Sermon notes: Galatians Series, Number 8...

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So, ask yourself—or rather, ask the Holy Spirit—what possible benefit you might receive from His use of the family relationship of "brothers" as His form of address of groups of Christians, many of whom not only did not share the same blood relationship, but also did not share the same ethnic or racial background? What might this teach you?

Well, for both men and women, it teaches us that we are a part of a new family—and one, not of our own choosing, but of the Holy Spirit’s election. No longer is our identity to be taken from our own cultural heritage, but rather from the call of God to the Church of Jesus Christ, within which we are all fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters of one another. What a tender designation to comfort the hearts of those who have grown up in homes permeated by strife, families abandoned by mothers and fathers who cared more about their own pleasure than the wellbeing of their offspring.

God has called us to Himself and, by that call, made us members of His Own Household, the Church. And within the Church, we are not Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but we are all one in Christ—brothers of God’s household.

NOTE: This is number 8 in a series on Galatians. If this is your first time reading sermon notes here, please take time to read a helpful explanation at the bottom of this post.

From the Pulpit of Church of the Good Shepherd

December 28, 2003; AM
Galatians Series No. 8
For I Would Have You Know, Brethren
Sermon Text: Galatians 1:11-24

This Lord’s Day, we turn to our eighth in a series of sermons on the New Testament book of Galatians...

* Galatians 1:11-24 This is the Word of God, eternally true.

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. 18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.”

Now we come to the body of the letter to the Galatians. In verses 1-10, the Apostle Paul completed the introduction of this letter in which he set out his authority and purpose for this letter. Next he turns to a fuller development of his purpose.

And central to this purpose is the writing of history, specifically the history of his own conversion and the method by which he came to believe and teach the doctrines he’s about to defend within the Galatian church.

So, beginning with verse 11, the Apostle Paul opens up the first major part of his letter—an autobiographical section containing the largest amount of information recorded anywhere concerning Paul’s life, taking up about one-fourth of the entire book of Galatians.

Generally, the book of Galatians can be broken up into three major sections:

Section 1: History—Paul’s autobiography; chapters 1 & 2.

Section 2: Theology—Paul’s doctrinal instruction; chapters 3 & 4.

Section 3: Ethics—Paul’s exhortations; how should we then live; chapters 5 & 6.

So here in the first section, the Apostle Paul sets out to make the point that he is not beholden to men—and particularly to the apostolic leaders of the home church in Jerusalem—for the Gospel truths he has learned and preaches and teaches.

As we have noted before, a central part of the controversy for the souls in the Galatian church is the question of Paul’s authority and legitimacy in his own laying claim to Apostolic credentials. It’s apparent that the false teachers who have infiltrated the Galatian churches are accusing Paul of departing from the true aposolic doctrine that prevailed in the Jerusalem church.

"That man Paul is not a true apostle, but only a Johnny-come-lately to the Jerusalem crowd. Look, dear Galatian friends, if you want to be safe, you better travel further down the path of faith than where Paul dropped you off.

"Paul is good as far as he goes; but that’s the problem—he doesn’t go far enough. He leaves his converts without proper instruction in the faith of our fathers. He does not teach the Law, instead leaving the Gentiles in the same ignorance that has been their curse from time immemorial."

How then does Paul respond to this accusation, that he has failed to preach and teach the whole Gospel, instead trimming it to suit the ears of the Gentiles?

He deals with this accusation being fired at him by making it clear, first, that personalities are not the center of the issue, but doctrine.

8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

No man is to be trusted, but God and His Word alone. To raise a man into a position of infallibility is idolatry. And the Apostle Paul makes this clear by going through a list of those who, should they deny the Gospel, are not to be trusted. And who is at the head of the list of those not to be trusted when they teach false doctrine?

Paul starts with himself, then goes to the angels, and finally to any other man. And he says that none of them—not even himself or the angels from Heaven—are to be listened to, or trusted, if they turn away from the true Gospel, to a false one.

In fact, he doesn’t say they are not to be trusted, but he says they are to be devoted to the Lord; in other words, to be accursed, damned.

“Let them be accursed!”

“Let them be damned!” he declares.

Then, remembering their accusations against him, the Apostle Paul turns from calling down fire from heaven on the false shepherds, back to the sheep. And he pleads with them, on a gut level, to stop and consider whether things are, really, as the false preachers claim? Who is it really seeking to please them? Who is it really, who’s scratching their ears? Who really ought properly to be acknowledged as the man-pleaser?

10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

Paul is no counterfeit shepherd; his message cuts against the grain of his listeners—indeed, it has been, and still is, wildly unpopular. He is obviously not trying to win the affection or approval of his readers or listeners; but rather, his message is the product of a man who is a “bond-servant” of Jesus Christ, a man who is fully intending to please, not his congregation, but his Master, Jesus Christ.

And this is the theme Paul goes on to develop more fully here in the rest of chapter 1—that he cannot be anything other than a largely-independent witness to the Gospel; and that the entire history of his own conversion and preparation for ministry is proof of that claim, that his own conversion, as well as the doctrine he preaches and teaches, are both the product of God’s extraordinary work of revelation to him, personally, starting on the road to Damascus.

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul begins this section with a statement meant to emphasize the importance of what he’s about to say—a statement he uses frequently in his letters, both positively and negatively, to draw his readers’ attention back to the matter at hand, if possibly their thoughts have been wandering:

“For I would have you know, brethren…”

At other places Paul uses its opposite, “I do not wish you to be ignorant….”

And it’s worth noting that, just as in the Old Testament the Israelites were referred to as “brothers,” so throughout the New Testament the Holy Spirit chooses to address the people of God through their male members, using the family relationship of brothers as the form of address.

We have a tendency to ascribe such usages to what many Bible scholars and Christian publishers dismissively refer to as “the patriarchalism of the culture of the time,” but let us remember that God’s servants, the prophets, have not been known to be men limited to expressions and deeds which would be acceptable to their culture; and certainly not the Apostle Paul! Having just completed his declaration that he is not a man-pleaser, but a bond-servant of God, can we really think that this expression is simply his own bondage to the ancient world’s patriarchalism? And further, can we so lightly dismiss the inspiration of Scripture—the agency of the Holy Spirit, Who is Himself, its author—by acting as if some parts of what is written couldn’t escape the corruption of the human vessel?

But if you are convinced of the truth of Scripture’s own testimony concerning itself, that “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2Peter 1:21),” and that all Scripture is God-breathed,” then you will reverently seek to learn from every one of its constructions and words, knowing that every bit of it (down to the smallest part) is profitable for the equipping of the man and woman of God.

So ask yourself—or, rather, ask the Holy Spirit—what possible benefit you might receive from His use of the family relationship of "brothers" as His form of address of groups of Christians, many of whom not only did not share the same blood relationship, but also did not share the same ethnic or racial background? What might this teach you?

Well, for readers who are men, it teaches us that we are a part of a new family—and one, not of our own choosing, but of the Holy Spirit’s election. No longer is our identity to be taken from our own cultural heritage, but rather from the call of God to the Church of Jesus Christ, within which we are all fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters of one another. What a tender designation to comfort the hearts of those who have grown up in homes permeated by strife, families abandoned by mothers and fathers who cared more about their own pleasure than the wellbeing of their offspring.

God has called us to Himself and, by that call, made us members of His Own Household, the Church. And within the Church, we are not Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but we are all one in Christ—brothers of God’s household.

But why “brothers,” if within God’s Household, the Church, there is no “male and female?”

Because although we are no longer to be alienated from one another by these conditions of our existence, speaking ill of our boss to our union brothers, for instance; neither are we to deny God’s dispensations within our lives—that He has created us Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female—and that within these relationships, we are to honor Him by submitting to them, not trying to annihilate them.

We’re talking about a basic orientation, here; an orientation of trust, of faith, of belief that God’s Holy Spirit does not make mistakes in what, apparently, is such a minor choice of words—calling the believers, both men and women, “brothers.”

And having this orientation of trust and faith and belief, we set about piecing together what we are to learn from this label, knowing that everything God does is good.

But more on this later. Suffice it to say, for now, that this appelation, “brothers,” is used throughout the book of Galatians—the very same book which states, in chapter 3, that in Christ there is no male nor female—and so, unless we are inclined to accuse Scripture of human corruption in matters such as this; or unless we are inclined to accuse the Holy Spirit of inconsistency, there must be a divine purpose behind each word, including this word, “brothers.”

