindedness" start flying, they either change, water down, or completely stop speaking the truth.
Suddenly, the approval of men has become more important than the approval of God. We abandon the truth because it's not popular, or comfortable to hold. We abandon the truth because people say it's not loving...I disagree. Jesus loved, but he was not a people pleaser. Paul loved, but he was not a people pleaser. I try to love, but I'm not a people pleaser.
V.10 the approval of men vs. the approval of God
Paul is not a people pleaser. If he had been a people pleaser, it would have been unlikely to call for them to be accursed if they teach a different gospel. That may have "hurt" their self-esteem or at least knocked him a few pegs down on the popularity poll they were taking.
He does not preach for the favor of men. He concerns himself only with the approval of God not the approval of men. Paul writes in 2Cor5.9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. Paul has been attacked as preaching an "easier gospel". Personally, I think it is much easier to follow a bunch of rules or righteousness, then to simply accept it. It's like a teacher who never posts your grade, or gives you papers back. He just tells you that you have an A and to participate in class...enjoy yourself. But you don't believe him. You keep asking and asking to see the grade, but he never reveals it to you. "You have an A." That fact is not satisfying enough.
Men can't be pleased. As hard as people try to please men, we never can please them all. I don't believe you can please men, so I don't try. Considering Romans 1 teaches us that men are in the business of suppressing the truth, trying to please men is a dead end road.
Trying to please men causes us to sin. Lying is sourced in pleasing men. We lie, which is sin, because we feel like the approval of men is more important at that moment than the approval of God. Then we lie again to cover up that lie, then we get confused over all the lies we have told and offend somebody by accident...it's a mess. Trying to please people whose tastes are never satisfied and desires are insatiable can kill you. You end up in a never-ending cycle of changing their opinion to suit what is popular at the moment.
But, as American Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson so aptly said, "My life is not a spectacle for people". Right before that, I he said, "My life is for itself." I would agree and disagree with Emerson. Paul's, mine, your life is not for others, but it is for an audience of one. Our aim in life is not to please men; it is to please God not out of fear and guilt-which is religion, but out of joy of acceptance-the gospel.
In church, we avoid speaking the truth for this very fact. Too many pastors, churches, and movements get focused on the wrong things---more than audience of ONE. One is not enough, they need a bigger audience, lots of people, a ton of programs. So they build a church that is completely "relevant" by watering down the truth that seems to drive people away or make them upset. They in fact, get rid of the most relevant thing there is, the gospel. Instead of holding fast to the truth, they bend to the desires of a people Paul warned us about: 2Tim4.3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
"The test of a man's ministry is not popularity or miraculous signs and wonders but his faithfulness to the Word of God"[i]. So Paul comes with the truth, even if it no one listens, or everyone hates him, or even if they hurt him. Even if no one believes, he's going to remain a servant of God. Paul is very clear.
2Corinthians 4.1-6Therefore, having xï»¿this ministry yï»¿by the mercy of God,ï»¿4 we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced zï»¿disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or aï»¿to tamper with God's word, but bï»¿by the open statement of the truth cï»¿we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even dï»¿if our gospel is veiled, eï»¿it is veiled only to fï»¿those who are perishing. 4 In their case gï»¿the god of this world dï»¿has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing hï»¿the light of iï»¿the gospel of the glory of Christ, jï»¿who is the image of God. 5 For what kï»¿we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with lï»¿ourselves as your servantsï»¿5 for Jesus' sake[ii]
This does not mean that Paul told the truth so that it would hurt, him or others. He does not take pleasure in pointing out someone's sin, condemning a false teacher, or the like. He also doesn't take pleasure, although glorifies God, in getting stoned!
We have some responsibility, however, of how we speak it. I remember having discussion with cultists. We would engage in discussions about truth and I would just wait for the moment where they spoke something wrong. I could feel the saliva squirting in my mouth as, like a lion waiting to pounce its prey, the hopeless victim fell into my trap. Then, in a frenzy of zealousness, I would declare hell fire and damnation only to have the conversation end over something as simple as whether or not Jesus made win or just fermented juice. The Bible also says that a "gentle word turns away wrath." We want to make sure people are being turned offended by the truth, and are not avoiding truth because you're a jerk.
v.11-12 Not Man's Gospel...what a waste
Paul states his theme: his message and ministry are of divine origin. He did not invent the Gospel, nor did he receive it from men; but he received the Gospel from Jesus Christ. Both his message and his apostolic ministry were divinely given. Therefore, anybody who added anything to Paul's Gospel was in danger of divine judgment, because Jesus Christ gave that Gospel from heaven[iii]
The Gospel God
The Gospel Man
Grace - God does all the work
Hope in the Eternal
Works - I have to work
Hope in the Temporal
As we discussed last week, there are distinct differences between the gospel of God and the many different gospels of man.
