The Deadly Danger of a False Gospel (Galatians Sermon 1 of 26)
October 13, 2013 | Andy Davis
The Gospel, False Teaching & False Teachers
Pastor Andy Davis begins a new series in the Book of Galatians and unfolds the dangers of an unbiblical gospel.
- Sermon Transcript -
I. One Question: What must I do to be saved?
Many times in my mind I go back to that incredible account in Acts Chapter 16 when Paul and Silas were in the Philippian jail and they were in chains and being persecuted for preaching the Gospel of Christ, and they were singing praise songs to Jesus, giving glory and praise to God. I think to myself, how much I long for that kind of faith, to be able to face any trial in my life with that kind of supernatural joy, and to be able to understand the root of their joy. It was in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul and Silas knew that even if they were executed for preaching the Gospel, they were going to go to heaven and that they would be perfectly happy. They had every reason to sing and rejoice and delight in the Gospel, but there were also other people listening to them. There were other prisoners that were listening to them and especially there was the Philippian jailer. Suddenly God sent this incredible earthquake and the ground shook and the doors were opened and the chains fell off. The jailer called for lights. He was just about to kill himself because he thought all of his prisoners had run away. And Paul called out a message of life, "Don't harm yourself, we're all here." The jailer called for lights and rushed in and brought Paul and Silas out and fell trembling before them and asked this one question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
Does that question stand over you today? Do you understand the significance of that question? What must I do to be saved? Can you understand the basic underpinnings of that question? There must be something I can do to be saved. There must be some action I can do. There must be some array of good works I can do to stop feeling so guilty before God, and to stop being so terrified of death and of judgment. Is there something I can do about this? Paul and Silas spoke the Gospel message of liberation, of freedom, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” You will be rescued! There's nothing you can do to save yourself. There's nothing you can do to rescue yourself, just believe in Jesus and you will be saved. How powerful is that? How liberating is that message? And that is what I get to preach today, the liberating message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Story of Martin Luther
Now, jump ahead almost 15 centuries to the story of Martin Luther, one of my favorite characters from church history. He was an incredible man, but he was, similar to the Philippian jailer, terrified to die. He was a lawyer. He was law student in route to go back to school, when he was caught in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm, and the lightning flashed all around, and he fell down into the mud. He was terrified to die. He was afraid that these lightning bolts were sent by Almighty God to kill him and to usher him into hell. The only thing he had to answer those terrors were the errors of medieval Catholicism. So he cried out in the midst of that mud, rain, lightning, and thunder, "Help me, Saint Anne, I shall become a monk."
He cried out to a saint to save him. He made her a promise, that he would become a monk if she would just intercede with God to save his life, and he was good to his promise. He entered a monastery, and there he tried to earn his salvation by extended fasting, by labors, by meditations and long prayers, and by endless confessions to his father confessor. He was just trying to find some way to be delivered from a guilty conscience and from his terror of death, his terror of the wrath of God, that when he died he would be sent to hell and there he would suffer forever and ever in extreme torment. And so he was terrified by these things, and the only thing he could do was try to earn his forgiveness by good works, and he became the most extremely zealous monk there was in Germany. Scrubbing floors like no floors have ever been scrubbed before or probably since. He refused the meager blanket that was assigned to him in his monk's cell there and laid on a cold floor in the midst of a German winter, shivering, thinking that somehow his physical torments there would be a path of escape from the judgments of God.
But no matter how hard he worked, no matter how hard he tried, he could not stop the accusations of a guilty conscience and the terror of God behind all that. Just when things were blackest, Luther was entrusted with the responsibility of teaching the Bible at the University of Wittenberg and it saved his life, it saved his soul. For in that Bible, he discovered the Gospel. He realized that the medieval Catholic system, that barter, that exchange of doing good works to pay for bad, the whole thing was corrupt, it was not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He found in the Book of Romans the way out, that the Gospel pointed to the work of Christ crucified and resurrected and a righteousness that is ours by faith in Christ.
Now, the Book of Romans was a centerpiece of that discovery, but the Book of Galatians became a treasured and precious source of truth and strength to him. In this brief Epistle, the Apostle Paul is fighting against some people (we'll call them the Judaizers), false teachers, who are trying to mingle the work of Jesus Christ on the cross with law. They're trying to add to the work of Christ. It was Christ plus law equals salvation, that's what they were doing. And in refuting them, the Apostle Paul has given us a timeless message, refuting works righteousness in favor of a Gospel of grace, a Gospel of forgiveness, simply by faith and by the grace of God and by the work of Jesus Christ.
Luther delighted in this brief, clear, simple, powerful message of Galatians. He loved it. He said, "The epistle to Galatians is my epistle. It's mine." I'm grateful he's let all of us use it too, amen? But it was his. “It's my epistle.” He said, "To it I am, as it were, in wedlock. I'm married to this book, it is my Katie." That was the name of his wife, "Galatians is my Katie." He loved this message, he loved the simplicity, he loved the liberation from legalism, from thinking that somehow our law-keeping can pay for our sins. He loved that liberation. And Luther said, "There is no middle ground between Christian righteousness and works righteousness. There is no other alternative to Christian righteousness than works righteousness. If you don't build your confidence on the work of Christ, you must build your confidence on your own works, and there's no middle ground between the two of them." Amen. So what must I do to be saved? Believe in Jesus, trust in Jesus. So we come to the liberating message of the Book of Galatians.
