Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Be Justified by Faith and Receive the Promised Spirit‘
© June 23, 2013, by Steve Mickelson
Let us pray…
Welcome to BLCF Church service on this the first Sunday of summer for 2013. For today’s message, we will look at a verse that has been published on the front of the BLCF Bulletin for the last several years and how it impacts Christian faith and evangelism. If you look on the front of this morning’s bulletin, you will see below the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship banner head, below BLCF contact information, and to the left of the graphic of the church the verse, Galatians 3:14 (ESV):
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
For the Wiki bits on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, we find that Biblical scholars agree that Galatians is a true example of Paul’s writing:
The main arguments in favor of the authenticity of Galatians include its style and themes, which are common to the core letters of the Pauline body of writings. Moreover, Paul’s possible description of the Council of Jerusalem (Gal 2:1–10) gives a different point of view from the description in Acts 15:2–29, if it is, in fact, describing the Jerusalem Council.
The central dispute in the letter concerns the question of how Gentiles could convert to Christianity, which shows that this letter was written at a very early stage in church history, when the vast majority of Christians were Jewish or Jewish proselytes, which historians refer to as the Jewish Christians. Another indicator that the letter is early is that there is no hint in the document of a developed organization within the Christian community at large. This dates the Galatians Epistles to being authored within the lifetime of Paul.
No original of the letter is known to survive. The earliest reasonably complete version available to scholars today, named, dates to approximately the year 200 AD, approximately 150 years after the original was presumably drafted. This papyrus document is fragmented in a few areas causing some of the original text carefully preserved over the years to be missing, “however, through careful research relating to paper construction, handwriting development, and the established principles of textual criticism, scholars can be rather certain about where these errors and changes appeared and what the original text probably said.” Scholars generally date the original composition to c. 50-60 AD
Paul’s conversion believed by scholars to have occurred after the crucifixion of Christ between 33-36AD. Prior to becoming a Christian, Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus, a “zealous” Pharisee who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus.
As an Apostle of Christ, Paul is recognized to having authored half of the Epistles of the New Testament, including the Book of Romans which presents arguably the clearest and most concise explanation of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Initially, some Christians were skeptical of Paul’s ministry, as including Ananias, as we read in Acts 9:10-17 (ESV):
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Paul’s endorsement to by our Lord as a disciple of Christ by our Lord to Ananias gives no doubt as to his credentials. We learn about the degree of forgiveness afforded sinners, such as Paul, who by faith have been filled by the Spirit, when we read from Romans 5:1-5 (ESV):
Peace with God through Faith
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The focus of today’s message is that of the human tendency to be fallible, not to be confused with sin, can cause problems with our Christian faith walk. Everyone can make unintentional mistakes at one time or another, and often more than once in a lifetime.
Sometimes a small error can have huge implications. This brings me to share one of my minor mistakes as a weekend mechanic.
Over the years, I have owned a series of vans, each for ten or more years. The first van I owned was a full size 1972 GMC model, which had an extended wheelbase, powered by a small block 350 cubic inch V8 engine. I purchased the truck a couple of years before I was married, and it ran well for a couple of years until it developed a stalling problem, especially when accelerating on the highway. Several “knowledgeable” friends at work, as well as m brother-in-law, Arthur indicated that my problem sounded like a carburetor issue.
In those day’s vehicles were not controlled by computers and electronic ignition, so the idea of purchasing a kit to rebuild the carburetor seemed to cheap, viable solution. My brother in law, a driver, and roofer by trade, had grown up on a farm, where it was not uncommon to rebuild and repair tractor engines. As Arthur had experience rebuilding a few carburetors, I figured between his knowledge and my mechanical aptitude, we could follow the directions that came with the repair kit and truck’s service manual to repair the carburetor and eliminate the stalling problem. Not going to a mechanic is similar to not asking for directions when lost while driving in an unfamiliar area. It’s kind of a guy thing, as Sophie can attest.
It turned out that the van’s carburetor was a Holley 4-barrel type; very complex and intricate being composed of at least 80 individual components. The first step of installing the repair kit required disconnecting and removing the carburetor, disassembling an assortment of screws, springs, cams, washers, o-rings, needle valves, gaskets, linkages, nuts, bolts and other components. The next step required the cleaning and replacing gaskets, needle valves, o-rings, and gaskets. Finally, the components had to be reassembled back as a carburetor which had to be reinstalled into the van. After several hours of painstaking work, actually, we worked on it overnight, the kit was installed.
Now the moment of truth, I turned the ignition and the van would not start. After numerous tries, we decided to finally consult a local mechanic. As it was in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, we removed the carburetor and I brought it to a local mechanic the next morning.
A couple of hours later, the mechanic called to report that the carburetor had been repaired and was ready to be picked up. The bill for repairs was $20 labour and $20 for the kit, still only 1/2 the cost of a rebuilt carburetor. The mechanic indicated that we had assembled everything OK, except for one cam component that was reinstalled backward, causing the malfunction. Ironically, rebuilding the carburetor did not fix the problem. I later took the van to the garage, where the mechanic found that a plugged fuel filter was the cause of the stalling problem. As it happens, the carburetor kit would be the next step of repair, after the fuel filter, a $5 part, had been changed.
This story illustrates how a group may deviate from the proper path and go along a circuitous path to make an easy, simple process both difficult and complicated with unsatisfactory results. We find a similar example of people making something more complicated than intended in the Scriptures.
The Apostle Paul had intervened with Peter, latter had deviated from the truth of the Lord’s Gospel path, as we read in Galatians 2 (ESV):
Paul Accepted by the Apostles
2 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised
10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Paul Opposes Peter
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Justified by Faith
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
This Passage has much to teach us about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ had died, was resurrected and ascended to Heaven. The great commission had been given for all Christians to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The day of Pentecost had taken place and the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God was freely available to guide the believers.
But we have an account where Paul found Cephas had mistakenly believed in order that a Gentile could convert to the Christian Faith only after first converting to the Jewish faith, by circumcision. Cephas is more commonly known today as Peter. This was not how the Lord intended faith conversion. Paul had heard about this practice was led by the Spirit to confront, in a kind and gentle way, Cephas and the others. Paul pointed out that Christian conversion was only through faith, not by an act like circumcision. In the same way, baptism by the Spirit does not assure Salvation. We are baptized by faith, not of works such as water baptism or circumcision. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit convicted Cephas of the truth and stopped the practice.
So does the conversion by faith apply solely to Gentiles? Not really, as we read in Galatians 3:7-9; 23-29 (ESV):
3 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
So Cephas, through the Spirit, came to understand that through Christ, all believers are entitled to the inheritance promised to Abraham’s offspring who are the Chosen People of Israel. And making circumcision as part of the Christian faith conversion is to the Gospel as reversing a cam link is to a functioning carburetor. Neither will get the expected results because both do not belong to their respective processes.
Paul did not come to humiliate or discredit Cephas. Instead, Paul pointed out the error of substituting a faith practice with an act of works was not part of the Christian faith process. Such actions, while not considered a sin or transgression of the Law did nothing to justify the believer before God. In other words, it is not the actions of circumcision or water baptism which lead to our salvation, but faith that gives us the assurance of sanctification and the promise of the Spirit, as we read in Galatians 3:11-14 (ESV):
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
The keyword of today’s lesson is faith not works. As believers in Jesus, the resurrected Christ, we are provided a companion in the Holy Spirit which shows us the Way, and like Peter convicts us of His truth, so that we may lead other to light of salvation to God the Father in Heaven, who loves us, His children dearly in spite of our mistakes. May we honour Him with our trust and faith.
Let us pray…
Benediction (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17):
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.