01 Oct Galatians 04: In step with the gospel
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Our passage today is one of the most tense and dramatic scenes in the New Testament. Have you ever witnessed a fight break out at church? I have. And not in other churches but our church. Many years ago, I was still a teenager back then, I witnessed a fight between one of our church’s older ushers and one of our church’s staff. Items were thrown, chairs were kicked, and curse words were everywhere. It was very tense. But it died out quickly because the people involved in the fight were not so important figures. However, in today’s passage, we find two leading apostles of Christ face to face in open conflict: Paul and Peter. They were probably the two greatest pillars of the church. Paul was the leading apostle to the Gentiles and Peter was the leading apostle to the Jews. Both were filled with the Holy Spirit, both were mightily used by God, and both were highly respected by other Christians. Imagine if John Piper had a public spat out with Tim Keller, and you were there to witness it. It must be super tense. That’s what happened in our passage. So, what caused this conflict?
Let’s recap what we have learned so far. In the earlier part of Galatians, we see how Paul defended his gospel from false teachers who tried to distort the gospel. The false teachers were not against the gospel. They believed faith in Jesus was a necessity. But they said that the gospel alone was not enough. They said that you must also observe the law of Moses and be circumcised, and then you will be saved. The important thing is not so much what they were adding to the gospel, but that they were adding to the gospel. Here is the principle that Paul strongly disagreed with the false teachers. Is Jesus’ work alone enough to cleanse us from all our sins and make us acceptable before God? Paul’s answer is “Yes.” The false teacher’s answer is “No.” The central point at issue between Paul and these false teachers concerned the logical order of three steps.
Let me lay it out for you. The false teachers’ logical order is, believe – obey – saved. “One, believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Two, obey the law of God the best you can. Three, you will be saved.” But Paul’s logical order is, believe – saved – obey. “One, believe in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Two, you are saved the moment you believe. Three, you proceed to obey the law of God.” Can you see the difference? This difference is not simply a matter of order. This is the difference between religion in general and Christianity. Religion teaches, “I obey; therefore I am saved.” But the gospel teaches, “I am saved; therefore I obey.” To get the order mixed up is to lose what makes Christianity good news. If we must obey first before God saves us, then Christianity is exactly the same as every other religion in the world. And Paul had been battling that.
Last week, we saw how Paul visited Jerusalem, and Peter gave him the right hand of fellowship. Peter affirmed that Paul was teaching the same gospel as the apostles in Jerusalem. They added nothing to Paul’s gospel. The gospel was preserved. But when Peter visited Antioch, Paul did the opposite. Paul opposed Peter to the face. Why? Because once again the gospel was at stake. Peter believed the gospel, but he was not acting in step with the gospel. Peter’s offence was against the gospel. And Paul was not afraid to confront Peter because what matters to Paul more than anything is the gospel. Let’s look at what happened.
I have three points for this sermon: the offence; the rebuke; the Christian life.
Galatians 2:11-13 – 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
Let me give you the context first. Cephas was Peter’s other name. Antioch was a thriving church outside of Jerusalem that consisted mostly of Gentile Christians. It is the place where the disciples of Christ were first called Christians. So, when Peter first arrived in Antioch, Peter was having a blast with the Gentiles. He hung out with them, he ate with them, and they had lots of bacon and pork chop. And Jews were not supposed to eat with Gentiles and eat pork. What happened? Peter had a life-changing experience. He tasted bacon and there was no turning back. Okay, that’s not what happened. A few years prior, Peter had a vision from God. In that vision, he saw pork belly, pork ribs, bacon, and many other non-halal meats come down from heaven. And God said, “Eat, Peter. Enjoy heavenly roast pork.” Do you know what Peter said? “Lord, I can see all these pork falls from heaven. I can smell the heavenly fragrance. And I know you are telling me to eat it. But I won’t. I have never eaten anything unclean, and I will not start.” And God replied, “Peter, do not call anything unclean that I have made clean.” And you would think that Peter would immediately eat it after hearing God’s reply. But he didn’t. It happened three times and he still had not eaten it.
