Talking about the Gospel – Galatians 1:6-9, 11-12, 15-16; 2:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 21, 2013 AM
One test of being a good student is to understand the instructions for an exam. Once in seminary, our class gathered for a final exam in a Greek language course. We received the test paper with its instructions. Unfortunately, several students misread the directions and translated the wrong Scripture passage. As an act of grace, the professor did not give the students failing grades or automatically lower their grades. Instead, he evaluated their work on the passage they mistakenly translated. He pointed out, however, that they did poorer than they probably would have done on the assigned passage. Their lack of a clear understanding of the instructions cost them.
Without being aware of what they are doing, folks often reveal they do not clearly understand the gospel. They make such comments as, “I hope God will let me into heaven.” Or “I hope I’m good enough to get into heaven.” Or “I may not be a good Christian, but God has got to love me anyway.” Or even, “I study my Bible and I know a lot about it.” Statements such as these do not reflect the true gospel of Christ. They reflect a false gospel of salvation based on works or on knowledge. The true gospel is that salvation is by faith alone. God wants people to understand this is the only gospel. Unless Christians are clear about the true gospel, they may be deceived about its content.
Like all biblical writers, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit as he wrote this letter. He began with a salutation in which he identified himself and the letter’s recipients. Then he wrote a greeting that included a prayer, a statement concerning Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation, and a doxology that we adhere to even today. Like Paul, we need to…
I. Recognize the true Gospel! (Gal. 1:6-9)
1. Usually, Paul followed words of greeting in his letters with an expression of thanksgiving for the recipients. In his Letter to the Galatians, he moved quickly from greeting them to addressing their critical situation. Paul expressed surprise and perplexity at the Galatians’ actions. He was shocked and dismayed that they were so quickly turning away from Jesus. God had called them to salvation by the grace of Christ. Their redemption had come as a sheer gift from God through Christ’s atoning self-sacrifice. Yet they were in the process of deserting God! The phrase “so quickly” may indicate soon after these believers’ conversion, soon after Paul’s departure, or soon after the false teachers’ arrival. In any case, believers displayed a readiness to turn away from the gospel that Paul preached to a “different gospel”! The Greek term rendered “different” means “another in kind or nature.” Paul quickly asserted no other gospel of the same kind existed, only the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone! Any gospel other than the one Paul proclaimed was bogus. These false teachers were Jewish Christians who insisted Gentiles had to become Jewish converts to be full-fledged Christians. They wanted to require Gentile males to be circumcised and all Gentiles to strictly observe the Jewish law. These “Judiazers” acknowledged that faith in Christ was needed but said it was not enough. Paul flatly rejected their view as salvation by works of the law, declaring legalism has no part in a person’s redemption. Salvation is by grace; it is God’s gift received by faith. The false teachers were trying to pervert or corrupt the gospel of Christ. Paul expressed his anger by presenting a hypothetical case in which he or an angel proclaimed a different gospel contrary to the one Paul had preached to the Galatians, they should be cursed! The Greek word for curse (anathema) describes people or things so detestable to God that their destruction honors Him! Paul emphasized his distaste by repeating his curse! He consigned to destruction anyone whose message contradicted the gospel of God’s grace in Christ. Believers need to recognize the true gospel!
EXAMPLE: When we are clear about the one true gospel, we will reject all efforts to change or add to it. We will reject false gospels such as salvation by works, through knowledge, or through mere identification with any religion. One test of any teaching is whether it strengthens Jesus’ church. We must examine carefully any teaching that threatens a church’s peace. Generally, we will reject them; but we should accept no such teaching without careful, in-depth consideration. Those who would teach anything other than what Jesus taught in the gospels, should be condemned because they hinder the lost from coming by faith to Christ, this is why believers need to recognize the true gospel.
