Keep Christ at the Center of Christmas part 1 (Matthew 1:18-25; Gal. 4:4-7)

Today, we begin the Christmas season. Some would say the Christmas season began with Thanksgiving, though it seems to be moved up each year. What is Christmas all about?

Watch this video and then we’ll talk.

 

 

So, we see that Christmas has quite a history, but what is our focus on Christmas.

Thermometer versus a thermostat…

I have a thermometer, what does a thermometer do? It reads the temperature. Does the thermometer change? Yes, it changes based off of the temperature.

What do I have here? This is a thermostat. With a thermostat, does it change? It only changes based off of the setting.

Listen, our Christian beliefs do not change based off of culture. Our beliefs are not a thermometer. Our beliefs are a thermostat. Our beliefs are set based off the Bible and they do not change.

In Growing Deep in the Christian Life, Charles Swindoll tells the story of a large department store that carried a special doll at Christmas in the form of the baby Jesus. It was advertised as being unbreakable, washable, and cuddly. It was packaged in straw with a satin crib, plastic surroundings, and appropriate biblical texts added here and there to make the scene complete. The dolls didn’t sell. The manager of one of the stores in the department chain panicked. He carried out a last-ditch promotion to get rid of the dolls. He brandished a huge sign outside his store that read: JESUS CHRIST—MARKED DOWN 50% GET HIM WHILE YOU CAN!

Jesus gets discounted every Christmas. Some discount Him in anger, others in apathy. But the only proper response to God in human flesh is humble, extravagant devotion and adoration.[1]

My theme and application today is:

Keep Christ at the center of Christmas.

Let’s read:

Matthew 1:18-25:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

  1. Christ IS the center of Christmas.
    1. Today, I want to make sure we all understand this. Christmas is about Jesus. I am not meaning this just in culture. I mean from the Bible we see that Jesus is at the center. The New Testament is all about Jesus. We can make the case that the Old Testament is all about looking forward to Jesus.
    2. I am not going to walk through the passage from Matthew today except to point out a few things.
    3. This is the first book of the New Testament and the first chapter is all about the birth of Jesus.
    4. This followed what we call the 400 years of silence. From Malachi through Matthew there were not any prophets. It appeared that God was silent and then we have this chapter in Matthew.
    5. This is about Jesus’ incarnation.
    6. This is about Jesus joining us.
    7. This is about Immanuel, God in the flesh, God with us.
    8. We needed a Savior, God provided the Savior.
    9. As has been noted by the opening video Christmas has quite a history as a holiday.
    10. It seems as though Jesus’ death and resurrection was celebrated long before His birth. Very early in its history the church had an annual observance of the death of Christ and also honored many of the early martyrs on the day of their death. Before the fourth century, churches in the East—Egypt, Asia Minor, and Antioch—observed Epiphany, the manifestation of God to the world, celebrating Christ’s baptism, His birth, and the visit of the magi.
    11. We have no clear evidence for exactly when Jesus was born. The term Christmas comes from “Christ Mass.” The term Christ Mass did not come about until the middle ages.
    12. One source reads:

In the early part of the fourth century, Christians in Rome began to celebrate the birth of Christ. The practice spread widely and rapidly, so that most parts of the Christian world observed the new festival by the end of the century. In the fourth century the controversy over the nature of Christ, whether He was truly God or a created being, led to an increased emphasis on the doctrine of the incarnation, the affirmation that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14 HCSB). It is likely that the urgency to proclaim the incarnation was an important factor in the spread of the celebration of Christmas.

No evidence remains about the exact date of the birth of Christ. The December 25 date was chosen as much for practical reasons as for theological ones. Throughout the Roman Empire, various festivals were held in conjunction with the winter solstice. In Rome, the Feast of the Unconquerable Sun celebrated the beginning of the return of the sun. When Christianity became the religion of the Empire, the church either had to suppress the festivals or transform them. The winter solstice seemed an appropriate time to celebrate Christ’s birth. Thus, the festival of the sun became a festival of the Son, the Light of the world.[2]

