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Boasting in the Cross

Galatians Sermon Series

We Boast in the Resurrection Too

April 17, 2022 • David Mathis

One of my favorite details about Easter Sunday, and Jesus’s resurrection body, is his scars. The victory of Easter is so great, the triumph of the risen Christ over sin and death is so resounding, we might be prone to overlook, or quickly forget, an unexpected detail like this.  When Jesus first appeared to his disciples, “they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit” (Luke 24:37). So Jesus says to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Then Luke comments, “And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet” (Luke 24:38–40) — meaning his scars. In the Gospel of John, when Jesus finally appears to doubting Thomas, after eight long days, he says to him, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27). That Jesus’s resurrected body would still show evidence of his wounds, that the scars of crucifixion could still be seen and touched, was both a confirmation and a surprise. The confirmation was that this was, in fact, him, risen. The same body that was killed on the cross rose from the grave. He was not a spirit or ghost. He was risen, fully alive, now in glorified humanity.  The surprise is that we might expect a resurrected body not to have scars. That might seem like a defect. But it is not a defect. It is a feature. Because these scars, these rich wounds, are marks of his love. These scars tell the good news, that he did not die for his own sins, but for ours. His wounds are invitations to sinners, and assurances to his saints. His scars preach good news. They are marks of Easter glory, the very glory that makes the horrors of his death into what we now call “Good Friday.” The Gospel in All CapsAnd so on Easter Sunday, we come to the end of our Galatians series, and one of the last things Paul writes, with his own hand, is this in verse 17: “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Like Jesus, Paul also had gospel scars — scars which pointed not to his own work, but Jesus’s work. Just as sinners had struck and killed the Son of God, so too sinners had struck and scarred his messenger. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul mentions some of what he has suffered for the sake of Christ: countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. (2 Corinthians 11:23–25) Paul’s scars, “the marks of Jesus” he received from preaching the resurrection of Christ, are his final argument in Galatians. Before he closes in verse 18 with, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen,” he puts the final period in place with his own life, and what he has been willing to suffer, to preach and defend the meaning of Good Friday and the news of Easter Sunday. But not only is Paul’s final argument “the marks of Jesus” that he carries in his own body, but in this last section, he takes up the pen himself, from the secretary to whom he has dictated the rest of the letter. And he says in verse 11, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.” This is Paul’s way, here at the end, with so much on the line in Galatians, of shifting into bold font. This is the apostle Paul in all caps. So these precious five sentences, from verse 12 to verse 17, are direct and blood-earnest with a power that is very fitting for Easter Sunday.  And what we see is that this last flourish of Paul’s pen turns on the reality of boasting. So, let’s look at these verses in that light, with Easter eyes, in three steps. 1. Humans are born to boast. We are born boasters. You are a born boaster — in two senses. It would be easy to miss a first and important sense.  That first sense is that we are boasters by creation. God designed us, before sin entered in, with the capacity to boast. Indeed the calling to boast. And what I mean by boasting is rejoicing out loud in words.  God made humans not only to think and do, but to feel and to speak. He gave us hearts and he gave us mouths. He created us in his image, meaning to image him in this world, to represent him and remind others of him — both fellow humans and the watching angels. And he not only gave us the ability to think and consider, but also to feel. He not only gave us bodies to move and work and do, but tongues to speak, to give meaning to our works with words. In other words, God made us to boast in him — that is, to not only know him with our minds, but rejoice in him in our hearts, and not only live in obedience to him, but speak words, out of that heart, that point others to him. God made us to boast in him. And, as we know all too well, there is a second sense in which we are born to boast. We are born into sin. And so our natural inclination to boast often becomes sinful boasting. Instead of rejoicing out loud about God, we rejoice out loud about ourselves, in all the various and complex forms this takes. We all know this. We all have lived this. And of course, we’re often far quicker to recognize it in others than in ourselves.  As a youth baseball coach, let me tell you, we don’t have to teach kids to boast. Rather, we try to help them not indulge their instinct, in the heat of the game, to boast. “Let your play do the talking.” What about your own soul? What are your boasts? What aspects of life, whether manifest gifts from God or seeming abilities and accomplishments, do you rejoice in most, and feel most drawn to express in words? What are you so regularly excited about that you can’t help but talk about? What qualities, possessions, abilities, achievements, relational connections make you look good when others hear about them? When Paul takes up the pen for himself in verse 11, he puts boasting at the heart of his last push toward the Galatians. They, as well as the false teachers trying to influence them, and Paul himself, are all born boasters. We are born boasters. The question isn’t whether we will boast, but in what, and in whom, will we boast. First, Paul turns to what not to boast in. Verses 12–13: 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. 13 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. I think this is the most direct and succinct summary of what motivates the troublemakers in Galatia. They are putting on a show to appease unbelieving Jews. They are play-acting. They themselves do not keep the whole Jewish law. They know they can’t, and they don’t want to, besides. But what they do want to do is avoid persecution. This new movement of Christians, claiming that Jesus is the long-awaited Christ, is troubling Jewish leaders. And now the movement is spreading to Gentiles. Non-Christian Jews want to snuff this out. They begin persecuting Christians — like Paul himself had done, before the risen Christ appeared to him and turned his life upside down. And so the false teachers are trying to avoid persecution. They want to appease non-Christian Jews by boasting to them that Gentile converts to Christ are coming under the Jewish law. The word here for “make a good showing” is literally “have a good face.” The false teachers themselves don’t keep the law, but they are trying to get Gentile Christians to receive circumcision so they can boast in their flesh, and have a good face to avoid persecution. And Paul says that however well-intentioned or naïve this may be, it is dead wrong, and compromises the very heart of the Christian message that Jesus is enough for right standing with God. So, we are born boasters — by God’s design, and also in our sin. And the false teachers, to save their own flesh (from persecution) want to be able to boast in the flesh (from circumcision) of these Gentile Christians in Galatia. Second, then, Paul contrasts their sinful boast with his own holy boast, which he wants the Galatians, and us, to join him in. This is how he wants us to rejoice in words. 2. Jesus turns boasting upside down. Paul does not say that becoming a Christian banishes all boasting. We still boast. Oh do we! Worship is boasting. Preaching is boasting. Sharing the gospel is a holy and humble kind of boasting — rejoicing in words. But Christian boasting is not like the natural, sinful boasting into which we’re born. It is not boasting in the flesh. It is not boasting in outward appearance. It is not boasting in our own strength. It is boasting turned upside down because of the worth and beauty and power of Jesus Christ. Look at verse 14: 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. So Paul does boast. But he boasts in the cross, of all things. The cross. Today, it’s easy for us to be all too familiar with the cross. We see them on steeples. We wear them on necklaces. We sing about the cross. And it’s easy to forget, or overlook, what the cross meant in the first century. Some might be familiar with the hymn “Old Rugged Cross” which calls it “an emblem of suffering and shame.” The cross was horrific. It was reserved for the worst of rebels against the Roman empire, and was designed to not only make death literally excruciating and lengthy, but also utterly shameful. And Paul says, “May I never boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What a turn, that the very thing — a crucified Messiah — that seemed so shameful, such a stumbling block to Jews, and such folly to Gentiles, would be not only a critical truth for Christians, but central. We talk about the cross every Sunday. We remember it at this Table, as we will in a few moments. We depict it in baptism. The cross — the public execution of the Son of God — is not just a barrier to overcome to embrace the Christian faith, but it is at the very heart of our faith. We celebrate it, and draw attention to it. We boast in it. Why is that? Because the wounds Jesus received at the cross were not for his own sins, but for ours. As we read Thursday night, from Isaiah 53:5,  he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;  upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,  and with his wounds we are healed. The eternal Son of God took human flesh and blood, and went to that rugged, offensive, horrific, shamefully public cross, as the spotless Lamb, to die for our sins. We were the ones who deserved to spill our own blood in violent death, and eternal separation from God. For our rebellion, for our countless sinful boasts in our own flesh. But the wonder of Christianity, the heart of our faith, the very good news which we call “the gospel” is that Jesus went to the cross for us — for all those who would take Paul’s invitation to turn our boasting upside down and rejoice in words, Jesus is Lord. We see elsewhere in Paul how Jesus turns our boasting upside down. Instead of boasting in comfort and easy in this life, Paul says in Romans 5:3, “we boast in our sufferings.” If God works the greatest good through the greatest evil — that is, the crucifixion of the Son of God — then our sufferings in this life are turned upside down. We grieve them, yet even as we do, we rejoice in what God is doing in and through them. And instead of boasting in our own strengths and abilities, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:30, “I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” And in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Jesus turns our boasting upside down. Instead of boasting in our comforts, we boast in our sufferings. Instead of boasting in our strengths, we boast in our weaknesses. Instead of boasting in natural human conceptions of glory and power, just like the world, we boast in the offense of the cross. But it’s Easter Sunday. What about the resurrection? When Paul says in verse 14, May I never boast unless in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, how does Easter fit? If all Christian boasting is a boasting in and under the banner of the cross, what do we make of our Easter boast that he is risen? The answer is that, Yes, we boast in the resurrection, but it is a certain kind of boasting. It is a humbled boast. It is a God-magnifying boast. It is a Christ-treasuring boast. It is a cross-conscious boast. It is a boast in the surpassing power of God uniquely on display in and through human weakness, and suffering, and even death. It is the kind of boasting that comes on the other side of the grave, on the other side of crucifixion, on the other side of Christ turning the world, and us, upside down.  And not only is the Easter boast permissible; it is essential. Paul’s boasting in the cross implies the Easter boast. If there is no Easter boast, there is no boasting in the cross. If Jesus stays dead, there is no glory in his cross. We boast in the cross, because the one who died there for our sins rose again Sunday morning to be our living, breathing, loving, reigning Lord. And our boasting in the resurrection is a certain kind of boasting because it is also a boasting in the cross. 3. Christians boast in the resurrection too. Let’s see the resurrection for ourselves in verses 15–16, which begin with the word “for” and explain what Paul has just said in verse 14. Verse 15: For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. The first and most obvious link to resurrection is “new creation.” New creation points to God’s action and initiative and power, not ours. That’s the contrast between circumcision and new creation. In this context, circumcision would be an action the Galatians would take in an effort to make sure they’re in right standing with God. And remarkably, Paul says uncircumcision doesn’t count either. Neither taking that step in the flesh, or refusing to take that step, wins you God’s acceptance. You cannot, in your flesh, earn God’s full and final favor. What counts is what he does. His work in Christ. His new creation. And the beginning of this new creation is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter Sunday is the great first act, the great first and decisive initiative, the great burst of divine power that launches a new creation, beginning with Christ, then coming to us, as God makes us new creatures in Christ, through faith, and then culminating someday with a new heavens and new earth. So “new creation” is the first glimpse of Easter. The second is the connection to Galatians 2:20 at the end of verse 14. Paul says that by the cross “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The other place in this letter where Paul talks about being crucified with Christ is 2:20: 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. Verse 14 only mentions crucifixion, but what 2:20 makes plain is that crucifixion with Christ, by faith, means resurrection with him. Just as Christ was crucified, and raised, so Paul’s old self — our old self — was crucified with Christ by faith, and we too have been raised to new life. We now live with a new heart, a new center, a new ultimate allegiance; we are new creatures, indwelt by God’s Spirit, even as we continue to battle and make headway against remaining sin. And this reality of being a “new creation” in Christ is both personal and individual, as well as corporate. Not only did Christ very personally “love me and give himself for me” at the cross. But he loved us, his church, and makes us a people together in him. Verse 16 says that “all who walk by this rule” — that is, all who own God’s work and power in making them new creatures — are God’s true people. He calls them “the Israel of God.” This is the church, the true Israel. “The Jerusalem above” as he says at the end of chapter 4 (verse 36). Or like he says in Philippians 3:3, “we are the [true] circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and [boast] in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” There is a twist of irony here, in response to the false teachers. Do you want to be God’s people? Do you want to be in “the Israel of God,” in contrast to the Israel of the flesh? Then leave behind the life of flesh, circumcision, and law, and live instead according to the Spirit and faith and love, as those who have been loved by God in Christ. Finally, we end with one last Easter connection to the resurrection: “the marks of Jesus.” Paul comes to the end of Galatians, takes the pen in his own hand to write verses 11–16, and then his one last word, before the concluding benediction, is this. And it is one final boast, that is a boast in the cross: From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. In other words, not only do I answer with this letter, but I answer with my life. My skin is scarred — from being beaten, and lashed, and stoned — because I have stood by this gospel with my own life. Rather than trying to tweak the message to avoid persecution, as the false teachers are, I have not been deterred by threats. Rather than seeking, under pressure, to make marks in other people’s flesh, and boast in a head count of circumcisions, marks have been made in my flesh, as I have preached and defended that Jesus’s cross and resurrection, embraced by faith alone, are enough to get and keep us right with God. And so I bear on my own body, Paul says, as faint echoes and pointers, the very “marks of Jesus” he bears on his resurrection body — marks that are no defect, but shine with glory. And so Paul boasts in the cross, and the resurrection. And so we boast, The Lord is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed. Commune with the Living Christ As we come to the Table on this Easter Sunday, we celebrate that the Jesus whom we remember here is alive. His resurrection not only makes good on God’s word, and not only vindicates his sinless life, and not only confirms that his cross-work was effective to cover our sins, and not only gives us access to that salvation by union with him, but the resurrection means he is alive, right now, in glorified humanity, scars and all, at God’s right hand, to know and enjoy forever.  We call this Communion, not only because we commune with each other as come together to his Table, but first and foremost because we commune with him, the risen, living Christ. As we eat in faith, we receive him afresh, by his Spirit, and commune with our risen, living Lord.

