Sermon – Galatians 1:1-12 – First of a Lenten series

March 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment

Galatians 1:1-12
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Paul an apostle — sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — 2and all the members of God’s family who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
10Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
11For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

“The Truth of the Gospel.”
That is a bold and audacious title for a sermon series,
and yet it is not my idea.
The words “the truth of the Gospel”
come from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians,
which we will hear next week.
It is also the title of a book on Galatians,
one of the books I am reading for this series.
And yet this does not make the title of the series any less audacious or bold,
for when St. Paul uses the words “the truth of the Gospel” in Galatians
he does not mean that the Christian religion is true over against other religions,
although he would certainly agree with that point.
He also does not mean that the Christian religion is verifiable,
that one can prove the truth-value of faith in Christ.
Instead, his opponents are those who, like him,
believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
His opponents are those who, like him,
preach in the name of Jesus Christ,
but who in Paul’s mind do not preach him
according to the truth of the Gospel,
who pervert the Gospel and change the Gospel
so that it loses its character as “good news.”
This is not an external threat to the Gospel,
but an internal threat,
a mutation, a cancer, a virus,
which threatens its very truth.
The only therapy, for Paul, is the truth of the Gospel.

And so what is the truth of the Gospel?
And let me be clear, as we think about this, that when we say “Gospel,”
we are not speaking about the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John,
but the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the good news about Jesus Christ,
“the power of God for the salvation for all who believe.”
What is the central core of this Gospel,
so that we can distinguish it from any other Gospel,
Christian or not,
in mutated or viral form?

I was standing in my second-floor apartment in Elizabethtown
walking up and down,
talking on the phone with my pastor about my upcoming interview
with the synod’s candidacy committee.
I only remember the part of the conversation where he said,
“What is the Gospel?”
And I said, “Ummmmmmmmmmm…….God loves us?”
“No.” he said.
And I thought, Oh, great.
Here I am going into an interview,
they’re going to decide whether to let me into seminary,
and I don’t even know what the Gospel is.
Besides, I thought I was pretty safe with that.
“God loves us.” “No.”
Well, then I’m all out of ideas.
Okay, give me some help here.
And over the phone, I hear preaching, the preaching of Paul,
from 1 Corinthians 15:3:
“That Jesus Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and was buried,
and was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
To that Paul adds only one thing in this first part of the letter to the Galatians:
“to set us free from the present evil age.”
That is the Gospel, that is the good news in which we stand,
through which we are being saved.
Indeed God loves us,
loves us so much that he took action, decisive action,
to rescue us from the evil that surrounds and pervades us.
He took that action in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection,
and calls those who hear to cling to the death and resurrection of Christ
as the sign and sacrament of God’s victory over sin, death, and the devil.
Because God in Christ died for us,
we are set free from everything that had bound us –
this is the good news that transformed Paul’s life
and the good news that transformed the life of the Galatian church.

But now the Galatians are turning to a different Gospel –
not that there are multiple Gospels of Christ,
but only mutations, perversions, additions –
and there is a key word,
for we will explore the particular addition
that Paul is talking about in coming weeks –
and we want to know what the truth of the Gospel is for us today,
we who must hear and believe the good news today.
Paul’s message is simple –
Any Gospel that is Jesus Christ and something else
is not good news any more, but bad;
not freedom any more, but slavery,
not God’s gracious justification of the sinner,
but the sinner’s attempt to justify self,
not God’s breaking of the chains that bind us
but our vain attempt to will or wish them away
or simply to deny them.
But the good news is that the project of our salvation begins and ends
with God’s initiative, with God’s action.
and God’s initiative and action is sufficient to free us.

Let us leave it at that for the moment.
Let us leave it for future weeks to explore
the Galatian church’s attempt to complete their salvation
with something that they could add to the message of Jesus.
Let us leave it with the Gospel that Paul preached,
that Jesus Christ died for our sins
in order to set us free from the present evil age,
according to the will of God the Father.
We are not simply waiting for rescue,
like a drowning man clinging to a piece of driftwood,
like a woman riding out a tsumani on the roof of her house,
but we are those whom God is rescuing
through his gracious act in Jesus Christ.

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Sermon Lent 2 – March 20, 2011 Galatians 2:11-20 – Second of a Lenten Series

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