Let’s get down to business. Time is short. Put aside all extraneous matters. Let’s dispense with the irrelevant. Let’s turn away from the unimportant. Let’s not get mired in the mundane, trifle with the trivial, or get caught up in the casual. Let’s get down to business.
Let’s give exacting attention to the differences between what is cultural and what is Scriptural. Let’s pray for discernment to know what is from God and what is not from God?and then act with purpose. Let’s turn away from everything that would seek to turn us away from the Truths of Almighty God. Let’s study with the determination of a world-class athlete yearning to stand atop of the victor’s platform. Let us live as if the lives of others depended upon it. Let’s get down to business.
I don’t want to be distracted by things off topic. I don’t want my mind to stagnant in the insignificant. Neither do I want to be deceived by what seems pleasing, plausible, or popular. I want to run the race, keep the faith, and finish the course. I want to see my King, in all His glory. I want to fall at His feet, in all humility. I want to worship Him, with all of my heart. I want to proclaim His Truth, in all of its power. I want to trust His promises, in ever detail. I want my life to please my King, with every moment I have left. Let’s get down to business.
The Body of Christ must get down to business because time is slipping away. While we wile away the hours in casual conversation, reckless recreation, and just plain ol’ chillin’ – there are many who purposely put a spin on the Gospel, twist the truth, and doctor the most important doctrines of the faith. This is done ever so slightly so that the teachings don’t appear to be anything but the time tested truth of God’s Word.
Who will proclaim with no shame the Truth of God? Who will courageously stand in the gap where the Truth has been gnarled? Who will risk public opinion for the sake of the Kingdom and glory of Almighty God? For those who are willing to answer the call?it’s time to get down to business.
When we come to the opening of Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia we find Paul getting down to business. I mentioned last week that this one letter is different than any other letter the Apostle ever penned. In all of Paul’s other letters he commends those he is writing and praises them for something about their faith. Let me give you some examples. Turn with me to the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. In verses 15-16, Paul commends the brothers and sisters by writing,
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15-16 NIV)
The word had gotten out. The people of God in Ephesus loved those around them and they had great faith in Jesus. They were solid as a rock and Paul wanted them to know that their lives were making an impact beyond the walls of their church.
Now turn with me to Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae where he praises the people for their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all of the “saints.” Paul tells them that the gospel they have trusted is bearing fruit not just in them, but all over the world. Turn to Colossians 1:3 with me and let’s read Paul’s words.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints-5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:3-8 NIV)
Last of all, let’s take a look at how Paul greets the people in the church at Rome. Read with me beginning in verse 8 of chapter 1.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Romans 1:8 NIV)
“Your faith is being reported all over the world!” Now, you think that won’t boost the morale of the troops! Paul praises them for their faithfulness and the living out of their faith. These examples are an 1800 turn from how he greets the folks in Galatia. When Paul sits down to write the letter that will be delivered to the churches in Galatia he is livid. He is dumbfounded. He is astonished. He can’t believe the report that has come to him! When Paul heard that those who he had once gathered with had now turned from the truth to what was popular?he got down to business. Read with me beginning in verse 1.
1 Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead-2 and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:1-5 NIV)
We are barely going to get started on this section of Scripture this morning. If I had two hours to share with you all of the things that I have learned about this section of Scripture during the past week, I still would not be able to adequately unfold all of its golden nuggets for you and me. We don’t have two hours so we will do what we can do with the time we have. Let’s get down to business.
Paul begins his letter by stating his authority in writing to them. Paul says that he is an “apostle.” He wasn’t sent from men. He wasn’t commissioned by a mission’s board. When Paul was a little boy he didn’t lie awake and night and say to himself, “I want to be an apostle some day.” He had no aspirations of being an apostle of Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, he was the most virulent and passionate antagonist of the cause of Christ in his day. Jesus chose Paul – Paul didn’t choose Jesus.