Can you see how strong Peter’s attachment was to Jewish law? But that vision was given to prepare Peter for what came next. God then sent Peter to minister to Cornelius’ house, a Gentile, who was considered unclean. And when Peter got to Cornelius’ house, Peter did not say, “Cornelius, if you want to be saved, here is what you must do. First, you need to be circumcised. And second, you need to stop eating bacon.” He did not say that. Peter simply preached the gospel and the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household. Just as God gave the Holy Spirit to the Jews, God also gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. It means that Gentiles can be saved without becoming Jews. From that day forward, Peter understood that God welcomes Gentiles and that Jews are free from ceremonial and civil laws. So, when Peter came to Antioch, he ate with the Gentiles.
But when certain men from James came to Antioch, Peter suddenly changed. These men were part of the group who taught the false gospel, that one must be circumcised to be saved. By the way, we find out from Acts 15 that these men were not from James. They claimed to have James’ authority, but they did not. And when these men saw Peter eating with the Gentiles, they questioned Peter. Because eating together in those days was not simply a matter of eating; it was a symbol of approval and acceptance. That is why Jesus got into trouble with the Pharisees because he ate with sinners and tax collectors. So, when these people saw Peter eating with the Gentiles, they said, “Peter, what are you doing? You are a Jew. You are not supposed to eat with them. And what is that I see on your plate? Is that bacon? How dare you?” And Peter immediately changed his eating habits. He began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles.
And note carefully. Why did Peter do it? He did not do it because he believed he was wrong to eat with the Gentiles. Peter did not change his mind or his conviction. He knew that God had accepted Gentiles. But he feared the circumcision party. In other words, Peter avoided the Gentiles not out of theological conviction but fear of men. Peter believed the gospel, but he contradicted the gospel with his actions. His beliefs and his actions did not match. He was allowing cultural differences and fear of men to become more important than gospel unity. Listen carefully. When we fear men over God, we are likely to deny the gospel. And what made matters worse was Peter’s cowardice spread like wildfire. The rest of the Jews in the Antioch church began to avoid the Gentiles, including Barnabas. This is the same Barnabas who accompanied Paul in his ministry to the Gentiles. This is the same Barnabas who fought to preserve the truth of the gospel together with Paul. Even Barnabas were led astray by their hypocrisy. And it wouldn’t be long before all Jewish Christians in Antioch avoided Gentile Christians. Imagine if you were Gentile Christians in Antioch. Pete and Barnie suddenly refused to eat with you, and so did many other Jews. Do you know what the implication of it was? Gentile Christians were less than Jewish Christians. They were second-class Christians, and they were not fully acceptable before God unless they lived like Jews and were circumcised. Peter certainly did not believe that salvation came from being Jewish. But his actions spoke louder than his words.
Let this be a warning for all of us. If Peter and Barnabas could drift away from the gospel, how much more are we? Even though Peter knew the gospel, there was still a part of him who believed that Christians couldn’t be really pleasing to God unless they became Jewish. And this is a form of legalism. What is legalism? Legalism is looking to something besides Jesus for acceptance before God. And legalism always creates division where there should be none. Do you realize that it is extremely easy to highlight our distinctiveness in order to demonstrate to ourselves and others that we are better? Do you know what that is? Legalism. And Christians do this all the time. Let me give you a few examples that I see happening in our church. And I try to be fair in my examples. One way to do it is to emphasize your family background. Some of you came from a good family background. None of your family has been to prison, no one got pregnant before marriage, and no one got divorced. And you feel a sense of distinction, even superiority, over others who have gone through those things. For example, some parents don’t want their kids to date someone whose parents were divorced. They feel that they are better because they have a cleaner background. They don’t want the good reputation of their family to be ruined by being associated with those from broken families. That’s legalism.
