God’s Call and Church Unity

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Church
September 18, 2022
Galatians 1:11-2:10

Sermon recorded at Bluemont Church on Friday, September 16, 2022.

At the beginning of worship

Why do we tell our stories? What purpose do they serve?

Well, they can be entertaining, which is important. I like to laugh. It’s good for the soul.

But there are more important purposes to our stories. I have heard about the early days of Mayberry Church, when one of the jobs of the handful of boys in the community was to get up early on Sunday mornings and head down to the church to light the fire in the old potbelly stove. I’m sure at the time, the boys didn’t think much of their assignments. But it made enough of an impression that it’s still told long after their deaths and the church converted to central heat and air. 

The late William Zinsser, a dean of creative writing, says this about writing on places and institutions, be it a school, church, business, or so forth. 

Institutions and places have no life of their own. You must bring them to life with men and women and children… Look for the human connection as you make your journey. Connect us to the people who connected with you.[1]

Stories help us understand and to connect with one another. It is through our stories, especially if we approach them truthfully and with eyes of faith, that we see God working in our lives. Stories help us come to faith. They can also help us share our faith. 

Before reading the scriptures

Early this year I preached through Paul’s letter to the Galatians, but I left out a part.[2] You’ve probably forgotten, but as we began working through the letter, I told you I wanted to come back and catch up on the part I skipped. This section straddles the end of the first and beginning of the second chapters of the letter.

If you remember back to those sermons on this letter, Paul was concerned about what was going on within the church there in Asia Minor, a part of the world now a part of the country of Turkey.  In Galatia, Paul has become aware that some are leaving the church for a different gospel. This troubles Paul for he doesn’t know of any other gospel, at least not one that leads to eternal life. So, he writes this letter to encourage the Galatians to remain truth to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

After stating the problem in the Galatian church,[3] Paul sets out to establish his credentials. After all, what makes Paul so special? Why is he any more reliable than other preachers who suggest another way? Paul’s story, as we will see in this text, help him establish credibility.  

Read Galatians 1:11-2:10

What does it take to become a Minister of the Word and Sacrament, the official title of ordained clergy, within the Presbyterian Church? 

First, there must be a calling from God. An individual may sense such a calling and be drawn toward ministry. For some of us, this process occurred over years. For others, it was a surprise. I know one minister who started out on a scientific track in college. His family didn’t attend church. He was unaware of Jesus. But after taking a required class in college, he became interested in the faith and ended up a Presbyterian minister.[4] This calling from God is quite personal and unique for every person.

My story

For some unknown reason, even for me, I told Grandma I was going to be a Presbyterian minister when I was ten years old. I can still remember having that conversation on the deck of a beach house on Topsoil Island. As soon as it was out of my mouth, I wondered where that idea came from. 

Almost two decades later, I found myself wrestling with the possibility of seminary. On a winter backpacking trip in the Smoky Mountains, I told God I’d go. It felt as if someone lifted my pack off my back. Later, as I questioned my plans for seminary, I heard a voice in dream saying I should go. Don’t ask me how, but I knew that voice to be God.

But it wasn’t just God who affirmed this call. There were others. Ministers with whom I’d known through my work with the Boy Scouts of America who encouraged me. Some were Presbyterian, but at least two other significant ones were Lutherans. Then there was the late Bob Ratchford, one of my pastors who, when I called him after that backpacking trip, asked why it had taken me so long to come to this decision. I was shocked as we had never discussed ministry before. 

Several weeks ago, when I was at Montreat Presbyterian Conference Center, I ran into David McKee. He and Bob served as co-pastors of the church I was a member of at the time.  We spent an hour discussing my decision to go to seminary. What an affirming talk as I learned that he and Bob had discussed me going to seminary even before I made that call. 

The Presbyterian Call System

In the Presbyterian system, feeling that one has a call from God to become in a minister isn’t enough. One must have the support of the Session of a church and of the Presbytery. One must prepare through study. And finally, before ordination, one must have been confirmed to a call by a congregation that’ll have you as a minister. 

There are a lot of checks and balances in the system. For you see, the call which comes from God needs to be confirmed by others. Even Paul mentions doing this in chapter 2, verse 2. Otherwise, we may deceive ourselves. As we know too well, people can have some crazy ideas about what God wants them to do. On the extreme, we end up with mass murder and suicide in places like Jonestown and the World Trade Center. If you think God wants you to do something, especially something outrageous, always check God’s Word and with others. 

What we learn from today’s text

In today’s passage Paul attempts to do three thing things: He wants to convince the Galatians that he is an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He is concerned for church unity. Third, he illustrates the division of labor the Jerusalem Church has set up. Paul will reach out to the gentiles while others are assigned to carry on the church’s Jewish mission.

Paul’s Apostleship

Let’s look at the three of these points. As for Paul’s Apostleship, Paul insists his call is from God, but he also goes into detail to show how his call has been confirmed by the “mother church” in Jerusalem. Paul has made two trips there. His details vary some with the story we have of Paul’s calling in Acts, which probably has more to do with what Paul is trying to do by telling his story.[5]

Paul wants the Galatians to know that he’s the real thing. Yes, his call comes from God, and no one can take that away from him. Yet, it’s still important for Paul to point out he has the support of the Jerusalem Church. They confirm his call to take the message to the Gentile world. 

Instead of talking about the Damascus Road experience here, Paul just says that his call came directly from a revelation of Jesus Christ. This call changed Paul from a persecutor of the church to its biggest missionary. On the other hand, in Acts, we hear nothing of Paul’s journey into Arabia. This, I suggest, is a difference of perspective. 

In Acts, Luke is more interested in telling Paul’s story in relationship to tell the story of the expanding missionary activity in Europe. Paul, on the other hand, attempts to establish with the Galatians a legitimacy for his teachings. 

Church unity

Second, Paul has a concern for church unity. While he sees his call from God and not Jerusalem, he still understands the importance of the church in Jerusalem. When they ask him for help with the poor, Paul goes all out. You see this especially in his second letter to the Corinthians.[6] He wants the gentile church to help the Jewish church in Jerusalem, a church 100s of miles away. 

