The Radical Gospel of Grace

Currently I am preaching through the book of Galatians.  Below is the transcript of the sermon I preached this last Sunday on Galatians 1:13-16.  The transcript is probably 95% accurate.  It’s what I bring up on stage with me.  The actual conclusion is different then what is written below.   If you would rather listen to the sermon, click here.

The Radical Gospel of Grace

We can boldly share the gospel knowing that God’s grace is so rich and powerful that it saves all who are called by it.

Galatians 1:13-16

3-5-17

  1. Introduction:John Paton (illustration primarily comes from John Piper’s book: Filling up the Afflictions of Christ.)
  2. 1606 eighty islands in south pacific were discovered.
  3. In 1773 the Islands were explored by Captain James cook and named New Hebrides (because they were similar to the Hebrides Islands of the NW coast of Scotland.
  4. The chain of islands is 450 miles long.
  5. If you draw a line from Honolulu to Sydney Australia it will cut through Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.
  6. Today the population is 215,000
  7. John Williams and John Harris came as missionaries in 1839 to these islands.  They were killed and eaten within minutes of landing on on the island.
  8. In 1842 another team of missionaries arrived and were driven away in 7 months.
  9. John Paton at age 33, on November 5th, went with his wife from Scotland to the Island of Tanna.
  10. John Paton, before leaving, had led a very fruitful ministry in Glasgow where he helped those of lower-income with great success.  Many in fact tried to discourage him because his ministry was so successful.  But he was determined.
  11. One, Mr. Dickson was especially against John.  This is how He replied to him,
    1. Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will raise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” (58, Piper)
  12. In March the next year his wife and newborn son died of the fever.
  13. He served on the island for another 4 years under constant danger until he was driven off the island in 1862.
  14. He married again and in 1864 took his new wife Margaret to an island called Aniwa on Nov. 1866.
  15. This is how he described the people,
    1. The native people were cannibals and occasionally ate the flesh of their defeated foes.  They practiced infanticide and widow sacrifice, killing the widows of deceased men so they could serve their husbands in the next world.
  16. For the next 15 years John learned the language, built orphanages and loved on the people in Aniwa.  And the end of his ministry he saw the entire island come to faith in Christ.
  17. John Paton had left certainty for uncertainty.  He was leaving a place where he had been very successful to go to a place in which he might fail to be useful.
  18. What causes a man to leave all that he has and risk the life of his family to go live with cannibals? What causes a man to leave a successful ministry where he is respected to be with a people who would like to kill him. Today we are going to see the answer.  And the answer is the radical grace of God.

