If I were to entitle the book of Galatians with a very simple title, I would call it “The Charter of Freedom,” “The Charter of Freedom.” Now, Galatians has been called, by other people in history, such things as the Magna Carta of spiritual liberty. It has been called the Christian's Declaration of Independence. It has been branded as the battle cry of the Reformation.
Martin Luther really began the Reformation with the writing of a commentary on Galatians. And it was out of the writing of that commentary that he was moved to the concept of grace and faith as opposed to works, and that really resulted in him blasting out of the...of the Roman Catholic church and establishing the protest that became Protestantism.
And Luther said this, and it's an interesting insight into his attitude toward Galatians. He said, and I quote, "The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am, as it were, in wedlock." Then he said, "Galatians is my Catherine." End quote. To him, Galatians was as a wife, so beloved was it. Dr. Tenny says, "Christianity might have been just one more Jewish sect, and the thought of the Western world might have been entirely pagan had Galatians never been written." End quote. And, as I said, Luther's commentary really became the manifesto of the Reformation. And the preaching of Luther around the Reformation was preaching from Galatians.
Now, the message of Galatians is the message of liberty. It is the message of freedom. It is the message of release from the bondage of legalism. And the whole book comes across like spiritual dynamite. It is doctrinal, intensely doctrinal. It is historic. It is practical. It is powerful.
And I think Galatians is particularly relevant for today. Now we have, all across our country, all kinds of talk about liberation movements. We have something lib in just about every dimension. The term has become a...almost a coined phrase, the term "lib." And men are talking about liberation, and women are talking about liberation. Freedom is an issue. And Galatians is all about freedom.
And it's interesting, I think, and relevant, because I think that Western man, though he talks a lot about freedom, hasn't got the faintest idea what freedom is. He talks about a new morality that's no longer under the old bondage. He talks about a new ethic. It's not a new morality. It's not new at all. It's not really a new ethic. He prides himself on free speech and free right to dissent and free love and freedom from authority and freedom from responsibility, and he claims that all of this is freedom, and none of it is freedom.
We talk and search for true freedom, and Galatians comes through with the answer as to what freedom is all about. There is true freedom. There is. No question about it. The true freedom I just indicated to you when quoting the statement, "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free, indeed." Or, putting it in the words of Jesus Christ, "You shall know the truth, and," what? "the truth shall make you free."
Now, Galatians just simply takes those two statements and expands them and really pushes it into every possible consideration. It is truth alone that frees. Anything else is bondage. A simple way to illustrate that is, take, for example, the man who has a mathematical problem; and he must come to some decision before he can be free from the problem. In other words, he wants to discover some very important solution to a problem. It's not just a classroom problem; it's a problem that affects humanity.
So he goes into his laboratory, and he goes into all of his knowledge of mathematics, and he begins to study the problem, and he works, and he works, and he works. And he is never free until he gets the answer. You see? But once he gets the truth and the answer to the problem comes, then he is free. You see, it is only truth that liberates. Until a man comes to truth, he is never free from the search, you see. Galatians expands on the fact that the truth is Jesus Christ. And it offers to men true freedom.
Now, in his own strength and by his own wisdom, man is totally unable to discover freedom. And, you know, it's interesting to me that freedom comes in all different...really all different packages on a human basis. Some people think that freedom is ritualism, Phariseeism, religious asceticism, masochism, self-righteous morality, self-reliance. In other words, their freedom is a kind of slavery to a morality that binds them.
And a classic illustration of this is, well, take, for example, the Hare Krishna people, who go around with their heads shaved and that one thing, that pigtail hanging down, and they have that strange stuff on their face. You wouldn't believe the bondage of that system. We think about young people tripping out because of sex and free love. They're not allowed anything like that. They are allowed sexual activity only within the framework of marriage for the purpose of procreation and at no other time. They restrict themselves from that. They cannot touch drugs or anything else. It is an unbelievable kind of slavery.
But, for them, that's a freedom from another kind of bondage. Do you see? I mean, at one point in life they just did their own thing, and they found that that was a terrible slavery, so they traded that in for another kind of bondage which they thought might be freedom. And then, of course, on the other hand, you've got some people who haven't gone that route yet. They're just living in lawlessness, existentialism, amorality, and, you know, doing their own thing. But on both ends it's a search for freedom.
And very often they wind up crisscrossing, because there's no satisfaction at either end. And the same people that are in the drug culture may be the people in the Hare Krishna culture, and the same people coming out of Hare Krishna may be winding up in the drug culture, because they're searching for a freedom both in what you would call legalism and alegalism. And they never really find it.
And for all who really want to know freedom, freedom comes simply through the truth. And so we submit that the truth is in Jesus Christ. That is genuine freedom. Now, the theme of Galatians is just that. The theme of Galatians is that true freedom comes in Jesus Christ. That's a very simple theme, and that's exactly what the theme is. And I think, as I said it, it's extremely relevant.
