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Galatians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Wright Brothers
Orville & Wilbur
Largely credited with making the world’s first successful airplane in 1903
They were from Ohio, and as they began to investigate air travel, something that became clear to them was wind would be crucial to making progress in developing a machine that could fly. As a result of their research, they identified a little known coastal town in NC, called Kitty Hawk.
Plenty of open space, plenty of soft sand that would be more forgiving than harder surfaces in the case of a crash and most importantly, plenty of wind.... usually
Essentially the brothers would plan and research in Ohio and then make the long and difficult trip to Kitty Hawk to test their theories and research.
This process was anything but easy, and if the brothers decided to quit as a result of some of the challenges they faced, many of us would most likely be sympathetic and understanding..... but they didn’t.
With every failed flight, they tweaked their machines.... constantly adjusting, constantly modifying, going back to the drawing board, leaving Kitty Hawk for their Ohio home without much success..... more research, more learning, more theories, more change, change, change
They had to get the design just right for their aeroplane to finally work. They were not satisfied with not flying, so they were, for a while, in a perpetual mode of changing and tweaking.
It seems to me, that we tend to handle our lives the same way. We want something out of life. And, sometimes, we’re not quite sure what we want, but if we think about it, we want peace, we want a sense of clarity and satisfaction. We want perhaps a sense of accomplishment. And when we do not achieve these things, we go back to the drawing board. We make changes. We tweak and modify.... and some of us have been doing this most of our lives.
But I want to declare to all of us today, that there is a peace that surpasses all understanding available to people and what’s even more encouraging and hopeful is that it is not up to us to achieve it. In fact, we cannot have this peace as a result of our efforts to change, modify and tweak our lives. in fact, if we are constantly attempting to change, modify and tweak our lives to have peace, we will not have peace. Consider what the Bible says:
Philippians 4:6–7 ESV
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Anxiety. Many of us are familiar with this. We know what it is to feel on edge and unclear how to proceed so that we can break free of anxiety’s grip. Paul says that prayer that makes our concerns known to God from thankful hearts will invite God’s peace upon us.... And this peace will surpass understanding. And this is so, because this peace is supernatural. It’s beyond all of us.
But to whom are we praying? I know, sometimes we feel as if we are praying to emptiness, or at least to someone who is not listening or does not care about what we are saying. But there is a message that brings the clarity and the peace we all want. It does this because it comes from the God that we must pray to while we contend with the anxieties of our lives. It is a message of hope, peace, assurance, satisfaction. And what really wonderful and really important to know, is that this message does not need any changing, modifying or tweaking. It is a perfect message.... the only perfect message.
The series we begin today, will seek to expose us to a book in the Bible that makes this perfect message clear and the fact that it does not need to be changed in any way. In fact, it warns us against changing it.
The book to which I refer is Galatians and the message it defines and defends is the gospel. And what I suggest we understand that this epistle makes clear is that we must not mess with the gospel.
The fact is, there were some in the Galatian churches that were messing with the Gospel. They were suggesting that the gospel was insufficient. That it would not grant peace because believing the message that Paul had preached to them before was not enough to grant them peace with God. More was needed. Further changes, modifications and tweaks were necessary to make the gospel complete. And what’s worse, people were beginning to buy into that idea. Paul wrote this letter to plead with the people in these churches to stop messing with the Gospel. There was more at stake than perhaps they realized.
And church, this same truth is crucial today. You see, it is good news that the good news is complete and not in need of changing. But, we’re no different that the Galatians. We might be susceptible to the compelling words of false teachers if we’re not careful. Or, perhaps because life in difficult, and we feel like some changes need to be made, we might be tempted to believe a gospel of our own making. Perhaps in our unrest and desperation, we presume to take our lives into our own hands and add to the gospel (like our effort and work), or maybe take away from the gospel (like our need for repentance or our complete dependency on Jesus and not ourselves).
Church and friends, we just spent the better part of 5 months considering the DNA of the church. God’s design for His church. What’s an ongoing need for us is to be clear on the gospel, and what’s at stake when it comes to us being clear on this message. and again, what I suggest we consider as an overarching theme of this book going forward is that we must, nor can we tolerate anyone among to mess with the gospel.

