Summary: Part of a sermon series on Galatians
What is the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ? Even among Christians only 60% could answer the question correctly. Paul describes it in one of my favourite verses in Romans 1:16-17. “It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew and then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed; a righteousness that is by faith from first to last”.
The Gospel is the power of God, it is nothing to do with anything we do. It is to do with God forgiving us through Jesus taking our punishment and death on the cross and the Holy Spirit raising us to new life with Christ. Totally God. Not us. The Gospel brings salvation for everyone who believes it. Salvation means to be rescued or freed. We are freed to live the lives God designed us to live, no longer having to do what sin demands of us, but having a choice to do God’s will. When this happens we are made righteous. That means we are put into proper relationships: with God, with each other and with ourselves. We know who we are and are people of peace. All this, especially our righteousness, comes from faith – total belief and trust in the Gospel, in what God has done for us. Again it does not involve us doing anything except accepting the free gift of new life.
But there are some who say you have to do more to receive your salvation and righteousness. This is what the Galatians faced, but it is not unique to them, it goes on today.
Eddie Cooney was in his twenties when two JW’s knocked on his door. They were pleasant and Eddie was interested in what they had to say. He studied the literature they gave him and in the end, as he was Catholic, he invited a priest to come round to discuss the Bible with them. Eddie says, “I’m afraid they just tore him to shreds quoting scriptures at him and the priest ended up storming out. It wasn’t pleasant.”
“So, after that”, Eddie says, “I started going to the Kingdom Hall. I was welcomed and I felt they were living as Christians. They were zealous, sacrificial and didn’t make money out of it. I got rid of my insurance policies – after all I would not need them in paradise would I? I gave up my full time job so I had time to fit in the 80 hours a month knocking on doors which they demanded of me. Whenever I did see any of the family, which I was encouraged to do less of, I drove them crackers trying to convert them.
“But after a while the initial sense of freedom and love disappeared as more demands were made that I make myself a true follower. By then I was trapped. I had a tremendous sense of guilt; no JW can ever work hard enough to pay God back. I had to attend meetings, had Watchtower material to read, door-to-door work to do. I gave up my freedom of choice, freedom of thought. I learned not to trust other people: we were constantly being told not to trust anyone “of the world” which was totally evil. A great deal of time was spent discussing who was “weak”. One lady had to leave early to get her last bus home but it was regarded as weakness of faith”.