Now, let me just take it a step further. Paul deals with this theme on two fronts in Galatians, first of all on the salvation front. In other words, Paul says that a man with no freedom can have freedom. That's salvation, right? You come to Christ, and He sets you free. And we'll talk as we go through Galatians about that freedom means, but just to give you the basic thought now.
Salvation is a freedom. Man is a slave to sin, for example, right, according to the book of Romans. He comes to Christ, and he is freed from sin. Paul says repeatedly in Romans that the law and that sin shall have no more what? Dominion over you. So you are free from the law of sin and the law of death. There is freedom in salvation. And so one of the things that Paul talks about in Galatians is how a man who has no freedom can have freedom in salvation.
But not only does he talk about the freedom in salvation, but in sanctification. What do I mean by that? I mean that even though a Christian is a free man, sometimes he needlessly places himself under bondage to a system.
And so Paul is going to say two things. He's going to say to you who aren't free, let me show you how to be free, and to you who are free, let me show you how to enjoy your freedom. That's a twofold view of freedom. And, believe me, this is not any kind of cool academic treatise. It's a hot one. Paul is really upset. It's the only one of his epistles where he doesn't give any commendation. He just starts right in attacking.
Usually he's sort of a gentle character, and he sneaks up and says, "I thank God upon all remembrances of you, and I remember you in prayer, and you're wonderful, and this and that and the other thing." Even to the Corinthians he said all that. But here, nothing. He just dives right in. He is...he's upset, to put it mildly. And so, the letter really comes as a...as a letter from a flaming heart. Somebody said it's like a flashing sword, and it is.
Now, what was it that prompted him to write this letter about freedom? Well, let me give you just a brief insight. The apostle Paul, as we've learned in our studies in the book of Acts, had founded some churches in south Galatia. Now, on the first missionary journey, Paul had progressed west to the area called Galatia, which is a large area, about 100 to 175 miles wide, and about 250 miles from north to south. And in that area, Paul had gone with Barnabas, and he had evangelized four primary cities, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia. And in those four cities, he had established churches. He went all through those cities establishing churches, came to the end of it, turned back around and went back to those churches and strengthened the saints.
Then he went back to the church in Antioch of Syria, a different Antioch, and on the second missionary journey he took Silas. And he went back to the same churches again with Silas, right back to Derbe, Iconium, Lystra and Antioch of Pisidia, and he strengthened those believers again. And so in his heart he had a tremendous personal love for them.
And if you read Acts 13 and 14, you'll see that he made an unbelievable sacrifice on their behalf, that it almost cost him his life, that he was thrown out on the city dump heap, having been stoned, they thought, to death. It was a tremendous price that he paid, and his blood was shed in behalf of that little area and those churches there. And so he loved them, and they belonged to him, and they were his children in the faith.
And, like any really effective father, spiritual father, he had warned them about false teachers. Because, you see, he knew the strategy of Satan was always the same. As soon as the Lord does a work, Satan comes in and tries to undo it, and usually by false teachers, false doctrine. And so he was concerned in his heart about false doctrine. He knew that it would happen, because it always happened.
And look at verse 9 of chapter 1 as proof. He said, "As we said before, so say I now again." In other words, he's saying, I told you this when I was with you. “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed." He had already warned them. He said, "As I told you before, they're going to come, and they're going to tell you a different gospel. And if they do, you let them be accursed."
Now, with all that wonderful start, and with all that great warning, Paul got the message that false teachers had gone through those little churches and just really ripped them up. And in verse 6 of chapter 1, he says, "I marvel." "I can't believe it," he says, "that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel." "I warned you about it," he says in verse 9. "I can't believe you're so soon removed. I've hardly been gone from there."
Now, these heretical false teachers had a severe effect and a tremendous impact on those little churches. They really created trouble. They came in there with their false doctrine and fouled up everything. In verse 7, it says that they perverted the gospel of Christ. They perverted it.
Over in chapter 5, verses 10 and 12, he says, "And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross ceased. For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." Now here you get the idea what the problem was. Somebody had gone in there and preached circumcision to them, that you had actually necessity of having a physical operation to be saved.
Circumcision was simply a physical operation that a Jew went through. And in verse 10, he says, "I have confidence in you through the Lord that you will be none otherwise minded, but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be." "Somebody has come in there and preached to you salvation by circumcision; that's another gospel. We've been called to liberty. We're not under law anymore. Now, whoever he is, I hope he gets his, he said.
So whoever these teachers were, we get a little insight into what they were teaching. They wanted to make salvation by law. In other words, you're saved if you have a physical operation and become a Jew physically. That's the door to salvation. You've got to do that. This is what is called Judaizing. This is the classic Judaizer, who dogs the steps of Paul all through his life.
And he'd go to found a church, and the Judaizers would come in behind him and get all the Christians upset by telling them they had to be circumcised, and they couldn't be saved until they were Jews first, because all the covenants were only for Israel, and so you'd have to become a Jewish proselyte to ever get any benefit from the salvation offered in Christ. And so they wanted to make salvation by ceremony, by ceremony.