Let me tell you how it all happened. In Acts 7, Stephen and the other followers of Jesus were already busy teaching the Gospel and spreading the Good News about Jesus. By the end of Acts 7, Stephen had been stoned to death because of his message. In the very first sentence of Acts 8 we read, 1And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. (Acts 8:1 NIV)
After Stephen was killed, Paul was not content with his death; he was committed to stopping the spread of the Gospel by any means necessary. In Act 8:3 we read,
3But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:3 NIV)
During the rest of Acts 8 we can see the Spirit of God using Phillip and Peter to preach the Good News of Jesus and touch the lives of others with the Gospel. It is a wonderful chapter demonstrating how the Spirit of God led the followers of Jesus. By the time we get to the end of Acts 8 the mission of Paul is brought to the forefront once again. Read along with me from Acts 9:1-2.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2 NIV)
This is a man who knows how to get down to business. The only problem was that Saul, the man we know as Paul, was in the wrong business. He wasn’t working diligently for the spread of the Gospel. He wasn’t passionately pursuing the Kingdom of God. Paul was an antagonist, a persecutor, a judge and jury for those who sought to follow Jesus.
While he was making his way to Damascus to seize any followers of Jesus that he could find, the Lord Jesus seized him. Saul was struck by blinding light, fell to the ground, and wondered what in the world had happened. It was at that point that Jesus spoke to Saul and asked, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4 NIV) Saul asked, “Who are you Lord?” and Jesus revealed Himself to Saul. Jesus told Saul to go on into Damascus and wait for instructions.
In the meantime, the Lord went ahead of Saul and spoke to a man named Ananias about Saul of Tarsus. Ananias was told to go to Straight Street where he would find Saul. He was to lay hands on him so that his eyesight might be restored. Now Ananias was a godly man. He loved the Lord. He wanted to live obediently, but he had heard of Saul. As if Jesus had never heard of Saul, Ananias wanted to fill him in. After he explained to the Lord how bad this Saul dude was then Jesus says,
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16 NIV)
“This man is my chosen instrument to carry My name?” Knowing what you now know, can you understand how Paul would feel so strongly that it was Jesus who called him, equipped him, and sent him on a mission to the world? Paul was commissioned by Jesus, not by people. Paul knew that he would one-day answer to the Lord for the orders he had been given and therefore he would serve the Lord with everything within him.
It is important for us to know that Paul never used his authority as an apostle like many use their authority today. How do people use their power or position today? Is it to help others or to build the Kingdom of God? Or is it to better their status or position in society? Is it to get them tickets to events and a prime seat at the table? Is it to contact a “friend” who can help get their kid out of a jam? How about to drop a name of someone supposedly important to impress those around them? Or to get back at someone who is at an inferior position in the company? Oh, you know how most people use their positions of power today. Paul didn’t misuse his authority like we often do.
Paul was an apostle. One man chosen by God to proclaim the Good News. We don’t hear words like “apostle” much today so let’s take a minute to try and understand what this little word means. John MacArthur writes in his commentary,
An apostle was an envoy, ambassador, or messenger who was chosen and trained by Jesus Christ as His special emissary for proclaiming His truth during the formative years of the church. In its primary and technical usage, the term applied to the twelve who were chosen at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13) and were set aside to lay the foundation of the early church and to be channels of God’s completed revelation (Acts 2:42; Ephesians 2:20). (John MacArthur, Galatians, page 2)
Even though the word is most often used in reference to the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus it is also used, in a wider sense, of other leaders like Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6-13), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7), and Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6). One of the defining marks of an apostle was that he had seen Jesus after He had been resurrected. It was this defining characteristic that caused Paul problems since he never seen Jesus before His ascension to Heaven. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 when he writes,
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NIV)
Paul says that he was one “abnormally born.” In the New Century Version of the Bible we read where Paul refers to his birth as, “Not born at the normal time.” Paul missed it. While Jesus was appearing to many after His resurrection Paul was not there. He didn’t witness the resurrected Jesus in the time frame that all of the other apostles had, but still he was chosen by the Lord to fulfill his purpose for his life.
There is another reason why Paul wasn’t a good candidate for the office of apostle. The other apostles were part of the expansion of the early church. They were on the front lines sharing the Gospel and ministering to the masses. While they were working diligently for the spread of the Gospel, Paul was persecuting the work and workers of the Kingdom. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 15:9 when he says,
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9 NIV)
Paul not only had these two strikes against him as far as the false teachers were concerned, but there were also rumors circulating about him that were intended to deliver a fatal blow to his authority. In Timothy George’s outstanding commentary on Galatians he writes,
Through the centuries various attempts have been made to discredit the authenticity of Paul’s conversion. According to the early Christian apologist Epiphanius, and early Jewish Christian sect known as the Ebionites circulated a fantastic slander about Paul that was widely believed in their circles. According to this tale, Paul was not really a Jew by birth but rather the son of Greek parents. Paul’s father had come to Jerusalem and had fallen in love with the daughter of the high priest there. In order to obtain the girl, he became a Jewish proselyte and submitted to circumcision. (Timothy George, Galatians, Broadman and Holman Publishers, page 30.)