Division of labor

And finally, Paul sees the importance of a division of labor. Last week, if you remember, we heard Jesus talk about the harvest being reading and the workers being few. Paul is content to let Peter, James, and John reach out to the Jews while he and others such as Barnabas and Titus, reach out into the Gentile world. If the church is to be worldwide, it means different people will have different tasks. We all work for the same Lord, but each with a different focus. Together, our combined efforts make up the church.

Today’s applications

How can we apply Paul’s letter to our lives? First, think about Paul who was so convinced that his persecution of the church was right and noble. But when he meets Christ, he’s changed. He still serves the same God, but now better understands God’s mission. God reaches beyond Paul’s myopic vision. Might we also have our eyes opened and see that what God is doing in the world. And might we want to answer God’s call to be a part of such a vision. Changing our mind when it comes to God work in the world is noble, as we see with Paul. 

Second, we see the importance of unity despite the different focus when it comes to our ministry. One ministry is not superior to the other. All are important in helping to fulfill God’s plan. While we may be called to a different task within the kingdom, our calling is no better or worse than someone else’s call. 

Third, despite our different focus, we’re to be concern for the poor. That was a uniting task in the first century and should remain a uniting task for the church today. 

So, what story do you have to tell and how does it show God’s activity in your life?  Amen. 

[1] William Zinsser, Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past (New York: Marlowe and Company, 2004), 22-23. 

[2] These sermons were between April 24 and May 29.   Here is the link to the first sermon: https://fromarockyhillside.com/2022/04/5673/ and here is the link to the last: https://fromarockyhillside.com/2022/05/5759/

[3] See Galatians 1:6-9.

[4] Joseph Small told this story in a talk at a Theology Matters Conference in Hilton Head, SC in October 2021.

[5] See Acts 9:1-30. At first, Paul went by his Hebrew name, Saul. 

[6] 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. 

Commentary consulted: Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988).

This morning’s view at 6:40 AM

Our Gracious Work Christians

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Presbyterian Churches
Galatians 6:1-10 
May 27, 2022

Sermon recorded at Bluemont Church on Friday, May 27, 2022

At the beginning of worship:

This is Memorial Day weekend. After a week of rain and gray, it appears we’re in a few beautiful days. Enjoy it, but remember, as we will in our prayers today, those who have their lives for our nation. 

Today, think about two things. First, how do we help others with gentleness and humility, especially those who sin and need to get back on the track. Second, in our lives do we sow the necessary seeds to reap an eternal harvest?[1]  

By the way, next Sunday is Pentecost. If you think about it, wear red. It’ll make a statement as we recall those tongues of fire that set the early ablaze. Let us also this week pray for such an outpouring of God’s spirit. 

Before the reading of scripture:

Paul has a problem. We’ve seen this over the past six weeks in his Epistle to the Galatians. Today, I’ll finish our journey through this letter, although I’ll come back in a few weeks and catch a section we skipped. 

Paul needs to help these folks in Galatia get back on track. He refutes the teachings of the false preachers who cause confusion. Again and again, Paul emphasizes grace over the law. But just because you are not saved by the law doesn’t mean you can do what you want.  

Toward the end of the fifth chapter, he warns his readers of the dangerous work of the flesh. Then, as he comes toward his conclusion of this letter, he realizes that some might take what he said and use it as an opportunity to harshly deal with the sins of others. So, Paul offers a few suggestions about how Christians should correct a fellow believer caught in sin. We should consider, from this passage, how we, as a body of believers, are to live graciously and in a way that encourages one another to strive for holiness.  


After the reading of scripture:

There are two themes in this passage: restoring the sinner and humbly doing the work assigned.

The Roman World of the First Century:

Let’s go back into Paul’s world. In a way, the Roman world was an “anything goes” world every bit as much as our own society seems to be heading. While this is the world in which Paul resides, it’s not the world in which he lives. Paul’s not some post-modern, politically correct philosopher who thinks everything is relative and that there are no absolute standards. He doesn’t buy into alternative facts or questions truth. That’s our world; it was, to some extent, the Roman World.[2]However, Paul expects the Christians in Galatia to do its part and encourage their members to live righteously. 

The Danger of Being Overly Zealous

Yet, even here, dangers lurk. Paul understands human nature. He knows there are some who will enjoy pointing out the faults of others. We know such people, don’t we? Those who have the mistaken notion that it makes them look good when another person falls or is humiliated. Such people relish in their own self-righteousness. As Mark Twain quipped, “nothing needs reforming as much as someone else’s bad habit.” It’s this tendency, reforming another’s bad habits while ignoring our own, that Paul tries to nip in the bud.

1. Restoring the Sinner

Paul tells those who have the Spirit of God within them to restore those who have fallen away from the church. You know, our church and our society are not good at restoring the fallen. We’re good at shooting the wounded, but we fail when it comes to reforming people. Two examples: First, look at churches and consider what generally happens after a church fight? Most often, one party and maybe even both leave. The sin of American Protestantism is that we find it easier to go somewhere else than to stick it out and mend fences or lift fallen brethren. The church is to exhibit the Kingdom of God, but do we?    

And if you think church is bad at reforming people, society is even worse. Consider the recidivism rates in our prisons. But Paul isn’t addressing society’s failures here; he’s focusing on the church. The church is to be a community that takes seriously the reformation of individuals. We’re to be a community that instead of shooting the wounded, we restore them to wholeness. 

Of those in the faith who has fallen into temptation

Of course, Paul here is not talking about those who commit great evil.[3] Nor is he referring to those outside the church. Paul acknowledges that we all struggle with temptation, and we all need to be shown grace by other believers, just as God has been gracious with us. So, Paul, here, is not talking about a mass shooter, but someone who has stumbled along the way and needs to be encouraged to come back into the church’s fellowship.[4]  

If we who make up the church are to fulfill our calling to restore those who have fallen away, we’re going to have to be gentle and humble and gracious. It’s a dangerous task as Lesslie Newbigin, a former missionary to India notes. Commenting on human efforts to bring about the kingdom of God, he writes: “The project of bringing heaven down to earth, always results in bringing hell up from below.”[5]

Being a legalist, pointing out the faults of others in a heavy-handed way, don’t cut it. Self-righteous attitudes drive wedges between people, making those in power look good while offending parties are set up for ridicule.  

But more than that, such attitudes also contain the seeds for destruction of the righteous whom succumb to the sin of pride. That’s why Paul tells us in the fourth verse to test our own work on its merits and not to rate ourselves by what our neighbor does and doesn’t do. We’re to hold Jesus as our example, not our neighbors. 

