The True Israel: God's New Creation (Galatians Sermon 26 of 26)
August 17, 2014 | Andy Davis
True Israel, Walk by Faith
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
There will come a day, and I look forward to that day more and more as time goes on, when this statement will come true, "There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain." Aren't you yearning for that day? "No more death, mourning, crying and pain." And then, as the verse continues, "For the old order of things has passed away." And the very next verse, Revelation 21:5, says, "Behold, I am making everything new." Isn't that awesome? God is at work, even now, making everything new, transforming everything.
Now, I read in a book some time ago, that, "The most powerful single event on Earth is a fully mature hurricane." And the individual who made that statement did a scientific analysis of the energy of a fully mature hurricane, compared it to the power of the nuclear arsenal of the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and found that it was less. "The most powerful single event on the surface of the Earth is a fully mature hurricane." Alright, fine, that's what the scientists, the meteorologists, would tell us. That would put them in their heyday, to be able to say that. But can I add one word? Let's just add one word. The most powerful single physical event on Earth is a mature hurricane. I would say that the most powerful event on Earth is not physical, but spiritual. It is the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then the effect on the heart of an individual under the influence of the Holy Spirit who hears that Gospel, and is transformed from death to life. That is the most powerful moment on Earth." And isn't it interesting that the most powerful physical event on Earth is destructive? But the most powerful spiritual event on Earth is way beyond constructive, it brings life, even eternal life. Isn't that God's way? And so, as we stand on Earth today, and as we look out, and we see all the glory, and the beauty of this physical world. How many of us have been to national parks, or to scenic coastlines, or to mountains, or different places, and you can think, even now, of the images of beauty that flow in. And the Scripture tells us that this world, physically, is under a curse. Because of Adam's sin, the world is groaning in some sense, groaning for liberation from the chains, the bondage that's on this physical order. Because of sin, the world is in bondage to decay and futility. We can see that, not just in hurricanes, but in all of the natural disasters, and erosion, and all of those things, and then we can see it in our own bodies as we age, and we can see it in friends or ourselves as we have dreaded diseases, or even as we face death, we know that the physical creation is groaning and yearning for the new creation.
"The most powerful event on earth is not physical, but spiritual. It is the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then the effect on the heart of an individual under the influence of the Holy Spirit who hears that Gospel, and is transformed from death to life."
But God is at work in this world, making everything new. And the theologians use this language of "already" and "not yet," and I want to apply that to what I want to talk about, as a centerpiece of my message today, the new creation. There is a sense in which the new creation is already here, and there's a sense in which it's not here yet, and it's already here in the souls of the redeemed. It's already here in the body of Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. In those ways, it's already here, but in every other way, it's not here yet, but it's coming, and that should make us joyful, amen. Then we should be filled with hope and filled with joy that someday the King seated on His throne will say, "It's finished. There's no more death. Death is gone forever. There's no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. It's gone. The old things are done."
But now, we yearn while we're still in the old order of things, and we still feel physical pain, and we're still seeing people die, and it's still breaking our hearts. And we understand the current events, and we look at this, and we say, "Well, it's not here yet." But still, we should be filled with hope, because the Gospel is at work. It's at work secretly around the world. Jesus told an incredible parable about, the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s like yeast that a woman took in and hid. She encrypted it, she hid the yeast in a large amount of flour, until little by little, secretly, it permeated the whole dough, and the dough rose, and it was ready to bake. So, the Gospel, for 20 centuries, in a hidden, secret way, has been permeating this world and doing its secret work. You can't see it with your eyes, though you can see the fruit of it. You can see the fruit in a Christian's life, in a transformed life, you can see that. But the real work of transformation is internal, it's hidden, it's spiritual, and the power for that transformation is the Gospel. As Paul says in Romans 1:16, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. First for the Jew, and then for the Gentile." It also says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, [what?] he is a new creation." The old is gone. Behold, everything has become new. And that's an awesome thing. And so, today, for the last time, I get to preach from the Book of Galatians, the last section of Galatians. I think the clearest, careful articulation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Bible is found in the Book of Romans, but I think the second clearest is here in Galatians. And some of the very same themes that shine, and are elaborated on in Romans, are sketched out a little more briefly here in the Book of Galatians, and so we have a chance to look at it.