Why not?

Why should we not feel the need or presume to change, modify or tweak the gospel? That’s what I hope to outline in this overview sermon of Galatians today.
Before we get to answering this question, I want to give us a brief background of this book:
1:2 references the churches in Galatia. Now there is debate over the identity of these churches - north or south Galatia, how many churches are being addressed, what was the connection between the churches…
Regardless, Galatia was the territory known as modern day Turkey (central Turkey to be exact)
It appears that Paul founded (planted) these churches.
Some details about these churches might be presents in the account described in
Acts 16:5–6 ESV
So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily. And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
So Pau had a role in planting and strengthening these churches, and the foundation of His efforts was the Gospel. This is the message he preached to the people, and now that he is hearing that there are false teachers pushing a different gospel among them and that some of the people are buying into this false message, Paul is concerned. He’s heart-broken and disappointed but did not give up on these churches… He wrote them to urge them to repent from messing with the gospel.
So again, why should we not mess with the gospel? Why should we not look for other messages, or create one of our own? Why is the gospel not in need of adjustment?
4 reasons:

Because the gospel is from God

Paul begins the letter by making this clear and continues this theme throughout the book. The gospel is not man-made. It is a message created by God, and given to man to believe, obey and proclaim.
So what implications should be noted in light of the fact that the gospel is from God?

The gospel can be trusted (1:11-12)

Galatians 1:11–12 ESV
For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
The message that Paul preached to the Galatians before was not a message that someone else gave him to preach.
He didn’t receive it from another person
He was not taught it by another person even
The gospel message came by revelation of Jesus Christ
Acts 9:1–6 ESV
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Paul, when he was called Saul, persecuted Christians. He was a zealous Pharisee. He was recognized as a significant religious leader among the Jewish people. he was respected and feared. Bu then Jesus confronted him, proclaimed Himself, revealed Himself and changed Saul from being a person on a mission to extinguish the gospel of Jesus and all who believed it to someone who proclaimed the gospel and sought to win people with it.
The gospel didn’t come from man. It came from God, and Paul is making clear that because it came from God, it can be trusted. What possible explanation is there for such a radical transformation as Paul experienced other than the message of the gospel of Christ is divine and not man-made. It is trustworthy.
Also, because the gospel is from God

The gospel can be understood (1:6-9)

Galatians 1:6–9 ESV
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
God gave us the gospel in a way that it could be understood. perhaps this is obvious, but we need to be clear on this, the gospel can be stated and understood.
Paul is telling the Galatians that they are being duped into believing a false gospel. Which means that they are able to understand the true gospel. Paul had assumed that they in fact did understand the true gospel. Now, it is only God who can bring about saving faith in the Gospel. Many people understand the gospel, but have not placed their faith in it. But what’s important here is to understand that God gave the gospel to people with the intent that we would be able to understand it. It is not beyond our ability to understand. Might we need some help to understand it? Sure. But ultimately, it is an understandable message.
And not only are people able to understand the gospel

The gospel can be verified (1:6)

Galatians 1:6 ESV
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—
Why was Paul astonished? Because he had an expectation that they knew better. They knew what the gospel was, but despite their knowledge, they still bought into a false gospel.
People can understand the gospel and people can also discern what does not accord with the gospel.
Church and friends, this is all due to the divine quality of the gospel. God gave so that it could be trusted, understood and verified.
Mark Dever: When a new message does not match the original, regardless of the identity of the messenger you throw it out. Church, we need to help each other on this. There are false teachers today that preach a false gospel, and many of them are promoted as Christian preachers. It’s not about how popular, or dynamic, or compelling a communicator someone may be. It is whether or not what he or she is proclaiming agrees with the true gospel as seen in the Bible.
Don’t mess with the gospel because it’s from God and

Because the gospel cannot be improved

It’s rare for us to conclude this about anything. We are all like the Wright brothers on some level. If there’s a way to produce more efficiency, more productivity, make things easier, better etc., we’ll make those efforts. But this means we don’t believe much about our lives and way of life is beyond improving.
But Paul makes clear throughout this epistle that the gospel cannot be improved.
So, what’s so good about the gospel?

