Monday, June 24, 2013

Sermon on Galatians 3:23-4:7 for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Part 4: "Faith in Christ"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today we’re in the fourth part of our series on the book of Galatians. And sin, law, faith, and Christ are the focus of today’s reading. Faith is a tremendously important word to us, and is widely “borrowed” even outside the church. But it’s often used in a fuzzy and vague way. Statements like “you just gotta have faith”, for example. Faith in what? Believe in yourself? Believe that everything will just be ok, even if it doesn’t seem that way? On the other hand, the Bible uses the word faith with great clarity. The closest synonym to faith would be “trust”—and both faith and trust must always have an object. The person or thing faith or trust looks to. That which we believe in. This helps us understand that faith or trust can’t really exist by itself, “aimed at nothing”—or it will receive exactly nothing. Also, we’ll see that faith or trust aimed at the wrong person or thing, won’t do us any good either. Can they “deliver” what we hope for or need? Can they measure up to and solve our problems? Are those problems big or small?
If my problem is minor—say wart-removal or changing the oil on my car—I may be either wise or foolish to trust myself, have faith in myself, to solve the problem on my own. Depending on my knowledge and skill, and how hard or easy the task, I might just measure up to it. But this kind of “faith in yourself” is not at all what the Bible is talking about. On the other hand, if it’s a more serious problem—say the need for a kidney transplant, or repairing my transmission—I’d better find a trustworthy and skilled doctor or mechanic.
Carrying that same line of thinking into spiritual things—is the size of our problem big or small? What measures the size of our spiritual problems? Can we trust our self-diagnosis, or do we need God’s own diagnosis of the matter? That’s where what Pastor Roschke called “big law” comes in. The Law of God, that St. Paul describes in our reading, is what measures the size of our problems. And the diagnosis is not good—the size of the problem is BIG—and the extent of the problem is TOTAL. Sin is the name of the disease, and the end result is death—with a 100% mortality rate. When left to our own self-diagnosis, the problem goes under-diagnosed. We always measure our own sin to be a little less than the next guy, and we’re inclined to see the symptoms of someone else’s sin better than our own. This is known as the “plank-in-your-eye” syndrome. But it’s a woefully serious problem, because sin is rebellion against God Himself. It’s a flaunting of His commands, and a listening to our own sinful heart and its desires, instead of His good will and statutes.
Sin is the perennially echoed challenge to God, first spoken by the serpent: “Did God really say?” And the deadly result of this sin nature is a scoffing at God, and a refusal of treatment. Or attempts at self-medicating. The long list of human religions is a continual attempt at finding the right recipe for self-medicating our spiritual problems. We measure the problem to be small enough for us to tackle, and find our own self-help solutions for treating it, apart from God and His remedy of repentance and forgiveness. From ancient idol worship to new age spirituality, all man-made religions follow variations of the same do-it-yourself themes: you can climb up to God (or fill-in-the-blank higher power) by your own moral striving; or you can encounter the divine through your emotions and mystical experiences; or even you can find enlightenment by reason and science and by throwing off old notions of the spiritual or supernatural.
Or, in a way that seems more clever, we drag in parts of the Bible that suit our own ideas, and sneak in our “do-it-yourself” message in various forms. This is our state of affairs, where everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes, where “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10b-12). And to this state of affairs where “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)—the Law of God imprisoned everything and everyone. Imprisoned, jailed, locked up.
God’s Law imposed a total quarantine of sinful humanity. Paul says, “Before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed” (Gal. 3:23). Here we see again why our plight is not that different from the prisoners at MCCC that Pastor Roschke talked about last week. Or why we have something in common with every other member of the human race, regardless of culture, language, or religion. We share the tragic common bond of our fallenness, our sinfulness. The same weakness that doesn’t see our situation aright. The same sin-blindness that needs God’s big law to imprison us, to blind us with the light of goodness, long enough for the scales to fall off our own eyes and show us our own sinfulness. But not only do we share that tragic common bond of our sinfulness, we also share in the universal welcome of the Gospel to people of every nation, Jew or Gentile, every social status, slave or free, and that makes no difference between male and female. Our universal plight is met by God’s total redeeming work in Christ, given freely to all who believe.
