This is the Gospel

Now that I have children living in the metroplex, I realize how different Fort Worth is different from Dallas. Both are part of the metroplex but are very different places. Different places mean different contexts.

Churches have context. Albany is not Anson and is not Clyde. Churches just down the road from each other can differ significantly.

    • Our churches
      • Some are thriving
      • Some are tired
      • Some enjoy their common fellowship
      • Some are bickering all the time
      • I knew a church in a small town with five distinct factions. On my first Sunday to visit, I was informed that this would be the last Sunday for about twenty members who were leaving. What do you preach when a church is about ready to split again?
      • Churches have a context.

The Galatian churches had a context

  • And while their faith began full of hope, Paul was fearful that some Jewish missionaries messing with the very heart of the Gospel would pervert their faith.
    • Three pillars of practice exemplified that preamble: Jewish Christians equated dietary laws (Gal. 2:11–14), circumcision (Gal.  5:6; 6:15), and Jewish holidays (Gal 4:9–10) as boundary markers for their identity. These three practices were identity markers that Jewish Christians embraced. And these practices were not wrong for Jewish Christians; but very wrong for Gentile believers.
    • It is like a multivitamin, merely a supplement, but yet lacking the power to cure a disease.
    • I read an article about how taking too much Vitamin D is harmful. I looked at the various supplements I was taking. Whoa! I was taking way too much. Sometimes adding more is harmful. Adding to the Gospel is harmful, Paul says.
    • Gospel + // A bundle like TV + Internet + Phone = new contract. And suddenly, I’m trapped again for two more years). The objection Paul has is that bundling the Gospel with Jewish practices is not essential for Gentile Christians.
    • And such bundling had social implications. In Galatia, as in Rome, those implications were ethnic. In Corinth, those implications were socio-economic. Social implications can play themselves out in a wide variety of ways in how people relate to others who are not part of their group.
    • Brad Braxton states it this way about the Galatians, “[The Gentiles] could not enjoy the blessings of God’s covenant unless they abandoned their ethnic identity and assumed another. If Gentile believers adopted another ethnic identity, they would deny that God saved them as Gentiles.” [1]

So, what does Paul preach to churches like those found in Galatia?

Galatians 1:1-5  —What is the Gospel?

  • The gospel is not of human construction. It comes from God (1:1, 3-4).
  • Grace is embodied and made effective by the self-giving of Jesus on the cross (1:4). Jesus’ death atones for our sins and releases us from the oppressive power of “the present evil age.”
  • The self-giving of Jesus is in accordance with the will of God (1:4). Therefore, we have “grace and peace” that comes from God (1:3). Therefore, the death of Jesus is an act of God.
  • God is our Father (1:1). We are God’s children and members of God’s family. Rooted in God as your Father (1:1, 3, 4). 3xs
  • God raised Jesus from the dead. God has power over death and delivers us from the grip of death.
  • A message that was revealed by Jesus. You see, the message, the messenger, and the origin of the message are bound tightly together.
  • God breaks into this age in order to usher in a new age (1:4).
    • In order to “set us free.”
    • What you believe affects what you do.

So, Paul offers a doxology (the only time in a Pauline introduction). If Galatians is read in church and functions like a sermon, will the hearers say the “Amen” at the end of verse 5? 

The Gospel is all about Jesus

  • Jesus
    • Who chose to come to earth, born a human in a manger.
    • Who chose to associate with tax collectors, sinners, Samaritans, Syrophoenicians—the poorest of the poor, outcasts, and folks who were unclean.
    • Each story you read in Matt, Mark, and Luke; each turn in the road; each city he entered; each conversation he had; was in obedient faithfulness to God.
    • And that faithfulness took him to the cross.
    • Paul summarizes this story in Gal 1:1-4; and concludes with doxology 1:5.
  • And if we look elsewhere in Gal, Paul says it in compact ways with memorable statements.
    • 2:16 Knowing that one is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, …
    • 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
      • “Faith of Jesus Christ” (2:16a, 20; 3:3, 5, 22)  and by the effectiveness of the message.
      • “Faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16b; 3:26)

And this is the Gospel!

No matter what the context. No matter what is going on right now in a church. No matter what the issues, you are saved because of the faithfulness of Jesus. You are part of God’s covenant family because of the faithfulness of Jesus. You are here! You belong! Look around this room…everyone here belongs because of the faithfulness of Jesus. And look around your neighborhood, this community, this county, and State. No one is excluded from the Gospel. No one is excluded from the waters. No one is excluded from the Table.

This is the Gospel (2:16).

[1] Braxton, “Galatians,” 334.