Christian Unity: September 17
The Gospel Matters
“…not that there is another gospel.” (Galatians 1:7)
Galatians 1:10-2:10 | September 17, 2017
Introduction: In last week’s text we read that the Lord Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age….” That’s a lot to unpack. But one of the important things Paul claims to be true about the gospel is that forgiveness leads to a new life or a new way of being that is shaped not by this present age but the age that has come and is coming in Jesus Christ. In short, the cross forgives and transforms sinners by grace through faith.
In this week’s text, Paul supplies his own life as a concrete example of the power of the gospel to transform. The picture he paints is pretty astonishing: a self-righteous religious fanatic who violently persecuted the early Church is saved by grace—the unmerited favor of God—and is called by Jesus
to carry this gospel of grace to the Gentiles. Moreover, Paul, who identifies himself as a brilliant student of Judaism, proves that a high level of biblical and theological literacy does not necessarily translate into a life-giving relationship with the Lord.
One of the themes that runs throughout Galatians is the bedrock idea of the all-sufficiency of Jesus to redeem and reconcile us to the Father. The false teachers don’t totally displace Jesus but argue instead that Jesus needs a little help – that he’s somehow not fully up to the task. So, they argue, if you want to be right with God, then you better keep these laws, be sure to practice circumcision, adhere to the dietary restrictions, and so on. Here Paul holds his ground and refuses to budge from a gospel of grace.
Another important theme of our passage is Christian unity. And Paul is willing to go to the mat to maintain it. He puts his reputation on the line. He blows off some steam. And he is unbending in his convictions. Why? Because he has received the gospel “through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” In other words, the gospel is not some amazing new idea thought up by some brilliant person. The gospel is God’s gift. The gospel isn’t helpful or inspiring words from men, but it is the Word made flesh. The gospel is good news to be believed, not good advice to follow.
Pray: Heavenly Father, open us to hear your Word, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has put on flesh for us and our salvation. Cause us to be gripped by the gospel. As we receive forgiveness, give us courage to take hold of the new life and let go of the old. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
Read: Galatians 1:10-2:10
1. What grips you or stands out to you regarding Paul’s autobiography?
2. What does his story tell us about becoming a Christian? Similarly, what is wonderful
about verses 15-16?
3. How did Paul spend his time immediately following his conversion? Any thoughts about
how that might inform our own pattern of faithfulness?
4. Paul, no doubt, is a bit strident in tone! But part of what I love about Paul is his total desire
to please Jesus and care less about what others think. And so he confronts false teachers,
and, maybe even more remarkable, he doesn’t think twice about speaking his mind with the
Christian leaders in Jerusalem. What do you make of this confidence?
5. How does this passage show us the importance of pursuing unity within the Christian
Application: Paul is totally sold out for Jesus. His encounter with the Risen Christ has changed his loyalties. He is willing to live for Jesus no matter the cost. It should make us examine our own lives and ask whether we are people pleasers or living to please God? The gospel was revolutionary because of the concept of grace. Every other religion before and since has required that individuals play a part in earning their salvation. We, like the Galatians, fall back into attempts to achieve our own salvation. What’s that look like? How do we anchor ourselves more firmly in grace? Consider the importance of church unity, of becoming embedded in a Christian community of authentic believers. What is challenging and what are the blessings? Why is Paul’s encouragement essential to living the Christian life?
Pray: Jesus, thank you for your saving power. Thank you for forgiveness and the new life that is ours in you. Thank you, Jesus, for the sending of your Holy Spirit as your real and ongoing presence that knits us together in this world. May we joyfully delight in you and worship you as the King above all kings. Guide us by day and guard us at night. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.