If we want to compare ourselves to another person, we should stand next to our Savior and see how far we fall short of the standard. Standing next to him, we’ll get a crick in our necks looking up. When compared to Jesus, we’re all humbled. But the human preference is for us to pick out some ax murderer or disturbed mass shooter to judge ourselves. It’s easy to be misled into thinking we’re doing a good job because we’ve refrained committed terrible evils.

Jesus’ comments, in the Sermon on the Mount, come to mind. Before we go operating on our brother’s eyes, we should make sure our own eyes are free from obstruction.[6] The only way for us to be clean and free is to accept the forgiveness of the one who washes us in his blood. And we must realize that Jesus doesn’t just clean us up so we can become like the Taliban’s moral police. The gentle way God deals with us serves as our model for dealing with one another.

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

If we’re to seriously take to heart this passage, we should understand this: We who are believers are called to help each other live better and godlier lives. This is a part of our calling as disciples. We bear each other’s burdens. But in fulfilling this task, we must be careful to avoid temptation. 

We’re to be gentle and humble, realizing that even when we’ve dedicated ourselves to righteousness living, the temptation to think more highly of ourselves than we should is present. As Christians, we’re saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, not by our own hands. As Christians, we’re to share and show such grace to one another. Only then will we live up to our calling

2. Doing God’s Work

The second theme is pleasantly doing the work God has assigned us and not letting it go to our head or to spend all our time focused on and worried about what others are doing.   

Another Story from Jayber Crow

In my first sermon on Galatians, I told you a story about Jayber and Troy in Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow. Berry uses his novels, set in Port Williams, Kentucky, to give a glimpse into how a community can exist and function in a way that will be beneficial to everyone. 

One of the problems with Troy, in his novel, is impatience. As one of the younger farmers in town, he’s impressed with power and machinery. Debt doesn’t bother him. He considers a part of doing business. Nor is he particularly concerned about the land. He doesn’t even consider himself a farmer, he wants to be thought of as an Ag-businessman. 

Troy receives a gift. His wife, an only child, is heir to one of the larger farms in the township. When her parents retire Troy takes over and immediately begins to do things that worries his wife and his in-laws. He rips out the hedgerows between fields so he can grow more crops. He leverages the land to buy more land. He can’t do all the farming with his old equipment, so borrows heavily for larger tractors and implements. He’s always running, trying to keep up with his expanded operation. Always behind, he no longer enjoys the cycle of the seasons, the periods of hard work and the times of rest. The farm, which would have given him and his wife a good life, becomes a burden. He depletes the land and then loses it all to the bank. By focusing on his need to be important, by constantly wanting more, he squanders the gift.[7]

We’ve all been given gifts. Do we sow them only for ourselves?  If so, we’ll join Troy and countless others in squandering what we’ve been given. But if we use our gifts in a way that will bring honor and glory to our Creator, to sow them in the Spirit, others will benefit and in the long run, we’ll find dividends stored up eternally for us. 

The good of working hard

Remember, work is not a bad thing. Work is good. Our labor connects us to God and to others. It’s through what we do in our world, our daily tasks, we live out our Christian faith. 

Paul assumes the Galatians are working and therefore in danger of weariness. I’m sure if they were not doing anything and in no danger of becoming weary, Paul’s letter would have reflected different concerns. But here, he’s concerned about them wearing themselves out. How might we take measures to avoid allowing our work to lead us into weariness? For if work becomes drudgery, it’ll become something that we despise.


This Epistle to the Galatians is about grace, and grace should lead to gratitude. We’re not here to work to earn our salvation, we’re to receive it as a gift and then use it to live making this world a better place. Accept what Jesus has done for us and then let him live in you so that your life might bear fruit. Amen. 

[1] Adapted from Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 284

[2] This was certainly true of the Greek city of Corinth, which was the “Vegas” of the day, where things you did in Corinth should stay here. 

[3] Consider how Paul addresses such evil within the church of Corinth. See 1 Corinthians 5:1-3. 

[4] This sermon is to be preached after a terrible mass shooting resulting in the deaths of 19 students and 2 teachers, along with many injuries, at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX. 

[5] From Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 117;  as quoted by Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 234.

[6] Matthew 7:3-5.

[7] Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow (Washington DC: Counterpoint, 2000)

The beginning of a beautiful day…

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Presbyterian Churches
Galatians 5:1-15, 22-23
May 22, 2022

Thoughts at the beginning of worship:

Sermon recorded on Friday, May 13, 2020 at Mayberry Church. This was before heading to Kentucky for a mission trip.

What does it mean to be a Christian? This week I came across a meme that I thought was insightful and a bit challenging. 

Geocide is biblical.
Loving your enemy is biblical.
Only one is Christ-like. 

Slavery is biblical.
Chainbreaking is biblical.
Only one is Christ-like. 

Patriarchy is biblical.
Counter-cultural elevation of women is biblical.
Only one is Christ-like.

Retributive violence is biblical.
Grace-filled restoration is biblical.
Only one is Christ-like.

Segregation is biblical.
Unity is biblical. 
But only one is Christ-like.

Christ transforms, not the Bible. Be wary of those who know one but not the other.[1]

Yes, there are a lot of things, some horrific, you can support from the Bible, but we’re called to first and foremost to follow Christ. What does that mean? What does it mean to be a Christian? I hope you wrestle some with this question this morning as we look at how it was debated in the first century.

Before the reading of scripture:

As I pointed out at the beginning of worship, what it means to be a Christian has been debated over the years. Some things we’ve gotten over, such as arguing over circumcision. But that was the big theological debate in the first century. Paul talks about it a lot in his letter to the Galatians, but we also find it discussed in Romans and Acts. 

While we may not concern ourselves with circumcision anymore, the topic of what it means to be Christian continues to be debated.

Tying this debate together, J. B. Lightfoot, a 19th Century Anglican theologian, says this:

Circumcision is the seal of the law.  He who willingly and deliberately undergoes circumcision (I should note, for a religious reason), enters upon a compact to fulfill the law… He cannot plead the grace of Christ; for he has entered on another mode of justification.[2]

As Christians, our seal into the faith is baptism. It’s a seal showing that we depend on what Christ has done for us for our salvation, and nothing else. Grace alone, as the Reformers proclaimed.

