Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
I’m really excited this morning. We are beginning an epic brand new series on the Book of Galatians in the Bible.
Galatians is one of the 66 different books that make up the Bible, and what we’re going to do is walk you through verse-by-verse through the entire book.
But before we get started, I think it’s important for me to clarify something that I haven’t clarified in quite some time here.
And since many of you are new, you’ve maybe never heard me say this.
Here at Renovation, we really believe in doing different message series around topics: Topics like “I need a sign” (hearing form God) Topics like “The End of the World” or “Stages of Faith”
But we ALSO really believe that sometimes it’s very helpful to just dive in and study a book of the Bible verse-by-verse.
What we do in switching back and forth is actually quite unique. 95% of churches just do one or the other.
But I believe both are important.
If I just speak on topics, I tend to miss out on a lot of the broader picture of Scripture.
If I just go through books, I tend to miss out on some really pressing and relevant topics to our people.
And thus, we uniquely do both kinds of teaching here at Renovation, and we believe that both are important.
INTRO TO PAUL & GALATIANS
So what is this book of Galatians in the Bible?
Maybe you’ve read it before, maybe you’ve never even heard of it before!
Well, the Bible is split into two parts. The Old Testament and The New.
The New Testament is everything from Jesus onward, and Galatians is in the New Testament.
The NT has 4 books about Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John)
Then, the Book of Acts, which is about the early Church (which we studied on and off again for the last 2 years)
Then, the rest of the NT (w/ the exception of the book of Revelation) is all letters written by early church leaders to local congregations.
And Galatians is one of those such letters.
Galatians is written by a guy named the Apostle Paul.
IN fact, it’s the first letter in the Bible he ever wrote.
But who is this Paul guy??
Well, if you were with us when we studied Acts, Paul was essentially the main real-life “character” of Acts.
A hero of the faith…..except…he didn’t start out that way.
He started out as a hardcore Jewish opponent of Christianity. A serious, overly-religious Pharisee.
In fact, Acts tells us his name used to be Saul…and this Saul was notorious for persecuting Christians.
Even approving of the murdering of Christians.
And yet, one day, as Acts 9 tells us, on his way to persecute more Christians in Damascus, Paul saw a blinding light and Jesus appeared to Him.
ON that day, Jesus not only revealed himself to Paul, but tasked Paul with bringing the good news (The Gospel) to the Gentiles (the non-Jews).
And the Gospel (which is a word we’ll use a lot in this series) means Good News.
It’s the good news that Jesus died on the cross for us, and if we repent of our sins, and believe that He died for us, we can be saved (completely forgiven & given eternal life)
And in the years to come, Paul becomes the greatest evangelist the world has ever seen or probably ever will see.
And he starts spreading the hope of Jesus all across the known world at the time (which is much of what Acts is about)
Well, on Paul’s 1st missionary journey across, what is now, modern day turkey, he goes through a region called Galatia
And you can see here, the cities he visited in Acts 13-14, like Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe are all in Galatia.
So here’s what happens. Paul visits these cities in Galatia, brings a bunch of people to Christ, and establishes churches there (He’s a church planter)
And then 2-3 years later, when Paul’s back in his home church, Antioch in Syria (which you can see on the map)…..
Paul gets some “not-so-good news” about the Christians in the region of Galatia
Turns out they had been infiltrated by some other Jewish Christians. (TAKE DOWN MAP)
Which at first glance isn’t a bad thing.
Paul is a Jewish Christian.
The 12 disciples are Jewish Christians.
But these guys are different.
In fact, theologians call them the Judaizers.
The Judaizers were Jews that believed in and followed Jesus…although for them, there was more to it.
See, they believed that true conversion to Christ also meant that you had to be fully committed to Israel’s “law” in the OT
The term “law,” which you’ll hear a lot in this series, just simply means the rules and commandments Israel had in the OT
So…these Judaizers come to Paul’s new churches in Galatia, and they say…”Hey…you believe in Jesus, great!”
“If you REALLY want to make sure you’re saved and accepted by God…you also need to become a Jew”
Because remember, Paul was called to the Gentiles. These people in Galatia aren’t Jews.
So these new people come to town and say, “If you really want to be saved in God’s eyes, you also need to: be circumcised, eat Kosher food, celebrate the Jewish holidays (like Yom Kippur)
And these Judaizers…they’re aren’t opposing Christianity like many of the Jews who tried to stone Paul in acts.
These are people that BELIEVE in Jesus…they just think if you really want to be saved, you also have to essentially be a Jew by following the Jewish law.
