Text: Galatians 3:1-10
Preached at the Birmingham Convention, England
“Paul, an apostle (not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of his present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. (Now I put a couple of exclamation points after that because that’s the way I believe Paul intended it. This immediately tells you what we’re going to be talking about in this epistle. Paul is very excited about it and it’s an excitement that has some heat with it and he says “Amen!” and then you’re not surprised when you read these next words…)
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 though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. 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.”
This is one of Paul’s more heated…more fervent books because of this subject that’s very dear to his heart.
We were talking about the holidays with Phil that our two countries have in common. Last Sunday, in America, was Mother’s Day. And I brought out Mother’s Day cards that I had hauled all the way from the states because I wanted Kaye to have nice, beautiful cards on Mother’s Day. I hear you “Mothering Day” is in March and so we were saying that about the only holidays that we celebrate at the same time would be Easter and Christmas. And I mentioned, “What about July 4th?” And he became a little testy when I mentioned that. But, the truth of the matter is that we did fight what you call the War of Rebellion and what we call the War of Independence. The fact of the matter is that having gained independence, as all nations must, it is much more difficult to sustain that liberty than it is to obtain. Our country has lost more lives maintaining our liberty and our freedom and our sovereignty than we did in gaining it in the first place. That’s true of every country that is free.
Who was it that said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance? It’s one thing to gain your freedom, it’s another thing to maintain your freedom. And if I had to give tonight a theme for the book of Galatians, I think it would be this… “Set Free and Staying Free.” He’s writing to people who had been set free, but his concern is that they are not staying free.
He says, “I marvel…I’m astonished…I’m amazed that you have so quickly moved and deserted and abandoned the One who saved you by His grace. He says as a matter of fact in chapter 5:1… “it is for freedom that Christ set us free, stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…”
Paul is saying, “You have been set free, but now the problem is staying free in Jesus Christ.” And I was studying this passage this afternoon and the background and the context of it, I wrote here in my Bible… “these are people who have become with bored with Christ…bored with the Gospel.”
And I remember a time in my own ministry when we were doing conferences…there were several of us that were doing conferences together and I remember we had people driving from long distances to attend these conventions and these other two men were preaching on special subjects, you know, enticing subjects, sensational subjects…and I was praying about what God wanted me speak on that night and He kept bringing me back to Isaiah 53…to the suffering Servant…to the suffering Christ, and I kept fighting Him and I said, “Lord there’s nothing spectacular about that. There’s nothing sensational about that. Why should people drive all this distance to hear that same old story?” And God rebuked me. And He said, “You have become bored with the Gospel.” And when you are bored with the Gospel, then friend, there is something wrong.
Now, what happens usually is when we become bored with Christ and bored with the Gospel, we begin to add things to it and to once again work up enthusiasm. I know in the States, we have mega-churches now and I’m not saying this to be critical, but we have churches, of course, that offer Olympic size swimming pools and “Jogging for Jesus” classes and “Slender for the Savior” diet classes and everything, you know, a full recreation…a full service church…because we’re trying once again to get people excited about the church and excited about going to the church, but the problem in many instances, not in all instances by any means, but in some instances men are even taking away from the Gospel, soft-peddling the message of the Cross, trying to make it more attractive to the general population.
But, I want to say to you tonight that if you add anything to Christ, you subtract everything from Him. Christ plus anything equals nothing. And that’s what Paul is saying. He’s saying “if anybody preaches to you another gospel than I’ve preached to you…” Is he stubborn about this? I should say so…he wouldn’t get along very well today because he’s a stubborn, obstinate man. He says, “I tell you that even if an angel comes from heaven and preaches a different message than I’ve preached to you, let him be accursed…let him be eternally condemned.”
Why? Because if you add anything to Christ, you take everything from Him. Christ plus anything equals nothing! But, there had come some Judaizers into the church by some means who were telling these believers, “Oh, it’s not just Christ, but it’s Moses…it’s not just grace, but it’s Law…it’s not just the Spirit and faith…but it’s works.” And we may talk about this later where he says, “Are you so foolish as having begun in the Spirit, do you now believe that you can be made perfect by the works of the flesh?”
There’s always that tendency. So, tonight I want to speak to you on this subject of Paul’s opening statement and that is this…that Christ and Christ alone is sufficient for our salvation. Now when I say “salvation” I do not mean just the initial act of being saved. I’m talking about salvation from start to finish.
