Galatians 1:11-24

Galatians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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An overworked and stressed out pastor was feeling the weight of the demands on his time, heart, spirit. As he sat in his office late one day he sensed God trying to get his attention. Try as he might, he could not figure out why. Confused, frustrated, wanting to know what to do… he went to a spiritual director of his.
“I sense God trying to get my attention” he says to his friend… “I just don’t know what for… He must want me to do something.”
“Maybe” His spiritual director said, “That’s the problem: you think he wants your attention in order for you to do something, Maybe he just wants your attention.”
Do you feel the tension of that? We often want to do, we want to accomplish, we want to work. Many of us have no understanding of what it means to relate to God other than works. We would never say we believe in a works based theology, but by the way many of us live and operate in our Christian lives we have bought into relating to God by works.
I must do to be saved. I must do to keep in God’s good graces. The reason something hard in my life is going on because God is punishing me. Have you ever said anything like that?
We all have a bent towards relating to God through works and performance. But gosh had exhausting that is, how low you feel when you don’t measure up and keep sinning, how lost and guilty you feel when you can’t seem to work hard enough to make God love you.
Here’s our outline for today:
1- That we distort the Gospel,
2- How that distortion damages us
3- The Remedy - the gospel finds us
4- Implications- Getting the order right.
Let’s read our text

1- How we distort the Gospel - v11-12

Let’s read v11-12 - Ok we need to stop right here and answer some questions about context. It’s always hard to understand what is going on when we just get dropped into a story or a letter. So what is going here? After Paul was saved he started churches who followed Jesus Christ in the region of Galatia. But then he left and began preaching in other areas.
While he was gone, a group called the Judaizers started traveling and teaching some interesting distortions of the Gospel. What were the Judaizers teaching?
That the way you are saved is not simply by believing in Jesus as your sacrifice for sins, but also by doing works of the law. Specifically, some old testament laws like circumcision and the dietary laws and keeping very strict sabbath rules. There were two groups of people, Jews and gentiles. And by the time Paul began preaching the number of jewish christians and the number of gentile christians was pretty close, and the gentile christians were growing like crazy.
And the Judaizers were jewish Christians and they started saying “for these gentile christians to truly be in God’s family, they must not only believe but also do the works of the law”. Look at Acts 15:1
Look in v6-7 - I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Does this make sense? Paul is writing this letter to his church saying these people came in and started teaching a distortion of the Gospel and you’ve bought into it! Not only that, They were saying don’t believe Paul’s teachings, he just got his from other men, they made it up. Look at verse 11-12 and you see his response.
They had bought into a distorted gospel.

Our own Distortions

I use the word distortions very intentionally, it is the word Paul uses up in verse 7. It’s a distortion because it’s not totally false stuff, they believed in Jesus, they just tweaked a few things to the point that it was distorted or other translations say perversion.
They weren’t saying “believe in Jesus and his forgiveness and you will be saved, then that will begin to change your behavior” they were saying “change your behavior, believe in Jesus and you will be saved”
A distortion.
Here’s the question for us: How do we distort the gospel? No one in here believes to be in God’s family you got to cut out shellfish or observe some random and obscure Jewish rules. But aren’t we tempted to believe a works based salvation theology? That the primary way we relate to God is through doing?

Sinister and subtle

Distortions to the gospel are not usually big and noticeable at first, they start small. Just because they are subtle does not mean they are not sinister and will rob us. Even if you would say with your mouth the right theology that you are saved only by grace through faith in Jesus, we all can live a works based salvation.
Here’s a list of questions:
Do you think you have to keep yourself saved by your obedience? You get saved by grace, but now it is up to you and your work?
Do you think God’s love for you rises and falls based on how you’re performing spiritually today?
Do you think only if you can articulate the logic of how salvation works you can then be saved? You could teach a parrot to repeat the logic of salvation, it doesn’t mean its soul has been overwhelmed by God’s grace and surrendered to Him.
Do you base your acceptance before God by comparing yourself to others? My heart can do this. “I don’t do any flagrant sins.” and then I look around and see some people who do and pat myself on the back and feel my guilt melt away because I’m not as bad as that person… so me and God should be good. With little regard to my inward sins.
Why do you come to church? Read your bible? Pray? Someone said one time: “The reason I am rigid in my bible reading time is so nothing bad will happen to me”.
Do you feel you need to beat yourself up after you sin? This indicates you think there is punishment still to be paid.
These are just a few ways our hearts reveal to us that we’ve bought into a distorted works based gospel. To put it simply, our flesh likes works based gospels because it exalts us. We don’t like to be totally needy, we don’t like to receive. Just like the Galatians we too can buy into distortions of the gospel, have we?

