Earlier this month I preached one final sermon from the book of Galatians, completing a thirteen-week series through the epistle. Interestingly, the first five sermons were preached to a room full of believers, while the final eight sermons were preached to a room full of cameras. Although there is much that could be said about preaching during a global pandemic, my purpose for writing is instead to share with you several reflections from the book of Galatians that I hope will stir your affections for the Lord and cause you to cling to Him above all else:
- I DO NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND GRACE AND I PROBABLY NEVER WILL.
The book of Galatians is full of grace. The letter begins with grace (Gal 1:3), it concludes with grace (Gal 6:18), and it depicts the Gospel of grace throughout its contents. While grace is not unique to the Galatian letter, it is central to this letter. Paul was overwhelmed by grace, and by grace he was made an apostle. Not only was Paul a recipient of abundant grace, but the Gospel he preached was a Gospel of grace. Are you noticing the theme of grace here?
The Gospel is all of grace because man is not accepted by God on the basis of his own works but on the basis of works done by another: Jesus Christ. The Gospel is most gracious because a sinner receives what the Son of God deserves. The Son of God is the only sinless man and the only one deserving of life and peace. Sinners, on the other hand, who have done nothing but reject God and rebel against Him, deserve nothing but wrath and fury. But in Christ Jesus we are declared right with God, and this declaration is not based upon anything we have done (actually, it is in spite of what we have done) but upon what Christ has done. And now, in Christ, sinners are adopted into the family of God (Gal 4:5-7). We become children of the king. We are recipients of the promised Holy Spirit who conforms us to the image of Christ, and who leads us and guides us as we still live in this body of flesh (Gal 4:6; 5:16-25).
- THE TRANSFORMING WORK OF GOD OVERCOMES DIVISION AND FACTIONS.
In Christ there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, there is no Jew or Gentile (Gal 3:28). In Christ there is unity, not division. Walls and divisions that are impossible for man to break down are broken down through God in Christ. Jesus levels the playing field. He does not dismiss our differences and distinctions, but He breaks down the divisions and factions that stand against us, and He draws us to Himself in spite of that which once separated us from Him and from one another.
As the Spirit of God dwells in the soul of man we see radical transformation in the lives of those who once stood in direct opposition to God. Through faith in Christ, we receive the promised Holy Spirit, and it is the gift of the Spirit which turns atheists into believers, thieves into generous givers, the selfish into the selfless, and the conceited into the humble. As the life of God takes root and begins to produce fruit, we who once thought only of ourselves and who used others for our own selfish gain now prefer others and seek to love as we are loved in Christ.
- ONLY CHRIST IS ACCEPTABLE; THEREFORE, THE ONLY WAY WE CAN BE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD IS TO BE FOUND IN CHRIST.
The implied question of Galatians is this: What must man do to be accepted by God? And the answer to this question is: Absolutely nothing. There is nothing man can do to be accepted by God, for only Christ is acceptable to God.
We learn from the Scriptures that man is unrighteous and unholy; therefore, man is neither pleasing nor desirable to God. So what can man do? Are we without hope and doomed to eternal rejection? Absolutely not.
Since Christ is acceptable to God, all who are found in Him are made acceptable, not based upon anything we have done, but through faith in what Christ has done. As we are united to Christ through faith, we receive what is His. This is why believers are referred to as “Sons of God.” This title is not a denial of male and female; rather, both male and female are referred to as sons. Why is that so? Because we are united with the Son of God; therefore, “in Christ you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:26). The idea of sonship in Christ has nothing to do with being male or female, but everything to do with our union with Christ, for it is in Christ that we are found worthy of God. Since Christ, the Son of God, is worthy, we who are united to Him through faith are also found worthy.
- WE HAVE BEEN SET FREE IN CHRIST, BUT OUR FREEDOM WAS NOT FREE.
Many of you are familiar with the saying “Freedom isn’t free.” While this statement is often used to pay respect to those who have laid down their lives for the freedoms we experience in this country, it also certainly rings true in reference to the freedom we have in Christ. Our freedom was purchased at such a great cost: The Son of God “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8).
Due to the immensity of guilt that stood against us, our freedom could only be obtained through the inconceivable act of God the Father sending God the Son to die in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, the sinless for sinners. Just consider that for a moment: The only way for your freedom to be purchased was for the Son of God to die a heinous, criminal’s death on the cross. Hence, the freedom that we now share in Christ through faith was not free. Though it is freely given, it was not freely accomplished.
On a personal note, when I consider the price that was paid to obtain my freedom from sin and death, I find it absurd that I would ever dabble in sin. My Savior gave His life that I might find life, yet I so often play around with that which leads to death. Christ laid down His life so that I might experience freedom from slavery and bondage, so why would I ever desire to return to that enslavement from which I have been set free?
This question brings us back to my first point: I do not fully understand grace. And every time I give sin a second thought I show my ignorance of grace. The amazing thing about God’s grace, however, is that there is nothing I can do to be separated from it, for His grace is poured out upon me not because of what I have done or will do, but through my faith in Jesus Christ. Who am I, O wretched man that I am, that God would go to such great lengths to pour out so much undeserved blessing upon me? Once I stood against Him, but now, in Christ, I stand with Him!
Praise God for His infinite mercy and grace!