“So then”, Paul continues, “The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith”, and later, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” We discover that the quarantine or imprisonment of the Law, to keep our sin in bounds and under the curse, was not a cruel act of God to isolate us, but to keep us under guard until Christ came. When Christ came as God’s own Son, He entered into the quarantine, “born under the law” like us, but without sin. Jesus came as the sinless and perfect Son of God, with the immunity from sin, the only One who could absorb all sin’s poisonous and virulent strains into Himself, and die for it, and then rise again in glorious victory over sin and death!
God, who correctly diagnosed the depth of our depravity and sin, and who rightly judged us accursed by our sin, did not abandon us to death and suffering the consequences of our sin, but Himself dove down into the muck and mire of our human condition, immersed Himself in life together with the sinful and the groaning, healing the sick, reversing the curse, giving us undeserved blessing instead. Jesus Christ experienced at our human level all the pain and misery that sin brings, and with a surgeon’s knife He cut through the warped logic of our self-treatment plans. He came under the same judgment of the law that accused us, and became for us the way to freedom and innocence. He taught that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” and that “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:34, 36). It’s the same freedom Paul describes when he says that Jesus was born under the law to “redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Far from willing harm by imprisoning us under the law, God wills life for us! He wills that once imprisoned, we may be set free by faith in Christ!
See, there is the miracle of His cure! Faith, looks not to ourselves, but to Jesus Christ! We are “justified by faith”—that is to say that by trusting in Jesus—the only One who is able to help with our God-sized sin problem. And by trusting in Him God counts us as sinless; righteous and good. God renders a new judgment, a new verdict on us, a new diagnosis. When He justifies us, He renders the judgment, the verdict, that we are innocent by faith in Jesus Christ. He sees us exactly as He sees Christ Himself—holy, innocent, blameless, without fault. He sees Jesus Christ’s righteousness spreading over all our sin and shame. He sees a perfectly robed saint, dressed in a fitting garment for a heavenly wedding banquet. He sees adopted sons, welcomed into God’s family by faith, by trusting in Jesus Christ and having their sins fully crucified in Christ, forgiven and forever taken away.
Our new diagnosis is that we’ll live, because we live in Christ. And how do we become these “sons of God, through faith”? Paul answers, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” In baptism we are joined to Christ. We have little reminders of this in the symbols we use in the baptismal service—a little white garment to remind us that we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness that covers all our sin. Or sometimes children wear a white baptismal gown or dress. But those little symbols teach us of what’s really happening, not just in a symbolic way, when we’re baptized into Christ Jesus. God is clothing us with Christ. Just as you are coming out of prison, our quarantine under sins, and have discarded the old prison clothes, the old contaminated rags of sin, God now clothes you in new baptismal garb—clothed with Christ Himself. In baptism you are “wearing” Christ—so all of His righteousness is yours, His perfect innocence, yours, by faith in Him. You’re shielded and protected from the condemnation of the law because you are in Christ Jesus. Where before you were a slave, now you’re a son, heir to the freedom, heir to the life He’s won for you.
One pastor described the limitations of the law in producing good in us this way: the electric company can get a lot of money out of me by threatening to shut off my electricity—but I’ll never pay them more than the bill says is due. My obligation ends there. But the nature of my relationship with those I love is entirely different. They get far more from me than merely what is due. For those whom we truly love, we give beyond what is asked for. His analogy shows a parallel to the way that the law can compel a certain outward goodness in us, but only of a limited and reluctant nature. But the Gospel, the Good News of Christ Jesus, on the other hand, is God’s love given to us, and moves our love in return. A love that is not given or measured by “how much I owe” or “what must I do” or “what’ll I have to do to get by”—but an overflowing generosity, mercy, and forgiveness that knows no limitation. True obedience to God can therefore only come out of the motivation of the Gospel, out of love—not compulsion, fear, or under threat. In this way we live truly as sons, not as slaves in the household.
