Galatians 1:1-10 Second Sunday after Pentecost May 29 & 30, 2016 THE SCRIPTURE TEXT: 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—2 and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (NIV1984) THE SERMON: This memorial day weekend, we set aside a little time to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. And, for that matter, we celebrate all those who served in our armed forces in any capacity. You know, anyone who has ever been stationed in an active warzone, has faced situations that many of us can never begin to understand. The fact that those soldiers needed to be on guard every moment of their time while on active duty does something to a person. Many of those soldiers come back to our country on edge, many suffering post traumatic stress disorder because of the things they have seen, because of the constant threat of danger to their lives. It’s good for us to remember the sacrifices these brave men and women made to defend our freedom, our way of life here in this country. So, considering everything that soldiers, who faithfully served in active war zones had to face, I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did to read about how many soldiers desert their posts. 1|Page
Even in the Biblical account of Gideon, we find a similar phenomenon. And, though it’s true that those soldiers didn’t actually desert, we find that detail about how the Lord told Gideon that he had too many soldiers for the Lord to deliver Israel from the Midianites. So the Lord told Gideon to say to the army, “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained” (Judges 7:3). Eventually, that number got whittled down to Gideon and 300 men. And the Lord used those three hundred men to confuse the Midianites in the middle of the night, so that the Midianities actually started killing each other. So it was the Lord who won the day and defeated that army of a 120,000. Did you catch the number of those who left the battle because they were afraid. 22,000 of 32,000 left when they were given the opportunity. Facing 4 to 1 odds, and the prospect of death, I’m not sure many of us wouldn’t make the same decision to leave. So it was informative to read a little about desertions in the history of the U.S. armed forces. For instance, during the days of our country’s civil war, the officially stated punishment for desertion was execution, usually by firing squad. But more often than not, imprisonment, or being branded with a D, or paying a fine was the punishment, if anything even happened to a deserter at all. By some estimates, as many as 1 in 5 of the Northern Union soldiers deserted; and as many as 1 in 3 of the Southern Confederate soldiers deserted. Those are crazy numbers. And there are still a surprising number of deserters in all branches of the military to this day. On this weekend, I don’t bring up those numbers to make the military look bad, but I think it makes us appreciate even more how difficult and dangerous that service is of those who faithfully serve in our armed forces on our behalf. Today, in the Word of God that we have before us, we find a soldier of the cross, faithfully defending the Christian faith. The Christians of Galatia were being attacked. The Christians of Galatia were being misled. They were in danger of losing their freedom. They were in danger of losing their eternal lives. And, so, we find St. Paul writing a most direct letter to those who were “so quickly deserting” salvation by grace, through faith, in Jesus as their Savior from sin. On Paul’s first missionary journey he had come to cities in the region of Galatia, in what is present day Turkey, and he had presented the basic message of the Bible. He had showed the people how they had failed to keep God’s commandments, which put them outside the Kingdom of God. He showed them how they deserved death for their sins. He showed them how God had taught 2|Page
that truth in the Old Testament by teaching them that their sins had to be paid for with the blood of animal sacrifices. Only through those sacrifices could they be forgiven. Then, he showed them the various Old Testament promises of the Messiah, the Savior who would come and lay down his life as the perfect sacrifice for sins—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Then Paul went on to demonstrate how Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Savior who fulfilled all of the Old Testament promises. Then he would have said something to them like Peter did when he preached to the crowds of people gathered in Jerusalem, at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ disciples. Peter said to the crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38,39). That was the same message that St. Paul had brought to the Galatian congregations. Some of the Jews in those places, along with many Gentiles, came to believe in Jesus as their Savior, and they established Christian congregations in those places. Acts 14 tells us, that on the way back home on Paul’s first missionary journey, Paul and his fellow missionaries stopped by the Galatian congregations again, “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust” (Acts 14:22,23). So everything seemed to be going pretty well in those Churches. That is until a delegation from those congregations found Paul and told him how everything in those congregations had changed so quickly. So, Paul writes this letter to the Christian congregations in Galatia. And unlike so many of Paul’s letters where he, for instance, in his letter to the Ephesians, wrote something like, “ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,” but we will notice that there is no note of thanksgiving in this letter to the Galatians. Instead, we read, “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” 3|Page
