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Turning from Grace
Our study of today carries us into some very vital relationships relative to salvation. We are all willing to grant that works hold a vital place in after-salvation experiences; however, they hold no place in redemption. We can do nothing to become a Christian; however, after we have become a Christian, we should do everything that becomes one.
1. A definition of grace. This may be somewhat difficult to give in a sufficient fullness. If we say that grace is the kindness of God to us ward who believe, that is the truth, but it is not all of the truth.
Grace is kindness linked to mercy, and to love. Grace is the kindness of God, in His mercy and love toward the unworthy, the guilty, the rebellious. It closes, or stops operating, the moment worthiness steps in.
Grace, however, goes far beyond the initial act which provides and completes redemption for and in the sinner. Grace follows the sinner after he is saved, through every step of His onward way to Glory.
Grace does not even stop at the end of the believer's life: it passes on into the ages to come; yea, it is in the ages yet unborn that God will show unto us the exceeding riches of His grace by His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
2. The scope of grace. Where and when does grace operate? Grace operates wholly in God's dealings toward us. It operates only where and when there is a need, without any claim upon God. It operates only where man is utterly helpless to do anything for himself.
It saves the sinner who could never save himself; it loves the unlovely, where there is no chance for self-renewing. It stoops down from Heaven to lift up the fallen, and having lifted him out of the miry clay, it lifts him up and up until it has placed him in the highest realms of glory.
Grace plants in a sinner, dead in sins, a new life, eternal in its being. Then, having begat within the sinner that new life, it provides everything necessary for its growth and embellishment.
3. Grace excludes all merit of works. It stays out of the realm of rewards for the deeds done in the body, after it has brought salvation to the sinner.
When we were created, born anew, by grace, we were created unto good works which God had afore prepared that we should walk in them. Faithfulness in these good works to the which we are called, and for the which we are created, brings abundant rewards. We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive the things done in our body, whether we have done good or bad. Grace does not operate at that judgment seat where works are tried, and servants are paid off. If it did operate there, then grace is no more grace.
4. What works can and cannot do. Works and service may obtain from the Lord a "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things * *: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Works may obtain recognition and placings in the reign of Christ, for, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." However, works could never merit one small corner on Glory Street; works could never buy up those everlasting and exceeding riches of God's providing grace toward us, in the ages to come.
Remember, God has certain things, immeasurable in their glory, and priceless in their worth, which are freely given unto us by grace. These free gifts will forever keep the praise fires welling up in our hearts throughout all eternity.
I. INTRODUCTORY WORDS (Galatians 1:1-3 )
Let us read the introduction to this Book with care, and see just what it brings forth to us. We shall gather up the salient things under distinct heads.
1. Paul an Apostle one sent of God. Are not all saints sent of God, sent to do some definite service sent to gossip the Gospel? Sometimes we are sent to particular persons, to lead them to the light. The command is to "every creature," yet God the Spirit often specializes and says, "Go to this one, or to that one." When such a command is given, we must be quick to obey, for the Spirit knows why He said, "Go."
2. Paul an Apostle sent not of men, but of God. Men may sit in solemn conclave and make demands, and sometimes they may hit upon God's demands; however, the one sent is sent of God, and he must not be veered by man to the right or to the left, from that commanded course. We must go where we are sent and when we are sent, and to whom we are sent.
3. Paul a man sent of God, had others with him. Our salutation reads: "Paul, an Apostle * *; and all the brethren which are with me." These words show that men sent of God may find fellowship with other men of like precious faith. Being an Apostle, not by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, does not mean that one should set himself apart from his brethren, in a censorious way. To be sure coercion is unpermissible, but a happy and hearty cooperation is most desirable. Peter and John went together to the Temple, at the hour of prayer. God Himself often sends believers out in a solid front to accomplish for Him. Work may be singlehanded, but not all work is so commanded. In the harvest fields there may be service shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm, with many others; in fact, the whole field may be filled with harvesters, but each one hoes his own row.
4. Paul's salutation is directed unto the Churches at Galatia. These churches were single churches, with a common need. Mark you, Paul did not say, "To the church at Galatia," but "unto the Churches of Galatia."
II. AN OBJECTIVE OF THE CROSS (Galatians 1:4 )
Our verse reads: "Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father." There are several vital messages here.
1. Christ gave Himself. Was He not sent forth to die by the Father? Yes, that is true. However, He gave Himself. Christ said, "I lay down My life for the sheep." He also said, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again." Then Christ added so significantly, "No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father." Thus Christ went as a sheep to the slaughter, under His own will, and yet, withal, in perfect accord with the will of the Father. He was both sent to die, and He, of Himself, went forth to die.
2. Christ gave Himself for our sins. Think of this. The great work of Calvary was the settling of the sin question. This Christ accomplished by giving Himself for our sins. The very words seem to say, "I bought thee out from under the curse of thy sins, by being made a curse for thee." "I stepped under the penalty of the Cross, and bore its punishment."
3. Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world. What a noble objective! Christ saw us ensnared by this evil world. He saw its power and sway over us. He knew this present evil world and its prince, the devil. He knew, therefore, that we were hopelessly entangled, and He died to deliver us. What a blessed deliverance! What a glorious freedom is ours! What, then, if Christ died to save us from the evil world, shall we continue to abide therein?
4. All this work of Christ on the Cross, and its great aim, was according to the will of the Father. Even so the Father wanted us to be set free from our sins, and from this present evil world. Henceforth we are other-worldly. We look for a City of gold, wherein is righteousness, and where God and the Lamb are the Light thereof.
So far as the present evil world and its cities are concerned, we have cut the shore line. We are henceforth, down here, no more than strangers and pilgrims. Our citizenship is in the skies.
We are in the world, but we are not of it. We will not even think it strange if the world hates us. However, we will seek to show Christ to the world, while we sojourn therein.
III. A GOSPEL WHICH IS NOT THE GOSPEL (Galatians 1:6-8 )
1. The message of the Gospel is a message of GRACE. The Gospel itself is the message of deliverance set forth in Galatians 1:4 , which we have just considered. It is the message of Christ who gave Himself for our sins. It is the message of our deliverance by His Blood from this present evil world. This message is the Gospel. It is called in Galatians 1:6 , "The grace of Christ." It is of grace, because it is of Christ, It is of grace, because we did nothing, and could do nothing to effect our own deliverance from either our sins, or from the present evil world. It is of grace, because we had nothing of worth, nothing of effort, nothing of value by which we could do anything. Grace ends where man's worth or ability begins.
2. This message of grace was passed up by the Galatians. Our verse says, "I marvel that ye are so soon moved from Him * *, unto another gospel." In other words, the Gospel of grace is Christ; and anything less than grace moves us away from Him.
What then? The Gospel of grace holds us anchored in Him, because grace acknowledges Him as the only Saviour. In so doing it emphasizes that, apart from Him, we were altogether helpless, hopeless, and lost. Grace takes away all self-boasting, and all self-trust. We could not save ourselves; we did not save ourselves. He saved us.
3. "Another gospel" means two things. (1) It means that we have perverted the Gospel of Christ. We have robbed Christ of His saving grace. We have taken away from Heaven that eternal message of praise which gives glory, and honor, and might, and power, and dominion unto Christ because He washed us in His Blood; and it imparts the spirit of self-confidence, of self-pride, and of self-boastfulness, which is so foreign to the Gospel of God which centers in Christ His Son.
(2) It means that we have turned to another gospel which is not the Gospel. There is no gospel apart from Jesus Christ and His Cross. If He did not settle the sin question, it cannot be settled. If it could have been settled by anything that we are, or do, then Christ died in vain. Self-salvation is not a gospel, because there is no good news in it.
(3) It means that we are accursed. Galatians 1:8 is positive. It says, "Though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." This is repeated, for force, in Galatians 1:9 .
God forbid that we should come under such a curse! Let us cling tenaciously and unswervingly to redemption by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves.
IV. DO WE PLEASE MEN OR GOD? (Galatians 1:10-14 )
1. Shall we turn from the Gospel of grace in order to persuade men? Suppose that a man is unwilling to accept eternal life by the free gift of God. Suppose that some sinner insists that he wants to be saved wholly by his own good works, by the keeping of the Law, or, that he at least wants to add law-works as an integral part of his redemption. Shall we, therefore, give him a gospel which is not the Gospel? Shall we tell him that if he will try to do good, and to be good, that he shall be saved? Shall we seek to persuade him to come his way, if he will not come God's way?
2. Shall we turn from the Gospel of grace in order to please men? Is our part, as preachers of the Gospel, to tickle the fancies of those who hear? Should we please men, or God? The flesh loves to be beautifully attired in the robes of its own righteousness. Men love to be recognized and honored. It is natural with the world to seek self-praise and self-sufficiency. If we, nevertheless, preach a gospel that pleases men, we are not the servants of Christ.
3. If we turn to another gospel, we leave men in their sins. He who knows the Gospel, knows that the sinner can do nothing to save himself. He knows that the unsaved must come as suppliants of grace. He must come confessing himself as a sinner, clothed in his filthy rags. He must come acknowledging that he is deceitful at heart, and desperately wicked. He must come saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
Think you, then, that if we please men, we can please Christ? This is impossible. Neither is it possible for us to please that spirit of self-boasting, which hinders and never helps men to Christ. We are not true friends if we give a man who is sick unto death a false assurance of health. We are not true friends if we offer to anyone a medicine promising a cure, when we know that it has no cure in it.
What a sinner needs is the Saviour. What a sinner needs is good news which is good news. A Gospel which has power to justify, to wash away sin, and to impart a perfect peace, is the Gospel which we know, and which we preach.
V. CALLED OF GOD TO PREACH THE GOSPEL (Galatians 1:15-16 )
1. Paul had received a marvelous salvation. There had been a time when he profited in the Jews' religion above many his own equals. There was a time when he was exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the fathers. He could talk with great rapidity when he conversed, in the time past, in the Jews' religion. He even went to great extent as he persecuted the Church of God and wasted it.
