The Truth of the Gospel: Sermons from Galatians
Galatians 1:3-12 The Grace of Christ WC McCarter
The Apostle Paul and his missionary partner planted churches in southern Galatia during Paul’s first missionary journey around A. D. 47. There were four primary cities that they evangelized: Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia. During the Apostle’s second missionary journey, around A. D. 49, Paul and Silas went to those same churches to “strengthen the saints.” The apostle also wrote a letter to the congregations in that region, and many believe that Galatians was the first NT book to be written.
The major concern that developed in the Galatian churches was the arrival of false teachers. The false teachers, whom we will call Judaizers during our study, attacked on three points:
1. Undermined Paul’s Apostolic Credibility
2. Demanded Circumcision for Continued Justification
3. Required All Jewish Ceremonies/Rituals to be maintained
These legalistic Jews claimed to be Christians while harassing Gentile believers and pulling them away from the true faith that they had put in Christ for salvation. In light of the claims of the false teachers, Paul had three tasks to accomplish with this letter:
1. Defend His Apostolic Authority
2. Restate the Gospel of Grace in Christ
3. Encourage Christians to Live Free from Law
You see, the Gospel has always under attack. It suffers violence from the outside and the inside, directly and indirectly. The true Gospel of the grace of Christ is even being undermined in America today by thousands of preachers and religious folk who are more interested in making a name for themselves, enlarging their bank accounts, telling jokes and stories, and feeling good about themselves than proclaiming and believing the truths about the saving work and Lordship of Jesus Christ. They tell listeners that they can live their best life now, that if they sow a seed they will reap a great financial reward, that there is no Hell, and happiness comes by living however you see fit. This has been coined as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” that is, they uphold certain morals because they do want to be “religious,” their chief goal is to feel good about themselves, and they believe in God but want to keep Him at a distance until He is really needed. They pervert the Gospel to fit their own purposes instead of proclaiming the Good News that Christ has paid the penalty for our sins by going to the cross. They preach a God without wrath, men without sin, and a Christ without a cross (Richard Niebuhr). Sadly, this is only one form of Gospel perversion. For example, others preach a crucified Christ, but then add so many rules to go alongside faith that, in essence, they are telling you that Christ has not done enough, and you have to save yourself.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Grace and Peace from God (3-5)
The greeting “Grace and Peace” actually summarizes Paul’s message in only two words. Grace is how we attain salvation, and peace is what has been accomplished. These two things are going forth in the preaching of the apostle. The cross becomes central. Paul is not promoting himself but something totally outside of himself. Grace and peace are founded on the Father’s plan of redemption and the Son’s completion of it.
The primary display of the cross was not heroism, exemplary, or even love, but the chief concern of the cross was the atoning for sin. Christ’s sacrifice for sin has saved us from the present evil age.
Notice the harmony of the will of the Father and the work of the Son. Christ gave Himself according to the will of the Father. These two persons of the Triune God were in complete agreement about this plan. This is the plan and accomplishment of God. Salvation belongs to Him from beginning to end. Thus, all glory is due to Him.
Paul’s language, here, is closely in line with the theology of Isaiah 53 (Moo). The language of the Servant giving Himself as a willing sacrifice and also the acknowledgement that this sacrifice was in complete accord with the Father are both theological points that Isaiah 53 makes.
Let Him Be Accursed (6-9)
While the apostle usually follows his greeting with a prayer for the church and a word of encouragement, here he launches into a rebuke of the Galatians. In the same way that we are blown away by the prompt rebellion of the Israelites after the Exodus so, too, is Paul about the Galatians. The Israelites saw all of the miraculous plagues tear through Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, yet they almost immediately crafted a golden calf to worship. The Galatians heard the true Gospel of grace in Christ from the apostle and almost immediately were swept away by the perversion of the false teachers.
The apostle criticizes with great emotion the many who were turncoats. Like a soldier who deserts the battle field or a politician who completely flips parties, these folks were abandoning the Gospel that Paul had proclaimed and they had believed. While those two things may be serious, this has eternal ramifications. “They are religious turncoats, spiritual deserters” (Stott, 22). This is a more severe issue than simply changing from one Christian church to another. These folks were abandoning God. The apostle makes this precise and personal. This serves as a warning for us. When you abandon the true Gospel which was secured by the sacrifice of Christ, then you have no access to God. The only way to the Father is by Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no other name. If you abandon salvation by grace through faith, you abandon God.
What is grace? The word can refer to many things, but foundationally it is that undeserved favor of God toward sinners in the person of Jesus Christ which brings about our redemption. In other words, grace is God forgiving us for our sins because of Christ’s death even though we do not deserve it. God has determined to favor all those who put their faith in the finished work of Christ.
The end of verse six, going into verse seven tells us that they were leaving the Gospel of grace in Christ for another gospel, which was no Gospel at all. Someone can disguise their message as “gospel” all day long, but if it is not about the grace of Jesus Christ, then it is not truly the Good News. The Galatians were being led away into destruction by false teachers. We may call these false teachers Judaizers because they taught that to be a good Christian, one had to also continue to follow the OT Law. The apostle says that these folks were troubling the Galatians and perverting the Gospel. “To tamper with the gospel is always to trouble the church” (Stott, 23). They were teaching that to be saved one had to commit to Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, but then also fulfill the OT Law by observing circumcision and holy days. “In other words, you must let Moses finish what Christ has begun;” or, worse, “You must finish Christ’s unfinished work” (Stott, 22). For Paul, and the true believer, this is absurd. The Gospel that he declared to them was of the finished work of Christ, the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. There is nothing to add to what Christ has done. You must trust that what He has done is enough to save you because you cannot save yourself. You can never be righteous enough before God.
The apostle repeats himself in verses eight and nine, saying the same, strong statement twice: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” What was going on in the Galatian congregations was of utmost importance. There is only one Gospel that is true and saving. Paul had proclaimed that Gospel to those people during his first missionary trip. They had believed that word and put their faith in Jesus Christ. They were given peace with God as they were welcomed into the grace of Christ. Paul makes clear and emphatic that if they hear anyone, whether someone from earth or even heaven, proclaim to them any other message, they are to be rejected. He even calls down a curse on them. He calls on God to set those false teachers aside for utter destruction in the fires of Hell. If you thought that maybe the apostle rushed into this statement and was overtaken by emotion as he stated it, he says it a second time so that you may know different. What he has said was sober-minded and intentional. If you think that he is being spiteful to one group of teachers, you may notice that he is not because this is a mass statement that covers any false teachers including all men, angels, and even Paul and his associates.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ (10-12)
The language that Paul has just used is not for the faint of heart. He is obviously not trying to be a people-pleaser. He wants God’s favor on his life and ministry. He is a slave of Christ, one who belongs to Him. He has said what he has said because he answers to God and not to men. Of course, the apostle is following the example of the Lord who once sternly said, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”
This is not a man-made message. This is the God-generated Gospel.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) There is no other way to be saved than by putting your faith in Christ. Do not try to save yourself. You will fail miserably.
(2) Be on guard against false teachers. TV preachers and even some radio teachers are dangerous. The history channel, popular books, and such can be misleading. You may think that they are Christian, but they are fooling us.