Why does it refer to us as “sons of God”, receiving “adoption as sons” or that we’re not “a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God”, instead of saying “sons and daughters of God?” 2 Corinthians 6:18 says “you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty,” so that is certainly a Biblical way of speaking. But why does it mention only sons in Galatians 3-4? Is it leaving out women? Certainly not, because in 3:28 he says that in Christ Jesus there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.
But he is emphasizing the nature of our inheritance. In the Biblical world, inheritance was passed through the son, and the firstborn son had the “birthright” and therefore the largest share of the inheritance. And so we have been brought from “outsiders” to the family of God—slaves in our sin and imprisoned under the law, with no right, no claim to the inheritance—to being adopted into the family of God through Christ Jesus as sons and then an heir through God. In our baptismal adoption, we’re full heirs to the inheritance of Jesus Christ. God treats us as His own firstborn son, heir to all His goodness, life, and promise.
Within this salvation, within this adoption into the family, there is no hierarchy of importance, no distinction in access to the gift, no law-requirements to qualify some and disqualify others by virtue of sex, race, or social standing. God gives His gift of salvation, He adopts us as sons, regardless of our language, the color of our skin, our earthly freedom or captivity, our wealth or poverty, or our sex. Men are not inherently closer to God than women, or vice versa. Free walking citizens are no closer to accessing God’s kingdom of grace, then those walking behind bars. Neither Europeans, nor Asians, nor Africans are more or less favored by God to be called according to His grace. The universal human need and distress is met by the same universal remedy and rescue--Jesus Christ--the object of our faith. He makes us all one in Him, and brings us together into His body.
            Christ Jesus has come to us who were once bonded together in our sin, and by entering under the bonds of the Law, broke them for us, so that we are now bonded to Him in our baptism. Joined to Christ who is our forgiveness, our freedom, our life! Justified by faith in Jesus Christ is truly pure gift! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

1.      Why does faith (or trust) always need to have an object? What is the proper object of Christian faith? Galatians 2:16, 20. What happens when we put our faith in someone or something who is unable to help, save, or deliver what is promised? Why then is God in Christ the only true object for Christian faith?
2.      How does God’s law measure the size of our problem, and what is it? Romans 3:23; 6:23; 3:10b-12. How do we often try to divert attention from our own sin, when trying to “self-diagnose”? Romans 2:1-3.
3.      What steps did God take to contain the “outbreak” of sin? Galatians 3:21-25. How does this reflect our common human plight with all people? How does it prepare us to receive the Good News of the Gospel?
4.      How did Jesus respond to our imprisonment under the law? Galatians 3:24; 4:4-5. How does Christ set us free? John 8:34, 36.
5.      Freed from prison by Christ, how does God “dress us” with new clothing? Galatians 3:27-28; cf. Matthew 22:1-14.
6.      How does the Gospel produce true love and obedience in us in a way that the Law never could?

7.      Why does Paul specifically use the language of “sons” in Galatians 3:26, 4:4-7? What is the significance about how inheritance was passed down? In another context, why is it perfectly appropriate to speak of being “sons and daughters” of God? 2 Corinthians 6:18. What is the freedom of living as sons and not slaves in the household of God? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sermon on Galatians 1:11-24, for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Part 2 of 6

·         Last week: Paul’s vigorous response to the Galatians, astonished they were abandoning Christ and His Gospel, for a false gospel. Strenuously argued his gospel is from God, not man. Evident because centered on Christ, not man, and all glory to God.
