Painful Gospel Ministry Displayed: "Until Christ Is Formed in You" (Galatians Sermon 12 of 26)
February 09, 2014 | Andy Davis
Pastor Andy Davis preaches on Galatians 4:12-20 and the goal of the gospel ministry that seeks conformity to the likeness of Jesus Christ, and the pains related to the work.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
One of my favorite stories when I was a child growing up, and it actually became more of a favorite as I began my life as an adult working, was the story of the shoemaker and the elves. You remember that story about this guy who was an elderly guy, poor shoemaker, and he would work all day just barely scraping out a living. And at one point, he went to bed and some elves came into his workshop and they had compassion on him and loved him. I don't know what it was that he did to gain their affection and their loyalty, but they finished a set of shoes that he had been working on and maybe some others as well. I don't remember the details of the story but I know this, he comes in the next morning and all of these shoes are assembled and ready with incredible workmanship and he sells them at a great profit. And he thinks this is incredible, and the same things keeps happening to him.
There was a point in my life when I wanted that to happen to me. Why can't it be that the projects that I just leave would be done overnight. Have you ever had that thought? It's like where are the elves? To come in and do this work for me, I would love that. Well, I was thinking about all of that in reference to a statement made by a Puritan pastor some years ago, he said the work of a pastor is different than that of other tradesmen. When a tradesmen or craftsman leaves his project for the night and goes to bed he wakes up the next morning and finds it in the exact same state in which he left it and he continues on. So you take a cabinet maker for example, he's working on a cabinet, he does some elaborate carvings and some floral pattern, all that. The day ends, he goes to sleep and there's no elves in the story but the good thing is it's right where he left it and he picks up his tools and goes on with his work. But it is not so with the pastor.
No, actually when the pastor leaves his work and goes away, immediately Satan sends his demons to start to deconstruct all the things he's been working on. The world, the flesh and the devil are constantly un-working the work of the ministry of the word. It's going on all the time and so he doesn't find the work in the same place where he left it; it's actually more like building a sand castle sometimes, and the waves come in and he comes and finds a smooth nub where he was working, and he picks up his tools and begins to work again. And you know why, it's because of the relentless spiritual warfare that we are engaged in all the time. We have invisible enemies that are assaulting our souls. Now, that's only the negative or maybe pessimistic side, illustrated in the bible by a parable that Jesus told, the parable of the wheat and the weeds or commonly known as the wheat and the tares. You remember how a farmer sowed good seed in his field but at night while everyone was sleeping an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away, it's the same image there.
Now, there's another parable that Jesus told so beautifully of a seed planted in the soil and whether he's awake or asleep, whatever he's doing it grows. And so not only is Satan and his demons at work but God is sovereignly at work too, even apart from or beyond the work of the pastor. I'm only kind of focusing on half of the equation today, but this is the very issue the Apostle Paul is struggling with here in the text that's in front of us here. He came to Galatia and he preached the gospel, he preached it purely, he preached it powerfully, by the power of the spirit he planted churches in Galatia and then he left. And then Satan sent some false apostles, some false missionaries, false teachers to start to deconstruct all of the good work that he had done. And Paul is very aware of this kind of thing going on as a matter of fact, very aware. In Thessalonians he's very anxious about the churches that they planted there and very anxious until a good report comes from Timothy that they're still walking with the Jesus, and he's relieved and he says, "I can't even tell you all the joy I have in my heart for this good report."
In 2 Corinthians, when he's listing all of the things that brings him sorrow and suffering in his life, and so many physical assaults and being beaten with rods and being lashed and shipwrecked and all that. The capstone of all of his misery is, on top of all of this is the constant anxiety I have for the churches of Christ. That they're constantly being assaulted, they're being tempted and I'm like burning with them as I'm concerned about their souls. And do you see that in the text we're looking at today, do you see the anguish he has. And it's very clear at the very end, he says, "I'm perplexed over you," "I'm anxious over you, I'm concerned about you." It's an anguish that's come on him. By the way, if we can just speak very sweetly, and powerfully and positively here about this man, this Paul. There was a time in which he was filled with, seething with murderous threats against the Lord's disciples, hated them. How far has the sovereign grace of God taken this man? All he wants is Christ to be formed in them, that's all he cares about. Do you see the transformation that the sovereign grace of God can work in the human heart? But he is anguished over them and he's concerned over them and he's distressed and he is in a long line of God's messengers who have been in this exact same position.
