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Sermon from Galatians 1: 1-9

Doupu Kom

00:00 / 39:09

No Other Gospel

Text: Galatians 1: 1-9

Today we are starting a sermon series from the book of Galatians with the overall theme of “Freedom in Christ”. The book of Galatians , is one of my favorite in the New Testament. It is an explosion of joy and freedom which we have in Christ Jesus - the life of blessing God calls His people into. This book is also Martin Luther’s favorite, the Reformer and which helped him or was an instrument in bringing reformation in the 16th Century.

Galatians have the central truths of Christianity - the heart of Christianity. It is in this book, Paul expounds in detail what the gospel is and how it works.

If we as a people can make these truths a part of our thinking and our life, the bones of our faith will be strong and not breakable, and the emotional force of our life in Christ will not be lukewarm but passionate and intense and undivided. So I am excited to learn the heart of Christianity together as a community from this book.

Before we dive into the book do you mind joining me in prayer.

The historical context

The apostle Paul was a church-planting missionary. After he planted a church and left a region, he continued to supervise new congregations through his letters. One of these letters is this epistle to the Christian churches in the area of Galatia in Asia Minor which he established during his first missionary journey. Most scholars agree that this letter was written by Paul around AD 50 (only 15-20 years after the death of Christ).

Why did he write this letter?

False teachers have convinced the Galatians that they are required to be circumcised. The result is division within their church (5:15). So Paul is addressing the issues by telling them return to the simple truth of the gospel.

Now let’s focus on today’s passage: Galatians 1:1-9.

I am going to title today’s sermon as “No Other Gospel” and will divide it into three sections: 1. Paul’s Astonishment, 2. A Different Gospel - Which is not gospel at all and 3. Paul’s Gospel or True Gospel or One and Only Gospel.

     1. Paul’s Astonishment

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the opening of Galatians is Paul’s tone, and the frame of mind that lies behind it. He is surprised. And he also seems angry. His language, almost from the outset, is remarkably strong. Where normally Paul’s letters move on, after his greeting, to a thanksgiving for those he’s writing to (see, for example, Philippians 1:3-8; Colossians 1:3-8; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9), here he simply says: “I am astonished...” (verse 6a).

What has made Paul so emotional?

First, Paul is astonished because these young Christians are taking hold of a gospel that isn’t really a gospel (v7), so they are in enormous danger. They are in “confusion” (v 7b). He is angry at the Galatian Christians themselves, warning them that they are deserting the God who called them (v 6b)—a serious charge!

Second, he is directly angry at the ones who are misleading the converts of the church—those who are “trying to pervert the gospel” (v 7b). He calls down condemnation on them (v 9).

If the Galatians are really turning their backs on God and taking hold of a gospel that isn’t a gospel at all, then their condition is dangerous. And Apostle Paul is rightly angry.

For Example: The anxiety and anger that Paul expresses is the same that any loving parent or friend would experience if a child or companion was going seriously astray.

Now let's turn into a different gospel that Paul is talking about.

     2. A Different Gospel

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

First of all, the underlying truth of the passage: there is only one gospel. In verse 6 Paul says that the Galatians are starting to turn away to a “different gospel.” Then in verse 7, he corrects a false impression. He did not mean to say that there are several possible gospels and that they have simply chosen another of several options.

In verse 7 he carefully says, “Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel.” This verse is very clear: there is no other gospel than the one he preached to them and which they received. To be sure, as verses 6 and 7 make plain, there are people presenting their ideas as gospel, but these are perversions.

The implications of this text for our day are very important. The text is a radical and forthright denial of religious pluralism (plu-ral-ism), which says that we are all on different roads to heaven, but our destination is the same. Sometimes they use an illustration of the Elephant by certain blind men.

For Example: Shashi Tharoor in his book “Why I am a Hindu”, talks about why Hindu religion is a tolerance and acceptance religion because they accept any ways to salvation.

There are other religions besides Christianity, and there are other leaders besides Jesus Christ, but there is no other gospel, no other good news of salvation.

For example: John 14:6 -The Exclusive claim of Christ

The people in verse 7 who were perverting the gospel were professing Christians. They probably belonged to the church in Jerusalem and knew its leaders (Galatians 2:12). This “different gospel” was not on the order of Buddhism or Hinduism or Islam. It was an in-house distortion. It was promoted by men who called themselves Christian “brothers” (Galatians 2:4).

