Faithlife Sermons

What Justifies?

Galatians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 3 views

Because the gospel is easy to forget, we must keep our eyes on the gospel at all times

Notes
Transcript
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →
Introduction
Before walking out of jail a free man in February, Albert Woodfox spent 43 years almost without pause in an isolation cell, becoming the longest standing solitary confinement prisoner in America. He had no view of the sky from inside his 6 foot by 9 foot concrete box, no human contact, and taking a walk meant pacing from one end of the cell to the other and back again.
Galatians 5:8 ESV
This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
Then in April 2016 he found himself on a beach in Galveston, Texas, in the company of a friend. He stood marveling at all the beachgoers under a cloudless sky, and stared out over the Gulf of Mexico as it stretched far out to the horizon. "You could hear the tide and the water coming in," he says. "It was so strange, walking on the beach and all these people and kids running around."
Then in April 2016 he found himself on a beach in Galveston, Texas, in the company of a friend. He stood marveling at all the beachgoers under a cloudless sky, and stared out over the Gulf of Mexico as it stretched far out to the horizon. "You could hear the tide and the water coming in," he says. "It was so strange, walking on the beach and all these people and kids running around."
Of all the terrifying details of Woodfox's four decades of solitary incarceration … perhaps the most chilling aspect of all is what he says now. Two months after the state of Louisiana set him free on his 69th birthday, he says he sometimes wishes he was back in that cell.
Of all the terrifying details of Woodfox's four decades of solitary incarceration … perhaps the most chilling aspect of all is what he says now. Two months after the state of Louisiana set him free on his 69th birthday, he says he sometimes wishes he was back in that cell.
"Oh yeah! Yeah!" he says passionately when asked whether he sometimes misses his life in lockdown. "You know, human beings … feel more comfortable in areas they are secure. In a cell you have a routine, you pretty much know what is going to happen, when it's going to happen, but in society it's difficult, it's looser. So there are moments when, yeah, I wish I was back in the security of a cell." He pauses, then adds: "I mean, it does that to you."
"Oh yeah! Yeah!" he says passionately when asked whether he sometimes misses his life in lockdown. "You know, human beings … feel more comfortable in areas they are secure. In a cell you have a routine, you pretty much know what is going to happen, when it's going to happen, but in society it's difficult, it's looser. So there are moments when, yeah, I wish I was back in the security of a cell." He pauses, then adds: "I mean, it does that to you."
But Albert isn’t alone, really. In the story of the Exodus, we see that the Israelites whined and complained that they wanted to go back to Egypt where they were slaves. In fact, this happens when they are barely out of Egypt. Look at
We sit here in awe of this story and yet it shouldn’t surprise us. In the story of the Exodus, we see that the Israelites whined and complained that they wanted to go back to Egypt where they were slaves. In fact, this happens when they are barely out of Egypt. Look at
Exodus 14:10–12 ESV
When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
And the funny thing is that this won’t be the last time that the Israelites look back at their former life of slavery fondly. And while many of us will preach a gospel that says we are saved by grace through faith, we far too often forget that we are also then kept by grace through faith as well.
It is always tempting to return to what you know. It is tempting to leave your new life and return back to the life that you just left. And we see it in our text today as well. As we continue our look at Galatians, we see Paul showing his Fightin’ Side, as Merle Haggard once sang. Peter had abandoned the freedom he had in Christ only to return to a legalistic view of ongoing justification with Christ. And in all of this Paul said, “You may want to live like that, but you sure aren’t taking these people with you.”
As we continue our look at Galatians, we see Paul showing his Fightin’ Side, as Merle Haggard once sang. Peter had abandoned the freedom he had in Christ only to return to a legalistic view of ongoing justification with Christ. And in all of this Paul said, “You may want to live like that, but you sure aren’t taking these people with you.”
And we see it in our text today as well. As we continue our look at Galatians, we see Paul showing his Fightin’ Side, as Merle Haggard once sang. Peter had abandoned the freedom he had in Christ only to return to a legalistic view of ongoing justification with Christ. And in all of this Paul said, “You may want to live like that, but you sure aren’t taking these people with you.”
In all of this, we see that there is a great pressure from those who are legalistic to try and change the answer to the question “What Justifies a Person Before Christ?” In our text today, Paul gives us a great reminder that we must be people who contend for the gospel truth if we want to make a difference in the world we live in.
