Summary: Stand Firm In The Truth Of The Gospel even when though it sounds incredible, even when it feels uncomfortable.
A hunter raised his rifle and took careful aim at a large bear. When he was about to pull the trigger, the bear spoke in a soft, soothing voice, “Isn’t it better to talk than shoot? What do you want? Let us negotiate the matter.” Lowering his rifle, the hunter replied, “I want a fur coat.” “Good,” said the bear, “that is a negotiable. I only want a full stomach. Let’s compromise.” They sat down to talk, and after a time the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat (traditional Russian parable).
Compromise is not always a good thing is it? While that seems to be the case when hunting bears it’s definitely true when it comes to the gospel. While God wants us Christians to be peacemakers, he does not want us to attain “peace” through the compromise of his Word. This morning the Apostle Paul reminds us how God wants us to stand firm in the truth of the gospel - even though that truth may sound incredible, and even when standing firm makes us feel uncomfortable.
As we heard a couple of weeks ago, the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia because false teachers, called Judaizers, had infiltrated their ranks. The Judaizers taught that salvation came to those who believed in Jesus and kept the Old Testament Ceremonial Law. This false teaching is quite common for it is not in our nature to believe that salvation is absolutely free. If there isn’t such thing as a free lunch, many reason, why should heaven be free? And if salvation is free, why did God insist that the people of the Old Testament do things like keep the Sabbath and offer animal sacrifices? Didn’t they earn salvation by keeping these laws? Hardly! Paul says in our text, “We who are Jews by birth…16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:15, 16).
Old Testament people were saved just as we are, by believing in the promise of a savior, not by keeping the law. What then is the purpose of the law if not to tell us how to get to heaven? Paul explains in his letter to the Romans: “no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The law is a mirror. It shows how we have not kept God’s demands and therefore look quite filthy to God. Take the Fourth Commandment for example. When God tells me to honor my father and mother he’s demanding that I do more than obey them. God wants me to do what they say without grumbling and complaining. How often hasn’t this commandment been out of place in our lives?
While the mirror of the law shows us what we really look like, it doesn’t do anything to help us improve our appearance. A bad-hair-day doesn’t turn into a good-hair-day just by standing in front of the mirror. How then are we saved if the law doesn’t help us do what God wants us to do? We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. That simply means we are saved because Jesus saved us. It’s like being lost in a jungle with no hope of survival. Amazingly someone parachutes down to where we are and volunteers to hike out and come back with help. To save us our rescuer must first himself make it out of the jungle alive. To do this he will have to avoid every quicksand trap, every snake, and poisonous spider. Then he will have to do more than return with a map and the offer to lead us out. Such an offer wouldn’t do us any good because we wouldn’t have the strength to follow our rescuer to safety. Our rescuer must return with a helicopter to airlift us out. How do you think you would feel upon seeing that chopper touch down? Would you run to it eager to get out of the jungle and go home? You would think so but spiritually speaking we would not run to the helicopter. Instead we would stay glued to our spot unable (Eph. 2:1) and unwilling (Rom. 8:7) to climb into the helicopter. If we are going to make it out of the jungle, our rescuer must carry us into that chopper. That’s the truth of the gospel. It says that Jesus not only won our salvation without our help and gives it to us for free; it tells us that Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit who causes us to believe this truth. From beginning to end God is the cause of our salvation (Eph. 2:8, 9).