The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….


Free In Christ

“Gospel Freedom: The Consistent Gospel” Galatians 3:1-14

Consistency is a character trait we would all say we admire.

People who are predictable in their virtues and convictions resonate with us as an example to follow or as people to praise God for.

The greatest example of consistency we can find in all of human history is how God reveals himself to humankind.

In Galatians 3:1-14, Paul outlines this consistency and why it matters so much.

1 – The Gospel the Galatians Forgot v1-5

Paul has strong words for the Galatians from the very start of this letter (1:3). He calls them foolish twice (3:1 & 3:3). He is astonished at their acceptance of anything other than Christ, after all it was Jesus whom Paul clearly preached and portrayed to them (3:1b).

Paul’s charge against them was that they were not thinking or reasoning clearly. They had known the joy and freedom of God’s grace operating in their lives. Now, they were being deceived ( bewitched 3:1) by the Judaizers, and were giving up that freedom to live under the structures of the law in order to be accepted by God.

There is nothing more fundamental to the Christian faith than Christ crucified, and that is the exactly what Paul displayed to the Galatians, but they have forgotten.  

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone asks you questions but doesn’t think you know the answers, so answers for you and fires another question in the same breath?

Paul is not being a snappy quiz show host. He is not being arrogant. He is not being prideful. Paul in asking all these questions is seeking to drill into the Galatians a reminder of the things that are actually true about the Gospel.

The answers are meant to self-evident, even to foolish people, and they should be to all who trust in Christ as the only way to be saved and for assurance of that salvation.

He talks of them being ‘bewitched’,implying they have fallen under a spell, or a curse (3:10).They are not seeing clearly because they have allowed evil influences to blind them to the truth.

Paul effectively states: 

“If you are not under the Gospel, you are under a spell.” 

The problem at Galatia was that the deception had taken such a hold, the Spirit and faith had been forgotten (3:2). The Spirit is mentioned in tandem with hearing with faith (3:2 & 3:5) and is held in contrast to the works of the law, suffering in vain, and trusting in the flesh to get and retain favour with God. (3:2-5).

“The Spirit works as Christians don’t rely on their own works, but rather consciously and continuously rest in Christ alone for their acceptability and completeness. Paul links the Spirit and the gospel in the most inseparable terms. The Spirit works as you apply and use the gospel.” – Tim Keller 

Only pride would lead me to say that have received the Spirit by my own works. Only pride would say that I although the Spirit revealed Jesus to me, I will now be made perfect by what I do.

The Spirit can do no work where works take precedence to the Gospel. 

These are heavy words for believers, and as we hear the questions echo in our own mind, it would be very appropriate to ask if we too have been deceived by works of the flesh that blind us to the necessity of the Gospel of Christ crucified.

Answering them the right way is one thing, but this is not just an intellectual exercise. The answers are meant to be lived, not just affirmed.

When we do not live out the Gospel of Christ crucified in our lives, we are destined to live inconsistent lives and will soon lose sight of Jesus. 

“We are not only saved by the gospel, but we also grow by the gospel. Paul is saying that we don’t begin by faith and then proceed and grow through our works. We are not only justified by faith in Christ, we are also sanctified by faith in Christ. We never leave the gospel behind.” – Tim Keller 

2 – The Gospel That Was Preached to Abraham v.6-9

If the Judaizers were going to place such an emphasis on the necessity of keeping the law to be fully righteous in God’s eyes, Paul is going to tackle that on two fronts.

  • the actual definition of the law and it’s true purpose (3:19-29)
  • the fact that Abraham was counted as righteous before the law (3:6-9 & ff)

Abraham’s faith in God was not only counted as righteousness (3:6, Genesis 15:6), but it was counted so before the law was given.

So it is not those who follow the law who are children of Abraham, but those who have the same faith that he did (3:7).

Abraham was promised the same justification that would one day be offered to the Galatians and all Gentiles (3:8) and he accepted by faith the Gospel that was preached to him.

The blessing of Abraham is that faith in a faithful God and accepting his promises leads to justification.

“Saving faith is faith in God’s provision, not our performance.” – Tim Keller

3 – The Gospel of Available to Us v10-14

Attempting to be saved by works will lead to a bondage of anxiety and insecurity, as well as pride and boasting. It is a contradiction by definition, so even it’s results are contradictory and inconsistent.

When I trust in my own efforts, I can never quite be sure I am doing enough. At the same time, by comparing myself to others, know that I am doing better than them. It will make me sensitive to criticism, while being envious and intimidated by others one day, and looking down on others the next.

Either way, this life focused on self is a curse (3:10). No matter what I do, I can never do enough, and even if I do so much better than the next person, I am guilty of all of the law if I fail in one part. It is a crippling way to live. It is a life of condemnation.

If any person is going to base their identity and salvation in keeping the law, there can be no exceptions. A curse of damnation is upon anyone who fails in any regard in the keeping of the law.

