Continuing his defense of the one and only gospel in Galatians 2:15-21, Paul addressed two basic questions: 1) How can we be in a right relationship with God? 2) How can we live godly lives? It turns out that the answer to both questions is the same: by faith in Jesus Christ.
In Galatians 2:1-14, Paul continued his personal story about his interaction with the leaders in Jerusalem, relating that they completely supported his message and ministry. He recounted these events in detail in order to defend the gospel and protect the unity of the church. It is still true today that we can maintain unity amidst great cultural diversity only if we hold on to the one and only gospel.
Continuing his argument that he received the one and only gospel directly from Jesus Christ, Paul demonstrated in more detail in Galatians 1:11-24 his lack of dependence on the apostles in Jerusalem. He also brought up the most shameful part of his past, which he mentioned repeatedly in his letters, and which served to magnify the grace of God in his life and in ours.
As we begin a new series in the letter to the Galatians that will take us through most of the rest of this year, we read in Galatians 1:1-10 Paul’s opening salvo against those who were trying to distort the gospel. Beginning with his opening greeting, Paul emphasized what the gospel is and that there is only one true gospel.
Pastor Al Barth preached from John 4:1-30 about Jesus’ encounter one hot day with a foreign woman who had a checkered past. As it turns out, we have much in common with that woman and the same need for what Jesus had to offer her.
Before preaching on John 4:1-30, Pastor Al Barth gave an encouraging review of the history and work of City to City in helping to start new churches around the world.
The vision that John saw in Revelation 4-5 concludes the opening section and prepares for the rest of the book. After reading about the difficulties in the seven churches, we get a glimpse of the heavenly control room and witness a two-part worship service focused on a central throne. This second vision reminds us of what is really happening in the universe and helps us to keep going amidst the difficulties of our world and our lives. We must worship God, because he is worthy, and also so that we can persevere to the end.
In the final of the seven letters in Revelation 3:14-22, Jesus addressed the church in Laodicea, which had no redeeming qualities. He described the church as lukewarm. It is remarkable that Jesus explicitly expressed his love, humbled himself to show his love, and promised the most exalted privileges to this, the worst of the seven churches. In other words, this letter shines with God’s grace and love toward sinners.
In the letter to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:7-13, we read the second of two letters that contains only praise and encouragement from Jesus for the church. Although the church in Philadelphia looked weak, it was actually strong, because it had done the one simple thing that all churches and all Christians must do: keep Christ’s word. Jesus’ instruction to them (and to us) was correspondingly simple: hold on to what you have.
In the letter to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6, Jesus had a surprise announcement for the church and promised a surprise visit if things did not change for the better. The announcement was that, in spite of appearances of vitality, the church was really quite dead, which would have fallen as a huge surprise to the church itself and to everyone who knew the church’s great reputation. Jesus had called the church in Ephesus to remember its earlier works, but Jesus called the church in Sardis to remember something even more foundational: how they received and heard the gospel. His call to them forces us to ask ourselves how we are hearing it today.