The Good News of Freedom (Galatians 1:6-12)
As I was getting ready to go to Belarus last month to teach church multiplication, I thought about getting my class handouts translated into Russian for the students to use. I had about a hundred pages of handouts, but to translate them would have cost $5 a page or $500 total.
It just cost too much, so I thought about finding a program on the internet that could translate the material. Then I remembered reading about a guy who used such a program to translate the song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” into German, and I gave up on the idea. The guy had wondered about the accuracy of the translation, so he had the same program translate it back into English. You know the song:
Take me out to the ballgame.
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack.
I don’t care if I ever get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team.
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ballgame.
Well, when this guy translated it into German and then back into English, something got lost in the translation. It sounded a little militant, like Arnold Schwarzenegger:
Execute me to the ball play.
Execute me with the masses.
Buy me certain groundnuts and crackerstackfusig.
I’m not interested if I never receive back.
Let me root, root, root for the main team.
If they do not win, it is dishonor.
For there are one, two, three impacts on you at the old ball play.
(Lee Strobel, Meet the Jesus I Know, Preaching Today Audio No. 211; www.PreachingToday.com)
It sounds like we’re going to get beat up rather than enjoy a good ball game. Sure, the song is somewhat recognizable, but the meaning comes out quite different.
You know, that same kind of thing can happen in our understanding of Christ and the gospel. In people’s sincere efforts to translate the gospel into something we can understand, sometimes things get lost in the translation, and the Jesus we think we know ends up as a caricature of who he really is: somewhat recognizable, but really quite different.
My friends, we must be careful that we believe the RIGHT Gospel. Otherwise, we could be headed in the WRONG direction and never experience true freedom in this life or the next.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Galatians 1, Galatians 1, where the importance of believing the right gospel is made very clear.
Galatians 1:6-7a -- 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. Literally, “which is really not the same gospel.”
You see, false teachers were coming after the Apostle Paul and claiming to preach the same Gospel he did. But Paul makes it very clear, “They are preaching a different gospel.” And he warns us, DON’T BELIEVE IN A DIFFERENT GOSPEL. DON’T TRUST IN AN ALTERED FAITH SYSTEM. DON’T TURN TO ANOTHER SO-CALLED “TRUTH.”
A few years ago, Robert Webber was traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a plane where he sat next to the window, reading a Christian book. The man next to him, obviously from the Far East, asked him, “Are you a religious man?”
“Well, yes,” Webber said.
And the man responded, “I am too.”
They began talking about religion, and in the middle of the conversation Robert Webber asked his seat-mate, “Can you give me a one-liner that captures the essence of your faith?”
“Well, yes,” the man said. “We are all part of the problem, and we are all part of the solution.”
They talked about his one-liner, a statement Webber felt was very helpful. Then after a while Webber said, “Would you like a one-liner that captures the Christian faith?”
“Sure,” the man responded.
“We are all part of the problem, but there is only one man who is the solution. His name is Jesus.” (Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? IVP, 2008, p. 26)
You see, Christianity is unique in that it recognizes that Jesus is the only answer to our problems. All other religions see us as part of the solution. In all other religions we have to do something. But Christianity says we cannot rescue ourselves from “this present evil age,” to use Paul’s terminology in verse 4. Christ Himself had to come down to “give himself for our sins.” He is the one who does all the work. All we need to do is trust Him. All we need to do is depend on Him.
That’s the gospel! That’s the good news! & Anything else is no gospel at all. Anything else is NOT good news.
The false teachers that came after Paul were teaching that faith in Christ is not enough. They were telling people, “It is fine that you believe in Jesus, but you also have to obey the law in order to find acceptance with God.” Like every other religion, they were talking about what we must DO in order to get on God’s good side. But the Bible, the only true Gospel, talks about what God has already DONE to reconcile us to Himself.
On the cross, Jesus cried, “It is finished!” The sin-debt has been paid in full. All that remains for us to do is accept it by faith. All that remains for us to do is believe.
That’s good news, because we all know in our own hearts that we could never earn our own freedom. We all know in our own hearts that sin is a constant struggle, so somebody from the outside has to rescue us, and that Somebody is Jesus.