You see, in the Christian life you don’t start off with Jesus and then graduate to something better. Sometimes people make me feel like a poor relative, because all I have is Jesus. And they may say, “How did it go at your church yesterday?” I may say, “Oh, we had several people converted to Christ. We had several give their life to Christ.” And one man said to me, “You should have been over to our place…we had three legs lengthened.”
Well, he topped me, he thought. Now, I’m not against lengthening legs, you know, if you have a leg that needs lengthening and God wants to lengthen it, I’m not against that, but he was literally saying, “Oh, is that all that happened at your place? Just people saved? You should have been to our place.” And there are sometimes you are made to feel like a poor relative…or a poor stepchild…because all you have is Jesus, but listen, let me tell you something…in the Christian life, you don’t start out with Jesus and then graduate to something better! You don’t pick up the Cross at the entrance of the way of life and after you’ve moved on for awhile, lay it down and find something better and more sensational and more spectacular. Christ and Christ alone is sufficient for our salvation…just at the beginning of it, but from the time we are taken into His presence.
Christ is sufficient is because of the death of the Cross.
It is the cross that Jesus bore. In most of Paul’s letters he always has something nice to say to his readers. But, he doesn’t have anything nice to say to the Galatians. He says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”…and that’s about as good as it’s going to get as far what he has to say to his readers… “…Who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father to Whom be glory forevermore. Amen.”
In other words, he starts at the very beginning…I mean…right at the very opening of his letter, he makes it clear that what he’s talking about is the death of Christ on the cross and he’s saying, “Christ and Christ alone is sufficient because of the death of the cross.” The death of the Cross was necessary because the Bible says that He died for our sins…literally “on behalf of our sins.” And nothing else can take away our sins from the very moment in the Garden of Eden when man first sinned…however you want to interpret all of that with the fancy interpretations that we’ve had through the years…one thing I know is clear is that God had to shed the blood of any innocent animal in order to cover the nakedness of that young couple…to cover that sin…and all the way through the Bible, it’s been nothing but the blood…nothing but the blood….nothing but the blood. All the way through the Bible, without the shedding of blood there is no remission! And that is offensive to our generation!
I was reading the other day in a magazine article where somebody was complaining about this “bloody Gospel” that we preach… It was the same week that the move, “Independence Day” came out. It’s blood and guts all the way. It’s amazing that you can go to the movie or you sit down at your television set and you watch all this violence…and we cheer it on and we say, “Great! He got him! Good! He plugged him right between the eyes! He got him! That’s good that it happened!” And then we come to church and suddenly we’re squeamish and we say, “Don’t talk to us about the blood of Christ!” But, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.
And Christ is alone sufficient for our salvation, because He alone has died on our behalf…for our sins…voluntarily… He said that He gave Himself. The word is a gift of grace. He gave Himself. I love the words of Jesus when He said, “No man takes My life from Me.” I love that! “But,” He said, “I lay it down and if I lay it down I’m able to take it up again.” He gave it voluntarily. It was not forced upon. Jesus was not a victim. I hate it when I hear people say that He was a victim of circumstances…and that that’s what brought Him to the Cross! Oh, no! He said, “For this cause I came into the world…” He was born to bleed…born to die! And I say to you that Christ and Christ alone is sufficient tonight for your salvation, for your wholeness, because of the death of the Cross.
Christ is sufficient because of the deliverance of the Cross.
Notice again, he said He gave Himself for our sins to deliver us…to rescue us from this present evil age! Now some translations read “from this present world, but the best translation there is “age.” Because it has to do with this “present” evil age. Not the world in general. Not the world of earth and mountains and sky and trees…not that! But this age, this Godless age.
See, the Bible makes it very clear that there two ages running on parallel tracks. There is this present evil age when we’re caught up in the moirés and the standards and the custom of this world and we let the world set the agenda for our life…we let the world set the standard for our ethics and our morality…there is this present evil age and running on parallel tracks there is the kingdom age.
You say, “the kingdom is coming…” Oh yes, but it is already come. And what I’m doing and what you’re doing if you’re saved is you’re living in “kingdom come.” We’re living in “kingdom come.” Christ has died. Why? To deliver us out of this present evil age so that I don’t have to be captive by this evil age in which we live! So that I can belong to the new age…not the “New Age” that everybody’s talking about, you understand…the “New Age” is the evil age, warmed over, and given a new title…but I’m talking about the new age that Jesus Christ ushered in when He arose from the dead.
