No Other Gospel (Galatians 1)

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Legendary college football coach Urban Meyer is a very driven man. Urban Meyer recounted the story that he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves to play MLB. Soon after arriving in the minor leagues, however, he realized he didn’t have the necessary talent and called his father to tell him he was quitting. Mr. Meyer’s informed Urban that he would no longer be welcome at home and to “just call mom on Christmas.” Urban finished out the season and embraced the conditional world of his father, a world in which failure was simply not an option.

We know hard work and performance pays off because Urban Meyer has won back-to-back national championships as coach for the Florida Gators, and most recently with Ohio State Buckeyes.  Yet we also know that a performance based life can also be detrimental to one’s life. After the 2007 season Urban confessed that each victory was short-lived and that the anxiety to perform was taking over his life. He experienced frequent and severe chest pains and at one point was hospitalized after being found lying on the floor of his house unable to move or speak.

One report has Urban saying, “[Constant] Building takes passion and energy. Maintenance is awful. It’s nothing but fatigue. Once you reach the top, maintaining that beast is awful.” That same report described Urban as a “man who destroys himself running for a finish line that doesn’t exist.”[1]

Performance based living is a world of unrelenting worry – If you fail to measure up then you will lose value and acceptance. One’s identity is established by ability and accomplishment. In other words, performance based living is not just an action or inaction but of something we are or are not; performance = person.

In the performance world, love is qualified and conditioned to one’s merit.

Many people say that Christianity is unconditional love absent of merit. I believe the principle is half right. Christianity is not conditioned upon the merit of the person but upon Jesus Christ. We are accepted based on the actions of Jesus, therefore merit turns into mercy.

crucified logo

This is the point of Galatians. The message calls us to trusting in grace rather than trying to earn acceptance through good works. Yet, grace is only opposed to earning and not effort. Once grace is received a genuine sign of its experience is that of a life of gratitude and growth to honor such amazing grace (Romans 6:1-4; 7:7-25; 12:1-2; 2Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 2:12-13; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 12:14; James 2:22). Good works do not save, yet we are saved unto good works. The Law of the Bible has three roles: revealing evil, restraining evil, and reflecting righteousness.[2]

EXAMINE   Galatians 1-2             Title: Crucified: No Other Gospel

Why Galatians for SPBC?

  • Galatians is gospel-centric (gospeliscious).
    • Galatia Church had serious confusion. Our world has serious confusion about gospel.
    • We need to deeply know, love and live the gospel with sincerity.
    • Galatians was first NT letter written (likely Mark was first book written). Therefore, the early church fathers wrote more on this book than any other. Martin Luther called the book his “Katie von Bora”.[3]
  • Paul is passionate.
    • We deeply know, love, and live for too many other things that will not matter in eternity. Too often we can be weak on passion (faith, singing, prayer, evangelism), and it may be likely due to doubting gospel implications.
    • The gospel is more than just religious reflection; it is abundant life. Reading Galatians helps catch this all-consuming passion.
    • Awe of God produces a faith of action. It’s fire and light; zeal with knowledge.
    • You cannot behold a coal from the fire and be unchanged and unmoved; so it is with the gospel. Salvation in Jesus is not sterile or stale but stimulating and revitalizing in every sense.

Galatians 1:1 Paul

Paul wrote the letter to the Galatian church. We know a bit about Paul.

  • Paul was a Pharisee who condemned and murdered Christians (Acts 8:1-3; Php 3:4-6).
  • Paul was dramatically converted to Christ (Acts 9:1-22 “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon [Jesus] (9:21); Php 3:7-10).
  • Paul was drastically humbled by grace, viewing himself as chief of sinners (1Tim 2:15)
  • Paul was devotedly committed to spreading the gospel to unreached (Acts 9:15; Rom 15:20).

Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ

From the start of this letter Paul is making his credibility clear. Paul is not writing as just an apostle in terms of action, as a sent one (cf. John 13:16; Php 2:25; 2Cor 8:23). Paul is writing as an apostle in terms of an official office – one who was sent by Jesus to lead the church (cf. Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 2:42; Ephesians 2:20).

Further, Paul’s calling had the credibility of Jesus and the church (“all the brothers who are with me” Gal 1:2).

Acts 1:21-22 “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Acts 9:4, 15 “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me [Jesus]? … Go, [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

1Corinthians 9:1 “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”

1Corinthians 15:9 “…Jesus appeared also to me”

Apply:

  • Reading the Bible is reading the words of God written down for us from His apostles.
  • Let God speak to you through the Bible.
  • The Bible is our authority. Is this true of your life? Could we list your actions and attitudes and match them to Scripture for an accurate reflection of God’s intentions? We may have areas of shortfall but when revealed none of these areas are esteemed.
  • Bible teachers must let the Bible speak more than their opinion or soap box.

Galatians 1:2 to churches of Galatia

The places were in the Roman province areas, with city churches such as Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13-14). The area is also known as modern day Turkey.

These churches were started on Paul’s first missionary journey. Paul proclaimed the gospel and planted churches.

  • People and places matter to God, and they should matter to us too. God has a plan for Severna Park.
  • Local churches matter to God. We have the NT as an affirmation of belonging to a local community of faith. Jesus called us to make disciples and not just converts. Disciples are made in community not in isolation. Therefore, local church membership matters. “all the brothers with me…”
  • Galatia was an area of multiple churches that were multiplying the gospel and planting additional churches. Likewise, we are called to participate in a church planting movement in our region.

2 Observations about the gospel from Paul’s writing of Galatians.

The gospel is exquisite.

The word exquisite is used to describe select beauty. Paul is desirous and disappointed that the Galatians do not see gospel exquisiteness.

Gal 1:3 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ”.*
The letter opens with this warm but brief greeting. Grace and peace are Paul’s most common greeting, characteristic in all his letters. Usually, Paul offers thanksgiving to God for the church’s faith or love for one another but it is absent here. The Galatians lack peace upward and have difficulty exhibiting grace outwardly to one another. People who have the gospel will reflect a community and culture of grace and peace.

Galatians 5:13-15 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

à Grace outward flows from peace upward.

  • In humility consider others more significant than self; look to interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
  • Generous and hospitable (Romans 12:13)
  • Meeting needs when expressed.
    • Caution: If grace to others is lacking it’s likely due to hindrance of peace with God.

*Note Paul’s interchanging order of God the Father and Jesus Christ to show their unity yet distinction.

Gal 1:4 Jesus gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age
Paul emphasizes the centrality of the gospel resting on the person of Jesus Christ. Humanity is doomed to sin if Jesus does not deliver us. Desperation and death await those who are not trusting in the rescue of Jesus Christ. The gospel is an exquisite exchange where we give Jesus our sin and we receive His righteousness. We get grace, Jesus gets glory; that’s amazing!

Jesus did not come to make bad people good – or culturally speaking make homosexuals into heterosexual. This type of change is external and the type of change religion seeks to produce. Christianity starts the change inward. Jesus came to make dead people alive. Those who are alive in Christ are transformed inside-out to live differently than a sinful world.

The Exquisite Gospel.

  • Jesus rescued and redeemed me.

“Jesus gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” Gal 1:4
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” Gal 3:13
“[Jesus was sent to] redeem those who were under the law” Gal 4:5

  • Jesus changed me.

“He who used to persecute us is not preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” Gal 1:23

  • Jesus justified me.

“a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” Gal 2:16

  • Jesus loves me.

“Jesus loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20 

  • Jesus gave me His Spirit.

“Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” Gal 3:2
“in Christ Jesus… we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” Gal 3:14

  • Jesus works miracles among me.

“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” Gal 3:4

  • Jesus was crucified and cursed for me.

