Paul warned the Galatian saints about those who would corrupt or change the gospel of Jesus Christ by preaching another kind of gospel which included faith PLUS works to be justified before God. Can you think of any religious organization that teaches that today?
Galatia was in what is now central Turkey. Paul had many converts in Galatia during his first missionary journey and wrote this letter to them somewhere around AD 50. When Paul left the Galatian Christians, they were extremely devoted. But over a short time, they began to adopt false notions. They attempted to revise the gospel by including pagan observances and Mosaic rituals like circumcision. Like it was to the believers at Corinth – Paul and his authority as an apostle was under attack in Galatia. So, his first objective is to prove he had received his commission as an apostle directly from God. Galatians 1:1-5 “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” Paul was a qualified witness of the Lord’s resurrection. An apostle called directly by the Lord.
Now, Paul presents the general purpose of his letter. Verse 6 “I marvel (I am shocked) that ye are so soon removed from him (God) that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:” Verse 7 “Which is not another (actually, there is no such thing as ‘another gospel’); but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert (corrupt or change) the gospel of Christ.” There is only One Gospel – One Good News. What was happening was that some group of individuals was pushing elements of the law on them as an approach to destroy the grace of Christ. This message will be overly clear as we get into Chapters 2-5. Remember, the Good News is the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to restore people’s relationship with God. But as people frequently do even today – the Good News is just not enough for them. They want more – they need more. And as result we have the birth of religion. The Good News can be summarized in one Word – Jesus. Receive Him by faith in total and you have received the Good News. We also note that the Gospel does not, include: anything about water baptism; nothing about church membership; nothing about temples; nothing about tithing; nothing about dietary laws; nothing about priesthoods. The Good News is simply Jesus – who He is, and what He did, and trusting that it was accomplished. Done – Over! The believers had moved from the simplicity of the Gospel and embraced a different system – one which taught an entirely different method of justification before God – other than faith in Jesus. It taught faith PLUS. This is the object of religions and especially religious cults. There are also those groups who assume that because Jesus has finished the work and had the victory – there is no need for Jesus, no need for faith in Him, no need to even seek knowing Him. After all, if He has accomplished it all, what’s the point? They believe, somehow, that as long as they live good lives, they will be fine with God. Both extremes miss the point of God giving the world His only human Son. Both extremes miss the mark of being children of God, of being Christians, and of allowing Christ, by His Spirit, to live through us in this earthly state.
The LDS missionaries will often cite this next verse in their attempt to prove that the early church fell into a complete apostasy – thus the need for a restoration. But I want to make clear that the text does not say that. It does not even remotely hint that there would be a total apostasy of the entire church. Mormons are reading something into the text that is not there. The nature of this false gospel the Galatians had bought into – was a gospel of legalism, which added works to faith. This is not the same gospel Paul had preached and by which the Galatians had been saved. Measuring the “gospel” of Mormonism against that expressed here in Galatians and the rest of the New Testament (a gospel of grace not, works), it becomes abundantly clear that the LDS works-based gospel is in fact “another” gospel that must be accursed by God.
Let’s read, Verse 8 “But though we (the apostles and those traveling with them), or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (the word is Anathema – let him be doomed to destruction).” I’m not sure that an angel from heaven would ever preach another gospel. Certainly, an angel from hell could. But when Paul says from heaven, I think his appealing to exaggeration to make a point. This passage is huge for apologists to use against the founder of Mormonism – Joseph Smith, Jr. and his claim of having had an angel of light visit him on numerous occasions and revealing to him a false gospel. So important was Paul’s message that he repeats it saying, Verse 9 “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” The “restored gospel” of Mormonism is a different gospel that the “gospel of Jesus Christ” that Paul taught. We need to understand that Paul is saying a false gospel is a horrible thing and you want no part of it. If we are embracing a perverted gospel, we are accursed. That’s not a good thing! Right?
At this point, Paul steps into a segment where he establishes himself as a true apostle. Verses 10-12 “For do I now persuade men, or God (do you think I am trying to win the approval of men, or of God)? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men (if my goal were to gain the approval of men), I should not (could not) be the servant of Christ. But I certify (assure) you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man (does not come from the philosophies of men). For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by (through) the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul had received communications at various times directly from the Lord Jesus with regard to the gospel message and his responsibility. His knowledge of the gospel was derived entirely from the Savior. Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles. In, essence Christ through Paul, was creating a model by which all the earthly teachings Jesus gave to His own Jewish people and His works for the salvation of the world – would have application to the non-Jewish world in the New Testament. This Chapter goes on to tell us that Paul – after his conversion on the road to Damascus – didn’t go to Jerusalem to meet the apostles – but instead went into the Arabia desert for three years to commune with God. After that – he returned to Jerusalem where he stayed with Peter for fifteen days, before going to the Gentile cities.
