Sometimes the situation is so urgent, but . . . Well, listen to Bob Deffinbaugh’s story:
“Several years ago a friend of mine was working in his garage.
He was the kind of person who did not like to be interrupted
while engaged in a project.
Knowing this, his wife walked into the garage
and stood quietly at his side for several minutes,
waiting for the proper time to speak.
At last her husband looked up, the signal
that she was free to say what was on her mind.
Very calmly, and without a trace of panic, she said,
‘The house is on fire’”
(Galatians: The Gospel and God’s Grace).
In the churches of Galatia (recently planted by Paul and Barnabas), “the house is on fire.” Time to interrupt whatever’s going on and shout, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). But let’s go back and begin at the beginning. (For a general introduction read theoldpreacher.com/circumcision-confrontation/ ).
Throughout Paul’s ministry, starting here in the Galatian churches of Psidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, Paul was typically attacked on two fronts. One, his authority as an apostle. Two, the substance of his gospel.
With a succinct response to that two-front attack, Paul begins his letter . . .
Paul, an apostle– sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead– and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (1:1-5).
Does Paul have it, or not?
“Paul, an apostle– sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead . . . ”
It’s an extravagant claim. An apostle not sent by the first apostles or the Antioch church, but sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. “God sent me” just a funny movie line today.
It’s also an extreme claim. We no longer associate authority with God. He’s a helper or moral guide, but certainly not the Sovereign. Yet, when Paul refers to him as God who raised Jesus from the dead, he is pointing us to the authority and power of God, even over death.
Consequently, the risen Christ declared . . .
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18)
Paul later wrote about . . .
” . . . the immeasurable greatness of his power . . .
that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named, not only in this age,
but also in the one to come.”
And when the Lord sent his hesitant disciple Ananias to blind Saul, he told him . . .
” . . . he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name
before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”
This was Paul’s claim to authority. Believe it or not. Just remember this: if Paul was right, all other claims are false.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (1:3-5).
Paul wastes no time getting to the heart of his Gospel. Greeting the Galatians he identifies Jesus Christ as the one “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
That Christ “gave himself for our sins” implies we are sinners before the holy God. We transgress his laws and disobey his commands. It also implies a substitutionary sacrifice was possible and that the sacrifice was Jesus Christ. No effort of ours–whether Jewish circumcision, Old Testament law-keeping, or any other credit-gaining work is needed. The Gospel announces a most-costly, life-changing gift received by faith . . .
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.”
The purpose of Christ’s self-sacrifice extends far beyond sins-forgiven: ” . . . to rescue us from the present evil age.” This present age is “evil” because it’s under the dominion of “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and so humans worship the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Because of this, God’s wrath is coming (Romans 2:5). But, we who trust our lives to Christ, are rescued.
When I was about 15, some of my church buddies came to swim at the lake near my house. Ernie and I swam out to a deep part of the lake. Suddenly, he panicked. Grabbed my neck and shoulders. Smaller than him, I found myself trapped under his weight under water. About then the lifeguard showed up in a rowboat and dragged Ernie back to shore. Apparently he though I could save myself; Ernie couldn’t. Similarly, we can’t do anything to rescue ourselves from sin and God’s wrath; we are rescued by Christ alone through faith alone.
Rescued from God’s wrath to what?” Eternal life in the new creation of the new age to come. It’s an age that began when Jesus was raised. Already then, by the Holy Spirit, we enjoy a taste of it. Already the new age has come by the Spirit, but not yet has it come fully. Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 10:11 when he writes . . .
These things happened to them as example
and were written down as warnings for us,
on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
(1 Corinthians 10:11)
[God]made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions–
it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages
he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
House On Fire!
On this Good Friday, a cacophony of “other gospels” are babbled about—some secular, some religious, some even in Jesus’ name. The biggest church in America preaches a false gospel. The American Dream is the greatest—that’s a false gospel. You can be anything you want to be is a false gospel. Jesus forgives your sins but you have to do your part is a false gospel. Listen! When ideas contrary to Christ subconsciously stick in our minds from mindless reruns, the “house is on fire.” Get the fire out!
Good Friday. Sin’s debt was paid. Jesus endured God’s wrath due us. “It is finished!” he said (John 19:30). All that remained was resurrection, by which he would inaugurate the new age for new creatures. That would come Sunday.