Galatians 1:1-5, “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through 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 the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul begins his Epistle to the Galatians… “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s evident Paul waists no time getting right to the heart of the issue… “Grace!” In the Greek this word “grace” or “charis” simply means “favor.” It should also be noted that the word itself came from the Greek word “chairo” meaning “to rejoice.”
In 156 times the word is used in the New Testament “grace” takes on a redemptive quality describing an act whereby God avails His favor to those who patently don’t deserve it. Some have defined the Biblical concept of grace as “unmerited favor.” Other’s have more creatively defined it using the acrostic, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
Notice the order… “Grace and peace!” It’s not an accident that every time we see this coupling the order is always the same: 13 times in Paul’s letters, in each of Peter’s (1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2), once by John (2 John 1:3), and then by Jesus Himself (Revelation 1:4).
Understand… It is impossible for you to experience the peace of God until you first fully embrace the grace of God - for if salvation or sanctification has any basis on your works or your merit lasting peace is simply unattainable. Friend, the only way you can truly have peace is when you first find rest in God’s amazing grace!
Also note that according to Paul both “grace and peace” are not something a man can provide or that he can attain or create for himself! “Grace and peace” are something that must be given by God alone… They both originate in Him before being extended to us.
Paul says “grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Neither God’s favor nor His peace can be earned or found apart from His willingness to give them. Friend, if you’re tired of running this rat-race… If you’re tired of trying to earn God’s approval… Tired of trying to be good… Of the striving and the fighting and the failing… Please realize the human soul will never find peace apart from the grace of God!
After introducing us to the bestower of “grace and peace… our Lord Jesus Christ” Paul continues by immediately explaining how it is that Jesus has the authority and ability to bestow these two things: God’s favor and peace… Jesus “gave Himself for our sins…”
It’s crucially important you understand that no man can accept a “Savior for sins” unless he first acknowledges “he sins.” It’s only logical that before there can be any remedy or proposed solution there must first be the existence and assumed recognition of a problem.
Honestly, I’ve found that many good people fail to accept Jesus as a Savior (instead embracing Him as a loving friend, moral example, even a gracious God) because they refuse to see themselves for what they actually are - a sinner in need of a Savior…
And since this is the tragic case there are so many people today who subsequently fail to encounter Jesus for who He actually is (a Savior for sin) because they’re simply unwilling to admit they’ve fallen short of the person God wants them to be!
Understand, Jesus might love you just the way that you are, but that doesn’t mean He loves the way that you are! Sadly, there are so many people today who misinterpret His love for the person as His acceptance of that person’s condition. Sure Jesus loves you even though you’re fallen, broken, and messed up, but that doesn’t mean He’s content to leave you fallen, broken, and messed up!
In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
Jesus enters your life for one purpose… To save you, then change you, transform you, restore you, and make you into the very thing you aren’t… So much so that He was willing to “give Himself” in order to deal with the root of your problem - Your sinful state!
Let me clarify something… You are not a sinner because you sin. You sin because you’re a sinner. The fundamental problem with man boils down to a heart condition (a fallen state) which makes any tinkering of one’s behavior frivolous and ineffective.
You see what man needs most is not a set of religious codes aimed at refining his behavior. What man needs is a Savior willing to completely atone for his sin, impart an alien righteousness, and One who is able to permanently transform the very nature of his heart.
What you need more than anything else is your debt paid (atonement), your core problem addressed (redemption of the heart, mind, and soul), and a lasting remedy imparted (regeneration of your core desires brought about by the indwelling Holy Spirit).
This is why Jesus “gave Himself for our sins.” Which is interesting for while in John 3:16 we’re told “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (no doubt communicating the incredible love of God for you and I), in this passage we’re told Jesus was a willing and able participant. He wanted to lay down His life to pay for “our sins.”
And why would Jesus do this? Answer: “That He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever.” “That He might deliver us…” In the Greek this word is “exaireō” which means “to pluck out, to choose, to rescue.” The word can literally mean “to liberate.”
Liberate us from what? Answer: “This present evil age.” Sure while there is no doubt Jesus died to save us from the judgment of hell, His pressing intention in “giving Himself for our sins” was to liberate us from the fallen, wicked condition that dominates the world we live in today. Jesus saves us from the current of this wicked world!