Today, Paul finishes up the middle part of the book, where he continues making the case for justification by faith. Then, he shifts in verses 12, and speaks of the implications of our faith.  How should we live our lives since our salvation is secure by grace? 

Read Galatians 5:2-15, 22-23

After the reading of Scripture:

Last week, I told you about reading Kidnapped by, Robert Lewis Stevenson. In staying with the Scottish theme, let’s talk about the Scottish Reformer, John Knox.   

The Reformed Reformation: 

Knox’s idea of church reform, like the Swiss Reformers, went beyond what Martin Luther in Germany and Thomas Crammer and other English reformers wanted. I’ve heard these two views of church reformed described as how one cleans out their dresser drawers.[3]

Luther’s method and, in a similar manner but with different issues, the English, are similar. They open their drawers and straighten things up. They place their dark socks in one drawer, the light ones in a separate one, and fold up t-shirts and place them in the middle drawer. On the floor would be a small pile of stuff destined for Goodwill. Get the picture? We end up with neat drawers; nothing too disturbed. 

Those from the Reformed tradition, such as Zwingli, Calvin and Knox, were more radical. They pulled the drawers out of the dresser, dumped their contents on the bed, and then only put back into the drawers that which they could find a reason in scripture for keeping. Instead of tidying up, they do a spring cleaning. An immense pile of stuff for Goodwill grows on the floor. 

Knox and the English Prayer Book

Knox, after his first exile, lived in England and served within the Church of England. There, he kept getting in trouble for his refusal for using the Prayer Book. It wasn’t that he had a problem with praying (he wrote his own prayers), but he felt that having to be bound to this book was an imposition not warranted by scripture. It trapped people into a false sense of security that they placed in a book that wasn’t the Bible.[4]

In case you’ve wondered why we Presbyterians don’t have prayer books we’re required to use in worship, this is it. Some might call it Scot’s stubbornness, but’s it’s an issue of freedom.  Knox cherished his freedom, just as Paul insisted the Galatians live in the freedom they have in Jesus Christ and not find something else to which they could enslave themselves.

Paul’s emphatic on circumcision:

The Message translation captures the spirit in which Paul wrote this section of the letter. “I am emphatic about this!” he says as he goes on about the reason to avoid submitting themselves to circumcision or other systems of rules that squash their freedom. It’s beyond Paul ability to understand why they would want to live under such a system when Christ offers grace so freely.  Maybe Paul is naive. This is a human problem. Think about it. We tend to be willing to give up our freedom willingly. We’d much rather have security and prosperity, even if it means being enslaved.

Dostoevsky and freedom: 

There is a section in the center of Dostoevsky’s humongous work, The Brothers Kamarvoz. The chapter’s entitled, “The Grand Inquisitor.” Russian novels are so long, so if you don’t read it all, you can at least be provided with an insight into his thoughts. 

In this section, one of the brothers wrote a short story about Jesus returning to earth. He comes back to Seville, Spain during the height of the inquisition. Immediately, people flock to Jesus, but when the inquisitor gives them a dirty look, they flee just like Peter and the disciples fled when they arrested Jesus 

Jesus, in the story, is taken into a dark cell. Under the cover of night, the inquisitor enters and questions Jesus. In a fashion like Pilate’s interrogation, Jesus remains silent as the inquisitor asks questions and makes bold statements. “Why did you come back?  The people are happy. They don’t want freedom. We give them what they need, we give them bread, and they are content.”[5]

Think about it. Do we really want freedom?

Living by our own ideas, we’re cut off from Christ: 

As Paul points out in verse four, “when we attempt to live by our own religious plans and projects, we are cut off from Christ.” And then he reemphasizes, to quote the New Revised Standard translation, “The only thing that counts is faith working through love.” Faith is where it is at, and we express our faith with love.   Another way of translating the end of verse 6 is “faith active in love.” Paul is not making faith and love perquisites of grace. By faith we are saved, but our faith is lived out through loving one another.[6]

Galatians doing well until agitators showed up

In verses 7 through 12, Paul returns to his overall theme, pointing out how the Galatians were doing so well until these agitators came along and created confusion. They have sown their yeast of discontent and, as Paul reminds them, it only takes a bit of yeast to cause the dough to rise. Where is discontent sown in our world today? What do we require of others that’s not implicitly required by Jesus?

At the end of this next section, Paul shows a very human side of himself. He’s frustrated. He’s had it up to here. We can see this in verse 12, when he makes a crude remark, sarcastically suggesting that they turn their imzels (the knife used for circumcision) on themselves.  


Then, in verse 13, Paul moves back to the discussion of freedom.  It’s important to note that for Paul, freedom does not mean that we can do what we want. Nor can we do whatever won’t harm someone else, as we like to think. While Paul wants the Galatians to enjoy their freedom, he wants them to understand that true freedom has limits. They are free to become servants to Jesus and to one another. We are free to love, as in working for the well-being of others.   

The gift of Christ: grace

In this middle section of this letter, Paul is concerned that we realize the gift we’ve been given is Jesus Christ. It’s a gift; it’s grace; it’s not something we must earn. This gift results in an incredible freedom from the law, but it doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want. Paul’s desire is for the Galatians to love one another and, as he speaks of later in the chapter, to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit.

Virtues verses Rules:

Paul Woodruff, a philosopher, wrote a wonderful book titled Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue.  Woodruff makes the case that it helps for us to base our ethics (or how we live) on virtues and not rules. His reasoning is that rules are hard to separate from the culture in which they rise.[7]   

Although this isn’t Paul’s argument here, I think it applies. Many of the old rules that came from Israel’s desert wanderings and her life in the Promised Land would be difficult to justify in other parts of the world. What’s important, the essence of the matter, is that we accept by faith what Jesus has done and then, with a gracious heart, bear a harvest of fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. When we are assured of our salvation in Christ, such fruits should come more naturally. 

Evaluate our lives by the fruit we bear:

Think of it this way. If you want to evaluate how you’re doing in following Jesus, don’t beat yourself with the law and how you fall short. Instead, evaluate your life by the fruits of the spirit. Even Jesus calls for us to show fruit in our lives.[8] Do you love others? Celebrate joy? Live peacefully as possible? Show patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. Examine yourself. Does your life display fruit?  Amen. 

