No Other Gospel - Part I
“I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.” Galatians 1:6
Galatia was a massive Roman province that extended nearly coast to coast through the mountainous region of what is now central Turkey. Even though we may not really know how much of that area Paul evangelized, we do know that he planted many churches throughout that region and led many to the Lord.
The people of Galatia were known as being a branch of the Gauls who had migrated west from France and settled in Asia Minor sometime in the third century BC. They were heathen and knew nothing about God or the things of God, yet it was to these people that the Holy Spirit would send the apostle Paul. He would stay there for some two years ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ, which would result in these Gentiles accepting Christ as their Saviour, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and receiving the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for sanctification. Let us be clear, the message of the cross was the message that Paul began with regarding salvation, and he continued this message all the way through the sanctification process.
Imagine a people with no previous knowledge of God now saved, baptized with the Holy Spirit, and living and enjoying the abundant life that Christ spoke of in John 10:10. Their lives had been completely revolutionized for the better, and they owed so much to the great apostle of grace.
But soon after the Holy Spirit led Paul out of Galatia to other missionary journeys, something took place that caused the apostle to write a strongly worded letter of rebuke to bring a people whom he loved back to right relationship with Christ.
Judaizers, who were a sect of Jewish Christians, came into that region and began to instruct the Galatian church on how they must adhere to the law of Moses. In other words, the Galatians must come to God through the basis of the Jewish law, and they were determined to stamp Christ with the Jewish trademark. For quite some time, Christianity was looked at as a sect of Judaism, but now all ties were severed. The Judaizers demanded that the Galatians observe the law of Moses and introduce the rites of circumcision, which was the initial physical rite of Judaism. In other words, they were leaving the fundamentals of the gospel of grace and coming under the laborious struggle of law. When he heard of this change in direction, Paul had no other choice but to write this short epistle in every effort to win them back to the grace of God.
So Soon Removed
After his initial introduction, Paul begins his letter in a different manner than any other letter. We hear a certain tone the apostle has, one that oozes frustration, anger, hurt, and heartbreak. He says, “I marvel that you are soon removed from Him who called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6). This is a strong indictment against the Galatians. Paul seems quite amazed—not in a good way—that they were turning completely toward the opposite direction, and quickly.
If you take notice of Paul’s other epistles such as his epistle to the Romans or to the church of Corinth, you will find that his opening remarks offer high praise or thanksgiving to these churches. But in the book of Galatians, we don’t see this. He was direct in his approach to show the severity of the issue at hand, so he didn’t mince words. In the first phrase, the verb removed is active and the tense, being present, would read “you are quickly deserting,” or “turning away so quickly.” This signifies the transferring of one’s allegiance to something else entirely different. The word picture is one of a soldier deserting his post and revolting, thus labeled a turncoat. This is the type of phraseology that Paul used when writing to the Galatians. This, my friend, is quite incriminating. Today we could say the same of scores of individuals who have come into the message of the cross, and yet, for whatever reason, have left that message for something else entirely different.
The Message Of The Cross
Many have an erroneous understanding of what that word cross means. They automatically think it refers to a wooden structure whereon Christ was crucified. But when we mention the cross, we are referring to the event of Christ laying down His precious, perfect life in our stead to pay the sin debt that once hung over our heads—a debt we could not pay. It was the event of Christ pouring out His blood to redeem the lost sons of Adam’s fallen race. It was the occasion of Christ satisfying the demands of the broken law by becoming a sin offering, one that a thrice-holy God would accept.
The message of the cross also has to do with everything that we receive from God, all paid for by Christ through what He accomplished at Calvary on our behalf. This means that the cross of Christ is a one-stop shop for all that we would ever need, from salvation to sanctification, from blessing to healing, and from deliverance to spiritual growth—it is all wrapped up in Christ and Him crucified. It’s the new covenant and different from any other covenant that God has ever made with man because this covenant cannot fail. And the reason it cannot fail is Christ.
The Gospel Of Grace To A Gospel Of Works
Paul saw the Galatians turning from the gospel of grace toward a gospel of works, which is what brought about a righteous indignation in the great apostle. They were spiritual deserters; religious turncoats. These individuals, for whom Paul had a deep and abiding affection, were simply rejecting the message that he had given them, and they were accepting that which was being presented by the Judaizers, which was completely contrary to the message of the cross.
Grace is the goodness of God given to undeserving man, but it is also how God works sin out of the heart and life of every believer. We need the grace of God to flow in us, through us, and out of us just to make it in this life. In order for grace to flow unabated, our faith must be totally anchored in the finished work of Christ, which automatically gives the Holy Spirit the ability to work and causes grace to flow.
These converts, who had accepted the gospel of grace were now turning their backs on what was presented to them by the apostle Paul and embraced instead a gospel of works. To make matters worse, their defection came on the heels of Paul leaving the region of Galatia, which is why the apostle was so urgent about this message getting to them.
It’s one thing to present the gospel message, but it’s something altogether different when the same people who once accepted that message move away to something else. As a pastor, it breaks my heart to see or hear about a person who had begun this journey of the cross only to leave it for many and varied reasons. I shake my head and wonder at how they could leave the freedom that is found in the cross knowing that they will never find the freedom they had once experienced. It was the same for the church of Galatia.
This article will be continued next month.
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