Don’t reject the grace of God.
This week, Pastor Matt encourages us with the Big Idea: Don’t reject the grace of God. What does that look like?
1. Don’t reject those God has welcomed (2:11-14)
2. Remember that you were justified by faith alone, not works (2:15-16)
3. Live by faith (2:17-21)
ESV Study Bible
Tony Evans Study Bible
Galatians by Martin Luther
Zondervan Exegetical Commentary – Galatians – Tom Schreiner
Holiness by J.C. Ryle
Ray Ortlund – https://immanuelnashville.libsyn.com/2017/03
There are two ways, and two ways only, to relate to God. In fact, everyone in this room, without exception, is right now relating to God in one of two ways: by grace or by the law. God’s grace is what you need to face all your burdens valiantly, which is what it means to be unburdened. What is grace? Theologian Wayne Grudem says that grace is “God’s goodness to those who deserve only punishment.” New Testament Scholar Tom Schreiner says that “God’s grace…refers to his free mercy that is lavished on all who believe in Jesus Christ.” When you relate to God by grace, you’re able to bear all your burdens valiantly, which is what it means to be unburdened. Remember what Martin Luther wrote about grace 500 years ago. If we are comforted and heartened by the grace of God (that is, by the forgiveness of sin and by this peace of conscience), we are able to bear all troubles valiantly and to overcome them, even death itself…When sin is pardoned and the conscience set free…Because everything inside is sweet and comfortable, we can do and suffer everything willingly. That’s relating to God by the grace that is ours in Jesus Christ. The other way to relate to God is by the law. Relating to God by the law is when you base your daily standing before God, your sense of acceptance with God, and your right to draw close to God on your own effort and ability to keep God’s moral law. Relating to God by the law is maybe the most unrelenting temptation we face and our most self-burdening tendency. And Paul wrote his letter to the churches of Galatia to rescue us from rejecting the grace of God, from relating to God according to our human effort. Listen to the way Paul concludes our passage. Presbyterian theologian J. Gresham Machen said that this verse is the main point of Galatians. Galatians 2:21 – I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” That brings us to the big idea of our passage: Don’t reject the grace of God. Since relating to God by grace is the only way to be unburdened from sin and conscience and fear, don’t reject the grace of God. How? 1. Don’t reject those God has welcomed (2:11-14) 2. Remember that you were justified by faith alone, not works (2:15-16) 3. Live by faith (2:17-21).
DON’T REJECT THOSE GOD HAS WELCOMED (2:11-14)
Our passage begins with The Apostle Paul recounting a face-to-face confrontation that he had with Peter. Peter publicly rejected the grace of God by rejecting those God had welcomed. Let’s read Paul’s account of the scene and then I’ll explain it. Galatians 2:11-13 – But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. Translation: Before some Jewish Christians arrived in Antioch from Jerusalem, Jewish-Christian Peter ate ham and cheese sandwiches in warm fellowship with Gentile Christians. Peter ate unclean foods – foods prohibited by the Old Testament law – with unclean people, Gentiles because the Lord taught Peter years earlier not to call anything or anyone that God had made clean, common. Peter already knew not to reject those that God welcomes and makes clean through faith in Jesus. But when Jewish Christians arrived from Jerusalem, out of fear and hypocrisy Peter pulled back from table fellowship with Gentile Christians and rejected those God had welcomed.
Why was this such a big deal? Paul tells us in Galatians 2:14 – But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Paul opposed Peter to his face because when we reject those that God has welcomed in Christ, we are actually rejecting the grace of God. Citylight Church holds to the doctrine of grace, which is meant to create a culture of grace. Our gospel doctrine – what we believe on paper – is meant to create a gospel culture among us. The frightening thing is that, like Peter, we can actually unsay the gospel of grace that we believe by the way we treat one another. When we reject warm fellowship with those that God has welcomed through Christ, we aren’t just being rude or unkind. It’s far more serious than that. We are actually nullifying, voiding, setting aside, and rejecting the grace of God. Put positively, we live by grace when we welcome those that Christ has welcomed for God’s glory, despite all of our secondary differences.
This dynamic relationship between the doctrine of grace and having a culture of grace at Citylight is a huge part of our vision for Citygroups. Citygroups are smaller communities in which we help one another apply the transforming power of the gospel to everyday life. Our hope is that everyone who attends Citylight Church on Sunday also has a Citygroup that they call home.The motto for our Citygroup is Romans 15:7 – Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. We want our Citygroups to be multi-racial. Since God welcomes diverse people into his family through faith in Jesus, we welcome one another in our Citygroups despite the challenges that come from racial differences. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of inclusion. We want our Citygroups to be multi-generational. Since God welcomes boomers, Gen Z’s, and millennials to himself through faith in Jesus alone, we don’t require someone to be our age for us to welcome them into rich fellowship. Therefore, our Citygroups are happily as multi-generational as possible. We want our Citygroups to be multi-cultural. God welcomes rich people, poor people, and middle class people to himself through Jesus. God welcomes white collar and blue collar workers to himself through Jesus. God welcomes people from traditional, honor cultures and people from modern individualistic cultures to himself through Jesus. Therefore, we welcome one another despite all these potentially awkward cultural clashes. Citygroups are ground zero for upholding the grace of God by welcoming those that God has welcomed in Christ. Citylight Church – don’t reject the grace of God by rejecting from your close, intimate fellowship those that God has welcomed in Christ just because they’ve got no idea what it’s like to be your race, your age, your culture, or your personality. Now, what I’ve just said sounds nice in a sermon, but in real life, welcoming one another close despite massive differences is really difficult. How do we do it? That question brings us to the second we to not reject the grace of God.