How anguished was Moses over the status of Israel during the time of the golden calf, with what anguished prayer did he pray for the Jewish nation at that time. Or think about Elijah just pleading with the people to make a decision between Yahweh and Baal on the top of Mount Carmel. Pleading with them and yearning that they would come and believe in the true God. Or think about Isaiah and all of his writings pouring out his passion and his love for the people that they would repent from their sins and stop following the Baals and the false gods. Jeremiah the weeping prophet, he was the one who metaphorically, he's the one that turned off the lights after Jerusalem was empty.
And the book of Lamentations, how desolate lies the city once so full of people. And he was pleading with them and yearning for them, and why? Why all of this? Why? Because of the very thing we sang a few moments ago; "prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart Lord take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above." Our hearts are prone to wander. The people of God can be doing really well in January and not very well in February. Some have likened it to herding cats, Not trying to be insulting but that's what it feels like sometimes, because of the instability of the work that's going on here there's just a constant concern over the flock. And so we are able to look at some of these themes, we are able to look at the depths of Paul's concern over the Galatian churches here in this text today and the nature of true gospel ministry. And there's so much passion in this text and it doesn't just unfold in a kind of a logical orderly way. He's so filled with anxiety and so filled with concern for them and he is openly perplexed over you. So we're not looking for a kind of a consecutive unfolding here.
I. The Goal of Gospel Ministry: “Until Christ is Formed in You”
What I'm going to do is go to the end, the goal of true gospel ministry right at the beginning. And so I'm going to draw out themes not necessarily right in the order of the text, we're going to draw out themes so we can try to understand this. The goal of gospel ministry is in verse 19, "Until Christ is formed in you." Do you see that? That's really what he wants to see happen in these Galatians. Until Christ is formed in you. Verse 19, "My dear children for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." So this is the overarching goal of gospel ministry: total conformity to Jesus Christ. That's what we're looking for, that's the goal of the church in the lives of the people that we minister to. Now, our natural state, naturally apart from Christ, described in many places what Titus 3:3, at one time it says, "We are foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, we lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." That's where we start, that's us in Satan's dark kingdom but Paul says hearing Galatians through the gospel ministry, the ministry of Jesus Christ we're set free from all that. How glorious is that news?
"This is the overarching goal of gospel ministry: total conformity to Jesus Christ."
Look again in verses 7-8 eight of the same chapter, Galatians 4:7-8, "So you are no longer a slave but a son." Oh, that's the glorious good news of the gospel, you're not enslaved anymore to passions and pleasures and all that, not enslaved to sin anymore. You are now adopted sons and daughters of the Living God. So you are no longer a slave but a son and since you are a son, God has also made you an heir. Formerly, verse 8, "When you did not know God you were slaves to those who by nature are not God's." So you are enslaved to demonic forces and to false doctrines and all that, the gospel has set you free, how beautiful is that. And so he came to preach the gospel and having been rejected in other places, persecuted in other places, and suffering greatly. This was I think the first time he was in anguish of childbirth over them. He uses the word again, the first time just to stay on the gospel road, just to even come to you, it was anguish for me, because there was so much persecution, so much satanic opposition, but I persevered and I came to your towns and I preached the gospel and we wrestled in prayer over you. And we preached faithfully and so we were in the pains of childbirth that first time, so that you could come to faith in Christ. Also is a very difficult time Paul says, "It was because of an illness, [verse 13] that I first preach the gospel to you."
So these things could have caused Paul to give up in the preaching of the gospel. Instead he soldiered on and he got an amazing result. The Galatians heard and believed the gospel, and they received the outpoured gift of the Holy Spirit and a church was planted, and churches were planted in Galatia. But that was the first time, now he's in the pains of childbirth over them for a second time. And the goal is he says, until Christ is formed in them. The parallel verse that teaches this as the goal of the gospel ministry is in Romans 8:29, and there it says, "For those God foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son, so that He might be the first born among many brothers." That's the goal of everything God is doing, that's the goal of the predestination, that's the goal of everything that we who are originally created in the image and likeness of God but that was marred and so severely damaged by sin, that we would be perfectly conformed in every way to the likeness of Jesus Christ. That's the goal of the gospel, that's the goal of this ministry here, and Jesus is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3), so we would be beautifully and perfectly conform to God himself, as he originally intended when he created us.
Transformed internally, transformed from our hearts. Ephesians 4:24, "Created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." And even physically, we'd be conformed physically. So that it says in 1 Corinthians 15:49, "Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man [Adam] so we shall also bear the likeness of the man from heaven," that's Christ. We're going to be just like him in our resurrection bodies. That's the work that God is doing in the gospel. until Christ is formed in you and you are totally conformed in every way to Christ. That's what we're trying for. Now, this happens by the inner working of the Holy Spirit. A radical change of the individual from the inside out, but ongoing shepherding is needed because our salvation comes to us in stages. Comes to us in stages, we don't get it all at once.