Just trust Him with your life, and He will set you free! That’s the Gospel. Anything else is no gospel at all, so don’t believe in a different gospel.
More than that, DON’T BELIEVE IN A DISTORTED GOSPEL. DON’T DEPEND ON ANY PERVERSIONS OF THE FAITH. DON’T TRUST IN A TAINTED TRUTH.
Verse 7 says, “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
False teachers distort the good news. They twist the truth, and it confuses people. The false teachers that were following Paul, told people that they had to earn God’s acceptance, that they had to earn God’s favor and blessing, by keeping all the rules. They were saying that faith in Christ is not enough, that there are other things you and I have to do to get God to like us more.
To be honest, false teachers are still saying the same things today. & Many of God’s people are confused. Many of God’s people really believe that God doesn’t like them very much unless they do more, unless they read more Bible verses, or go to more church services, or help more people.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Bible, in Ephesians 1, makes it very clear that for those of us who have trusted Christ, we are already “blessed with every spiritual blessing” (vs.3). & We are already “highly favored” by the Lord” (vs.6). In the original Greek, that verse uses the same terminology the angel used when he addressed the Virgin Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored” (Luke 1:28). God cannot love us more than He already does!
Every believer is “blessed” and “highly favored” by the Lord, simply because we believe, simply because we trust Him.
God really appreciates it when we depend on Him. & Any time anybody adds anything to faith as a requirement for God’s acceptance, then all kinds of red flags should go up.
We should be like those little bluegills that the cities of San Francisco and New York use to detect the presence of toxins in their water supplies, a possible sign of a terrorist attack.
According to an article by the Associated Press, a small number of bluegills are kept in a tank at the bottom of each city’s water treatment plant, because they are highly susceptible to chemical imbalances in their environment. When a disturbance is present in the water, the bluegills react against it. If the computerized system of the treatment plant detects even the slightest change in a bluegill’s vital signs, it sends out an e-mail alert. (Marcus Wohlsen, Fish used to detect terror attacks, www.ABCNews.com, 9-19-06)
We should be like those bluegills. When the pure, living water of God’s good news gets tainted with any additive, then we should react against it. When we as believers begin to think that we have not done enough to earn God’s blessing and favor, then all kinds of warnings should go off in our heads.
Anyone who believes in Christ is blessed! That’s it! That’s the good news. That’s the Gospel. Please whatever you do, don’t believe in a different Gospel. Don’t believe in a distorted Gospel. &
My friends, please DON’T BELIEVE IN A DAMNED GOSPEL. DON’T DEPEND ON A DOCTRINE THAT WILL ONLY CONDEMN YOU IN THE END. DON’T TRUST IN A TEACHING THAT WILL DESTROY YOU IN THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT.
You see, whenever we contaminate the gospel with anything other than simple faith, then we condemn ourselves to hell. A perverted gospel poisons all who swallow it. I know that’s strong language, but that’s the language of the Bible.
Look at vs.8 -- But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
“Anathema” is the word. It means “devoted to destruction.” And just so we don’t miss it, Paul says it again.
vs.9 -- As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Let him be devoted to destruction.
In 2000, an Illinois scientist named William Walsh studied strands of hair from the body of famous classical composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. By studying those strands of hair, Dr. Walsh discovered that Beethoven’s body had 100 times the normal amount of lead. He concluded that Beethoven’s untimely death at the age of 57 was due to lead poisoning.
What’s interesting is that Beethoven’s lead poisoning can be traced to the mineral spa that he went to in order to relax. Think about that: the very thing he thought was bringing him relief and relaxation was actually slowly poisoning him to death. (Tim Peck, "Deepening Your Life with God," PreachingToday.com)
That’s exactly what a poisoned gospel does! As people engage in practices and embrace ideas that are spiritually poisonous, they think it is making them more spiritual. But in reality, it is killing them. It is destroying them spiritually.
Please, don’t do it to yourself. Don’t believe in a different gospel. Don’t believe in a distorted gospel. & Don’t believe in a damned gospel.