Man's sinful pride is offended by the idea that only the grace of God can save us from our Sin and therefore MAN has no part in his own salvation. It is so difficult not to fall into a mentality where we're working our way back to God again. We know that God does not want us to sin. We know that God desires us to do good works. But there is not a measuring stick for either one of those. Martin Luther confessed to his struggle with falling from grace..."For I know in what hours of darkness I sometimes wrestle. I know how often I suddenly lose the beams of the Gospel and grace, as being shadowed from me which thick dark clouds. Briefly, I know in what a slippery place even such also do stand as are well exercised and seem to have sure footing of faith." - M. Luther
Man's gospel rests in our changing feelings, God's gospel rests in scripture alone. Any of man's gospel will not measure up with scripture's definition of salvation. That is the test. Do not believe me, our church, or any other teacher who teaches teach anything against the WORD OF GOD. But how will you know? The only way you will ever know if this gospel is the true gospel, is to read it for yourself. You must test what I say against the scripture. Every declaration of right wrong, good bad, righteous unrighteous must have scripture behind it.
Man's gospel lies in a thing or person who will not last, God's rest in Jesus, conqueror of death. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man." The question ultimately boils down to who this gospel sourced in. What man did this truth originate with? Every religion or sect has their leader. Whether it is Joseph Smith, Charles Taz Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, or some prophet, the truth is only as solid as solid as the man who first speaks. This Gospel comes from Jesus. It goes back to a question of authority. But when I point to my leader, my hero, my source for truth, I don't point to the head of a denomination of leader of a church. The Senior pastor of this chruch is Jesus Christ. Why? Because I make mistakes, all men do, but Jesus doesn't..
V.13-14 My former life proves I'm legit!
If we have no other truth to stand on, no other truth we understand, we have our own life as a testimony to the power of God. Here Paul will recount his miraculous conversion that took place in Acts 9. He recounts this because his reputation is being attacked. They false teachers believe that Paul is teaching a different message for some ulterior motive. In essence, Paul says here....DO YOU KNOW WHO I USED TO BE?
§ Zealous persecutor of "the sect of the Nazarenes" persistent intent to hurt and destroy the church
§ Popular & thus powerful, reaching the highest ranks of religious leaders
§ Highly educated: Graduated top of his class; sold out and then some
His personal religious life, his scholarship (Acts 26:24), and his zeal in opposing alien religious faiths, all combined to make him the most respected young rabbi of his day. Then something happened: Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the church, became Paul the Apostle, the preacher of the Gospel. This change was not gradual; it happened suddenly and without warning (Acts 9:1-9). Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians; a few days later he was in Damascus preaching to the Jews that the Christians are right. Imagine how confused his Jewish colleagues were? How embarrassed? How confused?
We all have a former life, some more dark than others. Our former lives are the best testimonies to God's transforming power. The Bible, in fact, is full of these kinds of people. I used to imagine (because I didn't read it) that the Old Testament was full of stories about really "good" people. While there are a few "good ones", most of the foundation of the faith is built upon the shoulders of dysfunctional, broken, sinful people who did really bad things. Yet, God used them, transformed them, and was praised because of the amazing things done through them.
We have some contemporary examples today:
§ Novelist Anne Rice: called the Queen of the Occult
§ Korn Guitarist Brian 'Head' Welch
§ Actor - Stephen Baldwin, Gary Busey
§ Director - John Woo
v. 15-16a No other explanation than the power of God
Who was responsible for this powerful conversion? Was it Man? Did he move from what the Bible calls a natural, fleshly, enslaved, hostile toward God man...to one day deciding I think I'll believe? Was it the Jerusalem apostles? Was it fake? No human explanation of influence could account for the 180 degree turnaround in Saul's life. Paul did not choose God, God chose him, and that before he was born.
