RCC in the Word Week of May 20

RCC in the Word

Week of May 20

Galatians 1.1-9


If you have ever booked a flight on a low-cost airline, you know that you can get a seat on the plane for a reasonable fare. However, the cost quickly escalates as you “add-on” various options. Carry on-bag, checked luggage, selecting your own seat, early boarding, paying with a credit card, window seat, aisle seat, extra legroom…. the list goes on and on. Suddenly that amazing fare isn’t so amazing after all.

In Galatians, Paul is writing to Christians who have “added-on” to the gospel of amazing grace. Even though “the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the evil age” (vs4) and is the source of “grace and peace” (vs3), many in the church in Galatia were “turning to a different gospel” (vs6). Using the language of military desertion, Paul underscored the seriousness of the Galatians’ decision to embrace this false gospel. Not only were they leaving behind the pure gospel of grace, they were abandoning Christ.  “Bewitched” (3.10) by Judaizers claiming that salvation required both grace and works, Christians in Galatia were “quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ” (vs6). With all the “add-ons,” they were rejecting both God’s grace and God’s Son.

Even though Paul founded the churches of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (all in the region of southern Galatia), false teachers quickly infiltrated the church. These Jews taught a different gospel, a gospel of works. They insisted that these Gentile Christians must adhere to the law of works in order to be saved. They argued that faith in Christ was not enough for justification; obedience to certain Old Testament ceremonies was also required. Like prosperity preachers today, these false teachers were “distorting the gospel of Christ” (vs7).

The issue of perverting the gospel of Christ is a matter of eternal life and death. Unlike his other epistles (see Rom1.8; 1 Cor1.1-5; Eph1.15-23; Phil1.3-11), Paul did not offer any commendation to the Galatians for their spiritual health nor does he thank God for them. These Christians were standing on the edge of a dangerous precipice, and he urgently needed to get their attention.  Paul sternly and soberly warned them of the danger. In verses 8-9, he declared that anyone who preaches a different (or false) gospel is “accursed,” which is translated from the Greek word anathema. Anathema refers to the condemnation of God; it is God’s curse. The NIV translates it, “Let him be eternally condemned.” If the lack of a warm and personal greeting did not alert the church to the seriousness of the situation, anathema set off the alarm bell!  

Since the Garden of Eden, we have had a tendency to add to God’s Word. God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it (Eve added this), lest you die (Gen3.3).  Although our gospel “add-ons” may not be as obvious as the false teachers in Galatia, you and I must be careful that we do not start believing and proclaiming a grace + works gospel. Subtlety, we add-on to the gospel, when we think we must do something good to cancel out or atone for a particular sin. We add-on to the gospel when we tell others they must trust Jesus and (fill in the blank). We add-on to the gospel when we reason that God elected us because he knew we would choose Christ.  In Luke 5, Jesus compares this type of thinking to putting new wine in old wineskins. He warns us that it is both foolish and destructive.

In verse 7, Paul reminds us that there is only one gospel. “Not that there is another one,” he writes. Anything other than the “revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs12) is “man’s gospel” (vs11). These counterfeit gospels cannot save anyone; therefore, they are not good news.  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Nothing else is needed for our salvation, justification, forgiveness or righteousness. In this gospel alone, we receive “grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (vs3). “We also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (2.16). That is good news….no add-on needed!  

Written by: Jeff Porter

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