Again, remember the context of Galatians, why the Apostle Paul wrote it so many centuries ago. Paul was a frontier, trail blazing, church planting apostle to the Gentiles. He resolved to go over the Gospel, had never been proclaimed before, so he wouldn't be building on someone else's foundation, and he was brought in due time to the region of Galatia, modern-day Turkey, and preached the Gospel there. And with tremendous effectiveness too he left behind him a trail of churches there in that region of beautiful, Gospel-centered healthy churches, and he left, and went on with his work. But sometime after he left, some false teachers came, Jewish men who claimed to be followers of Christ, and claimed to be preaching the Gospel of Christ, but they weren't. They were preaching a toxic, poisonous mixture of faith in Jesus, plus obedience to the law of Moses, equals salvation from sin. And so Paul heard about this, was devastated by it, and wrote Galatians back to those churches, to try to win them back to the true gospel. And so in Galatians 1, Paul writes to express his tremendous chagrin, his grief that in such a short amount of time, they've turned their back on the true gospel, and turned to what he calls, "Another gospel, which truly is no gospel at all." Gospel means good news. It's not good news that you can earn your salvation by perfect obedience to the law. How is that good news? It's not. And so he wrote to them saying, "It's no Ggospel at all." And "if even we, or an angel from heaven, if anyone should come to you, and ever preach a different gospel, let him be eternally condemned."
And Paul then goes on in Galatians 1, and on into Galatians 2, to give his own history with the gospel, how God worked in his life. You know the incredible story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, and how he was, we would have to say, the least likely convert in the world the day that he was converted, and how God called him out of darkness into light, the light of the resurrected glory of Jesus that met him on the road to Damascus and changed everything for him. And God, at that moment, called him into his service, and gave him instruction in the Gospel. And he wasn't taught the gospel by any man. He wasn't handed it by the apostles. No one told him. It was just Christ, through the Spirit, instructed him in the true gospel, and he began to preach it right away in Damascus, and then after some time, in Arabia, as he had time to meditate on the gospel, and understand more fully its nature, its doctrines, its implications. He was unleashed into Satan's world, and started preaching the gospel with great conviction, and boldness, and power. And yes, he met the apostles in Jerusalem. They shook his hand, gave him the right hand to fellowship. They saw that God was at work in him among the Gentiles, the same way he was at work in them among the Jewish churches, and they were on the same team. They weren't preaching a different message.
And then, in the middle of Galatians 2, he makes it very plain what that message is. The heart of the gospel is justification by faith alone apart from works of the law. That's the heart of the Gospel. How can a sinner be made right with God? How can we, who have violated the laws of God, stand holy and blameless in the sight of such a Holy God? His eyes are like blazing fire. His feet are like burnished bronze. We cannot survive Judgment Day without an atoning sacrifice, without forgiveness from Almighty God. And so, in the middle of Galatians 2, he says, "We know. We Jewish believers know. We've come to the conviction that we are not justified by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ alone." It's the only thing. And so to try to mix in the laws of Moses, it's poisonous. And that's what these Judaizers were doing. They were the ones in Acts 15:1-5, you can see what they were saying. "‘The Gentiles must be circumcised, and required to keep the law of Moses,’ and unless you," he said that they would say to the Gentile converts, "Unless you are circumcised, and unless you obey the law of Moses, you cannot be saved. You're going to hell if you don't follow meticulously the ceremonial laws of Moses, all the laws. You will not be saved."