Secondly, they wanted to put all the Christians under bondage to the whole Mosaic law. They wanted all those Christians there to keep all the Sabbath days and to keep all the ceremonies and all the...all the feast days and go through the whole Mosaic ceremonial situation. Chapter 4, verse 10 indicates what they were teaching. "You observe days and months and times and years." Paul says, "What are you doing still hung up on all that legalism? I'm afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain. I'm scared that I wasted my time." And, you know, Paul didn't like to waste time. He said, "Redeeming the time, for the days are evil." "Wise people," Ephesians 5, "use their time."
And so Paul was very concerned, because false teachers had come in and told them that salvation wasn't by grace. It wasn't by just believing in Jesus Christ. You had to become a Jew and get circumcised. And then once you were a Christian, then you had to keep all the Mosaic law. And what they were doing was attacking the gospel of grace.
Now, Paul's teaching was always the same. You're saved by grace. And so in this letter he wants to remind them of that. And look at chapter 3, verse 1. He says, "Oh, foolish Galatians.” You... You ding-a-lings. You dumbbells. Who messed up your minds? “Who bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been openly set forth, crucified among you.” You know the truth. I openly declared Christ to you. Who messed you up? Now, that's what he's concerned about.
And so the letter is written not in a detached sense at all, but it is written from the heart of a man who is grieved over his own children in the faith. In chapter 5, verse 2, he says, "Behold, I, Paul," as if he needs to give credence to his statement by establishing the dignity of who he is. He says, "Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if you be circumcised, then Christ shall profit you," what? "nothing." Why? "Because you're trying to get saved by works."
And Paul said to the Romans, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." Absolutely no one gets saved by the law. Verse 1 of the same chapter, he says, "Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Don't go back to what you were freed out of, a works system.
Well, these teachers, undoubtedly, who came, these false teachers, probably claimed to be Christians, and they may have even said, "We're from the Jerusalem church," which is very likely. And they may have even claimed to be supported by the Jerusalem church. And that may have been what really confused the issue.
You say, "Well, what makes you think that?" Well, we studied some months ago Acts 15, and in verses 1 to 5 we met a group that were doing just that. Certain men who came down from Judea taught the brethren and said, "Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you can't be saved." See, salvation is a matter of an operation, physical operation. How ridiculous.
Well, when Paul and Barnabas heard about this, they really got upset, so they decided to go to Jerusalem. And they came there to deal with this issue. Now, apparently these people had come from Jerusalem. "Certain men had come," verse 1, "to Antioch from Judea," Jerusalem Judea, "with this message." So it may have been that these same guys were traveling all over everywhere announcing to everybody that you had to be circumcised to be saved. You had to become a Jew before you could become a Christian.
And then on top of that they wanted to lay on every Christian the whole Mosaic ceremonial system. Can you imagine all of us Christians having sacrifices all the time? Can you imagine us going through all of the ceremonies of the Old Testament?
But there was another thing that they attacked. They attacked Paul personally. These false teachers apparently shot down Paul by discrediting his credentials. Now, we don't know what they said, but we know what Paul says in response. In chapters 1 and 2, the both of those chapters, Paul lays down his right to be an apostle, which indicates to me that they had really used the angle that Paul doesn't speak for the Jerusalem church.
Now, they probably said, "Well, he's just some guy that came out of Antioch. After all, he was the arch persecutor of the church. What are you going to believe him? Who is he? He claims to be an apostle. He's no apostle. He never saw the resurrected Christ. He never lived with Jesus. He never was chosen by Jesus directly. He came way after that." And they tried to discredit Paul.
So Paul had to do three things in Galatians. Now, get this, and you've got the book in general. Three things. One, he had to defend his apostleship. I mean, let's face it. If he's going to say something, he's got to have the right to say it and be listened to. Right? So the first thing he does is defend his apostleship. Secondly, he's got to restate the gospel of grace, that salvation is by grace, not works. Thirdly, he has to encourage Christians to live free from the law.
Now watch this. He defends his apostleship in chapters 1 and 2. He establishes grace as the only way of salvation in chapters 3 and 4. And he shows the Christians that their walk is in grace, free from the law, in chapters 5 and 6. So it's equally divided into three sections.
Now you know what we're going to study about. We're going to study about Paul and his credentials for two chapters. Then we're going to study about salvation by grace and powerfully presented in chapters 3 and 4. And then we're going to talk about how the Christian, in chapter 5 and 6, walks in grace and not law. That's going to be our study. That's Paul's task, as he writes the book of Galatians.
Well, this, then, is the charter of freedom for the Christian. And tonight we're just going to look at the beginning of it, the first five verses. And all of that in the past just to kind of give you a feeling for the book. And we'll cover all that in depth and detail as we go.
