A sermon on grace, based on Galatians 1:1-12 and 1:11-24.
Galatians 1:1-9: Grace is Key
Paul’s greets his audience, prays for them and gets straight to business.
- Vv 1-2. Paul: an ambassador sent directly by God and Christ – raised from the dead.
- Vv 3-5. A (short) prayer for the Galatians (northern Turkey), emphasising Jesus’ sacrifice to save them from their sins and from living a world ruled by ungodly powers.
- Vv 6-7. Paul tackles the issue head-on:
- The Galatians have strayed from the pure Gospel of grace from Christ.
- They have been distracted by the Jewish tradition that demands the observance of practices such as circumcision, in order to be accepted by God.
- This is no Gospel – where is the Good News of forgiveness at no cost to us?
- This is an insult to the sacrifice of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross!
- Vv 8-9. Paul issues a ‘double anathema’. He denounces anyone who would pervert the Gospel, even if they were an angel; perhaps he is reminding his Jewish critics that Satan (the ‘accuser’) was an angel, who seeks to punish us
Galatians 1:10-12: A First-rate Gospel
Paul makes a plain statement to rebut his critics.
- He is not
a populistseeking favour with an ‘easy’ or second-rate Gospel to please people.
- The Gospel that Paul preaches comes
directfrom God himself.
Galatians 1:13-24: Grace is Central
Grace is absolutely central to Paul for very personal reasons.
- Vv 13-14. Paul persecuted the church fiercely (inc. murder) driven by his zeal for Judaism.
- Vv 15-16. Yet God revealed Jesus to Paul and called him to preach.
- Vv 17-19. Paul did not seek by men (even the apostles
),but followed God’s instructions. (He refers to Peter and James – other good Jews who betrayed Jesus, but who were forgiven.)
- Vv 20-24. In his previous missionary work Paul did not rely on endorsement by
church leaders; rather his totally transformed life and witness spoke for themselves.
Paul is very passionate about God. It was always in his nature to be so, but God has personally forgiven Paul’s very personal persecution of God:
‘“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4b-5).
Paul has been forgiven much and therefore loves much (see Luke 7:42b-43 and v47b).
Today there is a danger that, in a faddy effort to be ‘inclusive’ and encourage ‘diversity’, the church may abuse grace and offer forgiveness to the unrepentant. However, this appeasement of sin, this twisting of the Gospel, this heresy, should not put us off.
Paul stakes his life on grace: all sinners are accepted by God, because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Paul knew that he had sinned much and been forgiven much, and he loved God greatly as a result and lived accordingly. So should we.