Bear One Another's Burdens

April 10, 2022 • Jonathan Parnell

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) — and to keep in the step with the Holy Spirit means we submit to the Holy Spirit; it means we yield to his guidance and his fruit; and we, by his power, understand that the cross of Jesus Christ is the very center of our lives. To live the Spirit-filled life is to live the cross-centered life. And if that’s the case for us it will have a good effect on our church.  Keeping in step with the Spirit will result in a healthy church — and Galatians Chapter 6, verses 1–10 shows us what that looks like. We learn at least three things in this passage. If we’re keeping in step with the Spirit, resulting in a healthy church, it means: 1. We move toward the wayward. 2. We love one another truly. 3. We endure in love as central to our witness. We’re gonna spend some time on each of these, but first let’s pray again for God’s help: Father in heaven, by the power of your Holy Spirit, please speak to us today. Speak to our church, and bless us, in Jesus’s name, amen.  1. We move toward the wayward (verse 1) So walking in the Spirit effects good in the church, and part of that good means, right away, that the church tries to keep one another from ruining their lives. Verse 1: Brothers, if anyone is caught in a transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. There three pieces here I want us to see: There is the person caught in transgression; There is the spiritual person who seeks to restore that person caught in transgression; and There is the manner of how the action to restore is carried out. In verse 1 Paul is talking about corrective church discipline. So let me explain a little more about what that is. There’s two kinds of discipline in the local church: there’s formative discipline (which means we’re learning and being trained together in the Word), and there’s corrective discipline (which means we together correct sin in the hopes of redirecting fellow church members to Jesus). … And this corrective discipline is very much a part of discipleship. At its most basic level, corrective discipline happens anytime we are challenged by the word of God and/or we recognize the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And, brothers and sisters, I hope that happens a lot.  Because if we read the Bible and we’re never challenged by it, it either means that we’re perfect or we’re doing wrong (and we’re not perfect). We want this to be part of our life together as a church. It’s why every Sunday in our worship we have a time of Confession, that follows an exhortation. We are invited to confess our sins, and to repent, and to receive the forgiveness of Jesus. At its most basic level, corrective discipline is a normal aspect of the Christian life when we live honestly and whole. And then there are some times when corrective discipline becomes a more formal practice.  Jesus taught us about this in Matthew 18:15ff. Paul mentions this several times in his letters, especially in 1 Corinthians. But formal corrective discipline happens when a church member gets “caught in transgression.” This means the church member is doing some outward, serious sin and they don’t stop. They are unrepentant.  In that case, a spiritual person should seek to restore them. And by spiritual person here, Paul simply means a person who has the Holy Spirit. Paul is talking about a fellow church member who lives by the Spirit — which could be any of us! That person, any person, walking in the Spirit, should go to the person who is caught in sin and exhort them to stop. It’s meant to be a way out. And the main purpose of corrective church discipline that Paul mentions here is restoration. We exhort the member to stop their pursuit of sin because we sincerely do not want our brother or sister to ruin their life, which is what unrepentant sin will do. So we move toward them to restore them. And we do that in a spirit of gentleness — which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit — and it’s something that’s not hard for us to do when our real purpose is restoration. We’re not trying to punish the person caught in sin! We’re trying to help them! We’re not trying to hurt them; we’re trying to keep them from the hurt and wreckage that sin will cause. So we move toward them to restore them, and we do it gently … and we do it according to the way Jesus commands us in Matthew 18. And at the end of the day, this really all comes down to simple obedience to Jesus. Look, I understand that corrective church discipline is not easy; it’s uncomfortable; and sometimes our goal for restoration fails.  But the question of whether a church practices corrective church discipline is a question of whether that church follows Jesus and does what the Bible says. If we are a church keeping in step with Holy Spirit, if we’re a healthy church, Galatians 6, verse 1 will be true of us. We will move toward the wayward. 2. We will love one another truly (verses 2–5) The central command for this entire passage is verse 2.  Verse 2 is the main idea that Paul elaborates in everything else he says through verse 10 — but for now I want us to focus on verses 2–5, because these few verses are kind of packaged together. Notice three parts:  First, there’s the main idea, and then there are two clarifications.  Main Idea: Bear One Another’s Burdens Now the main idea is verse 2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  So this is a command — “Bear one another’s burdens” — and Paul has embedded into the command its effect. The grammar is actually future tense. Paul says “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way — by bearing one another’s burdens — you will fulfill the law of Christ” — and so what is the law of Christ? Well, it’s to love others. That’s the command Jesus gave us in John 13, on the night he was betrayed (which is coming up this Thursday, Maundy Thursday). On that night, Jesus said to his disciples, John 13:34: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. And of course Paul knew this command. Paul was thinking about this command in Chapter 5.  In Chapter 5, verse 6 Paul says: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” In Chapter 5, verse 13, Paul says: “… but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Then in Chapter 5, verse 22, love is the first fruit of the Spirit. So by the time we get to Chapter 6, we know that: Faith is expressed through loving others; Love is expressed through serving others; And love expressed through serving others is so deep and important that it actually fulfills the Old Testament law. Well, Paul is repeating those same ideas in Chapter 6, verse 2. So try to track with me here: Jesus’s new commandment for his people is love one another — that’s the law of Christ. And we fulfill that law — we actually will love one another the way Jesus said — when we bear one another’s burdens. Loving one another truly means bearing one another’s burdens. That’s the main idea here. But now notice Clarification #1 in verse 3. Clarification #1: This Applies to Everyone Clarification #1 is that Paul’s command here applies to everyone. When Paul says verse 2 he’s speaking to the whole church about how we live together, and he has in a mind a holy reciprocity; he’s saying: Hey, all of y’all, bear one another’s burdens. Y’all do this together. But Paul suspects that there will be some individuals who hear that command and think it does not apply to them. They’ll hear Paul say: “Bear one another’s burdens” and they’ll say: Yeah, I’m good. I don’t actually need help. I can handle my stuff on my own. Well, Paul anticipates that thinking and says, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  In other words, if you think you’re something as in: You think you don’t need help; you think you can handle life without burden-bearing support from others; if you think that, you deceive yourself. You’re actually buying a lie. It’s not true. You do need help. We all need help.  We know that, right? Every single one of us needs help. How’s that landing on you right now? How does it land on you to know that you have needs that God intends for others to meet? Several years ago I read this little book called Side by Side, written by a Christian psychologist named Ed Welch. I was reminded about the book this past week, and I went back, found it, and read my notes — and it’s such a helpful book.  It’s actually divided into two parts: the first part is about having burdens that others help you bear; and second part is about how you help others bear their burdens. And the real genius of the book, to me, is how it starts. Right away, first page, Ed Welch says that to be human means two things — you know what they are? He says to be human means we need help and we give help.  And that’s true of humans because God made us that way, on purpose. God made us to need others and for others to need us, and if that’s true of humans in general, then how much more so for us in the church? All of us as brothers and sisters, in our life together as a church, we each need help and give help. And if we don’t understand it’s both — if we ever think it’s one and not the other — that will actually distort the church community. Here’s what I mean: If you think you help others bear burdens, but you don’t need any help with your own, it will eventually lead to pride, and that pride will alter the source of your help for others from being God and his word, to being yourself. The only real and lasting way you help others is to know, like Luther once said, that even on our best days we are all just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. Givers of help are also needers of help.  The other side is also true.  If you think you only need help from others, but you don’t give help (or you think you can’t give help), it will also lead to pride — but not the pride of arrogance, it leads to the pride of self-pity — to the thinking that you’re poor and pitiful and the whole world should be bending over backwards to make things easier for you. That’s not good. Both kinds of pride harm the church’s life together. It warps the church community.  So we need to get this, brothers and sisters: Givers of help are also needers of help; and needers of help are also givers of help. That’s what Paul means (and clarifies) when he says “Bear one another’s burdens” — and understand this applies to everyone. You are deceived if you think this doesn’t apply to you. And the way to not be deceived — the way to realize that you have burdens and you also need help — is to just take an honest look at your life. Just examine yourself. That’s verse 4.  And verse 4 gets to the Clarification #2. Clarification # 2: Everyone Takes Personal Responsibility Clarification #2 is that each person must take responsibility for themselves.  Now look, verses 4–5 can be a little puzzling — so we gotta follow Paul’s train of thought. Paul says, verse 3: Hey, don’t think you’re something and deceive yourself, but, verse 4:  … let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  So to test your own work and actions means to examine yourself, but don’t examine yourself in comparison to your neighbor. If there’s something about yourself that you think is great, don’t make that assessment based upon how you size up with others, because verse 5: For each will have to bear his own load.  The word for “load” in verse 5 is different from the word for “burden” in verse 2. When Paul says “burden” in verse 2 he’s taking about something really heavy and concerning and overwhelming. But the word for “load” is not like that. It’s simply a load. That’s a good translation. The idea is a “load of responsibility.”  Paul is saying that each individual member is responsible for themselves. We all have burdens we need others to help us bear, just like we help others bear their burdens — and at the same time we are responsible for our own stuff.  So I’ve got an issue I need you to help me with, but it’s not your issue, it’s mine — and ultimately I’m going to be held accountable not for how you did or did not help me, but I’m going to be held accountable for what I did. You see how this goes? It’s interesting that verse 5 is future tense: “each will have to bear his own load.” Many commentators think Paul is referring to the future Day when we each will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 5:10). One day we all are gonna stand before Jesus as individuals, and when we do, in that moment every comparison we make today between ourselves and others, it will be silly then. Every complaint and grumble we might have today about so-and-so, it will be empty then.  Look, whatever you have going on in your life right now, one day we all will stand before Jesus responsible for ourselves. That’s a helpful clarification, right? Thank you, brother Paul. Okay, so now, let’s just put verses 2–5 altogether. Here’s my paraphrase of what Paul is saying. He’s saying: Bear one another’s burdens, and by doing so you will fulfill the law of Christ to love one another. And don’t think that you don’t need help — if you think that you’re deceiving yourself. Just examine your own life and you’ll see, but don’t examine your life in comparison with others. Don’t focus on how you measure up with so-and-so, because in the end we all will be held accountable for ourselves. That’s Galatians 6, verses 2–5.  And if we keep in step with the Spirit, resulting in a healthy church, this will be a reality in our church.  It will mean that we love others truly — which means that we live interdependent lives of mutual burden-bearing — we need help and we give help — and we’re responsible for ourselves.  God, let it be.  And this brings us to #3.  If we keep in step with the Sprit, resulting in a healthy church, it will mean: 3. We endure in love as central to our witness (verses 6–10) Okay, there are three parts to need to see here. There’s the Principle, the Encouragement, and the Focus. The Principle For the Principle, skip down to verse 7.  In verse 7 Paul reinforces what’s he’s been saying with the principle of sowing and reaping, which is basically the principle of causality. This is about the way God has ordered the world. If you sow apple seeds, you get apple trees and then apples.  See, this means we are able to do certain things now that we trust will have a certain effect in the future. And this is really important for human life — in fact, without this, everything in the world, from our perspective, would be random and absurd.  Because we’d plant apple seeds and say: I don’t know, we’ll see?!?  We would have no clue what our actions effect. And that type of randomness and unpredictability would make our actions pointless; everything would be a crapshoot; and eventually we would self-destruct. And so that’s not how God made the world, and that’s not how it goes for the life of the church.  If you sow in the flesh, you’re gonna reap the corruption of the flesh. If you’re walking in the works of flesh described in Chapter 5, verses 19–21, you will not get a healthy, united church — you’ll get a corrupt, divided church that will destroy itself, like Paul says in Chapter 5, verse 15.  But if you walk in the Spirit, if you sow in the Spirit, you will reap eternal life — which, of course, refers to our life with God in the future new creation, but it doesn’t only mean that.  The eternal life that Paul says here is not just life in the future, but it’s the joy of life with God that we can begin to experience now, together, as the church. Eternal life is a blessing that doesn’t just start after we die, but it’s a blessing that we can begin to experience now and then it just only gets better. But the problem with the churches in Galatia, is that there were at least some who thought that they could live in the flesh, boast in the flesh, sow in the flesh, but still reap that eternal life blessing — and to think this way is to defy the way God ordered reality. To think this way is to mock God. And this is something we all should consider for a minute: Do you ever think like that? Do you think you can sow in the flesh but reap in the Spirit? Do we as a church ever think like that?  Last year the pastors did an exercise over the course of several weeks where we considered some diagnostic questions related to our church’s culture — we just tried to pop the hood and discuss some good, pointed questions, and one of the questions went like this:  Is there some place in our church’s life where obedience to Jesus is being withheld but we expect his blessing anyway?   That’s a good question. It’s a good question for a church, and it’s a good question for us all personally. It’s another way of asking: Is there any way we might be mocking God? Is there any way we might be sowing one thing and expecting to reap another? Church, we want to sow in the Spirit — amen! And we want to sow in the Spirit in the confidence that sowing in the Spirit will mean reaping eternal life, and it’s actually that confidence that enables us to endure in love. That’s where Paul goes in verse 9. Look at verse 9. The Encouragement I think in verse 9 there’s an implied “therefore.” Because of this principle of sowing and reaping — because if we sow in the Spirit we will reap eternal life — therefore let us not grow weary in doing good. Why? Because in due season — or literally, in its “own time” — we will reap, if we don’t give up.  See how that’s connected? The principle of sowing and reaping is meant to encourage us. Paul is saying:  Hey, because sowing in the Spirit will mean reaping eternal life, keep on sowing in the Spirit; don’t grow weary, but keep on doing good, keep on loving one another. Don’t think that it’s pointless, it’s not pointless. Keep on because if you do you will experience the harvest. You will, church. There will be a harvest. And that’s why, verse 10, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially those in the “household of faith”, which is the local church. And this makes sense, right? If sowing in the Spirit means we will indeed reap, then not only do we want to endure in sowing, but we want to sow as much as we can. Every opportunity. If we’re gonna reap from doing good, we want to do good more and more and more.  Which all comes back to love.  The Focus I want to be sure that we catch this. In this whole passage, the word “love” is not explicitly used, but all of the verbs here about the church’s life together fall under the banner of love.  This is what loving one another looks like in the local church:  it means we move toward the wayward it means we bear one another’s burdens. It means the church supports their pastors (that’s verse 6). It means we sow in the Spirit and keep on doing good. And doing good means precisely that. It means we do good to others in the effort to seek their good. It means we love them.   All of this is about loving one another.  And as we seek the good of everyone, in every opportunity we can, we especially want to do that to the church. We especially want to love our brothers and sisters in the family of God. In fact, I think it’s a prerequisite for any kind of good we do outside the church.  In terms of how we talk around here, our church as three essentials. First, we worship Jesus. Second, we love one another. And then third, we seek the good of the Cities. And that order matters, because we can’t really “seek the good of the Twin Cities” if we don’t “love one another.” Why? Because our love for another is central to our witness.    That’s what Jesus taught us. And we know from verse 2 that Paul is thinking about Jesus’s words in John 13. The “law of Christ” is the new commandment that Jesus gives us to love another. That’s John 13, verse 34. But do you know what Jesus says in verse 35? In verse 34, Jesus says, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Verse 35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The reason we focus our love on the church — the reason we especially love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ — is because that love is precisely what shows the world the life-transforming love of Jesus.  Hey, church, we all just beggars who have found bread. That’s who we are on our best days. And as we love another, we just want each of us to have more bread; and as we’re having more bread together, we then go out and invite others. Is there anybody hungry out there? Are there any hungry people in these cities? Come to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Know that Jesus came to this world to save sinners. Jesus died on the cross in our place, taking upon himself the punishment that we deserved for our sins — Jesus was crucified for us, dead and buried for us, and then on the third day he raised for us — and right now, if you put your faith in Jesus, you will be saved. God will forgive all your sins and declare you to be righteous in Jesus, and you will know eternal life. Trust him.  That’s the invitation for all of us, and for you who do trust in Jesus, this is what brings us to the Table.  The Table At the Table the bread represents the body of Jesus, and the cup represents his shed blood, and this is a meal for everyone who is united to Jesus by faith.  For those of us who have put our faith in Christ, when we eat and drink together, we remember the his death for us, we receive his grace afresh, and give him thanks. We worship him, which is our first essential.

