No Other Gospel: September 10
The Gospel Matters
“… not that there is another gospel.” Galatians 1:7
No Other Gospel
Galatians 1:1-9 | September 10, 2017
Introduction: Welcome to week one in our eight-week sermon series through Galatians. Before getting into Galatians, let’s consider the context in which this letter was written.
Jesus was a devout Jew, which is to say, Jesus kept the whole Law. The Law (in Hebrew called, Torah) is the ‘deal’ God made with Israel. The Lord God would be the God of this people, Israel, and Israel would be God’s people; a living, breathing, community called to anticipate God’s reconciling purpose for heaven and earth. The prophet Isaiah said it this way – Israel was to be, through obedience to Torah, “a light to the nations,” bearing hope and light to all the other nations that serve false gods.
The law included a lot of instructions about little details of life. In this way the Law lets us know of God’s concern for every tiny bit of his good creation. The Law was also a reminder that God’s sovereignty is inclusive, bringing a distinctive Godly character to every aspect of life. But to keep the whole law was impossible. You see, God gave Israel the impossible standard of his own beautiful holiness and awesome justice—a standard no one could meet. Yet it was God’s purpose for Israel to proclaim in their corporate life God’s perfect holiness and justice. In time the Law became the defining characteristic of the Jewish people; essential for both personal and national identity. A Jew observed the Law, period. And remember, all of the first Christians were Jews.
After Pentecost, however, God did something scandalous. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon those who were not circumcised; that is, those who were not participants in God’s covenant, not bearers of God’s holiness and justice. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon those who, to a Jewish way of thinking, were unclean and lawless. Because the presence and power of the Holy Spirit were understood as markers of God’s authority and acceptance, this created great unrest for those Jewish followers of Jesus.
What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus, a devout Jew? If the keeping of the Law is not necessary to receive the Holy Spirit (God’s favor), what is the purpose of the Law? Without the Law, how are we to order our lives? How do we proclaim God’s holiness and justice apart from the Law? These are the questions that challenged the Christians to whom the letter of Galatians was first written.
Pray: Lord, Jesus Christ, it is easy to remember the WHAT of faith and forget the WHY. It’s easy to slip into keeping rules and staying out of trouble and to forget to gaze upon your beauty, longing to be fashioned into your likeness. In you, Lord Jesus, the beauty of God’s holiness and justice come into HD clarity. May we be compelled to set our hearts and minds upon you. Help us to set our thoughts and desires fixedly upon you, aware that we become what we behold. Renew in us a confidence that you are enough to complete by sheer grace that which you began in us by grace alone. Amen.
Read: Galatians 1:1-9
1. What are the religious Laws that you tend to follow? What are the “rules” of religion to you?
2. Read verse 4. Talk about the will of God as expressed here. What does this mean for praying that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven”?
3. If God wants us to be free “from the present evil age,” what is the bondage of this present evil age? What does it look like? Are you bound by it?
4. Talk about the first time grace became real to you. When did the penny drop in your journey with Jesus Christ? How would you describe doing life by grace?
Application: Read Matthew 5:17-20
Maybe you’ve invited someone to the country club for a meal, or been treated to lunch at a “members-only” establishment. Of course, to come and go freely at the club, membership is required.
In a way, the presence of the holy and just God is a members-only establishment. But it’s a great club to join. Great food, killer aesthetics, perks that go on forever! So, how does one become a member? It’s simple: earn your way in by keeping God’s whole law at every point, without exception. Sound pretty exclusive? There is only one member in the club house; it’s Jesus Christ. He’s the only one who has “fulfilled the law.”
Imagine an angel appears and tells you some ‘good news’ about a loophole in the club contract. You can, in fact, earn membership. Paul says in verse 7 that there is no other ‘good news’ (gospel literally means ‘good news’). Any “gospel” that enslaves people in the cul-de-sac of merit–that tells people they deserve what they cannot deserve—is actually bad news! It’s bad news because no one can endure the scrutiny of God’s holiness and justice; it’s bad news because it’s a lie. But it is a delicious lie, because we all want to be deserving.
Imagine standing on the outside of God’s clubhouse. What’s it like on the outside? What’s happening inside? Suddenly, you see Jesus on the other side of the window. He waves for you to meet him at the door. How do you feel at the door, knowing you aren’t member? You get to the door and confess that you are not a member, but Jesus says to the maître d, “this is my guest.” Please seat him/her at my Father’s table. Who is sitting with you at Jesus’ table? Any surprises?
Pray: Almighty God, I do not deserve a place in your presence, but I want to. I want to deserve it, to earn it, to get in by my own cleverness and hard work. I don’t want to cheat, I’m willing to work hard. But it’s too much for me. I can’t close the gap between your holiness and justice, and my own misguided mess. Yet, I hear Jesus invite me in, though I don’t deserve it. Thank you for giving me a seat at your table. Amen.