Summary: In a world where there are many different "Gospel’s" preached we need to make sure that we are not distracted from bringing the true Gospel. It is not the task of the church to be popular. It is the task of the church to be faithful.
At school in science we did an experiment called a litmus test. Basically you would put a piece of special paper into water and see if it changes colour. Blue litmus paper turns red when the water is acidic. Red litmus paper turns blue under alkaline conditions. The litmus test gave you an idea about the nature of the water.
Over time the word “litmus test” also came to be applied to people.
Those who want to serve as politicians need to pass a “litmus test” of credibility.
People who want to be in a position of authority should pass a “litmus test” of integrity.
It is standard or a measure by which people are judged as to their suitability and effectiveness for a certain task.
So let me ask this question.
What sort of a “litmus test” does the church need to pass for it to be seen as being credible and having integrity?
Would it need to be over a certain size?
Would it be a church that has lots of young people?
Does credibility require a powerful worship experience?
Does credibility come when a majority of members are in small groups?
What does it take?
With these questions in mind let’s read
We have read this passage because Paul wants the Galatian church to know that they are in trouble. And the way that Paul talks here makes it very clear that the Galatians are in big trouble. Usually, when Paul writes a letter to a church, he opens with a word of thanks.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Romans 1:8).
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. (Philippians 1:3-4).
Even to the Corinthians, which is a church that gave Paul so many problems and cause for concern, he writes
I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4).
But that is not what Paul says to the Galatians.
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. (Galatians 1:6).
There is a true story of a man who was working in his garage. He was the kind of person who did not like to be interrupted while working on a project. Knowing this, his wife walked into the garage and stood quietly at his side for several minutes, waiting for the right time to speak. At last, her husband looked up, which was the signal that she was free to say what was on her mind. Very calmly, and without a trace of panic, she said, “The house is on fire”.
Sometimes we need to forget politeness and bluntly state the problem. The burning house was a time for blunt communication. The fact that the members of the church in Galatia were deserting the Gospel is a time for blunt communication. These churches were in serious eternal danger and, if left unchecked, there would be devastating results.
But what is it about this desertion that makes Paul so astonished?
The Galatians were moving the Gospel ... which is central to our relationship with God ... and they were replacing it with the burden of following the law.
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:1-3)
For some unknown reason the Galatians had allowed false teachers to infiltrate their church and disrupt truth. These false teachers were saying, “Yes, Jesus died for us, but that is not enough. We must add to His death by also following the law of Moses and being circumcised so that we may truly be saved”. That is the false message. And it isn’t a small deviation. It is a completely different message.
Only Jesus and His works are able to make us right with God.
Our place in God’s family is only based on the willingness of Jesus to show us grace and compassion.
If at any point we think that we have made it on our own merits then we are in serious trouble because we are following a different Gospel.
“Don’t deviate from the message of the Gospel”. That is the clear message which Paul wants to bring across – and it seems simple enough doesn’t it.
So why don’t we listen?