The Spirit-filled, Cross-Centered Life

April 3, 2022 • Jonathan Parnell

Two Different Roads

March 27, 2022 • Jonathan Parnell

We’re gonna start with a question here: What kind of church do you want to be? Now the reason that I’m asking y’all the question is because y’all — as in we, all of us together — we are the ones who determine the answer. What makes a church the kind of church it is is the people of that church. The pastors have a responsibility to teach the Bible and to shepherd and to lead, but ultimately it’s the church together that forms and shapes that church’s character. And our passage today in Galatians Chapter 5 is all about this.  Last week Pastor David Mathis mentioned that beginning in Chapter 5, the apostle Paul starts to focus on the church’s life together. Paul moves from expounding the gospel in Chapters 1–4, to now he’s exhorting the church about how they should live together because of that gospel.  And verses 7–14 here in Chapter 5 is kinda like a fork in the road. There’s a dichotomy that begins to emerge here, and it’s like Paul is saying to the church:  Hey, you can either be this kind of church OR that kind of church. … You can go down this road or that road — but you’re gonna go down one road or the other, and who decides, Paul would say, is YOU. It’s who he wrote the letter to. He’s not talking to a denomination; he’s not talking to only pastors; but he’s talking to the church, because the church decides. We decide together the kind of church we’re going to be. So let me tell you the options that Paul lays out.  The Options Before Us Go ahead and skip down to verses 14–15 for a minute. This is the conclusion of the passage, but I wanna start with the conclusion so that we can get an idea of the two different roads we’re looking at.  Verse 14 continues verse 13 where Paul says “through love serve one another” — verse 14 says to love your neighbor as yourself. “But if” — verse 15, which marks a contrast — “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” And those are the two roads. You either love one another (verses 13–14) or you devour one another (verse 15, which connect back to verses 7–12).  It’s either the road of love or the road of strife.  The road of love leads to flourishing; the road of strife leads to destruction — and we need to make sure we’re on the right road.  So what I’d like to do for this sermon is to slow down in this passage and describe more of what these two roads are like:  1. What is the road of strife? 2. What is the road of love? That’s the plan. Let’s pray: Father in heaven, you who are with us by your Spirit, in this moment, we ask for more of him. Please pour out your Spirit upon us, and show us the glory of your Son! We ask in his name, the mighty name of Jesus, amen.  1) What Is the Road of Strife? Okay, so what is the road of strife? Well, I think there are three things Paul tells us about the road of strife, and first one stands out right away in verse 7. It’s this: #1 - The road of strife starts with doctrinal compromise. (v. 7) Look at verse 7. Paul says: You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? So this is the metaphor of a long-distance runner, which is one of Paul’s favorite metaphors. He uses it several times in his letters. And the image here is that the church is this runner who’s been running down the right road in good shape. They’ve been trucking along, keeping a good pace, but then somebody hinders them.  The word here for “hindered” is the same word Paul uses in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 when he said that “Satan hindered” his ministry efforts. The idea is to obstruct. It’s to get in the way. So let’s stick with this running metaphor: imagine that there’s a runner trucking along, doing great. [We have some runners in this church, right?]. Imagine: You’re running along, doing great, but then somebody comes out of nowhere, they start running beside you and then they start jabbing elbows in your side.  But you’re a good runner, and so you keep running, but all these elbows in your side start to change your direction from the one you started down, and before too long you’re going a completely different way, down a completely different road.  That’s what is going on with the Galatians. They’ve been hindered. And this hindrance that Paul is talking about is a hindrance from obeying the truth. And when Paul uses the word “truth” he means the truth of the gospel (just like he says in Chapter 2, verses 5 and 14). Somebody is hindering this church from the gospel, and this somebody, verse 8, is not God. The church was running well; they were on the right track; but they keep taking in the side that are against the gospel of God. Which means you’re running, and these elbows are saying … “Hey, faith in the gospel is not enough.” “Hey, keeping Jewish law is required.” “Hey, Paul doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” “Hey, did God really say …?” And see, the problem is, if you take that first elbow, and then you don’t really resist the second elbow, then the third elbow is gonna land a little bit easier, and the next thing you know you’re just getting used to these elbows, and then, as Paul says in Ephesians, you end up getting “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (4:14).  You end up on the road of strife, headed toward destruction, and it all started by giving just a little bit of space to an elbow that contradicts the truth of the gospel. The result of one compromise will lead to a very different place from where you were meaning to go.  Look, I know there are some who might roll their eyes at churches who are serious about doctrine. I get that there are some who might ridicule churches who are concerned about “slippery slopes”  — I get it — but I just wanna say that the importance of doctrine and vigilance against false doctrine, that comes from the New Testament. It’s what the Bible says. And the question of whether we do what the Bible says is the question of whether we actually want to be a real church.  Because churches who forsake the Bible, churches who abandon the truth of the gospel — like the Galatians were on the verge of doing — they are not real churches anymore. Now they still might have a building; they might meet together on Sundays; but if they have forsaken the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are not a real church. And for all so-called churches in these Twin Cities, I want to replace them with a church plant. That’s what we’re trying to do here, God willing. When it comes to the road of strife, it starts with doctrinal compromise.  #2 - The road of strife gradually worsens over time. (v. 8) Paul says in verse 8: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” And this means he’s changed the metaphor. He goes from talking about running a race to now he’s talking about bread-making, and the connection between the two is the gradualness of the effect.  It doesn’t take that many elbows for a runner to veer off course, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of leaven to make bread. Just a little bit changes the entire thing (see 1 Corinthians 5:6). See, for the Galatians, maybe this seemed to be a small issue —  we’re were just talking about circumcision, right? Relax! we’re just talking about keeping a few Jewish laws, right? That’s all! — and Paul says, Look, just like it doesn’t take a lot of leaven to make bread, the slightest deviation from the truth of the gospel will eventually lead to destruction. And of course you never get to see this in real time. We don’t have a time-lapse perspective on a church’s apostasy. We seldom ever see get to see something decay as it’s actually happening. The closest example in my mind of where we might see this is when I go bowling. I went bowling with some friends a couple weeks ago, and I did horrible. I bowled so badly that I lost respect for myself. I’m working through it. But the way bowling works is, you know, there are ten frames, and you get a couple rolls each frame, and they have the computer that’s calculating your score.  And in that first frame, you know you leave a couple pins — but it’s no big deal. You get more chances. Then you leave a couple pins the next few frames — and you think it’s fine because you’re still knocking down most of pins, but if you keep doing that (maybe you gutter one) and the next thing you know the game’s over, you bowled a 77, and you hate yourself. It’s a gradual thing. It was a couple pins here and there. But it adds up and gets worse. It always starts smaller than what it becomes. We need to know this about the road of strife. Most people don’t say, Hey, I choose strife! But it happens over time. We need to know that.  #3 - The road of strife must be seen for what it is, and thus rejected. (vv. 10–12, 15) Paul makes it clear in verses 10–12 what the Galatians are up against. He starts, I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view. Remember, the Galatians had been tempted to embrace a different view of the gospel than what Paul preached, but Paul said in Chapter 1 that there’s really no such thing. There are not different views of the gospel. There is the gospel as Paul preached it, or there’s no gospel at all.  In fact, remember what Paul said in Chapter 1, verses 8 and 9. He said twice that “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received [from me], let him be accursed.” That’s an imprecatory statement. In Chapter 1, Paul spoke a curse on these false teachers, and it’s relevant in Chapter 5 because he’s about to do it again. Look at the second part of verse 10. Paul is confident in the Lord that the Galatians are gonna get this right and he’s confident that … the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. Paul is saying that these false teachers, these troublers, will face the judgment of God. God will punish them for their deceit, or actually in this case, it’s singular. It seems like Paul is talking about one person: “whoever he is” — do you see that?  Maybe this is the ring leader of these false teachers — we don’t know — but what’s important for us to see, I think, is that Paul speaks differently about the church than he does about the false teacher.  When it’s the church, Paul is hopeful. Now he exhorts them strongly; he admonishes them; but he doesn’t give up on them.  But for the false teacher, Paul is already speaking judgment on him. Which helps us understand verse 12.  Skip to verse 12 for a minute. In verser 10 Paul has already said that this false teacher will be punished. Now he says, verse 12, “I wish that those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” And that means precisely what you think it means … if you think it means castration. Paul is saying that those false teachers who are teaching that circumcision is needed for salvation might as well go ahead and keep on cutting.  This is the second most intense thing that the apostle Paul says in any of his letters.  The most intense thing is what Paul has already said here in Chapter 1 when he said that the false teachers should be accursed. Because by accursed he means eternal damnation. Which means that if we think Paul is being more severe in Chapter 5 verse 12 than he is in Chapter 1 verse 9 it’s because we don’t understand hell. … And it’s because we don’t understand the gravity of this situation! What’s at stake here is verse 15. It’s the total destruction of this church; it’s the full apostasy of all these Christians! And unless we get how serious this is, nothing else that Paul is saying is gonna make sense.  Seeing the Wonderful Cross The false teachers were teaching that circumcision is necessary for salvation —  which means they were saying the death of Jesus was not enough; they were treating the death of Jesus like it’s a coupon; they were spreading a man-centered false gospel heresy — and Paul says in verse 11: If I was preaching that garbage, I would not be persecuted, because in that case, according to that message, the offense of the cross is removed.  What does Paul mean by that? What makes the cross offensive? Simply put, what makes the cross the offensive is that the cross says you can do nothing to save yourself. Nothing. The cross says that you are wrong … and you’re needy.  And we don’t like to be wrong or needy. The cross says you are so sinful and depraved, you are so broken and distorted in your sin, that you can’t do anything to change it yourself, but the only chance you’ve got is the death of Jesus in your place. Do you see? The only way you can be saved is if Jesus Christ the Son of God is slain for you.  The Jewish people consider that shameful; Greeks consider that foolish; every sinful human considers that offensive … until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to know that this cross is actually wonderful.  Because this cross, the cross, is the display of God’s love for us. The cross is God saying, I love you this much …  and if God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Do you see it? The cross is the keyhole to all grace.  This cross is our life. This cross is our boast. The cross of Jesus is everything to us. And the Galatians have to get this. Because they were headed down the road of strife, and it must be seen for what it is and rejected. Don’t go that way. And if we don’t go that way, then we must go the other way. We reject the road of strife, and we choose the road of love. And so let’s learn more about this road. We’ve seen the road of strife, now What is the road of love? 2) What Is the Road of Love? Well, I think in this passage Paul also tells us three things about the road of love, and we see the first in verse 13:  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Right away this tells us … #1 - The road of love does not misuse freedom to indulge the flesh. (v. 13ab) Verse 13 connects us back to last week’s passage, to Chapter 5, verse 1, where Paul tells us that Jesus has set us free.  Jesus has saved us by his grace through our faith in him, not by our works, and he has freed us from sin and the law and the curse and from death. All the things that used to enslave us and trap us in fear — the power of those things that used to rule us — has been broken.  Pastor David said last week: we are freed from those things AND we are freed for loving one another. Verse 13 here just extends what we’ve already seen in verse 6, but here Paul adds the negative warning: “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” Now at the most basic level, the reason Paul gives this warning not to misuse our freedom is because it’s possible to misuse our freedom. And we know this. You know this.  You’re saved by faith in Jesus; you’re not saved by good works; and so then you might think that since I’m not saved by good works then I don’t have to do any good works — if I don’t have to love others in order to be saved, why bother? I remember a conversation I had with a neighbor a few years ago. He comes from a nominal Catholic background, and I was explaining to him the meaning of grace. I said that we can never deserve God’s love for us. God’s grace means that God loves us because he loves us, not because we’ve done anything ourselves to make him love us. And you know what he said? He said: Oh, so that means I can go out and live and party and do whatever I want, and just ask God to forgive me, and he will. You mean I can just do or not do whatever I want and God just loves me. Maybe you’ve heard responses like that before. Maybe you’ve thought that yourself. But see, Paul understood that responses (and behavior) like that are possible. People can misuse their freedom to indulge their flesh, but it’s only because they don’t actually understand grace. See, in this wrong way of thinking, people confuse grace and salvation. Grace is how we are saved, but what is this salvation that grace brings us into? Ultimately our salvation is that we get God. We belong to God. Grace does not make us a god unto ourselves, but grace reconciles us back to the God who made us and fills us with his Spirit. Our salvation is fellowship with God and in that fellowship we have the freedom to live for God’s glory … and for others and their good.  This brings us to the second thing Paul tells us about the road of love.  #2 - The road of love through love serves one another. (v. 13c) Look at the end of verse 13. Don’t misuse freedom to indulge the flesh, but, verse 13: Through love serve one another. And this is the absolute perfect way to say it. In light of what’s going on with the Galatians, Paul says it this way on purpose: “Through love serve one another.” So it’s not just serve, but it’s serve through love. It’s not just love, but it’s through love serve.  See … serving without love is busyness, but love without serving is empty. So we need them both to stay together. There is a way to serve others not from love. It’s a kind of going through the motions that might either be frenzied or it might be boring — it may look like a lot of activity, or it may look humdrum — but either way, serving without love means we’re doing things but we’ve lost touch with our motive. It means maybe we’ve gotten “good” at ministry but we’ve forgotten the heart behind it. This is something to beware of. Serving without love is busyness … But love without serving is empty. There is a way to only theoretically understand the importance of love. If you read the Bible, you have to at least start here, because the Bible has so much to say about love. We can easily see that love is important, and we can nod our heads, but if we’re not actually putting love into action by serving others in tangible ways, then we are missing it.  Don’t just check the box that love is important, show love. Don’t just agree with the idea of love, but practice love through actions. First John 3:18, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” So SERVE through love; through love serve —  — this is the road of love, and if we’re all thinking this way, if we as men and women are centered on the gospel and holding these things together … it will change your home; it will change a church; it will change a city. This is the road of love.  Last thing to see here: #3 - The road of love embraces the depths of love. (v. 14) Now we all know that the word “love” is overused. It’s so common that it doesn’t sound profound to us. It doesn’t come across as significant. It might even sound a little trite or cliche, right? But to be clear, that is not at all the way the Bible talks about love. Look at verse 14:  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The whole law. y’all. All of the laws in the Old Testament about how we should treat one another. All of them. Paul says it’s really quite simple. He says the same thing in Romans 13:8–10, Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  So there you go! So next time you’re reading the Old Testament and you get a little confused, just skip to here. This is your answer in the back of the book. All the laws are basically one law: love.  And Jesus taught us this: the greatest commandment of all, he said, is to love God with everything you are; the second commandment is to love others. Jesus said on these two commandments depend all the Law and Prophets (see Matthew 22:37–40). Love God; love people. Simple, right? But do we really have any idea how deep this is? First, love is our primary calling in relation to God. We are called to love God, which does not mean to merely have a positive, sentimental disposition toward him. But we are called to love God as in have a wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-impacting, exclusive commitment to God.  See, a lot of folks might think they love God because they have some good feelings about him. Jesus said to love God with every fiber of your being … and … love other people too. Ultimately, love them as in seek their good in God. Serve others through love so that they would know a little bit more about God’s love for them.  And see now we’ve come to the very foundation of it all.  The Foundation of It All We’ve looked at these two roads — we’ve seen the road of strife and now we’ve looked at the road of love — and whichever road our church takes is for our church to decide. So can we decide love? [Can we all agree on that?!] But see, get this: if we are going to walk down and keep walking down this road of love, the most important thing is to know God’s love for us. The apostle John says “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And that is profoundly true. We’re talking depths here.  I like the way one pastor has put it: He says, “a heart aloof from God grows aloof from others. …and ends up engaging in merciless comparisons and endless faultfinding” — or Paul would say you devour one another. This is strife! — And “therefore all restoration” — any renewal we might experience in our love for one another — “begins by going back to God first, prodigals that we are.” (Ray Ortlund, The Gospel, 117) This is where the road of love starts, and it’s what we have to remind one another every step along the way.  God — the Creator of the heavens and earth; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Yahweh who says I will be who I will be and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy — God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who through the gospel of Jesus Christ has become our Father who knows the very number of hairs on our heads, even as he knew us and chose us before the foundations of the world not to be destined for wrath but to obtain salvation, this God who is so radically for us that nothing can be against us, and nothing can come between us, this God … loves you. He loves you. He loves you. And he made that clear to us at the cross of Jesus, which brings us to this Table. The Table  At this Table, as we receive the bread and the cup, we give Jesus thanks for his death in our place. We eat and we drink remembering that Jesus and his cross is everything to us. And if that’s your story this morning, if you trust in Jesus Christ, if you know that you are loved by God, we invite you to eat and drink with us.