[1] Attributed to Jordan Harrell. The point of this meme is to show that just because one can find where people did something in the Bible, doesn’t make it right. What would Jesus have us do?

[2]J. B. Lightfoot as quoted by Ronald Y. K. Fund in The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 223.

[3] This illustration was used by Jack Rogers in a video on the Essential Tenets of the Presbyterian Church USA.  

[4] Jane Dawson, John Knox (2015), 72-75, 92-96.  

[5] This is my paraphrase from memory of what the Inquisitor asked Jesus in The Brothers Karamazov. 

[6] See Fung, 221 & 230.

[7] Paul Woodruff, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (New York: Oxford, 2001), 159. 

[8] See Matthew 7:15-20, 12:33, 13:22, 21:43. See also Luke 13:6-9 and John 15:1-17. 

The crew on a mission trip in Dawson Springs, KY (we worked on a new home for the woman in the center).

Adopted by God: Entitled to an Inheritance

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Presbyterian Churches
Galatians 4

May 15, 2022

Sermon taped at Mayberry Church on Friday, May 13, 2022

At the beginning of worship:

Do we have faith? 

There was farming community experiencing a severe drought. Day after day, month after month, the sky held no clouds. Pastures dried up; crops wilted. Without enough water and feed, ranchers sold off their herds. Things looked bad. They called for a township meeting. After much discussion, they decided prayer was all they could do. They called a prayer meeting the next evening on the town square. A preacher agreed to lead the service. 

The next evening, everyone gathered. The preacher climbed up on the bandstand. In silence, he looked around, surveying the crowd. Finally, he spoke. “Do you know why we’re here?” 

“To pray for rain,” someone shouted from the back.  

“Then why do I not see any umbrellas?”[1]

As disciples of Jesus, our hope is grounded in the faith we have in Jesus Christ. Do we trust him? Or do we think like some of those in Galatia, whom Paul is addressing in this letter we’re going through, that more is required? 

Before reading the Scriptures: 

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he talks a lot about faith (faith in Jesus Christ, not necessarily in rain clouds). 

As I noted in my first sermon from this letter, it was written in response to a group of people who came behind Paul, teaching that Paul had it all wrong. According to these “false-evangelists,” the people of Galatia need to observe Jewish law. Many had mostly come out of a pagan background. In addition to accepting Jesus and being baptized, they are now told they must observe 600 and some regulations. Paul is furious. Why put additional burdens on people?  

Much of the center portion of the letter focuses on our relationship to Abraham. Paul, in writing about Abraham, goes to the heart of what makes one Jewish. But according to Paul, it was Abraham’s faith that made him right with God, not his obedience to the law. Remember, from last week’s sermon, Paul noted that the law came over four centuries after Abraham’s death.[2]

Paul continues to reflect on this connection to Abraham in the fourth chapter. Abraham was to obtain an inheritance, a large family, numbering more than the stars in the heavens or the grains of sand on the beach.[3]

The Jewish thought was that if you are an heir of Abraham, you were heirs of the promise. Paul doesn’t deny that. Instead, he suggests that the connection to Abraham is by faith, not by birth, and that those who have faith like Abraham, will inherit a wonderful promise. 

Read Galatians 4:1-20

After reading the scripture


Have you read Kidnapped by Robert Lewis Stevenson? For some reason, I’d not read this as a child and only got around to it five years ago. I’d always thought it was about some kidnapping pirates. I certainly didn’t realize how much Scottish history is told in the novel. The book’s setting is just a few years after the Jacobite rebellion in the 1740s.  

David Balfour is the protagonist in Kidnapped. He’s a young man of seventeen, whose parents have died. David is told to take a letter to his uncle, at the House of the Shaws. He doesn’t know what’s in the letter as it’s sealed, except that it deals with his inheritance and will secure his future. His uncle is not exactly excited about receiving it. Under the guise of visiting an attorney to settle the inheritance, the young David is knocked senseless and ends up in chains on a ship bound for America where he will be sold into indentured servanthood. The uncle did this because, David’s father, as the first born, had rights to the family estate and those rights extended to David. 

It appears David’s future will be bleak. He’ll be essentially a slave. But the ship strikes a reef off the Isle of Mull and David along with Alan Beck Stuart, a former leader in the Jacobite Rebellion, make their way back across Scotland. The pair have many misadventures along the way in this rough period of Scottish history.

The hope of an inheritance

David placed his hope in an inheritance. It was what kept him alive through his many trials. If he could obtain his inheritance, it would secure his future. In our world, as can be seen in the Kidnapped, inheritances can be a two-edged sword. 

Often inheritances become sources of conflict. Someone feels they win, and another feels slighted. Jealously prevails. “I should have gotten the house; I should have received the land; I should have been given the china…” Families split up and siblings never talk to one another. Yet, on the positive side, an inheritance might provide a chance to do something different with our lives, or the ability to live secure and settled.

Our inheritance from God

Paul uses inheritance as a way describe the blessings bestowed on those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, through faith. We are like adoptive children. When a child is adopted, something my wife and I know a bit about with an adopted son, they are as entitled to an inheritance as a naturally born child. With our inheritance from God, there is plenty to go around. No one will be shorted; everyone of faith will enjoy the blessings offered by God. And there will be no jealously, for we all will live in awe, in the presence of God.

The law as our trustee

Paul begins this chapter reminding us that a child who has an inheritance is, in a way, like a slave. He or she is controlled by a trustee until the child is an adult. When the trustee is evil, as was David Balfour’s uncle, then things go wrong. 

But that’s not the case with us. The trustee that Paul speaks of is the law. This is just another metaphor Paul uses, such as the law being a disciplinarian or a teacher which he used in the third chapter.[4] The law was to keep us on track until the coming of Jesus. Through Jesus, we are adopted by God; we become a part of God’s family. 

As I pointed out, an adoptive child is entitled to an inheritance. So, God adopts us and places Jesus’ spirit into our hearts. We are no longer slaves to the law. We can now call God, Daddy, for we’re a part of God’s family in the world and destined for glory.  

Going back to their old ways

In the eighth verse, Paul refers to the previous condition of those in Galatia, their lives before they came to the good news of Jesus.  They were enslaved to other spirits, gods that held no power. 

