No. It never works out that way, does it? Even when justice comes, we get that pang in our stomach. When one of my kids does something wrong, and then they have to suffer the natural consequences of it, I have mixed emotions. Wouldn’t it be nice if justice had a counterpart that let compassion in? Wouldn’t it be great if our world was a place of where justice was important, but we weren’t ruled by it?
This is why grace is so shocking.
It’s not first nature. It’s actually what we would do second, third, or even last. It doesn’t come naturally, but we are desperately seeking it, chasing it, even when we don’t know it. That pang in your stomach when you hear of the death penalty, you have to watch your kids endure consequences, or when you really know it’s better just to hang up on the telemarketer.
Paul is about to use the language of astonishment in Galatians 1:6, but first, he reminds the Galatians, and us, that there is something bigger, that everything he is about to say and present is really held in the context of something greater:
Read Galatians 1:1-4 to connect Paul’s full introduction in one spot:
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Grace and peace to you…made possible by God, through Christ.
Paul starts even his introduction with the full Gospel.
Jesus gave Himself….
Perhaps our world has heard it a million times, so it isn’t really shocking anymore. The Galatians may have had a similar problem, slipping into “It can’t be. There’s no way. No one does stuff like that.”
Let’s hear the freedom in the truth of this message once again:
…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself…
Romans 5:6-8 reminds us just how shocking this Gospel is:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If you have your Bible out, underline these words –
Do you hear the language of the unexpected?
Look back at Romans 5:8 – But God…
God demonstrates who He is and how He brings freedom to this world, very differently than we would expect. Paul’s message is that it’s not what we expect that we need, but rather –
truth is found where we least expect it – in grace.
Christ didn’t just die for our sins. Christ gave Himself for our sins and for our deliverance.
The NIV and NASB translations use the word rescue instead of deliver. The NRSV translation uses the very straightforward to set us free.
Deliverance – that sounds a whole lot like freedom to me.
Christ did it for us. This is substitutionary grace, meaning we couldn’t do it. When there is a substitute teacher, it’s because the regular teacher couldn’t get there. We can’t get there either. We would never get there on our own to save ourselves. We can chase freedom all we want, but we need a substitute- for us.
Christ gave Himself for you, for your family, for your neighbor, for the unborn, for the elderly, for the junior high student, for us.
The truth is freedom will never come from justice. Freedom only comes through the shock of Grace.
We may want to be free from the evil around us in this world, but God does something different. He sets grace down in the middle of it instead. We think freedom looks like deliverance from the junk of life. God says it looks like deliverance from being ruled by it.
What junk, what anxiety, what trouble of this present evil age feels like it’s ruling right now for you?
God gives us grace in the midst of it. He gives us the knowledge of for us. Sin no longer has control, because… Grace.
Where might some shocking grace seep out of your mouth and your heart because of the freedom of Christ?
Shocking grace, for you – sounds a lot like freedom to me.
Look again at Galatians 1:2. Who does Paul say is “with” him in his writing of the letter? Why do you think this is an important detail he included? (If you can, google the NRSV translation of this verse… that one is my favorite.)
Why do you think authority is such an issue for Paul with the Galatians? Do you ever struggle with authority in any of your vocations? What grace can be found in the matter of authority?
The words deliver or rescue, and the concept of needing a substitute, insinuate our helplessness. What usefulness is there in knowing and understanding that we are helpless? What is hard about this?