Paul’s aim for the Galatians is not that they would face condemnation, or remain under the curse, but that they would again see Jesus clearly. 

In order to do so, Abraham is an example, but all of Scripture testifies to the fact that the righteous shall live by faith, and that faith must be an active acceptance of the promises of God. Paul stresses this point by saturating his letter with scriptural quotes and examples, not only of what the law requires, but of what real faith is, and how those who have it, live.

“There is an inseparable relationship between righteousness imputed by God and the right living of the person who is justified and who lives by faith.” – Maxie Dunnam 

The law does not require faith to live by it. It just requires work and total perfection.

Living by faith simply means we trust in a faithful God who provided all we need to be perfect despite our imperfections.

If the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ died on the cross, it follows that God is not a legalistic judge who demands what cannot be done. Instead, he is the only God who gives himself on our behalf, who suffers to the ultimate display of love.

Our redemption from the curse cost something.To redeem something, you must pay a price.

Paul doesn’t say that Jesus redeemed us by taking our curse from us, but by becoming a curse. He who knew no sin, became sin.

If Jesus became the curse for us, then by believing in him and trusting in him alone for salvation, we have become righteous in the same way. If his taking our sin on himself meant that he was cursed by God for us, then our receiving the blessing of salvation means that we are regarded by God as perfectly righteous and flawless (3:14).

The consistent Gospel of Christ crucified is not just the hallmark of Paul’s writings. He commands that it should be the sole distinctive of every Christian and every church. The church at Galatia forgot this Gospel and became inconsistent because they focussed on works they could do rather than the work Jesus had done. 

It is easy to become distracted. Distracted people soon become inconsistent people. Inconsistent people often become self-justifying people.

I make excuses when I am distracted by my phone at the meal table. That leads me to be inconsistent when my wife is looking at her phone when we are driving somewhere. I justify my actions by making all manner of excuses, either mentally or verbally, and all the while, knowing I am a hypocrite and have been distracted from what really matters.

In what ways are we inconsistent in our Christian walk?

When we forget the gospel, it’s not because we have never heard it, but because something else had captured our attention.

We would rather be identified sometimes with what we have grown comfortable with rather than the things that will actually lead us to be fruitful.

Where do we find our primary identity as believers? 

If it’s not found in the Gospel, we are in danger of being deceived or of even deceiving and distracting others.

Do some of my actions as a child of God prevent others from sharing in the promise of Abraham? 

It is easy to place barriers in the way of the gospel that are unnecessary and lead to hypocrisy and inconsistency. We must seek to reorientate ourselves with the gospel constantly.

Have I been distracted from the message of Christ crucified by my own desires and agendas? 

How can I recapture the picture of the Gospel in my heart and life? 

Surround yourself with people who speak the gospel to you and live the gospel around you. Gospel consistency on display leads to effective discipleship and fruitful living.

“This message is the proclamation of what has been done for us before it is a direction of what we must do…A Christian is not someone who knows about Jesus, but one who has ‘seen’ him on the cross. Our hearts are moved when we see not just that he died, but that he died for us.” – Tim Keller

When we see him clearly, we see our redemption, and our response is living a life of faith in the promises of God.


‘Gospel Freedom: A Purpose Driven Life’ Galatians 2:11-21

Nothing is more frustrating than inconsistency.

In sport, nothing is more annoying when your team can win by 100 points one week and lose the next. Or at work when a colleague or employee can one day be ultra efficient and the next be present only in body.

Inconsistency and hypocrisy are the greatest problems other people have.

We very rarely of course see these traits in ourselves, but every now again, we need reminders that anyone can make a misstep.

Even the great apostle, Peter, shows us even the strongest among us can be inconsistent when it comes to applying the gospel we say we believe to our every day lives and relationships.

Fear of the Circumcision Party v 11-13

Paul has shared about his trip to Jerusalem, and how the apostles had all united in the truth of the gospel, and had not submitted to those who had tried to force Gentile believers to become Jewish in order to be properly saved. Paul now publicly confronts Peter in Antioch because of his hypocrisy in this very matter (v11).

It wasn’t a matter of manners or rudeness on Peter’s part. This issue was much deeper than that. Peter stood condemned because of his change in behaviour towards the Gentile Christians when the Judaisers came to town (v12).

He went from eating with and fellowshipping freely with all Christians to completely withdrawing himself from the non Jewish ones. The reason given for this is put simply, fear (v12b).

Peter had a revelation from God about what was clean and unclean, or what was common and how God had declared His gospel was for all men through his meeting with Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11.

Peter also should’ve had fresh in his mind the situation with Titus in Jerusalem. He had seen the transforming power of the gospel at work in Jews and non Jews alike, and knew the truth that works cannot save.

Peter lost focus of the gospel and gave into peer pressure instead.
We all have our prejudices, and most of the time when we are giving into them, it’s because we’ve allowed ourselves to be influenced and intimidated by people we perceive as powerful. It becomes a kind of moral blackmail to say we won’t do this or that in our ministry expressions here because of what these people over here will say about us.