  1. As the video earlier shared Christmas was celebrated but by the 1600’s the puritans outlawed it because it no longer was about Jesus’ birth, it became mainly about partying and drinking and so on. Sound familiar?
  2. But the whole Bible is about Jesus and Christmas must also be about Jesus.
  3. Isn’t it amazing that history is even recorded based on Jesus’ birth?
  1. Jesus came at God’s appointed time.
    1. Jesus changed history.
    2. Let’s look at Galatians 4:4-7: But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
    3. God had a plan and God still has a plan! Jesus came at the right time.
    4. Do you ever doubt? Don’t be afraid to admit that you have certain doubts or that you have certain struggles with faith. We all have doubts sometimes. But this shows us that God’s perfect plan considered every single detail.
    5. God considered every detail of when He was going to come to earth and God also considers every detail in your life. Do you realize that? We all must always remember that God knows all things.
    6. Trust in God, I encourage you to remember that we can trust in Him.
    7. Another point about timing is the timing in Judaism. Things were perfect in the physical world for Jesus to come, but things were also perfect Biblically. There were many, many prophesies about the Messiah. God had promised to redeem His people. God had promised to take care of our sin. At just the right time, when things were ripe spiritually, Jesus came. It is sufficient to say with Calvin that “the time which had been ordained by the providence of God was seasonable and fit.… Therefore, the right time for the Son of God to be revealed to the world was for God alone to judge and determine.”[3] There was a pluralism of ideas including religious ideas in first century Rome and people were ready to embrace and accept Christianity.
    8. Jesus was born of a woman and born under the law to redeem those under the law (verses 4-5)
    9. It seems to me that Paul makes a point to say that Jesus was born of a woman. Now some may think, “That is obvious!” However, there are reasons for this. All the way going back to Genesis 3:15 Scripture makes it quite clear that the Messiah would be born of a woman. Scripture makes it clear that the Messiah would come from a woman’s seed. This emphasizes the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14). Jesus was the God-man and there had to be a way to unite God with man and this was the way God chose. People may say, “Why did He have to be God and man? Well, we can write a book on that topic, but Jesus had to be God to be able to take the penalty for our sins. Only someone who is God can take the full penalty, the eternal penalty actually, for every being’s sin. Jesus being God was able to take the penalty for everyone’s sin that has ever lived and ever will live. Jesus took this penalty on the cross and He paid the whole penalty in less than three days. That is why He said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me!” God turned His back upon His Son (Mark 15:34). It was necessary that He was fully Human. He had to be the example. A representative of obedience. We see parallels between Jesus’ temptation and the time of testing of Adam and Eve (Luke 4:1-3; Gen. 2:15-3:7). We see this in Paul’s discussion (Rom. 15:18-19). He had to be a man to be a substitute sacrifice for our sins. If He wasn’t a man He couldn’t have died in our place for our sins (Heb. 2:16-17 cf. 14). He had to be fully man and fully God to be the mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). The fact that He was a man and endured temptations allows Him to sympathize with us more clearly as our High Priest (Heb. 2:18; cf. 4:15-16). Jesus’ humanity also, provides an example and pattern for our lives (John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21).
    10. But, as this verse says, Jesus also had to be born under the law. Jesus lived His life under the law and this allowed Himself to die under the law as our sacrifice.
    11. Jesus died to redeem those under the law. To redeem means “to buy back.” We were slaves to sin and the reality is Jesus bought our soul out of that slavery. There were about 60 million slaves in the Roman empire. A man could purchase a slave in a Roman city for his own use or to set him/her free. Jesus paid the price to buy us out of our slavery to sin. Then, Jesus set us free.
    12. Jesus came at just the right time and He changed history and it is still changed. Christmas was God’s idea and not ours.
    13. I’ll repeat that: Christmas was God’s idea and not ours!
    14. History is “His story.”
    15. Think for a moment about how history changed. From the beginning of time religions had been sacrificing animals to cover their sin. In the Old Testament Judaism sacrificed animals to take care of their sin. Though, the Old Testament was ultimately about grace it may not have appeared that way. There were all these laws and no one could keep the law. Romans 3:20 shows us that we have knowledge of sin because of the law.
    16. Jesus gave us a completely and obviously Grace-based life and a grace-based relationship with God.
    17. Furthermore, the other religions of the ancient world also sacrificed animals and even children. Even in the New Testament there were animal sacrifices. This all changes with Jesus’ death on the cross. Christianity swept across the world and changed culture. Christianity changed the pagan culture of Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and many other places. Christianity totally and entirely changed Rome. Jesus is still changing the world. That is why we sing: Joy to the world
      Joy to the world
      Joy to the world, the Lord is come
      Let earth receive her King
      Let every heart prepare Him room
      And Heaven and nature sing
      And Heaven and nature sing
      And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing
    18. The world can be the way it will be. The world will take any Christian event and make it all about money, but for the Christian this must be about Jesus.
    19. Keep Christ at the center of Christmas.
  • How do we keep Christ at the center?
    1. Family devotions: Take some time to read through the Christmas story with your family.
    2. Read a devotional as a family. Read Our Daily Bread or Today in the Word as a family. These will be focused on Christmas.
    3. Give differently: choose a family mission project. Actually, go and serve as a family.

