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We have received a letter that we all need to hear. It’s a very personal message. So I want to ask you to give your attention to what it says. The messenger is here with the letter ... I would like him to read it to us. By the way, the letter is from one of God’s messengers, one of his apostles – an evangelist called Paul from Tarsus. Now let’s give our attention to the messenger as he shares what Paul has written to us ...

Dramatic reading of Galatians 1:13-2:21 by Shane Bocksnick.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be in that Galatian assembly when these words were spoken for the first time? After all, that’s how God’s word got started – living words spoken to people in an active assembly. Sometimes, in our experience that favors reading, we forget the impact that these words have had.

It is of course just a part of the whole text of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Did you notice how personal the message was? That’s not an accident. Paul intends for this to be personal and if he could have been there in person one more time he would have told his story just like he did in the letter.

Because it was written, the message retains its impact when we hear it like we just did. This message to the Galatians is a message for all of God’s people then and now. We need to pay close attention to what Paul is saying in his personal story and why he wants it heard. Why? Because in his own story he communicates the power of the gospel for all of us. Additionally, we should be concerned that we are making the same mistake as the Galatians when we trade the grace of the gospel for the expectations of others ...

Once I Was ...

When Paul encountered the revelation of Christ – the good news of Jesus – it made a serious change in his life.

"The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."

Once Paul was ... [persecutor, destroyer, enemy]
Now Paul is ... [proclaimer, living example, apostle to Gentiles]
Once I was ... Now I am

The Importance of The Change (Conversion)

  1. Paul is troubled that spies have infiltrated God’s people. Their objective is to require the Gentiles who have encountered the grace of the gospel to conform to Jewish expectations. In a more subtle way, these “Christians” are doing what Paul was doing – destroying the gospel.
  2. It’s a matter of giving up the freedom of gospel for slavery to rule-keeping and traditions.
  3. Paul will even go so far as to oppose Peter without hesitation – not because it is Peter vs Paul, but because the gospel is at stake.
  4. There is no power of conversion when the expectation of others and legalistic rule-keeping are added to the gospel. “Once we were” – but now we must be.
    1. There’s no powerful change in identity.
    2. There’s no hope of becoming anything more.
    3. There’s no cause for others to praise God because of us
    4. There’s only a checklist and external expectations – an anxious concern over what others think.

The power of the gospel is too often frustrated among us because of our obsession with what others think. For too long we have asked the youngest and newest believers/converts to conform to expectations that some of us aren’t even sure about.

Are we afraid of the freedom that comes from the gospel? The freedom that comes from God’s grace?

That’s the power that changes lives and without it ...

20"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 25 July 2010

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