Moving on to Galatians 2, I want to cover the last half of the chapter beginning with Verse 16 and Paul saying, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Justification is a word that is applied in a legal sense as in the courts of Justice. To be justified in a spiritual sense refers to God declaring a sinner not guilty and fully righteous before God by imputing to the guilty man or woman the divine righteousness of Christ – and imputing – or crediting – the person’s sin to the sinless Savior for punishment. Three times in Verse 16, Paul declares that salvation is only through Faith in Christ and not by the law – or by our works. All people are sinners who are made right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the doctrine of Justification. God justifies people despite their guilt, pardons them, and then makes them His children and heirs. The reality is, no one will ever be saved by obeying the law. Then, Verse 20 “I am crucified with Christ (I crucified my old self with my sins, through Christ’s Atonement): nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Christ is alive in me): and the life which I now live in the flesh (in mortality) I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Paul says in his life – the world was put to death and his former man was put to death in terms of the world. He told the believers in Romans 6:6 “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh. In and through our looking to Him and His life, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection – we each are provided with a template for the way we will choose to live our Christian life. And it is all focused and made possible by and through Him. Paul adds the final verse in Galatians 1, which says it all, Verse 21 “I do not frustrate (make ineffective) the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law (if we can be saved by keeping the law), then Christ is dead in vain (Christ died for nothing).” You see, God has provided a plan of Grace – defined as unmerited favor – by and through faith on His Son. The biblical view is that God’s daughters and sons are children of faith – and his sons and daughters place their faith on His Son. Did you catch that last phrase of Verse 21 “for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” This is exactly what the Galatians had done, having once received Christ and His work on the cross for them. Then, somehow believing that religious laws ought to be incorporated back into what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
So, Paul begins Chapter 3 by saying to anyone who think that they can, in some way, justify themselves before God by the law, by their works, 3:1 “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched (or deceived) you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes, Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.” Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” In other words, by His dying in our place for our sins, Christ removed the wrath of God that we all justly deserve and imputes the Savior’s perfect righteousness on us. Paul says in Galatians 3:6-7 “Even as Abraham (who did not have the law of Moses) believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (God considered him to be righteous). Know ye therefore that they which are of faith (who have faith in Christ), the same are the children of Abraham (will have the same reward of righteousness as Abraham).”
For the sake of time, I’m just going to read some key verses from the rest of this chapter. Verse 10 “For as many as are of the works of the law (those who try to gain salvation through keeping all the laws and commandments) are under the curse (failure to keep the laws perfectly are damned): for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” James said in James 2:10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Galatians 3:11 “But that no man is justified by the law (no one is saved by the law) in the sight of God, it is evident (is obvious): for, The just (those made righteous) shall live by faith.” Verse 13 “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law (Christ has freed us from the bondage of the law), being made a curse for us: for it is written (in Deuteronomy 21:22-23), Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (In other words, Christ subjected Himself to the curse of being hung on a tree – the cross):” Verse 14 “That (so that) the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Verse 21 “Is the law then against the promises of God (does the law and commandments work against God’s promises)? God forbid (absolutely not): for if there had been a law given which could have given life (if it had been possible to have eternal life by keeping the laws), verily righteousness should have been by the law.” But no one could keep the laws and commandments perfectly. Verses 22-23 “But the scripture had concluded all under sin (the scriptures verify that all are guilty of sinning), that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came (before the Gospel of Grace came to us), we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed (which was to be taught at a later date).” This next verse sums up everything Paul has been teaching in this chapter. Verse 24 “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster (our teacher) to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified (saved) by faith (in Christ).” Verse 25 “But after that faith is come (faith in Christ and what He did for us), we are no longer under a schoolmaster (we don’t need the law).” Verse 26 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Verse 27 “For as many of you as have been baptized (by the Holy Spirit) into Christ have put on Christ.” Verse 28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (we are all the same in Christ’s kingdom).” Finally, Verse 29 “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (given to him).”
And this concludes our study of the first half of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. Don’t forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast.
Until next time, God Bless!