There is a debate as to what Paul is referring to here.[5] It appears some, listening to these false teachers, decide that instead of adding on the burden of the law, they’ll go back to their pagan ways. Such ways may have had something to do with astrology. Or, maybe Paul is still referring to the Jewish laws and the Jewish calendar with its prescribed fasts and feasts. Neither of these—astrology or observing a religious calendar—had the power to free the people from their burden to sin and to offer them an inheritance of life everlasting.

Paul, at the end of our reading, makes a personal plea for the people of Galatia to reconsider. He speaks how he’s afraid he’d wasted his time on them. He begs them to become like him. Paul often uses himself as an example of what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ. Then Paul provides us a brief insight into his personal life. We learn suffered from physical ailment of some form when he was with the Galatians. Was this the thorn-in-his-flesh he speaks of in Second Corinthians?[6]

Whatever, Paul’s thankful that despite his problems, the Galatians listened and responded faithfully to his message. But now they turn their backs on him; he grieves.  

Probably every preacher has felt this pain. When someone who had believed and seemed so full of faith, turns their backs on the gospel, we take it personally. 

Grace must be accepted

It grieves Paul. Yet, Paul realizes it’s beyond his abilities to get them to change course. God offers grace freely offered but it must be accepted on faith. If they want to continue down the path to their old ways, Paul can do nothing to change their mind. Even Jesus had this problem and let those go of those who wanted to leave him.[7] Paul, like those in Galatia and us who live two millenniums later, must live by faith, trusting in our inheritance. Only Paul’s way, the way of faith, leads to life. Embrace faith, it’s where joy abides.

Helen Keller on faith

Dark as my path may seem to others,” Helen Keller wrote, “I carry a magic light in my heart. Faith, the spiritual strong searchlight, illumines the way. Although sinister doubts lurk in the shadows, I walk unafraid toward the Enchanted Wood where the foliage is always green; where joy abides; where nightingales nest and sing, and where life and death are one in the presence of the Lord.[8] Amen. 

Before sunrise this morning. Photo taken from our home office.

[1] I adapted this story from The Christian Leader’s Golden Treasury (New York: Gross & Dunlap, 1955), 178.

[2] Galatians 3:17. For last week’s sermon go to: https://fromarockyhillside.com/2022/05/law-and-grace/

[3] Genesis 15:5, 22:17.

[4] See my courage of disciplinarians in the third chapter.  https://fromarockyhillside.com/2022/05/law-and-grace/

[5]Ronald Y. K. Fund,   The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 192-193.

[6] 2 Corinthians 12:7

[7] John 6:66-67. 

[8] Helen Keller, Christian Leader’s Golden Treasury,  177, 

Law and Grace

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Presbyterian Churches

Galatians 3:19-29
May 8, 2022

Sermon recorded on May 6 at Bluemont Church. See the text for what I preached on the 8th, as I made a number of changes to the sermon

At the beginning of worship:

Mothers will do whatever they can to protect their children. Sadly, sometimes this gets them into trouble, as it was with this one poor grandmother in New York City, whose daughter was sick. This was back in the Great Depression. 

Her husband had abandoned her and her children, so they all moved in with the grandmother. But she didn’t have enough food. The kids were starving. So, this grandmother went out and stole bread for the kids to eat. She was caught and ended up in night court in one of New York’s poorer wards. To her surprise, she found the Mayor LaGuardia behind the bench. 

LaGuardia, a former mayor of New York City, was quite a character. Today, we remember him whenever we fly to or through New York’s LaGuardia airport which is named after this man. He served as mayor of the city during the depths of the Depression through the turmoil of the war years. A small man, only 5’ 2”, LaGuardia was a hands-on mayor. He went with the police on raids of illegal nightclubs, took entire orphanages to ball games, and read the Sunday funnies to children on the radio during a newspaper strike. And then there was this episode.

On this cold night in January 1935, the mayor showed up in night court. He gave the judge the night off and took the bench. That’s when the defendant who had stolen bread was brought forth. He asked her about her alleged crime, and she told her story. The grocer refused to drop charges, saying she needed to be punished to teach others a lesson. LaGuardia found himself in a pickle. 

After some silence, he spoke to the woman. “I’ve got to punish you,” he said. “The law makes no exception, ten dollars or ten days in jail.” As he was pronouncing the sentence, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. He leaned over the bench to hand it to the woman. “Here’s the ten-dollar fine which I now remit. 

Furthermore,” he said, “I’m going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so her grandchildren can eat. Bailiff, collect the fines and then give them to the woman.”

The next day, New York newspapers reported that $47.50 was collected and given to a bewildered old lady who had stolen bread to feed her grandchildren. Fifty cents came from the red-faced grocer, the rest from petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and police officers. And for the privilege of giving, they gave the mayor a standing ovation.[1]

The law was upheld and the woman experienced grace. This morning, I want us to consider the interplay between law and grace.  

Before reading the Scriptures:

Throughout Galatians, which we’re working through, Paul pounds home the message of grace. Although the law is important, as LaGuardia demonstrated in my story at the beginning of worship, and as we read earlier from Deuteronomy,[2] it’s inferior to grace, to God’s promises in Jesus Christ. As LaGuardia paid the woman’s debt, Jesus has paid ours.

Read Galatians 3:19-29.

After reading the Scripture:

At the beginning of the classic movie, The Sound of Music, the Von Trapp family consists of a host of children and a widower father, a strict disciplinarian. These kids were bright, energetic, and devious. They drove off all governesses hired by the father. Upon the scene comes Sister Maria, played by Julie Andrews. She’s to be the governess over these unruly kids. She has her work cut out. 

Upon introducing Maria to the kids, the oldest, Liesel, a girl of 16, announces she no longer needs a governess. Maria accepts her statement and says, “Well, then, I guess we’ll just be good friends.” Later in the movie, when she finds herself in a tight spot with her father, and is saved by Maria’s intervention, she admits that she could use a governess. And, as the movie progresses, they also become good friends. Eventually Maria and Captain Von Trapp marry. Maria becomes their step-mother. 

Liesel may not have needed a governess or a babysitter anymore, but she does find Maria’s presence useful as she struggles with becoming a young woman in a world torn apart with the rise of Nazism.[3] The same could be said with our use of the law. It’s useful like a governess, although not what’s ultimately important.