The kingdom is coming, but thank God, it has already come. And Christ leaves us in the world, but not of the world. So He delivers – rescues us. That’s strange language! You might think he would say that He gives us the option, but when he uses the word “deliver” or “rescue” He implies danger. Right? How many people passing on the streets tonight believe they’re in danger…and they need to be rescued? You see, that’s the blindness that Satan brings upon lost people’s minds and hearts. They don’t realize they’re in danger. Not just in danger of being eternally condemned, but in danger of missing out on the fullness of this life…of all that God has for them…of no longer being a slave, as we come to the end of the Galatian letter, Paul says, “Let henceforth no man trouble me for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” And there’s another place where he says there were some people who seemed to be important, but who they were doesn’t matter, they were nothing to me, it was God who judges. I like that!
The Bible says “The fear of man brings a snare.” And yet there is something about when Christ saves a person He rescues him from the snare of this present evil age. He’s not just rescuing him from hell. He’s rescuing him from this age…this life that he’s living. See, we must emphasize those words…deliver, rescue…implies that they are in danger…that this evil age is a danger.
Kaye and I were watching the news tonight on TV and they were talking about education. We’ve become enlightened. We think we’ve found such a better way. Isn’t it interesting how now we’re returning to the old ways…how we see that need now…and I told my wife, “It’s not just in education, but it’s in morals and ethics and we’re reaping what we have sown.” Why? Because folks, this evil age is dangerous. It’s hazardous to your health. So, Paul says that we have been rescued.
But, there’s another interesting thing about that word rescued. In the Greek tense it means “rescued for myself.” What he’s saying is that when Christ died on the Cross, He was rescuing us for Himself. And so it’s not just being passed from this age to the future age, but it is also being possessed by God Himself. God did this so we might belong to Him…so that we might be His possession! So, what we have here is the death of the Cross…that makes Christ and Christ alone sufficient for He was the only One who was able to die for our sins. But, also because of the deliverance of the Cross.
Christ is sufficient because of the design of the Cross.
Now, I didn’t intentionally plan for all these to start with the letter “d”…it just came out that way. I’m not hung up on all that. It just happened to be that way. I usually don’t like to use alliteration because then you begin to anticipate and sometimes you finish my outline before I ever get there. Don’t do that…I might slip a “c” in on you next!
The design of the Cross…notice those words, “…according to the will of our God and Father…” People say, “why does it have to be through the Cross? You evangelicals are so narrow minded! Why does it have to be through the Cross? Why does it have to be your way?” Because that’s the way God wants it! That’s why! Oh, but why does it have to be through faith? Why does it have to this way? Well, I could give a hundred reasons, but there’s only one big overarching reason…and that’s because this is the way God wanted it! It’s according to the will of God!
Down in verse 11, Paul says, “I want you to know brothers that the Gospel I preach is not something that man made up.” And I tell you something else…it’s not something that God thought up at the last minute. I remember somewhere in the Bible that Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Isn’t that something? Did you know that God is a Savior before He’s a Creator? You know, most of the time, when we think of God, all of God’s activities, we would start out with Creation, wouldn’t we? And then, down near the last, we’d say Redemption…but the fact of the matter is long before He was a Creator, He was a Savior! Because before there was ever a tree in the Garden of Eden, there was a Cross on the hill of Golgotha in the mind and eternal purpose of God. It’s according to God’s will. What we’re preaching is divine in its source. It’s not something made up by man.
Did you notice something here? He says in verse 6 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting…”…not the Gospel but… “deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ.” Did you pick that up? Did you notice that? You see, Paul is startled that they’re doing it so quickly. It shows you how fast the devil works. But he’s also startled because they’re not forsaking a theological position. They’re not deserting a doctrinal ideology. They’re forsaking a Person! They are deserting a Person!
My dear friend, when you change the Gospel…when you attack the Gospel…you are attacking God Himself. So, the design of the Cross is that it was according to the will of God.
There’s something else.
Christ is sufficient because of the doxology of the Cross.
