Summary: Standing in the Freedom of the Gospel: Only One Gospel
Standing in the Freedom of the Gospel:
Only One Gospel
As I have said, Galatians is divided into three sections. In the first two chapters Paul defends his apostleship; in three and four he defends the gospel; and in the last two chapters he defends our liberty in the gospel. In today’s passage, Paul declares one truth, that there is only one gospel. From this one truth flow three statements. The first is that it is astonishing when a person hears and believes the gospel but then turns away from it (1:6–7); the second is that if a person rejects the gospel, he stands under God's curse (1:8, 9); and the third statement is that the servant of the gospel seeks to please God not men.
1. There is only One Gospel
Paul says that the Galatian churches are deserting God the Father by turning to a different gospel. Then immediately, to remove any false impression that there is more than one gospel, he immediately says there is no other gospel! There are two implications from this statement.
Pluralism is not an option
Paul’s gospel is not one among many options. The gospel claims exclusivity; there is no other way to God and there is no hope outside of Christ.
Doctrinal clarity is essential
The second implication is that doctrinal clarity is essential. This perverted gospel sprang up within the churches so Paul writes a whole letter clarifying what the gospel is. Some of us shy away from theology but it is not an option to declare and clarify biblical and doctrinal truth. Galatians is a perfect book for us to see the gospel clarified. The danger of a counterfeit gospel comes from within. Let’s look quickly at some counterfeit gospels within the church.
The moralistic gospel reduces Christianity to behavior modification. It boils down to good advice or steps to growth which amounts to modifying our behavior. Moralism is ingrained in us from childhood. We are rewarded for good behavior and punished for bad behavior. The bible is a hand book for human behavior and substitute’s moral instruction for the gospel.
The therapeutic gospel confuses spiritual symptoms like anger, a troubled marriage, or anxiety with our spiritual disease, sin. Because the diagnosis is superficial, the treatment is superficial. This gospel seeks to answer our desire for significance and happiness and self worth. It goes something like this, ‘God loves us and God wants us to be happy so the goal is to remove the obstacle to my happiness or what makes me feel bad.’ Unfortunately happiness becomes an excuse for sin. Another way it manifests itself is that God loves you so much that if you were the only person Jesus would die for you.
Universalism is the belief that everybody will end up in heaven. This gospel seeks to remove all sense of judgment and therefore justice from God. The recent book by Rob Bell, ‘Love Wins’ embraces this gospel.
The prosperity gospel sees God as a broker or vending machine. You do your part and God does his part; God is obligated to bless our obedience. Faith is not trust or placing confidence in God but is a force. A common example is giving. You give and God will give back to you but the object of our desire is no longer God but what we are getting back. So we give wanting to get. When we do that what we want to get becomes an idol. In contrast the biblical gospel teaches that giving flows from a transformed heart that desires to give because of a love for God and the gospel. You give because you want others to experience his grace also. You are motivated by reward but the reward revolves around God and treasures in heaven.
A great example of the individualistic gospel is the Easter hymn, “He lives.” “He walks with me and he talks with me along life’s narrow way. You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.” So you have people believe that they can be a Christ follower with no strings to a local church. They see no need and have no desire to gather with other Christ followers. But the gospel births a community of redeemed sinners.
2. Turning from the Gospel is Astonishing (1:6-7)
Paul is astonished by their turning away from the gospel. He is not just in disbelief; he is grieved and irate. The word turning away literally means to become a traitor. There are two reasons this is so astonishing.
Rejecting God their Father
It is not just the gospel they are rejecting but God their Father (used four times in Galatians). The Christian faith is ultimately a relationship with God our Father. They are turning away from God the Father who called them to himself. This calling starts in the mind and heart of God the Father before time began and finds its fulfillment in our ultimate glorification. Paul says, “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Rom 8:30).”