Now, at the very start, with no hesitation, he begins his salutation. And I want to read verses 1 to 5 and then go back and look at them. "Paul, an apostle." Notice how he slams that one in there fast. "Not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead; and all the brethren who are with me, unto the churches of Galatia. Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God and our Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Now, there is his introduction. It's very brief, because he's in a big hurry to get to the issue. Now, in the first five verses that I just read you, there are three things that Paul establishes, and these he establishes at the very beginning: his authority, his message and his motive in writing. His authority, the right to speak. His message, the thing he speaks. And the motive, the reason he speaks.
Now, it's a typical first century letter. First century letters were different than the letters we write. We write a whole letter, and then at the end we write our name, which is kind of ridiculous. You've got to fumble all through to find out who it's from. Those people did it right. They just said, "It's me, Paul, talking, and here I go," which should be a new way to address your letter. And that was the way it was done. The author gave his name and then to whom he write, and then he wrote.
First of all, Paul establishes, one, his authority. His authority, verses 1 and 2. And this is something, incidentally, that Paul will cover in great detail throughout chapters 1 and chapter 2, and he only just hints at it in chapter 1, verse 1 and verse 2. This is just a brief hint at what he's going to just expand on throughout chapter 1 and 2. So he hints at his authority here, and he really goes into it in 1 and 2.
Incidentally, he reminds them of it again in chapter 4, which is kind of interesting. Chapter 4, verses 13 and 14. He reminds them of it again in chapter 5, verse 2, and he reminds them of it again in chapter 6, verse 17. He continually reminds them that he stands authoritatively to speak for Christ. Why? Because that was open to question in their minds. Somebody had shot down his right to speak as an apostle.
Now let's look at verse 1: "Paul, an apostle," and then a parenthesis, "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead." Now, Paul is a very common name. You say, "My, he writes a letter and just says Paul. Paul who? Paul what? Paul from where? How do you know who it is?” They knew. There wasn't any question. He repeats this, that he is the author, in chapter 5, verse 2, where he says, as I read, "Behold, I, Paul." We know who wrote the letter. No question about that. But it's identity enough for them, because, believe me, they knew who Paul was. He had left some kind of impression on them.
Now, Paul, we could spend a lot of time just studying the man. I only want to give you a little bit of background that I think is essential to your understanding of the book, and that is basically this. Remember that Paul was raised and reared as a traditional legalist. You got that? He was a legalist from the first part of his training, throughout all of his instruction, even sitting at the feet of Gamaliel, who was the master teacher. He learned to be a Pharisee, a legalist.
He says, in giving his testimony in Philippians 3, verse 5, "I was circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church." Listen to this one, "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." That guy was a super legalist. He obeyed every minute idea in the law.
Look at Galatians 1:14. Talking about himself, he says, "I profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in my own nation." In other words, of my own peers, I was more traditionally Jewish. I was exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my father. In other words, he says, "I was a supreme legalist, more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my father than my contemporaries." You say, "Oh, yeah, but he was like the rest. He was a hypocrite." I don't believe that. As touching the law, he was blameless. I don't think Paul was a hypocrite. I think he really believed that. I think he was really an honest legalist. And there are such. There are such.
And, you know, the Pharisees, some of them were pretty honest legalists. Jesus said one time, you remember, it's Matthew 5:20, He said, "Except your righteousness exceed," what? "the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not have a part in the kingdom." But isn't it interesting that He said this, that the Pharisees have a righteousness? They weren't just pure façade and fake. There was a certain commitment to an honest legalism. It was insufficient. It was hopeless. It couldn't save. But nevertheless, in many cases, it was really honest.
Now, the Pharisees were the backbone of Judaism. Paul was one of them. They were the fathers of modern Orthodox Judaism. Paul was one of them. They loved the law. They adhered to the law. They memorized the law. They obeyed the law. And Paul was one of them. He was a legalist. Now, I want you to get that, because, you see, here is a dyed in the wool, trained, bred legalist who has nothing to offer but grace. Now, that's transformation, beloved. That's transformation.
I think of another passage that I think is worth a look just to show you how much of a legalist Paul was and how honest his legalism was. In chapter 23 of Acts, verse 1, he makes a startling statement. And he's a Christian, of course, by this time. He says, "Men and brethren," listen, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." Do you think he was hypocritical when he was killing Christians? I think he was sincere. I think he was honest. I think he believed he was doing the right thing.
He says, "I have lived this way sincerely, in good conscience, until this day." I think that Paul was honest. In I Timothy 1:13 it says he was "a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious, but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief." And so he was an honest legalist.
And, beloved, his transformation had to be divine. You take a legalist that's that much of a legalist, the Pharisee of the Pharisees, and you've got to have a miracle to change him. And you know what happened? Look at Galatians 1:15: "When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me." Huh. Now, you're going to have a miracle to change a legalist like that. And that's exactly what God had to do. He was separated unto God, and from law, to grace.
And so he writes the charter of freedom as one who knows both sides of the fence, you see. After his conversion, he became such a great defender of grace, and he knew it so well and understood it so beautifully because he could see it in contrast to what he had known.
