Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Any Other Gospel
We humans love to accomplish things. It?s so we can tell whether we are a success or not. This is also true when it comes to pleasing God. ?Lord, I prayed and read your Word for an hour today.? ?Father, I refrained from clobbering that guy who cut in front of me.? We also like to look righteous so we make sure to wear the right clothes and carry the right Bible in the right case and have the right expressions that we say. The problem with this is that it?s just what got the Galatian church in trouble. It?s called ?legalism?. Legalism is the application of an external set of principals or goals to your life in order to feel better about yourself or your relationship with God rather than letting God transform your life from the inside out. Legalism is death and it?s rampant in the church today.
During the next weeks we will explore The Lies of Legalism as we study the Apostle Paul?s response to it as he wrote to the churches in Galatia (central Turkey).
Legalism involves how you behave, how you appear, and the existence of a pedigree. The Galatians, like the Corinthians, had a group of men come into their fellowships and spread a really good sounding doctrine that if applied will lead someone away from salvation and certainly will not contribute to true growth in the life of a Christian.
Galatians was written about 49 A.D. at the conclusion of Paul?s first missionary journey. On that trip he?d seen incredible responses to the gospel, both positive and negative as the Jews caught wind of the gospel and saw people fleeing from Judaism. Their jealousy led to persecution (an external pressure against the gospel) and the infiltration of a law-based system within the church (an internal pressure). The idea that Gentiles could also be ?saved? particularly upset the Jews who saw themselves as an exclusive club. This led some Jews to so vehemently oppose Paul that they went to the Galatian churches and tried to poison them against Paul and point them to a hybrid faith that included Jesus, but put them back under the Law of Moses. To become a Christian and get to God you had to become a Jew first.
Just after writing this letter, Paul travelled to Jerusalem, where a special council decided in his favor (Acts 15).
1 ? 2
I like how Paul begins the letter. First he declares his apostleship (his authority to speak for Jesus) and notes the source: it wasn?t human based authority, nor was it conferred upon him by a man (he gets more into that later). It came straight from Jesus?and Paul reminds them that the Father, the same one who gave the Law, raised Jesus from the dead, effectively doing away with the external obedience of the Law as a source of life, but now life comes from relationship with the One who fulfilled all of the Law.
And Paul could speak authoritatively to Jew and Gentile. He was born of a Jewish family from the tribe of Benjamin (known for their scrappiness). He was educated by the premier teacher of the day (Gamaliel) and was a Pharisee (the most strict and most popular group of Jewish leaders). It was this man, who actively fought against the church, who is now its chief advocate, all because of meeting Yeshua (Jesus) face to face.
3 ? 5
Notice Paul beginning his arguments before beginning them! ?Grace? is the opposite ?law??unmerited favor, a gift you don?t deserve. Grace alone leads to peace with God.
Romans 5:1-3 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
We are not saved by our efforts but by the gift of Jesus, giving Himself, though blameless, to become a curse for us in order to ?rescue us from this present evil age.? The Jews would probably not consider this age to be ?evil? as long as they considered themselves ?good Jews?. But mankind has messed up so badly that there is no rescue outside of God Himself.
Notice too that it was ?the will of God.? God planned it this way all along. The Scriptures (the Old Testament) is full of hints and downright prophecies about this if you ?have an ear to hear.? The coming of Jesus should not have been a surprise to the Jews (and it wasn?t to those like Anna in the temple).
Finally, notice that all of this is to bring glory God. The problem with legalism is that it brings credit to us?and we don?t deserve it!
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
6 ? 7
It?s only been a short time since these people heard the gospel and responded. Paul says he marvels or is in wonder that they could turn so quickly. The word ?turning away? means ?to transfer.? The problem with legalism is that it feeds the human pride and is the default human position. What?s that old commercial ? ?We make money the old fashioned way, we earn it.? That?s how we humans see ourselves, self-sufficient, and self-made. Legalism is very attractive.
But what were they ?transferring? from? Grace. Not only that but turning back to the Law meant turning away from Jesus, ?Him who called you.? The Judaizers (as they were called) tried to present their doctrine as the gospel, but they were ?changing? the gospel into something it was not. Paul says they are ?troubling? the Galatians. The word means ?to agitate.? Bringing in doubts about Paul and doubts about Jesus, stirring up the pot, tickling the ears?all designed to get them to be confused. That?s what the enemy loves to do to new Christians as well?and that?s how the cults today prey on young believers who have not yet been settled in their faith.