·         First, pause to define “gospel.” Good news or good message. But not just any good news, but here, precisely the gospel taught by Paul, or the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has a particular content: the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. His whole saving act accomplished for us, by grace (undeserved love), received by us through faith. Pastor Roschke’s sermon next week will touch in greater depth on what that gospel is, but this “gospel” or good news, stands distinct from God’s other holy message—the Law, which shows us our sins and condemns us. The Gospel is what frees us and comforts us with the love of God, and delivers us from the judgment of the Law.
·         Anyone could claim their message was from God, not man. And false teachers today still claim they have a message direct from God, or learned something new that was never revealed before in Scripture. Paul’s opponents, who were troubling the Galatians with their false gospel, no doubt claimed their teachings were from God as well. So how does Paul show that his gospel, and not that of his opponents, was really from God? None of his opponents could claim that they were taught directly by God, by revelation.
·         His defense also shows that the opponents were zealous for the laws and traditions of the Jews. Tried to preserve circumcision as a requirement for salvation, even for new Gentile believers. Also the Jewish feasts. Paul starts by proving that he was no “slacker” or mediocre follower of Judaism, an easy-target for the influence of the Christians or apostles (in fact he makes a major point of the fact that he didn’t learn from the apostles, and barely met with them! He was an independent witness to the resurrection of Christ, receiving the Gospel direct from Jesus, just as they had). And anyone could tell that he was zealous beyond compare for the traditions of his people. He was an overachiever, star-pupil, exceedingly dedicated. So dedicated and zealous that he was ready to destroy whatever threatened those traditions and the Judaism he embraced. Acts 9 describes him setting out to Damascus, “breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” and that he was authorized by the high priest to arrest Christians and bring them to Jerusalem. Paul shares this, not to boast of himself. After all, elsewhere he declares this kind of boasting mad and foolish—but rather to demolish all grounds for boasting in human effort—both his own, and anyone else who thought they had reason to boast.
·         In fact, Paul shares this out of deep thankfulness that God nevertheless, beyond all expectation, had mercy on him. And remorsefully, Paul counts himself as chief of all sinners. He thanks God in 1 Timothy 1:12ff, that Jesus appointed him to service, even though Paul had formerly been a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. “But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Paul had been a poster boy for having “zeal without knowledge” and employing violence, hatred, and force in his cause, which he had thought was God-pleasing, but was in fact the blasphemy, persecution, and insolent opposition not merely to the Christian church, but to Jesus Himself. Jesus said it Himself to Paul when He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul was a walking example of God’s completely undeserved mercy and forgiveness. He credits his 180 degree turn-around entirely to God’s grace in revealing Jesus to him.
·         Suddenly the misguided zeal without knowledge that drove Paul, was redeemed or “bought back” for God’s true purposes, and immediately after his conversion and baptism, he became a powerful instrument for Jesus Christ. Within days of his baptism and recovery from his blindness, Paul was confounding the Jews by proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ, and proclaiming in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. A holy zeal, or a passion turned toward good purposes, is something we rarely see and experience. This kind of zeal does not employ the tools of violence or force, but employs the power of the Truth and exercises love. This astonishing change in Paul (still known as Saul at that time) was so incredible to the Christian churches that they glorified God because of it. And it was so infuriating to the Jews, that they plotted to kill him.
·         What had changed so remarkably in Paul’s understanding of the Bible? The revelation of Jesus Christ had created a total paradigm shift for Paul. He knew the OT Scriptures inside and out, and was the most highly educated and studied in the Scriptures of any of the apostles. But when still a Jew, he was missing the key to understanding the Bible. He was missing Christ, that is, the Messiah—the Promised One of old, who was to fulfill all the promises of the Scriptures. Without Christ, without the key to understanding the Scriptures, it was almost inevitable that he (along with the other Pharisees) would read them as a book of laws and commandments, obedience being the key to God’s favor. A highly righteous and observant Pharisee, who strove to always obey God’s commands, could be assured of God’s approval. A wicked sinner, who disobeyed, or gentile sinners who were ignorant of God’s law, were condemned. But Jesus Christ shattered this “works righteousness” that understood human obedience to be the measure of God’s satisfaction with us. Paul learned of the depth of human depravity—that even the most righteous, law-abiding Pharisee, had fallen just as completely short of God’s glory as the most immoral outward sinner. The Law of God, rather than enabling him to develop his own righteousness to hold over other “sinners”—struck him and all men down to the same flat level. All were under total condemnation by the law until Christ came. And the Gospel even more dramatically breaks the chains of our sins when we are forgiven by Jesus—even when we can rightly call ourselves “chief of sinners.”