Well, Paul says, "We Jewish Christians know that that's not true. We know that a man, a woman, a boy or girl, no one is justified except by simple faith in Jesus." That's the doctrine of justification by faith alone and that's the centerpiece of it. And then, in Galatians 3, and on into 4, he supports this from the Old Testament. He supports it from the example of Abraham, who believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. That's the Gospel. It's been the same all the way through. No sinner has ever been made right by obedience to the law. That's the nature of legalism, by the way. That's what it is. You know you've sinned. You've violated the Law of God. You know that. What do you do about it? Legalism says what you do about it is obey the law. Present and or future obedience to the law will atone for past disobedience to the law. That's legalism. But that cannot be true. It isn't true.
And so Paul does an incredible job in Galatians 3 of unfolding how this has been the Gospel all along. Old Testament saints looked ahead to Christ crucified and resurrected. We New Testament saints, we look back by faith to the same. But it's always been the same. Individuals have always been justified by faith apart from works of the law. That's the Gospel. He does an incredible job defending it and unfolding it. Now, the most obvious thing we can think about, is if we're justified by faith in Christ, and not by works, then it doesn't matter how we live, they would say. If we're completely forgiven, apart from works, then we can, as he says in Romans, "Go on sinning, so that grace may increase." He deals with that in Galatians a little differently by talking about the war between the flesh and the spirit.
When you become a Christian, you're born again, you're made a new creation by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. And the Holy Spirit enters you, you are adopted as a son or daughter of the living God, and you become a temple of the living God. He says in 1 Corinthians 6, that this indwelling Spirit is mighty against wickedness and evil. And he takes that law, the moral Law of God, which is summarized in this way, "Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself, and writes it on your heart, if you're genuinely born again." And then by the power of the Spirit, he works out a whole new kind of life, in which you hate wickedness, you hate evil, you hate violation and transgression of the law, and yet, the whole time, you know you're forgiven, even if you should sin. That's beautiful, that's Christianity. You know you're justified by faith, not by works. When you sin, you don't try to go off and do good works. You go back to the cross, you go back to faith, and repent, and you ask for cleansing.
Yet you live an increasingly holy life, in which the fruit of the Spirit is on display in your life. That, dear friends, as I've said, is your best life now. Apologies to anybody that might have used that phrase before, but that is your best life now. That is the fruit of the Spirit, Amen. That's the best you can ever do, doing the works of God, filled with the Spirit, characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. That's what the Spirit works in you, not the wicked acts of the flesh. It's genuine Christianity, that's what he's been saying in Galatians. At some point, I’ll begin today's sermon, so at some point. But that's a summary of the Book of Galatians, that's what Paul has been saying, that's the Gospel. Isn't that good news, that you can and are forgiven, simply by faith, and not by works? It'll never be your works that makes you right with God, but only faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. But now, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and we're able to live an increasingly holy life, bringing forth fruit, and keeping with repentance, and living a godly life.
I. Peace and Mercy Promised to those Who Walk by a Rule (verse 16)
Now, here at the end, he's going to back to some of these themes again, one more time, and if you hadn't heard any of the preaching before in Galatians, if this is your first Sunday here, it wouldn't make much sense. Circumcision doesn't mean anything. Uncircumcision, what is that? Well, now you understand what he means by that. The Judaizers, these false teachers were saying, "You had to be circumcised in order to be saved. You have to follow the law of Moses," and now, Paul is going to address that. So let's begin right in the middle, in verse 16, he's going to promise peace and mercy to a category of people in verse 16. Its an infinitely rich treasure, "peace and mercy with God are given to all who follow a certain rule." That's what he says in verse 16, even "to the Israel of God." So how valuable is peace with God? How valuable is that, to know that, not only just that you're at peace with God, and have peaceful feelings in your heart, and your relationship with God? That's a good thing. It's a good thing to have a clear conscience. It's a good thing to be freed from guilt. That's a good thing.
