Liberated from Legalism - pt 1 [4-25-21]


Here's one way to translate Galatians 1:8:

If anyone brings you another gospel, let him be damned.

That verse captures the heart and spirit of Galatians. Paul is facing a crisis of sorts in the church. False teaching is taking hold. The truth of the gospel is a stake. And so, by extension, is the salvation of those who fall under its spell.


Chapter one has some roundabout ways of setting up the next five chapters. While at some points it might feel disjointed, we'll break down its key points in a way that brings clarity to where Paul is taking us.


First, here's a summary of the three main sections of Galatians:

  • Chapters 1 & 2 deal primarily with Paul apostolic authority.

  • Chapters 3 & 4 deal primarily with the truth of justification by faith apart from works of the law.

  • Chapters 5 & 6 deal primarily how the truth of chapters 3 & 4 is lived

out in the life of the believer.


Based on the powerful observation of verse 8…if anyone brings you another gospel, let him be damned…we rightfully look with utmost seriousness at what Paul is addressing:

  • Utmost seriousness in joy at the grace and peace that is ours in verse 3, to the deliverance from evil in verse 4, which results in giving God the glory in verse 5.

  • Utmost seriousness over the astonishment - per verse 6 - that people would turn from the grace of the gospel to a gospel of works, which is no gospel.

  • Utmost seriousness of anger at those who, as Paul mentions in verse 7, distort that gospel which leads others to condemnation. This is such a serious matter that Paul says, "Let them be accursed."


In a moment we're going to look at Paul's established authority to say what he says. But first we need to look at the jarring declaration of damnation upon the teachers of a false gospel. It's fascinating how Paul says, these people are accursed, and then he says, this is the authority under which I

say that.


These false teachers stand accursed by God. All Paul is doing is declaring the curse which can only come from God. As Paul says in 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'" In other words, it was according to God's plan that Jesus Christ suffer the punishment for our sin. All sin stands accursed under God. God is the One who does it. And Paul is saying we now have a whole group, supposedly coming to teach the Galatians, who are directing them away from the all-sufficient, curse-removing substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross. So Paul says, damn those who lead you astray. May the false teachers be damned with the damnation that can only come from God.


That is powerful. And it's powerful still today, because there are people who are coming under the influence of all kinds of false gospels. Every day people are being lured away from Christ as their Supreme Treasure. These vulnerable ones need to hear what Paul says in Galatians 5:4:

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you

have fallen away from grace.


Paul spells out the reason for our seriousness in 3:1-4:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

We never want to be the kind of church or the kinds of Christians where this kind of seriousness feels out of place. Remember what Charles Spurgeon said 140 years ago:

"The day is coming when, instead of shepherds feeding the flock, we're going to have clowns entertaining the goats."

From Paul's letter to the Galatians, to us today, there's a lot at stake with a faithful teaching of the gospel.


Here are two monumental truths that undergird a faithful teaching of the gospel. These are important to understand what faithfulness to the gospel

looks like.


First, Scripture is the supreme authority over and above any sort of human authority.


This truth was driven home to me when I read about the death of Hans Kung. Kung died several weeks ago. He was a Roman Catholic priest and professor. He was a scholar of the finest order, who had a falling out with the church several popes ago. He was eventually stripped of his credentials as a teacher of Roman Catholic doctrine. What got him in trouble was his teaching on Papal authority. He said Popes and their councils were not infallible. He found nothing in the Bible to support the Pope's infallibility or the fact that, even if you could trace the Papacy back to Peter, it has any significant impact on Biblical truth. Kung's mistake was affirming the supreme authority of Scripture over all human authority.


The second monumental truth is that sinful human beings stand justified before God not on the basis of any righteousness of their own doing, but only on the basis of Christ…crucified…risen…righteous.

Here's something you might want to write down:

The Father does not love us because the Son died for us. Rather, the Son died for us because the Father loves us. The cross had its origin in the Father's heart.