“Amen!” he says. “To whom be glory forevermore”…verse 5. “Amen.” Did you know that the only thing that will give glory to God is our salvation through the Cross? If I add anything to it, that takes away from the glory, doesn’t it? If I should add just a wee work…”just one work, Lord, so I can just kinda feel good about myself…so I can feel like I’ve contributed something…maybe, Lord, one little work…” What that does is it takes away from the glory of Christ. Do you know something? There’ll be no strutters in heaven! There’ll be nobody in heaven saying, “I’m here because I was such a good person. I’m here because I did this and that.” Oh no! All of us will fall down before the Lamb, and worship Him. Why? Because it is only because by the death of the Cross that God is glorified, you see! If you add anything to it, then you take away from His glory and His honor and His majesty.
One more word…
Christ and Christ alone is sufficient for our salvation because of the command to preach the Cross.
I told you the “c” would come. I warned you!
Why else would God command us to preach that? When Christ commissioned us He didn’t send us out to build men’s self-esteem. He sent us out to preach repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ!
1 Corinthians 1:23…
“…but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block
and to Gentiles foolishness.”
Now, let’s think about this for just a moment. You’re going to start a new religion. You’re going to start a whole new dimension of faith and religion. Then, how can we best do it? Well, certainly we don’t want to do anything that would be a scandal to people! And secondly we wouldn’t want to do anything that other people would think is nonsense! Would we? That’s not the way to win people! Isn’t it amazing? That’s exactly what God chose! He said, “…to the Jews it’s a scandal!” Why? The thought of their Messiah being crucified as a common criminal! That’s a stumbling block! It’s something you’d trip over and you just can’t get by that because I just can’t bring myself to believe that the King of glory should die as a common thief. And to the Gentiles…that’s the rest of us…it’s nonsense. You’re telling me that the death of a Man 2,000 years ago is going to save me today? How can that be? Well, what if I were to tell you that my grandfather died at birth? I wouldn’t be here! You see, even on the human level the life and death of a person a hundred years ago affects my life. Paul says, “It pleased God by the foolishness of what was preached…” not just the foolishness of preaching, but “by the foolishness of what was preached to save them who believe.” And he says, “I want you to know that the Gospel I preach is not something that man made up…I didn’t receive it from any man…nor was I taught it…rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”
“But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother’s
womb, and called me through His grace was pleased to reveal
His Son in me, that I might preach Him among Gentiles, I did
not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 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. Then
three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted
with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.”
See, what Paul found out when he got to Jerusalem is that Peter was preaching the same thing he was preaching. See, what Paul is emphasizing is that this message…this Gospel…I received from direct revelation from Jesus Christ. I wasn’t taught it in a seminary. It wasn’t passed down to me by any tradition. He said that it was a direct revelation from God.
So, he said in verse 10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men I would not be a servant of Christ.”
I want to end on that note. I believe that one of the greatest dangers facing those of us who call ourselves “evangelicals” is the overanxious desire to be accepted by the world…to please men. One of our leading churches in the States…and the pastor is a good and godly man…and I think his preaching and the work of his church have brought thousands to Christ. But, he did something that just grieves me to no end. He took down the cross because it offended lost people who came into the building.
Let me say something to you. If you start out and your aim and your goal is to please men, you’re going to be forced to compromise the truth of the Gospel. Paul said, “if my ambition is to please men, then I cannot be a servant of God.” Isn’t that amazing? So we still face the task that’s before us and that’s to reach a lost and dying world. But you’ll never do it by pleasing them! You’ll only do it by being a scandal and an offense! And that comes by preaching the Cross of Jesus Christ! Amen!
Would you pray with me please?
Our Father, as we stand in Your presence, we come here to
worship You, to honor and to glorify You. And if I know
anything about what the Bible teaches, that all begins with
our acknowledging the Cross.
I pray for anyone here tonight who does not know Jesus Christ
as Savior. If they’ve never had that experience of salvation
and they cannot know without a doubt that their sins have
been forgiven. I pray that as pray that they would pray, asking
Your forgiveness for their sinfulness and asking Christ to come
into their lives to save them.
For those of us who are Christians, Lord, we live in a world in
which we’re pulled in so many directions. It is not wrong that
we should use new methods and new technologies…but it is
wrong that we should ever compromise the message.
Now, Lord, I pray the thought that You would leave with our
hearts tonight is that we cannot at the same time please men
and be a servant of Yours.
Bless Your word to our hearts…we pray in Jesus’ name,
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005