2- How that distortion damages us v13-14

Look at v 13-14 - Is Paul simply being a bit conceited? Listing off how awesome he is? No, he is extending his argument for why the Galatian church can find his testimony trustworthy. v11-12 is that he received it from Jesus Christ and didn’t get it from men, now he is going to compare and contrast his former life, which was a lot like the Judaizers, and his new life in Christ. He’s going to put them up side by side for us to examine.

Pauls former life

advancing in Judaism

v13 - his former life in Judaism. Judaism is a broad term defining a religious group of people, and like today in Christianity, we have all kinds of denominations. To understand Paul’s former life we want to know was there a specific group of judaism he was following or with? We know from Acts 23 that Paul was a Pharisee.
Advancing beyond many of his own age, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers that I persecute the church of Jesus violently. What is Paul doing in his argument? He is showing how similar his old life was to the Judaizers. If the Judaizers believed in a works based salvation, adhering to a lot of the old testament laws. Paul is saying, I lived in that world and I was so deeply immersed in it, more than even the Judaizers are who are trying to teach you a new gospel.
And what did it produce in my heart?
Damage 1 - do godly things for selfish reasons
Paul was a Pharisee. Do you remember those guys from the accounts of Jesus? Self-righteous people. They liked their favored seats in the temple. They did religious works to be seen by others. They appeared godly but did not have the heart of the Father for those who were outcast, poor, or in need. They mocked Jesus for dining with sinners and tax collectors. This is who Paul was, and he was the cream of the crop.

tradition of my fathers

He put down others to raise himself up. We see this in his treatment of others.
This is always the heart of people who believe in works based salvation. A hyper focus on others mistakes and sins and shortcomings and a failure to see their own. How is this in the text? Paul was zealous for the “traditions of my fathers” - what was included in the tradition of my fathers? The book of Leviticus which has a lot to say about how we treat people, including something Jesus quoted a lot:
Lev 19:18 but you shall love your neighbor as yourself
Damage 2- we become blind to our own sins and hyper-focused on others.
Did Paul forget this text in his zealous attempts to advance in Judaism? Or is it the simple fact that when we start buying into works based religion we quickly lose steam at our ability to be perfect and our way of coping is to then look to others sins as a way to justify ourselves.
Do you see this in yourself ever? If someone walks in and they look different than you, smell like weed or smoke, or they appear out of place what is our heart response to that? I must admit sometimes I can sense my own judgement towards people in my heart.

