Church of Jesus Christ,
A pastor loves the church, because he loves Jesus Christ, and he knows Christ died for the church. Cape Town VGK, are precious beyond price not because you are so friendly, or welcoming, or because you support mission, or have such a strong youth group, or a great school. You are precious and worthy of love because Jesus Christ laid down his life for you. You were bought with God’s own blood.
And there is nothing in all the universe as precious as the blood of Jesus Christ. God has set you apart –You belong to God who called you out of this world, through and in the grace of Christ. In Him we are a forgiven people who are called to everlasting life. The task of the leaders of this church is to guard that path zealously so that the church may not wander but rather hear clearly the call of God in Christ on their life. This is the only way to love the church.
It is only in this light that Paul’s passionate words at the beginning of Galatians make sense. His anger and frustration that you hear in his language is grounded in his care for the church. Pastor Paul will do all he can to make sure they stay in that grace of Christ, at all cost. Because only in the reality of the grace of Christ, will they flourish, will they find love, will they grow and be a powerful light to the community.
So, verses 6-9 of Galatians 1 come from the heart of a pastor that is profoundly in love with the people that he pastored, and the churches that he planted. He must talk to them about deserting the gospel that was preached to them. I don’t know if there is anyone in your life that is turning their back on God, but they desperately need you to talk to them. Or, if this is you today, I pray that you would see that these words come from a heart that has your best interest as its greatest concern.
The Gospel is at stake, sound the alarm!
- The church is deserting the gospel because of false teachers
- False teachers are placed under God’s judgement.
The Church is deserting the Gospel…
He says in verse 6, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel!” You hear Paul’s heart cry, “WHY?! How can this happen! Do you realize what you are in the process of doing, church!? I can just imagine Paul getting the news about the churches and wasting no time, running into his office, or tent which he made for himself, grabbing some paper and ink, and getting right to the point… Paul an Apostle (Verse 1) – Here is the summary of the gospel in 5 verses – then in verse 6, “ I AM ASTONISHED”! Unlike every other book Paul wrote there was no time for prayers, or praise, or ‘thank yous’. Even the Corinthian church had a long thank you, and that church had someone sleeping with their mother in law, had people disrespecting the Lord’s table, on top of that their worship services were a mess! And Paul says at the beginning of that book, “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”
Many of us today would judge the Corinthian church and think the Galatian church was on the right track. The Galatian church doesn’t deal with any of these problems. From the outside they looked orderly and reformed. If there was ever a traditional church in the strict sense of the word, it was this one! They went all the way back to the traditions of Moses! The problem was that in their passion for traditions they were looking right past God’s fulfillment of all those traditions in Jesus Christ. He was the prophetic fulfillment of all the OT law and prophets!
You see, in Corinth the gospel itself was not at stake. But in Galatia the very heart of the gospel was in danger. They didn’t know what grace meant anymore. Church of Cape Town, my brothers and sisters – we have to make sure we know what the gospel is.
But before we do that let’s lay out what the gospel is not. The Gospel is not a better life now. At least, not in the worldly sense of the word in that you will be wealthy, always happy, and healthy. It is not about boosting your self-confidence and self-esteem. The gospel is not a nice feeling that God has toward us, and because of that feeling decides to help a few of us. The Gospel is not that you will go to heaven, and there everything will be ok. Even though it will be.
The gospel is not that you have to go to a reformed church at least twice a Sunday, go to catechism, read your Bible, and try to live a good, hardworking life to be saved. But what if someone asks, “Don’t I have a part to play?” That question reminds me of a story a preacher told. In one of his sermons he spoke about a man who rose in a Sunday night service to give his testimony. Evidently, he magnified the grace of God, because afterwards a friend came to him with a comment: “You said a great deal about God’s part in your salvation. Why didn’t you say anything about your part?” The man paused for a moment said, “Please forgive me. My part was to run away from God as fast as I could. I kept running until he finally caught me.”
This is the Gospel: “God does everything.” He does so in Jesus Christ. Through faith in him you may have love, forgiveness, and live.” You are redeemed, justified, reconciled and glorified. We owe everything to God.”
We were dead as far as a stitch of righteousness before God is concerned. Dead people cannot do a thing. If you think that this is 99.9 percent God and .01 percent you, then you have warped the gospel, and it is no longer the gospel! Grace and law are mutually EXCLUSIVE as a means of justification. Do you see that – you cannot have both. And this is a beautiful thing. Because if it depended on me even in the slightest, I would never be able to live in the peace and freedom that Paul will describe later in the letter.
This is solely and only a work of God as we saw in verse 1-5. You see there that there is no human initiative in those verses. Zilch. Nada. Niks. Nil. It is all of grace, it is all found in Christ.
Look to Jesus Christ, and you will see the gospel! The good news is a historical reality in Christ, of justification (Forgiven!), a present reality in Christ of sanctification (I will make you holy), and a future reality in Christ of glorification (New creation). There may be no two more important words in Scripture than “in Christ (en Christo)”.
Church of Christ, I know I say this every week, but don’t you dare ever take your eyes off Him. The moment Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension is not the center of our theology, grace has lost all its meaning. Grace throughout the NT is tied to Christ, and you will see that in this book as well. There is no other Jesus, no other grace, no other gospel than the Jesus that revealed the grace of God, on the cross. That is the only gospel. That is the good news. That is why he says in verse 7, “Which is really no Gospel at all.” They were turning their back on the only good news in the universe. Why? We read in verse 7, “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Not long after Paul left some people came, disturbing them and distorting the gospel. And shockingly, these churches were listening to them!
He had just finished his trip through Galatia and it had been a rousing success, here are some news clippings of the event: In Antioch “many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas… when the gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord; and … the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region; At Iconium they “spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.” In Lystra they were welcomed like gods. Then at Derbe, “they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples.” It was quite a trip… you could say one of the most successful missionary trips in the history of Christianity. Which is why it’s so amazing that in no time at all the church was giving up the gospel. A reminder for the church of every age to stay in the grace of God. It only took a few years and they were already “deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ”.
Instead of listening to the call of God in Christ they were listening to other pastors that came in and who started to distort the gospel. When previously Paul had come these people had opened their ears and hearts to the voice of God, and started walking the path of salvation, but it did not take long for other voices to come in starting to drown out the voice of grace and before you know it they couldn’t even hear the call of God over the clamor of these false teachers.
In their confusion the Galatians were in the business of deserting him. Saying to God – we don’t need you – We are glad Jesus Christ came, we believe he is the messiah, and he brought us salvation –but now that we are saved we don’t really need you anymore… we have the Old Testament to fall back on – now that you accept Jesus as savior you need to just do a few extra things and then you will be well on your way to heaven. Church of Christ I hope you see the arrogance!
If we make any human criteria for justification – we have failed the gospel.. I hope you see how easy this is for us. And I am speaking to my own heart too. I grew up in a good Christian home, I feel like if I just stay the path I will be saved! But what I do cannot save me! Do you see the danger –
It is not the gospel of “If I just do all these things then I will go to heaven!” NO!! All these things that you do won’t get you to heaven! You don’t need to get to heaven, heaven has come to earth. It is Jesus Christ that has brought heaven to earth, and we do these things because we are now enjoying the fruit of eternal life, not to get eternal life. The second we switch that around we have lost the meaning of grace – and we take away from the death of the Son of God, as if we could add to his work, or add value to his blood. And any pastor or elder that teaches different lies under a curse. Which brings us to our second point.
False teachers are placed under God’s judgement.
This false teaching came to the Galatian church through teachers who probably came in the name of Christ. This teaching, as Paul says, was brought in by some (v. 7) “people who were throwing them into confusion and trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” These people were disturbing them. Where before there was the peace of Christ there was now confusion. New Jewish missionaries had come in after Paul to continue the work, but they were adding new requirements on salvation.