Galatians 1:6-7, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
“I marvel (this phrase indicates speed and surprise… literally, “I’m shocked how quickly”) you are turning away so soon from Him…” The pressing question we must consider is what was it these Galatians were “turning away from?” In context it seems that because they were adopting “a different gospel” they were in actuality “turning away from Jesus!”
This phrase “turning away” is much stronger in the Greek. Paul wasn’t saying they were “leaving” Jesus. Instead they were abandoning Him. Paul accuses these Galatians of being turncoats! He charges them with deserting Jesus… The One who “gave Himself!”
How does such a drastic thing like this happen to people who’ve at one point come to the cross of Christ? Answer: They begin basing their relationship with Jesus on something other than “the grace of Christ.” Paul says these Galatians were departing “from” Jesus and the saving and transforming power of His grace “to” what he calls a “different gospel” which he then makes clear isn’t really “another” before calling it a “perversion of the gospel.”
Note: This word “different” means “not one of the same kind.” What Paul is saying is that this “different gospel” was not an effective alternative. It was a perversion… A distortion! Whereas the True-Gospel gloriously bases your favor with God and the continuance of that favor solely upon His “Grace.” these men were perverting the nature of grace by formulating and teaching a twisted Anti-Gospel (a replacement).
I have found there are three ways the grace of God is distorted to create such an “Anti-Gospel…” First… There is the Anti-Gospel of “Grace, And do these things…” Which says you’re saved and sanctified by grace and the things you do.
Sadly there are people who see the true nature of the Gospel as simply being to good to be true. I mean how could it honestly be that God’s favor would require nothing of you… That His favor is designed to be received and not earned… That the process of becoming “like Christ” occurs independent of your works or disciplines?
Because grace is an affront to a person’s pride and sense of self-sufficiency, (while accepting God’s saving grace) these people establish for themselves a religious code by which they either seek to earn God’s favor or at least prove themselves worthy.
To accomplish this they substitute the Gospel of Grace alone with the Three R’s of Religion: Their relationship with God is base on grace and their obedience to rules, regulations to insure obedience, and rituals in order to demonstrate their piety and devotion to God.
And yet, here’s the truth… If the basis of your relationship with Jesus is “grace, and” the good things you do for God, your service, and your religious works then you not only fail to fully understand grace, but you’re saying Jesus’ death and resurrection is not enough.
Secondly… There is the Anti-Gospel of “Grace, But don’t do these things…” You’re saved by grace, but sanctified by the things you refrain from doing. Once again there are people who also see the true nature of the Gospel as simply being to good to be true, but in an entirely different way. While God’s favor is designed to be initially received these people fall into the burden of seeing God’s continued favor as something to be maintained.
Sure, while they’ll conceded there is nothing they can do to save themselves, they see human involvement as being essential to the process of sanctification. Yes, their relationship with Jesus is foundationally based on His grace, but they believe it can be fostered and deepened by the things they willingly and sacrificially give up for Him.
Sadly, what is produced from this particular outlook is a wicked form of Christian legalism that establishes a moral structure and a church culture that demands liberties to forgo and things to be sacrificed in order to be a better Christian. Tragically, they do this in place of simply emphasizing the enjoyment and freedom that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus founded upon nothing but His amazing grace.
Though God’s favor is given at the cross many believe that God will simply be more pleased with a person when they abstain from a non-Biblical list of does and don’ts they create for themselves! Once again when anyone says they’ve been saved by grace, but are sanctified by anything other than His grace they are distorting the very nature of grace itself!
Here’s the truth… If the basis of your relationship with Jesus is “grace, but” the things you refrain from doing and the sacrifices you make for Him then you not only fail to fully understand grace, but you’re saying Jesus’ death and resurrection are insufficient.
Thirdly… Anti-Gospel of “Grace, So I can do anything…” You’re saved and sanctified by grace, so there’s no restrictions on the things you can do. The irony is that while these people do understand the freeing nature of grace (it’s true you can do anything as God’s favor is provided independent of the individual) they subsequently distort grace in an entirely different way than the previous two.