Quickly, without an expression of thanksgiving for the Galatian believers, Paul addressed the threat to these Christians that deeply concerned him. He rejected the idea that anything could be added to the gospel of salvation by faith alone, through Christ alone, and warned that such an effort produces a false gospel. Paul knew that believers needed to…
II. Realize the Gospel is divine! (Gal. 1:11-12, 15-16)
1. Evidently, the Judaizers accused Paul of saying what people wanted to hear in order to win their favor. In their view, he preached an easy salvation of grace rather than a more difficult righteousness based on works. Paul countered that he sought to please God, not people! The phrase “I want you to know” is literally “I certify to you” and calls attention to what follows. Paul stressed that the gospel he preached was not “man made up”. The good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ is not the product of human ingenuity. It was not Paul’s idea, he “received it by revelation from Jesus Christ”! He did not “receive it from any man”! The gospel differs from any human message in character and content; but of more significance, it is divine in its origin! No human source relayed the gospel to Paul. No apostle or other early Christian taught him the gospel’s content. Paul received the gospel he preached by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Paul probably referred to his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-9). Paul briefly reviewed his “previous way of life in Judaism” and “how intensely (he) persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.” He was near the top of his class in Judaism, “extremely zealous” for his ancestors’ “traditions” (v. 14). First, God set Paul apart. The Greek term rendered set apart means “to select” or “to appoint.” Paul had been a Pharisee—a “separated one”—but God had separated him for a better purpose “from my mother’s womb”. Second, God had called Paul to salvation and special service by His grace. Third, God revealed His Son in Paul. God revealed Christ to Paul so He could reveal the Savior through Paul. Specifically, God selected Paul to proclaim Christ to the Gentiles. Paul’s salvation and his commission as the Apostle to the Gentiles were at God’s initiative. Paul reinforced his assertion that the gospel he preached came from Christ, not from a human source. Following his conversion on the Damascus road, he did not immediately consult with anyone. He received no human instruction. We dare not add to its content or its teaching. For Paul the gospel was and is divine!
EXAMPLE: Messages claiming to be ultimate religious truth from divine sources continue to proliferate today. When we are clear about the true gospel’s being from God, we will reject these other so-called gospels. They wrongly thrust their leaders or their ideas above God, or above the teaching of Holy Scriptures, or above both. ?Christians today need to understand clearly that the message handed down from the saints, the gospel, is divine!
Paul resisted any idea that the gospel he preached came from another person or represented a human point of view. He emphasized it came only from Christ. Because Paul treasured the gospel he preached, he refused to do anything that could be understood as a compromise after presenting it to the church’s leaders. In fact, he received their affirmation of his gospel. Like Paul, we must…
III. Refuse to compromise the gospel! (Gal. 2:1-6)
1. “Fourteen years later” from Paul’s conversion, he “went up again to Jerusalem.” Paul not only defended this gospel to the Twelve, but they also recognized “the grace that had been given” to Paul. (2:9) Paul took Barnabas and Titus along with him. Barnabas was the leader in this church who had persuaded the apostles to accept Paul. Later he enlisted Paul to assist in the work in Antioch of Syria. They also worked together on the first missionary journey. He “took Titus along also.” Barnabas would have great influence among Jerusalem Christians, while Titus would have directly challenged the Judaizers because he was a Gentile convert and was not circumcised. Paul said he “went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.” Paul was concerned that opposition from the Jerusalem church’s leaders would severely hamper his work. Such disapproval could lead to a sharp division between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Paul acted prudently to prevent misunderstanding. Paul emphasized that the Jerusalem church accepted Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile convert, without demanding that he be circumcised. Paul’s implication was clear: The Judaizers who were perverting the gospel did not have the Jerusalem church’s approval. However, some of their sympathizers who had entered the discussion uninvited insisted that Titus and all other Gentiles be circumcised. They may have been looking for evidence that Jewish Christians were disregarding the law. Their purpose was to discredit Paul and his message of grace so believers would be enslaved again to legalism. Salvation by grace frees people from legalism. Paul refused to budge on his insistence that circumcision plays no part in salvation. He did not knuckle under to the Judaizers’ demands “for a moment.” He refused to yield on the crucial issue of how people are made right with God. Paul’s refusal to compromise was so that the truth of the gospel would remain for all Christians. To him, the gospel’s integrity was at stake. Paul stressed that the church leaders “added nothing my message”. They imposed no new requirements, conditions, or limitations on his ministry. Thus, the gospel remained the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. Like Paul, we should refuse to compromise the gospel!
EXAMPLE: Gaining a fuller understanding of the gospel is important. We can grow in our understanding by talking to, listening to, and studying with others as well as reading Christian materials. Yet we must test any idea batted around in such venues by the true gospel, not by what is most popular or pleasing or by what is presented most effectively or forcefully. When we are clear about the true gospel, we will oppose ideas or actions that compromise it.
When we are clear in our understanding of the gospel, we will recognize the true Gospel, realize the Gospel is divine, and refuse to compromise the gospel.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.