It's the better thing for God to be at peace with you. And in the Gospel, if you have been justified by faith in Jesus, you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. God is at peace with you. How awesome is that? And not only that, but he talks about mercy, the mercy of God, which Lamentation says, "God's mercies are new every morning." God continues to lavish mercy on you, to not treat you as your sins deserve, to give you healing of your diseases, to give you blessings that you don't deserve. God just pouring out peace and mercy on you, and that's the blessing, the benediction that he gives, peace and mercy to all who follow a rule, who walk by or live by a certain rule. That's what it literally says, "Peace and mercy to all who walk by this rule." 'Walk' means live your daily life in light of, minute details of how you live your life, how you get up, how you go back down to bed, and everything in between, how you eat, how you dress, how you speak, everything, just how you walk. That's what 'walk' means, how you live, minutely, your daily life. "Peace and mercy to you who walk by a certain rule."
Now, the word 'rule' is in the Greek 'kanon,' from which we get the 'canon,' etcetera. It means a rule or measurement of what's right, a certain standard, there's a certain rule that's laid down, this particular rule. Now, what is that rule? Well, you'll have to go back one verse, look at verse 15, "Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision means anything." Neither one means anything, it doesn't matter. What counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to everyone who walks according to that. That's what he's saying. So those are the Christians, those are the ones who understand that the only thing that matters is a new creation, and peace and mercy to you, if you understand that. This is the rule. And so do you understand that all that matters is a new creation? And the key thing is, how do you understand your standing with God? How do you deal with your sin? What do you do when you feel guilty? When you know you violated the laws of God, what are you reverting to?
Are you trusting in... There's basically two religions that are in the world, self-salvation through obeying some moral standard. That's one version. And the other is salvation by sovereign grace, through the finished work of Christ on the cross. Those are the two options. Self-salvation, there are a lot of versions of that. But John MacArthur used an image that I thought was helpful. It's kind of like this, like walking through a supermarket, and there's all these packages, and all of this different colorful trappings, but you open it up, and it's the same tasteless, death-producing sawdust inside each one of those world religions. They're all the same, even though they have different outside packages. It's self-salvation by living according to a certain moral standard that they tell you.
But we Christians, we know that that doesn't work. There's no way you can live up to it. There's no way you can use it to atone for past sins. God didn't approve of it. The only law he ever gave to the world, which is approved, is the law of Moses, and he said that it will not save you. All the rest is just man-made laws, and they certainly won't save you. There's only two options: Self-salvation or salvation by grace through faith in Christ. That's it. And if you understand that, and if you have, in fact, been made a new creation by repentance and faith in Christ, you're going to live according to that. You are free to live out that freedom, a freedom from wickedness and evil, a freedom to serve others, and to love, and to be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. You are going to walk according to that rule, that's salvation. "Peace and mercy to you," that's what he's saying, "Who walk according to the understanding that all that matters is a new creation."
II. Glorying in the Flesh (verses 11-13)
I've gone to the center, let's go back to the beginning now, and look. Verse 11, "See what large letters I use, as I write to you with my own hand?" Why does he do that? Well, first of all, I believe the Book of Galatians is pouring from Paul's heart like red lava. He is so passionate in this book. You can read all of his Epistles, I don't think you'll find any other Epistle that has as much passion, and as much love, but also, you can sense some frustration. He just says harsh things in it that are surprising sometimes.
And I think and scholars tell us that (and you can find it), generally Paul dictated his letters to a secretary who would write it down. I love it when Tertius slips his own name in there in Romans. Who wrote the Book of Romans? "I, Tertius did." Alright. It's real good stuff, isn't it? Well, he... It was Paul that dictated it, but here at the end, it seems like he grabs the pen and he writes in big letters. And they say that probably it's because he had problems with his eyesight, maybe from the scales that fell from his eyes, we don't really know, but it's possible that he had trouble, that this was the thorn in the flesh, or this was the illness that led him to Galatia. He said in Galatians 4 that they would have torn out their eyes to give them to him. So it's an odd statement if he... Well it makes sense if he had some problem with his eyes.
So, what he's saying here is, "I'm writing this, so you know I wrote this." This has the mark of authenticity, but more than that, it has the mark of passion. It's like big font here. "This is how I write with my own hand," he says. And then, he makes his final passionate attack on the Judaizers in verses 12-13. Look at it, "Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh." This is one last time to go at these Judaizers. "Those who want to make a good impression outwardly," he calls them.
