Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Journey with Paul - Galatians 1, Acts 15

Sermon Sunday 19 Feb '17
Yesterday I had the privilege of teaching the flock.

Topic: Journey with Paul - texts Galatians 1, Acts 15, and others.


Sermon notes below


Blessings.










Turn to the book of Galatians.

As you know, we have been on a journey through the book of Acts. And currently we are following Paul’s travels as he both plants churches, and re-visits them in order to strengthen them.
And what we are going to do today is look more specifically at those churches in the area of Galatia that Paul planted.

So, a quick re-cap:
 Paul, or Saul as we know him in Acts 9, was persecuting the new believers.  And he travelled from Jerusalem with a letter from the high priest permitting him to find these ‘people of the Way’, and bring them bound back to Jerusalem to be dealt with. But on the way he was encountered by a great light and a voice proclaiming ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’. He was struck blind for 3 days. That part is very important point in time, and I’ll come back to that later.

And in Acts 13 we find Saul ministering to the church in Antioch. Remember, this is the Antioch of Syria. The Holy Spirit spoke to the leaders there to lay hands on Saul and Barnabas and John as their assistant, for work which He had commanded them to do.

They went to the port of Seleucia, and sailed down to Cyprus. They preached the Word of God in the synagogues in Salamis. They moved on to Paphos, where they encountered the false prophet Bar-Jesus, to whom Paul rebuked and called down blindness on him.

There they set sail from Pathos and arrived in Perga, where John left them and returned to Jerusalem. From there they went up to Antioch. Remember, this is the other Antioch, not the one in Syria. In the synagogue Paul was asked to speak. The Gentiles received the message, were added to the church, and wanted more, but the Jews became envious, stirred up persecution against them, and drove them out of the region.

They went down to Iconium, where pretty much the same thing happened. They preached, both Jews and Greeks believed. Violence was stirred up, and they even tried to stone the apostles. They fled to Lystra.

 And at Lystra in chapter 14 was where Paul healed the boy who was lame from birth, and the priest of Zeus called them gods, and were going to make sacrifices to them. Remember, they tore their clothes and begged them not to do this, and used the opportunity to preach to the crowd. And the Jews came down from Antioch and Iconium, stirred the crowds again, and this time they stoned Paul and left him for dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he just stood up and went back into the city. We’re not told whether he played dead to satisfy the Jews, or whether they raised him from the dead.

Then they went to Derbe, preached the gospel there, and made many disciples.

Then they went back through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch and Acts says that they strengthened the disciples there, commended them and appointed elders at every church they passed through.
They came back through Pisidia and Pamphylia. They stopped again to preach in Perga, travelled to the port of Attalia, and sailed back to Antioch of Syria, this time avoiding Cyprus. And Acts 14:28 tells us that when they got back, they reported back all that God had done with them.

So, that’s a quick overview of Paul’s First Missionary Journey. And Paul passes through most of the Galatian churches again during his second and third trips.
And the reason I reviewed the first trip again wasn’t just to prove that I stayed awake during David’s sermons the last couple of months. No, it’s because later on, Paul writes to these churches in Galatia. Most commentators say that he probably wrote it on or about the time he departed on his third missionary trip.

And the letter is very negative. Not in the sense that it leaves them with no hope, but rather that it’s not one of those fluffy, feel-good encouraging letters. When you read, it’s obvious that when Paul re-visits these churches, and when he hears reports back from them, he is not a happy chappy.
All those things that he confronted them about the first time around, had managed to creep their way back into their theology.  And what are those things? Let’s read. First Paul lays down his credentials:

Galatians 1:1-5 (NKJV)
1  Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),
2  and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
3  Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,
4  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,
5  to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul isn’t shy about his credentials. See in verse 1

Galatians 1:1 (NKJV)
1  Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),

You see, to be an apostle, you had to get your teaching direct from Jesus Christ Himself. And how did this happen? Remember earlier on the road to Damascus. Paul had an encounter with Jesus Himself. Not as the Christ in human flesh, but the glorified Christ, an event which blinded him for 3 days.
So he’s saying that just like all the disciples, and others - who followed Him, ate and drank with Him, saw Him perform miracles, were there when He was crucified, and saw Him again after His resurrection – he lays claim to being one of them, because He was appointed directly by Jesus Christ through divine encounter.

