Series on Galatians, I The Apostolic Authority, B The Abandonment, Text: Galatians 1-3-5, Title: A Marvelous Disgrace


What is more disgraceful than a lack of gratitude? Virtually nothing can compete in disrespect and discourteous rudeness with a person or persons who are ungrateful in words or actions. You will notice that Paul says in verse 6, I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. The Apostle is astonished at their seeming ingratitude and to understand his astonishment we look today in verses 3-5 at what they were turning their backs upon. In these verses the Apostle introduces us to the theme of the entire letter, the cross versus the world. Like a stubborn child to whom parents have given their love and their lives, as well as their patience and forbearance, who turns his back on them, so the Galatians were turning their backs on inexhaustible and boundless blessings. The really sad thing is that there are many people who think that their salvation depends on works like going to church and giving to charity, and kindly deeds, but they don’t know any better. The Christians in Galatia did know better and they were being moved away from the truth they had believed by false teachers. I Corinthians 3:11 says, For no one can lay any other foundation in addition to that which is already laid, namely Jesus Christ. Galatians is very relevant in a day when false teaching abounds and many are being moved away from the apostolic foundation. Today as we look at what they were abandoning in verses 3-5 let us ponder the blessings, the agents of those blessings, their acceptance of them and the aim of these blessings.

I The Agents of the Blessing

We discover the agents of the blessing in verse 3, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Apostolic salutations are fairly common in the New Testament letters and are found in the writings of Paul, Peter, James, and Jude. Even in the letters of one person they may vary according to the need and the circumstances, but they almost always contain some reference to the good news of the gospel, as here. In this verse we see the Apostle identifying the first and second persons of the Trinity, the Father and the Son as the source of a two fold blessing of grace and peace. Grace is a characteristic Greek greeting and peace a characteristic Hebrew greeting , but although these words might commonly appear in other non-Christian communications, in this place they are pregnant with meaning. In  the context of Paul’s teaching grace refers to the cause and peace to the effect of our salvation. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, but the cause is grace. Grace is unmerited, unwarranted, undeserved favor, and it is from God the Father by plan, and from God the Son by action. The former planned it and the latter executed it. Thus the Bible says in Ephesians 1:4, In His love, He chose us as His own in Christ before the creation of the world, that we might be holy and without blemish in His presence. This is the work of the Father and the work of the Son is spoken of in Revelation 13:8 within the same time frame as it speaks of the Book of Life — the Book of the Lamb who has been offered in sacrifice ever since the creation of the world. And I Peter 1:19 and 20 reminds us that we are saved, With the precious blood of Christ — as of an unblemished and spotless lamb. He was predestined indeed to this work, even before the creation of the world, but has been plainly manifested in these last days for the sake of you. Thus the saints are chosen from the foundation of the world and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world. This alone is grace, sovereign grace, absolute effectual grace which saves God’s elect people. This is our blessing from the agents, God the Father and God the Son.

II The Acceptance of the Blessing

Verse 4 is important because it reminds us that this tremendous  incalculable blessing was accepted by the Christians in the churches of Galatia,  Who (The Lord Jesus Christ) gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. Again we have the two agents identified but this time we have a more precise description of the work of grace. It consists of the Father sending His Son to save us from our sins and rescue us from this present evil age. The Lord Jesus willingly executed the mission and said in Mark 10:45 as Weymouth translates it, For the Son of Man also did not come to be waited upon, but to wait on others, and to give His life as the redemption-price for a multitude of people. The behavior of the Galatian Christians was equivalent to Daniel who has been snatched from the hungry jaws of a lion saying throw me back into the lions’ den. It is like the three Hebrew children in Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego saying to Nebuchadnezzar throw us back into the fire. It is like Naaman the Syrian General in the days of Elisha, cured of leprosy after dipping seven times in the Jordan saying I want my disease back. But what the Galatians are doing is worse. They have full deliverance through Jesus from sin and guilt and death and it is not as some people suggest a mere possibility of deliverance. It was planned, it was executed, and it is done. They were and we are rescued. He rescued us. The deed is done. What the Galatian believers are doing is the height of folly  and even worldly philosophers and teachers would recognize that it is a marvelous disgrace. Even Confucius observed, “If you get out of a pit, don’t fall into it again.” Jesus did not say I came to seek and to make salvation possible for the lost. He said I came to seek and to save that which was lost. Buddha taught his followers that if they could climb up where he could reach them, he would help them. Jesus came all the way down to lift us up and so we sing, “In my hand no price I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” How can they turn their backs on that?

III The Aim of the Blessing

Verse 5 reminds us that although It was for us but we are not the ultimate goal or aim, To whom (Our God and Father) be glory for ever and ever. Amen. One of the problems with our user friendly, cheap grace, man-centered approach to  Christianity these days is that we tend to think it’s all about us. It doesn’t matter whether you like the music in Church, the point is whether God likes it. It does not matter whether you like the preaching if God thinks it’s right on. It does not matter whether you come out of the church service “feeling good.” What matters is whether God is glorified. We go to church and act like people looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Have you ever done that and discovered that every thing gets smaller than it is just as looking through the right end makes everything bigger. OK, in Church many of us see God through the wrong end. He becomes small like us. We are missing the entire point of worship because if it doesn’t glorify God, that is, make Him bigger in our sight, then it isn’t worship at all. God is great and you are not. We have inflated egos born of sin. It reminds me of the the doctor who on the way to preschool, had left her stethoscope on the car seat, and her little girl picked it up and began playing with it."Be still, my heart," thought the doctor, "my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps!" Then the child spoke into the instrument, "Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order?"James Ferguson reminds us that we will never run out of amazement through millions of unimaginable ages, even to all eternity. He tells the story of the old Christian who said to his dearly loved wife, “Dear I have enjoyed every moment of all my years with you, but when we get to heaven I don’t want to see you for 7000 years. I want my first look at Jesus to last that long.” I don’t think we’ll be faced with that alternative, but I appreciate the sentiment. You too will find Him inexhaustible. Revelation 7:17 tells us, For the Lamb who is in front of the throne will be their Shepherd, and will guide them to water-springs of Life, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes. I do not think we realize the full implications of such a statement. Jesus is the one who has all the holiness of the angels, all the loveliness of the saints, all the treasures of heaven, all the knowledge of the universe, and all the fullness of the Godhead. Jesus made Michelangelo, and Bach, and Isaac Newton. He made the best carpenter, the best plumber, the best mechanic, the best engineer, and the best doctor. All that diversity and marvelous skill and much more is in Jesus. No wonder Paul says they are removing themselves from everything if they remove themselves from the cross of Christ and his sufficiency. To God be the glory.