Thursday, July 3, 2014

P2 - Declaring and Defending the Gospel - The main message of Galatians

Galatians 1:1-2 "Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia."

Introduction & Review
Yesterday we considered how the Book of Acts and the letters of the New Testament relate to one another.  We specifically noted how knowing the situations of Acts 13:1-16:6 can aid greatly in our interpretation of a book like Galatians. Paul's labor in those cities of Galatia that he preached through and revisited in Acts 13-14 required scripture that dealt specifically with the siren call to rely more upon legalism than the Gospel. Even with an Apostolic letter coming from a major church council in Acts 15, the churches needed the Word. Thus with all these factors in play, Paul by inspiration of the Holy Ghost penned Galatians. The main point of application was that by looking at Acts 13-16 and Galatians, we can learn the importance of defending and declaring the Gospel. We are all, after all, called to declare and defend the Gospel.

Outlining the Book of Galatians
With the basic background of the Book of Galatians and its occasion for writing being established, we can begin taking a closer look by noting the following proposed outline:

Outline of Galatians
I. Defense of the Gospel - Galatians 1-2

A.Paul's defense of His apostleship. ch 1
B.Paul's defense of the Gospel. ch 2

II. Declaration of the Gospel - Gal 3-6

A. Saving Gospel. chapters 3-4
B. Sanctifying Gospel. chapter 5
C. Sustaining Gospel. chapter 6

As we can see, the chief point of Galatians is to offer a clear defense and declaration of the Gospel in all of its saving, sanctifying and sustaining benefits. 

Key verses in Galatians
Unlike all of Paul's letters, Galatians is the only one that does not open with any sort of commendation. Paul opens his letter by defending his own apostleship, a defense that was necessary due to the repeated attacks and attempt on his own life in the events recorded in the background passages of Acts 13:44,50; 14:2,519; 15:1-5. Galatians 1:11-12 states - "For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."

In having to defend his apostleship, Paul then launches into a premier defense of the Gospel itself in Galatians 2. Galatians 2:16 is a prime example of his defense of the Gospel - "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified."

With the defense of the Gospel complete, Paul switches gears from defense to declaration.  We see him fleshing out three main aspects of the Gospel. First Paul reminds his readers of the Gospel that saves in Galatians 3:11 "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” After further reinforcing the saving power of the Gospel in chapter 4, Paul then adds to the fact that the Gospel is not only the source of salvation, but sanctification in Galatians 5:24 "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." The Gospel declares that by grace through faith I am set free from sin's penalty at salvation (or more specifically in God's declaration of justification by faith) and am set free from sin's power in ongoing sanctification. Then we see a third aspect of the Gospel as that which sustains the believer to the end in Galatians 6:9 "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." This sustaining power of the Gospel to keep the believer until the end is stated at the beginning in Galatians 1:3-5 (3) "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen."

Closing thoughts:
My hope is that the reader has gained a better acquaintance with the Book of Galatians.  We saw the background of the letter yesterday in Acts 13-16 and we concluded the following about the main point of Galatians - As we can see, the chief point of Galatians is to offer a clear defense and declaration of the Gospel in all of its saving, sanctifying and sustaining benefits.  May we all be about defending and declaring the Gospel to those who will listen while bring every thought that opposes it under the authority of King Jesus. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

1 comment:

  1. "May we all be about defending and declaring the Gospel to those who will listen while bring every thought that opposes it under the authority of King Jesus. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)"

    I looked up the Corinthians passage. "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. . ."

    I wondered what that meant. Then it went on: "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds."

    At the ESV Bible site that I often use, there were some cross references posted at different words of this verse. So I looked them up and read them also. When I came to the words "divine power," this is the verse they sent me to:

    "...since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God." 2 Cor 13:3-4

    That verse sent me to this one: "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

    Our flesh is weak. I often think, "Why should I speak? My words will not mean very much. I am nothing and nobody. I cannot communicate very well." In my flesh that is all entirely true.

    But St. Paul says that our weaknesses, our flesh, are not waging the war. God is waging the war through us by His "divine power." In fact, Paul said, "For when I am weak then I am strong."

    That is very counterintuitive. When we feel like giving up in our witness of Christ because of our short-comings and insignificance, we should remember that our flesh is not doing the work. But God's power will come through us as we share Him with others. Our feeble words are not very feeble then at all. Even though they seem so to us. We wonder, "What good can I do?" Well, that is just it -- it is not "I."

    Our LCMS President had this posted today:

    “God has always done His greatest deeds in the world through hopeless minorities as seen from human eyes.” Last line of Sasse’s last Letter to Lutheran Pastors.

    Very powerful last paragraph, Pastor. We cave in to our perceived fleshly weaknesses too much. Instead we have the capability to be bold in sharing. We need to take our eyes off of our flesh and keep them on Christ.

    Everyone thought Jesus failed when He died on the cross. Even His disciples thought it was all over. He appeared weak and beaten. But that cross is the opposite of weakness. It is the "divine power" of God given to forgive our sins. And that divine power goes with us as we give that message to others. We don't have to worry about the "I" at all.

    Thanks, Pastor.