·         Paul’s life story shows us the remarkable grace of God that loved and sought even a man so bent on destroying the church. It gives hope for those who are likewise stubborn and bull-headed. It also shows us that it was God’s power, and not Paul’s effort or will that brought about this tremendous change in his life. We can never give God too much credit, and when we try to take more credit (however small), we jeopardize our salvation, and uncertainty can creep into us, asking whether we’ve really done enough, or deserved it. If the gospel ever ceases to be “gift” or starts to be about “deserving it”—the gospel—the good news of Jesus, perishes. You Christians, forget any thought of your own worthiness or being deserving of salvation, but humbly thank God that nothing you have done credits you or endears you to his favor, but that entirely apart from what you do, God loves you in His grace. His undeserved love. In Christ Jesus, He has called you by His grace. Before you were ever born, before you ever where able to do anything right or wrong, or before you were even able to have a thought or desire in your mind, God chose you to be His own. A pure, undeserved gift. Throwing your effort, your supposed self-righteousness or merit, or anything else that its yours, into that mix, and you have tainted and spoiled the gift. So know that Christ loves you and values you so much as to have given His life, to purchase you as God’s own children. God has redeemed you for His purposes, and as He accomplished much through Paul, so He can use every one of you in your gifts and talents, for His service.
·         We also learn from Paul’s story, that even the most intense persecution and opposition to the Church of Christ, will inevitably fail. Paul’s own mentor, Rabbi Gamaliel, had wisely warned that if the movement of the Christians were not from God, that it would fail on its own right. But if it is from God, all opposition would fail—and worse, the opponents would be found opposing God. Christians can rejoice that whenever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is mocked, scorned, persecuted, and disbelieved—that God will still prevail and preserve His church. And that He just might turn some of the most hardened enemies into powerful messengers of His name. We pray that God would confound the thoughts of those who oppose Him, and bring to saving faith all those who do not yet know or confess Jesus Christ as Lord. All glory be to Him!

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

  1. The word “gospel” is used in at least two ways in the Bible. In the broad sense it is used to describe the whole of Jesus’ life and teaching, as in the Four Gospels. In the narrow sense, and as it is contrasted with God’s Word of Law, gospel means the “good news.” In this narrow sense, it encompasses all that God does in Christ, and speaks no threat or condemnation, but only the free and unconditional promises of God for us in Christ Jesus.
  2. Why would the false teachers, both then and today, claim that their “gospel” was also from God? What unique claims did Paul have to show that this was really true? Galatians 1:11-17. How did Paul stand independently as a witness to Jesus’ resurrection? What made the people marvel to God about Paul’s life?
  3. Why did Paul share the account of his overwhelming zeal for Judaism, in his former life? 1 Timothy 1:12ff; Philippians 3:1-11; 2 Corinthians 11:21-23.
  4. What is different about the methods and actions of Paul’s “holy zeal” after his conversion? What tools can (and cannot) such a zeal for good employ? Romans 10:2; 12:21; Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 4:1-2.
  5. Why will efforts to persecute the church or extinguish the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, never ultimately succeed? Matthew 16:18; Acts 5:33-42.