Now, we have to be clear. Justification, which we have been focusing on here in Galatians does not come in stages, that's instantaneously. From darkness to light, from dead to alive. That's justification, but our salvation is bigger than justification. There's more to it and so the Lord is working in us to transform us. It comes to us in stages and Paul says, "Now I've got to be in the anguish of childbirth again, until Christ is formed in you." Because they have regressed in their sanctification. They have drawn back away from a healthy doctrine and a healthy lifestyle. And that's the essence of pastoral ministry. Paul has to go back to basics with them, as though they need to born again. It's weird, it's not the way it was meant to be, I don't need to be again in childbirth... No, no woman ever goes through childbirth twice. Why should I have to do this? Why do I have to go through this with you again as though you don't even know the gospel. How could this be?
Step by step in pastoral ministry, we want to see people conform to Jesus. We want to see their hearts conformed. We want to see their affections conformed. We want them to love what Christ loves and hate what Christ hates. And we want them to yearn after the things that Christ is yearning after. We want people to make choices, use their will the way that Christ did, not my will but yours be done, oh Father. We want our wills conformed to that of Jesus Christ. We want our thought life, we want to have this mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:5. We want to think like Jesus, have the same attitude and we want an emotional healthy emotional life like Jesus had. We want to rejoice over what causes him to rejoice and mourn over those things that grieve him. That's what we want. That's what Christ is formed in you means. That's the goal of pastoral ministry. Well, how does this happen?
II. The Method of Gospel Ministry: Speaking and Living the Truth
Secondly, the method of gospel ministry is speaking and living the truth. Proclamation of the truth, the teaching of the truth, coupled with a living out of it by role modeling and exampling, that's the essence of it. We would add also prayer, an accessory prayer, but look what He says in verse 12, "I plead with you brothers. Become like me for I became like you." We have here in this text, this whole section, a combination of words and actions. We have pleading, he's pleading with them, that's words. Also we have the teaching ministry we've seen so plainly in Galatians 1, 2, and 3, especially, 3, in which he lays out so clearly from the scriptures justification by faith alone, faith in Jesus alone, apart from work. He's done all this teaching. That's the essence of this work, this pastoral ministry work, but also there's this role modeling, become like me. So imitate me, that's the essence. Look at teaching as it's on display here in this book of Galatians. Strong emphasis on teaching the truth. It's also on display in this passage. Look at verse 16, "Have I now become your enemy," he says, "by telling you the truth?" Truth-telling is of the essence of pastoral ministry. It's our ministry. It's our concern as pastors, as shepherds to tell the truth coming from scriptures, scriptural truth. So the truth is doctrinal truth and spoken passionately and powerfully and it's applied directly to people's lives, especially key moments when they need to hear the truth.
If you look back at Galatians 2:14, for example, he does this. He takes the truth and applies it directly at a key moment. In Galatians 2:14, he says, "When I saw that they were not acting or living in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all…" You remember all that? Peter was shrinking back from table fellowship with the Gentiles because of the dietary regulations, and Paul steps in there and he just confronts them and says, "You're not living in line with the truth that you've learned. We're free from the dietary regulations. We should be living and eating together, there's no Jew-Gentile distinction anymore. So of the essence of this pastoral ministry is teaching the word of God. The willingness to speak the truth even if it hurts. Even if it's somewhat temporarily seems to damage the relationship. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? Being willing to do that, to risk that. To risk a feeling, an odd feeling of alienation with somebody because your telling them the truth.
Martin Luther, put it clearly in terms of preaching. He said, "You should always preach in such a way that when you get done, people will either hate you or hate their sins." Well look, that's a heavy burden to lay on any individual. Which are you, do you hate your sin or do you hate me? But that's of the essence of pastor ministry, tell the truth in the ways that it needs to be said. Truly wise people made wise by the Spirit, made wise by the gospel, want to hear the truth. They want to hear the truth told, we want to hear the truth. Psalm 141:5, "Let a righteous man strike me, it is a kindness. Let him rebuke me, it is oil on my head." We know in the book of Proverbs one of the big differences between the wise man and the fool is what happens at the moment of rebuke or correction. The wise man drinks it in like water and grows and changes, but the fool hardens his heart and turns away and is not interested in that.