Instead of grace yielding greater holiness and a sanctified life as it’s designed to do, grace is seen as a license for whatever goes. Unmerited favor in place of sin plus Jesus’ complete forgiveness concerning sin is viewed as an unrestricted permit to sin! It’s what I like to call the Romans 6:1 mentality… “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound!”
Sadly, while it’s true that if you're worried grace can become a license for sin you have a fundamental misunderstanding of grace, it’s equally true that if you see grace as a license to sin you also have an equally distorted and perverted view of grace.
Friend, here’s the truth… If the basis of your relationship with Jesus is “grace, so” I can do whatever I want, then you not only fail to fully understand grace, but you’re actually making a mockery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. To those who take this approach Paul would simply ask in Romans 6:2, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
You see if you truly grasp the True-Gospel of “Grace. (period)” you will understand that being saved and sanctified by grace transforms who you are and therefore what you want to do - for when the heart changes and you enter into a love relationship with Jesus your desires will naturally change! You no longer live to please Jesus because you have too. You live to please Jesus because you now want too!
Sadly, it’s these first two Gospel-Distortions (Grace, And - Grace, But) that not only fosters a false perception of one’s standing before God and therefore view of themselves, but they naturally warp how we interact with their fellow man!
One of the reasons legalistic Christians are a drag to be around is that they’re often hyperaware of your shortcomings while being completely unaware of their own!
And there is a reason for this… When a person embraces a religious stance on moralism by adopting a “Grace, And” or a “Grace, But” structure as the basis for how they earn and maintain God’s favor, this person will by default hold everyone they know to that same moral standard and thereby judge everyone they know accordingly.
You see religion (things to do and things to refrain from doing) provides the legalist a mechanism by which they can maintain their own sense of moral superiority and right-standing with God by highlighting, comparing, and condemning the failures of others.
It’s why religious people have the reputation of being mean, judgmental, unkind, spiteful, and stuck up. It’s been said, “The worst thing about religion is religious people.” I would add by pointing out the worst thing about religious people is religion! Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, said, “It has been religious people, often within the organized church, who have been the most critical of and even hostile to my relationship with God.”
Please understand, if a person rejects religious legalism (Grace, And - Grace, But) and instead embraces their standing before God as being through His “Grace.” they no longer have any basis to judge their fellow man or see themselves as being morally superior because God’s favor is both given and maintained independent of their involvement.
Think of it this way… If you’re climbing a moral ladder to God it’s entirely possible for you to judge those below you; but, in contrast, it’s really hard to be judgmental or have a sense of moral superiority when (instead of a moral ladder) you find yourself at the foot of the cross! Because religion leads to self-righteousness as opposed to the sole sufficiency of His-Righteousness, as Pastor Joe Focht rightly said, “Religion makes us the enemy of grace!”
Truth be told… I’m struck by something Paul says in this introduction. He affirms that “there are some who… want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” What Paul is saying is that these distortions of grace do not occur by accident and are instead intentional! It’s provocative!
We must ask why would anyone want to pervert the nature of God’s amazing grace in any of these three ways? While all three distortions are different in their own right there is one commonality that provides half the answer… Me! You see a central component of the true nature of grace is that it completely takes the power out of the hands of men.
The truth is that the “Grace, And” model is appealing because it affords my involvement in procuring the favor of God. The “Grace, But” model is appealing because it enables me to maintain a sense of moral superiority with my fellow man. And the “Grace, So” model is appealing because it allows me to remain in control of my life.
You see the reality is that the True-Gospel of “Grace.” is deeply offensive to human nature because it’s an insult to one’s pride and in turn denigrates self. Fundamentally, Grace alone declares that you are a sinner in need of being saved… There is nothing you can do to save yourself… And that once you’ve been saved there’s no way you can take credit for it!
But there is another reason people willingly distort grace… I’m convinced the rejection and resistance of grace bubbles forth from a much deeper well… A desire for fairness!
Understand, justice is more than the act of being just and fair. Basically, justice is both the act of being fair, the judgment of those who aren’t, and the administering of necessary reparations to re-level the playing field. As such The concept of justice (and the necessity of judgment) and our propensity and longing for fairness is an idea that transcends race, culture, ethnicity, and religion and one that strikes deep within the core of the human spirit.
