Thursday, January 9, 2014

Galatians 1:6-10 A different gospel?

In chapter 6 of this letter, Paul wrote about gently admonishing someone who needs correction. He practiced what he preached here in today’s verses. As hurt and discouraged as he must have been to learn that the Galatians were being lead astray, he refrained from belittling them, and instead turned his anger toward those who were deceiving them.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)

Paul was flabbergasted that anyone who had tasted grace could be lead away so quickly. The Galatians had been called in the grace of Christ, but had turned to a different gospel. The word gospel means good news. Why would someone turn away from “good news?” Paul insists that this other “good news” is not really “good news,” but rather a distortion of the truth.

Paul’s anger at anyone who would distort the gospel is clear. In fact, he repeats for special emphasis that if ANYONE should deliver a message other than the gospel Paul originally delivered to them, then that person should be accursed. Even if it were Paul himself or an angel from heaven. So this begs the question: just what IS the gospel?

Thankfully, Paul was pretty explicit about this in his letter to the Corinthians (another church that needed redirecting).

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,  and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)

So basically, the gospel is that Christ died for our sins, He was actually buried because He was really dead, and then He was resurrected - and Paul was certain of it because a bunch of early believers and Paul himself saw Jesus and knew, without a doubt, that He lives! And Jesus died for our sins because we NEEDED a Savior. We could not save ourselves by any other means. Even Mary, his mother, in her song of praise, known as the “Magnificat,” acknowledge her personal need for a Savior, when she exclaimed, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Our salvation is a gift of grace. Period. There is nothing that can be added to what Christ accomplished on the cross, for if there were more, it would take the power out of the cross.

Don’t we need to do good works, too? Certainly! They show to the world that our lives have been changed, and they glorify God. But they don’t save us. Not even baptism saves us. Paul made it very clear that baptism was not part of the gospel that he delivered when, in 1 Corinthians 1: 17 he proclaimed the following:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

So, when anyone comes and tries to add to the gospel, claiming our salvation is in Jesus PLUS something else (join our church only, say these particular words, go through this ritual, etc.), that person has distorted the gospel.

After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus was approached by a crowd who wanted to know what they should DO. Jesus response is clear:

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)

Believe in Jesus. It’s not what WE do, it’s what He has DONE! Hallelujah! That is Amazing Grace!  

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