Another example is worship style. Some of you grew up in a charismatic circle where the music was loud, and praise and worship looked like a holy clubbing. Others grew up in a very conservative church where you only sang from the hymnal book. And these two groups look at each other worship style and say, “What is that? That is not worship. That’s not the way it should be done.” So, every now and then, I hear annoying phrases like, “I didn’t really like the worship today at church.” And because I am a nice pastor, I usually just smile when I hear that. But can I be not nice for a little bit? Don’t tell anyone, okay? I think that is one of the stupidest sentences anyone could ever say. “I didn’t like the worship. It is not uplifting. I only like 2 of the 4 songs we sang.” Did it ever occur to you that we weren’t worshipping you? Who cares whether you liked the worship or not? Since when is worship about you anyway? We are worshipping God, not you. It doesn’t matter whether you like the songs or not, as long as God is pleased with the worship. When you make your worship style preference more important than the God you worship, that’s legalism. Okay, enough ranting. Back to being a nice pastor again.
Let me give you one more example. “I go to a gospel-centred church. My pastor preaches the gospel every week. Is your church gospel-centred? It’s not? Your church is not Biblical. You need to move to my church.” Can you see what happened? Is it wrong to be a gospel-centred church? Of course not. However, there is a difference between preaching the true gospel and being gospel-centred. Preaching the true gospel is non-negotiable; being gospel-centred is not. We must preach the gospel at all times, and we must fight for the gospel at all costs. But we must never pride ourselves on being a gospel-centred church. Because when we do, we have become gospel-centred legalists. We are saying, “In order for God to accept you, you must believe the gospel plus you must go to a gospel-centred church.” What we are doing is we are adding to the gospel while the gospel tells us that Jesus alone is enough. “In order for God to accept you, you must believe the gospel plus speak in tongue. Plus, this worship style. Plus, a clean family background.” Listen. If we are making a distinction that God himself does not make, if we are adding a qualification that God does not require, we are denying the gospel. We have fallen into the trap of legalism. I love how J.D. Greear puts it. “In Christ, there are no good people or bad people; winners or losers; people who have it together or dysfunctional people; there are only bad, dead, sin-sick rebels, without God and without hope in this world – that God saves by a sheer act of grace.” That’s who we are. We have no reason whatsoever to think that we are better than others. So, do not fall into the trap of legalism.
Galatians 2:14-17 – 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Paul is a man on fire for the gospel. When he saw what Peter did, he was not afraid to confront Peter. And this is not a pastor of the church rebuking his church members. This is a prominent pastor rebuking another prominent pastor in public. Why in public and not private? Because Peter’s sin had caused a public scandal. His sin had caused many Jews to be led astray. And public scandal must be dealt with in public as well. People who were influenced by Peter’s actions needed to know that they were wrong. And this was not confrontation for confrontation’s sake. We see many of them today on social media where people confront each other just to feed their egos. Not so with Paul. Paul was not interested in an argument for argument’s sake. For Paul, what was at stake was the truth of the gospel. And Paul’s motto in life was not peace at any cost but the gospel at all costs. Peter’s misconduct was not an eating issue; it was a gospel issue. Some of you are asking right now, “How is this a gospel issue? Isn’t this just a matter of racism and eating? What do you mean it is a gospel issue?” Let me explain.
Paul is saying the problem with Peter and the gang was that they were not in step with the truth of the gospel. The word ‘in step’ comes from a Greek word, ‘orthopodeo.’ ‘Podeo’ is the word from which we get our word podiatrist, and it means to walk. And ‘ortho’ means straight. You go to an orthodontist to straighten your teeth. So, ‘orthopodeo’ means to walk in a straight line. My new car has this new technology called Lane Keep Assist. It warns me whenever my car moves out of its lane, and it even moves the steering wheel on its own to make sure I stay in the lane. And I hate it. I’m like, “Why is my car telling me what to do? Why is it trying to control me? I have too many people in my life telling me what to do already. I don’t need another one. I own you, car. I am your master. Who are you to tell me what to do? I am not going to let you control me.” Obviously, my new car revealed my idol of control. Paul is saying that the gospel has a line. The gospel has a trajectory. The gospel is a set of truths. And it is our role to bring everything in our lives in line with those truths. What truths? Paul explains in verses 15 and 16 that everyone, both Jews and Gentiles, are sinners in the eyes of God. One is not better than the other. And a person is justified not by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. The only way anyone can be made right with God is justification by faith in Christ. The works of the law will not justify anyone. Now, the phrase justification by faith is extremely crucial. It is the essence of the gospel. So, we must get it right. What does it mean to be justified by faith? To be justified is to be acceptable before God. Justification is the opposite of condemnation. Justification means that in Christ, though we are actually sinners, we are not under condemnation. God accepts us despite our sins. We are not acceptable to God because we become righteous; we become righteous because we are acceptable to God. To justify something does not mean to change something, but to change our view of something. It is absolutely crucial we get this. When we justify something, we don’t change it; we change the view of it.