What Is ‘Freedom in Christ’?

March 20, 2022 • David Mathis

We Are the Children of Promise

March 13, 2022 • Kenneth Ortiz

Good morning, Cities Church. Great to be here with you this morning. Over the last several weeks we have been traveling through the book of Galatians. And we’ve seen that the Galatians had abandoned the true gospel. There had been this group of false teachers, we call them the Judaizers, and they preached a false gospel. Rather than preaching the true gospel, that we are saved by faith alone in Jesus, they proclaimed that belief in Jesus was not enough—maybe it was a good start, but that they needed to do more to be saved. These Judaizers claimed that the Galatians needed to follow the Old Testament law to be saved. But Paul makes it clear in this letter, no, you are not saved by obeying the law… and not only can you not be saved by following the law… the reality is that no one has ever been saved by obeying the law. The law was never designed to save. That’s been a big part of Paul’s arguments thus far. And as a part of making these arguments Paul uses Abraham to make his point. Paul leverages Abraham is Galatians 3 and then does so again here in Galatians 4. God established a covenant with Abraham, a friendship, and he says, “Abraham, I’m gonna bless you. Abraham. I’m gonna have a covenant with you. Your family is gonna be my family.” So, being in the family of Abraham is a big deal because that’s the family that God has chosen. That’s the family that God has an agreement with. And Paul has been making the point, “Y’all want to be in Abraham’s family, but you’re going about it all wrong.” Abraham didn’t earn his way into God’s family by obeying the law. No! Abraham was called a friend of God because he believed. It’s by faith, not by works. We are justified by faith, we are forgiven of our sins by our faith in Jesus, not by our good behavior. Abraham didn’t earn a ticket into heaven. He didn’t earn a spot in God’s family, no, so why would you think that you could earn it? That’s what Paul has been saying thus far in this letter. Then, Paul points out a moment in Abraham’s life when he didn’t rely on faith, where he did actually try to take matters into his own hands, and Paul shows the result, and it’s not good. Look at Galatians 4:21: “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” 22 “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.” Now, many of you surely are familiar with this episode from the life of Abraham. If you’re not, quick synopsis. When Abraham was 75 years old… and his wife was 65. God promised that Abraham would be blessed, and God said that he would make Abraham into the father of many nations. Well, presumably if you’re gonna be the father of many nations, then you’re gonna need to have some children, but Abraham and wife could never have children. Well, several years go by and Abraham and Sarah, they’re trusting in God, they’re believing in him. But eventually they take matters into their own hands. They assume they need to do something to make this happen. It’s up to them and their ability to push this forward. So, Sarah says to Abraham, “Why don’t you take my slave girl Hagar? Why don’t you go to bed with her? You can have a child with her. And that could be the child through whom the promise of God is fulfilled.” And that’s what Abraham does. Abraham has a child with Hager. It’s like they said to themselves, “We’re gonna have to take matters into our own hands; we’re going to need to manipulate this or manufacture this; they basically took it upon themselves to do what they could do to bring about the thing God promised. And the child is born, and his name is Ishmael. At this point Abraham was 86 years old and Sarah was 76 years old. And they think it’s all good. They made it happen. But God says, “No, that’s not the right way.” Look at what Paul says here, look at verse 23, Paul says… “the son of the slave was born according to the flesh.” The son of the slave… the slave is Hagar and the son is Ismael… he was born the flesh, this is not a supernatural thing. This thing you guys concocted, this was the handiwork of human hands, not supernatural intervention, the promise of God cannot be manufactured and cannot be brought about by human efforts. No. Ishmael, he ain’t it. And the way you conspired to make this happen, that ain’t the way! But then, 14 years later, when Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90 years old, Sarah gives birth to a child: Isaac. Finally, after years of waiting, 25 years of waiting, the promised child is born. Abraham was 75 when God told him he’d be the father of many nations, he was 86 when Ismael was born, and now he’s 100 years old when Isaac was born. And Sarah is 90 years old. Remember, she was 65 when God told them that Abraham would be the father of many nations, she was 76 when Ismael was born, but here she was at the ripe old age of 90, giving birth to Isaac. This is supernatural. This is a miracle. I don’t know if you know this, but women don’t typically have children at age 90. Uhhh, that’s not normal, right? God had promised that he would do something supernatural, and then, he did it, he did the supernatural thing. And Isaac is the result of God’s supernatural work. Look at the second half verse 23… “the son of the free woman was born through promise.” Now in verse 24, the apostle Paul will make a statement about how we are to view these two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. Look at verse 24, Paul says: “Now this may be interpreted allegorically.” Two very important side notes. First, Paul says that we can learn something from these two women, we can see this as an allegory or metaphor. However, it’s very important to know that Paul does not merely believe that this story, that’s the first side note. This story, from the book of Genesis, it is not merely an allegory. That’s an important point. Paul did not see the Old Testament as merely myths or fables, with good life lessons. There are some modern scholars that would want you to believe that the Old Testament is nothing more than illustrations. But, when we examine how the apostle Paul talks about Abraham, in Galatians 3 and Galatians 4, it is clear that he believes Abraham was a real person. He’s not saying, “Hey, that was an allegory.” No, he’s saying Abraham was a real person. Hagar was a real person. Sarah was a real person. These are historical events. And, in addition to that, these events also serve to teach us spiritual truths; they point to greater realities. But at no point should we think Abraham and Sarah are fictional characters in Jewish mythology. It’s also clear that Paul believed Abraham was a real person when we examine how Paul talked about Abraham in Romans 4. He believes that Abraham was a real person. The apostle Paul often harkens back to the Old Testament, and in 100% of those cases, it’s abundantly clear that the apostle Paul believed the people in the Old Testament were real people, that the Old Testament is accurate in its accounting of history. We see Paul doing this in Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 11 and 15, in Ephesians 5, and 1 Timothy 2, and 1 Corinthians 11, in those passages he’s mentioning Adam and Eve and creation, it’s abundantly clear, he believes Adam and Ever were real people, and if Paul believed it, so should we. If you’re here and you have any questions about that, maybe you’re a skeptic, I’d love to talk to you after the service, feel free to come on up. Let’s talk about it. Christians, you can trust the Bible. We can trust the veracity and the accuracy and the historicity of both the Old and New Testaments! Okay, second major side note, in addition to being historical events, these events were orchestrated by God to teach us key doctrines, there are components of these Old Testament narratives that point toward New Testament concepts, and this is NOT by accident. God, in his tremendous providence, he specifically orchestrated these events throughout history to serve as fantastic illustrations for us, to give us insights into greater realities and greater spiritual truths. We can learn a lot by peering back into the Old Testament and looking for how those events point toward the things revealed in the New Testament. These moments in the Old Testament are often referred to as “types” and studying them is often referred to as “typology.” That’s what us theology nerds call it… typology. And there are some very clear examples of this in the New Testament. In Matthew 12, Jesus explicitly tells us that Jonah is a type, Jonah being swallowed by a large fish, he appears to have been defeated by death. However, on the third day, Jonah is given new life and comes back to herald the message of repentance, likewise, Jesus was seemingly defeated by death, but on the third day he rises, and he preaches a message of repentance. Jonah is a type. Now, again, Jonah, and the whale, it actually happened. It’s a true story. It’s a matter of history, but it’s simultaneously a metaphor, an allegory for us. There are other examples in the New Testament. The apostle Peter talks about Noah’s flood being a type that points toward Christian baptism. In the book of Hebrews, we see the writer of Hebrews talking about the tabernacle as a type, all of the interior components of the tabernacle, the design, the structures, the furniture, all of those things were types, they pointed forward to some greater realities. We should be looking for types in the Old Testament. Jesus expects us to look for him in the Old Testament. There are a few passages that teach us this but I think the clearest comes from John 5:39. In that passage, in John 5:39, Jesus was rebuking some Jewish leaders, these guys were not apostles, they were regular peeps, just like you and I, and he’s rebuking them for not seeing Jesus in the Scriptures. Jesus says to them, “you search the scriptures because you think in them that you have eternal life. And it is, they, that bear witness about me.” Jesus is like, you guys are studying the Old Testament. You’re studying it. You’re getting in there. But you’re missing the main point. He’s like, you think it’s the scriptures that give life, but no, it’s not the scriptures that give you life; the Scriptures point you to the person that gives you life, that’s Jesus. Jesus was expecting them to see the Messiah on the pages of the Old Testament. And he certainly expects us to do the same. So, when we read the Old Testament, we should look for Jesus, we should look for types. And that’s precisely what the apostle Paul is doing here in Galatians 4. He is reading an historical event. And he’s highlighting how that Old Testament event points toward a glorious New Testament doctrine. Let’s look at how Paul uses verse 24: Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. Hagar and Sarah represent two distinct covenants. Hagar is Mount Sinai, that’s where the law was given. Hagar represents the old covenant, the law of Moses, the law that the Galatians were trusting in. But Sarah represents the New Covenant and she is the mother of those who embrace the New Covenant. So, Paul is saying, “you who trust in Mt. Sinai, your mother is Hagar, and you’re not in the lineage of Isaac, you’re in the lineage of Ishmael.” Paul continues, he says that Hagar is the present Jerusalem, here on earth, which is enslaved—enslaved politically to the Romans and enslaved spiritually to sin. But Sarah, she is the Jerusalem above, the new Jerusalem. Then he contrasts the two sons. Ishmael is born of the flesh, born through natural means. Isaac is the child of the promise, born because God miraculously opened Sarah’s womb. Ishmael was not the true heir. Isaac is the true heir. And, if you try to take matters into your own hands, if you start your faith journey by believing in Jesus, and trusting that you would be saved by faith, but then you turn around and then try to manufacture circumstances, you try to do it on your own, if you think you can bring forth the promise of God by your own efforts… then you are doing what Abraham did when he slept with Hagar, and what resulted from that was a child who’s mother was a slave, and in the same way, when you trust your own ability to save yourself, when you look to the law to save you rather than trusting in Christ to save you, then your result shall also be slavery, a spiritual slavery. This would’ve been startling to Paul’s audience in the first century. They would’ve been absolutely shocked by this. Let me give you a silly example. A few weeks ago, my wife and I were watching a movie recently where a wealthy man died. And, after he died, all of his family got together at his estate to hear the family attorney read the will. There are hundreds of millions of dollars on the line here. So the family attorney’s there and the whole family is there and the attorney opens the letter and then he tells them that all of them have been cut out of the will… hundreds of millions of dollars are going to someone outside of the family. Everyone is shocked, then they’re angry, and then chaos ensues. They thought they were in, they thought they were in line to inherit all of the wealth, but they discovered that they’re on the outside looking in. I imagine, this is how many of Paul’s audience, the people reading this section in this letter, that’s probably how they felt. In the minds of many people in the first century, they assumed that if you’re someone who has committed to the law, then you are in the family, you are in Abraham’s downline, you’re in the will, and you’re in-line to inherit the promise of Abraham! They knew that the promise of God to Abraham would then be carried out through to Isaac, and then to Jacob, and then to Jacob’s children, and then to their children, and their children’s children, all the way down the line. The people in the first century committed to following the law would have seen themselves as being descendants of Isaac, they would have looked to Sarah as their mother. But Paul’s implies that for those who trust in the law for salvation, Sarah is not their mother, they’re actually in Hagar’s family, that’s your mother. Hagar represents taking matters into your own hands, she represents trying to manufacture the promise of God, on your own, based on your own efforts, and that’s what the Galatians were doing with their salvation, they had stopped trusting in Christ alone for salvation. No, at this point, there’s no doubt, Paul knows that he has totally messed with their heads. He has totally thrown them for a loop. They cannot believe what he’s saying, and they’re thinking, but weren’t the Jews the ones God was faithful to for centuries, and weren’t they the ones that followed the law? Paul anticipates this sentiment and he proactively addressed this sentiment by quoting from Isaiah 54: “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more, than those of the one who has a husband.” Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, God speaks to Jews as being their husband, and over and over again, throughout the Old Testament, God speaks of the Jewish people as being unfaithful to him. They continually flirted with other gods. He calls Israel a harlot. The ones who had a husband were the Jews, they were the ones that had been given the law, but they were unfaithful, so God is declaring, through the prophet Isaiah that there’s going to be a group of people that have been seen as desolate, they didn’t have God as their husband for centuries, but they are going to become greater than the ones who did have a husband. Paul’s point is that the Gentiles were called desolate by the Jews, but they believed in Jesus, and that unites them to God. Paul is implying that God is the husband to the Galatians, through Christ. To them Paul says, “you are in covenant with God through trusting Christ… but if you turn away from Christ and your turn toward the law, you’re turning you’re back on your husband. Don’t do that!” And then Paul explains why they ought not do this. Look at verses 30-31 with me: “What does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.” The apostle Paul points out that Ishmael and his mother are eventually cast out of Abraham’s house, in the same way, those who insist on trusting in the law for salvation, they too shall be cast out. They will suffer the same judgment. When Abraham tried to do it on his own, the result was someone being born to a slave mother. When Abraham trusted God, the result was God fulfilling his promise. The same is true for us… when we try to do this on our own, slavery will be our mother. But if we trust Christ the result will be the same as when Abraham trusted God, we will see God fulfill his promises. And this was made possible, by Jesus, at the cross. We are all sinners, by nature and by choice, we deserve to be cast out, we deserve to be condemned. But Jesus took on the punishment we deserved, and he made it possible for us to be saved. If we trust in Jesus, if we wholeheartedly believe on him, we then are counted members of God’s family. As Paul said to the Galatians, Cities Church, I say to you… We are not children of the slave women, but we are children of the free woman, and we are now in the family. And that is worth celebrating!

Is Christ Being Formed in You?