The essence of their message to the Galatians, these Gentile converts, is compulsion to be circumcised. They're trying to compel you to be circumcised, that's the thing. "Unless you are circumcised, you cannot be saved," that's compulsion. It's not an option for them, trying to force them in this matter. That's their doctrine. And these are the ones who are trying to make a good impression outwardly, and we'll talk about that in a moment, but they are glorying in the flesh, they preach the Gospel that they do, which is no Gospel at all, the gospel of works, so that they may glory in the flesh, or glory in your flesh, in particular, alright?
They're yearning to boast or to glory in the flesh. Now, the 'flesh' means unaided human effort, self-effort, your own native abilities. They want to boast in that. Now, God hates all of this self-effort toward salvation, he hates it. He's not going to spend eternity listening to it. He will not. As it says in many places, "Let him who boast, boast in the Lord," Amen. We're going to be saved in such a way that we will be completely stripped of all arrogance. All arrogance will be stripped. Zephaniah 3:11 says, "On that day, you will not be put to shame," is Judgment Day, I think. "On that day, you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me." Wow. What a statement. Why not? Because of the atoning work of Jesus. And then, he says later, in that same verse, "Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill." So, when he's done saving us, we're not to be haughty, we're not to be arrogant, we are to be so humbled, so humbled, and we're to boast in the Lord.
Now, what are the goals of these Judaizers? Goal number one is to make a good impression outwardly. That's what they do. They look good on the outside. Do you remember how Jesus, in Matthew 23, says, "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like white-washed tombs. You look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, you're full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside, you appear to people as righteous, but inside, you're full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Well, our God, the God of the Bible looks at the heart. And there is no way the external appearance of goodness is going to save you on Judgment Day. There's no way. That's why we say, "What counts is a new creation." You have to be made new from the inside and that's something you cannot do. You could as easily do open heart surgery on yourself, as take out your own heart of stone and give yourself a heart of flesh. They are equally possible, namely they are impossible. You can't transform yourself from the inside, but God can. Amen? But these folks just want to make a good impression on the outside. They're looking good. They're shiny, and moral, and nice, and all of that, but they are wicked inside.
Their second motive, he says, is to avoid persecution. Later Paul will get to the marks on His body, but they don't want to be beaten up. And if any one of them should defect from that Pharisaism, that Judaizer tendency, they will get ravaged by the pack of wolves that's going after them, going after Paul, that was making life miserable for him. They don't want that. They don't want to be persecuted for the cross of Christ, and so they preach this Judaizers' doctrine. And he says very plainly in verse 13 that they don't obey the law either, truth be told. Look at it in verse 13, "Not even those who are circumcised obey the law." They're not keeping the law. No one is. No one is keeping the law perfectly. Remember we said that. Remember Galatians 3:10? There it says, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in this book of the law." All the law, all the time, or full condemnation. That's what you get with the law. And no one can survive that. He says in verse 13 here, "Not even those who are circumcised keep the law. "They're all hypocrites. If anyone stands and says, "I am perfectly keeping the law of God," he or she is a hypocrite. It's not true.
III. Glorying in the Cross (verse 14)
And then, we get to that glorious verse 14 that we talked about last week, "But God forbid, [or may it never be], that I should ever glory or boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." So, Paul, and we talked about this at length last week, so I don't need to go into it much now, but Paul makes this serious pledge, "I pledge, myself, that I will never boast in anything in myself, except this, I'll talk this way. I am, you all know my resume, I am the one whose life led to the crucifixion of Jesus. That's who I am. My actions, my thoughts, my motives led to the death of Jesus. I'll boast in that. Or I'll boast in the fact that Jesus took that punishment from me. That's what I'll start to boast in. There's nothing to boast in about me. There's nothing to talk about. I'm sinful, but Jesus took away my condemnation. So, may I never boast in anything about myself. I'm not going to glory in my flesh. I'm going to glory in Jesus." And we talked about that last week.
