Read Galatians 1
We are going to be spending some time with the Apostle formerly known as Saul. He is responsible for writing most of the New Testament. He is responsible for much of our church age theology. Paul is perhaps the only Apostle with a resume.
Certified Jewish Heritage. Tribe of Benjamin. Circumcised the 8th day.
Pharisee, and a good one. That means that not only did he know most of the scriptures by heart, he had also produced commentaries on them—a midrash is you will.
Ambitious. Was on what he thought was a mission from God by trying to wipe out these blasphemous followers of Jesus until his road to Damascus experience where he met the resurrected Jesus and received his real mission from God.
Roman citizen. That would come in handy.
And handy enough that he could earn a living making tents.
Paul would later say that he became all things to all men so that some might be saved. In the weeks ahead of us, we are going to spend some time reading letters that Paul wrote to specific churches and groups of churches. To begin, you will need to remember these words: Go Eat PopCorn.
Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Collosians.
To apply what we will study to our lives today we need to put one thing into perspective: circumcision. It was a big issue at the time and pervaded much of Paul’s verbiage, but we need to understand it was not the issue at all.
That’s good news for us. Circumcision is not a big deal for us in this 21st Century. Of all the things that people come to me to talk about or seek counsel or just have someone to whom they can vent, circumcision has never come up.
Money, sex, drugs, music, kids, alcohol, pity parties, loss of loved ones, anger, hatred, forgiveness or the inability to forgive, guilt, shame, prison, tattoos, homosexuality, faith, prayer, hope, love, marriage, shacking up, and even homework have come up many times, but nobody comes to see me to discuss circumcision despite how much Paul talks about it in some of his letters.
And that’s just fine because what Paul is talking about really is not about a ritual procedure but protecting the freedom that we know in grace. Procted it from what? Protect it from slavery to the law. Why? So that we may use our freedom to fulfill the law. The law of love—that we love one another—is our fulfillment.
We understand something of freedom or liberty as Americans. It was gained at quite a price. It has been retained at a very high price. We hope and pray that we will retain the blessings of liberty not only for ourselves but our posterity.
We understand that our salvation came at a price. We did not pay it. It was and is a gift. God’s grace is a gift but we must fight to hold on to the freedom that we know in this gift.
To proceed, understand that the law divides and the Spirit unites. The law would divide Jew and Gentile but the Sprit brings all of God’s children together. The law given by God and fulfilled in Jesus becomes a burden and a master of its own when made a condition of salvation.
But living fully by grace and walking with God’s Spirit, the law places no yoke upon us and becomes the guide to good living that God originally gave his people.
Only living fully by grace can we be certain in our relationship with God and certain in our relationship with the law.
So we come to this letter to the Galatians, and they did not quite understand any of this. They were off to a good start but were not sure enough of their foundation and became susceptible to one of the main infiltrators of early Christianity—Judaism.
As we look west in Paul’s journeys, he must contend with such things as idols and meat sacrifices to idols and other issues of the gentile world. But here in Asia Minor, it was the Jews that had claimed to accept Jesus as Lord and as the Messiah, who thought that grace alone was not enough.
The good news was too good for them. It needed some rules and regulations.
These infiltrators came along and convinced these new Christians that the good news is too good to be true, and some restrictions apply.
Paul’s reply, and if you have not read Paul’s letters much, you might note that this letter is something of an admonishment, his reply is that there is one gospel and no other. He gave it to them. It is from God and not man or man’s understanding.
There is no other gospel. The way to life is Christ alone.
You remember the proverb, Trust in the Lord with all of your heart but apply your own understanding when it takes you out of your comfort zone.
That’s not the proverb but that was what was happening.
C’mon guys. This Jesus stuff is good. I am a believer too, but there have to be some rules. There at least has to be a sign in the flesh.
Paul tells these Galatians who seem to be giving up on the uniqueness of the gospel that there is no other gospel. The gospel is not one commentary among many.
Pharisees wrote commentaries. Some were surely better than others but generally all seemed acceptable to their contemporaries. Rabbi’s had some flavor in how they taught the law, each with his own uniqueness, but the gospel is stand alone unique.
It is a one and only.
It is not deficient. It is not man made. It is not subject to modification.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He died and took away our sins. He atoned for our sins. He paid the price in full. Once we accept this gift we must also accept that we need do nothing else to obtain our salvation.
Now how we live is our response to this gift. That is our discipleship but for this moment we need to be of one mind that our salvation is a gift from God.
Paul is telling this church and all others who would one day read this letter that there is one gospel and that gospel is that life comes from Christ alone.
It is not Christ plus circumcision.
It is not Christ plus a Saturday Sabbath.
It is not Christ plus never making a mistake again.
It is not Christ plus enough good works.
It is not Christ plus speaking in tongues.
It is not Christ plus your voter registration.
It is not Christ plus wearing a coat and tie.
It is not Christ plus anything else.
The gospel—the good news—is Christ. He has come and has redeemed us.
And we need to stick to our guns on that. We don’t need to be susceptible to persuasion on this matter. Are there disputable matters in the Bible?
Absolutely! We will hear what Paul says about disputable matters a few weeks down the road, but we must make sure that we repel all attempts to corrupt the gospel.
There is no other name by which we may be saved. It is Jesus and all Jesus.
Let’s revisit something we covered early on. We must protect the freedom that we know in grace from slavery to the law or any other condition that anyone, including ourselves, places upon our salvation.
The gift is 100% from God and we need to be 100% certain and accepting of this point. Jesus paid it all but it is my responsibility to protect the freedom that I know in grace.
I must not let anyone—again I include our own thoughts and understanding—invade and corrupt the freedom that we know in this gift.
If you ever made an offering out of guilt or participated in a ministry because you thought your salvation was at stake, then you let someone invade and corrupt the gospel you were given. That person was probably you, but sometimes others can be convincing as well.
Jesus paid it all. His sacrifice and your acceptance of this incredible gift took care of your salvation.
If you were to analyze the close to 1000 sermons that I have preached in the last decade, you would find that I spend very little time on salvation when I am preaching. Witnessing and counseling and general interaction with the world is a somewhat different story, but when I am speaking to the saints, most of what I talk about is discipleship.
The foundation has been laid with you. I don’t need to build another foundation each week. Most of what I proclaim from the pulpit has to do with discipleship.
But Paul was writing to a church that was listening to people tell them that their foundation was cracked. Paul said it just isn’t so. There is one gospel. You heard it. You received it. There is no other.
The question for 2016 is, are we ready to go forward sure of our foundation?
The world is not going to make more sense in the year to come. It will go from crazy to bizarre and probably beyond by this time next year.
Your faith will be challenged by the world. Have you received the one and only foundation that will withstand whatever storms the world sends your way?
We not only want to weather the storms of the world; we want to put the words of Jesus into practice in the middle of the storm. To do that, our foundation must be certain.
There is only one gospel. It is good news of life in Christ, but we must do a better job that the Galatians did of protecting our freedom that we know in this grace for only then will we be free to fulfill the law. Only when we are certain in the gospel will we truly be able to live the law of love and love one another.
I challenge each of you to affirm that you have no other gospel that that of Christ alone. I challenge you to fight off any attempt to corrupt this gospel, modify this gospel, or compromise this gospel.
Let us go into 2016 certain of our salvation in the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus so that we can truly live the lives we were made to live.