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Jesus Plus Nothing Is Everything: Paul’s Fiery Defense of Justification By Faith

by Matthew Kruse on September 5, 2013

in Word and Prayer

Seven Mile Road:

We are delighted to announce that for the next 10 months we’ll be preaching through the New Testament letter that was written by Jesus’ Apostle Paul to the Christians who were a part of the churches he had planted in the region of Galatia.

For you minimalists, the book is also simply known as “Galatians.”

Galatians is one of the most fiery, intense, offensive, doctrinal, clear, powerful, idol-smashing, soul-stirring books in the canon of Scripture.

You are going to love it.

We are calling the series, “Jesus Plus Nothing Is Everything: Paul’s Fiery Defense of Justification by Faith.”

This post is aimed to get you up to speed on where we are going.

BACKGROUND

So here’s the story.

Paul, Barnabas, and a church planting team were commissioned on a missionary journey that included stops in four cities located in the region of Galatia.

In each of the cities, they preached the gospel to two radically different people groups:

1: Jews

The first thing they would do was hit the synagogues, where they found observant Jews, many of whom, like Paul from years earlier, were leaning into law-obedience as their means of being accepted by God. These people had the law, the promises, and the covenant, which was all good. But they were in danger of fading from repentant faith to good works as the ground of their justification.

2: Gentiles

Secondly, they’d hit the streets (and other community gathering places) where they found Gentiles who were living idolatrous, perverse, pagan lives. These people didn’t know or care about the God of the Jews, or His law, promises, temple, or covenant. They were unconcerned with justification before the holy God.

To both of these distinct people groups, Paul preached the same exact gospel.

He did not tell the Jews that their works were getting them close to heaven and that adding faith in Jesus would push them over the top.

He did not tell the Gentiles that they were fine living the way they were, but nor did he tell them that they had to become Jews and start being better people so that God would accept them.

He did not preach any kind of legalistic, moralistic, law-keeping, do-good-works, clean-yourself-up, you-can-do-it-if-you-try gospel.

Instead, he preached the gospel of grace.

Of Christ crucified for sinners.

Of justification with God emerging not from their good works but by apprehending Christ’s work by faith.

He told them all that they were eyeball deep in sin with no way of working their way out of it. That they were all in need of a rescue from the outside, a Savior to come and provide a means for the forgiveness of their sin. That they all needed to be justified (or made right with God) or face His just and necessary wrath for their falling so short of what His law requires. That they all needed sovereign grace.

And, marvelously, he told them that that grace had come in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for their sins and was raised for their justification. To all who would believe, the verdict of “righteous” would be granted, the promised Spirit given, and a new, transformed, happy, holy life would commence.

On the hearing of this gospel in Galatia, two things happened:

1: lots of Jews and Gentiles believed, and churches were planted.

2: lots of Jews and Gentiles didn’t believe and Paul got stoned.

Literally. Stoned, and left for dead.

But then, to everyone’s surprise, Paul crawled out from under a heap of rocks and kept preaching Jesus, retracing his steps through the four Galatian cities, encouraging the saints, and appointing elders to lead them.

Then, not long after his departure from Galatia, the worst possible news arrived.

The Judaizers had arrived.

The Judaizers were false teachers from Jerusalem who preached a gospel of grace plus works, of Jesus plus Moses, or the cross plus religion.

Their message to the Galatians was two-fold:

1: That Paul’s gospel was insufficient.

Acts 15:1 nails this for us: “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” In other words, “Believing in Jesus is good and necessary, but you also need to do the right works to be saved,” with “circumcised” being short-hand for obedience to a host of older covenant legal regulations about food purity, calendar observance, and the like, all of which has been fulfilled in Christ. “It’s not enough to become a believing Christian, you have to also become a practicing Jew,” was their message.

2: That Paul was not really an apostle.

They slandered Paul, saying that he was mistaken doctrinally because he was just a second-hand messenger who must have misunderstood the apostolic gospel as given by the “real” apostles. The Judaizers themselves claimed to be the ones who correctly taught the message of Peter, James, John, and the others.

Now, you can imagine Paul’s response when he heard the news that these false teachers were threatening to undo all the work that the Spirit had done in Galatia, work that literally nearly got him killed.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine it.

Galatians is Paul’s response.

It is a feisty, fiery, guttural, quickly-written pastoral response to the false gospel that was taking root in Galatia. Paul’s heart and soul literally bleed into every word. He is angry. He is distraught. He is astonished. He is troubled. He is hot. And, while being all of things, he is loving, as he pleads with the Galatians to remain grounded in the gospel of grace that is their only hope for salvation.

FLOW

As you can imagine, this letter is not perfectly organized manuscript. Paul is hurriedly writing in big block letters as quickly as his hand can transfer his thoughts from mind to ink to paper. Throughout the letter he weaves back and forth between personal defense, doctrinal teaching, ethical implication, and ad hominem attacks on his opponents. “And another thing!” is the tone here, until he finally drops his pen and storms out to find someone to carry his message off to Galatia.

That said, the letter does have a few major sections that we’ll move through in the preaching:

1: Paul’s Apostolic Defense

2: The Doctrine Justification by Faith Unpacked

3: The Evidences of a Justified, Spirit-Filled Life

4: Paul’s Merciless Assault on the False Teachers

This week we kick it off with a “trailer” sermon where we allow the first 4 verses of the letter to preview the major themes of the book and get us excited about reading and hearing it together.

So buckle up and get ready for a wild ride.

You will be offended. You will be stretched. You will be entertained. You will be bowled over by the grace of the gospel.

And if you have never believed the gospel, you will be given ample opportunity to give up on your program of self-salvation and fly to the cross of Christ and take hold of the life that is freely given their by faith.

Matthew Kruse

Matthew Kruse is one of the pastors serving the people of Seven Mile Road. It’s been his joy to plant Seven Mile, working and learning and failing and growing and seeing many come to repentance of sin, faith in Christ, and obedience to Him. Having grown up in Revere and Everett, Kruse loves the just-north-of-Boston tribe and longs to see the Spirit at work in redemptive ways among many there. His roles at Seven Mile Road include leading vision and strategy, preaching the Word, shaping the souls of our current and future leaders, and living missionally out of the Melrose congregation. He is also a husband to Grace and dad to four awesome children who you’d love.

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