Let me give an example. Let’s say there is a new person in the church. After the service, I go and talk to him, and I suddenly punch him in the face and knock him out. You quickly gather around the man to see if he is okay. And Edrick, who saw part of it, grabs me by the collar and says, “What have you done? I can’t believe you punched someone you just met. You are not qualified to be our pastor.” And you agree with Edrick. What kind of pastor would do that? And I say, “Why don’t you take a look at that man’s pocket?” So, Josh looks in that man’s pocket and there is a knife. And that knocked-out man’s hand is on the knife. I say, “Yes, I punched him in the face, but he was about to stab someone in the church.” What I am doing is am justifying my action. I do not change my action. I punched him. It’s a fact. You saw it. But what I do is change the view of my action. If before my action was viewed as bad, now my action is viewed as heroic.
To justify something is to change not the action but how it is regarded; how it is viewed. This is everything to Christianity. To be a Christian is to be justified. If you ask people, what does it mean to become a Christian? They often say, “It means that I have to be very good. I have to live for God and make myself good enough for God.” But that’s not what it means to become a Christian. To become a Christian is not to become good. Becoming good is the result of being a Christian; it is not the essence of becoming a Christian. A Christian is someone who is justified. It doesn’t mean we suddenly stop being bad and become good. It means we are no longer viewed the same way. It means our sins can no longer condemn us. We are accepted and righteous in God’s sight. There is a change of view. And Paul says we are justified, not because of our obedience to God’s laws but by faith in Christ. The moment we put our faith in Christ, God’s view of us changed. One moment, we are ugly, unclean, and unworthy. The next moment we are holy, righteous, and blameless because of Christ. This is justification by faith. This is the essence of the gospel.
And if we believe this, these gospel truths have massive implications for all of life. And it is our job to bring everything in our lives in step with the direction of the gospel. Listen. Our role as Christians is to think out the implications of the gospel in every area of our lives and to bring our thinking, feeling, and behaviour in step with the gospel. When I first understood what Paul was saying in these verses a few years ago, it literally changed my view of Christianity. And I hope it will change yours as well. In these verses, Paul is showing us the breadth and the depth of the gospel. First, let’s look at the breadth. People tend to think of the gospel as the starting point of Christianity. “Sure, the gospel is great. You have to believe the gospel to become a Christian. But you can’t stay there. You need more than the gospel. Now, you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. You need to do catechism. You need to have more advanced theology. The gospel is only for the beginners. If you want to mature as Christians, you need more.” But here is the thing. Do you realize whom Paul was rebuking? Apostle Peter. And I am willing to bet that Peter was far more spiritually mature than any of us. And do you know what Paul said to him? Here is what Paul was saying. “Pete, you are forgetting the gospel. You are not in step with the truth of the gospel. You are not thinking clearly of the implication of the gospel in your life.”
Can you see what happened? Paul rebuked Peter by taking him back to the gospel. This is the way Timothy Keller puts it. “We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s of Christianity, but it is the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom.” There is a step to the gospel, and it affects the way we do everything in life. So, let me ask some questions. Is the way we do work in step with the gospel? Is the way we think of relationship in step with the gospel? Is the way we raise our kids in step with the gospel? Is the way we use our money in step with the gospel? Is the way we enjoy leisure time in step with the gospel? Have we thought of the implications of the truth of the gospel in every area of life? Because the breadth of the gospel goes everywhere. The gospel affects absolutely everything.
