You and I live in a world that is rapidly leaving the principals of the scriptures and turning to false doctrines. In the scriptures God has laid out a plan for salvation, but many are guilty of teaching and preaching that God’s plan isn’t enough. Throughout America men stand in pulpits and teach and preach to their congregations that the death of Jesus Christ just isn’t enough for salvation.
This was the problem in the Galatian church. This church was founded by the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey. They heard the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, placed their faith in this message, were saved, and as a result saw their lives changed. This was a wonderful time in their lives. The trouble is that sometime after Paul left a group of false teachers came into the church and began to distort what Paul had taught. These men did not deny the gospel they just taught that the gospel wasn’t enough. Their message was that in order to be saved, or to be right with God, a person had to not only accept Jesus by faith, they also had to keep the Law of Moses.
This message of the gospel plus something is one that is not new to us. Today men preach the gospel plus baptism, the gospel plus a work of grace, the gospel plus good works. Just like the people of America today these people in Galatia were very fickle and were contemplating following after these false teachers.
Let me give you an example of the way these people acted. In the book of Acts we read that when Paul came to Galatia the people wanted to make him a god. The bible also tells us that the day after they wanted to make him a god they stoned him. They easily went from one extreme to another.
Paul begins this epistle by stating his apostleship. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent on a commission.” Jesus had several disciples which literally means “learners” but he chose twelve apostles. After stating his authority as an apostle he gives a quick greeting then gets into the meat of the epistle.
Paul begins his argument by presenting the gospel message. It is this message that these Judaizers are trying to change. Paul shows us the person of the gospel which is Jesus Christ. Paul shows us the price paid for the gospel in Jesus giving his life. We even see the purpose for the message which is to deliver sinners from bondage.
Notice that Paul states plainly in that Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins. There is nothing that a person can do to add value to this sacrifice. When a person gives themselves, as Christ did, they have given everything they can. When you give yourself you are giving your time, talents, everything you have. This is what Jesus did for you and me. To try to add something to this is to tell Jesus that He was not enough.
Because of the sacrifice of Christ you and I can be delivered from this present, evil world. The finished work of Christ proves its worth when a person accepts Christ and they are delivered from evil. Through Christ people are delivered from drugs, alcohol, pornography and all manner of sins.
Also notice that Paul says that the gospel is God’s will. God willed His Son to come to this earth and die on the cross for you and me. Jesus willingly laid down his life for our sins. Now God is willing that you and I accept His Son, be delivered from this evil world, and walk according to the will of God.
This was a message that these people had heard, accepted and founded their church on. Now however they are contemplating turning away from these truths. Paul marvels that they have been removed from the truths of the gospel. The verb used in this verse indicates that they were in the process of deserting the gospel, but that they had not fully turned away yet. These people were in the process of leveling liberty and returning to legalism.
I think it is worth pointing out that the gospel is broken down into two categories. We have the truths of the gospel which are the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
These facts are hard to argue with, or at least they were in Paul’s day. There were over 500 witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. It would prove difficult to argue with 500 people.
The second part of the gospel is the interpretation of the gospel. It was the interpretation of the gospel that the church was struggling with. After Paul left the region a group of Jews came to this Galatain country and presented them with a false doctrine. These Jews would tell the people that Paul was right in teaching them about the facts of the gospel, but that Paul’s message didn’t go far enough. They taught that while it was true you should trust Christ you should also keep the Law of Moses.
Dr. Weirsbe said this. “You cannot mix grace and works, because the one excludes the other. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace, purchased for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. To turn from grace to law is to desert the God who saved us.”
This heresy is still with us today. Many teach and preach a message of grace plus something. Some preach grace plus good works. Some preach grace plus baptism. In each one of these examples people are trying to add to the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Notice what Paul said to the jailer in Philippi.
“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou salt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:31
Peter said to the Sanhedrin:
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
I want to say that the grace of God is sufficient for salvation!
Not only were these people guilty of departing from the truth of the gospel, but they were actually guilty of perverting the gospel message. The word pervert means to go from one extreme to another. In Acts, Luke used the word to speak of the sun being turned into darkness. James used this word to describe laughter being turned into mourning. To add something to the gospel means that you make the gospel the opposite of what it really is.
This is such a terrible thing that Paul issues a double warning. His warning was that if any man was to preach a message different than the one he had preached, then that person should be accursed. To make the warning even stronger he states that if an angel from heaven were to appear to you and preach something other than the gospel message then that person should pronounce the angel accursed.
Adding something to the grace of God is what is known as “legalism.” The reason that so many people love legalism is because the gospel places man on a very low level. The gospel says that a man is a low down dirty sinner and there is nothing they can do about it. The gospel says that we are incapable of helping ourselves and therefore we need a savior. Legalism on the other hand says that if a man works hard enough he can overcome his faults. Legalism tells us that there is a little good in each of us and we simply need to cultivate that good.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Paul knew what he was talking about because he tried to do this same thing. Before he was Paul the apostle, he was Saul the Pharisee. As Saul he tried to work to the best of his ability to please God. After his salvation he said this about that part of his life.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8
Friend there is no way that you can work hard enough to satisfy God. Paul found this out in his own life. Paul went about from town to town preaching that the only way a person can be saved by the grace of God is by placing their faith, and faith alone, in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
As we move on through the epistle Paul will offer great examples of justification by faith. We will see the example of Abraham, the friend of God, the father of faith. We will even see the example of how the gospel changed the lives of the people in this church. I pray that you read along with me as we move forward, that you open your heart to the scriptures, and that you accept Christ by faith if you have not already done so.