The Galatians were always curious about new things. That can get you into a lot of trouble when a ?new? gospel comes around. We suffer from this same penchant for the latest craze of religious philosophy. Today?s Post-Modern thinking when it comes to the gospel is leading many down a dangerous path in actually changing the gospel into something it is not (the most egregious example is relative truth as opposed to absolute truth, but also that experience is key, rather than knowledge).
8 ? 9
These are pretty powerful words. Paul says that if anyone preaches a gospel other than the one the Galatians heard when they came to know Jesus, they should be eternally accursed. And if Paul changed the gospel later, it would not make it true. It?s ironic, I think, that Paul would say if ?even an angel? preached a different gospel?mainly because that?s just how Joseph Smith received his ?gospel? for the Mormon false religion. Most likely Paul is here referring to the false teachers that were emissaries of Satan like in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15.
Today the gospel is twisted and turned according to the needs of the ministry, pressures of the culture, or actual demonic influence. In our Post-Modern culture there is a great tendency to water down the message?proclaiming that all go to heaven, there is no hell, or that sin isn?t really that big of a deal.
The very simple gospel message is that man has sinned and fallen short of God?s glorious character and that God sent Jesus, as God in the flesh, to die for our sins, restoring our broken relationship with the Father but it happens only through relationship with Him. God did it all and we had nothing to do with it. This isn?t very popular?now, or then:
10 ? 11
This idea that God did it all isn?t very popular because it makes us humans have to be accountable for and admit our own failures and inability to make things right or get better on our own. It attacks our pride, which is something we humans hold on to very tightly. If humans had come up with the gospel it wouldn?t have been like this. It doesn?t please the flesh like legalism which allows us to do it instead of God doing it for us. This is definitely not a ?human point of view?. Paul says he didn?t even receive it from a man but straight from Jesus, both on the road to Damascus and then later. The Judaizers apparently argued that Paul got his gospel from the Apostles in Jerusalem and that they agreed with them.
Before Paul gets into that, he wants the Galatians to know his background in Judaism as that?s where the Judaizers wanted them to return.
13 ? 14
There were few more against the church and the idea of Yeshua as Messiah than Saul (Paul). He was smart, he was powerful, he was committed, and he was righteous by the Law?s standards. He was a model Jew. Paul became the perfect person for God to touch?an enemy, and a perfect example of why the Law and the traditions no longer work. This is a good note?it?s not just observance of the Law of Moses, but the traditions. Just being a Jew made people unable to figure out being a Christian, especially if dirty Gentiles were let in.
15 ? 16
Notice that God set Paul apart for this task before he was born. This ought to make anyone who favors ending life by human means in the womb take notice. That appointment on the road to Damascus was planned when Paul was still in the womb. Do you know that God has plans for you that were hatched before you were?
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His creation?created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
Paul is making the argument that this gospel that he preaches wasn?t man made at all, and didn?t come from the Apostles in Jerusalem, as the Judaizers apparently claimed. So he gives a bit of his personal history.
The timeline is a bit problematic between here and in Acts for Paul?s visit to the desert. But the important thing is that this newly converted Jew has to take some time to apply his understanding of the Old Testament to the gospel and to Jesus.
18 ? 20
Paul didn?t go to Jerusalem to get the gospel from Peter, but simply to get to know him. He also met with Jesus? half-brother James. It?s possible that the Christians in Jerusalem were afraid of Paul as Luke suggests in Acts 9:26. Peter and James, though, offered him fellowship, but Paul didn?t seek nor need their approval.
21 ? 24
Paul went home to Tarsus and must have kept preaching the gospel. He makes the point that even the churches in Judea, where he did not go, rejoiced over Paul?s conversion?so why were the Galatian churches doubting him?
Some points on legalism to stir your thinking in the coming weeks:
- God is not out to get you to behave differently, but think differently (of course, actions will follow the direction of your mind and will)
- Everything you have, are, or have done as a Christian is because of what God has done for you. Everything outside of Christ is irrelevant because it will simply burn up and be forgotten.
- Legalists are some of the best people you?ll ever meet. The Pharisees would put the normal garden-variety Christian to shame morally, but they were legalists.
- Legalsim is a list that holds God away from the deep recesses of our mind. We do what?s on the list so God can only come that close to us, but He wants all of you.
- The three tenants of legalism:
- 1.What you look like (behaviors, circumcision)
- 2.What you do (or don?t do)
- 3.Your pedigree (what group you belong to)