II. The Liberating Message of Galatians
We are going to find in this what some scholars have called "The Magna Carta of Christian freedom." Or others, "The battle cry of the Reformation," "The Christians' Declaration of Independence." We come in the Book of Galatians face-to-face with the Gospel, that's what we have here, the Gospel. Many people wrongly assume or think that the Gospel is just for unbelievers or beginner Christians. They think that, as Tim Keller put it beautifully, the Gospel is the ABCs of the Christian life. Well, he says, it is that, but it's also the A to Z of the Christian life. So again and again we are going to come back to the Gospel message and see how powerful it is for we who are Christians. One of the central observations that Keller makes is one of the most obvious things, Galatians was written to Christians. It was written to people who already believed in Jesus Christ, but they were straying from the simplicity and the clarity of the Gospel message, and they needed to come back again and understand the Gospel. Gospel is for us.
The Gospel is the Power of God for Salvation
All over the world sin has enslaved people in its power. They are in the chains, just like Paul and Silas were in physical chains, they are in spiritual chains. They are in bondage to sin, in bondage to Satan's power. They are in chains they cannot see and chains they cannot break. The only liberation from this enslavement is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the power of God. Romans 1:16-17 says the Gospel is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is from faith to faith. Just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’"
Picture in your mind Paul and Silas in those physical chains. Then picture sinners, apart from the grace of Christ, at this point not having believed in the Gospel, in the same kind of chains. They are enslaved, they are in prison. Charles Wesley pictured it this way in the hymn And Can It Be, and I just love that verse that talks about salvation in those kinds of terms, that enslavement, the chains, "Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature's night. Thine eye, [Jesus' eye] diffused a quickening ray. I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off. My heart was free, I rose, went forth and followed thee." That's liberation, Amen. And only the Gospel can set you free. Now, this is not an escape story, we are not talking about an escape story. I love escape stories. I've watched a number of movies that are about great escapes, like The Great Escape, that's one. Seventy-six POWs escaping from a German POW Camp through a 102 meter tunnel. That's a great movie. That's a great story. I've watched a movie about an escape from Alcatraz, how this one guy cleverly finds a way how to get off that island and makes his escape. Clint Eastwood was in that one. Moving on. Then there's Harry Houdini, I watched a movie about him, how he used to do the Chinese water torture thing upside down in a cell of water. But here is the thing with an escape story. In every case, the escape artist is celebrated.
Galatians Emphasizes the Liberation by Christ. It is the Epistle of Freedom
The Gospel is not about escape, it's about rescue! It's about rescue. And it's right here in Galatians 1 in the verse that you just heard read, in verse 4, Christ "gave himself for our sins to rescue us." Amen. We're going to get into that verse but I just want you to see it's a rescue mission. And the whole thing with rescue is the one being rescued can't deliver themselves. And to God alone be the glory for the deliverance. To God alone be the glory, to Jesus alone. We cannot save ourselves. Self-salvation through law-keeping is no Gospel at all. It does not work, and even if it did we would spend eternity insufferably praising ourselves and glorifying ourselves for our own great escape. Instead we're going to be glorifying Christ for His great rescue of us, His deliverance of us. It's a rescue. And so, we are going to celebrate this Gospel of rescue, this Gospel of liberation for many weeks together in the Book of Galatians.
"The Gospel is not about escape, it's about rescue! "
Context: The Churches of Galatia, Infiltration of False Teachers
Now, let me set some historical context, the Apostle Paul wrote this book. He was an apostle, we are going to talk about his apostleship. He was a church planting missionary who went through various regions, including what we now consider modern-day Turkey, and he went through that area and he planted churches. The name “Galatians” is linked to the word Gaul, linked to the history of France. So there were some Gauls that came apparently from that area and settled in Asia Minor. After terrorizing the Greeks and the Romans they settled there and the Roman Empire made Galatia, the place of the Gauls, a subset of Asia Minor, part of the Roman Empire. Paul visited this region with Barnabas on his first missionary journey. Acts 13 and 14 tells the story of how he planted these churches in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, it tells the whole story about all of that. He was stoned and left for dead by hostile Jewish leaders who followed him from Antioch and Iconium to Lystra and they stoned him and left him for dead. But he wasn't dead. God raised him up out of that pile and he continued to preach. And at the end of that first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas revisited the small churches they had planted.