Let's turn our attention back to our text today. If we look back at , we see that Paul is astonished that the church would so quickly abandon their goal.
People who Compromise
As we start our look at the text today, we see Peter, the rest of the Jews and even Paul’s close friend Barnabas compromising the truth for the hypocrisy of a false gospel. But first, Peter came and was eating with the Gentiles. Something changed and when we see that in a text, we need to ask ourselves what happened?
Peter came to Antioch, which is in modern-day Turkey or ancient Galatia, and began to associate with the Gentiles. This was after Peter’s big revelation in where he was told to eat unclean animals and God tells him in , “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Interestingly, this happened three times. It seems that Peter needs to hear things three times for it to sink in. I get that.
So, when Cornelius, a God-Fearing centurion, called for Peter, it all clicked. Peter goes to Cornelius, tells him this story, and in says,
Acts 10:28 ESV
And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.
Peter understood the truth of the message we looked at last week that the gospel compels us to reach across worldly divides for the sake of gospel. In our text today, Paul tells us that Peter was “eating with the Gentiles”. But something changed.
We see in verse 12 of our text today that Peter drew back and separated himself from the gentile believers. He no longer ate with them and instead ate only with the Jewish believers. This sets the stage for the confrontation that we read about in this passage between on one side Paul and the other Peter along with the other Jewish believers. And, it was a confrontation that needed to happen.
The simple truth is that there are people who start well in gospel ministry and then either deviate for a season or walk away all together. And the simple reality is that it can happen to anyone. I mean, here’s Peter, just when you think he has finally “got it” he stumbles away from the truth that Jews AND Gentiles are both saved by Jesus. King David started well but had his struggles later in life. Many of the people we look up to in the Scriptures are people who at some point have compromised their ministry or calling due an abandonment of the Gospel.
That’s why I want you to see that holding fast to the gospel means there is grace for those who stumble away. Remember, Galatians was one of the very first letters written that is now part of our New Testaments. It would be almost 20 years later that Peter would write these words in -
1 Peter 1:14 ESV
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,
and if anyone knew something about a former ignorance, it was Peter!
Friends, let me encourage you today to not give up on yourself or others who have compromised the gospel. Instead, let me encourage you to pray for them, speak boldly into their lives. God is not done writing their story yet so don’t give up on them.
Because the reason so many people compromise is because there is great pressure to compromise.
Pressure to Compromise
I had coffee with some folks this week and we were talking about graduation and the great pressures that our young people face as they head off to college or out into the working world. And yes, the pressures are great to compromise on gospel truth when we head out into the public arena. The simple truth is that there is, and always has been, a great pressure to compromise on the truth of God.
As we continue the narrative in our text today, we see that the reason the people like Peter and Barnabas compromised on the inclusion of Gentile believers and gave in to the Judaizers was because of a great pressure to compromise. Paul points out at the beginning of verse 12 that certain men came from James and then the rest of the passage points out to us how they led them into hypocrisy.
What most likely happened was men from Jerusalem came to follow up with Peter when he came to see Cornelius and see what was happening in Antioch. These men then encouraged Peter to exclude the Gentile believers because they weren’t “clean”. And Peter went along because of a fear he had of the circumcision party. Thus the meal was segregated, and quite possibly the Lord’s Supper as well. These men pressured Peter and the other Jewish Christians into disobeying the truth that God shows no partiality.
This is particularly ironic because back in , Peter also quotes the same passage from the Deuteronomy that Paul quoted a few verses before and that we looked at last week. Paul understood the truth that the gospel means that God shows no partiality. But he still caved and gave into the pressure that said “Don’t eat with Gentiles.”
Peter also quotes the same passage from the Deuteronomy that Paul quoted a few verses before and that we looked at last week. Paul understood the truth that the gospel means that God shows no partiality. But he still caved and gave into the pressure that said “Don’t eat with Gentiles.”
The reality is that we too live in a world that is hostile not only to the gospel but is hostile to Biblical truth as well. And there is growing pressure for Christians to abandon the truths of Scripture and get in line with the way the world things. The sad part is that a growing number of presumably Christian churches are doing just that.