But no wonder the church were suspicious at first – all they remembered of Paul was when he used to have them beaten or killed, or have them rounded up for the Jews. But Paul reassures them that he is genuine.  Skip down to

Galatians 1:11-24 (ESV)
11  For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.
12  For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
13  For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.
14  And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.
15  But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
16  was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;
17  nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18  Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days.
19  But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.
20  (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!)
21  Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
22  And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.
23  They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
24  And they glorified God because of me.

And he also proved this by the many ways in which he could pull out Old Testament stories and prophecies, and show them how they linked to Christ.
In fact, in many of his speeches and sermons he made in the synagogues started this way. Here’s one we have already covered, in Antioch in Pisidia:

Acts 13:13-41 (NKJV)
13  Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.
14  But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down.
15  And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, "Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on."
16  Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:
17  The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it.
18  Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness.
19  And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment.
20  After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
21  And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
22  And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.'
23  From this man's seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior--Jesus--
24  after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
25  And as John was finishing his course, he said, 'Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.'
26  Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent.
27  For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him.
28  And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death.
29  Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.
30  But God raised Him from the dead.
31  He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people.
32  And we declare to you glad tidings--that promise which was made to the fathers.
33  God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'
34  And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: 'I will give you the sure mercies of David.'
35  Therefore He also says in another Psalm: 'You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.'
36  "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption;
37  but He whom God raised up saw no corruption.
38  Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;
39  and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
40  Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:
41  "Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.' "

That’s the way Paul did it – by pulling together all those Old Testament pictures of patriarchs, exposing the silver thread that runs through them, and showing how they all point to Christ.
And that begs the question: Does that mean that everyone these days, who lays claim to receive a direct appointment from Christ, can claim to be an apostle? There are lots who have tried, but Paul himself puts this to rest. Quickly turn over to Eph 2:

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV)
19  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone,
21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  

Verse 20 tells us the foundation was built on the apostles and prophets. So, think about it: how many foundations does a building need?
It needs one. One good one, that is. Once the foundation has been built, there’s no need to rebuild it (unless, like the local earthquake buildings it needs repairing). And you don’t just keep building the foundation. What are foundations for? To build a building or structure on.

That’s what Paul is saying. The foundation of the church is built on the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the chief cornerstone. And what is a cornerstone?  It’s a stone that forms the basis of the foundation. It’s usually the largest stone, and from there, the rest of the foundation is built out from.
It’s like that beautiful old hymn we used to sing years ago:

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is His new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

So, based on Eph 2:19-22, which we read earlier - I am firmly in the camp that the original offices of prophet and apostle are now closed.

So:

Thank you for your application for Apostle / Prophet in the local body of my Church.

However, I regret to inform you that your application was unsuccessful. The quantity and quality of applicants was extremely high, and I have appointed who I believe to be the appropriate people to occupy these positions.
They have faithfully performed their tasks with great success - so much so that I have concluded that their positions are now obsolete, and have therefore disestablished the roles.
I would recommend, however, you read and apply their instruction, as a foundational model  for building up your own local body.

I will keep your curriculum vitae on file, and have passed your details onto your Pastor. Should another vacancy arise that you feel passionate to fill, please feel free to apply.
Please feel free to peruse our list of available exciting opportunities, especially Creche, Childrens’ Ministry, and the Sunday Morning Setup Team.

Yours through Christ,

Almighty God.

You might be thinking “Hang on, what about 1 Cor 12, and Eph 4 where it lists the offices of the church? Well, that’s the secondary use of these words.

An apostle in today’s terms would be like a messenger of the church, and sets the doctrine for the church. And this doctrine comes from where? Well, God’s Word of course.