"By whom [he says] the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I to the world." We didn't talk about that much last week, but what does that mean? Well, basically, because I have been crucified with Christ, Galatians 2:20, because of that union, because I've been transformed in the way I think, I now see the world differently than I ever did before. I see the pleasures, and the powers, and the philosophies, and the possessions of this world differently. That looks like a corpse on a cross to me. It's just disgusting. It's not appealing to me. It's worthless to some degree. That's how the world now looks to me. I don't want anything of that. "If Satan were to offer me," Paul would say, "The whole world, all of its glories, I wouldn't turn away from Christ and from the Gospel to receive it, just as Jesus didn't. The world has been crucified to me. And conversely, I've been crucified to the world. So, when the world looks at me, it looks on me as someone worthless." Now, this is true of Paul and it's more and more true of people who boldly step out to challenge Satan's kingdom. It's not necessarily true of every Christian. We will be increasingly despised the more counter-culturally we stand up for Jesus. The more you step out in faith, the more you boldly preach the Gospel, the more you challenge wickedness in this world, the more the world will hate on you and see you as crucified, as worthless. That's what Paul's saying, but that was true of Paul, for sure. "All that matters," he says, "Is a new creation."
"We will be increasingly despised the more counter-culturally we stand up for Jesus."
IV. All That Matters: A New Creation (verses 14-15)
Look again at verse 15, "Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision means anything. What counts is a new creation." Now, if you look back, maybe one page, maybe you have to flip in your Bible, but look back at Galatians 5:6. He makes a similar statement there, but it's a little different, similar, but different. There in Galatians 5:6, he says, "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith working through love." We wouldn't look on these as contradictory, but they complement each other. They work together, okay? What counts? Circumcision, uncircumcision doesn't matter. But what matters is faith working through love, faith in Jesus, producing good works.
In Galatians 6:15, he says, what counts is a new creation. Friends, it's the same thing, just different ways of saying the same thing. When you hear the Gospel and the Holy Spirit saves you, works in you, transforms you, you are made into a new creation. Your faith is then going to start working out in love. You're going to start loving God with works of love toward God, works of obedience towards His Law. You're going to going to start working out with love toward neighbors, toward brothers and sisters, Christians. You're going to start... It's going to be a life of works, faith working through love. That is the new creation life.
I just want to stop and ask. Has that happened to you? Is that characterizing you? Can you honestly say, as you look in the mirror that is the law, you look in the Scripture, "I am a new creation by the sovereign grace of God." Can you honestly say that? Some of you... Most of you should be able to say, "Yes." There's no pride in it, I don't think, pride in it. It's just God did this to you. But has he done it? Maybe you're just a guest, a visitor here today. Maybe you're here for the first time. Maybe you're a college student. Maybe you're a senior adult. You might be a visiting scholar. I don't know who you are. But the question I want to ask is, are you a new creation through belief in Christ? Is faith working itself out in love in your life? Has everything been made new? Like 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Everything's been transformed." Are you a new creation? Have you trusted in Christ? And if not, I plead with you now, repent and believe. Trust in Him. Look to Christ crucified and resurrected. Believe that he died for you, for you personally. And that if he hadn't, you'd deserve hell. But he did, so you don't have to go to hell. You can believe in him and have forgiveness. To me, I think that's the point of the Galatians, indeed of all of Scripture, to take someone from lost, dead in their transgressions and sins, to alive forever in Jesus. Has that happened to you?
Now someday… Someday, there will be a finished work in the physical universe. The new creation's coming. Isn't that amazing? Think about it. You can read about it in Revelation 21 and 22, when there'll be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, first described by the Prophet Isaiah. And that's where we're going next, God willing, in preaching. I can't wait. Some of you have been waiting for Isaiah 40 for a long time, so we'll get to it. One dear brother said, when I stopped at Isaiah 39, of all things, said, "You brought us to Christmas Eve, but we didn't get Christmas. When are we going to get Christmas?" Christmas for you, if that's what you mean, is coming, God willing, next week, but we're going very, very soon to this.