There came a day, however, on the Damascus road, when God struck him down. On that day there must have come unto him the utter collapse of all those things in which he had formerly trusted. He saw then and saw more clearly, as the days went by, the utter folly of a religion patterned after men. He saw that it could not cave, and therefore that it did not save.
2. Paul had been called of God to preach the Gospel of His grace. In Galatians 1:11 he says: "I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Thus it was that as the Jews' religion passed out of Paul's life the message of grace came in. As the new call came, the old ambition left.
The Apostle even acknowledged that he had been separated from his mother's womb. He knew that he had a call that had come from Heaven.
3. Paul immediately preached Christ. There is something in Galatians 1:16 which shows the mighty power of the vision which Paul received on the Damascus road. Here is the expression: "When it pleased God * * to reveal His Son in me."
When the Lord had spoken to Saul of Tarsus, can you hear his cry in response, "Who art Thou, Lord?" Then the Lord answered, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest."
At that moment a revelation of Jesus Christ came to the young persecutor. He saw in Christ, whom the Jews hated and despised and crucified, a Saviour who was the Son of God. All his infidelity and unbelief were shattered. As Christ came in, the Jews' religion went out.
Do you marvel that Paul, without conferring with flesh and blood, began immediately to preach Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of men? He knew from that day that salvation was not by Jewish rights and ceremonies, or by being zealous of the traditions of the fathers. He knew that salvation was by grace.
VI. TAUGHT OF GOD, NOT OF MEN (Galatians 1:17-22 )
1. Paul's schooling at the feet of Gamaliel was now counted loss. The Apostle saw, in a flash, that all he had learned in the way of Judaistic religion, was unavailing. He discovered that God, in Christ, was his Saviour. We believe that in one moment, on the Damascus road, and that in the three days which followed, while he was blinded in eyes, his inward sight was opened to the things of God.
Having been brought up in the Jews' religion, he knew much of the Old Testament Scriptures. Somehow or other, their whole deeper meanings began to unfold before him. He saw and he understood that Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead was the fulfilment of all God-given Jewish ceremonials. They had been done away at the Cross. From henceforth the symbolisms and the types, which were shadows of that which was to come, were set aside because the Lord Jesus Himself had fulfilled them.
Saul, himself, having been stricken down on the Damascus road, and having personally heard the voice of Christ, as He revealed Himself unto him, was saved; and the old schooling passed away.
2. Paul's schooling in Arabia. Shortly after Saul's conversion he went into Arabia. He did not go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before him. After three years he went up to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. Of the other Apostles, however, he saw none, save James the Lord's brother. Thus it was that Saul, who afterward became known as Paul the Apostle, was taught of God.
The result was that the Gospel he preached was not after man, because it was given by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Let us thank God, therefore, for this and other of Paul's Epistles, which reveal the Gospel to us in all its beauty and power.
VII. THE GREAT CHANGE (Galatians 1:23-24 )
1. The flashing of the news of Paul's conversion. Paul did not go up to the Churches of Judea which were in Christ, and he was unknown by face unto them for many days. They had heard only of his conversion.
It must have been a happy day when the saints in Judea heard that the one who had persecuted Christ and His saints was now preaching Christ. He who tore down, was now building up.
The news of a sinner saved, even to this hour, brings joy both to earth and to Heaven. Is it not written, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth"? Did not the prodigal's father make a feast when his repentant son returned? Yes, and there was joy.
2. The quickness of the conversion of the former persecutor. It was not a matter of years nor even of weeks. It was a transformation wrought in a moment. This is one of the marvels of redemption. We, ourselves, have seen a man utterly blinded to the things of God, yet, we have seen that same man after weeks of darkness suddenly ushered into the light of a new-found Saviour. Herein is an added proof that salvation is by grace, through faith, and not of works.
3. The result of Paul's conversion. Galatians 1:23 reads: "He which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed." Everything was changed. Old things had passed away, and all things were new. It was in that day that those things which had been gain to Paul, were counted loss. It was in that day that he turned away from the things that had once been his chief profit, and counted the suffering with the children of God, and the preaching of Christ, his chief ambition.
We often sing the song, "O what a change, when we shall see His wonderful face." There is, however, another change that is quite as sudden, and quite as startling, as the change of the Rapture; that is the change as a sinner passes from death into life.
"A man in Ireland, convicted of sin, was on the point of 'believing' when the devil raised his oft-repeated objection: 'If you believe, you could not keep it. What about tomorrow?' The worker dealing with him pointed to a water mill near by. 'What turns the wheel today?' 'The stream.' 'What will turn the wheel tomorrow?' 'The stream.' 'And the days after?' 'The stream.' The anxious one was led to see that there was abundant grace to save, keep, and meet all need. 'Wherefore He is able * * to save * * to the uttermost' (Hebrews 7:25 ). 'The same yesterday, and to day, and for ever' (Hebrews 13:8 ). 'I will trust, and not be afraid.'"
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Galatians 1". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter