This article is the first of six articles on the Book of Galatians, each one highlighting a central theme in each of the six chapters of Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia.
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Really, there is no other Good News. But some people are confusing you; they want to change the Good News of Christ. (Galatians 1:7 NCV)
Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12 NLT)
THE APOSTLE PAUL COULD HAVE WRITTEN GALATIANS TODAY.
Two thousand years ago, he felt the strong need to admonish new Christians in the various churches throughout the area of Galatia — both in the agrarian northern region and in the urbane, commercialized southern region — that they must not change the central truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, many so-called Christians today — operating under the rubric of “progressive Christianity” — are busy revising the Gospel to “update” it according to contemporary society’s “reason” and “experiences.” They base their doctoring on a perverted sense of God’s loving nature, while conveniently ignoring His role as humanity’s judge.
Paul told the Galatians that no such doctoring of God’s eternal truth was needed and that the faithful should abstain immediately from believing anyone who would teach a variance of what Paul, himself, had taught on his missionary trips to the region.
“I am astonished,” he wrote; “that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (v. 6 ESV).
PAUL CLEARLY STATED that this was not a matter of pastoral jealousy. The issue was the distortion of the central message of the man “who gave himself for our sins [that means, He died for us] to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (v. 4 ESV).
In Paul’s time, the central question facing the early church focused on the Jewish nature of Jesus and His disciples and whether converts from the Gentile world — considered pagans and outcasts throughout Jewish history — had to convert to Judaism and be subject to Mosaic law before becoming followers of Jesus.
Today, the central question facing many of the churches is how to minister to a rapidly changing secular culture without becoming corrupted by its immorality or rendered useless for failing to acknowledge it.
Many well-educated and well-read Christians have fallen into the trap of embracing the culture’s progressive mantra of “inclusivity” and “tolerance” by promoting a watered-down gospel filled with empty platitudes of God’s forgiving grace that — to be applicable to today’s reality — must also push aside as archaic God’s instructions for proper living.
THE HOT-BUTTON ISSUES TODAY focus on the culture’s new-found support for homosexual marriage as well as more established assaults on biblical teaching concerning the sanctity of life — abortion, euthanasia, and government-run health care [scarcity of resources need to be apportioned by governing boards, which will determine the value of an individual life].
The writings of pastors and theologians in support of the “progressive Christian” belief is filled with well-reasoned human arguments designed to fit God’s timeless laws into a space built on a holistic interpretation of Holy Writ devoid of biblical reference.
No more “cherry-picking” of biblical admonitions against homosexual unions (especially Leviticus 18, 20, and Romans 1), for example. Instead, they are thrown aside as being part of an archaic legal system that, somehow over time, has morphed into an acceptance, with the acerbic addendum that failure to see the wisdom of such heresy labels the critic a “homophobe” or a “bigot.”
BACK TO PAUL.
Still astonished at the backsliding he’s witnessing, he declares that the gospel he preached “is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (vv. 11b-12 ESV).
Anyone who teaches a gospel contrary to that spread by Jesus and His followers, Paul says, “let him be accursed” (v. 9 ESV).
So, what do we do with the schism rendering our established churches, at best, impotent and, at worst, a laughing stock to the entire non-Christian world?
Just as the Episcopal church split a dozen years ago over the role of avowed homosexuals in the priesthood, so now the United Methodist Church is facing the same debacle, with the venerated John Wesley being used to prop up both sides, regardless of what he might have taught.
One side — now labeled “conservative,” not to indicate they are energized by God’s Word but that they are throwbacks to days long gone — points to clear biblical passages warning us about homosexual practices. Those passages include God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sexual sin.
The other side, which fancies itself “progressive” — as if it has flung aside the shackles of God’s outdated commandments to become hip and modern — claims God simply could not have foreseen the “romantic love relationships” that today’s same-sex couples enjoy.
SO, THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, who exists outside space and time, could not have foreseen the wonderful discovery His rebellious creation, within a brief flicker of a human’s lifespan, wants to represent as God’s will, to include those homosexual acts that God calls “disgraceful” and “unnatural” and to say they are nothing more than an expression of true soul-mate love by people whom God made “that way.”
Is that excuse — God made me this way, so it’s okay — any more believable than the “dog ate my homework”?
Look, we all sin and are born with sinful natures. That’s what Genesis Chapter 3 is all about. The rest of the Bible is about how to undo Adam’s rebellion, a resolution that required God to step in, in the person of His Son, Jesus, to take the bullet for us to get the job done right.
The question is not whether we were born with a predilection for a particular sin, it’s what do we do with that predilection — do we embrace it and codify it into respectability, or do we fall to our knees and implore the One who made us to help us through this trial?
The book of James, written by the half-brother of Jesus, exhorts us to “count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3 ESV).
Living with a sin pattern is not godly. Embracing a sin pattern in the name of “inclusivity” and “tolerance” and “love” is not godly.
What is a godly response?
Recognizing as Paul told his disciple Timothy, that “[a]ll Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).
What is godly is to stay with God’s teaching in His Word, not with rewriting it to suit our “present wisdom.”
Franklin Graham, the son of acclaimed evangelist Billy Graham, said it this way: “God’s Word is the truth and the standard we will be held accountable to, whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, and whether it’s politically correct or not.”
He also said, as Christians, we should love people enough to “tell them the truth and warn them about the dangers and consequences of sin.”
The apostle Paul minced no words in his teaching of God’s truth in Galatians 1: “As I have already said, so now I say it again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
PRAYER: O Lord, it saddens us, and it must sadden You even more so, to see so many friends and colleagues leaving the Truth of Your Word for a false gospel preached by the secular culture and embraced by religious leaders who are failing their flock. Lord, be merciful to those who mistakenly believe their interpretation of Scripture is true to You, but please weaken their influence and impede their efforts to redefine Your church. In response, Lord, we ask that You raise strong Christian voices that will speak boldly, and with authority, the Gospel’s eternal message, including both Your promises and Your commandments. We also ask for Your mercy on us. In the Name of Jesus we lift this prayer. Amen