Saturday, September 3, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Word 2: Gospel


Galatians Words ~ Word 2: Gospel

Our first word showed us that grace is Paul’s focus in the book of Galatians. Why? Because grace is at the heart of the gospel.

Here is Paul’s gospel message: Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins to rescue [or deliver] us from this present evil age” (1:3). Paul tells us that Jesus did this “according to the will of God the Father” (1:3). We are “justified [made righteous, right with God] through faith in Christ alone” Not by rules or the law or anything we could do. Paul’s gospel is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

In Galatians 1:6-7, Paul shares with us the problem the Galatians churches were facing and the reason why he wrote this letter.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Let’s look a little deeper at what this problem consisted of. We will, of course, come across it again in more detail as we go through the book and our list of words.

I’m struck first by Paul saying the Galatians are ‘turning’ to a different gospel. The gospel Paul taught them is fully dependent on the grace of God. Paul is passionate about grace, and it is because of his own dramatic conversion from being a Jewish Pharisee to being a fully devoted follower of Christ. In Paul’s previous life he was dogmatic about observing the many laws of the Jewish code and traditions. So dogmatic that he persecuted those who claimed faith in Christ. But when he himself met Christ face-to-face and he experienced the grace of God through Christ, Paul completely turned from his old way of life to embrace fully the new creation he is in Christ.

Last Sunday we had a baptism service at our church. 3 adults and 10 kids publicly proclaimed their faith in Christ in the baptismal pool. As a part of our baptism practice, each person physically is turned around as they affirm that they have turned from their own way and from sin and have turned to God’s way and a life devoted to Christ. This is a physical, visual way of expressing our faith in Christ.  To Paul, when the Galatians believe what these false teachers are telling them, it is very much like turning away form Christ and the gospel of grace.

These false teachers are believed to be Jews who most likely traveled from Jerusalem. They are often known as Judaizers, because they tried to impose Jewish law and practices on the Gentile believers. They were seeking to subvert Paul’s authority and his teaching.

Their ‘different gospel’ was a mix of salvation by faith in Christ and by observance of Jewish ceremonies and practices. In other words, grace plus works in order to be justified before God. They taught that the Gentile believers must become Jewish (undergo circumcision) and practice their ceremonies (Sabbath and other holy days) and observe the rules of the law to fully follow God. The Galatian believers were Greek Gentiles who would not have known much about the Jewish laws and traditions, and thus were easily swayed by these Judaizers who sounded spiritual and knowledgeable. So, Paul writes to the Galatian churches to get them back on track with the gospel of grace alone. This will all play out throughout the letter. This problem in the Galatian churches with the Judaizers also will lead to the Jerusalem Council, which you can read about in Acts 15. The Jerusalem Council will settle for all the churches that salvation is by grace alone and Gentile believers do not need to be circumcised when they follow Christ.

Because of Paul’s own transformation and his passion for the gospel of grace, he is passionate in this letter to the Galatians, sharing his despair and frustration intensely with them. Yet also reminding them of how they came to believe in Jesus Christ as a result of the gospel of Grace. The gospel is the good news for all, and Paul calls the Judaizers message “a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all” – it has no good news in it! And this is the danger then and now when we try to add anything to the gospel of grace: It holds no good news, it sets aside the grace of God and makes a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (2:21), and it results in falling away from grace and alienating Christ (5:4). The gospel of grace helps us have a correct view of ourselves and of God. Justification is fully the grace of God. We belong to God’s family because of what Jesus did for us, not because of anything we do.

If you add anything to the gospel, you lose the gospel. The gospel is Jesus Christ alone – solus Christus.

If you would like to spend some time preparing for our next word, justified, which will be presented on Monday. I suggest reading Chapter 2. Our next five words actually come up in chapter two. Color code those words and circle them in your Scripture Journal or on the copy of Galatians you made. We are going to dive into  lots of theology with these words found in chapter 2, especially in 2:15-21. We are going to slowly go through this passage so that we fully understand Paul's use of the next five words.

If you really want to dig in, here's an idea: Using Galatians 2:15-21, try 'walking' through the passage. I have a quick tutorial explaining what that means here. This is a great passage, but Paul has filled it with so much deep truth that it can be difficult to figure out exactly what he is saying. See if following the steps to 'walk' through the passage helps you understand it better.

Share how you respond in the Words Challenge Facebook group. You can also share on social media using #galatianswords. 

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