Though this propensity for fairness manifests itself in politics and the formation of public policy both domestically and geopolitically, our longing to be treated fairly is the foundation for a religious concept that permeates our social landscape… Karma!
Introduced by the beatniks of Greenwich Village sometime during the 60’s, today the idea of Karma and Karmic Justice is all over today’s mainstream, American pop-culture (even referenced by newscasters). As one expert on societal trends remarked, “People have embraced karma because it helps explain why something good or bad happens.”
In actuality, this idea of Karma was the entire premise behind the NBC hit show “My Name is Earl.” In the show Earl, who’s new found life-motto is “Do good things and good things happen. Do bad things and bad things happen,” attempts to atone for a life of misdeeds and disfunction by doing good things for the people he’s wronged in the past.
According to the teachings of Buddha Karma states that “actions bring upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in our future incarnation.” In other words, in the end, life is fair! Everyone eventually gets what they deserve! Regardless of the moment, good deeds are always rewarded and bad ones punished.
This is what makes the cross such an offense and why it is that people struggle with the idea of grace. Not only does the cross completely contradict the concept of Karma (Jesus in no way deserved the brutal nature of His death), but it violates our sensibility for fairness.
The idea of grace, that God would grant His favor indiscriminately and independently of human involvement, is resisted because it doesn’t come across as being all that equitable. If we’re honest even the legalist in each of us cringes as the thought of someone who’s lived a life of sin and wickedness coming to Christ and immediately receiving the identical status we possess of being a son of God and co-heir of all the Father’s promises.
This explains why we’re so quick to warp the Biblical concept of “sowing and reaping” into our own form of Christian-Karma so that we can differentiate status and standing among believers. There is an aspect of legalism and Law that comes across as being fair; and yet, the doctrine of grace completely blows this conviction out of the water!
While it’s true the fairness of grace is evident when one understands “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that there is no fundamental difference between all people not named Jesus, in a practical sense grace isn’t designed to be fair!
Ultimately, you have to ask yourself this very important question, “Do you want God to be fair with you? Do you want your interactions with Him to be on the basis of what you deserve?” Or would prefer God to handle you through the prism of His love and kindness?
Paul was enraged that these Galatian believers were deliberately leaving the radicle nature of God’s grace by exchanging it for these Gospel-distortions. And yet, the reason he was so angry and what made all of this so dangerous is that Paul rightly understood in adopting such an approach they were in actuality departing from Jesus!
Please understand… What changed Paul’s life was not knowing more about God’s grace… What changed Paul’s life was the moment he experienced God’s grace through the revelation of Jesus Christ! What changed Paul was not a concept but a relationship!
When we talk about grace it’s so easy for us to speak in platitudes that we often fail to fully grasp what’s being communicated… While God’s love sent Jesus to atone for our sins on the cross, His grace (unmerited favor) is the mechanism that now affords each one of us the opportunity to know and have a relationship with His Son Jesus.
God’s grace allows for the relationship! Think about it like this… How does a person receive God’s grace? They enter into a relationship with Jesus. How does a person grow in God’s grace? Their relationship with Jesus deepens. How is a person transformed by God’s grace? Their relationship with Jesus naturally changes their desirers and impacts their behaviors.
In regards to Paul it had been God’s grace alone that afforded him the opportunity to have a relationship with Jesus - one that freed him from his former life, liberated him from the guilt of his past mistakes, and had now filled his life with meaning and purpose.
Sadly, there are some of you here today who’ve never experienced the power of grace because while you’ve “known about grace” you’ve never “known Grace!” Paul’s life was forever changed the day he met Jesus (Grace) and his life continued to change each and every day he walked with Jesus (Grace).
Friend, grace is more than an idea to know… It’s a relationship to be experienced! The power of God’s grace is found in the simple truth that it’s only by that grace that you can know Jesus! You see the reality is that grace is such a revolutionary concept because it provides you a way to approach God that isn’t based upon His fairness but rather His goodness.
In conclusion… Do you want God to be fair or would you prefer to bask in His incredible grace? Do you want to be in-law, under-law, or would you prefer to be an Outlaw?
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