In a certain home town there lived a cobbler, Martin Avdeitch by name. He lived in a small basement room whose one window looked out onto the street, and all he could see were the feet of people passing by. But since there was hardly a pair of boots that had not been in his hands at one time for repair, Martin recognized each person by his shoes. Day after day, he would work in his shop, watching boots pass by. One day he found himself consumed with the hope of a dream that he would find the Lord’s feet outside his window. Instead, he found a lingering pair of worn boots belonging to an old soldier. Though at first disappointed, Martin realized the old man might be hungry and invited him inside to a warm fire and some tea. He had other visitors that evening, and though sadly none were Christ, he let them in also. Sitting down at the end of day, Martin heard a voice whisper his name as he read the words: “I was hungry and you gave me meat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in. Inasmuch as you did for the least of these, you did unto me.”[4]

Close:

I close with something one of my mentors wrote:

SEEING YOURSELF IN THE CHRISTMAS STORY by Pastor Rick Sams

Storytelling has been a powerful means of passing down history, moral lessons, personal information and history, as well as helping people to heal and change. Let me challenge you to put yourself in the Christmas Story.

With which character do you relate most?

  1. The wise men: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2); What/who are you seeking? Worshipping?
  2. King Herod: “When King Herod heard this [above] he was disturbed…”  (Matthew 2:3); Who or what is disturbing you?”
  3. The shepherds: “When they had seen him [Jesus] , they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18). Who/what is amazing you?
  4. Joseph: “But after [Joseph] had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’.”(Matthew 1:18-20). Who or what are you afraid of?
  5. Simeon the priest: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation [salvation] of Israel” (Luke 2:25). Who/what are you waiting for?
  6. Anna: “There was also a prophetess, Anna….She was very old…She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38). Who or what are you thankful for. Who/what are you looking forward to?
  7. Mary: “But Mary treasured these things [the angel told her] and pondered [thought LONG about] them in her heart” (Lk 2:19); Are you treasuring anyone or anything. Are you thinking long about something or someone?

There are many Christmas stories including the classic movie of that title where the precocious, pre-teen Ralphie is warned about “shooting his eye out” with a Red Ryder BB gun. But put yourself in the REAL Christmas story and see if by doing so God won’t give you a gift of healing, help or wholeness.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus forever. (Rev. 22:5)

[1] https://christmas.dts.edu/2017/12/23/first-responders/?utm_campaign=2017%20Christmas%20Devo&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=59619720&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_rAHHJ1wV5IK5MWqAoSd3mhrmjcLGfwXfdqTaXOpxQn-PnFFzViW6z8AZkIOnQwVeSTe7yg96357MSG0A0GeQuZ0lUtg&_hsmi=59619720

[2] Fred A. Grissom, “Christmas,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 288.

[3] George, T. (1994). Vol. 30: Galatians. The New American Commentary (301). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/where-is-god

Paul is Recognized by the Jerusalem Apostles (Gal 2:1-10)

A young man was appointed president of a bank. Intimidated by his new responsibilities, he nervously sought the advice of his gray-haired predecessor: “Sir, what has been the secret of your success?”

“The secret, young man, is two words: right decisions!” replied the older man.

“But how do you make right decisions?”

“One word: experience.”

“But how do you get experience?”

The old man smiled. “Two words: wrong decisions.”[1]

As we dive into Galatians 2, we see Paul continue to defend his apostleship and to defend the TRUE Gospel. Paul talks about going to see the other apostles and they make a decision. They formalize the Gospel of grace.

What have you done to earn your salvation?

What do you do to maintain your salvation?

I want us to look at Galatians 2:1-10 and we will see Paul being formally accepted by the Jerusalem Apostles.

My theme:

Paul is Recognized by the Jerusalem Apostles and they formally recognize the Gospel of Grace.

Let’s read Galatians 2:1-10:

Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.

  1. We see in these verses that Paul meets with the Jerusalem Apostles.
    1. Notice in verse 1 that there has now been a gap of 14 years. In the previous chapter Paul had talked about his background.
    2. It is hard to tell for sure when this visit was. It could have been in Acts 11, or Acts 15.
    3. One of my professors from Asbury Theological Seminary favored Acts 15. However, a respected scholar from Dallas Theological Seminary favors Acts 11. We do have a record of Paul’s visits to Jerusalem.
Paul’s visits to Jerusalem

 

1. The visit after he left Damascus (Acts 9:26–30; Gal. 1:18–20)

 

2. The famine visit (Acts 11:27–30; Gal. 2:1–10)

 

3. The visit to attend the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1–29)

 

4. The visit at the end of the second missionary journey (Acts 18:22)

 

5. The final visit that resulted in Paul’s Caesarean imprisonment (Acts 21:15–23:35)[2]

 

  1. Either way, Paul had a formal meeting in Jerusalem in order to discuss legalism. What we see in this passage is that the leaders of the church rejected works-based salvation in favor of salvation by grace alone.
  2. Paul goes to Jerusalem because of revelation. This idea of revelation has the idea of “revealing.” Jesus Himself had revealed the Gospel to Paul.
  3. Paul had a private meeting with the Apostles.
  4. Notice that Titus is with them. Titus was a Greek and they determined that he did not need to follow the law and be circumcised. This was a big deal because this makes the case for what Paul is talking about.
  5. Titus:

Titus probably gets the Pauline service award with 20 years as Paul’s co-worker.