And what happens is…the people of Galatia…believe them.
It probably felt weird to them that they didn’t have to technically do anything to be saved, so they start doing these Jewish laws to be acceptable in God’s sight
Well, our friend Paul gets word of it…and, he’s not happy. At all.
In fact, let’s start reading his introduction
If you want to follow along, I highly encourage you to.
Following along helps you see the context…OR look back if you have questions…neither of which you can do from just reading off the screen.
If you want to follow along in a Bible, and didn’t bring one, there’s one underneath every chair
We’ll be on PAGE 942
Or, you can download the Holy Bible App, also called the YouVersion App
Just scroll down to Live, type in our zip code: 55449, and you’ll see Renovation come up.
You can see all of our verses on there, submit prayer requests, and even give an offering from there.
Pretty high tech!
Let’s start reading:
(Galatians 1:1-5) – NIV
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the churches in Galatia: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
It reads kind of like a normal introduction.
Paul, starts w/ his name, as most people did in ancient times and then greets his readers w/ grace and peace from God.
There are 2 important things worth pointing out about this introduction.
Right away, Paul reminds the Galatians that HE’S an apostle (a representative of Jesus) and that He was sent, not by man, but by Jesus himself!
He does this to prove that His Gospel about Jesus has authority over whatever these Judaizers are teaching.
It’s also worth mentioning that out of all of Paul’s 13 letters in the Bible, this is the only one that doesn’t include a statement of why he is so thankful to God for the particular church he is writing to.
In other words. He’s ticked.
So why again is he so mad?? Let’s read on.
(Galatians 1:6-7) – NIV
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Paul cannot believe that the Galatians have “changed positions” so quickly on the most crucial subject of their faith.
The position of how people are accepted and saved by God & and the role Jesus plays in that.
We’re going to really break this down as the series goes on, but it’s not technically the rules that the Jews are talking about that Paul is mad at
Circumcision in and of itself is not technically a good or bad thing
In fact, in Acts, Paul even circumcises Timothy to help w/ evangelism to the Jews.
Eating Kosher food in and of itself, is not a bad thing.
What Paul is furious about is that they are ADDING something to the Gospel. To how one gets saved.
See, it’s never Jesus PLUS something.
It’s not: If you want to get saved: Believe in Jesus AND observe Jewish laws. Or Believe in Jesus AND go to church every week.
It’s just put your trust in Jesus.
You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love.
That’s why we’re calling this series Gift Vs. Reward. We want this image saturating your mind.
Think of a present vs. a trophy.
To get a gift, you don’t have to do anything.
A few weeks ago, I had my 31st birthday. People gave me gifts.
If you didn’t give me one, it’s not too late.
But did I DO anything to earn them? No. Nothing. Nothing besides NOT dying in the last year.
But what about a reward? Like a trophy? Or a ribbon? Or a promotion at work? All rewards.
Rewards are things that you EARN for doing something.
And this is the definitive difference between Paul and the people who are wrongly swaying the Galatians:
Paul is saying that Jesus forgiving all of our sins and offering us eternal life in heaven is a GIFT: Just believe it and accept it. You don’t have to DO anything. You CAN NOT earn it.
But these new people are saying, it’s a REWARD.
They’re saying, “Yes, believe in Jesus. That’s important. But…you also have to do the following things (eat Jewish foods, get circumcised, etc.) to thus get the REWARD of being saved and accepted by God.
And thus Paul is quite upset.
He told them in verse 7 that they are deserting Jesus…and turning to something that isn’t a gospel at all.
Something that…in fact, is NOT good news.
Because the harsh reality is you CAN NOT build your way to being rewarded eternal life by God.
There’s only one way to be saved, and Paul mentions it in the key verse of the book of Galatians in chapter 2.
(Galatians 2:16) – NIV
16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Let’s read on in our chapter.
(Galatians 1:8-9) – NIV
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
“So Paul boldly tells them…even if an angel shows up and tells you that you are to be saved by some way that isn’t repent of your sins and trust in Christ’s death and resurrection….it’s NOT REAL.
And thus…now you know when NOT to listen to an angel.
And if an angel ever were to show up and say, “I have a different gospel for you about Jesus….it’s probably a fallen angel…a demon.”
Interestingly enough a few of the major false religions were started because of a revelation from an angel.
Mormonism for instance, was started when the angel Moroni gave a different gospel to Joseph Smith.
So these Galatians are facing some major problems because people are perverting the Gospel.