  6. How does the example of Paul give hope to all the “tough-minded” and stubborn? What is amazing about the love of God? Galatians 1:15-16; Romans 5:6-11. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Sermon on Galatians 1:1-12, for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Part 1: "Divine Origin"

·         Intro to 6 part sermon series on Galatians: Apostle Paul, to the Christian church in Galatia (modern day Turkey). Church founded by Paul, but now in his absence, overtaken by a powerful and destructive false teaching. Paul was no stranger to churches suffering confusion about the Word of God, wrestling with immorality in their midst, or a facing a host of other serious concerns. Uniqueness of Galatians in the fervor, anger, and vigorousness of his reply. Skips his usual pleasant greeting, his habit of thanking God for the church he’s addressing, and almost immediately expresses his profound shock and disappointment.
·         Why? What moved Paul to such heights of emotion and passion, that even remarkably dysfunctional churches like the one in Corinth, did not create the same intensity of response?
·         Here, above all else, it’s the heart of the Gospel that’s at stake. The Gospel, that stands as the theme of this powerful and short, 6 chapter letter. The good news that the sinner is justified before God by faith alone in Christ alone. This truth, the truth that sinners are saved purely by the act of God’s grace in Jesus, was forcefully under attack by Paul’s enemies in the church at Galatia. Paul’s fervor and passion are because it was the very beating heart of the Gospel that they were attacking, and his defense rises against this most deadly threat to the Christian faith—because salvation itself is at stake.
·         Some of us might be concerned by the bluntness of Paul’s speech, or even of his anger in this letter. We know that anger can lead us to doing hurtful things, and we’ve seen others hurt by anger. But is there ever a proper place or limit for anger or passion? Ephesians 4:26 seems to leave a narrow place for anger when it says, “Be angry and do not sin, and do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Or the example of Jesus’ own anger on several occasions, most notably in His cleansing of the temple. We could add to this both the many passages that speak of God’s righteous anger, as well as numerous passages warning us as humans to avoid anger and the results it produces. James 1:19-20 says “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Human anger is stirred up by all sorts of petty things, and does not produce the righteousness of God. And while anger itself may not be sin in all cases, it stands precariously close to a host of sins, including violence, abuse, hatred, jealousy, and all manner of other sins that the Bible clearly warns against.
·         Yet there is such a thing as a righteous anger and passion that is stirred up by a noble cause or by conviction for the truth, or to protect something good or dear to us. And this is the passion that stirred Paul to his defense of the truth of the Gospel. The opposite of this good passion, would be indifference or apathy. Next week: a little more on that topic; the difference between a holy zeal and a zeal without knowledge—that is zeal or passion that is turned to destructive purposes, even if supposedly in the name of good.
·         Though in the coming weeks we’re going to get into the heart of the controversy over faith and works, we’re going to follow the basic outline of the letter in our 6 part sermon series. The first two chapters, Paul defends his apostleship and why they should heed his letter. Next two: the heart of the gospel: justification by faith, and not by works of the law. Last two: the Christian life lived in the Spirit—what is called “sanctification.”
·         Ch. 1, Paul is at pains to establish that the Gospel he preaches and teaches is from God and not from man. “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” Apostle means “sent one” and Paul was sent directly by Jesus, who called him on the Damascus Road, and turned Paul’s life around 180 degrees. Paul’s authority to speak, then, didn’t rest on any man or any human opinion, but his calling was direct from God. Lest they have any doubts about his motives, he points out that it’s obvious that he’s not trying to be a people-pleaser or win brownie points with them, but has his sole aim to please God. His message was of Divine Origin. Especially in chapters 2-4, he will teach them how to recognize the true gospel from the counterfeit gospel being taught them.
·         But already in these first verses are some giveaways, that show he’s teaching the true Gospel, the genuine article, the real good news—not a substitute, imitation, or knock-off. First is that his message revolves entirely around, and gives all the credit to Jesus Christ alone. He says our Lord Jesus Christ “gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen.” The whole message of the book flows from Jesus’ rescuing us from our sins, and that it’s believing this and this alone, with no other combination or addition of our effort, that makes salvation possible. God alone gets the glory, the credit, the honor for salvation. And all human effort, boasting, merit, or works are out of place. Not just out of place, but deadly to the very heart of the gospel—the good news Paul is so vigorously defending.