Read Galatians 1:13-16

  1. Life Outside of Christ
    1. Description of Paul
    2. In verses 13-14 we are given a description of Paul before he came to faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul hated the church.  He persecuted the church violently.  The word violent means “extremely more than necessary.”  Paul savagely attacked Christians.  In Acts we read that he arrested men, women, and children.  Paul was like a bull that had red in his eyes.  He didn’t just want to cripple Christianity, but he wanted to destroy it, he wanted to kill and bury every christian.  And there was none more zealous than he.  In verse 14 he said he was advancing beyond all those who were his age.
    3. In 1 Tim 1:13 when Paul looks back on his unsaved self he said he was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.
    4. Here’s the point: Paul hated Christianity.  There is no arguing him into heaven.  He will not be reasoned with. He’s the one that if you bring up Jesus he will begin railing on how dumb you are for holding to such pathetic beliefs. Paul’s heart is like granite, it is impenetrable to Christianity.  Not even a wrecking ball could dent his determination to persecute the church and put an end to faith in Jesus.
    5. Transition: What we have here is a picture of Paul’s spiritual condition.  And guess what?  It’s a picture of yours and and mine also.  We might not have been as fanatical as Paul or as outwardly rebellious as Paul but the Bible says our hearts were just as hard and dead as Paul’s
  2. Description of Humanity
    1. Jeremiah 17:9
      1. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it
    2. Romans 8:7–8 
      1. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    3. Ephesians 2:1–3 
      1. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
    4. 1 Corinthians 2:14 
      1. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
    5. Here’s the point: we are all born rebellious.  We are all born determined to to hate Christ.  We are all born resistant to the grace of God.  No one can be argued into heaven.  If salvation is up to you and me then we are without hope.  If salvation is tied to yours and my ability to convince people of the gospel then we have no greater chance in saving people as we do going to the cemetery down the street and calling people to come out of their coffins.  We can yank and pull and drag people into the church to hear the gospel, but we have no power to save.
    6. So if we have no ability to save our selves or others, then what hope do we have?  How was it that Paul was saved?  How was it that John Paton saw an island full of cannibals transformed into believers of Jesus Christ?
    7. It’s grace.  All grace.  In Galatians 1:4 Paul said, Jesus came to “deliver us from the present evil age.”  Paul, the New Hebrides, you, me, we’re all saved by grace.  And that’s what we are going to look at verses 15-16.
  3. Saved to be in Christ
    1. Description of salvation.
      1. As we look at these verses notice how the pronouns change.  In verses 13-14 the primary pronoun is “i”, referring to Paul.  But in verses 15-16 the pronouns have changed to “He” and “His” referring to God.  Salvation is an act of God’s grace, for only God has the power to save. So while Paul described his sinful life from his point of view, we are now going to view His salvation from God’s view.
      2. Grace Chooses.
        1. First thing we see is that God has “set apart” Paul before he was even born.  To be “set apart” means to mark.  Paul says something very similar in Ephesians 1:4, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
        2. God’s plan of salvation reaches back before creation. God has chosen those whom will be saved. To some that might sound strange. But omniscience and sovereignty are meant to comfort us not frighten us.  In Psalm 139:15-16 we are told,
          1. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
        3. There is nothing that our God does not know.  He knows us before we were born.  He planned our days.  And He determined in the depths of time those who would be saved.  Here’s a text from Jeremiah 1:5, notice the role of God
          1. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
          2. God chose in the depths of time to create Jeremiah for the purpose of sending him to the nations as a prophet.
        4. Look at how 2 Timothy 1:9 describes our salvation:
          1. who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
        5. Paul says we have been shown grace in Christ before the ages began.
        6. I know these texts raise many questions, but the purpose of them is to draw our eyes to the majesty of the God who saves.  We have a God who is unlike man, powerful, all-knowing, Creator of all things, and He is the one who saves. And He marks us before we are born, before we have done any works, so that we would know that in no way have we earned our salvation but that it solely comes from God’s grace.
      3. Grace Calls
        1. The word “called” means to summon.  And what we see is that all who are marked by God are called to be saved. This summoning is not like a King sending his soldiers to trap and arrest an individual forcing them to come to him.  Nor is like when one of my kids tells the other, “dad’s calling you and in you’re in trouble.”  For when the child comes in that way they do so out reluctance, not joy.
        2. To be called by God is to be made new, meaning we have been given a new heart with a new mind with new desires that now long to run to God, to please God, to obey God and worship Him.
        3. When God calls us, we go from death to life.  Just as when God spoke creation out of nothing in Genesis, so when He calls us, He speaks life into our dead hard hearts.  Wrecking balls cannot dent our heart but God’s grace melts and makes them new. This is how Paul describes our salvation in Ephesians 2:5
          1. even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
        4. It’s the grace of God that saved Paul, and the grace of God gave you life.
        5. Now this coming to life, this salvation looks different in every person.  Just as every snowflake is unique, so also is every salvation.
        6. Stephen Smallman said that the new birth we experience in Jesus is like the whole gestation process of a pregnancy.  The labor pains of some people are long and pronounced, possibly lasting for years.  Others, the gestation period is short.  What this means is that some people hear the gospel for a long time and wrestle with it over months or years before finally trusting in Christ.  Others, like Paul seem to have a dramatic experience in which they quickly come to faith in Christ.  Some people easily point to the time they know they were saved.  For others it’s hazy because it appears to have happened over a period of time.
        7. John Paton said this, “Truly there is only one way of regeneration, being born again by the power of the Spirit of God, the new heart; but there are many ways of conversion, of outwardly turning to the Lord, of taking the actual first step that shows on whose side we are.  Regeneration is the sole work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart and soul, and is in every case one and the same.  Conversion, on the other hand, brining into play the action also of the human will, is never absolutely the same perhaps in even two souls–as like and yet as different as are the face of men.” (pg.214-215, What about Free Will).
