Sermon #1 Galatians Series
Title: “The Messenger of the Grace of God
Text: Galatians 1:1-5
Subject: The introduction of the epistle – Paul’s authority and his message.
Martin Luther, who considered the book of Galatians the best of all the books of the Bible, spoke of it in this manner, “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Katherine.” This books has been called “the battle cry of the reformation,” “the great charter of religious freedom,” “The Christian declaration of independence.”
This book is important in every age because it answers the basic questions of every human heart: “How can I find true happiness?” “How can I obtain peace, tranquility, freedom from fear?”, and because, in every age wherein apostasy is a danger it calls for a return to the gospel of the grace of God.
For all who will take God at his Word, Galatians shows the way to true freedom. Genuine liberty is neither legalism nor license. It is freedom of bondage to Christ. It consists in becoming the captive of the Savior; that is surrendering to the triune God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ unto salvation. This true freedom is discovered when we are willing to cease from every effort to save ourselves, and to accept Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior; glorying only in his cross, and trusting him as the fulfillment of the law. For all those who have been led by God’s sovereign grace to do this, the law is dead. It no longer has dominion over us. Guided by the Holy Spirit the saints of God, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, begin to adorn themselves with “the fruit of the Spirit,” Now, fear has fled. Lust has vanished as a guiding principle. The prison door has opened. And we have entered into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Not only have we found the blessing; but we have become a blessing. For it is through the children of God, that God blesses the world.
Paul addresses this epistle to the churches of Galatia in Asia minor. These churches were founded and formed by the Apostle on his first missionary journey and were located in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and perhaps other places. The people who populated this area were Gauls, from which we get our word Galations. In the past the great migrations of tribes and nations had been from east to west, coming out of central Asia. But in this one case (after these Gallic people had finally reached the Atlantic, and found the climate inhospitable and in many instances, the land poor and sterile) they turned back eastward. Migrating in a southeasterly direction, they came to Greece and were there repulsed. Afterwards, they crossed the Hellespont and overran central Asia Minor, settling about 280 B.C. Around 180 B.C. they were conquered by the Roman armies, and in 26 B.C. they were organized into the Roman province of Galatia. It is to these Gallic churches, composed mostly of Gentile converts, that Paul addressed this letter.
It is difficult to determine exactly when this letter was written, but it was definitely among his first, and was very possibly the first letter of the Apostle. It was written after the Jerusalem council, for it describes Paul’s relation to the other leaders at that great meeting. It was written after the two previous visits to Galatia, which are recorded in Acts 13-16. But it was not long after these visits and their conversion (see 1:6). It was probably written on Paul’s second missionary journey while Paul was at Corinth, before the arrival of Timothy and Titus. This would fix the date of writing about 50-53 A.D. (That which prompted Paul to write this book was the sinister, and to some extent, successful influence which Judaistic teachers were exerting among the Gentile believers of South Galatia. It was his purpose to counteract this dangerous error by reemphasizing the glorious gospel of free-grace in Jesus Christ, and by urging the believers to adorn their faith and prove its genuine character by a life in which the fruit of the Spirit would abound.) In this book Paul calls for a return to the Gospel of free and sovereign grace, denouncing all human merit and legal effort, and warning solemnly against apostasy from truth once revealed and received. This is an epistle of recall. We must cease tampering with the Word of God, and we must cling only to the Gospel of the cross. In our day we have replaced the preaching of the cross with musical performances, sentimental appeals, altars, mourner’s benches, and gimmicks of every description. Here Paul gives a clarion call for a return to the old Gospel. It is God’s power and God’s method for saving his elect. (See 1:8.)
The divisions of this book are very simple and clear:
1. The origin of the Gospel of grace (Gal. 1 and 2).
It is not of human, but of divine origin. Hence, it is independent of man in all its aspects.
2. The vindication of the Gospel of grace (Gal. 3 and 4).
The Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the experience of God’s children, bear witness to its truth.
3. The application of the Gospel of grace (Gal. 5 and 6).
It produces true liberty and a firm attachment to the cross of Christ.
Introduction to the sermon:
Many things could be said concerning Paul. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He was a citizen of Rome. He was trained at the feet of Gamalial. This man had a very noble position by birth and training, in the eyes of his Jewish brethren. But it was his desire not to be held in esteem for any of these things. If men spoke of him, he desired that they say no more than that he was “The messenger of the grace of God.”
