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Galatians – An Introductory Sermon

Both Jesus and Paul warned us about wolves in the strongest possible terms.  Christ is the Great Shepherd and His  church is His flock.  But wolves will come to attack the flock.  These wolves are false teachers.

What do you think false teachers teach?  What is so savage about these wolves? What do they preach that threatens the flock so greatly??

When Paul had been in Ephesus 3 years he left the leaders of the church with this charge:

28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 ‘Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul was clearly very worried about wolves, coming in to destroy the flock.  Sheep have no defences against wolves.  Wolves are savage with sheep.  And these wolves – some of them – will arise from the Ephesian church.  Isn’t that scary?  It scared Paul.  For three years he never stopped warning them, night and day with tears.

Now, what do you imagine these wolves to be teaching?  In what ways are these people going to savagely destroy the church that Paul had planted?

Now, the truth is, we don’t know.  But what’s fascinating is how we naturally think of wolves.  What kinds of teaching do we think will tear a church apart?

When I hear people accused of being wolves these days, usually it’s because they’re soft on sin, lax on the law.  People who won’t teach good biblical principles, something like that.  What does Paul mean?

Well notice the one protection he offers to this vulnerable flock in verse 32: “The word of God’s grace”, that’s what will build them up.  He’s been teaching them the word of this grace and his parting words are for the Ephesians to be committed to the word of God’s grace.  With the wolves coming, that’s what they need to know.

Because the wolves which seem to concern Paul most in his letters aren’t so much those who are soft on sin or lax on law.  Actually the wolves are the very ones so keen to teach "biblical principles for living" and to bring the flock under the law.

There are different kinds of wolves, it's true.  But when Jesus mentions wolves, it's in the context of Pharisaism.  And the false teachers who seem to cause Paul the most sleepless nights are the legalists - those earnest preachers with their Bibles open, urging you to godliness by bringing you under the law.  They are, most consistently, the savage wolves who Paul has in his sights.

Is that what you thought of, when you thought of wolves?




7 thoughts on “Galatians – An Introductory Sermon

  1. David

    That's very timely for me to read! Last week I had the experience of leading our weekly homegroup on John 12, and when I tried to push the idea that all of salvation is a gift, even our faith and love for God come to us from God for God in the Holy Spirit, I was repeatedly told that I was i grave danger of ignoring the role our will had to play in making us more Christian. I wasn't accused of being a wolf, as such, but my 'airy-fairy' talk of love over the will sounded dodgy in almost everyone's eyes.

  2. Glen

    Thanks David,

    It's so true that faith does not come from our wills but from the Word! Faith is a response to what is outside of us - Christ coming to us in self-giving love. This love captures our hearts which directs our wills. Therefore the will is involved but it's not at all decisive. Having said that - our *hearts* aren't decisive either - Christ's gift is. It's all extra nos.

    Unfortunately this truth can be heard as "God arbitrarily zaps faith into some, by-passing everything in the human personality." I suspect that's the fear throbbing behind the push-back. But you're right to push the divine initiative in all of this - 1 John 4:19!

  3. doctorluke2012

    Thanks Glen.

    It is interesting in Matthew 10:16 that Jesus sends the sheep out to the live among the wolves, not to retreat away from them. The sheep are to confront the wolves and they will get attacked for it.

  4. savedbygrace

    good one.

    anyone that draws the sheep away from justification by faith, is a false teacher and is worthy of curse. be it an angel from heaven an apostle or evangelist or the likes

  5. John B

    Just now listened to this sermon. You conclude with a refrain of "Eyes off yourselves." Near the end of the sermon you connect Paul's message with the taking of the Lord's Supper. But, in 1 Corinthians, in instructing the church on Communion, Paul says "Let a person examine himself". The two instructions seem to be conflicting. And in concluding 2 Corinthians, rather than "eyes off", Paul says to "examine yourselves" and "test yourselves".

  6. Glen

    Hi John, thanks for the comment. Firstly, I'm not completely against self-examination. But I do think the 1:10 ratio of McCheyne is helpful if we're trying to cultivate *faith*. On the two Scriptures you mention, I think 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 puts the self-examination firmly in the context of a disorderly service in which greedy Christians are squabbling over the bread. In which case - take a long hard look at yourself (as we might say today), and wait for each other.

    On 2 Corinthians 13, again I'd say there's a time and a place for self-examination. Faith comes in looking away to Christ - to see our life hidden in Him. But there's a place for looking to see Christ hidden in us too. (Yet perhaps it's significant that this verse comes at the *end* of the letter, not the beginning?)

    In all, there's a place for that self-reflection - something I've written on more extensively here:

    But in a Galatians 1 sermon I'm comfortable majoring on the "look away" emphasis

  7. John B

    Thanks Glen. I commend to you Spurgeon's sermon "Examination Before Communion" for his thoughts on 1 Corinthians 11:

    The church has always understood this examination with broad trans-cultural implications going beyond just arriving early and hogging up the bread and wine. But, yes, there's a clear emphasis here against divisions and the failure to discern Christ's body, the church.

    Is self-examination of lesser importance because Paul mentions it at the end of his second letter to the Corinthians? In the last chapter of Galatians he writes, "But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. " (Galatians 6:4-5)

    The McCheyne ratio sounds good. The work of self-examination can only be done by the individual believer himself. The faith that is cultivated by the preaching of the Word, illuminates the soul and enables self-examination. Preaching isn't self-examination, but I feel a deep need for pastoral encouragement to do the difficult work of soul-searching, which by natural inclination I'm only and always too willing to avoid.

    Might it be that there is no opposition between self-examination and faith, but both are necessary and fully in harmony? The more that Christians gaze upon Christ's radiance, the brighter they'll glow with His reflection.

    Your sermon was very edifying for me, and I thank you for it. But, I do submit my two-cents worth on the need that I see for the encouragement of self-examination, especially in connection with receiving the Lord's Supper.

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