Chico Alliance Church
“That Old-Time Gospel”
The early church had a strong commitment, a passion, an all-consuming fervor for the
apostle teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and a wide variety of Prayer. This consuming commitment was based on a basic understanding of the freedom found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The more we understand the revolutionary message of our freedom in Christ, the stronger our passion to live the basics.
There was time when a discussion concerning the gospel would assume certain basic understanding of what we mean by the Gospel. Not so today! Just as this early church struggled with those who would pervert the message of our freedom in Christ, so today, we have those who would confuse us and distort the basic message and truth revealed through Jesus Christ and recorded in the Bible. By studying this strategic letter written by Paul to the churches of Galatia, I hope to reinforce in our minds and hearts the basic core of the gospel and the accompanying freedom that comes from understanding the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf apart from our keeping of law. This is a letter of Paul to the churches in the region of Galatia. These were churches established by Paul himself through the preaching of the Gospel.
Harrison adeptly summarizes the background to the letter.
Paul's converts in Galatia were in danger of losing their grip on the Gospel of Grace that he had taught them, because of the activities of certain men who were troubling them and upsetting them. One man seems to have been a ring leader. It is customary to describe these agitators as Judaizers, whose aim was to convince Gentile Christians that in addition to putting faith in Jesus as the Christ they must follow the same procedure as converts to Judaism, namely, to accept circumcision and observe the Mosaic law and the customs. In order to attack the Gospel that Paul had proclaimed among these people, it was expedient to attack the legitimacy of his position has an apostle and to make it appear that he was inferior to the original apostles. For this reason Paul found it necessary to defend his apostleship as well as his gospel, to show that he had an independent call directly from the risen Lord and that he had his Gospel from the same unimpeachable source. Further, he was able to demonstrate that when he did confer with members of the apostolate, he was found to be in agreement with them concerning the Gospel.
Paul has a passion for these people because he had invested time and energy in them. These Judaizers disturbed the churches regarding at least three issues.
1 – they questioned Paul’s authority
2 – they advocated circumcision as necessary for salvation
3 – they encouraged keeping the laws and customs of Judaism as necessary to quality of life in Christ.
We have an equivalent of the Judaizers working against the basic truths of this letter.
There are those who would question the authority of the Bible.
There are those who would advocate keeping certain laws as a requirement of salvation.
There are those who would encourage the practice of additional customs of men as necessary to earn God’s favor.
It is my hope that we will reinforce the vital truths concerning grace not only for our salvation but related to our daily walk as well.
In this letter to the Galatian churches Paul addresses at least three main issues.
I. I possess the correct divine credentials 1:6-2:21
II. I reaffirm the correct divinely delivered concept of the Gospel of grace 3:1-4:31
III. I advocate the correct daily conduct of a life under grace 5:1-6:10
Paul asserts his authority as an Apostle to address perversions in the truths regarding our salvation and our sanctification. He addresses the question of genuine freedom. May we too learn what it means to be and live free indeed in the weeks to come!
INTRODUCTION TO THE LETTER 1:1-5
This introduction serves as an encapsulation of the message of the letter.
Yes it contains basic information about the source and destination of the letter, but in it, we also gather insight essential to understanding the issues he intended to address.
“Paul an apostle
Not from men
Not through the agency of man
But through Jesus Christ and God the Father
Who raised Him from the dead”
Paul often asserted his divine apostleship in his correspondence to the churches. Here, it is firmly asserted along with three other assertive statements.
First, Paul identifies himself as an apostle.
This was both a narrow and general term. Generally it applied to those who represented Christ. Narrowly it applied to those personally commissioned by Christ and specifically granted authority to speak for Him having personally been instructed by Him and having personally seen the resurrected Christ. Paul here asserts that his apostleship had nothing to do with men. It was not from a man. It was not through any agency or group of men.
Paul claims his authority to speak for Christ came through a direct commission of Jesus Christ with the full endorsement of the Father who raised Christ from the dead. Paul wasted no parchment with his normal personal niceties but jumps right to the issue of his divine authority. Paul’s divine authority is as vital now as it was back then. In this age of relativity and denial of any absolute truth we have been provided a sure source of divine communication.