Galatians 1:2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

Galatians 4:12 I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong;

Galatians 4:28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.

Galatians 5:11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Galatians 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

Christians will not hate this word, but love it and seek out its meaning just as they seek out the meaning of the word “propitiation.”

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

This statement echoes the declaration the Apostle Paul made at the beginning of the letter, where in verse 1 he said:

Galatians 1:1, 2 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)

And as Paul declared right at the beginning of his letter, so he declares again now that the good news about Jesus Christ—‘gospel’ simply means “good news”—this good news is not of man, but of God. And everything the Apostle now proceeds to say is only a reinforcement of that first statement. He, Paul, did not come up with this Gospel; he did not invent it. Rather, he received it, not from any man—and especially not from the other apostles—but he received it from God Himself.

First the negative statement—“not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it…”; then the positive statement (verse 2, the second half)—“but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Normally, instruction is received from man—whether a teacher or professor, mother or father—clearly acknowledging its own human origin and making no claim otherwise.

And himself the product of the normal Jewish rabbinical instruction, Paul is well-known to have risen to the highest levels of religious training that was “according to man” in which every word of his instruction was carefully cross-referenced, meticulously attributed to the proper rabbi who first had declared it.

Footnotes—endless footnotes—had been the Apostle Paul’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner from earliest days, until he rose to the exalted level of being a personal student of the top rabbi of their nation, Gamaliel. So Paul knew all about truths and gospels that were according to man, but here he explicitly says that this is not the case with the Gospel he has given himself to proclaiming since the road to Damascus—this good news has not come out of rabbinical tradition, with all the citations to show its proper pedigree, but rather it has come directly by revelation of God Himself, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Paul’s claim here reminds us of the authority Jesus Himself claimed, doesn’t it?

Matthew 5:17-22 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

And at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, what was the reaction of the crowd listending to Jesus preach?

Matthew 7:28, 29 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

And again, in the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 1:22 They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

And again, in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 4:31, 32 And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32 and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.

Opposing any idea of his Gospel being his, or any other man’s, the Apostle Paul states, explicitly, just the opposite—that it is no man’s, but God’s; that it originated with no man, but God Himself; that it is the very opposite of everything that consumed his life and doctrine prior to the time he met Jesus on the road to Damascus:

Acts 26:10-12 And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. 12 While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests

And so, the Gospel of Jesus Christ for which Paul is contending, and will contend throughout this letter to the Galatians (but really, throughout his post-road-to-Damascus-life) is “through,” “by way of,” Jesus Christ.

In other words, this message of salvation is directly from God; it was an “apocalypse” (the Greek word translated “revelation” in verse 12) of, or from, Jesus Christ directly to Paul—unmediated by any man, or group of men (for instance, the apostles in Jerusalem).

This word ‘apocalypse’ means revelation, a laying bare, an unveiling; and it is the nature of the Gospel that it always is an apocalypse, a revelation:

Matthew 16:13-17 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

So Paul speaks throughout his epistles of this revelation:

Ephesians 3:1-6 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…

And so, also, the Apostle Peter speaks of this revelation—one that the angels themselves long to gaze upon:

1 Peter 1:10-13 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things into which angels long to look. 13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

We must never forget that the Gospel is, and will always be, a revelation of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart and mind of man:

Acts 26:10-15 “10 “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 “And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. 12 “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. 14 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”

John 15:16 “16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

1 John 4:19 “19 We love, because He first loved us.”

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WORD TO THE READER: Sermons are pastoral, and therefore of only limited value to those who are not present when a pastor feeds the flock God called him to serve. Yet, knowing even notes may be of some value to others, I'm posting past sermon notes here on Baylyblog. Because the notes weren't written for publication, no editor has cleaned them up for reproduction on the web. So, for instance, although the notes I take into the pulpit have formatting that highlights quotes, I haven't taken the time to reproduce that formatting here. Please keep in mind these are only notes and not a transcription of the sermon that was preached.

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May God bless you, dear brother and sister, as you study the Word of God and, only by faith, find it sweeter than honey.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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