A prophet in today’s terms would be like a preacher of God’s Word who talks of future events. These words would be first tested by the apostles against scripture to see if they were true.
If I got up and said that God told me this would happen, and David, Peter, Royce or Jarryd thought I was speaking outside the bounds of scripture - then they have every right to stand up, rebuke me, and tell me to shut up and sit down.
That hasn’t happened yet, so I must be doing something right.

This is somewhat controversial subject, I know. You may have another view, but based on my reading of scripture, that’s what I get.
Anyone who claims they are an apostle, what they are in essence saying is that they are the foundation for which the church is being built on. And we can get into all sorts of trouble if our foundation is not based on scripture.
I know that, because if I walked into some of these churches, I would hear them say ‘thus saith the Lord!’. Then they’ll spout off something that makes no biblical sense whatsoever, or goes directly against scripture, or will pull scripture out of context and twist it to mean something else.
And will they point us to Christ to receive repentance and the forgiveness of their sins? Hardly. They will point you back to themselves, to keep you reliant on them rather than God. And they are building their structure on top of this.

Here’s a quote from a self-appointed apostle and prophet by the name of Chuck Pierce, in a prophecy he made in Ohio October 20, 2016 (and I’ll try and read it without laughing):

“I say to you – tonight you will be bringing, and beginning this week, you will be bringing the turning point winds into the earth, and re-arranging the course of what is to become. I say nations will begin now in their realignment with other nations. But I say to this nation: I will blow off the fa├žade that has been holding you captive. I say to you, because you have gathered here in this turning point State, I say to you – now the turning point winds will come. So I say what I have held back for eight years, NOW I MUST RELEASE. And what goes on through, may in days ahead, as you begin to honour me and walk with me and gather with me, will create a nation that has been covered by the enemy’s hand. I say to you – the winds that now blow in the earth will cause the hand of the enemy that has been controlling the movements of strategy in the earth in this nation TO BE SEEN! And I say to you that no longer will the enemy have an upper hand in this land!”

Is everyone clear now? I watched the video version of that prophesy. So that you didn’t have to. And there were lots of oohs and aahs, drums and soul organ building to a crescendo.
I heard a lot of English words in there. There were quote marks, commas and full-stops. But nothing that made any sense whatsoever. This went on the whole night.
The church that Pierce belongs to has something called ‘Prophecy Open Mic Night’, where all in sundry can get up and spout out this garbage. I’m not making this stuff up - I wish I was, but I’m not.
And nowhere in that so-called prophecy that I read, did I hear one mention of God. Not one mention of Jesus atoning for our sins.

And that is why I start groaning if I walk in to a church, or hear a sermon, that starts something like ‘Prophet Steve has a word from the Lord for us’, or ‘the Lord spoke to me in a dream and told me this’. Because I know, that what’s going to follow will most likely be diverting my attention away from Christ, to a different Gospel.

And what happens when we turn our eyes away from God’s Word, and get distracted by things that lead us AWAY from scripture, and ultimately away from Christ? Remember what Pastor David said a few weeks ago - we either end up in the ditch of Legalism, or the ditch of Liberalism.
The ditch of Legalism is when you add to the Gospel by saying ‘The Gospel is this, but you also should do this, this, and this. And don’t do this, or this. Pray the sinners’ prayer exactly this way. No drinking alcohol, whatsoever. Women should be covered up neck to knees. And no inappropriate dancing, you young people!’.
The ditch of Liberalism is when you take away from the Gospel by saying ‘The Gospel is this. But don’t worry about all those silly little rules. Jesus loves you and He will forgive you, so it’s OK to still live in your homosexual lifestyle and be a Christian. It’s OK that your mum is a Pastor, we’ve moved on from that these days. Get into the 21st Century, man!’.
That’s what the dangers are.
But Paul gets his priorities straight right away. Here’s the first 5 verses of Galatians again:

