Saved by faith alone – Galatians 2

A while ago I saw an interesting item available for sale on the internet. “Disposable Guilt Bags”. For £2 you get a kit of ten ordinary brown bags on which are printed the following instructions: “Place the bag securely over your mouth, take a deep breath and blow all your guilt out, then dispose of the bag immediately.” They have sold thousands! If only we could dispose of our guilt so easily. But there is nothing on this earth powerful enough in itself to dispose of our guilt. We cannot fix ourselves, which is what many people are trying to do. But we CAN be saved! The thing, the only thing, which makes it possible to be forgiven, to be cleansed, to be healed, that which makes it possible for us to receive our life back again, fresh and clean and new, is the power of God’s Grace in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

And this is the message of salvation which Paul is defending in his letter to the churches in Galatia. Paul is defending the gospel he preaches against distortion and misunderstanding and false gospels. We saw last week from Galatians 1 that in Paul’s eyes (and the rest of the Bible agrees) there is only one true gospel. Everything else is false hopes and lies and heresy. And last week Galatians 1 gave us two very persuasive reasons for believing that Paul’s gospel is indeed the one true gospel!

We saw that the gospel Paul preached came from his own dramatic experience of the transforming power of God when he encountered the Risen Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. The first reason we have for believing Paul’s gospel is true is that we also have experienced the transforming power of Christ, that power which saves from the guttermost to the uttermost. We have seen God’s power change other people’s lives and we have experienced that power in our own lives. To a greater or lesser extent we have shared the a Damascus Road conversion experience ourselves. So we are inclined to be confident in the truth of Paul’s gospel, especially when he gives us a second reason.

That second reason we are certain Paul’s gospel is true because Paul’s gospel was revealed to him by God
Gal 1:11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.That encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road not only changed Paul’s own life, but it led on to God’s commission to be the apostle to the Gentiles.

Acts 26:15 “Then I asked, `Who are you, Lord?’ “`I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 `Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’The life changing Damascus Road experiences which we have shared. God’s direct revelation to Paul. Now our reading this week in Galatians 2 begins by giving us a third reason why we can be certain that Paul’s gospel is indeed the one true gospel.

Paul’s gospel was confirmed by the rest of the early church
Galatians 2 1. Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
6 As for those who seemed to be important- whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance- those men added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 9 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
So Paul claims that the leaders of the Early Church confirmed that the gospel he preached was true. And we can rely on this claim for al least two reasons:
A – if some meeting like that had not happened at some point then the apostles or other church leaders would certainly have stood up and opposed Paul publically – Paul would never have been accepted into the Early Church;
B – if Paul’s gospel had not been confirmed, then letters like Galatians would never have been widely read and collected and added into the New Testament. If Paul’s gospel was not true then his letters, like so much other rubbish floating around in 1st and 2nd Centuries, would have been condemned by the churches as heretical and gathered up and burned.

But in fact alongside the four records of Jesus’s life by Matthew Mark Luke and John, Paul’s letters formed the heart of the faith of the growing churches. So we need have no doubts – the gospel Paul preached is indeed the true gospel!

But WHAT IS Paul’s gospel ?

In a nutshell it is the gospel of salvation by faith alone, not by observing the Jewish Law

Gal 2: 16 We know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified.
Converting to some other religions can be very demanding. “Conversation to Hindu Faith Is Tortuous.” The article stated, “A West German businessman has completed his conversion to the Hindu faith by piercing himself through the cheeks with a 1/4-inch thick, 4- foot-long steel rod, and pulling a chariot for 2 miles by ropes attached to his back and chest by steel hooks. Others walk through 20- foot-long pits of fire, don shoes with soles made of nails, or hang in the air spread-eagle from hooks embedded in their backs.”

BUT WE are saved by faith!

Gal 2: 16 We know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified.
Saved by grace alone through faith alone. But this then led to controversy among the early churches. Are Christians also obliged to keep the Jewish Law – or has Christ set us free from the demands of the Law? The `Circumcision party’ or `Judaizers’ wanted all Christians to have to adhere to the Jewish law.

There have been legalists in every age. Believers who are always anxious to know what is expected of them. They want to do only what is necessary to make themselves look respectable. They look for specific rules so they can know precisely how to behave. They plod along hoping that someday their efforts will pay off. According to the New Testament such people are legalists; they are using the law to establish their righteousness.