“Christ became a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Gal 3:13

  • Jesus adopted me.

“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” Gal 3:26
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Gal 4:6-7

  • Jesus gives me an inheritance of all of God’s promises.

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” Gal 3:29

  • Jesus knows me intimately… and still infinitely loves me.

“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God” Gal 4:9

  • Jesus gives me freedom.

“For freedom Christ has set you free” Gal 5:1

  • Jesus gives me power over sinful desires.

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Gal 5:24

  • Jesus placed me in a family of faith.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Gal 6:10

These precious principles and promises show us the gospel is exquisite. They are reminders that doctrine is for delight and the Christian faith is a relationship of joy not a religious duty.

Further,

à When we get discouraged or feel lonely we are tempted to live on emotion rather than the exquisite gospel. Christ, in the gospel, calls us to from approval not for approval. Salvation is based on God’s promise not human performance.

à When tempted by sin or overwhelmed by worldliness we are tempted to respond in our own strength. Christ, in the gospel, calls us to recognize His Spirit and claim our identity as an adopted child as the means for living righteously.

The gospel is exclusive.

While there is much to celebrate and the grace of the gospel, it is not without condemnation for those who misrepresent or manipulate the truth of the gospel. Some (many?) in the Galatian churches had abandoned to a different gospel, which is really no gospel (Gal 1:6-7).

Gal 1:6  Paul is [continuously] astonished.

Paul’s marvel, surprising bewilderment is how anyone would turn away from the gospel of Jesus. The language is present tense, suggesting continuous action. Paul’s astonishment had two grounds

  • Jesus offered a relationship with lavished, exquisite grace (Gal 1:6).
  • Jesus’ gospel is the only way to salvation; all other messages are accursed [ἀνάθεμα] (Gal 1:8-9).

Paul says the false gospel is no gospel (good news).

  • The Galatian false gospel was one of works. Adding to God’s work… earning salvation.
    • we are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:16)
    • if righteousness were through the law, the Christ died for no purpose (Gal 2:21)
    • you are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law, you have fallen away from grace. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love..” (Gal 5:4-5)
      • circumcision possibilities today: church attendance, baptism, morals…
    • THEREFORE, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
  • Today people believe the gospel of
    • “health & wealth”; “your best life now”;
    • “tolerance”, “pluralism” “grace without truth”

Paul says the false gospel is eternally condemning. 

  • John 14:6 “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  • Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Do not skim or speed through this section, but study and soak it in.

à Worldly entertainment can lull your spiritual sensitivity and lure your affections away from Christ (Gal 1:6).

à Wrong education of religion can distort the truth and damn your soul (Gal 5:4).

Gal 1:6  Galatians are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel

The Galatians were removing themselves from grace. Yes, there were preachers of a false gospel but the individuals were responsible for the hearing, receiving, and obeying of the word. The language is present middle showing continuous action being done by the persons not to the persons.

Paul is astonished (1:6); fears he’s labored in vain (4:11); laboring in anguish for spiritual fruit to be genuine (4:19); and he’s perplexed not wanting to be angry but yet jealous for them to return to God (4:20).

APPLY/THINK
The gospel is exquisite but exclusive. We cannot have grace without truth.

If a doctor gives instructions to save your life, you don’t go looking for a new doctor. Jesus is Lord, providing promises and principles to follow unto life. If you look for a different doctor, you will receive new advice but it will be to your detriment.

[1] Urban Meyer illustration from Tullian Tchividjian, One Way Love, p.59-60.

[2] See at least: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul/threefold_law.html ; http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/05/20/theological-primer-law-and-gospel/ ; http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/05/13/what-we-all-agree-on-and-what-we-probably-dont-in-this-sanctification-debate/ ; and http://liberate.org/2014/01/13/antinomianism-legalism-and-the-relationship-between-law-and-gospel/

[3] Kostenberger. The Cradle, The Cross, The Crown, p.407.

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