Posted by: missionventureministries | November 30, 2017

PAUL’S WARNING TO THE GALATIANS AND FOR US – Galatians 1-4

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. (Galatians 1:1) 

Paul explains in his epistle to the Galatians the dramatic change that he received by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12) and that the cause of such a drastic change was God’s revelation of his Son to him.  

Paul reviews the record of his pre-Christian life in order to show the wonder of God’s grace. Although he never ceased to identify himself as a Jew “I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1), he only used Judaism as a way of describing his life before he became a new creation “in Christ.”  

Like the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah wrote, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4-5, Isaiah 49:1), Paul sees himself as set apart by God from his birth for his prophetic role (Galatians 1:15). 

Although he recognizes that his former life was lived in opposition to God’s will, he still claims that his entire life is part of the sovereign plan of God. What a wonderful hope this gives each one of us.  

God’s decision to set Paul apart from before birth led to his life-transforming event by God’s call. Before Paul was born, God chose him. While Paul was trying to destroy the people of God, He called him. That is the meaning of grace and undeserved love. That same grace abounds today and is available to all that will accept it, because it is a free gift of our loving Creator God. Paul writes that God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). 

As we look at the new Galatian believers we see their lack of understanding of what Paul had taught them, since in all probability they thought that by simply adding a few Jewish customs to the gospel they were enhancing the value of their faith in Christ. But this addition to the gospel actually negated the essence of the gospel. First Paul rebukes the Galatians for their desertion; next he blames the confusion on those who perverted the gospel; and then he pronounces a solemn condemnation on all who tamper with the truth of the gospel: “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…If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (1:6-7, 9). 

Paul’s expression of astonishment is actually a strong rebuke as we read in (v.6). He is stunned that people, who had just recently experienced so much of God’s miraculous power by His Spirit in their lives, would now turn away from him. They were turning their backs on God in order to follow a different gospel.  

Paul is upset and tells them: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:1-5). 

Their preoccupation with racial identity, religious observance and ceremonial rituals was robbing them of their experience of God’s grace expressed in Christ; and was drawing people away from God to focus on themselves.  

The Galatian tragedy is a warning for us, that not every quest for spirituality is in reality a pursuit for God. When we are enticed by provocative books on New Age spirituality, we must remember that the Galatian Christians were captivated by a message that promised spiritual perfection but turned them away from God. “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7).   

The captivating, even mesmerizing teaching of some people in the Galatian churches had turned their believers away from the true gospel. Paul boldly asserts that the different gospel which is so attractive to the Galatian Christians is really no gospel at all. It is a perversion of the gospel of Christ, perpetrated by some people who are trying to cause confusion in the Galatian churches. We must head Paul’s warnings and be very watchful since this is a trend that is very dominant in our churches today. 

Probably these people claimed that their message supplemented and completed Paul’s message. They did not view their version of the gospel as heretical. After all, they did not deny the deity of Christ, the cross of Christ or the resurrection of Christ. They subtracted nothing from Paul’s message, they only added to it. Had they been well versed in the Torah, they should have been aware that it was forbidden to do this, by the words of the Old Testament as found in (Deuteronomy 4:2). 

Paul places all supporters of a gospel that differs from the true gospel to be under condemnation, “but even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:8). Adherence to the true gospel is the final test of true authority. Even the authority of a messenger from heaven or the authority of Paul himself must be tested by loyalty to the gospel. It is important to note that Paul holds himself accountable to this ultimate measure of authority, as we see his statement in verse 10:“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” 

Sadly, in the history of the church we can observe where a number of persons in leadership roles attempt to exercise absolute control over the church and place themselves above any criticism. Enslaved churches lack freedom to grow in faith and love, just as was the condition of the Galatian churches. And the intruders campaigned for the exclusive devotion of the Galatian Christians, “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them” (Galatians 4:17). 

Paul gave a similar warning in Acts 20:28-30, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”  

Leaders in the church must lead with authority, because God is the ultimate source for their position; but they should also lead with humility, because God has set the final standard in the truth of the gospel, by which all are judged. Leaders must be held accountable. 

We need to remember that true servants of Christ will not win popularity contests with people who “gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). But even when they are unpopular, true servants of Christ are marked by unswerving loyalty to Him.  

“Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

 

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