REMEMBER THAT YOU WERE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ALONE, NOT WORKS (2:15-16)
When Peter pulled back from table fellowship with Gentile Christians, he was saying with his actions, “To be kosher with God and kosher with me, you have to do more than receive and rest in the finished work of Jesus who lived, died, and rose for our sins.” How many times have we done that too. And Paul says to Peter and to all of us, “do not nullify, do not reject the grace of God by rejecting those God has welcomed in Christ.” But boy is that hard. How can we possibly do it? Paul’s answer to Peter and us is, “remember that you were justified by faith, not works.” Galatians 2:15-16 [Paul is still talking to Peter] – We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. When you’re tempted to relate to God or people by the law, rather than grace, remember that you were justified by faith alone, not works.
Next to grace, the word “justified” is probably the most important in all of Galatians. It’s a legal term that means “declared not guilty and totally righteous”. The Christian doctrine of justification by faith alone says that we are declared not guilty and totally right with God not on the basis of keeping law because no one keeps the law perfectly. Rather, we are declared not guilty and totally righteous before God be receiving with the empty hands of faith and resting in Jesus’ perfectly righteous life, his atoning death for our sins, and his victorious resurrection from the grave. There are two illustrations for justification by faith alone in Christ alone that help me understand and experience the truth of it. The first is an illustration from the law court and the other from a job interview. Imagine that you’ve been brought to court on murder charges that you, the jury, and the judge all know that you’re guilty of. The judge is about to rightly sentence you to life in prison, but at the last second the Judge’s son volunteers, out of sheer love for you, to take your guilty sentence for you though he’s never murdered anyone. The judge’s son gets your sentence and in a shocking exchange of places, the judge takes you home as his adopted son. That’s the doctrine of justification. You’re declared completely forgiven and totally righteous by trusting in Jesus who took your place on the cross to take all your sin away and make you right with God. Let’s leave the law court and head to a job interview. Let’s imagine you’re about to interview for a job at Amazon, but you know that you don’t meet even one of the job qualifications. As you are about to step into the interview room, Jeff Bezos walks up to you in the hall and asks for your resume. He looks it over and sees that you fall short of the job requirements in every way. So he tears up your resume and hands you his own resume, which meets and exceeds every required qualification. That’s the doctrine of justification. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We deserve the sentence of judgment because our own resume of unrighteousness condemns us forever before the holy God. But God in his love gave His Son to live the righteous life we’ve failed to live, to die for the penalty we deserve, and rise again. And if you will simply receive Jesus with the empty hands of faith and rest in his work instead of yours, you’ll be declared not guilty, he’ll take your rap sheet of sin and give you his perfect resume, and you’ll be declared right with God by faith in Jesus, and nothing will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ.
Citylight Church – don’t reject the grace of God. Don’t relate to God on the basis of anything you do or don’t do, relate to him on the basis of what Christ has done. Don’t reject those that God has welcomed in Christ. Welcome them by remembering that you are justified, you are are kosher with God by faith in Christ, so why add something else that someone has to do to be kosher with you. Remember that you were justified by faith alone.
Now, whenever we talk about not rejecting the grace of God, whenever we talk about being declared totally forgiven and completely righteous through faith alone in Christ alone, an important question comes up. And Paul raises the question in Galatians 2:17-19. The question is: ok, if we don’t reject the grace of God by refusing to reject those that God has welcomed in Christ and by remembering that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone, won’t that make us morally unserious people? Doesn’t that just make Christ a servant of us sinning more? If we don’t live by the law and by works, how in the world can we live in this world? Here is how Paul put it: But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. If we don’t live by our law keeping, what do we live by?
LIVE BY FAITH (2:17-21)
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. What should I say about this glorious verse?
Union with Christ – Christ in us – that’s daily Christianity
Continue as you started – collapsing into Christ. No formulas. Nothing mechanical. Moment by moment communion and dependence and trust and obedience to the living Christ. A living miracle that the law can’t do.
There is no doubt that this is one of the most amazing verses in the Bible. Christian – you were once all burdens. You once tried to be right with God and people by your own moral efforts. However, the law of God convicted, condemned, cursed, and killed you because you didn’t keep it perfectly. You lived by the law. But when you believed in Christ, that old you with all of its law keeping, false-righteousness, trying to measure, and failing in judgment was crucified with Jesus 2,000 years ago. That old you what lived by rule keeping, even your own rebellious rules that you can never keep has been crucified. And now Christ lives in you. It’s not Christ’s life and righteousness that lives in you. And so life for you is not by the law or by the rules. Life is Christ. What do you have now to live by? Not law or sin, but Christ. Every moment now is not you living, it’s Christ living in you. Your life isn’t by the rules but by simple, daily trusting the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you. Now you live by your identity in Jesus, not by your works.
If we don’t live by the rules how do we live? Well, we wake up in the morning and we turn first to Jesus and trust in his promises over our worries. We relate to God not on the basis of how well we performed the day before, but on the basis of our perfect resume and complete forgiveness in Jesus. We go to work or to parenting and we work or parent out of our identity in Christ. We do what he says we should do, we speak how he would want us to speak, we serve how he would want us to serve and we refrain what he would want us to refrain from not by simple trust in his goodness. We welcome one another and we steward our lives as Christ’s life through us.
Citylight Church – don’t reject the grace of God. Instead trust in God’s grace and live by faith!