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Your Grace is Enough?

June 8, 2013
Galatians, Illuminated

Galatians, IlluminatedThis last year my family has had the privilege of living in a winter rental on Wingaersheek Beach. We were just a two block walk from Coffins Beach, a shoreline that if you follow, takes you to the beautiful Essex Bay.

Last week I was running along Coffins Beach at dusk, and I saw three people huddled together on a blanket, looking at the ocean. Well, actually, I could see that at least two of them were looking at their phones. As I approached them and then passed them, I was struck that these 4 or 5 inch screens had somehow won the focus of these beach-sitters, with the vast ocean in front of them and the orange tint of sun on the horizon.

Paul asks in Galatians 1 whether the Gospel of Jesus is enough? If the work that God has done on our behalf, by sending his son Jesus to rescue us from our sins—is that enough? When we think about who we are, our identity, our security in life—is Christ’s death and resurrection sufficient for us?

It didn’t seem to have been enough for the churches in Galatia.

Some teachers had come among the Galatian Christians, seeking to undermine Paul’s authority and the content of his teaching. They were telling the Galatians that this Gospel of Jesus—that Jesus rescued us from our sins (v. 4)—was not enough to save you. Yes, these teachers taught, the Galatian churches needed Jesus, but they also needed to observe all of the customs and regulations and laws that were a part of 1st century Judaism. In other words, they have to believe in Jesus and fulfill all the requirements of the law to be accepted by God, to find his favor, to be right with him.

When I read the Bible, there seems to be something of a recurring pattern. I read a passage like this, perhaps looking ahead to Galatians 3 where Paul says, “You foolish Galatians!” and say to myself—yeah, those foolish Galatians! Who would buy such garbage; who would believe the lies they are believing? Paul says, “Who has bewitched you?” And I think—really! Who has bewitched you, Galatians?

And then I sit with the passage a little bit longer. And I think about myself. And… I start to see myself as part of Paul’s audience. I know that I believe that the Gospel of Jesus—”Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”—I believe that that Gospel is enough. But do I always act like it is?

Am I confident in the sufficiency of the Gospel of Jesus, or do I look elsewhere to supplement it? Can I just rest in my identity as God’s much-loved child, or do I still find myself doing things to try to boost my standing in God’s eyes? Tim Keller says, “We love to be our own saviors… so we find messages of self-salvation extremely attractive.”

This grace, this undeserved favor from God is so present, and yet how often do we think it’s great, but not really enough? “I’ll take it from here, God!” Are we at times too quick to gloss over the grace that is all around us? Just as we see ourselves as part of Paul’s audience, perhaps we also see ourselves in those people on Coffins Beach that I ran past last week. They had a majestic ocean sunset in front of them and yet were glued to their tiny screens.

That is no gospel. The true Gospel of Jesus–the grace that God offers–is enough. And the call in the first part of Galatians is to accept the gift of God’s grace. We receive it. Paul talks about this Gospel of grace (in verse 9) as something that the Galatians once received. In verse 12 he talks about this Gospel of grace as something that he received from Jesus.

The grace of God in Christ is something to be received, accepted, arms held open, palms facing upward.

The Revised Common Lectionary is going through Galatians in six weeks. Last week (June 2) was the first Sunday, covering Galatians 1:1-12. This week (June 9) overlaps the last two verses of that reading and covers Galatians 1:11-24. The above is excerpted from the sermon I preached on Galatians 1:1-12.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2013 8:57 am

    Thanks for this message; this is a much needed point that we all have need of being reminded of.

    I do not know your audience nor do I know their needs so I can not and do not speak for them. However I think it is important to remind ourselves that pendulum also swings to the opposite extreme. What, is need I believe is balance. From the NT point of view it is true that Christ alone saves and that our works no matter how good merit us nothing but condemnation. At, the same time someone whom has been saved by Christ will bear good fruit. In letter to the Galatians Paul as well makes the point that:

    εἰδότες δὲ ὅτι οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ἔργων νόμου ( ἐὰν μὴ ) διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (2:16)
    know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, (if not) through faith in Jesus Christ (2:16)

    and again…
    τι ουν ερουμεν επιμενουμεν τη αμαρτια ινα η χαρις πλεοναση μη γενοιτο οιτινες απεθανομεν τη αμαρτια πως ετι ζησομεν εν αυτη (Romans 6:1-2)
    What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

    χαρις δε τω θεω οτι ητε δουλοι της αμαρτιας υπηκουσατε δε εκ καρδιας εις ον παρεδοθητε τυπον διδαχης ελευθερωθεντες δε απο της αμαρτιας εδουλωθητε τη δικαιοσυνη (Romans 17-18)

    In short…
    God through Christ and Christ alone saves and we must accept that! and At the same-time we in some congregations must be careful that it does not lead to the so called “cheap grace” of the so called “carnal Christians”.

    • June 8, 2013 12:14 pm

      A good word, bk. One of the hardest things for me in preaching (because of who I am) has been to realize that not every sermon (nor every passage of Scripture when looked at individually) will contain the whole of biblical theology. But the balance is, indeed, important. I didn’t include it in the post, but last week I did make mention of the fruit that shows/should show in our lives due to the grace we have received. Galatians 5 will really hit that point hard!

      I don’t know my congregation well yet, but I do know myself and other humans enough to know that there are certainly some of us that just skip over grace, and need to slow down and receive it. (In that sense, I was preaching to myself.) And then, perhaps, one way we know we are accepting that grace is if we are showing it to others and truly walking in it–which means a life that honors God in word and deed.

      Thanks for your comment–keep coming back!🙂

Trackbacks

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