Titus was born a Gentile, and when he became a Christian he did not get circumcised. When Titus accompanied Paul on a visit to Jerusalem, some Jewish Christians insisted Paul’s companion be circumcised according to Jewish law. As Paul put it, he “did not yield submission even for a moment,” and Titus remained uncircumcised. Titus thus served as a powerful symbol of justification by grace, not by law.

Titus served with Paul during his extended stay in Ephesus as a “partner and fellow-worker,” and from there Titus tackled his toughest assignment: to combat grave immorality in the Corinthian church and mediate their reconciliation with Paul.

Titus put his pastoral skills to work and reported back to a nervously-waiting Paul that Paul’s severe third Corinthian letter (lost or possibly contained in 2 Corinthians 10-13) had led to their repentance.

Titus was later appointed the first bishop of the troubled church at Crete, where Paul wrote him about the qualities of a good bishop. Eusebius reports that Titus died there in 96 and was buried in the ancient capital, Gortyna. His head was supposedly removed in 823 by Saracens and later enshrined at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Venice.[3]

  1. Verse 4 gets into deceitful false brethren who tried to make people follow the law. Notice the way Paul describes them: Verses 5-6:
  2. But it wasbecause of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.
  3. Notice the wording: “false brethren,” “secretly brought in,” “sneaked in to spy out our liberty,” and “bring us into bondage.”

One source writes:

These “false” Christians were most likely from the party of the Pharisees (Acts 15: 5). These were the strictest religious leaders of Judaism, some of whom had been converted. We don’t know if these were representatives of well-meaning converts or of those trying to pervert Christianity. Most commentators agree that neither Peter nor James had any part in this conspiracy.[4]

  1. In verse 6 Paul says that God shows no partiality and neither will he to people in high positions.
  2. In verses 7-10 we realize that all of the pillars of the church recognized the truth of the grace-based Gospel.
  3. We realize that Peter had a mission to the Jewish people and Paul had a mission to the Gentiles.
  1. Let’s makes some applications.
  2. God shows no partiality (verse 6), we will not show partiality based off of social status.
  3. In verses 4-6, we see that false brethren tried to mess with the message, but Paul and his companions did not give into their message.
    1. We must not change doctrine by intimidation.
    2. Paul says the TRUTH of the Gospel stayed with them. We must not mess with the Truth of the Gospel.
  4. In verses 7-10, we see Paul’s obedience being entrusted with the Gospel to the gentiles. We must be obedient to those God calls us to reach.
  5. In verses 7-10, we see Peter called to reach the Jewish people while Paul is called to reach the gentiles. We see God’s different purposes for different people. We must recognize God’s different call for different people.
  6. We must not put obstacles in the way of salvation.
    1. We must not add obstacles such as a dress code.
    2. We must not add obstacles such as diets.
    3. We must not add other obstacles.
    4. We must not add non-verbal and non-stated obstacles. Sometimes we make it as if people need to be part of certain group:
      1. white?
      2. White collar?
  • Affluent?
  1. Republican?
  2. Democrat?
  3. Singers?
  • Scouts?
  • Sports fans?
  1. We must remember the poor.

Close:

The 2010 website of the Chicago Bears football team presented a series of videos that followed the team’s rookies from their first arrival at training camp and on through the preseason. One video showed part of coach Lovie Smith’s first orientation talk with the rookie class.

Of course, the biggest thing on each rookie’s mind is whether he will make the team. Rookies know that the team roster begins with 80 players who come to camp. After a few weeks the coaches cut the team down to 65 players. Then before the season actually begins all NFL teams are required to trim down to 53 players. Of the 19 rookies who were invited to the 2010 Bears training camp, the team would likely keep only around 7.

Lovie Smith knew that, and so he addressed the rookies’ concern in his talk to the 2010 class.His challenge to them was, “Make us put you on the team.” 

In other words, play so well in practice that the coaches couldn’t imagine cutting you. Make us put you on the team. Take the decision out of the coach’s hands. Let your performance make the decision for us.

Most religions and most people of the world think that God makes the same sort of speech about who will get into heaven. “Do you want to ‘make the team’ and have eternal life? Make me put you on the team. Live such a good life, do so many good deeds, that I could not imagine rejecting you. Take the decision out of my hands.”