But in Isaiah 65 and 66, for the first time, we have this phrase, "New Heaven and new Earth." Second Peter calls it, "The home of righteousness." Revelation 21-22 says it's a perfect world, free from all corruption, death, mourning, crying, and pain. Romans 8 says that it is liberated from its bondage to decay. It's going to be beautiful. I believe it'll be very much look like the world we live in now. It's not gonna be some weird sci-fi type place. Sorry to disappoint some of you. But it's going to be like this place, only without the corruption, and the decay, and bondage of sin. And how beautiful will it be? And you will be, if you're redeemed, you will be in resurrection bodies, free from all misery, free from aging, free from death, and you will love being there. And that's where we're heading. That's the end of the new creation and we get there only through faith in Christ.
V. An Amazing New Definition of “Israel” (verse 16)
Now, I want to finish by looking at this amazing new definition of Israel. He says there, "Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God." I'm going to follow that translation. Some translations give you the sense that there are two different blessings he's given, Peace and mercy to the Christians, and then peace and mercy also to the Israel of God. And that's a possible translation, a possible interpretation. But it would fly in the face of everything he's doing in this book. Hasn't he told us Gentiles that we are children of Abraham? Hasn't he told us that through Christ, all of the promises and the covenants in Abraham are fulfilled in us? Aren't we told in other places that the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile has been destroyed by the body of Christ, and now, all those rules and regulations, including circumcision, that separate us are gone? And now, there's this one new man, that's one new person in Christ, that's Ephesians 2. Haven't we been likened to wild olive branches that are grafted into a cultivated tree through faith in Jesus?
And so, I think He's giving a more accurate new covenant definition of Israel as the people of God. Jew or Gentile, doesn't matter, who have repented and believed in Jesus, we are the Israel of God. Jews who are ethnic only, who do not have faith in Christ, are pictured in Romans 11 as having been stripped off, branches stripped off and laying on the ground. Now, if they repent, they can be grafted back in again, for God is able to graft them in. But we, the wild olive shoots... Don't be offended by that. We're all wild olive shoots. We've been grafted into this cultivated tree, nourished from the root system in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What that means for us, as we're about to transition into the Book of Isaiah, is when it makes promises to the House of Israel, and the House of Judah, and when you read that, we can read ourselves in there.
Like the promise of a new covenant in Jeremiah, it's very, very plain. He says in Jeremiah, he says, "The time is coming when I'll make a new covenant," listen, "With the House of Israel and with the House of Judah." What am I supposed to do with that as a Gentile? "Well, I'm happy for them, happy that they're going to get a new covenant. Oh, good, yay, Jews. I'm so glad they get a new covenant." No, no, no. We are included. We, through faith in Jesus, are sons and daughters of Abraham. So we can read that with attentiveness, "And this is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel. After that time, I'll put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people, and I'll forgive their wickedness, and remember their sins no more." I read all of that coming to me and to you, if you're a Christian. So again and again, we're going to see in Isaiah 40-49, and then beyond, he's going to talk about Jacob, and Israel, and all of that, and we are going to, through the cross, read ourselves into those promises, and find joy in them, Amen. And how sweet is that? That's my understanding of that difficult verse.
VI. Final Words from Paul to Us (Verse 17-18)
Final words from Paul in verses 17-18, he says, "Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." There's the poignancy there, isn't there? He could take off his shirt and show you scars. Lots of them, not a few. You've read his list of sufferings. Remember in 2 Corinthians 11? "Five times, five times I received from the Jews the 40 lashes minus one." Five times, any one of those could have been fatal. Five times! What do you think his back looked like after that? And he said, "I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." "I'm healed, but I'm not healed." So there's physical wounding and there's psychological, there's mental wounding that comes from that.
