I’m excited to begin reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians today. Paul’s writings are so multilayered and there is so much to glean regardless of how long you have been a Christian, how knowledgeable, or how mature you are.
You were chosen by The LORD to be His royal child and like Jesus a servant of the Gospel. God didn’t choose you, save you, and then leave you hanging, He chose you, saved you, and gave you His Word, The Truth, The Gospel. Verses 1-5 read,
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
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.
Paul was made an apostle, not because men chose him, but because Jesus Christ chose him. Jesus chose every apostle personally, except for Matthias and His own brother James but even they was chosen providentially. Matthias was chosen through casting lots before the Holy Spirit had come (Acts 1:26). James was called an apostle and chosen through the Holy Spirit by agreement of the rest of the apostles. Though the story is not told, he is referred to as an apostle (Galatians 1:19) and was with the apostles and the other disciples from the beginning after Jesus ascended (Acts 1:14).
You were not chosen to be a follower of Christ by your Sunday school teacher, your parents, or the person who obeyed Him and told you how to be saved, you were chosen by Jesus. He called you to follow Him, He knocked at the door of your heart and said, “Follow me, let’s hand out and be friends.”
When He did that, Jesus not only saved you in the figurative sense, but in the literal sense. He raised you from the dead (like you once were) and gave you new life. He resurrected from the dead and He resurrected you too. No one but The Lord God did that for you. His blood delivered you, His grace saved you. It was and is His will for you to be saved, to be like Jesus and glorify Him forever.
The letter is to the church in Galatia, an area in what is now Turkey where Celts settled and lived but were not often united. They were a warrior people who intermarried with the surrounding Phyrgians and Greeks, adopted the Greek culture and eventually became part of the Roman Empire. Although it was Paul who planted the church in Galatia and Paul who preached the Gospel of Christ to them, it was Jesus who chose them and Jesus who saved them. But the diverse cultures surrounding them tried to pull the new believers back out of their new lives and into their old lives.
Isn’t that what happens today? The devil cannot stand to lose a soul to the Lord, he uses old lifestyles, sages, and even pious leaders to change the Gospel into a story, a cultural choice, or a perversion that cannot save or transform. How many people try and convince believers we are fools, we are hypocrites, and we are wrong? How many others try and persuade us we are on one of many paths to a heaven? It happens to us now and it happened to the Galatians then. Verses 6-9 read,
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. 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.
Have you turned to some other gospel? Does the word being taught to you, the one you are choosing to believe involve anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ as your redeemer? Does it include earning salvation through any kind of work be it charity, flagellation, or other steps? Then you are deserting Christ! Salvation does not come from being good, forgoing pleasure, living in scarcity, or rituals of baptism and communion. Salvation comes from Jesus Christ and transforms you into His righteousness by grace.
People find it so difficult to believe that the Gospel could be so simple as, “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9) that they complicate it, they pervert it with additions of laws, rituals, and traditions. There is only one command and that command is the one that encompasses the entire Word, the whole Gospel, the prophecies, the Law, and the praise of God. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
No one should tell you any differently! If someone adds conditions to salvation, if they say that there is a single other requirement than repentance, belief, and profession of Jesus as Christ then they are lying! Christianity is not just another culture, another path, or a different lifestyle. It is a relationship with Christ which gives us new life and changes us forever to live as new beings forever. We are not seen by the outside, we are known by the heart and Spirit. We do not make the changes in us, God makes them. We simply submit to His will and Lordship (That is what it means to confess Him as Lord). 1 Corinthians 5:16-21 reads,
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
When we give in to all these additions, when we even let these people try and teach us or our fellow believers these perverted messages we are suddenly trying to please them. We please the world by being “kind” to these messengers from Satan. It doesn’t please God for us to listen to their lies. It hurts the church, it injures the new believers, and it forever harms the ones who might have believed the Gospel when we entertain these liars, false teachers, and perverters of truth. Verse 10 reads,
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
The world calls us haters for refusing to listen to lies. The world hurls accusations of prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and bigotry at us when we claim there is only one way to salvation. No, serving Christ means we do not serve the world. It pleases God when we love one another enough to keep the lies out of doctrine. We can’t lead the lost to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life with lies and false gospels. We can only lead them to Him and let them answer His call by the truth.
Paul was taught the truth by The Truth Himself. Jesus spoke it to Him directly, The Holy Spirit spent time with Him before He let Paul go to any man to learn. When Paul did finally go further his spiritual education with Peter and James first. Paul was taught the unpolluted truth and years later he went on to teach the pure uncontaminated truth to much of the world. Paul described it in verses 11-24.
For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone ;17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
Do you trust God to be God? Refuse to let Satan in through the false teachers he sends along. Let’s dedicate ourselves to ensuring only the truth gets taught and let God teach the new believers through His Word, His Spirit, and His true children. It is important to make sure that even in the church, the people teaching are mature enough in Christ to know the truth, to have a solid foundation in it and so teach the Gospel and sound doctrine rather than lies. Letting a person without that foundation teach and preach before it is time, is how lies like “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” and “Everything has a purpose” thrive and pervert the truth.
Paul after three years learned only with Peter and James, perhaps the two greatest leaders of the early church at the time (along with John and eventually Paul himself). New believers of course can share the Gospel, share what they have been taught and edify the church by their gifts but to let them teach before they are mature enough would be like having a high school senior teach a doctorate class. The senior needs to be the one sitting at the feet of the doctoral professor, not the other way around.
You were chosen by The Father to be saved by Jesus Christ and transformed by The Holy Spirit. The Gospel is simple and pure. There is one Truth, no other “truth” should be preached or taught. Jesus saved you by His choice and His work, not yours. Love one another, guard the Truth.