Summary: This sermon is the second in a series on Galatians.
The Triumph of Grace
“What’s Your Story?”
May 21, 2000
This Morning’s Text – Galatians 1:11-24
“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
“For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
“Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they were glorifying God because of me.”
Paul has chastised the Galatians for turning so quickly away from the one true gospel to a false gospel which cannot save and whose purveyors are to be accursed.
As we saw last week, Paul minces no words in his condemnation of those who would lead people astray—because heaven and hell are quite literally at stake! We have an awesome responsibility to take the truth of the gospel to those who are not in the faith. What are we doing with our responsibility? You see, the danger I fear this church falling into is the danger not of changing the gospel but of neglecting to share it with others who need to hear it. The practical effect is the same!
“Okay, Paul, so there is only one true gospel. Why yours?”
Three dimensions to Paul’s gospel:
Open equally to the Gentiles as well as Jews
Interestingly, the focus of the Reformation was on the first two, but the focus for Paul in Galatians is on the third one.
The Judaizers’ “Gospel”
“Jesus + Moses = Salvation”
It was not that the Judaizers perceived themselves to be against faith in Christ, per se; they would have proclaimed the necessity of Christ. What they were doing, however, was adding to the gospel message; they were attempting to make Gentiles walk first through the doorway of Judaism, through the observance of certain rituals of the Jewish religion, prior to coming to Christ.
The Judaizers were no doubt people who feared that “this Gentile thing” was about to get out of control. It was a difficult enough pill for them to swallow that the church was such a wide-open proposition; it was a bridge too far for them to accept the idea that these Gentiles could be brought into the same body of Christ, uncircumcised and oblivious to the
rituals and customs of Jewish religion. It was a struggle as much with a proud nationalism as anything else. These Jews would be familiar with Gentile proselytes coming into the Jewish faith previously; this would not be especially bothersome. But in the case of Gentile converts to Judaism, there was effectively the “becoming Jewish”, a more-or-less wholesale adoption of Jewish rites and practices. Here, though, these Gentiles were becoming Christians…period! And Paul was the one on whom they trained their sights: it was he who, in their minds, was promoting an obligation-free gospel, lowering the bar as it were in order to win friends/converts. Ironically, it was Paul who was preaching a gospel that cut across the grain of human thinking—for man’s idea of what it takes to make things right with God almost always involves some form of self-effort. Let’s look at some popular “gospels” which we hear preached today:
A World of False “Gospels”
The “Gospel” of Self-Knowledge – “Know thyself”; “To thine own self be true”
Perhaps this is the umbrella idea under which all of these others fall; basic idea is expressed in the Humanist Manifesto, which states, “No god will save us; we must save ourselves.” This is the gospel of self-understanding; it ignores the Biblical teaching that we frankly cannot know ourselves as we truly are, for our viewpoint has been grossly warped by our sin. G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy, says in the first line of his argument, “Thoroughly worldly people never understand the world.”