When we do things like this, we are trusting in men, and not in the gospel, and from that point on, all we do will be out of line with the gospel (v14) because we define ourselves by another’s opinion of us rather than who God has declared us to be.

The fear of man will always bring a snare, and the trap here is in failing to apply the gospel we say we believe.

The fear of man will always lead to hypocrisy.

Peter’s convictions hadn’t so much changed. No doubt he still believed the truth of the gospel and it’s freedom. He knew the Jewish customs in food and dress were not necessary to keep oneself holy or acceptable to God, but here, when it came to Gentiles believers, he stopped acting in accordance with his convictions. His theology hadn’t changed, but he had allowed his fear of what others thought of him override his obedience to God.

When we say the gospel is free, and any who believe in Jesus are saved and accepted in God, but act as if all Christians everywhere should say and act the exact same way we do, we are being hypocrites.

The other danger of hypocrisy, is that it spreads. It’s infectious.

The rest of the Jews started acted the same way (v13). Even Barnabas wasn’t immune to the fear of the circumcision party.

They hid behind a notion of separation and a claim of what would be most pleasing to God, but in distancing themselves from the Gentile Christians, they were distancing themselves from the Gospel. They rejected those whom God had accepted.

When we allow differences of culture, race, gender, upbringing, denomination, and social position to become more important than unity, we have missed the gospel.

“Legalism is looking to something besides Jesus Christ in order to be acceptable and clean before God. Legalism always results in pride and fear, psychologically, and exclusion and strife, socially” – Timothy Keller

Out of Step With the Gospel v 14-16

How do you know you’re out of step with the Gospel? When you add to it and judge others for nothing having the same traditions you do.

Too often we hear of other churches or Christians running events, doing outreach, and instead of praising God, we scoff, we mock and pridefully say, ‘Well, they don’t preach the Word’. When we do this we are being prejudicial and we are out of step with the Gospel.

“Every Christian group or denomination necessarily has many distinctions of belief and practice that have less to do with the core gospel beliefs and more to do with specific convictions about ethical behaviour or church policy. It is extremely easy to stress our distinctions in order to demonstrate to ourselves and others that our church is the superior or best one.” – Timothy Keller

The gospel truth is at stake anytime we turn aside from what God has instructed in order to follow a tradition of men. It breeds pride, fear and division.

Paul points out the clear contradiction of what Peter was doing. He was a Jew, living with Gentiles. He was effectively living as a Gentile on one hand, but at the same time, by his actions on the other hand, he was effectively telling Gentiles to live like Jews (v14). It didn’t make sense.

Paul also points out that although he and Peter are born Jewish, born with a blessing under covenant that Gentiles do not have, they both knew as Christians that a person is not made right with God by observing the law, but only by faith (v15-16). They knew the law could not save from sin, it only reveals it (3:19-24). What the law commands could never be the foundation for justification because no one can keep it, and every part of it must be kept. If we start picking and choosing which parts to follow while not adhering to other parts, none of it matters and we prove ourselves to be hypocrites.

We’re good at writing lists of things we don’t do. It’s easy to not do things you don’t do. What’s harder is to look at God’s list. It’s a higher standard, and surprisingly enough, usually doesn’t actually include the things we have on ours.

A Purpose Driven Life v 17-21

“The main point of this section is that right standing with God does not come from keeping the law, since everyone sins, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. All those who revert to the law only display their own sinfulness in returning to a covenant that has passed away, and hence they end up rejecting the grace of God given in the cross of Jesus Christ.” – Thomas Schreiner

The false charge is bought against the believers that if they are justified only in Jesus and are still sinners, that Christ is responsible for their sin. This is a foolish thing to suggest. On the contrary, when we restore the law as the basis of how we relate to God we automatically indict everyone as sinners, condemned without hope. The only thing reinstating the law would do for me is condemn me. The law is death to all who live by it, but to those who believe in Jesus, they have life in him because he took their condemnation!

The life we now live, as we believe in Jesus, is a life free of condemnation. It is most certainly not a life free of sin, and it is not a life free of needing to obey God’s will for us, but it is a life of purpose.Our purpose is glorify Christ in our lives.

If we think our salvation or our righteousness comes through any other means but Jesus, we are saying Jesus died for nothing.

The lessons for us from this passage are clear.

Don’t nullify the grace of God or cancel out the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross by being relying on keeping the law to be justified.

This means we should never ever give precedence to human traditions when they are in contradiction with the truth of the gospel. We should put no barriers in the way of someone coming to know Jesus and living a life pleasing to God. If we begin in the Spirit, we are to continue in the Spirit. (3:3).

We make a terrible error when we ask people to believe in Christ alone for salvation and then the moment they’re in the door, hand them a list of do’s and don’ts so they are fully accepted by God and the church body. If we do this, we may as well hang a sign outside the church saying, ‘Christ died for you, but it wasn’t enough.’