Now, in ministry and the history and redemptive history again and again we've seen how much people yearn for candy-coated lies. Happened again and again. Clear example of this is wicked king Ahab, remember when he's going off to fight at Ramoth-Gilead? And he's got all of these "yes" men around him. His false prophets were dancing and jumping and saying things about how he's going to win this battle. And he's got godly king Jehoshaphat out there with him, remember? He (Jehoshaphat) shouldn't have been there. Clearly he shouldn't have been there. It's a different issue for another time but here's there and his going to go out to fight alongside the wicked king Ahab. And Jehoshaphat is troubled in his spirit and says, "Isn't there a prophet of the Lord here? Can we find somebody who'll speak for the Lord?" He said, "Actually there is one," said King Ahab, "there is one who prophesize for the Lord, but I hate him because he always says bad things about me. Never good." And Jehoshaphat said the King should not say that. A pretty mild rebuke at that point. Micaiah, son of Imlah. It's just an amazing story but he wants a candy-coated lie, which actually interestingly, Micaiah gives him right at the beginning. I think he says it sarcastically, "Go and conquer and win. Have a good time." He's like, "Well that's what all the prophets are saying, but I don't think that's what you really mean. What do you really mean?", "Well I'll tell you what I mean. You're going to die at that battle. That's what's going to happen."; "See, I told you, he always says bad things about me." It just points how we in our sin, yearn for the candy-coated lie.
Isaiah isolated this in Isaiah 30:9-11. These are some of those powerful verses on this tenancy that we have. Isaiah 30:9-11, it says, "These are rebellious people. Deceitful children. Children unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction. They say to the seers, see no more visions. And to the prophets give us no more visions of what is right. Tell us pleasant things. Prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with the Holy One of God." This is what the people yearn for: Candy-coated truths. But gospel ministry is telling biblical truth even if it hurts. Can I actually say gospel ministry is telling biblical truth, especially when it hurts, because that's the point where the Spirit is dealing with people. That's where the conviction is coming. That's where these stings come. That's where the cuts are. You ever had some cuts on your finger and you've been peeling an orange or grapefruit or something like that, has that ever happened to you? And it's like wow, the citric acid gets in those cuts and it really stings. But that pain is telling you, "There's some cuts there." All right?
"This is what the people yearn for: Candy-coated truths. But gospel ministry is telling biblical truth even if it hurts. ... That's where the conviction is coming."
And so it is sin that leaves us damaged and then the Word comes and it stings where it hurts. It stings there and that's where the sin is. And so gospel ministry is telling biblical truth even if it hurts, perhaps especially when it hurts. We also have role modeling too in verse 12, "I plead with you brothers become like me for I became like you." This is a big theme in the Apostle Paul isn't it? "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1. Probably the clearest time he ever said that. This is as bold a statement as any discipler will ever make to a disciple, or any pastor will ever make to anybody, is in Philippians 4. Listen to this. Philippians 4:9, "Whatever you have learned or receive or heard from me [as doctrine] or seen in me — put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you." Wow! Imitate me completely, doctrinally and lifestyle. So that's how it's done, that's how ministry is done. This is the method of gospel ministries. Speaking the truth and modeling and living out the truth.
III. The Matrix of Gospel Ministry: Loving Relationship
The matrix of gospel ministry is loving relationship or you could say loving relationships, but I want to say especially between the individual and Christ and then horizontally between the individual and another individual. All of that speaking, all of that truth telling must be done in the matrix of a loving relationship. Must be done. It says in Ephesians 4:15, "Instead speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head and His Christ Jesus." Speaking the truth in love. It needs to be said with gentleness, with tenderness through prayer in the matrix of a committed relationship. We genuinely love each other. In some sense I would say we've earned the right to say hard things in each other's lives. Not everybody can do it equally in a local church. A lot of it comes from a developed friendship and relationship that happens because there's reciprocity. I know you love me. I know you care about me and therefore I can hear this from you. So there's a context of it. "By this will all men know that you're my disciples if you have love for one another." John 13:35.
Paul here in this text goes over the history of their relationship, do you see it? Very painful for him to look back. He says, "That was then, remember how it used to be? Remember how we were friends? When I first came remember how you were with me? It's so different now." Look at the verses 12-16. He said, "I plead with you, brothers, become like me for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know it was because of an illness that I first reached preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"
Now, there is a lot in those verses, but what I want you to notice is how relational they are. How relational, he's got this close relationship with them and he's hurt by this. I think in chapters 1, 2, and 3, especially chapter 3, it is just like a dispassionate dispenser of truth. Just saying how it is in the old testament and all that, but here he just shows his heart. He says, "This hurts me. It's hurtful that this has happened." He loves them, he calls them brothers and he pleads with them. It's a passionate appeal. And he writes, "Become like me for I became like you." What does that mean? Well, I don't know exactly what it means but I think it has to do with missionary strategy, and he says very plainly in 1 Corinthians 9:21-22, talks about missionary strategy, he says, "To those not having the law," those were Gentiles, "to those not having law I became like one not having the law, so as to win those not having the law." "So I changed my mannerisms, my dress, my eating habits and things. I became like you so I could win you to Christ. But now I want you to become like me in my gospel freedom. I want you to imitate how free I am from legalism. I want you to become like me as I walk in this free path." That's what he's saying to them.