But isn't it interesting that just saying "Paul" here in this verse isn't enough? He then says, "Paul, an apostle." We'll stop there. You say, "Well, why does he have to say that? Why does he have to state he's an apostle?" Because, you see, the apostles were the ones who spoke authoritatively for Christ, weren't they? In the early church, what did the early church study in Acts 2:42 when they met together, they all came together for breaking of bread and for communion and for prayers and for the apostles' what? Doctrine. Why? Because Jesus Christ actually taught and worked and operated His power through those men.
When Peter and John met the man at the gate called Beautiful, they simply said, Peter being the spokesman, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk." You see, they were operating in the behalf of Christ. And so Paul wants to establish at the very beginning that he is no fly-by-night, Johnny-come-lately, self-appointed character. He is an apostle.
Now, you know, any kind of a guy like Paul who goes around doing what he did is going to get attacked. It's just par for the course. And the first attack, apparently, in the Galatian area was they attacked his right to speak for God. They questioned his apostleship. And so he wants to really nail that thing down. And believe me, let's be honest, if he didn't have any right to speak, nobody was going to listen to his message. Right?
To be an apostle, a man had to have been really in company with the resurrected Christ, he had to have seen the resurrected Christ, and, secondly, he had to have been chosen by the resurrected Christ. So an apostle was one who saw Jesus Christ alive after His resurrection, and the apostle was one who was chosen directly by Christ, appointed, called out, and set apart unto service.
Now, Paul is going to defend his right to be an apostle on three terms. First of all, by the very term "apostle." When he calls himself an apostle, and I want to take just a minute on this, when he calls himself an apostle, he is, in effect, saying that "I have a right to speak." Now, he uses this title in I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Colossians. He's always concerned about establishing his authority as an apostle.
And, you see, the reason is because he doesn't fit the pattern of an apostle like the others. He came later. The word "apostle" simply means messenger or envoy or delegate or ambassador, and he was that for Jesus Christ. It was very familiar to the Jewish mind. It referred to a special emissary who was sent out with the legal authority to act on behalf of the one who commissioned him, and that's what an apostle was. "You go act in my behalf," said Jesus.
It was the very term that Jesus chose when, in Luke, it's verse 13 of chapter 6, Jesus, looking at all of His disciples, called His disciples together and chose from among them 12 whom He named apostles. And so they were originally selected by Jesus Christ Himself, and they were authorized to speak and act in His name. Now, Paul did not have that benefit. He was not there during those early years, and so he was not called in that sense.
The apostles had a primary ministry in the church. Ephesians 2:20 says they were foundations. They were delivered the message of the mystery of the church, which they were to spread around. But basically they were just foundational men. And what do I mean by that? Let me clarify.
God wanted to get His New Testament revelation through, so He chose them to be the vehicle. Once the revelation was done, you didn't need them anymore. And so they were set aside for specific purposes. They were given the ability to...to pronounce inspired truth and write the books of the New Testament. They also were given the ability to do miracles, Hebrews chapter 2, verses 3 and 4. The last time the apostles ever meet is at the Council of Jerusalem. You never hear about them again, because they fade out of the scene. Now, it's interesting that Paul is so self-conscious about being an apostle that he defends it and defends it and defends it and defends it. Because he knows that he didn't follow the normal pattern.
And in I Corinthians 15, I want to just show you something that I think is very important. In I Corinthians 15:5, it says, in talking about the resurrected Christ, that He was seen of Cephas, then of the 12. In other words, when Christ came out of the grave, He was seen by Peter and then He was seen by the other 12. Then down to verse 8. Now watch. "And last of all He was seen of me also, as one born out of due time." In other words, Paul says that, "Yes, Peter saw the resurrected Christ. The 12 saw the resurrected Christ. But I also saw the resurrected Christ." And, in effect, saying, "He also appointed me as one of the witnesses of the resurrection, one of the apostles."
You say, "Well, now wait a minute. When did Paul see him?" It's recorded for us, isn't it, in Acts chapter 9. Paul was walking down the Damascus Road, and immediately he was blinded. And I told you when we studied that that I think he was blinded by the vision of Jesus Christ. I think he saw Christ. And the Lord began to talk to him. He fell on his face in the dirt. And he remained blind for several days, and during those several days I don't think it was the blindness of darkness. I think it was the blindness of the glory of Jesus Christ that he had seen.
And it was then that the Lord came to him through the person Ananias, and Ananias said, "The Lord has called you, Saul. He has appeared to you and he has called you to preach to the Gentiles." And so, you see, though it was different, it was nevertheless that he saw the resurrected Christ in full glory, and that he was specifically chosen. So he was, in fact, a legitimate apostle. And he had the right to speak authoritatively for Christ.
So he then establishes his right to speak by his title, apostle. He secondly establishes his right to speak by the manner in which he was chosen. It says, "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead." He never resists an opportunity to stick in the resurrection. He tacks it on to the end of everything. And he just hardly has the ability to even mention God without saying, "God, you know, the One who raised Jesus from the dead," just to interject the resurrection.