        8. Let’s just step back from a moment and make sure we understand the point.  All whom God calls are saved and experience new life.  Some come quickly and some slowly but they all come.
        9. It’s this truth that gives us confidence to share the gospel with others. You see you are not responsible to save, that’s God’s job. And we need not lose hope or be discouraged when some seem resistant or even violent. For God changes some quickly and some slowly. But all whom God calls are saved.
        10. It’s this truth that has caused men and women for centuries to leave their comfortable lives to share the gospel in other parts of the world knowing that God will save. It’s this truth that frees us to share the gospel with our professing atheist friends knowing that God’s radical grace can melt their hearts.
        11.   It’s this truth that gives us such great confidence that as we share the gospel, there will be people saved.  And it’s this truth that comforts us when we mess up. Have you ever walked away from a gospel presentation thinking, “I should have said this”. Remember it’s God who saves. He perfectly uses our imperfections as a means to saving others.
        12. Know this, there is no one who can resist the call of God.  We all know those people who appear to be running from the gospel at full speed.  You mention Christ and they start sprinting.  If salvation was left to us, there would be no hope for them. But because of this radical grace that we have in the gospel, we confidently pursue them, praying for them, loving them, knowing that God’s grace can make their hearts new.
        13. It’s this radical grace that saved Paul when he was bent on not being saved.
        14. It’s this radical grace that propelled John Paton to leave Glasgow to go live with cannibals.  It’s this grace that sustained him as he lost his wife and son.  It’s this grace that compelled him to return to the islands with his new wife and preach the gospel for 15 years until the entire island came to know Jesus.  John Paton was not trusting in his efforts but He was trusting in the radical grace of God.
    2. Grace Delights
      1. In verse 16 we see that God was pleased to reveal His Son to Paul. God loves to shine His grace in the darkness of hearts that we would see Him and love Him.  Know this, God takes great delight in your salvation.
      2. Just as we don’t come kicking and screaming into the Kingdom of God, neither does God kick and scream as He saves us.  You see, He doesn’t save us because He owes and or is in debt to us.  He simply saves us out of delight.  This is grace: God freely saving us out His good pleasure.
      3. And God so delights in showing us grace that he doesn’t stop once we are saved. Ephesians 2:7 says,
        1. so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
      4. God will never cease to pour His rich abundant grace upon you.  When a million years of being with God has passed, His bucket of grace will not be any closer to running out than when He began.  God’s grace never ceases.
      5. If you are here today as believer in Jesus Christ, then know that God takes great delight in your salvation.  You are a work of God’s grace.
    3. Grace Purposes
      1. And lastly we see that those whom God saves He does so for a purpose.  God saved Paul so that He would take the gospel to the Gentiles.  God reveals His Son to us so that we would be saved and be used to reveal His Son to others.
      2. Ephesians 2:10 says,
        1. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
        2. The grace that saves you is the grace that is working in you right now that you would be used by God. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Esther Job, Ruth, Boaz, Solomon, Paul, Peter, John, Andrew, James, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Priscilla, Aquilla all of these and every believer have been called for a purpose.
        3. You have been raised from the dead, given new life in Christ, the Spirit now dwells in you right now that you would be used as an instrument of God for His glory.  You might be feel unqualified or insufficient.  But let me encourage you, the same grace that was sufficient to bring life into your soul will equip you for every good work God calls you into.  Because of God’s grace, Paul who once hated Gentiles is now devoted to sharing the gospel with them.
      3. Illustration: One time John Paton was surrounded by raging natives acting as though they might kill him.  This is what he said,
        1. My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus; I saw Him watching all the scene.  My peace came back to me like a wave from God.  I realized that I was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.  The assurance came to me, as if a voice out of Heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, or a killing stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ, whose is all power in Heaven and on Earth.” (75, Piper)
      4. You, right now by God’s grace share in the very divine nature of God.  You are a missionary and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. And you are in the words of John Paton, “immortal” until God calls you home.  God determined to save you and He is determined to use you.  You are called to demonstrate the love of Christ and to share the good news of grace of Christ.
      5. That might mean you pack your bags like John Paton, leaving all that you have in order to go share the gospel with unbelievers.
      6. It might mean you are a Father and husband who regularly shepherds his family on how to love God.
      7. It might mean you are a single working mom relying upon God’s grace to take care of your family and to show your children the joy that God gives.
      8. It might mean you are retired and able to volunteer in your neighborhood or here with the church regularly showing others the love of God.
      9. It might mean you take your coworkers to coffee that you would share the gospel and begin doing a bible study with them.
      10. It might mean you share the gospel at work risking your job for the sake of another’s salvation.
      11. It might mean you go to school boldly sharing the gospel with your friends which results in you being and labeled the christian kid.
      12. It might mean you are a wife and mother showing the tender mercies of God to your children as your serve them and show them the beauty of submitting to your husband.
      13. Bottom line: God’s saved you by grace so that by grace you would be used by Him.
  4. Conclusion:
    1. Our mission at Timberline and really the mission of every church is to make disciples who make disciples. And we can do it. But not because of our strength or how persuasive we are.  We can make disciples because we are armed with the the radical grace of God. The gospel of grace can melt the most brazen of hearts, it can move the most resistant of wills.
    2. Let us leave her today prepared to share the gospel with our neighbors, with our co-workers, with family members. And let’s be praying that we would be willing to leave the comforts of our home at any moment to move and share the gospel with other people groups.
    3. And let us never forget, we have a God who loves to reveal His radical grace. And all who are called by God are saved.
    4. Pray for unbelievers.