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    This sermon was preached by Pastor Jody Beth Melton at Swift Presbyterian Church on June 12.

    Salvation Tug of War
    Saved by Faith Alone
    Galatians 2:15–21
    June 12, 2016

    GALATIANS sermon series
    Pastor Keith began preaching a series of sermons a few weeks ago based on the book of Galatians.

    ● The first sermon of the series was Galatians 1:1–12. Pastor Keith announced “We got mail. A letter addressed to the church. Let me open it and see what it says.” He went on to paraphrase Paul’s greeting to the Galatians as Paul’s greeting to us: his brothers and sisters of Swift Church.

    Paul had harsh words to share, calling them — and us — fickle traitors, having embraced a different gospel than he had preached. And it couldn’t even be called another gospel, because there is only one Gospel!

    ● The next sermon was based on Galatians 1:11–24. “God Called Me Through His Grace.”

    “Each of us has been called by God’s grace to life in Christ. Not because of our race or gender or nationality or economic status or social standing. Each of us has been called, not because of our goodness or badness or indifference. Each of us has been called by God’s grace to life in Christ and service in his name. Not one of us is more worthy of God’s grace than another.”

    ♦ “Only One Gospel.” ♦ “God Calls Us Through His Grace.” See Swift website if you missed these sermons.

    ● Today, Galatians 2:15–21.

     † † † 

    Today we look at the “Salvation Tug of War,” which is not a name you’ll find in the Bible, or the Presbyterian Book of Order. It’s just a name that I came up with to help illustrate one of the fundamental struggles shared by the early Christians, and by many of us today.

    The struggle is between faith and works as a means to salvation. What I am going to speak of today is what Presbyterians believe, which is not what all people believe. People who have dedicated lifetimes to prayer, study, and conversation have sought answers, and people with equal dedication have disagreed.

    Paul speaks fervently to this issue. He states that he received the gospel that he preached by revelation from Jesus Christ, and he preaches that faith in Jesus Christ is the only Gospel. Quoting Pastor Keith:

    “There is not your gospel or my gospel. There is the gospel of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, who came into the world to rescue sinners. He bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might be dead to sin and alive to all that is good.”

    The Galatians were Gentiles (pagans, non-Jews) with whom Paul had shared the Gospel. There were Jewish people who became Christians, who believed that Gentiles (pagans, non-Jews), must “become Jewish” to be Christians. They preached in Galatia that the Gentiles had to follow Old Testament practices, including circumcision, to be saved.

    Some today think that we are saved by believing in Jesus, which is consistent with Paul’s teachings. Others believe there are things we must do — in works — to be saved. Being circumcised would be considered “works.”

     † † † 

    What does it mean to be saved?
    When we speak of being saved, we mean saved from our sinful nature. All of us, every one of us, “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The consequences of sin are to be cut off from God. And death.

    To be saved is to be saved from those consequences. To be in right relationship with God, and, instead of death, to have eternal life.

     † † † 

    Question to ponder
    Here’s a question for you to ponder throughout the sermon. Please don’t answer aloud, or even motion to your pew mate. Just think about this. If you were asked, “Do you know if you are going to go to Heaven?” what would your answer be?
     † † † 

     God/Faith in Jesus ←←←←←  ( r o p e )  →→→→→ The Law/Ten Commandments 

     ←←← the Holy Spirit surrounding all →→→ 

    [Visual demonstration — rope (done here at 8 a.m., and during Time with Children at 10 a.m. service)]

    This demonstration is best understood by seeing it. As we try to do good works/follow the Ten Commandments, we pull farther away from God. When we turn and put our faith in Jesus, we are drawn closer to God. As a result of our faith, we are filled by the Holy Spirit with a desire to obey the law and do good works, but it is our faith that puts us right with God, not our works.

     † † † 

    Saved by works?
    Works include anything we think we need to do to be saved.

    We think we need to do. Legalism. Adherence to law. Service. Good deeds. Tithing/contributions. Following rituals. Obeying a set of rules.

    The belief that we must “earn” our salvation.

     † † † 


    PowerPoint slides                                                 

    ▲This traditional diagram indicates that we must take action. Jesus offers the bridge from people and our sinful nature to being in right relationship with God. We have to take action, walking toward God, and somehow jumping over the tip of the Cross. This is actually bad theology.

    ▲This is a more accurate diagram. This shows that God came to us. He who knew no sin, became sin that we might be saved. God with us. God intentionally moves toward us — and he moved first. God always moves first.

     † † † 

    Saved by faith?
    Gospel message. Christ fulfilled obligations of the law.

    Law meaningful today to provide:

    ● Standards of behavior.

    ● Convicts us of our sinfulness.

    ● Leads us to ask for forgiveness.

    ● Acknowledge that we must trust in Christ, because we fall short.

    Faith is God’s gracious gift. True freedom. Free to love, free to serve.

    A gift from the Holy Spirit.

    Not justified by observing the law, but by faith in (or, the faith of) Jesus Christ.  (Galatians 2:16)

     † † † 

    If we think we could be made right through the law ourselves (and we can’t), Jesus would not have had to come and to die for us.

    We are saved by faith, and then works follow.

    We are justified by faith.

    Justification — computer justifies our text, making it straight. To be justified by faith is to be made right with God; saved.

    Sanctification — refers to the growth, change, and works that are a result of our faith. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith that leads to justification, and the Holy Spirit helps us to grow in our faith.

     † † † 

    Some question scripture verses that tell us that we will be judged, and we will be.

    “Presbyterians believe that the first thought which comes to Christians when they think about the judgment day ought not to be anxiety about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Rather, it ought to be thankfulness and joy that the Creator and Redeemer of the world shall prevail once and for all — when justice will triumph over injustice, when love will triumph over hatred, and when peace will triumph over hostility. The Day of Judgment will come not against creation, but for the good of creation.

    “Presbyterians believe that the Day of Judgment is not a time of wrath and destruction. Rather, we believe that it is a time of fulfillment — a time of restoration and renewal for all of creation. It is a time when the reconciliation between God and God’s people will be complete.” 

    And, Paul states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

    So, even though we Christians shall stand in judgment before God, we can look forward to the final judgment without fear, but with gratitude that we are not condemned in the eyes of God.

    Question to ponder — again
    Referring back to my earlier questions, if you were asked, “Do you know if you are going to go to Heaven?” what would your answer be?”

    Some answers: • “I hope so.” • “I don’t know.” • “I think I’ve done enough good things.” • “I think I’m a good person.” And … • “I don’t think I’m worthy.”

    You’re not! None of us are. We are saved not by our worth, but by our faith in Jesus Christ.

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

    One response I received was “Yes.” That was Pastor Keith! It was a humble yet confident “Yes,” based not on what he has done, but what Christ has done for us.

    Others told me that they felt humble, awkward, or uncomfortable answering “yes.”

     † † † 

    Do you think you are going to go to Heaven?

    I’d like to give you some possible responses, should you be asked.

    • “Yes, I do. Thanks be to God.”

    • “Yes, but not because of anything I’ve ever done. It’s because of what God has done for me through his son, Jesus.”

    And, possibly: • “Yes I do. Do you?” Someone asking you may be seeking their own answers. Their question may be an opportunity for you to minister to that person, and to witness to them, based on what they share with you.

     † † † 

    Sermon series review:
    ♦ Week 1: Only One Gospel. ♦ Week 2: God Calls Us Through His Grace. ♦ Week 3: Salvation Tug of War: Saved by Faith Alone.

     † † † 

    Closing thought:
    Do you believe you are going to Heaven? Do you?


    — Jody Beth Melton

    Comments on sermons are welcomed and appreciated. 

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