March 6, 2022 • Jordan Hecox

Redemption in Our Adoption

February 27, 2022 • Joshua Foster Sr

My aim today in this message is to remind you of your salvation. There are so many glorious aspects of our salvation and of redemption that it is like looking at a prism and seeing how the light refracts into different colors. There is only one salvation and yet there is a universe of glories in this great salvation. Psalm 3:8 and Jonah 2:9 both say that “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” And so my goal, by God’s grace, is that you would love the redemption of God even a little bit more. That you would understand how we’ve been redeemed even if just a little bit more. That you would taste and see the riches of His grace that you’ve been adopted in. And that it may overflow in thanksgiving and multiply into heartfelt sacrificial worship, a true worship that would lead to endurance, to a personal regard of holiness, to a greater love of humanity in general and the family of God specifically, and to an ever deepening appreciation of what Christ has done for you and a boldness to that witness. All for the good of these Cities and for the glory of God. We can’t do this in our own strength. This is only possible with God. So let us go to our Father. Father, by the grace of your Spirit, and in your Son’s name we ask for your help. We need your grace. Lead us, guide us, in your will, and for your glory. Amen. This passage continues the train of thought from last week's message from Pastor Jonathan which was the second half of Galatians chapter 3. We started seeing the glorious reality that God is our father and we are children of God. We saw that the law was added because of transgressions. We saw that Paul was not being exhaustive about the uses of the law under the New Covenant but because of the specific context that the Galatian church was facing, Paul was being clear that the law could not save. There were false teachers that were saying Christians needed to believe in Jesus and live under the Mosaic law to have life. As I heard it once said, when it comes to salvation, Jesus + something = Nothing, but Jesus + Nothing = Everything. The message of the Gospel is that law keeping does not give life but only grace through faith in Jesus gives life. And so the Apostle Paul here in verses 1 and 2 of Ch.4 finishes his train of thought from the previous passage about how the law was meant to be a guardian. Galatians 4:1–2 (ESV): 4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. V.1 and 2 is describing Paul and all Israelites under the Old Covenant and it’s protective role designed to keep them mindful of their condition looking forward to the promises of God. He compares them to a child who has an inheritance but can’t use it until they are a certain age or until the date that is set by the parents. The child, in regards to touching and using the inheritance is no different than the lawyer who helped write the will, until that set time. The law under God’s specific covenant with the people of Israel in all of its requirements was necessary in that stage of redemptive history. [My 2 sons find car seats very annoying. And you know what I do too.] But in their specific stage of physical development it is meant to protect them. It is meant to guard them. And in a similar way that’s what the law under the old covenant was like. V.3 states “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” That phrase, “elementary principles of the world” is the same wording we find in Colossians ch 2v 8, 20 where its translated “elemental spirits of the world”. The context there is similar where people are being taken captive by different teachings and traditions and not walking in Jesus as they were taught. They were replacing faith and obedience to Jesus through biblical standards with a faith and obedience to another set of regulations and standards. Paul says in Colossians 2:23 that “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” This is similar to what Jesus told the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day, saying in Matthew 23:28: “So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” And it’s actually demonic, the Apostle Paul, says in 1 Timothy 4:1 “some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” Back in our passage the old covenant was a type of bondage relative to the freedom found in the new covenant. A commentator notes that Paul uses the same phrase in v.3 that he uses in v.9 and he states “v.9 is referring to the idolatrous practices in the Galatians’ pagan past, drawing an implicit and shocking link between the false teachers misuse of God’s law and the pagans’ allegiance to false deities.” Outside of freedom in Christ we are enslaved. It doesn’t matter if there is a religious exterior or a non religious exterior. Titus 3:3 “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures” John 8:34 Jesus says: “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” John Piper describes sin as: The glory of God not honored. The holiness of God not reverenced. The greatness of God not admired. The power of God not praised. The truth of God not sought. The wisdom of God not esteemed. The beauty of God not treasured. The goodness of God not savored. The faithfulness of God not trusted. The promises of God not believed. The commandments of God not obeyed. The justice of God not respected. The wrath of God not feared. The grace of God not cherished. The presence of God not prized. And the person of God not loved. Oh church let us not allow our hearts to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin but let us love the Lord God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We saw in last weeks passage that the law was added because of transgressions, that the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin… we were held captive under the law… and today in this passage we’ve seen we were enslaved… but then we are shown the glorious truth of our redemption, and this sets up how our redemption allows us to be adopted to be the children of God— in v.4 and the beginning of v.5 here in this 4th chapter of Galatians it says that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” Here we see the beautiful Christological truth that Jesus was the God-Man, he was both fully divine and fully human. Truly God and truly man. Though he was born of woman he was sent by God. Sent purposefully at just the right time. Galatians 4 continues saying “He was born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” He redeemed us. He lived sinlessly under the law and fulfilled all that the law required. In his life of obedience, and through his atoning sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from death He did all that was necessary to redeem us. And one aspect of our redemption is God declaring us righteous in justification. At the end of Galatians chapter 3 from last week’s passage it said “We were held captive under the law… until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” Some of you might know I have been arrested before. When I was a younger I got into a fight with someone and after the police showed up I ended up getting into an altercation with the police and I was charged with 3 misdemeanors: assault, interfering with an officer, and breach of peace. And one of the things that happened is by God’s grace I had the opportunity to go through a specific pre-trial diversion program that they offered in Connecticut, the state I was living in, and I was able to fulfill the requirements needed and it allowed me to avoid criminal conviction. And so when I fill out a job application. And the question comes up “have you ever been arrested?” I can legally say that I’ve never been arrested. And everytime I’ve had a background check it comes up clean. In my eyes I know what I’ve done but in the eyes of the law, I have been legally declared completely innocent and it’s like it never happened. And in an infinitely greater way that’s what happens with us in Christ. Even though we are guilty, by grace through faith in Christ, we are covered by the righteousness of Christ because of the blood of the cross, and God declares us innocent. Listen, when someone is justified in Christ, when by God’s grace, they repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, trusting in Christ alone as their only hope for their salvation, though they are guilty, God looks at them with the innocence of Christ and declares them righteous. And our adoption as children of God is similar. Scottish theologian John Murray wrote “Adoption, like justification, is a judicial act. In other words, it is the bestowal of a status, or standing, not the generating within us of a new nature or character” he goes on “in adoption the redeemed become sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty; they are introduced into and given the privileges of God’s family” John 1:12–13 “12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Joel Beeke, on this verse says, “This may be the clearest statement of adoption by God in the Gospels, for “right” implies a legal authority, liberty, or privilege. A believer does not receive power to make himself into a child of God, but receives the privilege of being counted a child of God.” 1 John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Yo this is a glorious thought. In one way it’s simple. God loves and he makes us his children. And yet in another way there are vast glories in that truth, an ocean of the riches of the goodness of God’s love that are contained in that verse. It’s a statement that transcends the loftiest places of the human imagination. A truth that ventures deep into the eternal recesses of the heart touching an instinctive familial desire and yet it’s also a truth that goes outside of us beyond the reach of space and time and journeys into the shores of eternity, to where as the scriptures say in Ephesians 1 “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” and that “he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” An echo of the reality that we find in Revelation that “the dwelling place of God is with man.” and of what God proclaimed through the prophet in Jeremiah 31, when he said “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are” Romans 5:5 says that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Our adoption into the family of God is such a precious truth. God is creating in himself and for his glory a new family. We were dead in our trespasses and sins in which we once walked, following the ways of the world, we were sons of disobedience, children of wrath, we were like the pharisees, when Jesus told them that there “Father was Satan.” But God sent the Son to redeem us and then God sent the Spirit of the Son because he adopted us. V.6 says “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son in to our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” We see the word “Abba” which is an aramaic word for Father and here we see a glimpse of the mysterious glory of the Trinity at work that God sends the Spirit of His Son to our hearts, the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, who cries out with the very cry of Jesus for His father. And His cry for the Father becomes our cry for the Father so that we can cry out to God our Father as His children. Wilhelmus à Brakel, a pastor in the Netherlands in the 1600’s wrote “God hears and answers [his children] as their loving Father. As children they take refuge [in] their Father [even] in perplexity and by reason of this relationship they call Him, “Abba, Father!” In an intimate manner they bring their needs before Him, and with tearful eyes they tell Him what their sorrow is [by crying] out…. “The Lord looks upon such children in love, and is pleased with their childlike complaints and their taking refuge [in] Him. He will most certainly answer them and deliver them at His time and in His manner.” Jesus in the gospel of John says something fascinating. He said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” The disciples hearts were troubled, they knew they were coming to the end of Jesus’ ministry even if they didn’t fully realize what was going to happen.” Let me read to you John 14:16–18, Jesus says 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. I will not leave you as orphans. That’s why when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, he astonishingly tells them to say “Our Father in Heaven” “Our Father.” We can call God, “Our Father” And so here in Ch. 4 of Galatians Paul says in v.7, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” It is one thing to free someone who is enslaved but God frees us, adopts us, and allows us to be an heir through Him. Our inheritance is through Him. And so one important implication of our adoption is that— we are heirs with Christ if we suffer with Christ I get this from Romans 8:15-17, which is a parallel passage to our Galatians passage. It says. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Think about this: the span of your life in light of eternity is a speck of dust. It’s a grain of sand. And in that short amount of time is the only time and opportunity in your existence that you will get to suffer for Christ and to suffer with Christ. Romans 8:18–19 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time... are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. We suffer but we have hope in our suffering. And because of our hope sometimes we even risk suffering. A Pastor in Ukraine this past week in the midst of what’s going on in his country wrote, “We have decided to stay, both as a family and as a church. When this is over, the citizens of Kyiv will remember how Christians have responded in their time of need. And while the church may not fight like the nation, we still believe we have a role to play in this struggle. We will shelter the weak, serve the suffering, and mend the broken. And as we do, we offer the unshakable hope of Christ and his gospel.” Oh Father may we live faithfully for your glory in light of these glorious realities, give us grace even right now to live in light of your redemption and the truth that we are your children. Thank you that we have been adopted into a family that spans the globe. Give grace and strength to our brothers and sisters around the world including Ukraine and that whole region. May we live obediently to you in what you have placed before us in our specific lives. May you be to us the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with your very comfort. Would we be renewed and sanctified through your Spirit and by your truth, going to you and crying out to you. Knowing you are our father who cares for us and loves us with an everlasting love. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

“But Now”

