This blog will include the sermons I have preached as a lay minister with the Anglican Parish of South Queens in the Diocese of NS and PEI in the Anglican Church of Canada. Because my preaching schedule varies, the frequency of postings will vary.
I hope that these sermons will enrich your spiritual life as much as they have enriched mine.
Saturday, 11 June 2016
Galatians 2:15-21 Salvation is by Grace, Not by Deeds
you ever been in a gathering where you felt that you did not belong? Have you
even been in a club where you had to obey the rules? If so, then perhaps you
can understand why Paul wrote the passage from Galatians that we heard earlier
in this morning’s service.
has just recalled what must have been the most awkward dinner party of all
time. The Gentile believers tried to join the Jewish believers for dinner and
things got very awkward, especially when Peter made a scene of refusing to eat
with the Gentiles. Paul was shocked by Peter’s hypocritical behaviour. You see,
Peter welcomed Gentiles when he was with Paul, but he refused to welcome them
when more conservative Christians-namely, Jewish believers-came near. Paul gave
Peter a stern lecture about this behaviour, and in doing so he defended his
position on the issue of new believers having to follow Jewish customs.
Jews believed that in order to be acceptable to God and have a right
relationship with him, it was necessary for people to obey the law. There are
people today who have the same belief. Obeying the law meant doing deeds that
were listed in the Laws of Moses instead of doing things according to one’s own
will. In the eyes of the Jews, obeying the law meant that they were justified
in the eyes of God. Being justified means conforming to a standard of acceptable
character or conduct. Unfortunately, being justified under the law meant being
made right, not being made just, fair or equitable.
distinguished between those who observed Old Testament laws (Jews by nature)
and those who did not (sinners or the Gentiles). The law always reminded people
of God’s standards and our inability to meet them. Paul argued that observing
Old Testament laws could not justify a person; therefore, Gentile believers
should not be required to keep these laws but should be taught to obey Jesus’
argued that the era of winning God’s favour by following the law has ended. The
law was only necessary to help believers before the time of Christ. If Christ
is in human beings, the law is unnecessary. Christ’s death and resurrection
have ensured our salvation. To believe or act otherwise is a sin.
experiences, and in particular his encounter with Jesus on the road to
Damascus, proves that God does what the law can’t do. God justifies and
rectifies. It’s as if we ae in a court of law because we have been accused of
committing a crime. God is the judge, Satan is the prosecutor (or Crown
Attorney), and Jesus is our lawyer. Under the law, we would have to admit that
we are guilty as charged and throw ourselves on the mercy of the judge. Under
God’s grace, God as judge acquits us, accepts us as his children and makes us
with Christ heirs of his kingdom. God’s righteousness is his justifying action
in relation to the people. All of this can only happen when we have faith in
standards are perfect, and because we aren’t perfect people we can’t meet those
standards on our own. New Christians in Galatia were being persuaded that faith
alone was not enough. They needed to add certain works of the law in order to
be saved. That was a step backward in their spiritual growth. Paul argued that
if we could earn our way back to God by our own efforts, Christ would not have
had to die for our unrighteousness. Adding human works to faith would be the same
as setting God’s grace aside. It would be hypocritical. We can’t do anything to
earn our salvation. We can’t be justified or declared righteous on our own
merits. We are justified by faith. The law can’t give us salvation. Only faith
in Christ can give us salvation.
are three ways in which we can deal with this hypocrisy when it occurs:
accountable to one another. God’s standard of living applies to all of us, and
we need help trying to meet this standard. Rebukes must be made with love and
concern for those who falter.
others. Our actions as Christians will be seen by others and will affect their
attitudes toward Christ. Our lives must be lived in conformity with what we
believe and teach. To put it another way, we must “practice what we preach.”
committed to the truth. If we claim to be followers of Jesus but we live in
ways that are the opposite to that claim, we aren’t living in keeping with the
truth of Jesus’ teachings. God wants us to live lives that demonstrate that we
are committed to what is true and right.
who have not experienced God’s grace often attack it as a license for sin. Paul
was horrified that some might think that faith in Christ somehow encouraged
people to sin. God’s grace does not give us a license to commit sins. It is a
strength to live in righteousness. When a person is declared righteous, he or
she changes radically and his or her standing before God changes. When we are
justified by God, we have an obligation to live the life God wants us to lead. People
who have the Holy Spirit living in them don’t think or act like they did before
they were saved. God gives Christian a new desire for holiness.
law can only bring us to the threshold of grace. It can’t get us through the
door. The law administers death, but Christ gives us life. The law commands by
saying things such as, “Do! Try! Behave!” The gospel comforts us by declaring,
“Done! Trust! Believe!” The law shows us that we can’t solve the problem of sin
ourselves, but the gospel of Christ provides us with the solution.
as Christ died and rose again, we die to our own, sinful lives and rise to a
new life in Christ when we come to Christ in faith. Christ makes us into new
people. Our own agenda becomes subordinate to Christ’s agenda for our lives.
Dying to sin gives us a pardon from past sins and the law. It also gives us a
passion to never sin again. Dying to sin brings power to resist temptation. We
will still have the urge to sin, but God’s power in us will give us the power
to overcome these urges. When we die to sin, we become partners with Christ,
and that includes becoming partners with Christ’s suffering, sharing his way of
life, living by his purpose and sharing his motives.
crucified with Christ has both a legal and a relational component. Legally, God
looks at us as if we had died with Christ. We are no longer condemned for our
sins because Christ paid the price. Relationally, we share in Christ’s
sufferings and have died to our old way of living. Christ now lives in us
through the Holy Spirit and empowers us to live a life of obedience. When we
allow the Holy Spirit to live and work in our lives, we become vital
representatives of Christ.
Several years ago, a noted violinist was playing a
concert to a very prominent crowd. He walked out on stage and showed the
audience his violin. He told them, “This violin is a Stradivarius, one of the
rarest and most valuable violins in the world.” The violinist then proceeded to
play one of the most beautiful tunes the audience had ever heard on his violin.
But after he was finished and the crowd had applauded heartily, he took that
violin and broke it into a thousand pieces.
A collective gasp
could be heard throughout the auditorium. So after a few moments of silence,
that violinist said, “That wasn’t actually a Stradivarius violin. I bought it
today at a pawn shop for 40 dollars. But I did this to make a point: the
violinist is much more important than the violin.” With that, he brought out
the real Stradivarius and finished his concert.
What’s true in music
is true with people. It’s not the talent or charisma of people, but the one
who’s making the music that matters. We are just like that old violin…
completely inadequate on our own. But in the hands of the Master, He can make
beautiful music in our lives. Living the Christian life is hard. We can’t do it
on our own. Only God, living through us in the person of the Holy Spirit, can
do that. God’s peace and power can only be experienced when we say no to
ourselves and our ambitions and yes to God. God sacrificed Jesus for our sins,
so it is only fair for us to make the sacrifices we have to make to love God
and show that love to the whole world.
David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King
James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1624-1626)
Charles R.: Swindoll’s Living Insights
New Testament Commentary: Galatians/Ephesians (Carol Stream, Illinois:
Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2015: pp. 51-57)
Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
& Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary
Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville,
TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982, pp. 42-50)
J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New
American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life
Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles,
Graham, “How God Can Turn Your Mess into a Masterpiece.” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org.
Graham, “Why is the Christian Life So Hard?” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org.