He reminds them of the circumstances of how he first came there, he reminds them of his illness. This shows us how God can use suffering to divert the paths of missionaries and messengers and he just does incredible things providentially. God's moving pieces on the chess board in ways we can't even imagine. He'll use circumstances. The implication of this statement is, "I wouldn't have even come to you if I hadn't gotten sick." Sometimes we're praying for health and all that, look, that's good, it's good to pray for that but, God just uses these things to orchestrate what he wants done. And he wanted Paul in Galatia to preach the gospel and establish his churches, so he made him sick. There goes your health and wealth right there. He made him sick. He orchestrated his illness to get him there. And he focuses on the relationship he had in those days, how much they loved him. Apparently, his trial, his illness was not so much that he couldn't preach or minister. I think the ministry's going on while they care for him in his sickness is going on. And so that's why they welcomed him with such joy as if he were an angel from God. As if he were a messenger from heaven. As if he were Jesus Christ himself. All that doesn't make much sense except that Paul was preaching the gospel to them, and they were loving what he was saying and they were excited to care for him.
Very much like the Philippian jailer, you remember that? Philippian jailer, who almost killed himself? Paul and Silas cry out, "Don't harm yourself, we're all here." And then he rushes in trembling, calling for lights, trembling, brings him out and says, "What must I do to be saved?" "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household." And so that very hour he believed and then immediately after that, the jailer cared for Paul and Silas' wounds and set a meal in front of them. That's powerful because his heart had been changed and he cared about them. He was every bit as in need of medical care and food before that but the guy wasn't converted yet. Once he was converted, suddenly he has a heart of love and affection for the messenger of the gospel. I think that's what's happening, these folks cared for them. Even though it was a trial to them and they were tempted to despise him. There were certain aspects of medical care that are disgusting in some ways. It could have be loathsome to you. The Greek word there is spat out. Just, Ugh! There's gross parts of it.
I was reading an account from William Bradford, of what the first winter was like when the pilgrims settled at Plymouth and many, many, many of them got sick, many died. And Bradford talked about the few handful of people at any given time, six or seven of them at any given time, who are healthy enough to care for others. And this is what he writes, "Who to their great commendations, be it spoken, spared no pains, night or day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, prepared their meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them; the sick people. In a word, did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named, and they did all of this willingly and cheerfully without any grudging in the lead showing here and there true love unto their friends and brethren. I get the same feeling here with the Galatians. They were caring for Paul with a cheerful heart because they were so delighted in the relationship.
But now all of that was gone. Look at verse 15, "What has happened to all your joy. I can testify that if you could have done so, you would've torn out your eyes and given them to me." Now, I think verse 15 is a very significant statement. "What has happened to all your joy?" Can I just pause for a moment and talk about joy in the Christian life? Okay? Joy in the Christian life is a fragile barometer of spiritual health. Fragile barometer of spiritual health. This book, is about legalism. You got to obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved. Legalism destroys joy in Christ. Destroys it. The people who are legalistic, they're not joyful. They're trying to earn it all the time, there's no joy. Can I go the other side and say license destroys joy, in the Christian life. If you're just indulging the flesh, indulging the sin nature, your joy is going to go. I would say look to your joy. There are other things that can hurt joy. We'll talk about them at the end of the sermon, but these extremes are joy killers.
And so, I look on joy as (I've used this illustration before, so bear with me if you've heard it) the canary in a coal mine of the Christian life. Coal miners used to bring these little birds in cages into the tunnels where they were carving out a very difficult existence, down in the depths of the earth. Down there, there were a lot of dangers but one of them are just invisible fumes like carbon monoxide and other things you couldn't even see or smell... They're odorless, colorless and deadly dangerous. What these coal miners would do, it would be bring these little birds in cages, and if the birds were singing and just doing normal bird things, whatever they are. But just chirping, singing, everything is fine and so you would look up occasionally at how's the bird doing. But if that bird was getting woozier or even worse, down at the bottom of the cage, you need to get out of there fast, because you're in trouble. I guess what I'm saying is, how's your joy in Christ? Is your life characterized by joy, the joy of your salvation? I'll return to this theme at the end but that's what he's saying, what's happened to all your joy? Joy with Christ? Joy with me? Just joy in general. What's happened?