When we have these practices in place we are effectively saying Christ died for no purpose.

We learn that if we are confronted with a choice between loyalty to the systems of men and standing firm in the truth of the gospel, we must side with and stand for the gospel.

You can either have a fear driven life or a purpose driven life.Christ died for a purpose. Your life has a purpose. To live the life He has given you.

“We are reminded in the text to accept correction humbly. When others correct us, we must bring the criticism before God to see if it accords with the truth or to see if there are elements of truth in the rebuke.
We must beware if we think we have a special ministry of admonishing and correcting others, while at the same time we reject any criticism of ourselves!” – Thomas Schreiner

What is the best way to get around prejudice towards other Christians?

Share a meal.

Invite someone into your home, and have someone over for a meal. You might just be surprised what you have to learn and what others have to offer. You will also see the gospel on display in ways you never imagined.

“The Christian life is about living in line with the gospel throughout the whole of life, for the whole of our lives. We must go on as Christians as we started as Christians. After all, if at any point and in any way righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Christ will do everything for you, or nothing…
If we realise we cannot save ourselves, Christ’s death will mean everything to us. And we will spend the life that he had given us in joyful service of Him, bringing our whole lives into line with the gospel.” – Timothy Keller

“Free in Christ: The Distinctive & Necessity of Christian Unity” Galatians 2:1-10

If you have turned on your news this week, looked at your newsfeed or read a paper, chances are you have been exposed to conflicting opinions that create division.

It’s everywhere.Our nations, our workplaces, our families and our churches.

In this age of so much fracture and disunity in the world, the church needs more than ever to give proper attention to the emphasis the New Testament places on unity.

Paul had established the church at Galatia in the gospel of Christ, but now it was being undermined by false teachers who questioned his authority and claimed they themselves had higher authority.

Paul goes up to Jerusalem to settle once and for all that the gospel he preached was true and that the unity of the church in that gospel was vital.

1 – The Fear of Fruitless Work ( v1-2)

Paul goes to present his case for what he was proclaiming to the Gentiles to the apostles.

It seems as though he is seeking their approval, though he has already made it clear that the message he presents does not come from men and doesn’t need men’s approval, it comes from God, and that is all the authority it needs (1:10-11).

He feared his ‘having run in vain’, but not because he lacked any certainty about the Gospel he had been proclaiming.What he could not be certain of is if some of the apostles could be swayed by the false teachers.He feared that some of them might be distracted by prejudice towards the Gentiles (as happens with Peter in v11ff)  and compromise on the truth of the gospel – that it’s freely available to all.

If the apostles were to abandon the true gospel, then all of what Paul had been doing would be in vain.

The apostles though, fully accept Paul and confirm his ministry in the strongest way possible.

2 – The Threat of Slavery and the Freedom of the Gospel (v 3-5)

If we are to summarise the gospel Paul and the apostles preached, it would be that salvation is freely available to all, whether Jew or Gentile.

A summary of what the Judaisers were teaching is that all could be saved, but any saved Gentile must become Jewish in order to be properly saved.

Its often said that legalism is anything that adds works to salvation, but legalism at it’s heart is deceptive, subtle, and sometimes even attractive to those who believe. Legalism is doing something or not doing something in order to fully accepted by God, even though He has never directly spoken to that specific thing. It usually elevates a ritual, tradition, or principle that was a good thing in and of itself for a specific people, at specific time in a specific place, and makes it something that must be applied to all people at all times in every place. It teaches the doctrines of men as commandments of God, whether in application to salvation issues or holiness issues.

“Externalities are to do with our doing; internals have to do with our being; and Christianity is about who I am in Christ, not what I do for Him.” – Timothy Keller.

Paul states that gospel freedom was under threat from those who sought to bring people into the bondage of works based salvation(v.4).

It becomes a crucial point that Titus is present with Paul (v3) as he provides the perfect case study in Gentile conversion and how the apostles will respond.

We thank God that the apostles certainly did not yield to the pressure that was being placed on them. Instead, they fellowshipped freely with Titus, accepted Paul and Barnabas, and in so doing, preserved the gospel we have today. (v5b).

Division and slavery are not things we should ever submit to, and they are very real threats we face even today from different avenues, whether outside the church or even inside. 

The acceptance of Titus was public statement about the implications of the gospel. It is free to all, and an individual accepted by God by their faith in Christ, not by works.

In demanding that Titus, a Greek, should become Jewish to be properly saved, the false brethren showed a cultural prejudice. Also, they relied on fear to get their message across. It was intimidation, forceful, non-negotiable, ungracious. The clear implication was if you were not like them, you were not saved.

“If your salvation depends upon obeying the rules, then you want your rules to be very specific, do-able and clear. You don’t want: Love your neighbour as yourself, because that’s an impossibly high standard which has endless implications! 