HE CALLED ME... Read v. 15
Paul continues to defend his apostleship by saying, I'm not about because God chose the time, place, and means. No one chooses God, he chooses you. Paul's call to be an apostle, like every believer, was the produce of God's prior grace. BEFORE OUR BIRTH, and therefore we could do anything good or bad, god chose to create faith in us. No one can earn God's call; it is a free gift (Rom 9.10-13, Ephesians 1.4-6).
Romans 9.11-16 ...though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad-in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call-she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, Jacob I have loved, Esau I hated. What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy."
These are hard truths to hear. Basically what this says is that God chooses, I don't. Just like Paul, and me, and you, God decided whom he would create with faith.
v.16 HE WAS PLEASED TO REAVEAL HIS SON
Paul continues to say, I wouldn't believe Jesus until He changed me. All he tells us is that it is God who initiates belief. In a sense, Paul didn't choose this for himself. Paul didn't decide one day to just believe. No one does. Ephesians 2.8-9, For by grace you have been saved THROUGH faith, and that not of yourselves. Even faith comes from him. He also doesn't tell us WHEN that will happen. God is the one that says, THAT'S ENOUGH...YOUR MINE! Do you think Paul ever wondered why he had to go through what he did? Before and after conversion? God's ways are above ours.
It is difficult to hear that...but it's the truth. Faith in Jesus has nothing to do with me, or whoever is preaching. It has nothing to do with how persuasive my voice or words are. It has nothing to do with how gently I can communicate it, how much offensive material I can avoid, or even if I try at all. Paul writes very clear, so clearly that only theologians and scholarly Bible guys can really find disagreement....
v. 16b-22 - I did not immediately consult with anyone...
Instead of "conferring with flesh and blood," Paul gave himself to study, prayer, and meditation, and met with the Lord alone.[iv] Paul did, of course, meet with Ananias for three days after his conversion, but not to submit his gospel for approval. I love that he spent most of His time with Jesus. . The word "confer" however, suggests laying something before someone or submitting it for approval. Ananias did impart the gospel to Paul, but only confirm his calling to preach to the gentiles.
I appreciate that Paul did this. All too often when we need to make a decision, we check with a hundred men before we ask God. I think if we really believed prayer worked, we'd talk to God all the time. If we really understood that he speaks to us today, gives us direction, instruction, and guidance, we would talk with him more. Even when creating messages like this, I have to guard myself from depending too much on what other men have said before me. It is not that they are wrong or bad...the question is, what am I leaning on.
Paul continues and recounts his post-conversion journey...
- He left Damascus where he had upset people.
- He went to Arabia, and upset people (2Cor 11.32)
- He returned to Damascus and upset people. (Acts 9.23)
- Finally, he went to Jerusalem.
The truth is offensive, upsetting, and dangerous. Jesus said it himself, in Matthew that he came with a sword. If you stand for Jesus, you will not receive the approval of men. You will be disliked, hated at times, and misunderstood. You can make it easier on yourself (which is what they claim Paul is doing), but in fact, he's making it much harder. He's suffering.
Finally, he meets with Peter and James. The Greek word "see" means to visit to get information, not to get the gospel. Paul probably asked Peter about Jesus and his life. James: This is James the Lord's brother, not James the disciple. James the disciples was martyred early in the church, Acts 12.2. James did not believe at first (John 7.5) but was later converted. Paul had a tough time here getting into church fellowship. They knew of Paul's past, and struggled with welcoming them in their community. One of my greatest fears is that we'll lock people out of community because we don't feel they belong. Luckily, Jesus never did that to me.
v. 23-24 - God glorified because of me
The gospel is quite simple....
- God does all the work before you were even a thought.
- God does it in his timing-there are no mistakes
- God does it without your help even though it feels like you're choosing
- God does it when you least expect it or deserve it.
- God does it for you and he does it for a witness to others
- God does all for His glory.
Today people want a truth that is easy. They want something that feels good. They want something that makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside, even if it is a lie. I am convinced that people a lie if it means they don't have to deal with difficult truth.
I won't lie, God's truth is difficult at times. I don't find it difficult to stand for the truth, I find it difficult to deal with the consequences. What gives me strength is knowing the Jesus did the same thing...he stood for the truth, and died. The truth was, is, and will be that I am a sinner, and that my God loved me so much, he was willing to be stick with the truth and be killed for me. He didn't say, its too hard, unfair, or uncomfortable. Like a lamb to the slaughter, he voluntarily died.