The counterintuitive truth is that God works on a completely different basis than football coaches do. People who think they can perform so well that they can make God add them to heaven’s roster because they are so deserving of it will be rejected. This is the idea of salvation by works, and it is the opposite of salvation by grace. God saves us by his grace and his grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ.[5]

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus forever. (Rev. 22:5)

 

[1]Ted W. Engstrom and Edward R. Dayton, editors, “Murphey’s Law,” Christian Leadership Letter(February, 1981), p. 1

[2]Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), Ga 2:1.

[3]“Paul and His Times,” Christian History, no. 47.

[4]Tyndale House Publishers. Life Application Study Bible NLT (LASB: Full Size) (Kindle Locations 155982-155985). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[5]Craig Brian Larson, editor of PreachingToday.com; source: “Inside Rookie Minicamp (pt. 1), July 6, 2010,” www.ChicagoBears.com (viewed 7-8-10)

Paul Defends His Ministry (Gal. 1:11-24)

Paul Defends His Ministry(Galatians 1:11-24)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sometimes the uniqueness of the revealed Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ is seen most clearly when contrasted with other spiritual beliefs.

Lauding the Dalai Lama as one of the world’s 100 most influential leaders, author Deepak Chopra wrote in Time magazine: 

The most inspiring thing [the Dalai Lama] ever told me was to ignore all organized faiths and keep to the road of higher consciousness. “Without relying on religion, we look to common sense, common experience and the findings of science for understanding,” he said.

The Dalai Lama sounds wise, and his words certainly fit the mood of our culture. But we must see clearly what his advice means. It means you ignore Christianity because it is an organized religious faith. It means you ignore the church of Jesus Christ, which Jesus himself said he would build. It means you reject the gospel of Jesus Christ—the Son of God in the flesh, crucified for our sins, raised from the dead—because the gospel flies in the face of all common sense, human experience, and science.

Make no mistake, the gentle-looking man in the maroon robe is offering advice that will lead you far from the only way of salvation.[1]

We are continuing our sermon series on Galatians. As we get to Galatians chapter 1:11-24 we see Paul defend himself a little bit. What is important is he is defending himself so that they can be confident in the Gospel he taught them and the Gospel they committed to. Remember that a major theme in Galatians is grace. Paul is encouraging them that they do not have to keep the Jewish law and they are saved by grace and not works. We are made right with God by grace through faith.

Today my theme is:

The Gospel comes from Jesus (We see this in verse 12).

Let’s read Galatians 1:11-24:

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.

 

  1. In verses 11-12 we see that Paul’s revelation came from God and not man.
    1. In verse 11, we see that this Gospel is not according to man.
    2. This gospel was preached by Paul.
    3. This is a really important truth that we need to take in. Why is this important right now? It is important because these Judaizers had followed Paul and tried to tell them that they had to keep the whole law. They are claiming the Jewish tradition, but recognize the Gospel comes from Jesus and He is the highest authority.
    4. Paul still uses a term of endearment, calling them “brothers.” This could be translated as “brothers and sisters.”
    5. Paul says he also wants them to know the following information.
    6. The ESV Study Bible summarizes:Paul received the gospel directly from Jesus Christ on the Damascus road. His gospel was not derived from Peter or any other human authorities. His gospel was validated by the “pillar” apostles (2:9) in Jerusalem. The authority of Paul’s gospel is evident in his rebuke of Peter when he failed to live in accord with the gospel (2:11–21).
    7. Paul apparently is responding to criticism that he is peddling a gospel received from man, not from God, and that he is doing so simply to please man rather than God. Paul does not simply defend himself out of resentment or wounded pride but shows a pastoral concern: to reassure the Galatians that the gospel they received was the authentic one, not a false message delivered by an untrustworthy messenger(e.g.,2:5).
  2. In verses 13- 14 Paul speaks about his life before Christ.
    1. Acts 8:3 it records some of Paul’s past, also Acts 22 and 26.
    2. Verse 14, Paul was advancing in Judaism more than his contemporaries. Paul was very zealous. The NET Bible shares: The traditions of my ancestorsrefers to both Pharisaic and popular teachings of this time which eventually were codified in Jewish literature such as the Mishnah, Midrashim, and Targums.[2]
    3. One source adds “Advancing” (v. 14) is the technical language of philosophical schools for progress in one’s studies, but it was also current in Diaspora Judaism and could naturally be applied, as here, to a rabbinic student. The Palestinian Jewish image of “zeal” was commonly rooted in the models of Phinehas (Num 25:11) and the Maccabees, who were willing to kill for God. “Traditions” could refer to general community customs, but given Paul’s Pharisaism (Phil 3:5), it probably refers to Pharisaic traditions, on which Jews discussing Pharisaism generally commented. (Pharisees were known for their adherence to oral tradition.) Paul actually understands the Palestinian Jewish piety of his day far better than his opponents do. His position and activities are reported in greater detail in Acts 8:1–3 and 9:1–2.[3]
    4. Paul was very much set on the rules and rituals of Judaism. We like rules, don’t we? Rules give us an adrenaline boost. Think about this:

A constant state of adrenalin arousel, although physically damaging, is often experienced as pleasant excitement and stimulation. And it is this that makes it most dangerous, because we can come to think of the arousal state as “normal” and to depend on the high it gives us to get anything accomplished. I believe there is a corresponding spiritual danger.