In the next chapter in Galatians 5:15, he gives a glimpse on how they're doing with each other. He says if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you'll be destroyed by each other. They're not getting along. They're bickering with each other and all that. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. We'll talk about that next chapter as well. The Holy Spirit produces joy in the Christian life.
Now, I want to do another side just because I think it's worth mentioning, the nature of Paul's illness. Paul says a very strange thing here in this verse 15. He says, "I can testify that if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me." Now, I don't know what that means. That seems a bit odd. Now, it might be just a simple expression that we don't use anymore, but we might use something like it, like I'd give my right arm for… Very few would actually see it through, it's like "Okay, it's a deal." "Wait, I'm not sure about that. Not sure." But I think it could be something like that, I would give my eyes if you could just be healthy. But some commentator say it probably just has to do with the nature of Paul's illness, it had to do with his eyes. That he had trouble seeing. At the end of the Book of Galatians, he says, see what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hands. This is how I always write. He frequently dictated his letters through secretaries. Trivia question, who actually wrote the Book of Romans? Look it up. I know the answer, you guys can look it up. Tell me later. Who actually wrote it? It wasn't Paul, it's his secretary who slipped his name in there in Roman 16. We'll meet him in heaven. But Paul, when he was on the Damascus Road was blinded, literally blinded by the glory of the resurrected Christ. And then when Ananias laid hands on him something like scale fell from his eyes when he was baptized and then regained his sight. But some commentators wonder if he struggled with his eyesight for the rest of his life. I don't know. But it's just an interesting expression he says, "You would've given your eyes for me."
But now, the relationship has changed. Everything has changed and he says in verse 16, "Have I know become your enemy by telling you the truth." This is such a tragic display of the kinds of things that happen in gospel ministry. Paul was willing to speak strongly, even somewhat harshly to the Galatians to try to reclaim them from this heresy. To wake them up from the danger of combining the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Law of Moses thinking you need them both to be saved. He says in Galatians 1: 6-7, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and returning to a different gospel, which is no gospel at all." He's shocked at them or even more pointedly how about Galatians 3? 1-3. So there he says, "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?" Oh, now Paul, that's not nice. That's not nice.
He says in verse 3 again, Galatians 3:3, "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh. Have you learned so much for nothing?" He's really coming on strong here. Is there a time that that's needed? Yes there is. It actually is. Now people have the tendency to love the preacher when he says the things that they want to hear. Says in 2 Timothy 4:3, "The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine." Not going to put up with it anymore. Instead to soothe their own desires they will gather around them a large number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths." Well, this is exactly how the Judaizers were. They were just tickling the ears of the Galatians in some ways. Look at verses 17-18, "Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us so that you may be zealous for them. It's fine to be zealous provided the purpose is good and to be so always, not just when I am with you." The Judaizers talk like they really care about you. These one that are teaching this legalistic gospel. They're acting like they really care about you but they don't care about you.
They were fawning over the Galatians so that the Galatians would fawn over them. You know the mutual admiration society, giving each other compliments, this kind of thing, back and forth. That's what that works righteousness tends to do. It makes you proud and you want to hear some compliments coming back and you know there's human nature to it so you feed some compliments out. Get the thing going like that. They're zealous for you to win you over so that you'll be zealous for them. That's what he's saying. The use of flattery. Paul's not a flatterer. Flattery doesn't help anybody. Encouragement helps people. I think our church should be characterized by encouragement. Amen? Let's encourage one another. Let's not flatter one another. False teachers frequently use flattery. Romans 16:18, speaking of a false teachers there, it says, "For such people are not serving our Lord Christ but their own appetites by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." Be very careful about teachers, preachers, disciplers who just pander to your ego and tell you the things you want to hear.
"Flattery doesn't help anybody. Encouragement helps people.... Be very careful about teachers, preachers, disciplers who just pander to your ego and tell you the things you want to hear."
IV. The Anguish of Gospel Ministry: Spiritual Drift
I always see the anguish of gospel ministry and that's the spiritual drift. Look at verses 19-20. "My dear children, he says, for whom I am again in the pains of child birth until Christ is formed in you. How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone because I am perplexed about you." This is the anguish of Paul, he reveals it fully here at the end. He's hurt by what they've done and he speaks almost like a mother. He says in 1 Thessalonians 2 that you know that we were like a mother caring for you and encouraging you and pouring ourselves, sharing ourselves with you. We're like a mother. Here, he's like a woman in labor. Now, I know you women could say, "Paul, what do you know about being a woman in labor?" And you'd be right. But, he's observed it at least. He knows, gee, it must be painful, something like that. I think that's the best a husband can do. Well, no actually he can do a lot more than that, a lot more. Different topic, different day.