Galatians 1:1-5 (NKJV)
1  Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),
2  and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
3  Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,
4  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,
5  to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Does that sound like a true prophet? A true apostle? It does, doesn’t it? How do we know that? Because Paul immediately takes the spotlight of glory off himself, and puts it on Christ. He takes scriptural truths, and declares it.
So:
Do you want to hear a prophet speak? Read the books of the prophets.
Do you want to hear the apostles? Read Acts and the epistles.
Do you want to hear Christ speak to you? Then open up to the Gospels and read the very words of Jesus Himself.
Do you want to receive a direct revelation from God? Pick up the Bible. Open it. Read it.
And if you want to hear God speaking to you audibly, read it out loud.
The Galatians were guilty of taking their eyes off the written word. In verse 6 Paul says:

Galatians 1:6-7 (NKJV)
6  I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,
7  which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.


Oh, dear. So, what dire act had gotten them into this situation?
Well, we remember back to our journey through Acts, that there were those which Paul labelled Judaizers – those that had infiltrated the Christian Church – and believed that everyone needed to be circumcised to keep the law as well.  So they managed to convince the other believers that the Gospel had to be added to in order to be fulfilled. They were pushing believers into the ditch of legalism. Believe the Gospel, but you also must obey parts of the law. And the apostles were not happy. Turn to

Acts 15:1-5 (NKJV)
1  And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
2  Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
3  So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.
4  And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
5  But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses."

Skip down to verse 22:

Acts 15:22-29 (NKJV)
22  Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
23  They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.
24  Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law"--to whom we gave no such commandment--
25  it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26  men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27  We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.
28  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
29  that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

The Galatians had been hoodwinked by the Judaizers. They were adding to the Gospel. They were adding a burden on the people to keep the law as well as to believe in Jesus for forgiveness of their sins. And you’re probably thinking ‘Here Craig goes again, always banging on about law & Gospel. Guilty as charged, your honour.
But Christ came to fulfil the law for us, so that we wouldn’t have to be burdened by it ourselves. So Paul says just do a couple of necessary things:

Acts 15:282-29 (NKJV)
28  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
29  that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

Paul was not pleased, and wanted them to know the consequences of what would happen if they carried this on. Turn back to

Galatians 1:8-10 (NKJV)
8  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
9  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
10  For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

This is how dangerous what they were doing was. Think about it. The purpose of the law is to demonstrate how sinful we are, because no matter how hard we try, we can’t fulfil it. Jesus came to fulfil it on our behalf:

Matthew 5:17 (NKJV)
17  
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

If we say we are trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice, yet at the same time trying to meet the demands of the law, well, we’re not really trusting in Jesus are we? That’s why we are accursed. The word accursed is translated from the Greek work anathema, meaning ‘devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell’.
So, it’s just like we were never Christians in the first place - trusting in our own efforts to get us into heaven.
Paul explains this better in chapter3:

Galatians 3:1-14 (NKJV)
1  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
2  This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3  Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
4  Have you suffered so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?
5  Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?--
6  just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
7  Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
8  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."
9  So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
10  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."
11  But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."
12  Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them."
13  Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"),
14  that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

And further on in chapter 5:

Galatians 5:1-6 (NKJV)
1  Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
2  Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
3  And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
4  You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
5  For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

If the worship team could come back up now.

The churches in Galatia were in a bind. On the one hand, they had repented, believed the Gospel, and had been forgiven of their sins.
But on the other hand, they had gone back to their old ways of trying to please God by fulfilling the law, and doing good works.

And it’s a battle that is never ending for the believer. The flesh is constantly fighting to take back control of what Christ has already won victory over. And it is tiring. Boy, is it tiring.

But there is always forgiveness at the foot of the cross. And as Paul rightly said, Christ’s righteousness is offered to us by faith, not our good works and deeds.

So we can rest in the knowledge that Christ has fulfilled the law for us perfectly. And we can rest knowing that His blood has washed us clean of all unrighteousness.



Let’s pray...

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