Becoming dependent on adrenalin arousal for the good feelings of life can create an association between spirituality and high arousal. In other words, one doesn’t feel “spiritual” unless one is being stimulated by adrenalin arousal. Many expressions of spirituality have become linked to adrenalin arousal, and this can be very harmful. A great many of the true saints of God have found their peak spiritual experiences in quietness and solitude. But many modern “saints” look for it only in exciting challenges or emotional catharsis.[4]

  1. Paul is giving them the Gospel which is about grace and this comes from Jesus.
  • In verses 15- 24 Paul talks about his early Christian life.
    1. In verse 15, this is comparable to Jeremiah 1:4-5 which was about Jeremiah being called from the womb.
    2. God set apart Paul from the womb in order to declare the Gospel to the gentiles. This calling came from God, so Paul did not consult a human being.
    3. In Acts 9:15 Paul had his calling and God talks about Paul’s mission to the gentiles.
    4. Verse 17 is recorded in Acts 9:19-22.
    5. The ESV Study Bible summarizes: The journey to Arabia and back to Damascus takes place in the gap betweenActs 9:25 and 9:26.
    6. Paul goes to Arabia and Damascus to spend time with the disciples and then he preaches.
    7. The NET Bible adds: As a geographical region Arabia included the territory west of Mesopotamia, east and south of Syria and Palestine, extending to the isthmus of Suez. During the Roman occupation, some independent kingdoms arose like that of the Nabateans south of Damascus, and these could be called simply Arabia. In light of the proximity to Damascus, this may well be the territory Paul says he visited here.[5]
    8. He goes to Jerusalem and was acquainted with Peter.
    9. In Acts 9:26 it records him coming to Jerusalem and the people afraid of him.
    10. Paul stayed with Peter 15 days.
    11. In verse 19 he specified that the only other one he saw was Jesus’ half brother James.
      1. This is important in context because Paul is making the case that he received the Gospel of grace from God and not from the other apostles.
      2. Though he was affirmed by the pillars of the church is Gal. 2:9.
    12. Verse 21: Paul travels to Syria and Cilicia. Acts 9:30 shows that he travels more to Ceasarea and Tarsus. Acts 15:23 and 41 records Paul’s travels in Syria and Cilisia.
    13. One source adds: Whether or not Paul means the whole province of “Syria-Cilicia” (as he could have in this period), Paul spent time both in Cilicia (Tarsus) and Syria proper (Antioch, its capital); cf. Acts 9:30, 11:25–26 and 13:1.[6]
    14. This chapter concludes with a really awesome statement: but they were hearing that the one who persecuted them is now proclaiming the faith they once tried to destroy (We see this in Acts 9:21) and they glorified God because of Paul.
  1. Applications:
    1. Can we be content to trust in Jesus and the Gospel of grace? Or, do we always want to go back to a gospel of rituals and rules?
    2. Can we trust verse 12, that the Gospel comes from Jesus?
    3. Also, can we give God the glory? Notice verse 24, they gave God the glory for the transformation in the Apostle Paul.
    4. They saw a changed life in the apostle Paul. Here is a question, do people see that Jesus changed your life?
    5. Are you living for Jesus?
    6. Give God the glory.

Conclusion:

Robert Webber writes:

I was traveling on a plane from San Francisco to Los Angeles a few years ago. I was sitting next to the window, reading a Christian book. The man next to me, obviously from the Eastern hemisphere, asked, “Are you a religious man?” “Well, yes,” I said. “I am too,” he responded. We began talking about religion. In the middle of the conversation I asked, “Can you give me a one-liner that captures the essence of your faith?” “Well, yes,” he said. “We are all part of the problem, and we are all part of the solution.”

We talked about his one-liner, a statement I felt was very helpful. After a while I said, “Would you like a one-liner that captures the Christian faith?”

“Sure,” he responded.

“We are all part of the problem, but there is only one man who is the solution. His name is Jesus.”[7]

Jesus is the solution and Paul is proclaiming to the Galatians that the Gospel is about the grace of Jesus.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus forever. (Rev. 22:5)

 

[1]Craig Brian Larson, editor of PreachingToday.com; source: Deepak Chopra, “Dalai Lama,” Time(5-12-08), p. 43

Mishnah Mishnah, a codification of Jewish rabbinic oral tradition collected c. A.D. 200–220

[2]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 1:14.

