Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grace & Peace - Galatians 1:3

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father,
and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for our sins,
that He might deliver us out of this present evil age,
according to the will of our God and Father,
to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen."
(Galatians 1:3-5)

So, a new blog series begins this morning. After several weeks of roosting in the Psalms I now turn my devotional attention to the book of Galatians. Galatians- the epistle which so clearly directs our attention to a salvation based on grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. This is the book of justification by faith and the book which describes the freedom that is ours because of what our gracious Savior has done.

I'll never spend enough time gazing at this glorious grace - nor will you! Mercy is a thing we should marvel at and meditate on more and more and the wise apostle Paul intends to help us do just that over the course of these 6 chapters.

Paul, as he always does, begins his letter with grace and peace.

"Grace and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."

It is his hallmark greeting. You will find this word for word opening salutation in Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2nd Thessalonians, 2nd Timothy, Titus and Philemon. You'll find an extremely close derivitive in Colossians, 1 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy. Paul is all about grace and peace. Shouldn't we all be?!

Paul is also all about the proper order of grace and peace. First grace then peace. Bottom line, there is no peace without grace for true gospel grace is the only way to true lasting peace. You will never have the latter without the former. Hear this my friends and let it resonate in your heart and mind and soul.

Do you want peace? Then the first question that must be answered is "am I a recipient of grace?" Again, the order is always first grace then peace.

So - how do I know if I am a recipient of grace?
Where does grace come from?
How do I get it?

Well, most assuredly we don't earn it or grasp it or apprehend it by our own efforts. Grace is... well... its grace!!

That wonderful free grace of Jesus is the grand theme of Galatians. It is also the clear declaration throughout all of God's Word.

The Bible teaches us that our salvation is "the free gift of God" (Romans 6:23) - it is a free gift! This free gift "does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:16). Truly it is "by grace that you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). And "if it is by grace, then it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace" (Romans 11:6). It is "by His doing that we are in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Paul, in his opening discourse in Ephesians paints it beautifully when he writes:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us." (Ephesians 1:3-8)

If you skimmed over that quickly or skipped over it entirely I want to encourage you to go back and drink in these Biblical truths. This is important stuff! It is the heart of the gospel. These things are the foundational stones upon which a life of grace and peace must be built.

Beloved, we "were dead in our transgressions" and "we were made alive together with Christ (by grace we have been saved)" - Ephesians 2:5

On and on and on the theme goes throughout the pages of Scripture. "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:5-7).

"Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me." No wonder John Newton and so many of the other hymn writers sing of this glorious theme so often - it is the song of our salvation! This "Fountain of Never Ceasing Grace", this "Grace 'tis a Charming Sound", this "Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord" is truly the "Wonderful Grace of Jesus!"

"By grace I'm saved, grace free and boundlessmy soul believe and doubt it not.
Why stagger at this word of promise? Has Scripture ever falsehood taught? 
No; then this word must true remain: by grace you too shall heav'n obtain. 
By grace! None dare lay claim to merit; our works and conduct have no worth.
God in His love sent our Redeemer, Christ Jesus to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone, and we are saved by grace alone."
Christian L. Scheidt, 1742

So, returning to Galatians and Paul's apostolic benediction of grace and peace. I don't know about you, but I want it, I need it and verse 3 goes on to show how this saving grace, which leads to lasting peace, becomes mine.

It comes from God the Father and through Christ the Son. It comes from no other place and through no other source. Grace is God's gift and the sole instrument through Whom it is funneled is none other than Jesus Christ - none other!

"Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age
according to the will of our God and Father,
to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen."

I am currently reading through Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians and it is oh so very very rich. Here is an excerpt from him on this whole idea of grace and peace.
"The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.
The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin and peace quiets conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by Lawful things, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God."

Hear it well, my friends. "Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God" and that grace is imputed to us only through the atoning work of Jesus!

Luther continues:
"The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father. He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind which Jesus spoke of when He said, 'Peace I leave unto you; my peace I give to you.' Worldly peace provides quiet enjoyment of life and possession, but in affliction, particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will."
Grace and peace is what we all most need and grace and peace is that which God the Father, through Christ the Son gives. Over the next few days and possibly weeks I'll be delving deeper into this glorious epistle which speaks so clearly of the one and only way to obtain these precious gifts. This is a message I need to be reminded of - and you do too!
Beloved, grace is not a thing earned, it is a thing given and it is a thing given by the One who gave Himself for us - the Lord Jesus Christ.

Look not to yourself but to Him. There and there alone will we find the grace we need and the peace we so long for.

In His glorious grace and perfect peace,

Not What My Hands Have Done

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.
Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
can rid me of this dark unrest, and set my spirit free.

Thy grace alone, O God, to me can pardon speak;
Thy pow'r alone, O Son of God, can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save Thine, no other blood will do;
no strength, save that which is divine, can bear me safely through.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
and with unfalt'ring lip and heart, I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
each though of unbelief and fear,each ling'ring shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, my God, my joy, my light.
'Tis He who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives!
(Horatius Bonar - 1861)

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