But also notice the depth of the gospel. This is very important. When Paul rebuked Peter, he did not say, “Pete, stop being racist. Racism is wrong. You should not be racist.” Or, “Pete, you should not be a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is bad. You should not fear men. You have to fear God.” He did not say that. He could have and he is not wrong if he said that. The Bible does rebuke racism, hypocrisy, and fear of men. But instead, Paul said, “Pete, you are forgetting the gospel. You are not in step with the gospel. Don’t you remember how you are justified by God? It’s not because you obey the law. You are justified by your faith in Christ. And if God justified Jews and Gentiles on the same term, who are you to withhold fellowship from the Gentiles unless they are circumcised? You are racist because you are forgetting that you are saved by grace.” In other words, Paul was not after Peter’s behaviour modification; Paul was after Peter’s heart. He was saying to Peter, “You know the gospel, but the gospel hasn’t actually affected your heart. That is why you are racist.” So, Paul was not simply saying racism is a sin, but racism is a gospel issue. What difference does it make? All the difference in the world. Because racism is only the surface issue, not the root issue.
If we go up to people and say, “Hey, you are being racist. Stop it. It is a sin” we are just shaming them. It doesn’t deal with why they are racist. But if we say, “Here is the reason why you are racist. You are trying to add something besides Jesus to make yourself feel more valuable. You elevate your race and your culture, and you think you are better than others because of it. You forget that all of us are sinners in the eyes of God. None of us deserved anything but condemnation from God. We all rebelled against God. The gospel puts everyone on an equal level. But then God saved us by his grace. Jesus is our righteousness. He is our identity. And we are valuable because we are found in Jesus. That’s who we are. The reason you are racist is because you are forgetting the gospel. You are not in step with the gospel.” Can you see the difference? What we are doing is we are dealing with the root issue.
Let me give you another example. Let’s say you are struggling with porn. By the way, if you are struggling with porn, I am not picking on you; I am loving you. I know how enslaving porn can be. But I am fully convinced the gospel can set you free from porn. So, I can come up to you and say, “Hey, porn is bad. Stop it. It is a sin against God, and you are devaluing the image of God. It is gross and it will ruin your future. Quit it.” You would feel shame because of it but I would not be much help to you. Because I am only dealing with the symptoms and not the disease. But porn is a gospel issue. Why are you addicted to porn? Because you don’t think Jesus is enough for your justification. You don’t really believe in justification by faith alone. You might believe it in your head, but your action is not in step with the gospel. You are still trying to make you feel good through something else. Maybe you need the adoration of people, and you feel like you don’t have it and that’s why you run to porn. Or maybe you need to feel like you are powerful and those images on your screen make you feel like you are powerful and in control. There are many reasons why you run to porn but ultimately it is because you are forgetting the gospel. You forget that you already have everything you seek in Jesus. You are turning to something else besides Jesus for your justification.
If you have the misfortune of talking with Paul one-on-one, he will say, “You believe the gospel in your head, but it has not penetrated your heart. You believe in your head that you are not justified by works but through faith in Jesus. But in your heart, you try to be justified by works. The reason behind all your struggles is that the gospel has yet to sink into your heart. What you need is not to move on from the gospel. What you need is more of the gospel.” And this is true not just for porn and racism. This is true for all sins we face as Christians. Greed, envy, insecurity, lust, anger, whatever it is, the root of our sins is we don’t really believe the gospel. Get this. Our problem with becoming more and more like Jesus is a problem of understanding that we are already completely accepted because of who Jesus is. Let me put it in a theological language. Our problem with sanctification is a problem of understanding and living out our justification. That’s why we never get beyond the gospel. All the change we need happens through rejoicing in Jesus’s perfect work for us, thinking the implications of the gospel out both into every area of life and into the depth of our being.
The Christian life
Galatians 2:17-19 – 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.