And that’s nothing new. We shouldn’t be shocked at this. King Solomon, who was according the Bible the wisest man to have ever lived, says in the pages of Ecclesiastes that there is literally nothing new under the sun. There will always be pressure to deny or change the gospel and sometimes it comes from the most innocent of places.
I’ll be honest, there is a temptation, as your pastor, to abandon the gospel, in part or in whole, in order to grow the church. Worse, many pastors, myself included, will soft sell parts of the Gospel in order to be liked. I’ll be honest, there is a part of me that likes it when you say, “Good sermon, Pastor.”
That’s why we need to always remember that if we don’t want to be people who compromise, we can’t cave to the pressure to compromise. And the answer to that is the Gospel.
Proclamation Defeats the Pressure to Compromise So We Can be People Who Contend for the Gospel.
I’ve shared this story before, but one Sunday, Perry Stevens came up to me and said “Good message, Pastor.” As I thanked him he smiled and said, “That one came from Jesus, didn’t it?” And as we laughed, I agreed. If it is a stinker of a message, then it must have come from me. Gospel proclamation is not about the preacher or the audience - it is always about the message that is proclaimed.
I’ve shared this story before, but one Sunday, Perry Stevens came up to me and said “Good message, Pastor.” As I thanked him he smiled and said, “That one came from Jesus, didn’t it?” And as we laughed, I agreed. If it is a stinker of a message, then it must have come from me. Gospel proclamation is not about the preacher or the audience - it is always about the message that is proclaimed.
And that is why the gospel is such good news. It was all Jesus. It’s not about me or what I think. This isn’t just my opinion about things. It’s about Jesus and His building of a church and redeeming a people for citizenship in His Kingdom. It’s not up to Peter or Paul to determine if Gentiles should eat with Jewish Believers. The Gospel tells us that we are all made one in Christ! And, friends, this is why how we answer the question “What Justifies?” is so important! Because, ultimately, it’s not up to us. God is the one who saves and because of that, he is the one who gets to determine the answer. If the answer to that question isn’t Jesus, it is no longer good news - in fact it is bad news.
The problem is that when the pressure comes to alter the gospel in some way - and by the term gospel I mean not only the message that we can be reconciled back to the Father through faith in the Son but also that this truth changes everything about how we live and frees us to walk in humble obedience before the Father. It is the gloriously good news that we are not only free from the debt of sin but the curse of sin and the weight of having to presumably live as people pleasers.
As we look to the text, we see that Paul wasn’t interested in being a people pleaser. Instead, Paul opposed Peter when he came to Antioch. Not secretly either. It was to his face. But he didn’t oppose him based on an argument or belief. It was based on the gospel. Look again at .
Galatians 2:14 ESV
But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
The reason Peter needed someone like Paul to get in his face about the gospel was that he had turned against the gospel to begin with. He forgot the glorious truth that it is not by our works that we are saved, but by our faith in Christ. He forgot that God gave him permission to eat with the Gentiles and instead listened to the pressures of those who said, “Godly people won’t do that.”
So, my first encouragement to each one of us is to preach the gospel to ourselves every day. Remind yourself every day that you are saved by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone. And remind yourself every day that God’s love and favor is not dependent upon you obeying a set of rules. Not that obedience isn’t important. But just as I don’t love my boys any less when they disobey, God’s love isn’t conditional on our obedience.
But we need to see something else in our text. Paul didn’t just wait around for Peter to get it. Paul challenged Peter. Face to face. I get this picture of Paul walking up to Peter and there was this big stare down like at the beginning of a boxing match. These two guys staring each other down and then Paul lays down the truth that Peter and the rest of these hyprocrites, Paul’s language, not mine, are expecting the Gentiles to do something that even they couldn’t do - and they were Jews by birth!
So, as Paul points out, if those who have lived around the law of God their whole lives can’t keep the law and need to be made right and kept right with God by faith in Christ, as we read in verses 15 and 16, why would we expect those who have no grounding in the law to be able to keep the law? Likewise, the gospel teaches us that we are saved by grace and kept by grace - and yes, I now live for righteousness, but it is because it is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me. But that is next week’s sermon.
Paul wasn’t afraid to confront Peter over the fact that he was deviating from the reality that the gospel says there is now, in a passage we will look at in a few weeks, “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but we are all one in Christ ().” This deviation had serious implications not only for Peter and the Judaizers but for the Gentiles as well. It threatened the unity of the church! The gospel teaches us that we must be united in Christ.