You want: Don’t go there or Don’t drink this, or Don’t eat that.” – Timothy Keller

The freedom of the gospel cancels this kind of thinking out.

“Anyone who believes that our relationship with God is based on keeping up moral behaviour is on an endless treadmill of guilt and insecurity…Christians are not free to sin. Though we are not free of the moral law as a way to live, Christians are free from it as a system of salvation. We obey not in the fear and insecurity of hoping to earn our salvation, but in the freedom and security of knowing we are already saved in Christ. We obey in the freedom of gratitude.” – Timothy Keller 

3 – The Distinctive and Necessity of Gospel Unity ( v 4-10)

The main distinctive of gospel unity in the church of Jesus is freedom.

Christian unity takes no account of cultural, racial or ethnic differences. It takes no account of various people’s standing or influence. Even if that influence is a good one. Paul shows this clearly in that while the apostles were influential, it made no difference to him who they were – he was far more concerned with the gospel that they preached (v6).If God shows no partiality between Jew and Greek, male and female, slave or free, neither should we. ( 2:7, 3:28).

We too often place our traditions in the same authoritative place as the gospel. We make them non-negotiable, and when we do, we say to the ‘Tituses’ among us who love and follow Jesus, ‘You are not welcome here until you become like us.’ 

“ Many types of Christians add to their distinctions, such as belief in predestination, abstinence from certain practices, or speaking in tongues, to the gospel as ways we can be sure we are Christians. In other words, many churches will say that we are saved by faith alone, but we can only be sure we are real Christians if we have these distinctions.” – Timothy Keller 

Our commission is to make disciples of Jesus. Not clones of ourselves.

Christian unity means we must acknowledge we all have different callings.

Verse 7 shows us that Paul and Peter shared the same gospel, and were obeying the same commission, but both had different mission fields, so they had different ways of sharing with vastly different audiences.

Our outreach can quickly become very dry, methodical and even legalistic if we can only share the gospel in one way with one audience in mind.

It is the same message for all, and in a way, yes, the audience will always be the same, as all have sinned. But without a personal burden for a particular person or people that drives us to reach them personally with the gospel, shared from a perspective that they can understand and relate to, we might instead just be imposing a system on them.

When our preferences and traditions get in the way of how we engage with people around us, we not only fail to share the gospel effectively, we’ve created stagnation. We’ll never move out of Jerusalem if church everywhere else in the world has to be done the way we do it. We will just become an exclusive community club. 

Another mark of Christian unity, and perhaps the most challenging, is that poor are to be remembered by Christians everywhere.

Peter and Paul may have had different mission fields, but they were both constrained to look after the poor.

Those who are tight with their money will be tight with the gospel. If you think your money is yours and you’ve earned it, and that others should go and do the same, you’ll be the same with salvation. If you don’t see all of God’s provision as his grace, you probably won’t practically apply the free grace of salvation either.

There is also the irony that the strictest, most legalistic of all the law enforcers, don’t adhere to ones that God has laid out.

We’ll tell people to adhere to certain guidelines, regulations and bylaws that we have created in order to provide a safe, holy, sanctified environment where God can be pleased with our efforts. All the while we have neglected the greatest commandment we have been given, to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Ensuring on extreme, extra-biblical separation from various aspects of culture so we are not ‘spotted by the world’ will ensure never will be spotted by anyone in the world.

There are of course limits on unity. The whole reason Paul shares this account is to point out there are some professing believers we cannot unite with.False brethren had infiltrated the church and Paul was not willing to fellowship with them.

If you add to the gospel, you are not contributing to gospel unity. 

The gospel is already exclusive enough. 

It’s only through Jesus.

Anyone who comes to God through Jesus is included, for us to place restrictions on God’s blessing of fellowship and membership into his church where he has not, is not just prideful, it’s deadly bondage. 

We must never exclude from Christian unity and fellowship someone whom God has included.

Instead of seeking out what differences we have with others who are in Jesus, we could instead find ways we can partner together in the gospel, extending that right hand of fellowship (v9).

Do you know anyone from outside Jerusalem?

The best way to expand your application of the gospel is to meet someone outside our sphere of influence. Both Christian and not. 

How many unsaved people do you know? What can you do to get to know some?

Bake a cake?

Offer a lift to co-worker?

Change your job?

Share a meal?

How are you studying the gospel in ways that will help you reach those who haven’t heard it?

The best way towards unity with other believers is of course to worship with them, and to share in the Lord’s Table together.

There’s not greater blessing than in sharing a simple meal.

Fellowship happens when we acknowledge a common bond. In Christ we have the strongest bond available.

“Gospel Freedom: A Story of Grace” Galatians 1:11-24

Stories are powerful things. We get caught up in our imaginations to other times, places, and possibilities that can inspire us, and even change our lives because of the truths that become real to us.

Each of us is living a story. Paul had a big story, and his story of Christian conversion and calling to be an apostle, is maybe one of the most pivotal testimonies of all of Christian history.