This is a complex argument. Let me simplify it the best I can. Have you ever heard the accusation that the gospel is a highly dangerous doctrine? I remember in the early years when I started preaching the gospel, lots of people mistook me as a hyper-grace preacher. They thought I promoted antinomianism. Nomos is the word for law. So anti-nomos means anti-law. The other word for it is licentiousness. Basically, they said that I promoted a sinful lifestyle where people can do whatever they want and still be forgiven and accepted by God. Whenever I received this criticism, I smiled. Why? Because that means I preached the true gospel. Whenever the true gospel is preached, this accusation will always follow. But listen to what Paul is saying. “If someone who knows justification by faith sins, is it because justification by faith in Christ promotes sin? Of course not. But if someone who professes faith in Christ keeps on with the same sinful lifestyle and makes no effort to change, then it proves that this person never really grasped the gospel.” How come? Because those who have grasped the gospel know that they have died to the law so that they might live to God.
The main purpose of the law of God is not for us to save ourselves through it; it is to show that we are hopeless on our own. The law tells us what is right, but it does not make us righteous. But when we realise that the law cannot save us, that’s when the gospel hits us. We are made right not because of our obedience to the law but by faith in Christ. We no longer have to live up to the perfect standard of the law because Christ has already done it for us. And now Paul says if we get the gospel, we live to God. The implication is that before we come to faith, we might obey the law, but we never really live for God. We might be very moral and good, but we are not doing it for God; we are doing it for ourselves. If we obey God without knowing that we are already accepted, we obey God to get acceptance from God, not out of love for God himself. But if we know we are already accepted by God, we want to obey God for God. The gospel gives us a new motive for obedience. We want to obey God simply to please God. We live for God.
That is why verse 20, one of my favourite verses in the Bible, Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. This is what it means to live in step with the gospel. The part of us that wants to justify ourselves by our own works has been crucified with Christ. It is dead already. Which means we are free from condemnation of sin. And the life we now live is no longer life that tries to earn God’s approval, but life by faith in Jesus, who has loved us and accepted us completely, and gave himself for us. This is the beauty of the gospel. When we put our faith in Jesus, Jesus’ death is our death and Jesus’ life is our life. We are totally free from condemnation because when Jesus died for our sins, it is as if we had paid the debt ourselves. And right now, we are completely loved by God as if we had lived the perfect life Jesus lived. In Jesus, we are righteous, we are gorgeous, we are spotless. And this is what Christian life is all about. Christian life is not so much about us living for Christ as it is about trusting Christ to live for us, through us, and in us. And when he does, Christ gives us new desires that want to please him, that want to live for him. It is not that we cannot sin; we can. But we do not want to. Everything about our life has changed. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” This is the Christian life.
And let’s close with this. Galatians 2:21 – I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. There are only two possible choices: Christ will do everything for us, or Christ will do nothing for us. Everything or nothing. There is nothing in between. We cannot combine salvation by human effort and salvation by faith. If we can become righteous by our own efforts, Christ’s death is meaningless. Imagine your house is burning down, and your family escaped. But then I come to you and say, “Let me show you how much I love you as your pastor” and I run into the burning house and die. You would think, “What a crazy dude. Praise God he is no longer my pastor.” My tragic death would have been dumb and meaningless. But now imagine your house is on fire, you and your family escaped, but one of your children is still in the fire. And I say to you, “Let me show you how much I love you as your pastor” and I run into the burning house. In the process, I managed to save your child, but I lost my life. You would think, “Look at how much my pastor loved us. I am going to name my child after him.” Can you see what happened? If we could save ourselves, Christ’s death is meaningless. It means nothing to us. He is just a crazy man running into the fire to kill himself. But if we realize we cannot save ourselves, Christ’s death is priceless. It means everything to us. And we will spend the rest of our lives adoring him and bringing our lives in step with the gospel. Let’s pray.
- What struck you the most from this sermon?
- Explain the subtle danger of legalism. Give some examples (besides examples given in the sermon).
- What does it mean to walk in step with the truth of the gospel?
- The root of all our struggle with sins is we don’t really believe in the gospel. How does this change the way you fight against sin?
- How does the gospel empower us to live the Christian life?