·         Why does any of this matter to us today? Didn’t the issue with the Galatians end there? Or even if it didn’t, what does this conflict in the churches of Galatia, nearly 2,000 years ago and halfway round the world from us—what does it have to do with us? In short—everything. As Luther put it eloquently in the quote found in your bulletin,
"It is very necessary, therefore, that this doctrine of faith be continually read and heard in public. No matter how well known it may be or how carefully learned, the devil, our adversary, who prowls around and seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8), is not dead. Our flesh also goes on living...Therefore this doctrine can never be discussed and taught enough. If it is lost and perishes, the whole knowledge of truth, life, and salvation is lost...but if it flourishes, everything good flourishes—religion, true worship, the glory of God, and the right knowledge of all things and of all social conditions."

·         The message of Galatians matters to us today because we suffer from the same sinful human nature that always wants to insert ourselves and our glory into the equation. It matters to us because we face a proliferation of “different gospels” which Paul would’ve warned us are no gospel, no good news, at all. It matters because the teaching of faith is always under attack by the devil, and it’s our precious treasure of truth, life, and salvation. When we know and learn it aright, all the treasures of Christ are ours. When we lose it, we’re robbed of salvation itself.
·         So strongly was Paul convinced of this that he says that if anyone—whether those troublers of the Galatians who distorted the gospel of Christ, or even if an angel from heaven would preach to them a different Gospel, let him be accursed. The Greek word is “anathema” or “eternally cursed.” He says it twice lest anyone mistake his deadly seriousness. To corrupt or twist the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a harmless or minor mistake—it is to lose the very message by which God saves us, and those who distort or falsify that saving good news, will face eternal judgment. So let us hold as passionately as Paul, to the truth that saves us, the grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. As we continue this sermon series, we’ll unpack that word “grace”, the word that is the powerful summary of all God’s loving and undeserved gift of salvation to us. The word that embraces Jesus’ saving act of His death on the cross and resurrection for us. And the “peace” that comes from a clear and forgiven conscience, and that shouts a confident cry of victory even in the midst of our troubles in this “present evil age.” The peace we have comes from the victory that comes from Jesus’ perfect and accomplished work on the cross. In His name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

  1. At whose initiative was Paul sent, and at whose initiative did he preach the Gospel? How did this shape and inform his ministry? How did it contrast to those who were troubling the Galatians with a false gospel? Galatians 1:1, 6-8, 10-12. Cf. Acts 9.
  2. Luther comments that the words “grace” and “peace” in Gal. 1:3, contain a summary of all of Christianity. What good news is summarized in each of these words? Unpack it. For “grace” see Romans 3:23-24; 4:4-5; 4:16; 11:6. For “peace” see Luke 2:14; 7:50; John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19-23; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:14
  3. Read Galatians 1:5. If God alone gets and deserves the glory for salvation (cf. Psalm 115:1), what does that mean for human boasting, glory, works, or taking credit? Why is this the greatest assurance for the troubled conscience, to know that salvation is 100% God’s work, and not even the smallest inkling of credit goes to us? If this were not so, how would it be the source of all kinds of doubt and trouble for the Christian conscience?
  4. Why did the situation in Galatia provoke Paul to such a passionate response, above and beyond all his other writings? What was vitally at stake? Galatians 1:6-9. Why should we never listen to any distortion of the true gospel, no matter how glossy and attractive the presentation is? When is passion and zeal (or even righteous anger) a good thing, and when is it dangerous and misguided? Cf. John 2:13-22; Romans 10:1-2; Galatians 1:13-14.
  5. When we have become certain of the message of the Gospel, that comes from Christ, why is it vital that we treasure this good news above all earthly wisdom, promises, and man-made religion?