He shares his story with the church at Galatia, not only as a justification as to why he has the right to tell them to listen to him, but more ultimately, as a testimony to the freedom of grace and the transforming power of the gospel, which were the key issues he wanted them to know of in writing to them.
A Vessel Of Grace v. 10-16

There’s no possible way, Paul says, to preach the gospel of Jesus and please men at the same time (v10-11).

One of the marks of a true believer is that they stop looking to please men and only look to please God.

Paul’s salvation was real and the message he shared with them was true, not because he thought it up, or passed on what he had heard from others, but because both his salvation and the message of how everyone else could be saved comes only from God.

“How can we recognise the true gospel? Its marks are given here. They concern its substance (what it is) and its source (where it comes from).” – John Stott

His calling and commission were completely supernatural, so to accuse Paul of manufacturing a ‘cleverly devised fable’ ( 2 Peter 1:16) is not only to charge him with lying, but it also discounts the work and character of God.

Before his conversion, he was fully convinced against Christ. He was so convinced that he violently persecuted any who followed Jesus with the church’s destruction in mind. (v13).
To go from that, to preaching that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to be saved, is miraculous!

Paul could testify, that in looking back over his life, God had ordained that he was who he was in order to become who God intended him to be.

God never causes anyone to sin ( James 1:13-14). No one will ever be able to stand before God and blame Him for their poor choices. We will, however, if we have believed in Jesus, be able to stand before God and glorify Him for somehow using our lives, as faulty and fallen as they were, and redeeming them for His ultimate purpose and glory.

“The gospel gives us a pair of spectacles through which we can review our own lives and see God preparing us and shaping us, even through our own failures and sins, to become vessels of His grace in the world.” – Tim Keller

From before birth, Paul knows God’s grace was doing something that he could in no way ever make up himself.

This is the amazing grace of God to all who believe in Jesus as His Son and His finished work of salvation on the Cross and His rising from the dead – God has loved us before you were born and destined you to be called to his glory.

That can be a deep theology that many would wish to argue on certain points, but the truth of Scripture is this – you cannot save yourself. God has to step in and show you Jesus so you can receive Him and be saved from the consequences of your poor choices. The only other option is we ignore the grace of God and revelation of Jesus and face the full, eternal consequences for our choices.

Paul accepted this truth of election by grace through faith, and we too, should not be afraid of it.

Paul, along with the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, know that God gave them a calling from before birth, not only of salvation, but to speak His word, and to do so without shame.

God has prepared something for all of His children to do. If we examine our lives through the lens of grace and redemption instead of the lens of works and self-righteousness, we may well be able to see what He has in mind for us. A big part of that will be telling our story of God’s love for us.

“God revealed Christ to Paul so that He could reveal Christ through Paul. This shows us a critical difference between a mere religious or moral person and a Christian. A Christian has more than an intellectual belief in Christ; they sense a personal relationship. And they know that this relationship is not given to them solely for their own personal comfort and joy. They know they have a responsibility to reveal Christ to others through what they are, do, and say.” – Tim Keller

A religious and moral person is in it for themselves and their own glory. A Christian denies themselves to point others to Jesus.

2. A True, Accepted Apostle v. 16-2:10

Paul spends some time elaborating on his early years as a believer in order to again reiterate that his message was not made up, or an elaborate public relations stunt by the apostles.

When he was first converted and called, he doesn’t consult with any person, and he actually has no contact with the apostles for three years. (v16-17).

Even when he did go to meet them, he only spent time with Peter and then saw James very briefly. It was fourteen more years before he met the rest of the apostles (2:1-10).

They then confirmed his ministry, salvation and calling, but in no way did they force or coerce him into being converted or coach him in what to say.

The men that had spent the most time with Jesus while he was on earth, who knew him better than anyone else, confirmed that all that Paul said about Jesus was true.

They also had no interest in forcing Christian converts to adhere to Jewish law (2:3-5), which again, gives Paul more credibility to speak to the issue he is writing about.

Those accusing him literally had no case at all. Paul and his message were accepted by the apostles. If you reject him, you reject them.

3. A Blameless Man Under the Law v. 13-14

Why is Paul stressing this supernatural Providence in the gospel message – both in receiving salvation and the calling to share it?

We must remember that the key issue that Paul is addressing in all of this is the traditions of men that had been given more authority than the gospel of Christ.

The Judaizers were ironically trying to pit themselves against the greatest Judaizer that ever lived. They were trying to argue the law against the man who was the most preeminent law keeper and enforcer of his generation. If anyone had a reason to be confident of his law keeping abilities, it was Paul ( Philippians 3:4-6).

His record was impeccable, his pedigree was undeniable, his zeal and self-righteousness were beyond compare. To say he was an expert in these matters would be a gross understatement. He was qualified to speak to this topic of salvation by law and works or salvation by grace and divine revelation.

We learn much about Paul here in what he shares about his journey from zealous law keeping for salvation to being zealous for God’s grace and holiness because of his salvation.