It is by the grace of God alone that we are saved. Yet, there were some who came to the Galatians and were misleading them away from the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those false teachers were attacking Paul’s credentials and were trying to say that they were the experts and Paul’s message was false. Paul addressed his credentials, his endorsements already in verse 1 of our text. He wrote, “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—2 and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia.” Paul was handpicked by Jesus to be his messenger. And not only that, but the Father endorsed the work of his Son by raising him back to life from the dead. So, Paul’s message was endorsed by both the Father and the Son. And all of the other disciples of Jesus were in full agreement with the message that Paul was preaching. As I said before, Paul was preaching the same message as Peter and the rest of Jesus’ disciples. Those who were misleading the Galatians were also trying to say that Paul was only giving the Galatians some of the message—that he was going easy them. Listen to how Paul defends his record in verse 10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” They were accusing Paul of not making the Gentiles observe the Old Testament rules and regulations like the Jews had done for centuries: like eating kosher food, observing the Sabbath and circumcision laws, and so forth. But Paul was guilty of none of those things. Those Old Testament rules and regulations were put in place to lead the Jews to see their need for a Savior. The law cannot save us. We’ve all fallen short of the law of God. There is only one way that we can be saved—through Christ alone. The apostle John wrote, “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The truth is that those who believe that we have to do something in order to be saved are teaching a way of salvation that offers no salvation at all. And this is a teaching that we must constantly be on the guard against, because it seems to make sense to all of us. There is a part of every one of us that feels at one time or another that we have to do our part in order to be saved. Oh, how I cringe when I hear a member of our congregation say that they think they will be in heaven because they’ve been a pretty good person; when they think they will be in heaven because they’ve done this or that. Listen to how seriously Paul speaks about how dangerously fatal that mixing of works and Jesus is to a person’s soul. And in our day and age of relative truth 4|Page
and Churches accepting all kinds of unbiblical ideas as truth, we need to be steadfast in not allowing this kind of mixing of truth and error to stand. We wouldn’t want to drive over a bridge that has one weak spot in it—as if we would be okay with one foot of weak concrete over the space of a hundred feet. If one foot of concrete of that bridge gives way, the whole thing goes down. Many of you remember how the bridge fell into the river in the Twin Cities a few years ago. We wouldn’t play Russian roulette with a gun with one bullet out of six, hoping that one bullet isn’t going to take our life. We wouldn’t put poison in our drinks, even if it was only 1% of poison in our drink. Paul shows us exactly what happens when you mix the error of work righteousness along with faith in Jesus—it’s no saving gospel at all. It is 100% by grace, by Christ alone, or not all. Paul writes, “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Eternally condemned is what happens with those who mix faith and works. Deserters of the pure gospel through Jesus Christ alone won’t be shot, no, sadly they will suffer for all eternity—eternally condemned. That’s why Paul at the very beginning of his letter gives us the pure saving gospel message. This is the truth we cannot desert. This is the truth that alone saves us. Paul writes, beginning at verse 3, “3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever.” It is by the undeserved merit, the work of Christ alone, who gave his perfect life for us that we are freed, that we are saved, that we have life. Thank God, today also, for the soldiers of the cross, who have stood their ground in the fight for our eternal souls. And most of all, glory be to God the Father, who gave the gift of his Son, and, glory be to Jesus Christ who laid down his life for ours. This is the message that Paul preached, not a message to please men, but the message of a faithful servant and soldier of Christ. We have life. We are “Rescued by the Gospel of Christ Alone.” Amen.