170924 Galatians 2:11-21

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 September 2017 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Text: Galatians 2:11-21
Theme: How Do You Know That God Forgives You?

Has this ever happened to you? A friend and you are talking. Then your friend says something that hurts you very badly. Because you are so hurt by what your friend says, the two of you don't speak for a long time. Finally, your friend comes to you and apologizes for what he or she said. To which you respond, "I forgive you." But inside you are still angry and hurt. The words, "I forgive you" are easy enough for us to say. However, there are times when we say those words, but deep down we don't truly forgive the person for what they had done to us or said to us.

Because you and I far too often fail to have a truly forgiving attitude, we may be tempted to think that our God deals with us in the same way. We may be tempted to think, "God says he forgives me. But how could he forgive me time after time after time." All three readings from God's Word before us this weekend give us the opportunity to talk about forgiveness. Specifically, here in Galatians chapter 2, we consider the answer to the question, "How do you know that God forgives you?"

Let's set the stage for our reading. To put it very simply, the disciple Peter acted differently when the leaders of the Church came to visit him. We read earlier in chapter 2, "Before certain men came from James, [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group..." There was a certain group in the early Christian Church that was combining the teaching about Jesus with the practice and customs of the Jews. This group, known as the "circumcision group", was telling people that you could believe in Jesus as the Savior, but you still had to follow all the Old Testament Laws such as how, when and where to worship, what you could or could not eat, circumcision and so on.

When the apostle Paul saw how Peter was acting, Paul told Peter, "We know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." Paul knew that Peter was leading people down a dangerous path; a path that would lead them to rely on what they did to be forgiven by God and saved.

How do you know that God forgives you? Our enemy the devil works hard at trying to create doubt in our minds. Notice how the devil works. First, he puts out in front of us something that he knows is a temptation for us. He whispers in our ears, "Come on. What's the big deal? Just do it...just say it...just think it. It's not that bad of a sin." Then, after we give into his temptation, and sin against the Lord's will, he is right there accusing us. "How could you do such a thing? There is no way God can forgive you for that!" Then he goes even farther by trying to convince us that if we do enough good things that it will make up for all the bad things. "Don't worry about your sin," he says to us. "You can even out the score. All you have to do is keep trying harder and God will have to forgive you."

How do you know that God forgives you? If your forgiveness and my forgiveness depended on what we say or do, you and I would constantly have to be looking over our shoulder, wondering if we had done enough to please God. When you and I are tempted to think that we are able to somehow earn our way into heaven, we do well to go back to the clear message of God's Word. Romans chapter three makes it so very clear what the main purpose of God's Law is: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." Or, as we read here in Galatians chapter 2, "By observing the law no one will be justified."
In Catechism Class, we teach that the main use of the Law is to S.O.S.; that is, it Shows us Our Sins and the great need you and I have for a Savior. If it is up to you and me to work our way into heaven, if it is up to you and me to make ourselves right with God, then what Paul says to Peter is true, "If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

How do you know that God forgives you? It goes back to the perfect life, death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is our Savior Jesus who came to this earth as the perfect sacrifice for all sins to win your forgiveness and mine. The perfect life that Jesus lived while here on this earth is credited to us. How? We read from God's Word before us, "So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law..."

From the rest of God's Word we know that it is only by the working of God the Holy Spirit on our hearts that you and I have faith in Jesus as our Savior. It is only through the power of God's Word that you and I come to know Jesus Christ as our one and only Savior from sin. It is only through the love of our Savior-God that you and I are justified. By the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Savior, you and I are declared, "Not Guilty" of our sins.

Because of Jesus, our Father in heaven says to you and me, "I forgive you." Again, from Romans chapter three we read, "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood...Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law."

"I forgive you." You and I may say these words, and yet not always mean it. When our gracious God says to you and me, "I forgive you!", you and I rejoice in this wonderful Good News. Our forgiving Lord means what he says. As David writes in Psalm 103, "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." How do you know that God forgives you? Because of Jesus, who is your Savior, and my Savior and won the forgiveness of all of our sins. Because of Jesus you and I are able to pray along with the hymn writer when he writes,

I, a sinner, come to you
With a penitent confession.
Savior, show me mercy, too;
Grant for all my sins remission.
Let these words my soul relieve
Jesus sinners does receive.

Oh, how blest is it to know,
Were as scarlet my transgression,
It shall be as white as snow
By your blood and bitter passion,
For these words I do believe
Jesus sinners does receive. Amen.



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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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