February 20, 2022 • Jonathan Parnell

Back in 1656 there was an English Puritan pastor named Richard Baxter who wrote a book for pastors called The Reformed Pastor.  And by the word “reformed” he didn’t mainly mean Calvinistic, but he meant to be born-again. By “reformed” he really meant “revived.” Because at that time in the 17th century it was not a given that pastors were even truly Christian. And so Baxter, who was burdened for the church in his country, he wrote this book urging pastors to first truly believe the gospel — be changed by the gospel yourself — and then serve others from that. And in one section of the book he says something that has really stuck with me — [and I feel like I’ve said this before at some point, so maybe you’re hearing this again, but it helps me, so bear with me] — but Baxter, speaking of pastors, says: “He preacheth not heartily to his people, that prayeth not earnestly for them.” In other words, if a pastor wants to preach genuinely, effectively, to his church, then he should pray earnestly for them. And I think this actually points to something much more central when it comes to the preaching of a local church, and I wanna tell you. Now this is an unusual way to start a sermon, but I want you to know the purpose for why we do this.  Every Sunday at this moment, when it comes to the preaching,  we’re not doing this just because we think “this is what you do”; we’re not just going through the motions; we’re not trying to talk at you, but really, we, as your pastors, are preaching for you — which means, we open the Word of God and we want to tell you what God has to say in Christ by his Spirit! And what he has to say to you, church, essentially, is that he loves you.  Through your faith in Jesus — not on the basis of your performance, but only because of the atoning death of Jesus in your place — God has fixed his love on you and that will never change. The only thing that can change is how much you come to understand his love, and so we preach for that.  Our preaching is for your assurance. It’s so that you would “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth — so that you and me and us!) — it’s so that we would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18–19). Because I’m convinced that if we are assured of God’s love, then we experience personal renewal that then flows into relational renewal. Hey, do you need help in your marriage? It starts here [pointing to heart].  So personal renewal leads into relational renewal, which then leads to church renewal. And church renewal as it multiplies leads into city renewal — and that’s the vision! We’re just trying to change a couple cities here. That’s why we’re called Cities Church. We want to saturate the Twin Cities with the gospel of Jesus Christ that has transformed US … and our relationships … and our church for our joy and the glory of God. We preach for that. That’s what we’re doing here. And I say all this now because today’s passage aims right at the heart of this, and you’re gonna see it when when get there, Galatians Chapter 3, verses 15–29. Let’s organize the sermon this way. There are just two parts:  Part One is THE LAW (verses 15–24); Part Two is THE PROMISE (verses 25–29). So Law and Promise, and then some additional things to say in both of these, and before we get started, let’s pray again for God’s blessing. Father in heaven, by your grace, we ask that you send your Holy Spirit now to accomplish your will, in Jesus’s name, amen. Part One: The Law (verses 15–24) And what we read in these verses is connected back to all that we’ve seen so far. Remember that Paul is writing this letter to address a problem in the Galatian church. A false teaching had slipped into the church and it was causing confusion about the gospel. The false teaching said that in order to be saved (or justified), “faith in Jesus was not enough, but you also have to keep Jewish law.” And so Paul is writing to demolish that idea.  He does his demolition work first by telling a personal story of when he confronted Peter (2:1–21). He explains that we are justified by faith in Jesus alone — that faith in Jesus is both necessary and sufficient for salvation — and to suggest anything else makes the death of Jesus pointless.  Then Paul reminds the Galatian Christians of their own origin story — he tells them that their very existence is the because of God, not their works. And to illustrate the point, Paul brings in Abraham. Now we spent several weeks on Abraham back when we preached through Genesis. Remember Abraham started as “Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans.” Abraham was once a lost pagan idolator in the middle of nowhere, but God came to him by absolute grace and promised to bless him and his descendants. And Abraham believed God.  Abraham had faith in God and he was justified through his faith in God — and we are too when we have faith in God!  — which is a completely different way of life than relying on the law. If you rely on the law for your justification you’re under a curse. But see, Jesus died to redeem us from that curse. Jesus took the curse for us so that through faith in him we receive the blessing of Abraham — even if we’re coming from a place as lost and pagan and idolatrous as Abraham once was.  Paul says all of this to us in Chapter 2, verse 1 to Chapter 3, verse 14. He says all of this to demolish the false teaching. And he does. By this point in the letter nothing is left standing that thinks obedience to the law is needed for justification. Paul had made his point. And he still has more to say, and for this next part, he goes next level. In our passage Paul steps back and he compares the two biggest covenants in the Old Testament, the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant. [Y’all ready to see this? Now look, I gotta set it up for a minute. First we need to have an idea about what a covenant is.] What Are Covenants in the Bible? A covenant is simply an agreement between two parties with mutual obligations. And when it comes to the relationship between God and humans, this idea of covenant is central. You could say the whole Bible is a series of different covenants that God makes with humans. The idea of covenant is another way to talk about how God relates to us.  And God makes several covenants in the Old Testament, and they’re all important, but there are two really big covenants. The first is the covenant God made with Abraham. God came to Abraham and promised to bless him, and God said that through Abraham’s offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed (see Genesis 12:3; 22:18). A lot of times this is just called the Abrahamic Promise. The second big covenant is the one God makes with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. We just preached through this in the Book of Exodus. The covenant at Sinai was a book of laws for Israel that God gave them through Moses. And it included the Ten Commandments, and then a bunch of other detailed laws that Israel should follow, and blessings and curses if they do or don’t. A lot of times this is just called the Mosaic Law.  So two covenants: with Abraham there is the promise. With Moses (or Sinai) there is the law.  [Everybody tracking?] The Promise Came First Now with that established, look at verse 15:  In verse 15, Paul gives a human example on the way covenants work. Paul says that even on just a people level, nobody makes and ratifies a covenant and then annuls it or changes it. Once the covenant is made, it’s made. That’s the point. A covenant is a settled commitment, and everybody gets this.  Then in verse 16, Paul says that God’s promise to Abraham (his covenant with Abraham) was also with Abraham’s offspring (singular) which is Christ.  Look at this: In verse 16 Paul quotes a phrase from Genesis 22:18, which says: “And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” And Paul says that God made that promise to Abraham and to Jesus, who is Abraham’s descendent. Jesus is the offspring in view in Genesis 22. So in the Book of Genesis, God promised to Abraham and Jesus that one day the nations, the Gentiles, will be blessed in Jesus by faith. God promised that by covenant. And in case we’re still unsure about what Paul is trying to get at here, Paul says verse 17. He says: Hey, this is what I mean. And I love that Paul says this. He’s spelling it out for us. He wants us to track with him. So if we’ve zoned out a little. If we’re confused on how it all comes together, Paul says, Look, this is what I’m saying. God’s promise to Abraham came first. The Mosaic law came 430 years later, and it did not cancel out the promise. The promise stands. Verse 18: The fulfillment of the promise, the blessing we have in Christ, our “inheritance” as the children of Abraham by faith, our justification, that comes in the promise to be received by faith. It’s not found in the law. Our hope and salvation comes through God’s promise, not God’s law. And now that brings up a super important question: “Why then the law?”  Why the Law? Why do we even have the law? If our hope is not in the law; if our obedience to the law doesn’t save us; if God’s promise to Abraham still stands, why did God give us the law? Well, Paul is about to tell us! In fact, he’s going to tell us three important things about the law. Why did God give the law? #1. The law was added because of transgressions. (v. 19b) Have any of you parents in here ever left your kids unsupervised (like in a totally safe way)?  Say, for example, that you gotta run to the hardware store to get a bag of salt. It’s a little icy on the front steps, and you need to some more salt; so you tell the kids, Hey, I’m going to be gone for half an hour. That’s all you say, and you leave.  And you know your kids know you’re their dad; they know you exist; and things are stable. However when you get back, and you walk in the front door, and it’s just a complete mess. The house is trashed. It looks like a zoo — a dirty zoo. You come back to a situation like that, and you know what you do? You start looking around and you say: Hey, guys, don’t eat candy for dinner. Hey, don’t throw garbage on the floor. Don’t leave the fridge door open.  Don’t leave the milk out (and where’s the top to the milk?) No, don’t bake brownies with orange juice. Don’t pull your sister’s hair. Don’t forget to flush the toilet. See what’s going on? You’re adding rules. And you’re adding rules because of transgression. You have to go all Mount Sinai on the kids, and if the kids are really bad — like if the nation is totally depraved — then you’d have to say things like: Don’t set yourself on fire.  Don’t be gross with animals.  Don’t murder your children. (See Leviticus 18:21–23) God added law because of transgression, verse 19. The law acted like guard rails to keep Israel from self-ruin, because without any prohibition, if they were left to themselves, the nation of Israel would have pranced into destruction like [snap of fingers].  Remember the golden calf? Moses had not even come down from the mountain yet, and the people were gone. The first thing Paul tells us about the law is that the law was added because of transgression. #2. The law was never meant to impart life, but be a guardian. (v. 21) Now we see this in verse 21, but first, what is this about angels and an intermediary (or mediator) in verses 19–20? Quickly here: remember that Paul is making the case that our hope is in the promise, not the law. The Abrahamic promise is superior to the Mosaic law.  And to make help make the point, Paul adds at the end of verse 19 that the law was “put into place through angels by an intermediary.”  He’s saying that the Mosaic law, which was handed down at Mount Sinai, involved some kind of angelic administration and a human mediator, who was Moses.  In other words, God did not say the law directly to the people, but the law had creaturely mediation. And what’s implied here is that the promise is different! God spoke the promise directly to Abraham. And these covenants are so different it might imply that there’s more than one God, but Paul assures us: God is one. There is one God who gave two different covenants, and the promise is superior to the law. But does that mean that law is contrary to the promise? Does the law contradict the promise? No, it does not, because of the law’s purpose, verse 21 —  the law was never meant to impart life.  If the law could give life, then we don’t need the gospel. But that’s not what the law was for. Rather, Paul says, the law was for: v. 22: imprisoning everything under sin v. 23: holding us captive v. 24: being our guardian And you can see, this is the same idea.  Hey kids, I gotta run to the store again to get another bag of salt, BUT I’m leaving this nanny here — who honestly is more like a security guard-bouncer with tattoos on his face, his name is Sinai, and he’s got some rules for ya.  Look, Sinai is not here to bless you; Sinai is here to keep you from drinking Clorox.  The law was never meant to give us life. That’s not the purpose. That’s the second thing Paul  tells us about the law. The third is: #3. The law had a temporary role in salvation history. (v. 19, 23, 24) And really, this point is the most repeated throughout this whole passage. And I mention the salvation history part because, to be clear here, because Paul is not being exhaustive about the law and its uses and what Christians can learn from it. Paul is focusing on the role of the law in the saving action of God throughout history, and Paul says in that light the law is temporary.  Notice all the temporal language here: We see first in verse 19:  the law was added because of transgression, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made Verse 23:  Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, [that is] [we were] imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. Verse 24: So then the law was our guardian until Christ came “Until” “before” “until” “until” — the law’s role was temporary. We see that plainly here. So these are three things Paul tells us about the law [right hand]:  It was added because of transgression; it was never meant to impart life; it had temporary role. And all of this is setting up verse 25. Verse 25 is the hinge. Verse 25 is the change. This is where we go from Part One on the Law to Part Two on the Promise.  [We tracking?] Part Two: The Promise (verses 25–29) The change happens with two simple words, verse 25: “But now.” And it’s hard to overstate how big a deal this is for Paul. Because up to this point he’s been saying the law is until, until, until. The law was temporary until faith came, until the coming faith, until Christ came. But here in verse 25 he says, Hey, BUT NOW that faith has come … now that Jesus has come … now that the gospel is here — See, this changes everything.  It’s interesting: if you were to read through the whole letter of Galatians you’d notice that, compared to Paul’s other letters, he doesn’t say a lot about the Second Coming of Jesus, or our future resurrection, or really, in Galatians Paul doesn’t say a lot about the future at all, which is unusual. But the reason is that the Galatians didn’t need to be reminded of their Christian future, because they had forgotten their Christian now.   Oh how we need to be remember the NOWs of the Christian life!  Do you know the NOWs of gospel reality that are true of you in this moment? Think about your life for a minute. Think about the hardest, most difficult thing you have going on right now. [Are you thinking about it?]  Well look, it is good news that in Christ your future is bright; in Christ, truly the best is always yet to come — now that doesn’t mean that every circumstance is going to go the way you want it to go in this world; sometimes God calls us to suffering and disappointment— but we do hope in the future. We’re called to hope.  However, we can’t begin to imagine our future hope if we don’t recognize the grace that God has already given us now. God says something about you now that transcends your circumstance. How do you get through the hard stuff? Yes, you think about what God will do. Yes, we look forward. AND ALSO, we remember what God has done. We look forward and we look back to the cross of Jesus Christ and we embrace the NOW of who God says we are.  And I want to tell you what that is. And I know that what I’m about to say you may not feel. But it doesn’t matter. In Christ, this is your reality now. Two things: 1. You are a child of God (v. 26) This is verse 26.  Verse 25 says “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,” verse 25: “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  The apostle John says the same thing in the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, verse 12: “But to all who receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.” John also says in 1 John 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Paul says it again in Romans 8 and Ephesians 5. The New Testament is super clear: Christian, through your faith in Jesus, in Jesus you have become a child of God.  And I’m gonna guess that for many of us in here, we’ve probably heard that before — and we’re gonna see it again next week in Chapter 4 — we’ve read this, we’ve heard this. We know that in Christ we are the children of God, but do we really get it?  I mean, on a daily basis, in our felt reality, do we know what it means to be God’s children? Toward the end of last year I had been studying Galatians and meditating on this point, and it was an early morning; everyone’s asleep; it’s pitch dark outside; I’m in my study, Bible open, lamp on, house is silent — my favorite time of the day.  And I’m reading and journaling on Galatians 3 into Chapter 4, and I’m just chewing on this fact that in Christ I am a son of God. And I’m trying to put together that this is a fact not just to be known, but to be practiced. We actually relate to God as his children. It means that we call God Father.  And I’m journaling this, still trying to grasp what this means, and as I’m in silence, writing the words in worship “I can call you Father!” — as I’m writing “f-a-t-h” — my study door cracks open, and a little voice on the other side says “father.”  I was stunned. Not a normal quiet time. It was Micah and I told him to come in, and I said, “Buddy, that’s crazy! I just was calling God Father at the exact same time you said it to me. That’s crazy!”  And it is crazy … that in the same way my children relate to me, I can relate to God. Because he is my Father, and I am his son through faith in Jesus — and so are you, Christian. Brothers, sisters, in Christ we are the children of God. And that means something vertically, but also horizontally. This is the second NOW of gospel reality. It’s that… 2. You are part of a new family (verses 27–28) Verse 27 Paul says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” And the point of baptism here is the metaphor of incorporation. When you are united to Jesus by faith, baptized into him, you become a new person and you live like a new person — and that new person is part of a new family. That’s verse 28:  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now within the Jewish worldview, the major distinctions among people, next to Jewish/Gentile, was slave/free and then male/female. These are the three categories of ethnicity, economic capacity, and sex. And these categories, of course, are still very much active today. These are distinctions among people within our world, but the issue in Jewish thought was not just that these distinctions existed, it was that these distinctions were used as primary markers to determine different degrees of religious access. Under the law, the best-case scenario — the way to have the best standing before God — was to be a Jewish free man.  But Paul is saying that in Christ it doesn’t work that way. In Christ there is nothing about ourselves that keeps us from God OR brings us to God. Differences among people still exist, but those differences have no bearing on our relationship to God — because our relationship to God is solely based on our union with Christ. We are all one in Christ. Now some have taken verse 28 the wrong way. This does not mean we become androgynes humans and everyone is an exact replica of everyone else. No! We’re different people, but NONE of those differences are an advantage or a disadvantage in our standing before God, because all of us can only come to God one way: faith in Christ. By faith in Christ, everyone, no matter where you’re coming from, no matter what your story is, by faith in Christ you become a son or daughter of God; in Christ you become part of the family — in the family tree of Abraham, where by faith in Christ we all have the same status and the same access. God is the same kind of Father to all of us because of our union with Jesus. And understanding that union leads to radical unity.  In the church, in this new family, we’re not competing with one another, but we’re encouraging one another. We’re building up one another because we’re convinced that when my brother and sister are built up, then we’re all built up. And so we become this kind of family that is all looking toward and praying toward and working toward one another’s good.  And what is that good?  What is the “good life” in the Christian life? Is it position or status? No.  Our good that we seek is our being assured of the love of God.   Brothers, sisters, your good is to know more deeply that God loves you. That through your faith in Jesus — not on the basis of your performance, but only because of the atoning death of Jesus in your place — God, your Father, has set his love on you and that will never change. What “good” could possibly be better than that? To be assured of the love of God, for our joy and his glory. This is what we want, Cities Church, and this what brings us to the Table. … The Table … because at this Table, as we take the bread and the cup, we move a little bit closer to comprehending with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of God in Christ that surpasses knowledge. If you receive God’s love in Christ, if you put your faith in Jesus, eat and drink with us! His body is the true bread. His blood is the true drink.  Let us serve you.