These Jewish missionaries were most likely using the same terms. They believed Jesus was the messiah, the son of God, the chosen one of Israel - their savior. But these Christian Jewish missionaries had come to Galatia to improve or correct Paul’s gospel. It’s not like they taught something way different, like Buddhism, they just wanted to add a thing here, systematize this, and traditionalize that. And wala! There is the real gospel, they said.
But Paul says you can’t add anything to Christ. If you sideline him you have a different gospel. These people weren’t walking around with t-shirts that said, “Hug me, I am a false apostle.” You see, sometimes the most dangerous teachers are the ones who preach a different Christ but still call him Jesus. So, the elders and leaders are called to be vigilant for the flock.
And if you’re still not sure how serious a problem Paul thinks this is then the next few verses should leave you without any doubt. He says in verse 8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” These are things upon which your and my eternal destiny depends. No wonder that Paul pronounces a curse on the ones that try to take people away from Jesus Christ. It does not matter who it is. If it was him or even an angel from heaven – if the arch angel Michael came to you and spoke another gospel then let him be condemned!
He couldn’t care less who it was, it wasn’t about the person but about the message they were preaching. There was too much at stake to deal with it in a joking or glib manner. Paul knows there is only condemnation outside of the good news of Christ, so he will damn anyone whose teaching damns others. A mass murderer must be stopped, and that is what people are that preach a different gospel! This echoes the language of Revelation 22:18,”If anyone adds anything to the words written in this book, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from his share in the tree of life in the Holy city.” Church of Jesus Christ, know what you believe. And keep your ears tuned to the gospel symphony so that the glorious music of that symphony will drown out whatever teacher comes along peddling a different gospel. Your life could depend on it.
Paul is serious about this curse that he lays on the false teachers. Just in case anyone thought he was joking though, verse 9 repeats the curse, “As we have already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned.” The first time he speaks he speaks in the hypothetical, “if anyone should possibly preach.” The second statement is one that is assumed true. They are preaching a different gospel- and they are under a curse.
Dear church of Christ, I hope that you do not see these words as hateful, or antagonistic. It is the simple truth, where people have departed from the gospel of Christ there cannot be any thanksgiving. It is heartbreaking and sad – and there are so many teachers that are distracting the flock of Christ.
This was not directed at individual church members but at teachers! Wolves in sheeps clothing – these are people that receive strong words in Scripture from Jesus and his disciples. Why? Because he loves his sheep. Passionately. And he will passionately defend them using the strongest language possible against anyone that would remove their peace in Christ. There is one gospel – one reality, no matter what the world will have you believe. I know it may not always seem like it, but life is no more real than when lived in the presence of the resurrected one. These people were doing nothing less than distorting reality, and Paul was not going to let that happen. No way. He was going to use some of the strongest language we find in all of scripture to make his dear church realize how serious he was. And since he wrote these words, many pastors have warned their flock with them. Not to bash them, but to show them that grace is only found in Christ.
It is not for nothing that these verses were quoted almost more than any other verses during the Reformation. People that stand on scripture alone, in Christ alone, will speak with conviction when they see people being led astray.!
And for us – please don’t desert the gospel – don’t walk away from your savior. And I am talking to every heart in here today. Please don’t do it. And if you know someone this morning that is walking away – love them and beg them not to listen to the voices in their head, but to the voice of truth. O that we would love people with the love that has been shown us. And if you are here for the first time I hope this passage or sermon does not scare you away, but rather that you will know that here we will love you enough to speak the truth. There are a ton of things that we can agree to disagree on – but the one thing not up for debate is the gospel of Grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ alone. Rest in the grace of Christ. This Jesus us a complete savior.
So, come to him while the everlasting Gates of the city are still open.