Even the apostle Peter was led astray by this error!
Gal 2: 11. When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
The truth is – we are saved by faith alone! Not by keeping rules and regulations.
This is no historical irrelevance – but a vital issue even today because it concerns the nature and means of our salvation. Are we saved by Christ – and putting our trust in what He has done for us – or are there other things we have to do as well?
Does a Christian have to PRAY in order to be saved?
Does a Christian have to COME TO CHURCH in order to be saved?
Does a Christian have to READ THE BIBLE in order to be saved?
Does a Christian have to LIVE A HOLY LIFE in order to be saved?
Does a Christian have to WITNESS FOR JESUS in order to be saved?
Does a Christian have to LOVE OTHER PEOPLE in order to be saved?
These are all good things to do, things we would expect a Christian to want to do! But does a Christian HAVE to do these things in order to be saved? NO! NO! NO!

Does a Christian have to KEEP THE 10 COMMANDMENTS in order to be saved? NO!
Does a Christian have to KEEP THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS Jesus emphasised – love the Lord your God with all heart, soul, strength, mind, and Love your neighbour as yourself? NO!
Does a Christian have to KEEP THE NEW COMMANDMENT – that we should love one another as Christ has loved us?

A person can fall as far as to break every one of the 10 commandments – to lie, steal, commit adultery, even commit murder, even worship false gods – and still be saved! They can do these things even after they have become Christians and still be saved! Its very unlikely – but it could happen! Because we ARENT saved by living good life or obeying Jewish law – but by what Christ has done for us!

Gal 2:16 So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified.We are saved by what Chris has done for us – NOT by what we do in response. There is NOTHING we can do to earn or deserve our salvation – NOTHING. And we all STILL sin after we are saved. The difference is we used to be sinners running AFTER sin, but now that we are saved we are sinners running AWAY FROM sin!

So as a consequence, does a new Christian have to fit in to OUR way of being church in order to be saved? NO! Do new Christians have to fit into our culture, or our patterns of worship, or our ways of witnessing, in order to be saved? NO! Can Christians go to clubs, wear outrageous earrings or provocative clothes, get drunk, live together without being married, and still be Christians?? YES!!!! because salvation does not depend on these things! I’m not suggesting such things are in the least good, of course not! We may not like the way other Christians live their lives. But we dare not condemn them! We must NEVER forget that if salvation depended on faith AND living a perfect life then NONE of US would be saved either! We are saved by what Christ has done for us – NOT by obeying the Jewish Law, or any other rules and regulations!

Chuck Swindoll : The bite of legalism spreads paralyzing venom into the body of Christ. Its poison blinds our eyes, dulls our edge, and arouses pride in our hearts. Soon our love is eclipsed as it turns into a mental clipboard with a long checklist. Rigidity is the trademark of legalism, the archenemy of any church on the move. Let legalism have enough rope, and there will be a lynching of all new ideas, fresh thinking, and innovative programs.

But if we are saved by faith and not by obeying the Jewish law, just how does our salvation work???

It is the gospel of sharing Christ’s death.

Gal 2:17 “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a law-breaker.All the Jewish law does is show everyone who has ever lived that we are all sinners. No-one has ever or could ever live a perfect life – except Jesus Christ the Holy Son of God. The Jewish Law shows us God’s perfect standards, but the Law can’t save anyone – nobody apart from Christ can live up to it!

Gal 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”The Law shows us our need of a Saviour – it prepared the way and points us to Christ. When he died he paid the full penalty of the Law’s demands – `sin pays its wage = death’ . But Christ had no penalty to pay – he lived a totally perfect , sinless life – so the penalty He paid wasnt for his own sin but for OUR sin.

So our salvation comes as we share in Jesus’s death.
And once Jesus had died, the law had no claim on him at all – because he was dead! So once we share Christ’s death the law has no claim on us either – because we are dead with Him. God’s law has no power over us – we are no longer living under law but under grace.

Gal 2:19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.We live because Christ has died and risen – we share His death, and by faith we share His resurrection life. We dont have a life of our own! Only Christ’s life which He shares with us! That’s Paul’s gospel – the one true gospel! And we’ll be thinking more about that in the weeks to come.

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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