But what does this look like in 2013? What does this mean for us?
Are people even perverting the gospel like this anymore??
Well, 60-100 years ago, the application to this was obvious.
Churches in America had become quite legalistic (much like the Galatian churches)
Meaning, they believed you had to follow the letter of the law to really gain God’s approval.
If you weren’t in church every Sunday…if you ever smoked a cigarette, if you ever had a drop of alcohol, if you ever played cards, you probably hated Jesus.
And maybe we’re going to be saved.
Well, what is that??
That’s a false Gospel.
The Gospel is JUST JESUS.
It’s not Jesus PLUS not playing cards.
That’s reward theology. Not gift theology.
Well, today in 2013. The American evangelical church isn’t very legalistic anymore.
If anything, we’ve swayed to the other side and are guilty of overly ignoring God’s standards for living.
But what does a False Gospel look like today?
It can be that, in our minds we know we’re forgiven, but in our hearts we think, “Well, because I didn’t read my Bible today or share my faith this week...I’m not loved by God. I’m distant from Him”
Not true. Your position in Christ hasn’t changed.
Yes, those things are good.
But salvation is just JESUS
Not Jesus PLUS reading the Bible often
Other examples are seen when people say things like, in order to be saved, you have to also speak in tongues.
Ironically, this is sometimes called the “Full Gospel” movement
But the Full Gospel is: just Jesus.
Not Jesus + Have to speak in tongues.
That’s a reward for obedience.
Not a gift.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the integrity of the true Gospel of Jesus today is anytime we think being saved has anything to do w/ being a good person.
Much of the mainline protestant church has fallen into a similar trap. The trap of JESUS PLUS be a good person.
Which isn’t really that different than the Judaizers in Galatia. They were Jesus PLUS win God’s approval (reward) by doing good things.
But how did much of the American protestant church lose the central message of the Gospel?
Well, the path is really quite ironic. And I don’t think it was ever the intention.
The Judaizers in Galatians got there by trying to be extra good to please God.
Much of the American church got there by trying to be extra nice to please people.
But Paul points out in verse 10, that this isn’t the way
(Galatians 1:10 – NIV)
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
In other words, Paul is saying, I’m not doing this Jesus thing to please people.
He’s been stoned, beaten, you name it.
All in the name of Christ.
And back in Paul’s day, the Judaizers were trying to please their Jewish friends by avoiding being ostracized for not following Jewish laws.
But that’s not the point of the Gospel. The Gospel is believe in Jesus.
And in 2013, in America, we again are perverting the Gospel for the sake of trying to please the people around us.
And it starts w/ being afraid to talk about sin.
So in many of our churches, and to many of our friends, we don’t.
Because we try and downplay the intensity (because it sounds WAY too intense nowadays to say the truth): “You’ve sinned against God and you’re going to be judged as a sinner and condemned to hell. BUT, God is just AND merciful, so He sent his son to take your punishment for you, and if you believe in Him, you will be completely forgiven & given eternal life!”
But that sounds a little too intense, so many churches leave out those parts and just focus on “God loves you!”
And so they don’t talk about sin, and hardly ever focus on the fact that you ARE a terrible sinner, and yet God FORGIVES you anyway!
And the ironic twist is that it perverts the Gospel into a rewards system just the same.
Because here’s what happens, and I can attest to this in my own life.
People come to our American churches and never hear about sin, and thus the great tragedy is they don’t know that they can be forgiven of their terrible sin (which we do have and often never speak of),
And when people hear God is just nice, but they never hear they’re forgiven, even of deep sin, people get confused and start thinking they have to, yes believe in Jesus, but they ALSO better be a good boy and girl if they want to go to heaven!
And that’s a whole nother gospel!
That’s Jesus PLUS something.
That’s a rewards system…not a gift.
And like Paul says, that’s not even really a Gospel at all, because it’s not Good news.
It’s terrible news. Because we’ll never be good enough!
Because let me tell you something:
Jesus knows even your deep dark secrets. He was there with you in your most terrible mistakes.
In your deepest sin, he sat there watching.
And knowing you would do these very terrible things, even before you were born……He came and died on the cross for you ANYWAY.
That’s how much He loves you.
You don’t have to worry about being good enough. You’re not.
But we believe in Jesus for our salvation. For our forgiveness.
So believe AND rejoice in that!
You don’t have to earn God’s love. You don’t HAVE to earn God’s love. You don’t have to EARN God’s love.
It’s not a reward. It’s a gift.
Let’s pray and thank Him for that gift.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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