The first Christians in Jerusalem were Jewish, but as the gospel spread out from that center, increasing numbers of Gentiles began to receive Christ. However, a group of teachers in Galatia were now insisting that the Gentile Christians practice all the traditional ceremonial customs of the law of Moses, as the Jewish Christians did. They taught that the Gentiles had to observe all the dietary laws and be circumcised for full acceptance and to be completely pleasing to God. In other words, they were to become Jewish first in order to become Christians. But Paul says: This is an absolute rejection of all that I have been telling you.

By insisting on Christ-plus-anything-else as a requirement for full acceptance by God, these teachers were presenting a whole different way of relating to God. It is this different gospel that was creating the cultural division and strife. Paul forcefully and unapologetically fought the “different gospel” because to lose one’s grip of the true gospel is to desert and lose Christ Himself (1:6). Therefore, everything was at stake in this debate.

For Example: the Parable of Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke 18.

The Seriousness of This

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The intended audience of this exposition of the gospel are all professing Christians. It is not simply non-Christians but also believers who need continually to learn the gospel and apply it to their lives.

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul expounds in detail what the gospel is and how it works.

     3. Paul’s Gospel or One and Only True Gospel

In his opening, Paul gives Galatian Christians a quick, yet pretty comprehensive, outline of the gospel message:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Who we are: Helpless and lost. That is what the word “rescue” or “deliver” implies in verse 4. Other founders of religions came to teach, not to rescue. Jesus was a great teacher, but when Paul gives us this nutshell version of Jesus’ ministry, he makes no mention of that at all.

The average person on the street believes that a Christian is someone who follows Christ’s teaching and example. But Paul implies that’s impossible. After all, you don’t rescue people unless they are in a lost state and a helpless condition!

For Example: Imagine you see a drowning man. It doesn’t help him at all if you throw him a manual on how to swim. You don’t throw him some teaching—you throw him a rope. And Jesus is not so much a teacher as He is a rescuer or deliverer. Because that’s what we most need. Nothing in who we are or what we do saves us. This is what theologians call spiritual inability.

What Jesus did: How did Jesus rescue us? He “gave himself for our sins” (v 4a). He made a sacrifice which was substitutionary in nature. The word “for” means “on behalf of” or “in place of”. Christ’s death was not just a general sacrifice, but a substitutionary one. He did all we needed to do, but cannot do.

Jesus did all we should have done, in our place, so when He becomes our Savior, we are absolutely free from penalty or condemnation.

What the Father did: God accepted the work of Christ on our behalf by raising Him “from the dead”(v 1) and by giving us the “grace and peace” (v 3) that Christ won and achieved for us.

Why God did it: This was all done out of grace—not because of anything we have done, but “according to the will of our God and Father” (v 4d). We did not ask for rescue, but God in His grace planned what we didn’t realize we needed, and Christ by His grace (v 6) came to achieve the rescue we could never have achieved ourselves.

There is no indication of any other motivation or cause for Christ’s mission except the will of God. There is nothing in us which merits it. Salvation is sheer grace.

That is why the only one who gets “glory for ever” is God alone (v 5). If we contributed to our rescue... if we had rescued ourselves... or if God had seen something deserving of rescue, or useful for His plan, in us... or even if we had simply called out for rescue based on our own reasoning and understanding... then we could pat ourselves on the back for the part we played in saving ourselves.

But the biblical gospel—Paul’s gospel—is clear that salvation, from first to last, is God’s doing. It is His calling; His plan; His action; His work. And so it is He who deserves all the glory, for all time.

Application: If you think God saves you because you are better than your friends or neighbors you are mistaken my friend. It is totally God’s grace that you are Christian today.

This is the humbling truth that lies at the heart of Christianity. We love to be our own saviors. Our hearts love to manufacture glory for themselves. So we find messages of self-salvation extremely attractive, like:

  • religious (Keep these rules and you earn eternal blessing)

The gospel comes and turns them all upside down. It says: You are in such a hopeless position that you need a rescue that has nothing to do with you at all. And then it says: God in Jesus provides a rescue which gives you far more than any false salvation your heart may love to chase.

Paul reminds us that in the gospel we are both brought lower and raised higher than we can imagine. And the glory for that, rightly, all goes to “our God and Father ... for ever and ever. Amen” (v 5).

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