Through Paul and the other unique, divinely commissioned messengers we may have confidence that what they recorded is an accurate representation of divine truth. Thus when Paul writes to correct real live error, we can turn to his writings to address error as it continually raises its ugly head in regard both to creed and conduct. We must come to the word of the Lord with the utmost confidence that what has been recorded is without a doubt what God intended for us to know. God has not communicated everything about himself but he has communicated all that is necessary to gain and maintain a life generating relationship with him. Paul clearly asserts his authority to correct wrong conceptions and the wrong conduct regarding the Gospel grace to which he was commission personally by Jesus Christ and gave his whole life. We must maintain strict care to build only upon the foundation of the apostles. Even though Paul forcefully asserts his authority at the very beginning of his letter, Paul was not a self focused person.
So, in this letter Paul includes those companions that were with him at time of his writing.
Along with Paul’s companions
“And all the brethren who are with me”
It is important to note that Paul distinguishes himself from those “brethren” who were with him. He did not refer to them as fellow apostles but rather the brethren who are with me.
To: the churches of Galatia
There is some disagreement as to which churches Paul addresses here. The choices are between Southern Galatian and northern Galatian churches. Many believe that Paul here refers to the churches of Southern Galatia that were established on his first missionary. This would include the cities of Pisidian Iconium, Antioch, Lystra, and Derbe mentioned in Acts 13 and 14.
Directed to the Galatian believers
“Grace and peace to you
from the Lord Jesus Christ
In Paul's standard blessing or greeting, he made an early reference to the present enjoyment of our salvation through the grace and peace that is ours by reason of our relationship with God are Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though their early defection from the true gospel deeply disturbed his heart, Paul offered a divine blessing upon them. He called God’s amazing grace upon them which results in His peace that passes understanding. He addressed the practical application of grace and peace to daily life in chapter 5-6 In this greeting, Paul also makes reference to the very core of the Gospel, namely – “Christ died that we might enjoy deliverance and freedom in the midst of a fallen world.”
Who gave himself for our sins
He might deliver us
out of this present evil age
according to the will of our God and Father”
All though this greeting we have the unified work and will of God the Father and the Lord Jesus.
They were the source of his apostleship.
They were the source of a continued life of grace and peace.
They were the source of our deliverance.
Out of deep gratitude and reverence for God, Paul directs glory to God.
Directed to God
“Glory forever! Amen”
As we approach this letter written many years ago we must keep in mind that it was written by one directly commission to communicate what is true concerning the Gospel.
It was intended to keep our creed straight and our conduct vital through a true knowledge of our freedom in Christ.
I. Paul’s Correct Divine Credentials 1:6-2:21
A. Paul expressed amazement at such a quick departure from the gospel of grace vs 6-7
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7
Paul declares his continual (present tense verb) amazement, his wonder, his astonishment at the early defection of these believers from the truth. This is the same word used in the Gospels for the response of people to the signs and wonders of Jesus. Paul here shares an attitude of rebuke not rejection. He communicates a deep concern for a grave danger facing the Galatian church.
“so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel.”
“deserting” two Greek words (place, put / another place)
put in another place (besides first place) the one who called you by the grace of Christ
in favor of another message. One which focuses on the efforts of man
Paul’s concern was not so much they were putting aside doctrine, by rejecting the teaching of grace they putt aside the God of grace. The truth and God are inseparable. You cannot serve God and reject the truth He represents. By embracing a distorted teaching on grace, they deserted the one who called them.
Paul is devastated that these who God called by grace would now embrace a different means of relationship with God not given by Him.
“different” ‘herteros’ (another of a different kind)
They embraced a teaching and therefore “teachers” which distorted the true gospel. It was “good news” of a different kind. It was not just an embellishment or variation of the gospel but a diversion of the gospel that becomes something different all together. Paul identifies the action of these false teachers.