Redeemed From the Curse

February 13, 2022 • Kenneth Ortiz

A Picture to Remember

February 6, 2022 • Max Kozak

Not I, But Christ in Me

January 30, 2022 • Jonathan Parnell

So one thing true for all of us is that we live within days that have a start and an end.  Seasons start and end (thank God); weeks start and end; and days start and end — and I’m convinced that the way we start and end each day matters. Again, this is not about whether we do this (we all do this) what matters is how we do this — how we start and end each day. And this morning’s passage in Galatians Chapter 2, I think helps us.  Because this passage is all about getting “the truth of the gospel” crystal clear. The first thing Paul does here in verses 15–16 is he explains the truth of the gospel; and then in the few verses that follow he shows us how the truth of the gospel reorients everything about our lives. And so for the sermon today, this is what we’re looking at. There are two parts: Gospel Explanation (verses 15–16) Gospel Reorientation (verses 19–21) Before we get started, let’s ask again for God’s help: Father in heaven, we are gathered here now, with your Word open before us, and all your saints together ask, by the power of your Spirit, speak to us and show us the glory of your Son. We ask in his name, amen.  Part One: Gospel Explanation (verses 15–16) So we’re going to pick up in verse 15, but in terms of where we are in the Book of Galatians, this week just continues what we saw last week when our brother Paul confronted our brother Peter in Antioch.  For the Galatians and Us If you look at your Bible you’ll see that back in verse 14 that there are quote marks around the sentence that Paul said to Peter. Paul said to Peter (or Cephas) in verse 14: [Quote]: If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews? … Now in some English translations, the quote marks end there at verse 14, but I think Paul’s actual quote continues through verse 21. So we’re gonna pick up in verse 15 today, but just know that this is part of what Paul started in verse 14. Paul is saying all this to Peter — although Paul also means to be saying this to the Galatians. Okay, don’t think that just because this is what Paul said to Peter, that he’s merely transcribing it here, rather he’s saying what he said to Peter for the Galatians’ benefit. Paul is telling the Galatians — and us — what he said to Peter for our sake. Back to the Confrontation And what Paul is saying, again, goes back to last week: It’s that a person is saved not by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Faith in Jesus alone, plus nothing else is how we are saved.  Because remember there’s a controversy going on here: There were some “false brothers” — or some “troublers” — who had been telling the Christians in Galatia that in order to really be saved, in order to really be part of the people of God, faith in Jesus was not enough, but you also had to keep Jewish law.  The false teachers were saying: Yes, trust in Jesus, but also, for the men, you need to get circumcised like Jewish men, and you need to abide by Jewish dietary laws and so forth.  They said that: faith in Jesus is important and necessary, but you also have to do these other things. They were teaching a “Jesus plus something else” heresy.  And the apostles struck this down.  The apostles, together in Jerusalem, in verses 1–10, they were united in their rejection of this false teaching. The apostles confirmed the truth of the gospel, that Gentiles don’t have to become like Jewish people in order to be saved because you are saved by faith in Jesus alone plus nothing else.  And it’s because Peter’s behavior suggested something different, that Paul confronts him. Verse 14:  Peter, you’re Jewish and live like a Gentile [which means he lives like he’s not bound to Jewish law.] And therefore, don’t force Gentiles to live like their Jewish. And Paul’s going to expand what he means here in verses 15 and 16. Focusing on Verses 15–16 These two verses are one long, amazing sentence, and I’m gonna read the whole thing first, and then we’ll slow down and look at each part. Verse 15, Paul is continuing here what he’s saying to Peter … he says: Peter, we ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet knowing that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.  Okay — have any of you ever read a book or had a class on public speaking? [Okay, you’ll get this.] There’s an old adage in public speaking advice that goes: “Tell them what you will say, say it, tell them what you said.” [Anybody heard that?] That whole idea is basically what Paul is doing here. It feels like he’s being super redundant, but let’s slow down and look at the pieces, and I think there are three things we need to see in order to track with Paul. [The first is that …] 1. We need to understand the justification metaphor.   Now last week and so far today I’ve been using the word “saved.” We are saved by faith in Jesus plus nothing else. And that’s a good Bible word. Paul uses that word in other places, but you’ll see the word that Paul uses here is “justified.”  Now to be “saved” or “justified” mean the same thing — they’re getting at the same idea — but they are different metaphors or images. To be “saved” means you’re trapped in a house that’s on fire, so somebody runs in, takes you, and brings you out. They rescue you. They save you. We get that. Well to be justified is a law-court metaphor. Did anybody in here used to watch Judge Judy or any court TV?  I think we all can probably imagine a court room.  There’s always at least a judge and a defendant, and the judge issues a verdict on the defendant, who is a person with charges against them. The climatic moment of a court-room is when the judge pronounces the defendant either guilty or not guilty. Or you could say: either guilty or justified.  To be “justified” means to be declared “in the right.” To be justified is to be declared righteous — and theologically, for God to justify us it means that God is the Ultimate Judge and we’re in his court with charges against us and he declares that we are righteous. For God to justify us means that he says we are right with him.  That’s what Paul is talking about here. This is about: how can we be right with God? 2. The answer to how we can be right with God is the same answer for everybody. In verse 15, Paul starts with the common ground of his and Peter’s Jewishness. Paul and Peter were both by nature, by birth, ethnically Jewish. Which means they were not “Gentile sinners.”  Remember, in the ancient world, within the Jewish mindset, there were just two categories of people: There was Jewish people and was everyone else — and everyone else was called the “nations,” or “Gentiles,” or a lot of times just simply “sinners.” The word “Gentile” and “sinner” were interchangeable. And Paul is saying:  Hey, Peter, we know that we’re Jewish. We know that we’re in this category of people (not that category of people), but we also we know that being in this category is not what makes us right with God. It’s not by works of the law. Now when Paul says “works of the law” he means any and every kind of Old Testament law-keeping. This is what makes a Jewish person a good Jewish person. And Paul says, We know that’s not what justifies us. And in fact, law-keeping, works-doing is not what justifies anybody.  Skip to the last sentence of verse 16 (right before verse 17) and notice Paul repeats, “because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Well, when Paul says this, he’s actually quoting from Psalm 143, verse 2, when David prays to Yahweh: Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous [or justified] before you. And the “no one” is put strongly here. It means no human flesh. No humankind. Paul gets this from the Old Testament because the evidence is there: being Jewish does not make you right before God. Keeping Mosaic law doesn’t do it. Sacrifices and offerings and all the most genuine acts of religious devotion does not do it. But everybody, Jewish and Gentile, can only be right with God the same way: not by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ,  That’s what the apostles have confirmed; Paul and Peter have agreed: All peoples have in common their need for Jesus … and Paul and Peter, our brothers, this is something they knew firsthand.  3. Paul and Peter have embraced the necessity and sufficiency of faith in Jesus. This is really Paul’s point in verse 16. It’s not just that Paul and Peter shared the same conviction about faith in Jesus, but it’s that they have acted on that conviction by they themselves putting their faith in Jesus and not their works.  One fascinating thing about this passage is that Paul stays away from theoretical and he gets practical and personal.  Look at how practical he gets here. We can see this in the language. In the Greek, the noun for “faith” and the verb for “believe” are the same words. We have words like this in English too. For example, take the word “trust.”  “Trust” is a noun and a verb with the same meaning. And this is a small thing, but I think hearing the sameness of the words in verse 16 will help bring this together for us. So I’m gonna put verse 16 in a paraphrase and I’m gonna use the word “trust”  — because I want you to hear the sameness in English. Paul says: Peter, because we know that even Jewish people like us are not justified by works but through trust in Jesus, we have trusted in Jesus. Because we know we can only be right with God by trusting Jesus, we trust Jesus.  See! Paul is saying: Look, we don’t merely affirm this; we don’t merely agree with this; but we are banking everything on this truth. Our background does not matter.  And we know that Paul, from his other letters like Philippians, he was a fantastic law-keeper. Paul was an outstanding Jewish religious person. And he said none of that matters.  Hey, Peter, look! All of our eggs are in the faith-in-Jesus basket.  Which means that faith in Jesus is not just necessary for justification, but it’s also sufficient. And those are the two words that I think are central to Paul’s explanation of the gospel here. It’s the two words necessity and sufficiency. Faith in Jesus is necessary and sufficient for justification. In other words, contra the false teachers: what goes for everyone, Jewish and Gentile, is that faith in Jesus is not just needed to be justified, but faith in Jesus is enough to be justified.  And that changes everything. And Paul knows it.  Which is why Paul now goes from explaining the truth of the gospel to showing how it reorients everything about how we live.  And this is Part Two of the sermon. We’re going from Gospel Explanation to Gospel Reorientation, and what I wanna do here is a little bit different. Part Two: Gospel Reorientation (verses 17–21) My hope is to make what Paul is saying here very practical for us. So we’re gonna work through verses 17–21, but I’m going to summarize what Paul is saying in the form of three resolutions in the first-person. And I’m saying these as resolutions partly because I’ve been reading Jonathan Edwards and he loved some resolutions; but also, as resolutions in the first-person, these are things that I want you to take and embrace for yourself.  These resolutions are truths (and opportunities) that I want you to remind yourself all the time. Put these on your fridge or in your car or wherever. These are practical things to take with us. Make sense? Okay here’s the first: #1. Resolved, I can do nothing to contribute to my justification because God gets the glory, not me. Look at verse 17. In verse 17 Paul is answering an accusation from the false teachers. Remember in the Jewish mindset, there are two categories of people: Jewish and then Gentile/sinner. [Right? Got it?] Okay, so track with me: the false teachers were saying that if you listen to Paul and embrace that you’re justified by faith in Jesus alone so that you stop the works of the law, to stop the works of the law is to no longer be Jewish, but it’s to be like a Gentile sinner.  So they’re saying that when Jewish people believe the gospel that Paul preaches it actually moves them from the Jewish category to the sinner category, and therefore Jesus is just making more sinners in the world. That was their thinking.  And Paul says No, first, your whole dichotomy is wrong. We’re all sinners.  And in fact, now, Pauls says, if I go back to relying on the works of the law for my justification, that’s actually what makes me to sin.  See, Paul turns the tables! Faith in Jesus is not what moves us into “the category of sinner,” but now it’s that, because we have believed in Jesus, WE SIN if we go back to relying on the law. That’s verse 18, and then 21. In verse 21, Paul understands that if he has contributed to his justification in any way, it nullifies the graces of God. It empties the grace of God of its power.  And this is something for us to nail down and get clear in our hearts. The question is: Did GOD save me or did God help ME save myself? Like, did God bring me 90% of the way, but then the last 10% is my part? Or is it 99% faith in Jesus, and the last 1% is my law-keeping?  Well, Paul would say that if that’s the case — even if it’s 99 and 1 — that invalidates God’s grace altogether (Paul will say more about this in Chapter 5, but it’s already clear in verse 21). If we could be justified in any way by the law, it means the death of Jesus was pointless. Because it would mean that Jesus’s death was not enough to save you. Basically this would make the gospel of Jesus not a gift, but a coupon.  Okay, so Melissa and I, by God’s grace, we’ve been married for 15 years, and over the years, for Christmas and birthdays and anniversaries, I’ve been able to get her some really good gifts, I think. But also in that stretch of time I’ve gotten her some not-so-good gifts. You live, you learn. And so, for some of you younger guys, you can just take this as marriage advice: giving someone a coupon as a gift is not a gift.  Any of you ever seen a person unwrap a coupon? See, I’ve been there. At one point you thought this was a good idea, until you see it being unwrapped and you’re like, Oh … Now it might have been a good try. It could be a decent head-start. Because that’s all a coupon can be.  Look, we need to know that the death and resurrection of Jesus was not a coupon. When the Son of God was slain for you, when nails were driven through his hands and feet, and the wrath of God that you deserved was poured out on him; when Jesus died in your place, he died to save you all the way AS A GIFT — which is what faith represents as the empty-handed embrace of that gift.  If we come to the cross of Jesus and we think that it only partially saves us, if we think that we still gotta do this part on our own — if we make the cross a coupon — it actually makes the death of Jesus pointless and it dishonors him. I hope that you can see here that what’s at stake is the glory of God.  If we have contributed anything to our justification it means that we should get credit for it. It would mean that God does not get all the glory, but we some too. Even if it’s just 1%. It would mean that we get glory too. I mean, can you imagine meeting Jesus one day, and standing before him face to face, and saying to him, I’m here because we worked together …? And yet every time here and now that we act like our performance or our works contributes to our justification, we are acting like we will say that to Jesus one day. You’re in a fantasy land.  God gets all the glory. Hey! Hey. He gets it all.  God has determined that in the gospel, in every way, he is the only one who saves us so that he is the only one who gets the glory. And even our faith as the empty-handed receiving of Jesus, that too is not our own doing, but it is the gift of God so that no one may boast (see Ephesians 2:8–9). We contribute nothing! Faith in Jesus alone is sufficient and we need to get that clear: Resolved, I can do nothing to contribute to my justification because God gets the glory, not me. Here’s the second resolution: #2. Resolved, to love others freely and fearlessly. Now Paul doesn’t address love head on in this passage like he’ll do later, but I bring it up now because this answers a common objection to justification by faith. It’s that: if we’re justified by faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone, what is there left for us do? If we’re not on the hook to contribute to our justification, what does that mean for the activity of the Christian life right now? Well, it means that we love others and we love them freely. One helpful way this has been explained, going back to the Reformers in the 16th century, is that we’re justified by faith alone, but faith is never alone — in that, faith is productive and active. Martin Luther called it fides viva — “living faith.” The faith in Jesus that alone justifies us becomes a power plant of righteous energy expressed through love, and the love is expressed freely because it’s not what I must do in order to be saved, but it’s what I get to do because I am saved. Our love is not driven by compulsion, but it flows from freedom. To get more practical here, in the next 12 hours we all are going to come upon opportunities to love others. And when you encounter that opportunity, and you’re trying to decide whether you should step into it or not, just know that you are not being asked to justify yourself; it is not a demand with your eternal soul at stake; but it really is an opportunity where your love might Flow, Freely, from the Fact that you are justified by faith in Jesus alone. We can love freely, but also fearlessly. … I think one of the biggest hurdles to loving others is not distraction or indifference, but it’s the fear of how it will be received. We fear repercussions — like what if this person doesn’t receive this act of love? What if somehow this goes sideways and it backfires on me? Or, here in America, what if I get criticized?  Criticism from others — disapproval, disparagement — that fear, I think, is one of our main barriers to love. Basically, it’s the risk that others might think badly of you. And just want you to know that the answer to that risk is justification by faith in Jesus alone.  Because justification by faith in Jesus alone means that we believe the worst and best thing that someone could say about us has already been said.  This is an insight from the late David Powlison (and I mentioned it to our men last week). It’s that at the cross the worst thing that could be said about you was said, by Jesus: it’s that you are so sinful, you are so guilty, you are so incompetent to save yourself that it requires the death of the Son of God — nothing worse could be said about us, right?  But also, nothing better could be said about us. Because it’s not just that you’re so sinful that Jesus had to die, but it’s that you’re so loved that Jesus willingly died. You are loved by Jesus. You are loved by Jesus so much that he gave himself for you. What could there ever be said about you that is better than that? See, Christian … the worst and best things have already been said about you, by Jesus, and if we really believe that, it means we are … untouchable. It means that we look at people and think (or say):  Your potential scorn cannot touch me because of the gospel. So, I will love you fearlessly as an effect my justification by faith.  Resolved, to love others freely and fearlessly.  And finally, … #3. Resolved, to live not I, but Christ in me. First, verse 19: For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  This is the fundamental reorientation. The way I used to live, enslaved to the law as my hope for righteous, that’s over. It’s dead to me. I’m dead to it, so that I might be alive to God. Now what does that mean? How’s that look? This is verse 20.  And I’ve tried to save the best for last here in verse 20. And many of you might know this verse, and I just wanna stop for a minute to say that I’m amazed I get to preach this to you. The very fact that I get to stand here right now and say this is because it’s true. Hear the word of Lord, Galatians 2:20,  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. Do you see it? I’m alive right now. I’m living right now. Christian, you’re living right now. But it’s not us, it is Christ living in us.  This activity — all this that we do here, in our skin and bones, this life — it is lived by faith in Jesus. Our lives are the empty-handed receiving of Jesus’s power. Don’t think “I’m living for Jesus!” Jesus lives in you and through you.  Do you know what is pulsing through my veins right now? You can call it blood, OR you can call it grace! I’m not kidding you. Right now, in this moment, Jesus Christ, the Son of God is living in me. He’s living in you. Because it’s Jesus, the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I mentioned earlier that in this passage Paul stays away from theoretical, but he’s practical and personal. And well, here is the personal part. Which doesn’t mean sentimental. This is a fact, man. Paul is stating the fact of Jesus’s love for him, which is seen in that Jesus gave himself for Paul. Paul says he loved me! He died for me! And Paul knows that Peter can say the same thing. And he know that you, Christian, you can say the same thing — you must say the same thing. Everyday.  Because everyday has a start and end, and the way you start and end matters, and there is not a better way to start and end your day than to remember that Jesus loves you and that he died for you, and that the life that you’re living now — this waking life, this resting life — it is Jesus alive in you. Resolved, to live, not I, but Christ in me. And that’s what brings us to this Table. The Table Because at this Table, as we take the bread and cup, we remember and demonstrate our union with Jesus by faith. We are saying that indeed, all of my hope is in Jesus. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. If that’s your confession, your hope, if you trust in Jesus, let’s eat and drink together. His body is the true bread. His blood is the true drink.