Paul’s story shows us also that are two faces to repentance.

We rightly think of repentance as being when we turn to God in faith, and in so doing, we see Him as being far more attractive and desirable than anything else this world offers, so we seek His goodness and beauty by turning away more and more from lifestyles and choices that do not please God, and seek the fruits of the Spirit rather than the temporal pleasures of the flesh.

There is another side to repentance where we not only are called to repent of the wrong things we do, but also of the right things we have done for the wrong reasons. Paul’s law keeping of God’s law was not wrong. His motives for doing so were though. We so often seek repentance of our ‘bad works’ but every now again we need to examine the motives of our ‘good works’. If we are doing them for ourselves, to promote our reputation and glory in comparison to others, our motives are wrong. If we do good works to bring glory to God, and aren’t worried if we never get any recognition for them, we’re on a far better path.

“Paul’s experience proves vividly that the gospel is not simply ‘religion’ as it is generally understood. The gospel calls us out of religion as much as it calls us out of irreligion. No one is so good that they don’t need the grace of the gospel, nor so bad that they can’t receive the grace of the gospel.” – Tim Keller

We can become zealous for things that lead us to persecute others of a differing opinion or conviction and seek their destruction, when ultimately, we are destroying ourselves because we are trusting in something other than Jesus for our salvation or holiness.

Paul shows us that no one is beyond the need for or reach of grace.

What we learn more than anything else from this passage is that the gospel is not come from human beings, but from God.

“The gospel represents a transcendent word from God – a word from above that speaks authoritatively and infallibly to human beings. Hence, the rejection of the gospel amounts to a repudiation of what God himself has communicated.” – Thomas Schreiner

Do you have a story to tell?

“ Paul is a good example to us here. He shows us that we must have the courage to be vulnerable and speak personally about what the gospel means to us…he gets personal to make the gospel clear.” – Tim Keller

Is your journey one that ,on reflection, you can see redemption’s threads weaving through?

Or are you more concerned with discounting God’s work so you can more clearly show your own?

When people look at us, and all we have accomplished in our life and message that we share, who do they give the glory to? ( v24).

We need to tell our story so well, that the only person people have in mind at the end is Jesus.

Galatians 1:1-10 “Free In Christ: No Other Gospel”

Have you ever felt like you have fully accomplished something and you are pleased with what you delivered, only to have someone come along and completely undermine all you’ve done! Work with a project, home with the dishes, an assignment that comes back with a lower grade than you expected…

The apostle Paul knows how you feel in that moment, but with something far more important, the gospel.

Paul wrote this letter to a church in the region of Galatia, an area in modern day Turkey. He was writing to address false teaching that added works to salvation.

We are always in need of hearing the message of Galatians. No matter how we have come to faith in Christ, it is human nature to fall into a system of merit – to think in terms of achievement and reward.

Paul establishes the foundational importance of the gospel to every aspect of the believers life. It’s not just for salvation.

“We’re going to watch Paul challenge them, and us, with the simple truth that the gospel is not just the ABC of Christianity, but the A to Z – that Christians need the gospel as much as non-Christians…that the truths of the gospel change life from top to bottom…The gospel – the message that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth, for obedience, for love.” – Tim Keller
1 – The Gospel of Deliverance v.1-5

Paul’s very opening words tell us this letter is unlike others he wrote.

Not only is there no personal greeting or encouragement we might find in other epistles, but from the first sentence, Paul establishes his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He will go on to further build on his personal calling and authority to preach the gospel in the rest of ch 1 and 2.

Straight off the bat, he is making very clear, he not only has something of vital importance to say, but he has the authority to demand that they listen to him.

“His authority was not political or denominational. Neither was it derived from popular support. It was an authority and commissioning that came from a divine source. He was appointed by the Lord.” – Bruce Atkinson

Jesus had personally appointed Paul as His apostle, and the message of the gospel he shared had authority not just because of it’s truth, but because of his extraordinary commission. We might not have the authority Paul had, but we do have the same commission.

The gospel Paul preached and lived was clear and understandable.

That we are helpless and in need of deliverance. v4a
That Jesus gave Himself for our sins, buying our freedom with His death (v4). This is important, because Jesus’ death for our sins, in our place, was either fully completed for us, or it was not. It was either a full substitution, or it was not.
Paul leaves no doubt as to who the agent of our deliverance was, and Whose will it was that it was to happen this way (v4b).
That God gets the glory forever for our salvation and deliverance is also of vital importance (v5). Either salvation is all of God – His action, His work, His plan, His calling, His grace, or it is just partly of Him.

This is the humbling truth at the heart of the gospel and our faith as Christians, we cannot be our own saviours.

We find messages and teaching of self-salvation attractive, but the truth of God’s grace to us in Jesus totally ruins all our desires for glory, personal perfection and the approval of men.