You see, Paul was unapologetically passionate about the Gospel and we should be as well. This means we need to contend for the gospel truth even when it is uncomfortable and unpopular. We have a tendency to let things slide when we hear them, even if we think that they are wrong. Worse, we tend to withdraw and complain about how so and so is a hypocrite. We dread confrontation. Instead, we need to be people who contend for the gospel and the truth of the gospel at all times.
The cure for drifting or deviating from the gospel is really simple. Remind yourself of the gospel every day. And if you see someone drifting from the truth, throw out a lifeline and bring them back to the faith. Share the hope of the gospel with them as well.
Three Implications for us today
As we consider this text and the truths we've discussed, I see three implications for each one of us individually as well as the church. Because, if it is easy to drift away from the truth and our mission to glorify God and make disciples by inviting others to walk together with us in gospel community as we all figure out what it means to follow Jesus, then we need to have something to serve as our firm foundation.
First, we need to be people and a church that remains committed to the gospel. Honestly, this is the thrust of this entire book. The gospel that, as we read in verses 16 and 17 of our text today, tells us people are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law. We must always be careful to make sure that we are not adding to the gospel on what it means to be saved or adding to the gospel of what it means to live in Christ - but that is next week’s sermon. We need to recognize that we may come to Christ by faith alone, but we are likewise kept in Christ by faith alone.
It is a dangerous position to add to or take away from the gospel. I maintain that most people who believe a perverted gospel do not believe out of a sense of malice towards the gospel but out of a sense of disbelief that the great God who created everything would love them in spite of them rather than because of what they do. The Gospel is like a flowing river of living water. Let us not pollute the truth and in so doing, make that water poisonous to drink. We must be people who know the Gospel, the pure gospel, preach the gospel and live by the gospel. To do otherwise puts us in the position of risk of drifting from the truth of the Gospel.
Second, we need to remain committed to the source of this truth. It seems to me that every time we find someone perverting the gospel, we find people who no longer stand on the word of God. Every time people reject a clear understanding of historic, Biblical doctrine, they no longer stand on the Word of God. They resort to another source or they abandon the truth of God’s Word for ease or to make someone feel good. Recently, Pope Francis made waves by doing just that. He had a young boy whose father had just passed away ask him if his atheist father, who was a good guy nonetheless, would go to heaven. Let’s just say that his answer wasn’t really in agreement with Paul’s here.
Now, I get the pressure. When someone is grieving, you don’t want to add to their grief and say something stupid. But I have stood at the graveside with a loved one looking at the casket ask, “Pastor, where do you think he is?” And in those moment, it would be a whole lot easier to mumble something about how he was a good guy and loved his family, so I’m sure he’s in Heaven. But Paul said that if I come with a false gospel, I am cursed!
Instead, friends, we need to hitch our wagon to the truth of Jesus Christ and to read ALL of the Scriptures through the lens of His death, burial and resurrection. It’s not that the Scriptures don’t matter in light of the Resurrection, it’s that they take on new significance in light of the resurrection. reminds us that all of the Scriptures are good to teach and preach and rebuke and base our lives by. We can drift from the gospel too easy when we forget to remain committed to the very Word of God that teaches us about the resurrection and teaches that it was God’s plan from the very beginning.
So, I nod and say, “The Scriptures teach us that if a person puts their faith in Christ and repents of their sins, they will be saved. In fact, Jesus told the thief on the cross who asked him to remember him in his kingdom that that very day he would be with Jesus in Paradise.” And I leave it at that. It doesn’t always go smoothly, sometimes people get angry. But, I have found when you make it about the Scriptures, they may disagree with you but they know you aren’t being mean. And in some cases, they will say, “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Now, I have no idea where some of these people are. I didn’t always know them prior to their death. I want to be careful because I don’t get the final say on where someone is - in either direction - and I don’t know what they may have said in their final breaths on this earth. However, I will not be cursed because I preached or counselled in such a way that gave a false hope because of a false gospel. We all need to keep God’s truth forefront, spoken in love and kindness, as part of our gospel message.
Now, I have no idea where some of these people are. I didn’t always know them prior to their death. However, I will not be cursed because I preached a false gospel. And we all need to keep God’s truth forefront, spoken in love and kindness, as part of our gospel message.