Toward Gospel Congruence

January 23, 2022 • Jonathan Parnell

So if you were to be walking just outside here, on the sidewalk, headed west on Summit, just as you cross over Saratoga, if you looked up high at this corner of our building, you would see a statue a man who is bald, has a long beard, and he’s holding a parchment. It’s a statue of the apostle Paul. And in this sermon I want to tell you part of the story for why that statute is there — and when I say there, what I mean is here, in the middle of North America, a very very long ways from Jerusalem. There’s a story behind this, and a big part of the story has to do with Galatians Chapter 2, which is the passage for today’s sermon. And when it comes to the sermon outline, it’s super simple. There are two parts. First, we’re gonna see what is happening here in Galatians 2. Second, we’re gonna consider why it matters for us. What’s happening? Why does it matter? Let’s ask God to help us: Our Father in heaven, for your glory, so that your glory be known and delighted in, we ask that you, by your Spirit, would open the eyes of our hearts see what you have for us in the preaching of your word. In Jesus’s name, amen. What Is Happening? First, what is happening in Galatians 2? Now the big event here comes in verses 11–14, but in order for us to understand that, we need to back up a minute and look at this thing as a whole. And overall, I think we can see what’s going on here in three steps: Context, Conflict, and then Confrontation. CONTEXT For the Context, we’re gonna start in verse 1, and just so you know, this is kind of a long story, but there are some high drama moments. And to help us stay on track, at certain points while I’m telling the story, I’m gonna stop and ask if you’re tracking. [And I need you to say yes or nod or thumbs up, etc.] Check out verse 1. This is part of Paul’s autobiography, he says, verse 1, “Then after fourteen years — [he’s talking about 14 years after his conversion to Christ] — after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem.” So Jerusalem is the setting. That is where Paul is at, and remember from last week, this was only the second time Paul had been to Jerusalem since he became a Christian. And the reason Paul was there was to meet with the other apostles to confirm that he and they were preaching the same gospel of Jesus. Are you tracking? Now in terms of the apostles, let me remind you who these apostles are. The word “apostle” literally means “messenger” and these men were the official messengers of Jesus. They were the disciples of Jesus … minus Judas, plus James (Jesus’s brother), and plus Matthias. (Now, you’ll notice in this passage that the apostle Paul calls the apostle Peter “Cephas” — why is that? Well, it’s simply because Cephas is the Aramaic way to say Peter. Both names mean the same thing. They both mean rock, which is the name Jesus gave Peter.) And one thing that’s really important about Peter and the apostles is that these were all men who had witnessed the resurrection of Jesus. They were eye-witnesses of the resurrection — which means they ate and drank with Jesus after he was raised (see Acts 10:39–43). These were the men that God chose to be apostles of Jesus and go preach the gospel, which they did, and which we can read about in the Book of Acts. But now Paul also was an apostle, because he also had witnessed the resurrected Jesus, although he did in a different way. Paul didn’t eat and drink with Jesus after he was raised because at first Paul hated Jesus. Paul was against the gospel; but then Jesus, as the Resurrected and Ascended Lord appeared to Paul and changed his heart. Jesus had a “come to Jesus” talk with Paul, literally, and everything changed. And so God also chose Paul to be an apostle of Jesus and go preach the gospel, which he did, and which he can also read about in the Book of Acts. These men are the apostles. We tracking? Now remember, all of these men, all of these apostles, were Jewish. Which means, they had always been taught that faithfulness to God meant that they keep Jewish law. In order to be part of the people of God, in order to be right with God, you expressed your faith through abiding by Jewish laws and customs. It meant that you abided by Kosher food laws. You do not eat unclean meat, and you do not hang around unclean people, such as any non-Jewish people, aka Gentiles. You do not hang out with Gentiles. That was the Jewish mindset that these men had been steeped in their entire lives. But see, the gospel of Jesus says something different. The gospel of Jesus says that “faith in Jesus plus nothing else” is what saves you, and that goes for Jewish people and Gentile people. You don’t have to keep a certain law or perform a certain way or belong to a certain ethnic group to be right with God. You are saved only by faith in Jesus. The apostle Paul had been preaching that, because that’s what Jesus told him, and now Paul comes to Jerusalem to meet with the other apostles to make sure they were preaching the same thing. And guess what? They were. That is the central thing that is confirmed in verses 1–10 during Paul’s time in Jerusalem. Paul and the other apostles — all the apostles — were preaching the same gospel. And one of the ways we really see their unity on the gospel is how they handled these “false brothers” in verse 4. Here’s what happened: While Paul and the other apostles were convening about the gospel and what they preached, somehow “false brothers” secretly slipped into their gatherings. Now, these “false brothers” were not apostles and they were not Christians. They were false. They were “counterfeit Christians.” They were the “troublers” that Paul mentions in Chapter 1, verse 7. And the trouble they caused is that they were going around saying that the apostles got it wrong. These troublers were false teachers who were saying that you DID have to keep Jewish law in order to be saved. And they didn’t just say that theoretically, but they were pointing at Titus. Remember Titus was with Paul at these meetings in Jerusalem, and Titus was Greek. He was a Gentile. And so these false teachers were calling for his circumcision. Could you imagine the tension in this place? These false teachers were saying that Titus is not really “in” unless he is circumcised and becomes like a Jewish man. And they were saying this against all the apostles, and so all the apostles unite in their rejection of this false teaching. The apostles all said NO. That’s verse 5: “to them [the false brothers] we [the apostles] did not yield in submission even for a moment.” And that’s the whole point of verses 1–10. The whole point of the context here is to let us know that Paul and the other apostles — namely Paul and Peter — they are united on the gospel. The gospel is that you are saved by faith in Jesus alone. Nothing else. Peter preached that gospel. Paul preached that gospel. They preached the same gospel. Are you tracking? That’s the context. CONFLICT And now we can see the conflict in verse 11, which takes place in Antioch. So we started in Jerusalem, verses 1–10. Now we’re Antioch, verse 11 — and Antioch was a majority Gentile city in what is today southern Turkey (Antioch is directly north of Jerusalem, about a ten-hour drive). Paul and Barnabas had been in Antioch, preaching the gospel to Gentiles, and Peter visits. Now we don’t know how often Peter visited Antioch, but apparently he had been there enough times or a long enough time to develop the habit of eating with the Gentile Christians there. Now, if you read any commentary, the word scholars use for this is “table fellowship.” Peter had table fellowship with Gentile Christians. It means that he hung out with them. Peter ate and drank with Gentiles; he spent time with them. And this was a Christian act. Because remember, in Jewish law and custom, Jewish people did not eat Gentile food or hang out with Gentile people because they were considered unclean. But Peter is a Christian; he believes the gospel; he believes that everyone is only saved by faith in Jesus; including these Gentile Christians he hung out with. So a normal day in Antioch was that, during the day, everyone went about their work doing whatever they did, but every mealtime, they’d all come together: Paul, Barnabas, Titus, all the Gentile Christians, and Peter — they would come together and they’d eat and drink and talk and fellowship, and this was a simple, glorious thing. But then one day Peter didn’t show up for dinner. Oh, he must have something else was going on. But then it’s the next day and again everybody’s like: Where’s Peter? Y’all know where Peter’s at? What about Barnabas? Where’s he? Hmm? Oh, maybe they’re doing this or that. But see, actually, Paul knew what was going on. Look at verse 12. Peter’s absence has to do with “certain men” who came from James in Jerusalem. Because before these “certain men” came, Peter was hanging out with Gentile Christians all the time, but now since these certain men came, Peter has stopped, he has drawn back and separated himself, verse 12, “fearing the circumcision party.” Now what does that mean? Are you tracking? Who are these “certain men” and who is this “circumcision party”? Now like Pastor Joe said last week, we’re not 100% sure about all the details Paul is writing into, but there’s enough here — and enough we know historically — that we can piece together what’s going on. Here it is: At this time historically, there was a lot of tension between the Romans and Jewish people. The Romans ruled the world at this time, and there had been several Jewish revolts against Roman rule. And these Romans, these Gentiles, had done horrible things to the Jewish people. And so in response to that, Jewish people doubled down on their hostility toward Gentiles, and the “circumcision party” of verse 12 led that hostility. The “circumcision party” was made up of Jewish leaders — they were not Christians, but they were Jewish leaders and they led the way in making sure all things Jewish and Gentile stayed polarized. This circumcision party intensified an “US” vs. “THEM” mindset in Jerusalem. And then they heard that Jewish Peter —who followed Jesus — was now hanging out with Gentiles. And so these Jewish leaders, this circumcision party, they went over to James and the other Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, and they said: “You have betrayed your people.” This “gospel” you preach — it’s not the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures; this Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah, but you are traitors to your heritage. You have joined sides with our Gentile enemy — do you not know what they’ve done to us? And James hears this and knows this is not good, especially in terms of optics. Because he was trying to win the Jewish people to believe in Jesus. He wants them to become Christians, but now this is a problem in the way. And so James in Jerusalem gets some men together — the “certain men” of verse 12 — and he sends them to Antioch to tell Peter what’s going on: Hey, go tell Peter that his hanging out with Gentiles is making things difficult for us here in Jerusalem. It’s causing the circumcision party to bully the Jewish Christians and it’s ruining all of our chances at evangelism. And so then when Peter hears this from these certain men, of course, he doesn’t want that to happen, and so what does he do? Well, he didn’t show up for dinner last night. He’s not here this morning. Has anybody seen him? Where’s Peter? Peter had stopped hanging out with the Gentile Christians. And it wasn’t just Peter, because he influenced others to do the same, including other Jewish Christians in Antioch — and even Barnabas got mixed up in this. The Jewish Christians had stopped table fellowship with Gentile Christians, and Paul called this hypocrisy. Are you tracking? So Context. Conflict. Now that leads to confrontation. CONFRONTATION This is verse 11, and then verse 14. First, Paul tells us he opposed Peter to his face because Peter stood condemned. That word “condemned” simply means to be found guilty. When Peter stopped eating with Gentile Christians he was in the wrong. And Paul told him that. Verse 14: 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?” Now Paul mentioned the word “hypocrisy” in verse 13, but here in verse 14 is where he explains the hypocrisy. And we all know what hypocrisy means. Hypocrisy is when you say you believe something, but your behavior contradicts it. You say this, but you live that. And what’s implied is that actions speak louder than words — so the way you act will reveal if your convictions are pretense. The way you live is the real measure of what you believe, and so if you say you believe something but don’t live it, it means you’re lying. You’re pretending. That’s what hypocrisy means, and we get it. We understand how it works. My late grandfather understood how it works. My first year of seminary in North Carolina, I only took one class because I worked everyday with my dad and my grandfather in my dad’s drywall business. And a lot of those days at work I would drive all over Raleigh with my grandfather — we called him Papa — and as we drove I would talk to him about Jesus. My Papa had heard the gospel, and he had been to different churches his whole life, but his big hangup was the hypocrisy he had seen in so many so-called Christians — and he had a list of stories. There were all these people who were part of churches and claimed the name of Christ, but if you looked at their lives, they were no different than anybody else — and that’s confusing, right? When our conduct is out of step with our confession, it’s confusing. That’s true today. And that was true in the First Century. Peter said we’re saved by faith in Jesus alone, and that this salvation is for everyone who believes, Jewish people and Gentile! We are Christians. We are one people in Christ — but by not eating with Gentile Christians he was acting like you have to become Jewish in order to become a Christian. See, Peter’s behavior is contradicting what he believes and preaches, because his behavior (motivated by fear and good intentions) suggests (even faintly) that you have to keep Jewish law in order to be saved. Because of his behavior, Peter was in the wrong, and the real turning point is that Paul confronted him. This is where we move from Part One to Part Two. In Part One, What Is Happening? — we’ve seen Context, Conflict, and Confrontation, and now that takes us to Why It Matters Why Does This Matter for Us? This is why: Paul confronted Peter because his conduct was out of step with the truth of the gospel, or more specifically, it was because Peter was behaving as if you need more than faith in Jesus to be saved. Peter’s behavior was undermining the all-sufficiency of Jesus for salvation. And just categorically, this means it is possible for you to live in a way that contradicts the gospel. Like Peter did here, you can do things that deny the all-sufficiency of Jesus, and that is was wrong. Are you tracking? Now get this: if it’s possible for us to get it wrong, the converse must also be true. We can get it right. Which is why Paul is doing what he’s doing here! Hey, it’s possible for you, for me, for us! — it is possible for us to live in a way that is congruent to the all-sufficiency of Jesus! Gospel congruence is what it’s called. Gospel congruence is the way we wanna live, right? We want to live — and we can live — in step with the gospel. We can show with our lives that Jesus alone is our salvation. But guess what? We have to help one another. I think that’s the main takeaway for us here. This is the main thing we see in Paul and Peter. It’s that gospel congruence is the way we help one another live. Gospel congruence — living in step with the gospel — is the way we help one another live. Now, in closing, I want to give you three reasons why: #1. BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT. It is right that we live in congruence with the gospel because the gospel is meant to change how we live. The gospel is for all of us. Head to toe, mind to heart, every part of who we are, is who Jesus came to save, because every part of us needs saving. Remember, we’re fallen humans. We are sinners who are totally depraved, which means every part of us is broken, and we cannot save ourselves. We have to start there, and when we realize that we can’t save ourselves, and that we need a Savior from outside of us, then we look to cross. We look to the gospel of Jesus — that Jesus came here to save sinners like us. He walked through this life in our shoes, and in all the ways that we have failed, Jesus was perfect. And being perfect, he became a spotless sacrifice. Jesus went to the cross in our place and he took upon himself the punishment we deserved for our sins, and he died for us bearing that punishment. The judgment of God that I deserved for my sins — judgment that was coming at me — Jesus took it instead, and he died and was buried, but then on the third day he was raised. Jesus was raised and ascended victorious over sin and death. By his resurrection, Jesus proved that he has overcome both the power and penalty of sin, and when we put our faith in him, when we trust him, his victory is applied to us. By faith, we are united to Jesus, and all the favor that God has for his Son becomes favor that God has on us. We become the adopted sons and daughters of God through faith in Jesus. That is the gospel, and Jesus didn’t just do that so we’d “agree” with it, he did it to change us. Look, I used to think that the biggest problem for the church was the issue of behavior. From all those conversations with my Papa, I thought, If Christians could just live right and not be stupid! I used to think that was the issue, but it’s not. The issue is that if Christians, if we, could just truly understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. Church, Jesus’s love for you is not shallow. He is saving all of you, and his salvation shows up in how we live. This is gospel congruence. And it’s just right. It’s our calling. Gospel congruence is the way we help one another live … #2. BECAUSE WE CANNOT DO IT ALONE. We help one another live in gospel congruence because we have to help one another. Remember that when we become Christians, we become part of the family of God; we’re part of the church, and we live that out in her local assemblies, in local churches like this one. As a church, we are together learning to obey all that Jesus commands us. We’re learning how to follow Jesus together on this journey of faith through life in this world. We are pilgrims in progress. John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress in 1678 — one of the most famous books in the world. And it’s an allegory of a Christian’s journey of faith. Christian, the main character, is on a pilgrimage from the City of Destruction (which is this world) to the Celestial City (which is heaven). And on this journey, Christian experiences all the things that we Christians might experience here — it’s really amazing how relevant this book is hundreds of years later. And part of the genius of the story is that Christian, the main character, does not make the journey alone. At first it was Christian’s friend Faithful, who traveled with him, but then after Faithful was martyred, it was Christian’s friend Hopeful. And Christian and Hopeful journey together, and at different times in the story they both need each other to remind them of the gospel. They’re both correcting and encouraging one another along the way. And as the church, we are called to do that for one another. There will be times on this journey when we as brothers and sisters will see the gospel more clearly than the person next to us, and when that happens, we have to tell them. Because there’s also gonna be times when we don’t see the gospel clearly, and we need our brothers and sisters to tell us. There will be times for all of us when our step is off, and we have to help one another. We can’t do this alone. Gospel congruence is the way we help one another live. And lastly, #3, that’s … #3. BECAUSE THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL WILL BE PRESERVED. I think there are some things we can learn here from Paul and Peter that apply to our current situations, but the main way that Galatians 2 is different from any other situation is that the stakes are uniquely high. Peter’s hypocrisy was that his conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, which didn’t just undermine what he believed and preached, but it threatened to rip apart the church. Peter’s behavior suggested that something more than faith in Jesus is needed for salvation, and if that behavior was left unchecked would have created a kind of Jewish syncretism that distorted the message of the gospel. And Paul understood this. He understood how high the stakes were, which is why in verse 5 he said that the apostles did not yield to the false teachers even for a moment, “so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” What is driving Paul more than anything is the integrity of the gospel. Paul’s highest allegiance was to the gospel. And I think the same thing could be said of Peter. You’ll notice in Galatians 2 that Paul doesn’t say anything about Peter’s response to him. We have no indication anywhere that Paul and Peter argued about this, which means it’s best to assume that when Peter heard Paul say all this to him, he received it. Because his highest allegiance was also to the gospel. Paul’s highest allegiance was to the gospel, not his ego, so he confronted Peter and risked being disliked. Peter’s highest allegiance was to the gospel, not his ego, so he didn’t argue with Paul but accepted that he was wrong, and he showed up for dinner that night. And because our brother Paul and our brother Peter — because their highest allegiance was to the gospel — God used this confrontation to preserve the truth of the gospel for us. See Peter and Paul continued to preach the truth that we are saved by faith in Jesus alone, plus nothing else, and through Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, that gospel message has advanced to the ends of the earth … even to here, in the middle of North America, where there’s now a statute of Paul on our building in a city named after him. Look, it’s not about Paul. When Paul looks down from the cloud of witnesses and sees this statue, he probably face palms. It’s not about Paul, but Jesus used Paul, and Jesus used this moment in Galatians 2, so that we would know the gospel today. Hey, you are saved by faith in Jesus alone. Stop looking to yourself. Stop looking anywhere else. Look to Jesus and trust him. And if you do, we come now to this Table to give him thanks. The Table At this Table, the bread represents the broken body of Jesus; the cup represents the shed blood of Jesus; and when we receive it, we remember Jesus’s death and give him thanks. We are saying that Jesus is our only hope, and if that’s your confession this morning, let’s eat and drink together. His body is the true bread. His blood is the true drink.

The Revelation of Jesus and the Testimony of Paul

January 16, 2022 • Joe Rigney

No Other Gospel

January 9, 2022 • Ryan Griffith

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