But the apostle Paul says, "Like that I'm wrestling and struggling, I'm laboring over you. I care about you. It's painful." And he calls them my little children. There's a tender affection here. Diminutive in the Greek. He just loves them, says little children. Cares about them. And it's unnatural for me to have to go through this again, this anguish of child birth and the spiritual drift he says, verse 20, "How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone because I am perplexed about you." I'm at my wits end. I don't know what else I can say to you.
All right, what is the application or what are some applications we can take from this text. First, look in the mirror of the text and bigger look in the mirror of Galatians and ask this one question: Has Christ been formed in me? Has Christ been formed in me? Am I born again? Am I alive spiritually? Have my sins been forgiven through faith in Christ crucified and resurrected? Am I a Christian? That's the most important thing. Nothing can be done towards sanctification without first justification. You have to first come to faith in Christ. As Jesus said, "This is the work of God that you believe in the one that he has sent." Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. Trust in him and ask, has Christ been formed in me?
Secondly, just to speak to the elders. I've been speaking about pastoral ministry here now. I want to just say a word to you few men who are elders in this church. Embrace this kind of suffering and shepherding in the ministry toward the flock. You know that were doing this. This is a lot of what we are trying to do on Monday evenings when we meet together. But let's embrace it, let's understand that the flock will need to be overseen until the Lord returns. This is an ongoing work we're going to need to keep doing this and remember the goal till Christ is formed in all of the members of this church. That is as one writer put it, and infinite journey, internal journey that just keeps going on and on.
Just keeps going on and on, all right. Embrace the responsibility that we have to this, that we need to shepherd the flock and that this is going to be an ongoing work. The time is now for speaking the truth in love and not being flatterers and not saying what people want to hear. Let's encourage one another and build one another up as shepherds, but also shepherd the flock. And let's develop the kind of heart of compassion that we see in Paul here. Do you see the passion Paul has for the flock? He didn't shed his blood for them but boy he loves them. Anguish, child birth, and all that. Let's not anticipate that kind of pastoral ministry is going to be easy. Be willing to make the difficult phone call. Have the difficult face to face meeting. Say the difficult words. Now, of course let's say them in love with gentleness. He's going to say, "If anyone's in trouble," Galatians 6, "drifting away. You who are spiritual should restore him how?" Gently. Gently. Okay, you can do as much damage trying to restore harshly. Okay, gently.
Now let me speak to the church. Yearn for this kind of elder-type ministry in your life. For the rest of your life, yearn for this. Say, "I want to be overseen by a godly men, who will shepherd my soul and pray for me and teach me the truth and organize a church that will care about me. I want this. I want Christ fully formed in me. I want to see it happening to all of my brothers and sisters that are here. I yearn for this kind of ministry." Yearn for it. Don't be offended at elder ministry that does tell you the truth. Look at verse 16 again, "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" That should never happen. If someone is bringing a hard message to you, ask "Is it true? Is it biblical?" Don't get offended. Don't shoot the messenger. But say, "I want truth telling. I don't want flattery. I want the oil on my head of an honest rebuke if that's what I need. I want someone to tell me the truth."
And so cherish a body of elders who is willing to grieve over the wandering sheep of the flock. Pray for them. Ask God to protect this kind of ministry at FBC. Remember in 2 Timothy 4:3 it says, "People will gather around themselves." It's really the congregation that's responsible for the kind of elder-ing and shepherding it gets. If you yearn for this and pray for it and delight in it, you'll have it. If you start to turn in your hearts, you're going to lose it. Give it a number, 5, 10 years you won't have it anymore. Yearn for this.
Fourth, let's embrace the responsibility we have as members of this church to watch over one another in brotherly love. This is in our church covenant. We've promised to do this for each other. We will watch over one another in brotherly love. It's too big a job for the elders. It really is. Number one thing we can do is to teach all of you to do it for yourselves. And we'll do some of it, we do a lot of it. We make a lot of phone calls. We have a lot of meetings with people. We interact with folks. We do that but there's just too many people. And so let's embrace the responsibility we have to notice how things are going in each other's lives. Let's notice that it's been a while since so and so was in BFL or it's been a while since so and so was at home fellowship. Let's notice, let's pick up the phone and make the phone call. I am so grieved at hearing about, "Well no one ever called. No one cared, I never heard anything." Grieved by that.