Here is one born at the wrong time, a violent persecutor of the Church, and rumors circulated that he was from the wrong side of the tracks. There was no one better situated, to better understand the message that Paul would carry to the world — than Paul. The message that transformed Paul’s life was the message of salvation by grace through faith. As a persecutor of the Church and one who didn’t meet the qualifications of an apostle, Paul knew that the salvation he had received and the salvation message he was commissioned to carry came to him not because of anything he had done, but only because of the grace of God.
Paul’s life, and the Lord’s choosing to use Paul for His glory, should be a great reminder and source of encouragement for you and me that God uses who He chooses to do His will. The Bible says that God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. God uses that, and those, that nobody else would dare use to accomplish His purposes. God is not concerned with the “best” and the “brightest” – He will use whom He will use and that is good news for everyday folks like you and me.
How many of us feel worthy to bear the name of Jesus to those around us? How many of us feel qualified to share the Gospel with an unbelieving world? How many of us feel like we have lived a good enough life, that we possess the integrity and moral fortitude, to represent God? If you are like me then you are all too familiar with your past. Things we have done which we would love to forget, but which are used by Satan to cause us to shrink back from being more bold about the calling God has placed upon our lives.
We may or may not have been a persecutor of the church, but most of us have at least had our doubts. Some of us have been more vocal about those doubts than others. Now we are being called to speak with conviction about the grace of Almighty God and sometimes we feel like hypocrites.
All of us present this morning were “untimely born” from the standpoint that we weren’t there to witness the resurrection, but even more than that, for some of us our family background is far from sterling. Who among us comes from a family that resembled Ward and June Cleaver’s home? For some of us the home we grew up in was more like the Osbourne’s than the Cleaver’s. Some of us come from homes of violence, abuse, crime, brokenness, addiction, and the like. How can we speak about the family of God when we don’t even know what family really looks like? Those are great questions and I will guarantee you that the Enemy of your faith will use all of these things against you when God calls you to declare His glory and grace to those around you.
Of all of the wonderful writers I have read recently who have written on Paul’s letter to the Galatians none has been so powerful to me as a book written almost 500 years ago by Martin Luther. In Luther’s book on Galatians he writes about how Satan, the accuser of you and me, will constantly remind us that we are sinners to try and convince us that we are unworthy and unusable. Luther writes,
“?when the devil tells us we are sinners and therefore damned, we may answer, ‘Because you say I am a sinner, I will be righteous and saved.’ Then the devil will say, ‘no, you will be damned.’ And I will reply, ‘No, for I fly to Christ who had given himself for my sins. Theefore, Satan, you will not prevail against me when you try to terrify me by telling me how great my sins are and try to reduce me to heaviness, distrust, despair, hatred, contempt, and blasphemy. On the contrary, when you say I am a sinner, you give me armor and weapons against yourself, so that I can cut your throat with your own sword and tread you under my feet, for Christ died for sinners. (Martin Luther, Galatians, Crossway Books, page 41.)
Jesus died for sinners like you and me. Jesus calls sinners like you and me. Jesus equips sinners like you and me. He sends sinners like you and me to do His work in this world for His glory. Our sin, our backgrounds of sorrow and sin in their multitude of dark and gloomy hues, are constant reminders of His glorious grace that has been showered upon our lives.
Isn’t God good! He has chosen us to do His will. He has chosen us to share His love, grace, mercy, and salvation with those who do not know Him, those who have been blinded by the Enemy. We have not only been chosen, but we are being sent -we are ambassadors of Christ our Savior. It is time that we get down to business.
Maybe this morning for the first time you have had your eyes opened to glory of our King and the grace of calling. I want to urge you to respond to His infinite grace by answering the call and inviting Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior. I know far better than you how unworthy we are of His grace. I know as well as anyone how unqualified I am to represent His mercy. I also know that God choosing us is not on account of what we have to offer, but what He has to offer through us. Won’t you invite Jesus in and get down to business?