LIVING IN LINE WITH THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL
“Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.” (Why did God do this?) “according to the will of our God and Father”- (because He wanted to). (See Gal. 1:4)
Paul’s letter to the Galatians has been called the Magna Charta of Christian Liberty, the Cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation and the heart of justification by faith alone. It was needed to correct the false gospel that the Judaizers (Jewish legalists) were expounding that Gentile Christians must practice traditional Mosaic ceremonial customs (circumcision, dietary laws, etc.) in order to be right with God (righteousness). Paul argues forcefully that salvation comes from faith in Christ alone (a passive righteousness – an imputed righteousness) and if anything is added it is a “different gospel” which means it is not the gospel at all.
Paul backs up his message by saying that he is an apostle (sent by God not man – v.1) and that his dramatically changed life validates his message. (vv. 11-24)
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.” (Gal. 1:6, 7) Paul gets right to the point! A different gospel (faith plus works) will not only endanger lost souls from receiving Christ as they choose a works-based religion over the gospel (and all religions except Christianity are works-based), it will also cause Christians to lose their Christian liberty and add works to their faith in order to be accepted by God. “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." (Galatians 3:10 as Paul quotes Deut. 27:26) The law requires perfect performance to be accepted by God and thus we will be under self-condemnation if we are trying to earn God’s love and acceptance by keeping the law. Scripture says that mankind and even Christians are more wicked than we ever dared believe (see Romans 3:9-18 for a true description of all mankind) and yet the gospel says when we become Christians we are more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – all at the very same time. The more we see our sinfulness the more precious is the gospel of grace and the more we are aware of God’s grace through Christ the more we are able to drop our denials and self-defense before God and man.
Performance based acceptance (PBA) with God is “a different gospel”. Pastor Tim Keller says that unless we believe the gospel we will try to earn a sense of self worth (righteousness) through performance. If we try to earn God’s love through our performance we will either feel spiritually proud when we are feeling successful or very discouraged and self-condemning when we feel we are failing.
I once asked a new Christian I was discipling what was the greatest thing to him about being a Christian? He said, “I now can know the truth and do what is right.” Christian liberty is not doing anything we want to do but having God’s power to do what He wants us to do (which as new creatures in Christ we also want to do). “For I endorse and delight in the Law of God in my inmost self [with my new nature].” (Romans 7:22 Amp.) Later Paul argues that the law still has a purpose for Christians: (the “law” here means spiritual truth revealed in Scripture not Mosaic ceremonial rules).: 1) it serves as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ for salvation as we learn we cannot please God by keeping the law because we cannot perfectly keep the law; 2) it serves as a guide for living after we become Christians (Romans 7:7- 8:5); and, 3) as we obey God’s law/truth by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we honor God and manifest His character to others who may be led to salvation. We don’t earn God’s love by keeping the law but as new creatures is Christ we delight in honoring and blessing the One who loves us so by obeying Him.
Martin Luther exhorts us to preach the gospel to ourselves. “O law (performance based acceptance) you are not my Savior but a guide for my behavior and you have overstepped your bounds by accusing me and condemning me. Jesus loves me this I know, just as I am. And because He loves me so much, I (in my new nature in Christ), want to love and please Him.”
PBA says, “I want to please you God to earn your love.” Whereas a gospel-based Christian says, “I want to please you God because you love me so much.” This is a response to God and all He has done for us in Christ.
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD’S WORD
What were some of Paul’s feelings and the reason for them when he wrote this letter?
“Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.” (Why did God do this?) “according to the will of our God and Father” (because He wanted to). (See Gal. 1:4) Discuss the words and phrases underlined.
What is the key difference between Christian righteousness and all other kinds and why is it so critical to know the difference?
What difference does the gospel make to a believer in his on-going growth and how can they (or you personally) wrongly add to the gospel today?
I asked a new Christian I was discipling what was the greatest thing to him about being a Christian? He said, “I now can know and do what is right.” How did the law (spiritual truth) work in your life before becoming a Christian and now what purpose does it serve for you as a Christian?
PBA says, “I want to please you God to earn your love.” Whereas a gospel-based Christian says, “I want to please you God because you love me so much.” This is a response to God and all He has done for us in Christ. Discuss the difference in these statements.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25) It is in doing God’s Word, not in just hearing it, that we are blessed. What action will you take to apply these truths to your life?
Scripture memory verse: “But even if we (Paul even includes himself) or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” Galatians 1:8