Summary: God’s Grace Abounds
a. Today’s message begins a three part series of studies as we take a look at the life and times of the Apostle Paul. We have just finished up the Book of Acts, so some of what we will be covering may be old hat to you.
b. But I encourage you to take a fresh look at the life Paul lived, and I believe that we can learn much from this man who gave up everything for the pursuit of Christ.
c. In his letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, Paul talks about his Jewish heritage, his pedigree if you will, and his time as a Pharisee, and he has this to say about it in verse 7 - 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
d. Why did Paul count these things as loss for Christ? I want to hold that question for the end of today’s message, and I want each one of us to think about it as we finish up Galatians chapter 1.
a. The gospel changed Paul’s life, very literally. This was a man that was a walking billboard for the gospel. Look at verse 23 that we will study today - He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy
b. Over the next three messages, we will look at grace as it is played out in Paul’s life. Grace as it is played out in relation to the gospel of Christ.
c. If you remember from last week, the book of Galatians breaks down into three parts, chapters1 and 2 deal with grace and the gospel, 3 and 4, grace and the law, and 5 and 6, grace and the life we live.
d. Grace is the central theme in the letter to the Galatians, and if Paul were here to speak for himself, I would venture to say that grace was the central theme in his life as well.
e. The word gospel means simply “good news”. Grace means unmerited favor, a free gift, or getting something that you don’t deserve. Guys, without grace, the gospel ceases to be good, and it is no longer the gospel at that point, it is simply another system that man has devised to try and get to God.
f. You see, man has been trying to get to God ever since the fall. Man was separated from God at the fall, but man was intelligent, he could invent things. Turn with me if you would to Genesis chapter 11.
g. One day all these guys got together, and decided to build a tower to reach God. Let’s pick up the story in verse 1 - 1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
h. You probably know the rest of the story. God comes down and scatters them all over the earth, confusing their languages. The problem was that they didn’t learn from this experience. They didn’t try and build a tower to reach God anymore, but they came up with other systems to try and reach Him.
i. Man has tried and tried to reach God down through the ages. He has built system after system, and failed time and time again. The system of bricks and mortar didn’t work for those on the plains of Shinar.
j. The Hindus have a system of eight steps to spiritual enlightenment. The Mormons have a system where you have to do so much good works, so do the JW’s, a “quota” if you will.
k. Still others don’t have such a defined system as this. I hear people often saying that they just hope that their good works outweigh their bad ones when they die, so that they can go to heaven.
l. The problem with this line of thinking is that there is no system of man’s devising that will get us one inch closer to God. Our good deeds will never outweigh our bad ones, because the Bible tells us that even our most righteous deeds are like filthy rags in the sight of the Lord.
m. You see, God is an all-consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), and our deeds in the flesh are either filthy rags, wood, hay, or stubble. These will all be burned up. The only things that remain are the things of God.