Christ’s death paid our debt (2:20)

Beginning in 2:15, Paul begins to outline the doctrine of justification. Justification teaches that people can be declared righteous or acceptable to God, by God. Now, that the doctrine of justification assumes, that is what the idea that people (all of us) are in need to be declared by God acceptable to Him is that:
We are, apart from His declaration, not acceptable to Him
That being acceptable to Him is important
We can’t declare ourselves acceptable to Him
So what Paul makes clear is that all of this has been solved by Jesus when He died on the cross. Look what Paul says in chapter 2:20:
Galatians 2:20 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Jesus gave Himself for people. This means that He gave Himself in our place. He went to the cross to pay the penalty of our sins. That why He died. Not for His own sins, but for the sins of people. I realize not everyone is necessarily convinced that that they are in need to be justified by God, or that they are not acceptable to Him. Or there are some (many) that do not care whether they are acceptable to God or not. But this brings us back to what we considered at the beginning of this message. All of us, if we’re being honest, feel the unrest in our lives. The nagging urge to cange and tweak to so that life will be better, And all of us also know the frustration of those efforts coming up short. The bible makes it clear:
Romans 3:23 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Regardless of how familiar we are with what this verse says, it’s not too hard to believe that we are less than perfect. We’re flawed. Selfish, deceptive, fits of anger, violent and more. We’re all in the same boat. we fall short, and only God can fix that. We can’t do it ourselves. We need to be justified, and that was taken care of in the death of Jesus. He paid the debt that we cannot pay. It doesn’t get any better than that.
That’s what so good about the gospel, but something else is that

People can acquire the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work through faith (2:21)

In other words, people can have the benefits of what Christ did on the cross through faith. You know what we often assume? You need to do something to have something. Effort is required. we expect to receive our due pay for working.
Study hard in school, get good grades
Work hard at a job, get a paycheck
Work hard for 20, 30, 40 years, be able to retire and live off of retirement accounts and SS.
But being declared acceptable to God… being forgiven of our sins, having our debt paid in full even though we all fall short.... we can’t do anything to get that. Look what Paul says in 2:21
Galatians 2:21 ESV
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Paul just talked about the fact that Jesus gave Himself, that is, that Jesus died in the place of sinners. And his point here is that if it were possible to do something to achieve justification then Jesus died for no purpose. To believe that we can contribute something to our right standing before God is believe a different gospel. To believe that we need to do something like being our authentic self, or being kind, or being a responsible and engaged citizen in order to be acceptable to God is to believe a false gospel.
We acquire the benefits of what Jesus did by faith. What is faith?
John Piper suggests this definition

Faith is “Trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ Jesus.” - John Piper

What does God promise His people to be to them in Christ Jesus?
Loving God
Only available to us through faith. And this is what the gospel makes clear. Let this sink in. You and I are not burdened with performing to a certain level in order to have the most important, most consequential, most wonderful, most joy-giving gift we can ever receive. God’s acceptance. In a world where acceptance is conditional, God’s acceptance is not conditioned on our effort, but on what Christ has already accomplished. That’s good news.
The gospel cannot be improved..... something else that makes the gospel such good news is that

Believing it sets us free

Again, statements like this assumes certain things to be true of us.
All of us, apart from God’s work of justification are slaves.... slaves to our own sin and the penalty of our sin.
We cannot free ourselves
It is possible to live in freedom
Consider what Paul says in 4:4-7
Galatians 4:4–7 ESV
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
What this is saying is that Jesus, at just the right time, came into the world on a mission to save His people from their sins. We know He did this by dying in their place on the cross and rising again. And what His work on the cross did, is that it set His people free from the bondage their sin had over them. This, again, is acquired through faith.
What happens is we go from being slaves with no hope, no one to redeem (set us free) us. No one able to give us hope and become a family to us. But the work of Jesus on the cross set His people free, released us from their bondage to their sin, and made sons and daughters. So all who are justified by od through Christ now can call God daddy. An affectionate term to be sure.
I know there are some here who have feelings of disappointment when it comes to your parents. Your father or mother or both haven’t been there for you in the way you may have expected or hoped. That will always be a source of pain, but what I want us to all see is that when we place our faith in Christ, God becomes an affectionate Father to us and we are made His sons and daughters and we become part of his family. This is freedom.
It doesn’t get any better than this. We cannot improve the gospel..... Don’t mess with the gospel
Another reason not to is

Because the gospel is essential

Meaning that we all need to understand and embrace the gospel. In other words, the gospel to relevant to everyone everywhere.
But how is the gospel’s essentiality seen?

