Read Galatians 1
Where is Galatia? It’s generally modern-day Turkey.
Where are the churches to whom Paul wrote? That’s still being debated. Some think they are in northern Galatia and some more to the south.
If he was writing to the southern churches, it might have been before the Jerusalem council that we read about in Acts 15. If he was writing to the northern churches, it was a few years later.
In either case, many from these churches had been influenced to abandon the gospel that Paul preached to them in favor of one that we might call Jesus Plus.
Who were the Galatians? Most history points us to Celtic mercenaries from Gaul. They remained in Asia Minor and settled and were known as good warriors.
The Romans gave them special status for a while, then when a few personalities changed in the political arena, Galatia became a Roman client state with a Roman governor. That’s the political side in a nutshell.
As far as faith goes, they were mostly pagans. There was some Jewish influence, but many had converted from pagan worship to the worship of the one true God and they came to their salvation by way of Christ Jesus.
They were truly strangers in their own land. They couldn’t go back to pagan worship and they were not welcomed in the synagogues, unless they professed the Jesus Plus gospel, which Paul noted was no gospel at all.
Realize that from the beginning, Paul is writing to a hornet’s nest of problems. Paul is not happy that the Galatians have given up what was given so freely to them. Salvation lies in Christ alone.
To discredit the gospel of truth, those who we will call the Judaizers sought to discredit the one who delivered the gospel. Paul begins this letter noting that the gospel he gave them came from God through Christ Jesus.
It was not from man or of man. It was the true gospel and it was not to be altered. Paul noted that even if an angel showed up on their doorstep with a different gospel, they were to kick him to the curb. Actually, tell him to go to hell would be more accurate.
Paul said that if he showed up with a different gospel, to tell him to go to hell.
There is no other gospel except that salvation comes through Christ alone. Let no one mislead you or pervert the truth. Stay the course!
We will get into Paul’s direction as to the law and feasts and festivals and even circumcision, but the message in this first chapter is clear. There is no other gospel.
Paul was somewhat terse in his letter. Normally, after his salutation and greeting, Paul offered some degree of thanksgiving for the work of the church to whom he was writing. Not here.
Paul jumps directly into his admonishment—his chewing out of the Galatian believers.
Paul personalizes his appeal that is sandwiched into his admonishment. I’ll paraphrase.
If I was in this just for me, I would not preach the gospel of truth but I would have stuck to being a Pharisee of Pharisees. I was on the fast track. I was rising to the top, thinking that I was doing God’s will. I was so going to be the number one pharisee of all time.
I was going to be the GOAT—the Greatest of All Time—at least as far as those who uphold and enforce the law go.
I was so zealous that I persecuted the church that I now serve. Only after receiving the truth from Christ Jesus, did I realize that I was making incredible progress but headed the wrong direction.
There were so many things in God’s directives and his law that I had not understood. It took some time in the wilderness to get my head around grace, but when I did, I shared it with you.
I came before you on behalf of Christ Jesus even after persecuting his church. There are a whole bunch of people who hate me. It would have been easier to stay the course of being a pharisee and persecuting the church.
I was blind, but now I see and what I see and have shared with you is that there is no other gospel than salvation in Christ Jesus.
Understand that I am the apostle that persecuted the church and now I proclaim the truth—that Jesus is Lord and the only way to salvation. I do this to the glory of God.
Paul will consistently send a message to many churches that we are no longer a slave to sin or to the law or governed by death. If we are to be a slave, it is to Christ Jesus, to righteousness, and we are to live fully in the light and by love.
Paul will describe how he met with church leaders, sometimes butted heads, but that the gospel remained unchanged.
How is this relevant to us? C’mon, these were a bunch of pagans who came to salvation in Christ Jesus and now are being tempted to add some things to the gospel that saved them.
We are Americans. We all have at least three Bibles. If you live in Burns Flat, you have several copies of the Gospel of John. If you don’t, you will!
How many times do we look at others and condemn them? They can’t be saved. They wouldn’t be doing that if they were really saved. They had better produce some good fruit if they want their baptism to count for anything.
They are smoking and drinking and having sex before marriage. He’s got two sister wives. She’s peddling dope when she’s not using. And the language that he uses is atrocious. They can’t be saved unless they start changing their ways.
How often do our minds put conditions on what Christ has made absolute and unconditional? We are saved through Christ alone.
Does that mean that it’s ok to go on sinning? By no means. Our response to our salvation that came completely from the love of God through Christ Jesus should be holy and righteous.
Only God knows if we have truly professed Jesus as Lord. We see things that we might take as evidence of salvation, but we also miss things that professed Christians wrestle with every day.
Coveting, lust in one’s heart, desires for carnal things may never manifest themselves in visible actions, but we are blessed that we have a Savior who knows the human condition and our struggles. His salvation is not contingent upon our performance but our belief.
Our salvation lies in Christ alone, not Christ plus circumcision or Christ plus the Festival of Weeks. There is no other gospel.
As we navigate these letters, we will see that the law was not abolished. We need to understand our relationship to the law and to customs and sin.
It will be hard for most of us to empathize with the participants. Most of us never worshiped idols. Most of us didn’t grow up with mom sending us to the corner store to get a god for the harvest and get a bubble gum for ourselves.
We also didn’t grow up memorizing much of the Torah as the guide for good living, perhaps the only guide we thought we would ever need. We might have thought of Messiah from time to time, but we formed him in our own image.
And there are the new Christians who had Paul’s teachings but Paul was off to share this gospel with other parts of the world. And Paul didn’t leave them with a whole Bible, not even a Gospel of John.
We will attempt to understand different perspectives here, but we must focus on the central message. There is only one gospel and it is salvation in Christ alone.
Understand that there is a whole bunch more to discipleship, but we must never permit the gospel that we know to be corrupted. You are saved by the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus.
I believe God raised him from the dead.
I have passed from death to life. This body may perish but you will live because of the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even though he dies.”
We must know that we are saved in belief in Jesus Christ our Lord. There are a whole bunch of things that we should do in response to this great love, but we must know that we are saved by grace through faith. There is no other gospel.
Paul’s letters present a different model than we found in the Proverbs. There are not a dozen or so different quips of wisdom to consider.
As we proceed through these four letters, we will see churches with different circumstances, different challenges, different attitudes, as well as different geographies. What we must bring to each part of these letters is the understanding that salvation comes only in the grace of God that we know in Christ Jesus.
There is no other gospel.
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