Finally, our third implication for this passage today is that we remain committed to humility. Again, we see our good friend Peter. And what I love about Peter is that his constant stumbling and bumbling gives me hope that if God can use a guy like Peter, then maybe God can use me too. But what we see is how this fake gospel led Barnabas and Peter, two guys who are mentioned often in the New Testament, to a place where they were hypocrites just like the Judaizers. They fell for this false gospel that said you must keep the law in order to be saved. If Peter and Barnabas can be misled or tempted to compromise, we should be humble as well, as reminds us to watch ourselves so we don’t fall.
1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
reminds us to watch ourselves so we don’t fall.
But it is more than just that. Humility reminds us that it is by grace alone we are saved by faith alone through Christ alone. We bring nothing to the table that merits God’s grace in our life. Paul tells us this in . We are saved not by our works of obeying the law. We are saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ. Regardless if you are a gentile “sinner” or a Jew by birth or something else, we are saved not of what we have done but because of what Jesus has already done for us. And since it is not of ourselves, we read elsewhere in Scripture, we have no room to boast. Instead, we should humbly walk with Christ, our hearts full of gratitude for what he has done so we might put our faith and trust in Him.
Conclusion
Before walking out of jail a free man in February, Albert Woodfox spent 43 years almost without pause in an isolation cell, becoming the longest standing solitary confinement prisoner in America. He had no view of the sky from inside his 6 foot by 9 foot concrete box, no human contact, and taking a walk meant pacing from one end of the cell to the other and back again.
They didn’t realize how quickly the current and winds had taken them off into the deep, shark infested waters. Thankfully, there was a fishing boat near by and these fishermen noticed them and brought them back to safety. As they say, they have a great story now to tell their kids and grandkids some day.
Then in April 2016 he found himself on a beach in Galveston, Texas, in the company of a friend. He stood marveling at all the beachgoers under a cloudless sky, and stared out over the Gulf of Mexico as it stretched far out to the horizon. "You could hear the tide and the water coming in," he says. "It was so strange, walking on the beach and all these people and kids running around."
It’s a great reminder that it is so easy for any of us to slide theologically either towards liberalism or towards legalism. It’s easy for any of us to drift out into a place where we are outside the bounds of the historic Christian understanding of the gospel and how we are made right with God and then how we are kept right with God. We listen to the winds of culture or are tempted by the current of the age.
Of all the terrifying details of Woodfox's four decades of solitary incarceration … perhaps the most chilling aspect of all is what he says now. Two months after the state of Louisiana set him free on his 69th birthday, he says he sometimes wishes he was back in that cell.
In any event, the good news is that if we find ourselves adrift in shark infested waters, we need but cry out to Jesus. His grace will save us and deliver us from this present evil age.
"Oh yeah! Yeah!" he says passionately when asked whether he sometimes misses his life in lockdown. "You know, human beings … feel more comfortable in areas they are secure. In a cell you have a routine, you pretty much know what is going to happen, when it's going to happen, but in society it's difficult, it's looser. So there are moments when, yeah, I wish I was back in the security of a cell." He pauses, then adds: "I mean, it does that to you."
Not long after I came to Christ, someone gave me a T-Shirt that said “No U Turns” and referenced
Luke 9:62 ESV
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
What about you? Are you living as a free person today? Have you turned to Christ, trusted in what He did as payment for
Once we’ve decided to follow Christ through faith, we have to keep walking by faith. We cannot go back to our old ways of trying to please God. We need to remember that the way we walk with Christ is the same way we are made right with Christ. Through faith. Before we are Christians, we think we are made right with Christ through works rather than faith. We rejoice that we are now made right with Christ through faith, but then run right back to works in order to walk with Christ every day.
Do we need to do good works? Yes, but that’s week’s sermon! For this week, I want you to know that the gospel tells us that we are saved by faith, we are kept by faith, we are to literally live by faith - but that is a sermon in a few weeks.
What no U Turns means is that we don’t go back to our old way of living and that includes not returning to a lifestyle of works to please God. Will we be a church of “No U Turn” Christians who keep walking not by sight, but by faith and in so doing, glorify Christ? It is my prayer that we would.
Let’s Pray.
Related Media
Related Sermons