But the point that he's making here is this. "My credentials are, first of all, my title, apostle, given me by Christ and the fact that I saw Him in resurrection glory. Secondly, my credentials are that I received the apostleship not from men, neither by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead." In other words, he's saying, "My apostleship is from God." It is a divine one.
And apparently the false teachers had said, "Oh, what do... What do you listen to Paul for? My, he just came out of Antioch. He probably just had a few of those Antioch folks tell him that he was an apostle and he bought the bill, and now he's running around acting like one." It isn't so. Before Paul ever went on that journey in Acts 13, the Bible says, "The Holy Spirit said, 'Separate unto me, Paul.'" It was divine all along. It was divine at Damascus. It was divine at Antioch. His calling was divine. And the troublemakers were wrong. And they were attempting to undermine the apostleship of Paul. And so Paul says, "My calling is not human. It is from Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead."
So Paul says, "I'm a divinely appointed apostle." Now, I want to just take a minute, because I think this is so extremely important. I hope you realize that the message of the apostles is the inspired Word of God as we have it in the New Testament, and that we are to be subject and submissive to the word of the apostles. They are the authority that speak in the behalf of Jesus Christ. And this is extremely important.
I met a man at that conference at Forest Home who said to me, after I had spoken about the apostle Paul and given some information about the things that Paul said regarding sin, he said, "Well," he said, "of course, you have to remember that not everything Paul said is relevant." And he said, "Of course," he says, "I just don't buy everything he said." Well, at that point, you see, you're doing exactly what the false teachers did in Galatia. You're stating that Paul has no right to speak authoritatively. And Paul says, "Wait a minute. I'm an apostle. I have been commissioned to speak authoritatively for Christ. These aren't my words. They're His."
So Paul insists, then, that he has credentials to speak because he is an apostle by title, and his apostleship was not conferred humanly, but it was conferred by God through Christ. The very God who raised Jesus from the dead gave him his right to speak. He is no secondhand apostle. In Galatians 1:11, look what he says. "I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." He's saying, "What I'm telling you no one ever taught me. I got it straight from Christ Himself." And that, beloved, is what an apostle is.
And so Paul states his authority through his title and through the manner in which he was chosen. Thirdly, he states his authority through his association. He says, "And all the brethren who are with me, unto the churches of Galatia." And this is kind of an inference rather than a direct statement. But you'll notice, while calling himself an apostle, he calls the rest of those with him brethren. He's distinguishing himself clearly from the others.
He is happy to associate with them. He unashamedly adds them to the list to... Really, he says, "They're writing along with me. They agree with what I'm going to say." But at the same time he gives himself the title apostle and gives them the title brothers, showing that there is a great difference. Now, let me say that this is so very important, people. There is a tremendous difference between the brethren and the apostles. I hope you understand that.
Look to whom he writes, "Unto the churches of Galatia." Now, Galatia was an area, not a city. And so he's writing to four churches, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia. These are interesting people. I'm not going to go into this in detail. I'll just give you a little thought. The Galatians were the Gauls, or maybe you know them better as the Celts. The Gauls or Celts were the...were the barbarians that kept terrorizing Rome, all in about, oh, 390 B.C. They were coming down and hassling Rome and sacking the city, and they threatened the Romans, and they were really a pain in the neck. They kept coming down. You remember the barbarian hordes that kept fouling up Rome, and eventually they went to Greece and did the same thing.
Finally, after raiding and plundering Rome and Greece, they were pinned down. And they were pinned down into a central area of Asia Minor. In fact, the guy who did it was Attilus of Pergamum, and it happened about 230 B.C. They pinned them down, these Gauls, and they established the term "Galatia." And that's where the Gauls dwelt. And they made themselves willing subjects of Rome and were model citizens. And it was out of that pagan, barbarian people that sprung these little churches to whom Paul writes.
So Paul establishes his authority as an apostle. Let me add a footnote, because I think it's important. The modern, radical theologian, like would be illustrated by the young man that I mentioned, who said that you don't always believe what Paul said. This man says this, and you need to watch this. The radical, modern theologian says that the apostles were just, now watch it, they were just first century witnesses to Jesus Christ. And they wrote what they thought as they witnessed the Christ event.
We are 20th century witnesses, and our witness of Christ as we look at Him active in the world today and as we look over history in the past, our witness is just as good, and some say it's better, because we have more information. In other words, they are equalizing us with the apostles. C.H. Dodd, who has done some very serious and helpful writing in many areas of biblical commentary, says this, quote, "Sometimes I think Paul is wrong, and I have ventured to say so." Now, that is a typical, radical, modern, liberal view, that the apostles were just witnesses. They wrote their own thoughts. And you and I are witnesses of the Christ event. We can write what we want. So the Bible may or may not be that significant.
But Paul would deny that with every breath in his body. He was called of God, not by man or men, by Jesus Christ, God the Father, and he is set apart from the brethren in the churches. He is not what they are. He is an apostle. He is a special messenger, chosen by God. And what the apostles said was what Christ really wanted to be said through them.