“disturbing you” to trouble, to stir up, to deeply disturb.
Jesus used this word to describe His feelings at Gethsemane.
“distorting the gospel” turn about.
What were these guys doing? They heralded the importance of the death and resurrection of Christ. They maintained allegiance to Christianity. They simply added requirements to the teaching of grace thus perverting the whole thing. If you add small amounts of arsenic to a Snickers bar or any food, the whole thing is lethal and destroys the one who eats. The Gospel of grace is the same. Any deviation from the teaching of salvation by grace alone produces death and defects not just from correct teaching but from the teacher, the one who called us by race.
B. Paul condemned anyone distorting the gospel of grace vs 8-9
But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8-9
Paul calls for a curse on anyone who distorts the true gospel. It doesn’t matter who, Paul even includes himself as well as some angelic appearance.
“Anathema” put under a curse, to be turned over to the wrath and judgment of God.
This curse is pronounced twice by Paul. I said before and it still stands. “Let him be under the curse of God.” The messenger must continually be committed to an accurate representation of the message. Paul asserts that it doesn’t matter how important or flashy the messenger, it is the message that changes lives and gives life. The gospel is a once-for-all delivered faith. It doesn’t change. Men distort it. Men add to it, but it does not change as originally delivered. Paul calls their attention to what was originally taught by him and received by them. It is gratifying that we do not have a faith that evolves or changes at the whim of any who feel it no longer is acceptable. Our faith is based on truth communicated by God and does not change with the times.
It is always relevant. It is the same yesterday, today and forever as sure as the Christ who taught Paul is the same yesterday, today and forever.
C. Paul affirmed his personal commitment to the gospel of grace vs 10
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Paul insists his teaching is not based on what pleases men but Christ. He has taught what he was told to teach as a dedicated bondslave of Christ. He is not just playing to the Gentile audience. He is faithfully discharging his duty as a voluntary bondslave of Christ. If he were trying to please men he would not have put up with the kind of suffering associated with being Christ’s bondslave, namely a stoning at Lystra recorded Acts 14. Paul next launches into a brief historical narrative demonstrating the divine origin of the Gospel of grace which we will explore next week.
D. Paul confirmed the divine origin of the gospel of Grace 1:11-2:21
Next week we will trace the work of the God of grace in the life of Paul that qualifies him to be an apostle and herald of the gospel of grace.
Insight and Possible application
Exercise great care that we embrace and expound an undistorted gospel of grace.
Demonstrate an abhorrence and outrage at any attempt to deviate from the gospel of grace.
Any deviation from the purity of the gospel of grace must be seen as serious and not just a doctrinal difference but a rejection of the God who called us by that grace. To embrace any other “gospel” is to embrace the human or demonic beings who teach it.
John Stott calls us to an important application in his commentary on Galatians.
So then, it is as we hear the diverse views of men and women today, spoken, written, broadcast and televised, we must subject each of them to these two rigorous tests. Is their opinion consistent with the free grace of God and with the plain teaching of the New Testament? If not, we must reject it however august the teacher may be. But if it passes these tests, then let us embrace it and hold it fast. We must not compromise it like Judaizers, nor desert it like the Galatians, but live by it ourselves and seek to make it known to others
In the weeks to come we will focus on this gospel of grace delivered by Paul and received by the Galatians.
Hopefully it will only be a reinforcement of our present concept.
I hope that it also effects any necessary adjustments to our present concept of the gospel of grace.
Today, we must continually sort out arsenic-laced Gospel messages. We are continually bombarded with distortions of the good news of freedom in Christ and thus live in bondage to a man made distortion. It is the truth that sets us free and we can only know the truth as His words abide in us and we abide in his words. There are some life-giving words of Jesus recorded by Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in this short letter to a church struggling to work out their salvation. Keep tuned to the Galatian frequency that you may receive again the message of grace. There is no other teaching like it in the world.
It is the life giving message of God’s grace through Christ who
Who gave himself for our sins that He might deliver us out of this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father.”