“The messenger of the grace of God,” what a magnificent title for a mere man! It is a title which every true servant of Christ owns above all others. They asked John who he was, and his reply was, “I am a voice, ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.’” If men remember me for anything in years to come, it is my prayer that they will remember me as “the messenger of the grace of God.” I will be satisfied to be known as a voice, a voice crying under the power of God, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Almost from the day of my conversion, I have had one continual desire. I want to be God’s messenger in my generation. In our day we have far too many preachers. There are multitudes of preachers listed in every telephone directory. But we have few messengers of God, few messengers of the grace of God. The pulpit, in our day, has lost its clearness. Its testimony has been spoiled, because doubtful voices have arisen and been scattered among the people. Those who ought to preach the truth and nothing but the truth, are telling out for doctrines the imaginations of men and the inventions of the age. Instead of revelation, we have philosophy. Instead of divine infallibility we have the speculations of men. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the same yesterday, today, and forever, is taught as the production of progress, a thing to be amended year by year. We live in an age of liberality, of broad views, of boundless universalism, of rapid drifting from the sound and the true.
If the world will not come to Jesus, the modern thought says, let Jesus tone down his teachings to the world. How often I have been told that my message will not suit people, and that if I would reach the people of the community, then I must tone down my message and modify my doctrines. Such a message is all right for the Bible College or seminary, but it ought to be modified for the church. Oh, we may use the old phrases so as to please the obstinately orthodox, but we must dress them in new meanings so as to neutralize their force and make them palatable to natural men. The spirit of the age suggests that the wise preacher will abandon all that is too severely righteous and all that is too surely of God. Away with such nonsense. God has given us the message that men need, and he has supplied us with the means of communicating that message. The message is the gospel of the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ and his death upon the cross. And God’s method, God’s only method is preaching. Let’s look for a little while at these first five verses of Galatians, and by the help of God’s Spirit, we will see some characteristics of “The messenger of the grace of God.”
The man who is truly the messenger of God’s grace is a man who has had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, wherein he has been called from darkness to light and has been given authority to preach the gospel.
“The messenger of the grace of God,” his characteristics are many, as described in the various parts of Scripture, but as they are revealed in these verses, they are threefold.
1. He is man with one Master (1-2).
2. He is a man with one message (3-4).
3. He is a man with one motive (5).
I. He is a man with one Master (1-2).
As Paul opens this letter his heart and mind are filled with diverse emotions. For the perverters of the gospel there is a withering denunciation springing from holy indignation. For the churches there is marked disapproval and an earnest desire to restore. For the One who has called him there is profound reverence and humble gratitude.
A. Paul’s call.
1. It was personal (Acts 9:4).
2. It was particular (Acts 9:7).
3. It was powerful (Acts 9:5, 11).
B. Paul’s commission.
1. It came not from any group of men.
2. It came not through any individual man.
3. It came personally by Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 1:11-12).
4. It was a call to be an apostle (messenger) to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1; Acts 9:15; Eph. 3:3-8).
5. His call was not inferior to the other apostles, for they were called during our Lord’s earthly ministry. Paul was called by the exalted Savior.
NOTE: Thus, in his opening words, Paul declares two cardinal Christian doctrines.
a. The equality of Jesus Christ with God the Father.
b. The resurrection of Christ.
C. Paul’s commitment (Rom. 1:1).
1. His Master was Christ (A servant).
2. He was separated to the gospel (1 Tim. 4:13-16).
a. This gospel was promised (Rom. 1:2; Tit. 1:2).
b. This gospel was concerning Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:3-4).
1. Paul was God’s messenger.
2. He was backed by divine authority.
3. Those who rejected Paul rejected God who sent him.
II. He is a man with one message (3-4).
A. Paul’s was a message of grace and peace to men.
1. Grace is God’s spontaneous, unmerited favor in action, His freely bestowing loving kindness and salvation upon guilty sinners who turn to Christ for refuge.
a. God’s grace is free.
b. God’s grace is undeserved.
c. God’s grace is selective.
d. God’s grace is given to all sinners that go to Christ for it (John 6:36; 1 Tim. 1:15). It is God’s riches at Christ expense.
2. Grace, and grace alone brings peace.
a. We have peace with God, because Christ has reconciled us to God.
b. We have peace in our hearts, because we have the Spirit of Christ within us (John 14:27; Phil. 4:7; Rom. 8:1).
3. These two graces come from God through our Mediator, Christ Jesus the Lord.
B. Paul’s was a message of substitution by Christ.
1. He voluntarily substituted himself for us and our sins (John 10:11, 17, 18).
2. His purpose was to rescue us from this present evil age (John 15:19, 17:14), and he keeps us for the age to come (2 Pet. 3:13-14).
C. Paul’s was a message of absolute sovereignty in God (Eph. 1:3-14; Heb. 10:5-10).
III. He is a man of one motive (5). (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 11:33-36).
1. May God give us messengers of his grace.
2. Our salvation is a work of God’s grace.
a. It is in a Person.
b. It is an inward, never an outward experience.
c. It is spiritual, and never material.
3. Let our only motive be to glorify the Savior (Rev. 7:10, 5:9-14).