In John 13:20, talking about these disciples and apostles, Jesus said, listen to this tremendous statement, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me. And he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me." He says, "I'm going to send you out, and whoever receives you is receiving me. You go in my place." In John 14:26, He said to the apostles, "The Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, shall teach you all things, bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said unto you." Did you get that?
A lot of people want to apply that verse to all the Christians who live today. Well, you could in a secondary and a very general sense, but that verse was meant for the apostles. "He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said unto you," means, "I'll give you the information you need to write the New Testament. They had a very special and a very unique place. And so the...we reject the radical, modern, liberal view that they're just a few guys who had an opportunity to see these things, they wrote what they thought and our testimony is just as good.
Another interesting view is the Catholic view. The Catholic theologian says that the church wrote the Bible, and that these guys were just officials of the church. And you know what's so significant about that? They say the church wrote the Bible, and these guys were just officials of the church, which means that the church, any time it wants, can add to the Bible. And that's why, in the Catholic church, tradition is equal to Scripture. Because, since the church wrote the Bible, anything the church wants to say can be added to the Bible.
It doesn't say Paul was an apostle of the church. Paul was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. They received their authority not from the organization but from God Himself. It's divine. It's not ecclesiastical and it's not human. It's divine. It was God who accredited him. Now, listen, beloved, we find something very important here, and that is this. It is the question of biblical authority. Our lives are to be subject to Jesus Christ as He speaks through His apostles. And what He says through Paul is really authoritative as if Jesus said it.
I remember a man who was really a strange kind of a guy. And he was the same guy that I think I told you about, sold everything and got ready for the Lord to come in a certain year. And he always carried a red-letter Bible. And I don't like red-letter Bibles. In fact, I don't like them at all. But anyway, he always carried red-letter Bibles. You know why I don't like a red-letter Bible? Why do you think that what Jesus said is any more important than what Paul said? Why should that be in red? Every bit of it was written by God Himself. Well, this guy with all... This guy said to me, he said, "I only believe the part in red." That's exactly what he said.
Listen, the part in black, written by Paul or Peter or James or John or Jude or the writer of Hebrews, that is just as important as if Jesus said it. Why? Because He did say it through them, biblical authority. Our lives are to be subject to Jesus Christ speaking through His apostles. The proper authority is not vested in human opinion. It's not even vested in the consensus of the church. It's vested in apostolic authority. And when the early church got together, they studied the apostles' doctrine. You know, I make no apology for believing everything Paul said. I make no apology. Paul does not write as one commissioned by the church. He speaks for Jesus Christ. So his authority is established.
Secondly, he wants to establish his message. Just briefly, his message, verses 3 and 4. "Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age according to the will of God and our Father." Do you know that he managed to get the whole gospel in there? That's his message; the master of the concise.
There's no commendation here. You say, "Well, I want to see something, John. Why would he take the time to commend the Corinthians, who were involved in every kind of sin and lust and immorality and fouled up situation? Why would he spend all that time commending the Corinthians and saying, 'Oh, you're wonderful. You come behind in no gift, and I thank God for you, blah blah.' And then over here with these people he doesn't say anything."
I'll tell you why: Because the Corinthian error was an error in the Christian walk; the Galatian error was an error in the method of salvation. Do you get the difference? You can be a little more tolerant of an error in the Christian walk. You can be totally intolerant of an error in the doctrine of salvation. That damns men. And so he doesn't fool around with any commendation at all. You trample on the gospel of grace and you get dealt with with immediacy when you have an error in the doctrine of salvation.
All right, he begins by saying, "Grace be to you and peace," and you're familiar with those common greetings. You know what the common Greek greeting was? It wasn't, "Grace." It was charin. That's joy. They'd see each other and say, "Joy to you." Well, it's changed in Christianity to "Grace to you." And "Peace" was the Hebrew greeting. "Shalom."
Do you ever think about what those two words mean? Grace, listen, the source of salvation, grace. The result of salvation what? Peace. When he says, "Grace be unto you and peace," man, he's saying something. That's so much better than what we say. "Hi, how are you?" What is that? And why don't we say, "Grace and peace be unto you?" That says something. Then if you want to do like Paul, you can make sure you get a shot at the resurrection. "Grace and peace be unto you through Jesus Christ from God the Father who raised Him from the dead." I wish we'd talk more about the resurrection.
But, you see, grace brings peace. Grace is positional. Peace is practical. They flow from the Father through the Son. "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ." Now, having mentioned that grace is the sum of all blessings and peace is the result of all that sum, he then takes off to show what grace and peace is all about, and he gives the gospel. Verse 4. "The Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God and our Father." Here he gives the gospel, and he points to three aspects. I just want you to see them. Look quickly.
