Sunday, August 2, 2015
Pastor Joe Wittwer
DO vs. DONE
The Gospel of Grace in Galatians
Ch. 6—The Gospel Community
Today we come to the final chapter in the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul’s letter to a group of churches that he planted on his first missionary journey in what is now central Turkey. After Paul left, some Jewish Christians had arrived and were teaching that these new Christians must be circumcised and keep the Jewish law to be saved. “Jesus is good,” they said, “but Jesus is not enough.” Paul wrote this letter to correct this. He insists that Jesus is enough, that the gospel is Jesus plus nothing.
The Big Idea: The gospel is the good news of what God has done for us in Christ, not what we do for Him. We are saved by His grace through faith.
This has been the Big Idea for the last six weeks, because Paul pounds this idea home in every chapter of this letter. As Martin Luther wrote:
‘This is the truth of the gospel. It is…most necessary, therefore, that we should know this well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.”
So we’ve beaten this into your heads continually for the last six weeks. We want you to know it well and teach it to others. The gospel is Jesus plus nothing. The gospel is not DO, but DONE! It’s about what God has done for us in Christ, not what we do for Him. Not surprisingly, Paul will return to this theme in his final comments at the end of this chapter.
But first Paul carries on his thought about walking in the Spirit from chapter 5, and shares some practical advice about life in a Spirit-filled community.
- Life in a Spirit-filled community. 1-10
In chapter 5, Paul called us to walk in the Spirit. In other words, we live our lives in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit—just as Jesus’ first disciples lived in the presence and power of Jesus for three years. Imagine living with Jesus right beside you! He is! We are not alone—He is living inside us, and wants to fill us and empower us to live a new and different life. Here’s the thing: the Christian life is not difficult; it’s impossible! You can’t do it on your own power. You need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The good news is that we’re not doing this alone.
And we are not alone in another sense. Christianity is a team sport; we do it together. When we answer God’s call to follow Jesus, we join His band of followers. No one follows Jesus alone.
ILL: Think of the first disciples: when Jesus called, “Follow Me,” and they did, they joined the others who were following Jesus. No one said, “Jesus, I want to follow you alone. Can you tell these other guys to buzz off? Let’s make it just You and me.” That never happened. When you followed Jesus, you joined the other followers. They followed together.
It’s still true today: No one follows Jesus alone. When you follow Jesus, you become part of the Christian community, the church.
So Paul is going to give us some direction on how to live in a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled community. In chapter 5, he reminded us that the whole law is fulfilled in this one command: love your neighbor as yourself. Here are some practical expressions of that love.
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.
The first and last word in chapter 6 (except for the “amen”) is “brothers” (translated “brothers and sisters” by the NIV). This chapter is about life in the Christian community, in the family of God, where we are all brothers and sisters. One big family. Turn to your neighbor and say, “Glad you’re part of the family, brother/sister.”
The first thing we do as family is that if someone is caught in a sin, we restore that person gently.
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
The word “caught” meant “caught by surprise”. It could mean that the person sinning was caught by surprise in the act, like the woman in John 8 who was “caught in the act of adultery.” Or it could mean that the person sinning was caught by surprise by the sin—that they slipped or got caught off guard. In other words, they weren’t trying to sin—they had a moment of weakness. Either way, we’re supposed to restore that person gently. Notice what we aren’t supposed to do:
- Stand by and do nothing. “It’s none of my business.”
- Despise or condemn him in our hearts. “What a jerk.”
- Gossip about him to others. “Did you hear…?”
Instead, we are to restore him. When someone falls, we help them up. The word “restore” was used of setting a fractured bone so it could heal, or repairing fishing nets so they’d be ready to go.
Paul gives three qualifications for doing this.
First, it should be done by “you who live by the Spirit” or “you who are spiritual.” In other words, it calls for a certain amount of spiritual maturity. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul contrasts those who are carnal or fleshly with those who are spiritual or Spirit led. He calls the former babies, “mere infants in Christ.” Sadly, some Christians believe in Jesus and then get stuck. They don’t grow spiritually; they never get out of their spiritual diapers; they live in perpetual spiritual infancy. Paul doesn’t expect these immature Christians to restore a fallen brother. But he does call them to grow up and become Spirit-led and mature, which is what we were made for. If you don’t consider yourself spiritual or Spirit-led, then it’s time to get growing! If you do, then
6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Paul carries on his thought from the previous chapter about walking in the Spirit and loving one another with practical teaching about relationships.
If someone sins: those who live in the Spirit should restore him gently and humbly (looking to yourself). We should carry each others’ burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.
We should live humbly, not in conceit. If you think you’re something you’re not, you deceive yourself. Test your actions, and don’t compare yourself to others; carry your own load.
The one being taught should share all good things with their teacher. Pay your pastors!
Don’t be deceived: you reap what you sow, whether to the flesh (destruction) or Spirit (eternal life). So live in the Spirit!
Do good for each other! Don’t grow weary and give up—you’ll reap that harvest in due time! So use the opportunities before you to do good for everyone, especially for each other as members of the family of faith.
- Concluding warning about legalism. 11-18
Paul takes his final shots at the circumcision party, accusing them of self-interest, and wanting to boast about their accomplishments. In contrast, Paul boasts only in Jesus and His cross. We’ll talk about that! What matters are not outward religious ceremonies or actions, but a new creation! And Paul finishes with a blessing of grace—the keynote of the whole letter!
11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Paul accuses the circumcision party of wanting to impress people by means of the flesh (outward display), and wanting to avoid persecution (presumably from the Jews). This is why they compel people to be circumcised.
Yet they don’t even keep the law themselves! But they want to circumcise you so that they boast about it. “Look what we’ve done.” (This gave me pause: could we do the same thing with baptism? If we do it to boast in our numbers…we’re boasting in the flesh, rather than in Christ; in an outward act rather than a new creation.)
Paul won’t boast in anything he’s done, just what Jesus has done. He will boast in the cross of Christ, through which he has died to the world.
It doesn’t matter whether you are circumcised or not; what matters is a new creation in Christ. (Applied to baptism: you can go in a dry sinner and come out a wet sinner, unchanged. Baptism is commanded and important, but it’s not the big deal: following Jesus and becoming a new creation is what counts.)
A blessing: peace and mercy on all who follow this rule—the true Israel of God!
Don’t trouble me; I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. (Stigmata? Or wounds from persecution?)
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. He ends with grace—it’s the gospel of grace.