Now, there's two sides to that equation I know. But for us as a community, let's not let that happen. Let's be attentive to the people around us. We're going to watch over one another in brotherly love. Everyone here is assaulted by the world, the flesh, and the devil every day. And Satan the joy thief is going to come after your joy. He's going to come, "The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy," Jesus came "that you may have life and have it abundantly." We need to care about each other's joy. Are you joyful in Christ? Are things going well for you? Let's embrace that. Let's notice. Let's be a real community for each other. Don't take this and just run and start nailing each other, okay? Telling each other what you think of each other's clothes, "I never have had the chance until now to tell you what I really think about that outfit." Look, friends, that's not what we're doing here. We want to speak the truth in love but let's care about each other. Let's be a real community. Let me get specific. Can I urge you again, as I have many times in the past, to resume or continue, whatever verb's best, praying through the church phone list every month. Pray through, look at the names. Pray for them. Ask yourself as you're praying, "How is this person doing as far as I'm concerned?" In many cases, you'll be "I don't know." But in some cases, you'll be an early warning system to see someone that's starting to drift away. Have their attendance patterns changed? They used to be doing X and now it's different.
Let me zero in for a minute on home fellowship. I am very concerned when someone was involved in home fellowships and is taking some time off. I'm not going to be legalistic about it but I consider it a step toward the door, out into the cold, step by step by step by step. The drifting looks actual and practical in some things. Home fellowships are a major part of our church's ministry to one another. It's a major part of what we do. Now, reverse, if you've never been involved in a home fellowship, don't know what they are, get involved. It's one of the number one ways you can get into a matrix of relationships where people will know actually what's happening in your life. If you're going to say, "Hey, no one ever called, no one cared, no one came." I'm going to ask first thing is, "Were you in a home fellowship?" It just takes commitment on that part. Let's be involved in that.
Bible for life, that's a fruitful ministry. It's a good ministry, I know it's early now, really early, really really early for us. I understand that. Half hour earlier than it used to be. I know that, but here's the thing, I just want to ask you as a steward, if you're not attending BFL, is what you're doing right now at that hour better for your soul than what you would be getting it at BFL? That's all I'm asking? I think probably not. These are great classes, great teachers, you're with brothers and sisters that are studying these things, avail yourself. We don't charge tuition, isn't that awesome? That's cool. We get free biblical instruction and so many things. Let's get involved, Perhaps their attendance is fine but they're going through trials, medical trials, recently widowed or widower-ed. Lost, they're struggling. We need to be a family for each other and shepherd one another, and it's a job situation, something. Maybe they're just struggling with their quiet time, maybe they'll confess that they're struggling with some serious sin in their lives and they told you. Pray for heart of compassion for drifting people.
One final point of application, I want to just talk about joy. Smile and rejoice. I tell you what, joy is a gift of the gospel, isn't it? The joy of knowing you're going to live forever in a resurrection body free from death, mourning, crying, and pain. Jesus is giving you a place at the wedding banquet of the lamb. It's got your name on it. I believe in election, predestination. Your name there. You're going to be there, nothing's going to stop it. I frequently ask people in my life, people I know, say they're discouraged. And I know we face discouragement. I know, that's what I'm preaching about. Satan's assaulting joy all the time. What's happened to all your joy? Legalism destroys joy, license destroys joy, trials can destroy joy. A lot of things, I understand that.
But I guess what I'm saying is, there's one question I ask. Has Jesus Christ, who died on the cross in your place for sins, and who rose from the dead so you could live forever, done enough to make you happy today? Or do you need more from him? What more do you say? It's like, "Yeah, it's good, but if I could also have X then it'd be complete. It'd be fine." Really? Jesus has done enough for all of us who are in Christ to be joyful all the time. Now I know, sometimes you're going to be sorrowful. I get it. Sorrowful sometimes. But always what? Rejoicing. This church should be characterized by happiness. I do not make a distinction between happiness and joy. I know you're going to come say, "No, Pastor, joy is based on the promises of God and the deep things of God. Happiness is like nothing. It's like cotton candy." Friends, what's the difference? You're happy, you're joyful. I can tell they're both smiling, they're both up. I think it's the same thing. We can be happy about a team winning a game, or happy about Christ resurrected, but it's happiness. I'm saying let's be happy about Christ resurrected and that you're going to heaven when you die.
Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for this text. We thank you for Paul's passion, his concern for the Galatians which has run through 20 centuries, and comes through to us today. Give us, O Lord a deep concern for the spiritual welfare of one another in this flock. Help the elders to be faithful to shepherd, help us to pray for one another and care for another. Thank you for the gospel that gives us joy in the midst of such sorrow and misery, that we can just be light shining in a dark place. Lights of joy shining in a dark place. In Jesus' name. Amen.