One, here's the first aspect of the gospel, the nature of Christ's death. What was the nature of Christ's death? He died for our what? Sins. Jesus didn't die a frustrated superstar. Jesus didn't die a exemplary hero for a cause. This might shock you a little bit. The death of Jesus Christ wasn't even primarily an act of love. Primarily, it was a sacrifice for sin, wasn't it? There was love in it, but primarily it was a sacrifice for sin. He died for our sins. And, believe me, this becomes a recurring theme in Galatians. This is the kernel of the gospel that he begins with. The nature of Christ's death? He died for our sins.
Beloved, there are so many verses in the Bible I'm not even going to take time to read them to you. Just recall in your own mind that "He who knew no sin," what? "became sin for us." That He "bear in His body our sins," Peter says. Jesus died because someone had to die for sin. Sin demands death, and Jesus died a penalty for our sin.
And then Paul says not only the nature of Christ's death, He died for our sins, but the object of Christ's death. He delivered us from this present age. "That He might deliver us from this present evil age." That's the object. The nature of His death? It was sacrificial. The object of His death? It was a rescue operation. The word "deliver" there is the word "rescue." Fantastic word. It's the word "to rescue." That's a very, very strong verb. In fact, in the book of Acts it's used in very strong circumstances. In chapter 7, verse 10, talking about Israel, it says...it talks about Joseph in particular, you know, how that he was sold into slavery. It says, "God was with him and delivered him out of his affliction." And it's a very strong word. God rescued him out of all of his problem.
He uses the word again over in 34, talking about Egypt. He says, "I've heard their groaning and am come down to rescue them out of Egypt." It's always a tremendous situation of bondage when the word "rescue" is used. It's again in chapter 12, verse 11, and Peter was in prison, and it says, "The angel rescued me out of the hand of Herod." And it's used once again in chapter 23, verse 27, I think it is, but it's always used when there is a tremendous bondage. And here Paul is saying that "we have been rescued out of the bondage of this present evil age."
The word for "age" or "world," that is maybe translated "world" in your Bible, is the word aiōn, and it means age. It is the transitory age, the passing system, the system in motion, the valueless system. Salvation is taking you out of the system, freeing you from the bondage of the system.
And, you know, once you become a Christian, you're not of the world. Right? You're in the world, you're not of the world. I am a citizen in heaven. I'm still hanging around here, but my home is there. And you know what? I'm living the life of the age to come, but I'm living it now, in this age. I'm not a part of this age. I'm living a different life in this age. So the nature of the gospel, Christ died and rose for our sins. The object of the gospel: To rescue us from the evil age.
Then the source of Christ's death, the source of the gospel, I love this, "according to the will of God and our Father." Do you know that everything was planned by God, the whole thing? It was God's will that Jesus die. He prayed in the Garden, "Father, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless," what? "not my will, but thine be done." It was the Father's will that He die. There is the gospel. That's his message. "Who gave Himself for our sins." That's the nature of His death. "That He might deliver us from this present evil age." That's the object of His death. "According to the will of God and our Father." That's the source of His death. God planned it. So Paul's authority and Paul's message.
Lastly, his motive. What do you think his motive is? What's the motive for everything? "To whom" be what? "glory for ever and ever." And then he says a hearty, great big giant, so let it be. The glory of God. Paul says, "I am what I am to speak what I speak that God may be glorified." That's really what it's all about.
Listen now, as I close. What has Paul done in these verses? Watch. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. You're going to see it now, and it'll jump right out of that page. Watch. He traces the three stages of man's salvation. Stage one, the death of Christ for our sins rescues us out of this evil age. It's done. Step two, the appointment of Paul as an apostle to testify to that salvation. Step three, the gift to us who believe of the grace and peace which Christ won.
Notice this. Each of these three stages shows the Father and the Son acting together. The first stage, verse 3, at the end: "The Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age according to the," what? "the will of God." There's the Father and the Son working together to provide salvation.
Then notice the second stage. "Paul, an apostle," one sent to preach this. Apostle by whom? "by Jesus Christ and," what? "and God the Father." Here you have it again, the Son and the Father joined to appoint Paul as the authority.
Thirdly, he offers grace and peace to every man. Grace and peace from whom? "From God the Father” and what? "and the Lord Jesus Christ." Do you see that salvation, both as it's planned, as it's preached and as it's granted, is an operation of the Father and the Son? Together they provided salvation. Together they announced salvation. And together they will grant salvation to any man who comes in faith. Let's pray.
Father, thank you tonight for helping us get started. Lord, we feel like the words have been somewhat stumbling, and yet so trustworthy are we of the Holy Spirit that we rejoice already in the work He shall do. Thank you, Father, for the stand that Paul was willing to take against false doctrine, for the faithfulness to preach the truth.
Thank You, Lord, that You provided salvation. Thank You that You sent a messenger to preach it to us. Thank You that You give it to us. Thank You that it's a beautiful work of the Father and the Son in harmony. Now, Lord, we would pray tonight that if there any in this place who do not know Thee and the Son, that they might come into that knowledge tonight. We pray in Jesus' blessed name. Amen.
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