Story of my rebuke

I was in college a while back and was at this worship service. And I was sitting in the back, and honestly I was tired. During this season I was busy doing all kinds of things with church and ministries and preparing sunday school lessons at 2 am and then driving here to church at 6:30am to practice for encounter worship and then lead our college ministry sunday school. and my weeks were busy with school and other ministry stuff and I was feeling good about how I was serving God.
And so here I am at this worship service and before it starts this guy walks in that I knew was really struggling with sin in his life. And he walks up to the front and then as the worship service starts he is kinda loud and swinging around, just kind of lost in the moment of worship. And plus this is a charismatic church and I’m a baptist so I’m back in the back anyway. And my heart is going crazy. I start thinking stuff like… why is he here if he is so sinful? I’m back here, trying to worship so others don’t see me and he’s up in the front where everyone can, is he really here for the right reasons?
I and just keep watching him and then I say this in my mind - something like this
“I’m glad I know you better than him”
Immediately I feel the rebuke of God… and it’s almost as if God said to me “Here is someone who for this whole hour has been lost in my presence, only looking at me, not caring what anyone else does or says or thinks. And all you’ve done is worship yourself by measuring yourself to him and why you think you are better”
I was cut. My mind went to
English Standard Version (Chapter 18)
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
When we buy into a works based religion it warps our hearts to worship self, that’s all you really can do when you’ve earned your way. It’s about you. when we start buying into works based religion we quickly lose our ability to notice our own sins and hyperfocus on others.
How much do you think about your own sin, your own need of Jesus? Your own depravity verses others? When you hear sermons does your mind go “I hope so and so is listening or man so and so could really learn from this” or do you go “I need help Jesus” Is the bible a mirror for you to examine yourself and be changed? or a magnifying glass to examine others and make yourself feel better?
Does your pursuit of bible reading and understanding have anything to do with knowing God, loving God, being changed by God? or is it only so you can appear smart and thoughtful? So you can, like the Pharisees get a good seat at the table? Be liked and popular here?
Does your pursuit of coming to church or praying or giving or serving or saying no to sin have anything to do with loving God, wanting to honor and worship him? Or are they your attempts to appear Godly for selfish gain?
Is my pursuit of preaching out of a heart that loves God and wants to help people see Him? Or is it simply a stepping stone for me to feel validated by man?
You can know you’ve bought into a distortion of the gospel when you constantly measure your worth based on others and when you do spiritual things for reasons other than love of God. Will our reasons and motivations always have strains of sin? Yes, they will. But if the primary and constant motivation for the spiritual things we do is for self-gain… that can be a good indicator we’ve lost the real gospel in our hearts.
He wants to show us a truth of the Gospel that is so contrary to works based religion. Remember He is, through his own life, trying to show us he ran in that direction the Judaizers are saying and he’s found something better.

Setting up the gospel w/ Paul terrorist

Don’t let this escape you because you have heard it before. He was so bought into the way of the Pharisees that it compelled him to persecute, murder, imprison, tear apart families… only because of the religious beliefs of people who followed Jesus.
A terrorist is someone who uses unlawful violence against civilians in hopes for some specific outcome and a Religious terrorism is a type of religious violence where terrorism is used as a strategy to achieve certain religious goals or which are influenced by religious beliefs
Paul is a religious terrorist. Cream of the crop pharisee. And it is when He is walking in the totally opposite way of Jesus that he goes on a search for Jesus and finds him? No, that Jesus finds him. v15-16

We do not find the Gospel, the Gospel finds us v15-16a

Paul was peddling in the totally opposite direction of Jesus, he was even persecuting Jesus’ people. And despite this, Jesus comes to save Paul.
This flies totally in the face of works based salvation because the true Gospel eliminates our exaltation. Did Paul do anything to be saved? No! We do not find the gospel, the gospel finds us. Look at how Paul starts this section “when he who had set me apart before I was born…” Before Paul did anything, God set him apart. This eliminates our ability to boast.
I asked myself why Paul was saying this. In this long argument about why his gospel is real, why is he saying this stuff about God setting him apart and about grace? Because Paul is showing the Gospel from Jesus is not works based. Paul was doing things anti to Jesus, he was the least deserving. And Jesus saved him.

From him to you

Do you think your sins are pushing God away from you? Lessing his love for you? If you could just clean yourself up and figure all your sins problems out then you could approach God and be good with Him? That isn’t how this works, that is works based religion, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
What kind of knowledge did Christ have about you when he died for you? All of it. He knows your sins, he knows how you will fail today tomorrow and in 5 years. He knows. And with all that knowledge of your past, present and future sins he says “I will die for you, I will cleanse you” the sacrifice of Jesus is not a sacrifice for former sins only, leaving it up to you now to keep yourself saved. Jesus sacrifice was for all sins is what Hebrews 7 teaches us.
All of our sins was placed on Jesus and he goes to the cross and pays the penalty we are owed, death. And in so doing all the just wrath from God you and I deserve is poured out on Christ. He atones for our sins so we no longer have to - the works based gospel is so contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ- this is why Paul is slamming the Galatian church for buying into something else. Because the gospel has no power if it’s left up to you and I’s performance to be saved.
That’s not a powerful and transcendant and grand and majestic and perfectly holy God loving saving us. That’s just climbing a ladder. Works based salvation exhalst us, Jesus’ Gospel exhalts God.
And notice this, v16 - What emotion did God feel when he revealed his son, Jesus, to a sinner persecuting his people, causing them sadness and anger and to feel alone and isolated?
God was pleased to show Paul Jesus.
God has not begrudgingly saved you, he has lovingly saved you. He wants to. He doesn’t have to, but he does because he wants to. He wants you. So much that even on your worst day he finds you.