[3]Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ga 1:13–14.

[4]Archibald D. Hart in Adrenalin and Stress. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 1

[5]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 1:17.

[6]Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ga 1:21.

[7]Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? (IVP, 2008), p. 26

No Other Gospel (Gal. 1:6-10)

No Other Gospel(Galatians 1:6-10)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, November 4, 2018

A new, highly efficient system is being used by San Francisco and New York City to detect the presence of toxins in a city’s water supply, a possible sign of a terrorist attack. They have found that the best tool for monitoring such threats are bluegills, those little fish so many catch on a lazy summer afternoon.

According to an article by the Associated Press, a small number of bluegills are kept in a tank at the bottom of a city’s water treatment plant because they are highly attuned to chemical imbalances in their environment. When a disturbance is present in the water, the bluegills react against it. If the computerized system of the treatment plant detects even the slightest change in a bluegill’s vital signs, it sends out an e-mail alert.

Bill Lawler, the co-founder of the corporation that makes and sells these bluegill monitoring systems, said, “Nature’s given us pretty much the most powerful and reliable early warning center out there.”[1]

We need a type of test with our doctrine as well. Our test is the Bible.

Some time ago a rash of flying accidents for single-engine planes occurred across North America. When a comprehensive study was conducted of the 44 most recent fatal accidents involving Cirrus aircraft, a few lessons stood out. First, all but one of the accidents listed pilot-related causes. Second, and most surprisingly, experienced pilots were responsible for a majority of the accidents. A few of the accidents were caused by pilots with less than 150 hours of flight time, but over 75 percent of the accidents were caused by pilots with over 400 hours of flight time. Apparently, these pilots assumed that because they already had a lot of hours under their belts they could cut corners and get sloppy. By contrast, beginning pilots with fewer hours were extremely careful, even painstaking in their preflight routines, meticulously inspecting every rivet of the airplane. They did it by the book. The study concluded that pilots who get overconfident and stop pursuing ongoing safety training are four times more likely to have a fatal accident.

Sometimes we as Christians are 400-flying-hour disciples. Accidents take place because we stop doing it by the Book. We stop studying the Word of God. We compromise on devotions …. We slump on allowing the standards of Scripture and the Holy Spirit to inspect every “rivet” in our hearts and lives. We go on day after day cutting corners, wondering why we lose power on the climbs, and we stall. Accidents may often be the consequences of thinking we know better.[2]

Today, I wish to keep moving through Galatians. We are in our second sermon on Galatians.

Theme:

My theme today is that there is no other Gospel.

My application is:

Doctrine matters and seek to please the Lord.

Let’s read Galatians 1:6-10:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

In verses 6-7 we see Paul’s amazement and his rebuke.

Notice that Paul is amazed. Some translations say “marveled.”

He is “amazed” or “marveled” because they deserted God.

He is “marveled” or “amazed” because of how quickly they deserted God.

Notice that this happened quickly. Galatians is one of the earliest letters of the New Testament and Paul might have started that church on his first missionary journey, which might have been A.D. 46-47. So now it is likely A.D. 48-50 and they have already turned on their faith.

Paul goes further to say that they are deserting Him who called them. They are deserting God.

This calling being referred to is God’s calling on them. They are deserting Jesus despite the fact that He called them.

They turned aside so quickly after their conversion. Paul seems to be maybe accusing them of being fickle.

There is indication that they have been Christians for some time. But they still turned aside when these teachers or Judaizers came into the picture. The Judaizers were teaching that they had to follow the Jewish law to be saved. This is a Gospel of works and not grace.

If that is what Paul had in mind the issue was gullibility. They will believe everything they hear. The first thing they hear.

Easy believism.

In Acts Luke describes Paul’s ministry among the Thessalonian Jews. They chase him off (Acts 17:1-9). Then they go to Berea and the Bereans are described as searching the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-15).

This word for call: not used to call someone but God’s creative act of summoning into existence things that didn’t previously exist.

Creation: God called, and they were created, same thing with God’s people Israel

God caused Israel to exist as His people.

God calls and creates the church today.

God called them into the sphere of grace or by means of grace.

They have deserted God’s way. They have turned to a different Gospel.

This happens quite simply. If we mix a little bit of a lie with a lot of truth we start to veer out of correct Theology.

In an interview with New York Magazine, Lady Gaga said, 

What I’ve discovered is that in art, as in music, there’s a lot of truth—and then there’s a lie. The artist is essentially creating his work to make this lie a truth, but then he slides it in amongst all the others. The tiny little lie is the moment I live for, my moment. It’s the moment the audience falls in love.[3]

This is why I make the case to you that Theology matters. Doctrine matters.