The gospel tells us that we are in such a desperate situation that you need a deliverance that has nothing to do with you at all. It also tells us that God in Jesus provides this deliverance that gives us far more than any false salvation our hearts would rather have.

God gets the glory because He does the delivering. The work of our salvation rests with Him. We are saved, not by works which we have done, but by His mercy. There is nothing left for us to do but to respond in faith to His grace. It is not about the performance, it’s not even about the level of faith, it is about Who saves, and whether we believe. The A-Z of the gospel in our lives is a work of God’s Spirit, not our flesh (3:3).
2 – The Only Gospel v 6-9

This outline of the gospel is intentionally simple. We may be staggered at how it all happens,how God’s sovereignty and our responsibility coincide to make it all possible, but at it’s heart, the gospel is simple. ‘Believe on Jesus, and you will be saved.’

It’s almost too simple. We feel like we need to add some things to that.

Believe and repent.

Believe, repent and be baptised.

Believe, repent, be baptised and live holy.

Even though our intentions might be ‘pure’ and even accurate in a doctrinal sense, pretty soon we enter territory that is open to interpretation or at least various definitions, and we start to get confused about what is meant to be simple, and that’s without even entering what Paul was covering here.

We also easily create divides, as happened in Galatia, about who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’, all based on who uses the right terms, definitions, and interpretations based on our subjective personal understanding, experience, or creedal/denominational alignment.

Again we note the starting tone of this epistle is very different to ones we would find elsewhere written by Paul.He is astonished (v6a), surprised, even angry.

The believers at Galatia had deserting the call of God who had given them grace and peace, to turn to a ‘different’ gospel (v.6), and because there isn’t really any other gospel than the one Paul had given them (v7a), what they are turning to is confusion, distortion and perversion.

He has surprise and disappointment for the believers, but he announces a curse for those who are presenting a distorted gospel.

This a serious issue. Messing with and distorting the gospel is not to be taken lightly.

As we will see, the addition to the gospel that Paul is taking issue with is what a group of Jewish teachers from Jerusalem were pressuring the Gentile believers into accepting – that adherence to the cultural customs of the Mosaic Law, especially in regards to diet, circumcision, and ceremonial law were still necessary to live a life that pleased God.
It was Jesus, plus law in order to be fully accepted by God.

Pointedly, the things these false teachers wanted the Galatians to adhere to were all external things. They were things that other people could see. This is fundamentally opposed to what the gospel really is. Yes, people will see a change in the lives of those who believe in Jesus, but this is not a manufactured change because of the adapting of some behaviours, but because the heart has changed, and the Spirit now resides in the believer, bearing out His fruit (5:22-24) and the works of the flesh are put to death as a result.

When we add anything to the gospel, it ceases to be the gospel, and becomes something else (v7a).

“If you add anything to Christ as a requirement for acceptance with God – if you start to say: To be saved I need the grace of Christ plus something else – you completely reverse the ‘order’ of the gospel and make it null and void. Any revision of the gospel reverses it…To abandon gospel theology is to abandon Christ personally (6a).” – Tim Keller
The gospel message is not open to tender. There is no other message to proclaim, other than what has clearly already been stated.

This means that anyone claiming to have something to add to the gospel, or claiming an original thought about it, should not be heard, and must be seen for what they are, a walking contradiction, a cursed person, a charlatan.

“Paul insists we must accept the gospel on its own supernatural authority, no matter what the status of any person who seeks to change it – even if it’s Paul himself, or an angelic being.” – Bruce Atkinson

Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Jesus plus something else, equals manmade systems of religion that bind and blind.

Paul can’t say it any plainer, and as we will see in the rest of Galatians, this is an incredibly liberating truth. We do not have to be held in bondage to any system or religion, we have been set free in Christ (5:1), so we can be justified by His works, not our own. This frees us to love and serve God without trying to earn anything as a result. It also helps us see the law in the right way (3:21-29).
If the knowledge of the law doesn’t drive us to Jesus, we’re doing it wrong.
3 – The Approved Messenger v 10

Who can deliver the approved message?

The messenger is only ever approved by the message they deliver, and the one who sent them to deliver it.

Paul clearly states that his motivation when he shares the gospel is not to get men’s approval.

He knows that if he preaches the message that God has given him, he will please God and at times, displease men. He also knows that if he wants to please men, he could preach something other than what God has given him, but that would displease God.

We are not called to seek the approval of men, the moment we do, we abandon the true message.

There is only one way.

Jesus stated that clearly ( John 14:6),and as the rest of Galatians will outline, if there were any other way for us to be saved, Christ died for no purpose.

We see the reason was Paul was eager to get his point across. The gospel is not a discussion, or a debate. It is an announcement. There are no other options.

For unbelievers and believers alike, the questions are the same.

Do you think you need the gospel?

And what are you doing with it?

Has it’s truth saved you?

Has it’s truth changed your life and your allegiances?

Whose approval do you most want? God’s? Or man’s?
Are you free?

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