Who initiates?

We’ve got to understand to really separate ourselves from works based religion how passive we truly are in being saved. Now, I am not saying we don’t have to respond and we don’t have responsibility and we don’t have to surrender to God. I’m not saying that. But I am saying, from the Bible, that we are passive in God saving us.
Where do I get this? Look at the passive language Paul uses. v12 - I “received it through a revelation…” v 15 God set him apart before he was born, before he did anything… end of v 15 God called him… v 16 God revealed his son.
In all of those things, who initiated? Paul? No. God. Did Paul have to respond and surrender and follow? Yes. But Paul did not initiate his salvation, God did. You and I are not saved because we prayed a prayer or believed better than someone else or understood how it worked better, or cleaned ourselves up enough and God was pleased so saved us.
We are saved because were lost and Jesus found us. The story of the 99 sheep and the lost 1 isn’t about the lost 1 sheep finding the shepherd again, it’s about the shepherd leaving the 99 to find the 1. Even if you are running away from him, he can find you. He knows what he is getting into.

My story - you cannot make god love you

I’ve told this story before but I want to tell it again about how God really showed me the Gospel.
Read 15-23 - Paul is continuing his argument that he did not get his gospel from men.
I love verse 23. - your story isn’t over. The very person who used to persecute the church and was destroying it God is now using to build it up. God can redeem. God can save even those of us who feel most sinful and most like we don’t deserve it. Why? Because we are all undeserving.
I know friends who were pedalling in the opposite direction and God stepped in.
Friends turned to drugs and went down that path - God found them and began to work in their life and they now, over years of work wasn’t an instant, are free and following Jesus.
People who choose sexual sin over Jesus and it almost costs them their marriage. And Jesus found them. Loved them. Are there some consequences for their sin they have to face? ya- but God is at work and their marriage is healthy.
I could go on and on- because of the power of the gospel, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been living in sin for 80 years he can save and the last 5 years of your life you can go out following Jesus as a changed man or woman.

Getting the Order right - implications

We see in Paul a reversal of his former life. In his old life, he worked hard and was zealous to gain his place with God. This is what the judiazers were teaching the Galatians. But in v23 what do we see? The order made right. It is now out of Paul being loved and saved by Christ, all he said in v13-14 that leads him to obey and work. This is a huge lesson for us.
Works based religion says - obey to find your way to god.
The gospel of Jesus Christ says - Jesus found you, saved you and loved you, so now obey. We must get the order right.
Maybe some of us are more aware this morning of how we’ve bought into a works based religion, Jesus would have us lay that down and surrender to the true Gospel which leads to rest.
Maybe some of us in here have felt pushed away from God because of our sins, as if they’ve surprised Him and now he doesn’t want to love us anymore. The good news of a non-works based gospel is that your ability to sin does not outmatch his ability to save. He knew what He was getting into when He saved you. We fight our sins because of God’s love for us, not to earn God’s love for us.
Maybe some of us are in a bit of a dry spiritual season, and the water we desperately need is Gospel water. To be reminded of God’s love,
An overworked and stressed out pastor was feeling the weight of the demands on his time, heart, spirit. As he sat in his office late one day he sensed God trying to get his attention. Try as he might, he could not figure out why. Confused, frustrated, wanting to know what to do… he went to a spiritual director of his.
“I sense God trying to get my attention” he says to his friend… “I just don’t know what for… He must want me to do something.”
“Maybe” His spiritual director said, “That’s the problem: you think he wants your attention in order for you to do something, Maybe he just wants your attention.”
Pay attention to His love for you - You cannot make God love you, but He has chosen to. So simply rest in God’s love and all that needs to change about you will.
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