The True Gospel
“Looking out for number one.” “If it feels good, do it.” These are some of the catch phrases of our modern society. Do a search for those phrases to see what I mean. You will find articles about how to do business in the modern world. You will find some popular songs from the last 30 to 40 years.
The good news is, God loves us and He knows what is best for us. This is at the heart of the true gospel. Are we living for Him? Or for ourselves or someone else? Who are we trying to please? Who is most important to us? These are questions we should all ask ourselves. Think about these questions as we continue to look at Paul's letter to the Galatians. Pick up reading in chapter one, verse 6:
Gal. 1:6 “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” NASB
This letter to the Galatians was written to churches who were struggling with a controversy that our enemies (the flesh, the world, and Satan) continue to use to trip up those who are seeking to live as followers of God. God's people have struggled with these issues from the very beginning. As we continue to look at this letter we will come to understand the issues they were facing and perhaps clarify for ourselves what God wants people to know, and what He wants us to experience in our relationship with Him.
Paul said he was amazed. So what was he amazed about? He was amazed that they were deserting God who called them by the grace of Christ. Seems to be very strong statements. He did not beat around the bush with these congregations. He was very concerned about them.
To say they were deserting God was no small concern. The whole point of the gospel message that Paul had taught them was to connect them with God. Now he fears they are abandoning the one who had called them out of the world into the church.
You do understand that the Greek word most often translated as church is ekklesia, don't you? It means the called out ones. We who know and have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have been born again. We have been brought from a state of death where we were separated from the source of life, to a state where we have life, being connected to the source of life, God. We have been called to come out of the world, to live in a relationship with God. He is our source of life.
Have the Galatians totally abandoned this great gift that just a short time ago they had claimed for themselves? Is that possible? Paul seems to indicate that it is a possibility.
Paul wants to get their attention and help them to see just how important the issue he is going to be clarifying for them really is. Their spiritual life is at stake. Their relationship with God is in jeopardy. He actually said: “6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;”
So what was this “different gospel” they had accepted, or were in danger of accepting? Paul continues to clarify what he means. It is not actually a different gospel, but is a distortion of the gospel message that Paul had delivered to the people he had won to Christ in Galatia.
As we continue to look at this letter to those churches we will discover the nature of the distortion that Paul was so concerned about. He was fearful that they would have abandoned their faith in God if they accepted the distortion that was being presented.
Does that make you want to know what the distortion was? Are we in danger of falling for this distortion today? Galatians will help us come to a clearer understanding of what Paul believed to be the true gospel that he had been called by Christ to preach to the Gentiles.
Do you want to know what the true message of the gospel is? Let us read on picking up in verse 8
“8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” NASB
Wow! “He is to be accursed!” This is strong language. Paul was not going to back down and he wanted the Christians in Galatia to know he meant what he said so he repeated himself. Whoever shares a distortion of the gospel like the one that was taught in the churches Paul was writing to “is to be accursed”. The Greek word anathema is translated in the New International Version as “eternally condemned”. This reminds me of when Jesus told us to treat those who will not listen to the church, in Matthew 18, that we should treat them as gentiles and tax-gatherers.
The word Paul used, anathema, may not be as strong a statement as the NIV would have it, but it is at the least a warning that the churches should treat anyone who teaches a distortion of the gospel should be avoided. They should not be accepted as teachers and leaders in the church. It is a strong statement. As far as we are concerned, whether they are just cast out of the church, or if they will be eternally condemned, we are not to accept what they claim to be the truth of the gospel.
Verse 10 would indicate that Paul felt those teachers were seeking to please men rather than God. He reminds his readers that he is committed to following Christ and calls himself a bond-servant. This is one who willing gives up his freedom to serve his master. When we come to Christ, we are to accept Him as Savior and Lord. Lord is not just a fancy title. We have committed ourselves to doing our best to follow and obey our Master. We have accepted Him as Lord of our lives and we, like Paul, are no longer living to please ourselves, or other people, but we consider ourselves to be bond-servants of Christ, as Paul did.
Looking at this from another angle, I believe Paul meant to accuse those who taught the distortion of the gospel of not living to please God. I believe he was implying they were living to look good to other people or living to please themselves. This is confirmed when he speaks of Peter, or, as he calls him, Cephas, in chapter 2, verse 11 and following. Peter had been inconsistent in his relations with the church in Antioch and Paul called him on it. But I am getting ahead of myself in working through this letter.
As we look at the next portion of scripture, Paul shares a little of his history and how he came to be sharing the good news with others. He emphasizes that his authority does not come from man, but from God Himself. The good news that he preached to the Galatians had its source in God. It was not just good philosophy. Pick up reading in verse 11 of chapter 1.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. NASB
Paul wants his readers to know where the gospel message that he preaches came from. He shares his personal experience with them. He claims that Jesus Christ came to him personally. You can read Luke's account of this experience that Paul has described in Acts 9.
Jesus Christ appeared to Paul after His death, burial and resurrection. After Jesus had ascended into heaven, he comes back to personally confront Paul and change the direction of Paul's life. Paul had been persecuting the followers of Jesus and God put a stop to it. He personally appeared to Paul. This was Paul's source for the gospel message he preached.
Because of that encounter Paul knew that God had set him apart and revealed Jesus to him so that he, Paul, might preach Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Paul said that he knew that this was God's plan for him from the beginning, that he had been set apart even from his mother's womb for this purpose.
Paul's gospel message was based on this experience. Although we may not have a dramatic experience with the Lord to match Paul's, if we are saved we have in essence experienced the same thing that Paul experienced.
The gospel message is this. We first hear the message that Jesus Christ is God's Son and that He died, was buried and rose again. God, by His Spirit, convinces us that this is the truth and we accept Jesus as our Savior, who died that we might be forgiven and begin living as bond-servants of Christ.
This is a gift, that is, it is by grace, not by works. It is God's doing, not our own. God forgave Paul for having Christians put to death. Paul had not been serving God. He thought he had been. He believed he was doing what God wanted him to do, but when God revealed the truth to him, when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus he came to see that he had been serving something other than the One True God.
Perhaps you have wasted your life by living for other things. God wants you to hear the truth. He loves you. He sent His Only Begotten Son to die for you. He did that so that you could begin living for what is truly important in life.
We are not here to serve ourselves. We are not here to live by rules. We were put here to live in a relationship with God. We were put here to serve Him, to honor Him, to allow Him to use us to carry out His mission in the world.
Paul accepted the love and forgiveness of God and turned His life over to God. When He accepted the truth he was born again, he became a new person.
God wants you to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord. He wants to use you for His purpose. He wants you to live for Him, and to walk with Him each day.
The good news, the gospel, is that Jesus died that we might have life abundant and life eternal. The source of that life is the Presence of God leading us day by day.
Perhaps you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, but you did not know that God saved you to be His bond-servant. You can make a commitment of yourself today to begin living with Jesus as Lord. We call that a second work of grace, or sanctification.
Paul said that God had set him apart for a special work. God wants to set you apart as well, to carry out the work that He wants to do through you. It does not matter how old you are or what your station in life is at the moment. God wants you to seek Him and allow Him to guide you each day into a deeper relationship with Him.
What ever your need today, God will bless you as you commit yourself to a life of service to Him and to the people around you.