Remember that Theology is the study of God. Remember that doctrine is that theology that has been organized to form a set of beliefs.

These people are not swaying on small things. They have veered off to a “different” Gospel.

There are many topics where good Christians have held different views through the ages, we have held different views on: end times, the amount of God’s sovereignty in our salvation which we may call “election” and “predestination,” we have differed about eternal security, we have differed about spiritual gifts.

However, what the Galatians have gotten into is a serious matter. They have gotten into works-based salvation. They have gone from “salvation by grace through faith” to salvation by keeping the law.

The Galatians didn’t believe that faith was unnecessary. They thought faith was necessary to get into the faith and then you stayed in by works.

In verse 7 Paul says that some are “disturbing” or “troubling” them. The word for trouble: could mean frighten to create mental anguish or fear. This means severe mental anguish. This involves mental anguish in that it causes emotional stress. These people create great fear.

Paul says that they have “distorted” or “perverted” the Gospel. This has the idea of changing something to the opposite.

In verses 8-9 we see Paul’s judgment.

Paul says that even if they or an “angel from Heaven” should preach a different Gospel let him be accursed.

Paul is saying that it does not matter who teaches it, if it is a false Gospel it is wrong.

The people of Galatia might have been attributing this law based Gospel to the apostles from Jerusalem, but Paul says it does not matter. Even if it came from an angel from Heaven.

Paul gives a strong word for judgment. If it is a different Gospel they should be “accursed.”

Mormonism is an example of a religion that is based on revelation supposedly given by an angel and that teaches a gospel different from justification by faith alone in the substitutionary death of Christ.

Paul pronounced a type of curse on these false teachers. Later in church history this would include the idea of church discipline and delivering the teachers over to the world.

In verse 9 Paul repeats this idea. Paul said, “as we have said before…” This could be something he shared when he was with them, though he had just said it in the previous verse.

In verse 10 we see Paul’s defense.

Verse 10 Paul is saying that he is only there to please God.

Paul is a “bond-servant” of Christ.

This has the idea of being a willing servant of Christ.

Basically, we cannot serve man and Christ.

We must aim to please Christ.

Some applications:

Doctrine matters, we must take seriously proper doctrine.

Doctrine matters, we must study proper doctrine.

We must study the proper doctrine of salvation.

We must study the proper doctrine of God.

We must study other doctrines.

We must start by studying the Bible.

Then, we must study what Christian writers have written about the Bible.

Doctrine matters, we must guard the churches doctrine.

We must pray about this.

We must not be led astray.

We must lead church discipline on those that teach false doctrine (Gal. 1:8-9; see also 1 Cor. 5 and Matthew 18:5-7).

We must recognize essential doctrines versus things that are not as clear. In this case they were teaching a different gospel (verse 6). This was not a small difference.

Verse 10: We must seek to please the Lord.

This must be true in our personal life.

This must be true in our family.

This must be true in all other facets of our life.

Lee Strobel gives this example of something getting “lost in translation:”

I don’t know if you’ve seen the new machines they’ve got—you can do this on the Internet—that will translate English into whatever language you want. Type in a phrase and push a button, and it will translate it into French or Spanish or German or whatever. I’ve always been curious: How do you know the translation is good?

A guy had a similar question and did something fun. He took the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” typed it into the computer, and translated it into German. Then he translated it back into English to see if anything got lost in the translation. You know the song:

Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack. I don’t care if I ever get back.

Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win, it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ballgame.

He translated it into German and then back into English. Well, something got lost in the translation. It sounds a little militant, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Execute me to the ball play. Execute me with the masses. Buy me certain groundnuts and crackerstackfusig. I’m not interested if I never receive back.

Let me root, root, root for the main team. If they do not win, it is dishonor. For there are one, two, three impacts on you at the old ball play.

Something got lost in the translation. The same is true about Jesus. Something through the centuries gets lost a bit. I don’t mean the translation of the New Testament text; I’m talking about the way people perceive Jesus. Often Jesus ends up a caricature of who he really is.[4]

We must beware by comparing all teaching about Jesus with the Bible.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

 

[1]Kristen Scharold, Wheaton, Illinois; source: Marcus Wohlsen, “Fish used to detect terror attacks,” http://www.ABCNews.com (9-19-06)

[2]Adapted from Wayne Cordeiro, Jesus: Pure and Simple (Bethany House, 2012), pp. 121-122; Dave Hirschman, “Surprising Cirrus Stats,” AOPA Pilot blog (12-10-09)

 

[3]Vanessa Grigoriadis, “Growing Up Gaga,” New York Magazine (3-28-10)

[4]Lee Strobel, Meet the Jesus I Know, (Preaching Today Audio No. 211)