The law as a babysitter

“So, what is the purpose of the law,” Paul essentially asks in verse 19. The law is a babysitter! In this opening verse, Paul remarks how the law helps lead people until the coming of Christ. The law checks transgressions, keeping us from getting too far off track. 

Paul later returns to this theme, in verse 24 and 25, using the analogy of the Greek tutors who were hired by wealthy families as disciplinarians to teach their children.[4] The law keeps us straight and focused, like Maria kept the kids in line, but it doesn’t have the power to give us life, or salvation. 

As God promised all along, the day is coming when God, out of his gracefulness, will open a way for us to mature into a relationship with himself. The day comes when the law is be written in our hearts.[5]Certainly, the law is “not a firsthand encounter with God.” But, with Christ, we have been brought into a direct relationship with God. When we have Christ in our hearts, the law is no longer primary.

Grace always comes before law

An interesting thing we should realize about the law is that it was given to the Hebrew people at Sinai, after their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Earlier in this chapter, in verse 17, Paul notes that the law came 430 years after the promise was made to Abraham. Throughout Scripture, grace always precedes law! God loves us before we even have a chance to love God!  

The Law and the 2nd Helvetic Confession 

The Second Helvetic Confession, in our Book of Confessions, gives us the reason for the law. It’s not given so we can be justified by keeping it. Rather:

from what it teaches we may know [our] weakness, sin and condemnation, and, despairing of our strength, might be converted to Christ in faith. For the apostle openly declares: “The law brings wrath,” and, “Through the law comes knowledge of sin” and, “If a law had been given which could justify or make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture (that is, the law) has concluded all under sin, that the promise which was of the faith of Jesus might be given to those who believe . . . Therefore, the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”.[6]

The law as schoolmaster, or as babysitter or governess, has a purpose. The law helps us mature, but it does not bring us into salvation. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. 

Three uses of the law

Historically, John Calvin outlined three uses of the law. 

  • It brings us to where we can see our own sinfulness and our need of a Savior. 
  • It helps us to live more righteously as we strive to please our Savior. 
  • And finally, for those outside of grace, the fear of the law serves to check their wickedness.[7]

The law can be useful, but it can never save us, as Paul drives home in these verses.

Now let me explore the third use of the law. The first two uses of the law outlined by Calvin are positive. It helps us be a better person, both by drawing us to Christ and by helping us strive for holiness. But the third use sounds rather harsh. And it is, but it is also necessary. 

On littering

Considering littering. It may seem like a minor thing, but it’s something when I see, raises my blood pressure. It also illustrates the point I want to make about the law. 

If we all appreciated the beauty of the land, and respected the property of others, we’d not need a law against littering. Unfortunately, there are those who refuse to do this, and therefore, we have a law that threatens the guilty. But if everyone could “write it in their hearts” to appreciate beauty and respect property, we’d not need such law. 

Purpose of Galatians 

Now, if you remember, Paul’s purpose for writing this letter is that a group of preachers have come behind Paul and taught these Gentiles that to be Christians, they need to do more.[8] Essentially, they need to become Jewish to be Christian. In other words, they need to be bound to the law. Paul is dead set against such teachings, and he reminds the Gentiles the benefits we have in Christ. If we live following Christ, we don’t have to fear the law.

Paul’s final point: Equality in Christ

We’re now at Paul’s final point in this chapter, where he demonstrates our equality in Jesus Christ. The old demarcations of society—gender, legal status, and nationality—are swept away.

We now have unity and freedom in Christ. No one is better than another or has a higher status. Paul attacks this idea that Jewish Christians who keep the law are higher up in the pecking order. That’s not the case. Likewise, whether you are Greek or Roman or Jewish doesn’t matter. 

In a patriarchal society, Paul destroys the distinctions based on one’s gender. In a society where slavery underpins the economy, Paul destroys the distinctions between master and slave. Because we don’t earn our salvation, but accept it as a gracious gift, Paul wants us to realize there is no hierarchy within the church. None of us are any better than another. 


We have differences, but at our core, we are all sinners. The difference between us and the world is that we’re sinners redeemed in Christ Jesus. Others need to be redeemed, and our work is to share the message and to offer to the world a new vision of hope. We are no longer to be shackled by a list of dos and don’ts. Instead, we are to let Christ rule in our hearts as we strive to love as he loves us. 

Never look down on another. That’s the kind of advice my mother would have given me. And, as we learn from Paul, let Christ shine from your hearts. Then you won’t have to worry about the burden of the law. Doesn’t that sound good? It is, it’s good news. Amen.

Off Cape Lookout. The lighthouse, like the law, keeps us on course.

[1] Story from the KERGYMA Program, Galatians and James: Faith and Work, which quoted it from William J. Bausch, A World of Stories, (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1988), 233.  

[2] Deuteronomy 27:15-26.

[3] This idea came from Scott Hoezee.  See http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/proper-7c/?type=lectionary_epistle

[4] See Galatians 3:23-25 in The Message translation where Eugene Peterson, the translator, compares the law to “Greek tutors hired by wealthy families. 

[5] Jeremiah 31:33.  See also Romans 2:15. 

[6] Presbyterian Church USA, Book of Confessions, 5.083.  

[7] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion II, 7 & 8.  See also Francois Wendel, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought translated by Philip Mairet, (1963, Durham, NC: The Labyrinth Press, 1987), 196-201.

[8] Galatians 1:6-7.  See my first sermon on Galatians: https://fromarockyhillside.com/2022/04/5673/

Paul corrects the Galatians

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Presbyterian Churches

April 24, 2022
Galatians 1:1-11

At the beginning of worship

The “Church Curmudgeon” post daily memes on Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t follow him, you’re missing a treat. With humor, he makes so good insights. This week he posted: “Remember, you are made in the image of God and so is that other jerk you’re arguing with.”[1] Did you catch that? “That other jerk” implies they’re two. And we know who the second jerk is, don’t we? This is what happens when we argue for the sake of being right and forget that we’re first to love one another.  I want you to hold that thought in our service today as we look at Paul attempting to correct a church heading in the wrong direction. 