That is the gospel. As we'll see, the cross had been in God's mind from all eternity.


So, let's jump in to chapter 1.


First, GOD SET PAUL APART FOR HIS SALVATION AND HIS APOSTLESHIP BEFORE HE WAS BORN. Here's how Paul puts it in Galatians 1:15-16:

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone.

God chose Paul before he was born to be His emissary to the Gentiles.


I love John Mason's observation on the sovereignty of God:

  • John Mason Twitter.

{Our brothers and sisters in Christ were predetermined by God before

anything was ever created. The foolishness of labels like white evangelicals and black church is a clear subversion that completely disregards the Spirit of Christ and His Church.}

That is hugely impactful. There is a weightiness to Paul's declaration of God's sovereignty.


It means that the mission to include Gentiles through Paul was not an afterthought in the mind of God. In other words, sometime after Jesus ascended into heaven, God didn't say, you know, I just had an idea. How about we find someone to bring the gospel to Gentiles? That might work. Understanding the sovereignty of God tells us how patently absurd that would be. God planned to spearhead the Gentile mission in the world with Paul before Paul was born. Before he was born. Neither the Gentile mission nor Paul's leadership in the Gentile mission were an afterthought to God. Paul was set apart by God for this before he was born.


It also means that Paul did not apply for the job. He was recruited. And

God recruited him while he was up to his neck in Christ-hating, Christian-

persecuting attitudes and actions. Here's how Paul puts it in verses 13 and

14:

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

In other words, when God chose Paul before he was born to be His apostle to the Gentiles, God allowed him to be a hateful persecutor of Christians. And why did God permit that? So that it would be evident and obvious that when God called Paul, it was totally God's doing. God's choosing of Paul was bathed in mercy and grace. Paul hated Jesus and his followers. How amazing are the works of our God!


The second huge thing we see in chapter 1 is that GOD CALLED PAUL TO HIMSELF BY REVEALING CHRIST TO HIM.


Again, verses 15-16:

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me

by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might

preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone.

Before Paul was born, God set him aside for his calling. And then, in the midst of hating and abusing those whom he is going to be called to serve, God claims the life He had predestined to serve Him. That is the sovereignty of God. We have no idea what God is doing and how He planned back then for what He wills to happen years from now. You never know the fullness of how God is working in your life. You just don't know. That's why we sing:

Blessed Be Your Name In the land that is plentiful Where Your streams of abundance flow Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name When I'm found in the desert place Though I walk through the wilderness Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out, I'll Turn back to praise When the darkness closes in, Lord Still I will say Blessed be the name of the Lord When the sun's shining down on me When the world's 'all as it should be' Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name On the road marked with suffering Though there's pain in the offering Blessed be Your name

You give and take away You give and take away My heart will choose to say Lord blessed be Your name

God is always working in our lives, whether seen or unseen. God works for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.


Here's how God called Paul. God revealed Christ to Paul while he was traveling on the Damascus Road. As Paul says in verse 16, "He was pleased to reveal his Son to me." But God revealed Christ in more than a blinding encounter. God revealed Christ deeply to Paul. The literal translation of verse 16 is, "He was pleased to reveal his Son in me." Not only was Christ revealed to Paul on the Damascus Road, but also in him as God gave him the life, light, and faith to believe in Him. Paul saw the beauty and worth of the Savior he had been persecuting. That is depth of revelation. Paul says, "God revealed his Son in me." In fact, the utter truth of who Jesus was and what Jesus did was so deeply imbedded into Paul's life that he would later say that everything he had accomplished in his life up to that moment was garbage. Jesus was and is everything.


So, here's where we're going to end today. What, next, would Paul do? After this defining, transformational moment, what next? What would he do? You can imagine what it would be like to be called by God to serve what you once tried to destroy. What would be Paul's next move? Where would he go?


Next week, we'll move toward the answer.

SOLI DEO GLORIA…

To the Glory of God Alone!


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