Remember how the Lord appears to him in Corinthians and says, "Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, and don't be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack you, and harm you." Why is he saying that? Paul needed to hear that. He got tired of getting beaten up. "Three times," he says, "I was beaten with rods." That's eight beatings, eight. "Once I was stoned and left for dead," that's nine now. Nine times a lash, or a rod, or a stone attacked his body as he stood up for Jesus. I believe people like that, who have suffered like that for Christ, get an incredible reward in heaven. Jesus said, "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven." But it's also fulfillment of what the Lord said to Ananias, "I'll show him how much he must suffer for my name."
But here he's giving a warning, he said, "I don't want any more trouble from you people. Let no one cause me any more trouble, enough! Because I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." It gives him a moral authority, it challenges me too, and then he finishes with these very familiar words, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers, Amen." Every epistle of Paul begins with, "Grace to you," and ends with, "Grace be with you." It's kinda like you walk into an epistle, you walk into a room of grace, and you're just swimming in grace while you're reading the epistle, and as you go out the exit door at the end, "May grace go with you." What is grace? It's God's settled determination, his determination to do you good who deserve wrath. He's pouring out goodness on you, and grace, and sustaining you. May grace be with you, the grace of our Lord Jesus.
VII. Final Applications
Alright, what applications can we take from this? Well, briefly, I've already given the number one, come to Christ. Come to Christ. Don't leave here unregenerate. I warn you, don't leave here unregenerate. You don't know how long you'll have to be alive. I warn you, flee to Christ. And if you flee to Christ by repentance, and faith, you will find full forgiveness, not because of your works, but because of what Jesus did for you. Flee to Christ.
Secondly, walk, all of you believers, walk by this rule that all that matters is a new creation. More and more meditate on that. May God's power, by His Spirit, be in me to fulfill His Law. I want to walk by that rule. I want to live that kind of life, a Spirit-filled, supernaturally empowered life. I want to be consistently characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, don't you? I want to be that kind of a husband. I want to be that kind of a father. I want to be that kind of a pastor. I want to be that kind of a man, where you interact with me, and you're interacting with the fruit of the Spirit all the time. Now, I'm never going to get to "all the time," but I want it. And I yearn that the new creation life would be flowing through me, and not just in me, I want it in you guys too. I want that flowing in our church.
Big picture in Galatians, continue to be vigilant against both legalism and license, fight them both. They're both wicked, they're both corruptions, and so, let's fight legalism. Let's know that we're justified by faith alone, not by works, but let's not take that so-called freedom, that misunderstanding of freedom, and then go sin as much as we want. That's license, neither one. Understand that we are the new Israel. Any Jew or Gentile that believes in Jesus, we're the Israel of God. That's why he says, "Israel of God," not, "Israel according to the flesh," but "the Israel of God." Understand that, and then read those Old Testament promises, as though they're written to you. I love, in Isaiah 43, He says, "When you pass through the fire, I will be with you. When you pass through the waters, they're not going to overwhelm you." I can read that, even though I'm a Gentile, because I'm a believer in Christ.
I can't wait to preach those promises to you, but those are sweet promises flowing to you. And then, thank God for all of the courageous suffering, like by Paul, that was done to get you the Gospel. You know how many martyrs, brothers and sisters in Christ died, to get you the pure Gospel and protect it from 20 centuries of Satanic attack? It's one of the great reasons to study church history, to honor our brothers and sisters who died to get us an intact Gospel. But secondly, be willing to suffer yourself, in your lifetime, while you have the relay race, that this Gospel might be passed onto the next generation intact. So praise God for those that suffered and be willing to suffer. And then, finally, grace be with you all. Let's close in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the grace that comes to us by studying Galatians. Thank you for all the things that we have learned from Galatians and I pray that we would internalize these lessons. I pray that we would understand the Gospel, that justification is by faith, apart from works of the law, that we would understand the Spirit-filled life that leads to holiness, and joy, and good works. Help us to get those two in the proper order and understanding. And now, be with my brothers and sisters here. We pray these things in Jesus' name, Amen.