Summary: People are moving faster than ever before, but they have no idea of where they’re going. Galatians answers the age-old question: How can I find real meaning in life?
This morning, I’m starting a series on Galatians and I’m excited about what we’re going to learn over the next twelve months. When you get the truth of Galatians, you’ll have a personal grace awakening. That’s why I’ve entitled the series, “Don’t Stray from the Grace-Way.”
This is a true story. Cliff started working at a barbeque restaurant; his job was to do anything the boss told him. One busy Friday night as Cliff was clearing off tables; the boss ran out and said, “Cliff, we’re in trouble. We’re out of quarters and customers are waiting.” He handed him two twenty- dollar bills and said, “Go next door and get $40 worth.” Cliff ran to the gas station next door, but the cashier said she wasn’t allowed to give out that much change. He sprinted to a nearby bank, but it was closed. Next he ran into a convenience store; and the clerk took pity on him and gave him four rolls of quarters.
Twenty minutes after he left he ran back into the restaurant and handed his boss the coin rolls to his boss. His boss asked, “Where are the quarters?” Out of breathe, Cliff said, “Right here.” The boss looked at him with a mixture of frustration and humor and said, “I meant chicken quarters—we are out of chicken quarters!”
Obviously, Cliff and his boss had a misunderstanding of the meaning of “quarters.” Grace is the same way. Everyone knows and loves the song, “Amazing Grace” but not everyone truly understands what grace really is.
Last week we remembered the 9/11, one of the darkest chapters in American history. But it pales in comparison to the darkest chapter of all in our history: The Civil War. More Americans died in the Civil War than in WWI and WWII combined. When I taught history as an adjunct professor in Birmingham, I said the Civil War was fought over the tense of a verb. The North said, “The United States IS” (meaning authority was found in the one union) and the South said, “The United States ARE” (meaning each state maintained their own authority). The social and moral issue that ignited this war was slavery. In the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made a daring proclamation announcing the freedom of the slaves, the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Emancipation Proclamation said in part: “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free…And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God. In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. President Abraham Lincoln.
After this proclamation, headlines around the nation read, “Slavery Legally Abolished.” Galatians is a letter that announces “Religious Legalism Abolished.” It is our Emancipation Proclamation. Over the next few months, we’re going to learn about the freedom that we find in the gospel of God’s amazing grace.
Galatians 1:1-6. “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia [in the area of Turkey today]: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—”
Galatians is Paul’s earliest letter and when you read the first few verses it’s obvious Paul was furious, because some false teachers had come into the churches and taught the new believers that salvation came by keeping religious rules and following religious rituals. This letter is different than any other, because Paul doesn’t have any courteous remarks like we find in the opening of the letter to the Philippians when he wrote, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Instead, Paul jumps right in to the problem of how they had turned from grace to a different gospel.
Galatians is a short book—only six chapters. You can easily read it in a half-hour. But don’t be deceived by its size. A tiny stick of dynamite can blow up a big building. That’s more than a figure of speech; it’s a metaphor for the book itself. Galatians is spiritual dynamite. The great Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe wrote: “The Galatian letter is not a book to be taken lightly. Galatians was Martin Luther’s charter of liberty during the Reformation. Luther’s writings, in turn, brought the truth of salvation by faith to John Wesley’s heart in the meeting at Aldersgate Street in London. It was Wesley whom God used in such a remarkable way to spearhead revival in the British Isles, leading eventually to the founding of the Methodist Church. And that revival positively affected the entire English-speaking world. As we study Galatians, we are participating in a tremendous spiritual chain reaction that even today could result in another revival.” (Be Free, page 22.)