Instead, BELIEVE IN THE DIVINE GOSPEL. DEPEND ON THE GOOD NEWS THAT COMES FROM GOD HIMSELF. TRUST IN HIS WORD, AND HIS WORD ALONE.
You see, we don’t have to live our lives trying to please people. We don’t need to worry about what people will think.
vs.10 -- Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
I like the way Bill Cosby put it: "I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." (www.quotationspage.com)
When we try to please everybody, it only puts us in terrible bondage, and we don’t have to do it. We don’t have to live our lives trying to please people.
All we have to do is trust Christ. All we have to do is commit our lives to Him.
vs.11-12 -- I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Paul did not get his gospel from any man. No. He got his gospel directly from Jesus Christ Himself. &
What exactly is the Gospel that Paul preached? Well, we have the details of it in Acts 13, where Paul’s message to the Galatians is recorded.
If you will, turn with me to Acts 13. I’ll pick it up at verse 26.
Acts 13:26-31 -- “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
This is the Gospel that Paul preached. This is the Gospel that Paul got directly from Jesus Christ Himself. This is the Divine Gospel itself, and it is very simple: Christ died for our sins and rose again. Let me say it again: Christ died for our sins and rose again.
The next few verses talk more about the resurrection of Christ.
Then we pick it up at verse 38 -- “Therefore, my brothers,” since Christ died for our sins and rose again, “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” – i.e., the freedom from sin’s guilt.
vs.39 -- Through him everyone who believes is justified (lit., set free!) from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.
Who is the one that is set free from sin? Is it the one who tries to keep the Law of Moses? NO! It is the one who believes!
Faith, and faith alone, sets us free. Trying to keep a law only puts us in bondage, not because the law is bad; it’s because we are. Therefore the law can only condemn us when we sin. But Christ sets us free from the guilt and the bondage of our sin when we trust Him.
That’s the gospel that comes from God, and that’s the gospel we need to depend on every day. Trust Christ and experience forgiveness and freedom from your sin.
The film Luther describes the struggles of a young scholar to relate the simple, gospel message he was reading in the Bible to the rigid rules of his own church. Martin Luther’s own religious upbringing had taught him a gospel that was an exercise in fear.
Later, as he preached to his congregation in Wittenberg, Martin Luther dared to proclaim the truth of the simple gospel over the terrors of the institutional church.
Standing before his congregation he says, “Terrible. Unforgiving. That’s how I saw God. Punishing us in this life, committing us to Purgatory after death, sentencing sinners to burn in hell for all eternity. But I was wrong.
“Those who see God as angry do not see him rightly but look upon a curtain as if a dark storm cloud has been drawn across his face. If we truly believe that Christ is our Savior, then we have a God of love, and to see God in faith is to look upon his friendly heart.
“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this,” says Luther, “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know one who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.” (Luther, MGM, 2003; written by Camille Thomasson and Bart Gavigan, directed by Eric Till; 00:21:52 to 00:23:10)
That’s the simple Gospel that launched the Reformation. & That’s the simple Gospel we must believe today.
Otherwise, we can never be sure of our salvation. Otherwise, we will always wonder if we have done enough, if we are sincere enough, or if we are good enough for heaven.
Christ died for our sins. Christ rose again. All we need to do is trust Him. That’s the simple Gospel that comes from God Himself.
Don’t believe a different Gospel. Don’t believe a distorted Gospel. Don’t believe a damned Gospel. Instead, believe the divine Gospel: Christ sets the believer free!
It’s not a matter of praying the right prayer. It’s not a matter of doing the right things. It’s not even a matter of being sincere enough. It’s simply a matter of trust.
On what do you rely in a disaster? On what do you depend when your world is falling apart? What do you trust in when your survival is at stake?
When Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on New Orleans in the Fall of 2008, city officials ordered residents to evacuate, but one woman named Hattie decided to stay put. She told reporters that she had what she needed to ride out the storm, explaining, “I’ve got liquor, cash, food, ammo, and weed.” (Craig Brian Larson, chief editor, PreachingToday.com; source: "Escaping Reality," The Week, 9-12-08, p. 4)
A lot of people trust their liquor, their food, or themselves to get them through life. But those things will eventually fail.
I invite you: Trust Christ with your life. He will never fail!