Division (2:11-14)

I know that the idea that division over the gospel can somehow demonstrate that it is essential may not make sense at first, but think through this with me. Look at an example between to major church leaders - The apostles Paul & Peter
Galatians 2:11–14 ESV
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 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?”
There’s allot here, and we will, Lord willing get to this in our exposition in the weeks ahead, but I want us to see something here.
Dever said this: the gospel is precious enough to divide over.
We have preached unity from this pulpit more than once. Unity is something that we must strive for and do all we can to guard. But it’s important that what unites us is true and right. The gospel must be our point of unity. Not a desire to not offend one another or keep our noses out of each other’s business even when we may be going down a destructive road. This is what was happening with Peter. he was behaving in such a way that contradicted the gospel, and his behavior was having adverse affects on others around him. Paul saw this, and confronted him. This was no small thing. This was the apostle Peter… one of the 12… And Paul, who was new on the scene, confronted him.... called him out? Yes, because the gospel is so precious, we do not allow anything or anyone to distort it. The gospel is essential, so much so that when it is in danger of being misrepresented, we do all we can to prevent that from happening..... even something as uncomfortable as confronting someone we may love or respect.
I want to quote Mark Dever again, when he posed this question regarding the essential nature of the gospel:

Is the gospel rooted well enough, clearly enough, and firmly enough in your heart that you would challenge a friend or someone else in your church about the content of the gospel? - Mark Dever

Don’t mess with the gospel because
it’s from God
it cannot be improved
it is essential

Because the gospel transforms us

Where do we see this transformation?

It transforms our relationship with the truth

We see this in the contrast between the Galatians’ relationship with their teachers. This was a significant issue for them. The relationship they had with their teachers was very sacred to them. But notice the contrast between Paul, one of their teachers, and some of the false teachers that had infiltrated the churches.
Galatians 4:13–16 ESV
You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
The Galatians were kind to Paul.. perhaps he had eye troubles
Paul understood that by serving the Galatians, he was serving Jesus which was his ultimate concern. Look at what he said in
Galatians 6:17 ESV
From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
Paul gave himself, sacrificed himself for the good of the Galatians, but ultimately for the glory of Christ.
Paul was a good teacher among them, and he contrasts that with the false teachers
Galatians 6:12–15 ESV
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
What were these teachers concerned about?
being well regarded by others even if it came at the expense of the Galatians
They were willing to say just about anything to obtain the approval of others....
Something that’s clear here, when it comes to our relationship to the truth being transformed by the gospel: Truth and love go together and deception and hate go together. That’s certainly not the message that the culture sends today. But what the gospel does is that it transforms our relationship to the truth.
It also

It transforms our relationship with one another

When we assemble around the gospel. When the gospel is the substance of our unity, we have very distinct relationships with one another.
Galatians 6:1–5 ESV
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
When we are united around the gospel, we will help each other fight against sin and face life’s challenges. No Christian should be an island. No Christian should attempt to face and fight life’s battles on his or her own. We’re in this together. We are a gospel people, and gospel people are unique… distinct.... we have each other’s backs. We help one another to allow the truths of the gospel to go beyond just knowing facts. We help each other to no just affirm right doctrine, but to allow those doctrines to take root in our hearts. The gospel puts the love of Christ front and center, and when it take root in us, we begin to love one another as we are loved by Christ.

It transforms our relationship with God

Paul’s chief concern when it came to the false teacher’s was that the Galatians would not convince them they had to keep the law to be justified by God. The false teachers were essentially teaching that Jesus was Messiah, that he died for our sins, that we needed to place our faith in Him, but we also need to keep the law. No amount of law keeping, do-gooding can justify sinner before a holy God.
Galatians 3:11–13 ESV
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 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”—
Christ redeemed His people from the burden of the law. It’s impossible for anyone to obey the law to the point that that obedience results in justification before God. Our relationship with God is transformed by the gospel.
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