Before reading the scripture:

This week, we’re starting a series on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. There is debate as to how many and just which congregations he addresses. The Galatians were Gauls, people of Celtic origin, who moved in ancient times into Central Asia Minor (think present day Turkey). However, there was also the Roman providence of Galatia that extended beyond the Galatian ethnic boundaries and included churches in the south in which we know Paul and Barnabas visited and helped organize.[2] But that’s a sidebar. For our purposes, what’s most important isn’t to whom the letter is written, for they are long gone, but the issues Paul addresses.

Paul writes out of concern of false teachings and ideas circulating within these churches. It appears some other missionaries have come in behind Paul, telling the people that they aren’t doing church right. Gentile converts dominated the membership in these churches. These folks left behind their pagan ways and are now being told they must do more to earn their grace. Paul blasts these “agitators” for perverting the gospel and demanding these gentile converts to adopt the Jews ways.

In Galatians, Paul reiterates his beliefs. He summarizes the gospel of grace, informing the Galatians what they should believe and how their lives should reflect God’s mercy. 

READ Galatians 1:1-10

After the reading of the scriptures:

Jayber Crow.

One of my favorite novels by Wendell Berry is Jayber Crow.Jayber finds himself in Port Williams, Kentucky, Berry’s fictional town, in the late 1930s.  He sticks around, becoming the town’s barber. But earlier in his life, Jayber had considered the ministry. He gave it up after he found he had too many questions. Even though his questions remain, in time he begins to serve as sort of a pastor to many in the town, especially the men who find comfort and a listening ear in his shop. In such a position, he also finds himself occasionally in a situation where he must rebuke someone. It’s never pleasant, but sometimes required.

One day, during the height of the Vietnam War, a debate ensued within his shop. There were several men waiting to have their ears lowered, when Troy, one of the local farmers, piped up about the war protestors. “They ought to round up every one of them SOBs and put them right in front of the communists, and then whoever killed who, it would be all to the good.”  

Troy’s comments were followed by an uneasy pause. No one knew for sure what to say. Should try to top or counter his remarks. Jayber admits it was hard to do, but he stopped cutting hair and looked at Troy for a bit before breaking the silence. 

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them who hate you,” he quietly quoted.

Angrily, Troy glared at Jayber, asking, “Where did you get that carp?”   

“Jesus Christ,” Jayber responded. 

“Oh,” Troy quietly mumbled. In recalling the encounter, Jayber said “it would have been a great moment in the history of Christianity, except that I did not love Troy.”[3]

Sticking up for the faith

Have you ever been in a situation where what’s being said goes against what you know is true? If so, do you stick up for the truth? Do you stick up for your faith?  It can be hard, but do you try to explain why Jesus offers a better way? It’s good if we do, yet we must remember such rebukes must be done with humility and not superiority.

“I didn’t love Troy.” At least Jayber is honest; he knows his faults. He confesses his sin. Although he may not quite be there, Jayber strives and certainly has a vision of how love and graciousness are necessary components to any correction offered to another soul. Rebukes are best done in love.

Paul’s opening

Paul has a problem. He’s got to get these folks in Galatia back on track. They’ve turned onto a siding that’s going to end in disaster if they don’t get back on the mainline. So, he writes this letter to refute the teachings of the false preachers whose work within these churches have caused confusion. Paul cares for the people in Galatia, and he has great concern for what those who have stirred up the mess he’s addressing have done.

Paul begins by claiming his credentials for writing such a letter. He declares he isn’t sent by a human commission. However, the church in Antioch did commission Paul as a missionary, but not on their own accord but because they were led by the Holy Spirit.[4] Paul claims to be an apostle sent by Christ through God the Father. Paul’s authority is divine. He’s working to share the message of hope that comes from Jesus Christ. 

Paul is first in a long line of clergy and Christian leaders since, who have been commissioned to do God’s work and who ultimately must answer not to those who have commissioned them, but to God, for their work and actions.

As Paul often does, in his opening, he calls upon the grace and peace of Jesus Christ to be with the church. But here Paul’s goes into more depth. In his other letters, Paul generally moves on after expressing God’s grace and peace. Here he digs in, noting that Jesus has given himself for our sin to free us from the present evil age… All of this is done according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever. At the beginning of this letter, Paul provides insight into why he’s writing and from what authority.

The problem in Galatia

The churches in Galatia have a problem. In Verse 6, Paul essentially says, “What are you thinking?” In many of his other letters, Paul at this point in his beginning gives thanks for those to whom he’s writing, but here Paul goes straight to the problem. The churches of Galatia are abandoning the grace found in Jesus Christ. “You’re accepting another gospel,” Paul accuses. And then, as if Paul realizes what he wrote is quite right, clarifies himself. “There are no other gospels.” The gospel, the good news, can only be found in Jesus Christ.  

Paul closes out our section this morning, returning to his claim that he was not sent by a human commission. Now he says he does not seek human approval, nor is his first concern to please people. If that’s the case, he would not be a servant of Christ. 

The tension in which we live

Paul is living in the tension of all clergy. Who are we to please? The governing board of the church, the Elders, those who contribute the most, those who have the loudest voice, or none of the above. The answer: “none of the above.” The first concern, for clergy, is Jesus Christ. But this doesn’t apply only to me. The same applies to all you, lay members of the church. We seek to please only Christ. And sometimes, as Jesus himself made clear, there will be opposition.[5] However, we’re to still look to Christ, for on that final day it will no longer matter what everyone else says or does. Hearing our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” is all that matters.[6]

However, like the character Jayber Crow in my favorite Wendell Berry novel, we must be careful. We can’t use “pleasing Christ” as an excuse to say spiteful or hateful things. Whenever we are called to correct someone else, we must do it out of love for both God and for others. 


We’re not that different from the Galatians. I remember learning to play baseball.  It’s the same with golf and tennis. You must keep your eye on the ball. Keep your eye on the ball, just as with our faith, we must keep our eye on Jesus. And we must keep love in our hearts. Thankfully we worship a merciful God who is willing to forgive, for if our salvation depended just on us, we’d be in a heap of trouble.  In thankfulness for God’s mercy, keep your eye on Christ, keep him in the center of your life.  Ultimately, what matters is that we please him.  Amen. 

[1] https://www.facebook.com/chrchcurmudgeon/

[2] Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1988), 1.

[3] Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow (Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 2000), 287.

[4] Acts 13:2.

[5] For example, see Matthew 24:9-14.

[6] Matthew 25:21

This morning’s sunrise