They showed that shepherding heart and that concern for the works that they had done. It was out of that concern that he writes this epistle, because some time after Paul and Barnabas left, some other teachers came along, some false teachers. They were Jews who claimed to believe in Jesus and they believed that a combination of trusting in Christ plus obedience to the laws of Moses equaled salvation. They are who we will call the “Judaizers,” and they were preaching a false Gospel. In so doing, they also undermined the Galatians' confidence in the Apostle Paul as a faithful teacher of the Word. And so they said negative things about Paul. We'll get into what those negative things were, but it seems to me that they were saying that he got his message and his mission from the Apostles in Jerusalem, but he messed it up. They were saying that he didn't get the whole thing correct and so he himself had to be corrected. And they were adding to the message the rest of the ingredients of the recipe of how it is sinners get saved.
So they are questioning Paul, undermining him, and saying he is, to some degree, a second hander. That he's not a first-generation leader and his authority is less than that of the Apostles in Jerusalem, and that he wasn't teaching accurately the Gospel. So these Judaizers came and they were telling these Gentiles, these recent converts to Christ, these things and they (the Galatians) had no means with which to fight back. They didn't understand the law of Moses as well as these Jewish people did, and they couldn't resist. So pretty soon after Paul and Barnabas left, they started believing this false Gospel and going off in a wrong direction, and so Paul writes this epistle. So look at Paul's Apostolic greeting. He’s writing to correct their false understanding of the Gospel. He begins in 1:1-2, "Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by a man but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead--and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia."
So it's not written to just one church, like Corinthians (which I think was written to just one church), or one individual, like 1 and 2 Timothy, or Titus. This is written to a region of churches. So he meant for this letter to be read to all of these churches. He calls himself an Apostle here, he's asserting his authority.
The Apostle Paul
Apostle literally in the Greek means 'sent ones,' an emissary and an ambassador, someone sent out with a mission. Sometimes in the New Testament, the word is used of people like Barnabas or others that were basically the equivalent of missionaries, and so you do see that use. That would be an apostle with a lower case “a.” Then there is this kind of use; Paul is an Apostle we could say, with an upper case “A.” And he is one of those original pillars on which the church was built, or the foundation on which the church was built as it testified to Jesus Christ, eyewitnesses and authoritative teachers of doctrine, that's what Apostle with capital A means. And so he wants them to know that his role as an Apostle, as a teacher of the Gospel, was given him by God Himself.
Now, there's nothing wrong with pastors receiving a commissioning from other people to serve. As a matter of fact, that's all we have these days. Churches like you give people like me the right to preach and to teach, generally by a congregational vote. But Paul didn't get his authority and his right to teach or his ministry from any congregational vote or from anybody at all. He got it directly from God through Jesus Christ, and so he has the authority to teach the Gospel, that's what he's claiming here. He was called into his ministry directly by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Saul, Paul had been a bitter enemy of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ.
He makes his appearance in the Bible as a young man who is consenting to the martyrdom, the killing of Stephen at the end of Acts 7. He then (in Acts 8) begins a career or bitterly persecuting the church, dragging off men and women and throwing them in prison. There are implications that he perhaps may have even killed some of them. He was a violent man, and he at least consented to their deaths, if he didn't actually himself do it. That's the kind of man he was. Meanwhile, he was also an excellent law-abiding Jew who was climbing the ladder of careerism and Judaism. He was getting greater and greater as a Jew and being recognized by the authority figures, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, all of these audiences seeing his greatness and Judaism and his law-keeping. And then he became an emissary from them to persecute the church, even getting letters from the authorities in Jerusalem to go to synagogues in Damascus to persecute the Christians there.
And it was while he was on his way to Damascus that suddenly a blinding light from heaven flashed. We're going talk more about this, God willing, next week. But he fell to the ground and he heard a voice saying to him (Acts 9:4-5), "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus." Oh, those words changed his life. "I am Jesus. I am the resurrected one. I am the savior. I am the God of the universe." "Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city and you'll be told what you must do." So from the very beginning his own salvation is linked with his calling to work for Jesus as an apostle. So he did not get his commission from any human beings or from any human source at all. The Lord told Ananias who was sent by Him to baptize Paul, the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer from my name." So he's going to be a messenger to the Jews, but especially to the Gentiles.
III. Paul’s Apostolic Greeting
And notice what he says. "Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead." And so the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is central to this message, how fitting is it? Do you see how fitting it is for us to finish the Gospel of Matthew and go right over into Galatians. Amen. For us to go right from the account of Jesus' death, burial, resurrection and commissioning of the Apostles into Galatians, which very accurately teaches what message it is that should be preached to the ends of the earth. What Gospel message is it that these Apostles should preach, and that is still with us today. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to everything, and it is God the Father who raised Him from the dead. It was a living Christ, it was a living Jesus that appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and changed his whole life. The resurrection of Christ from the dead was the centerpiece of the Gospel and it was Paul's own joy and hope.
Grace and Peace To You
Then he says, "Grace and peace to you," it's a standard apostolic greeting. But in Galatians, I think it takes on an extra significance. Later he's going to say that they had fallen away from grace, and we'll talk about that difficult phrase. Basically there's a principle of grace by which we are saved and it's over against law or works, self-righteousness. We are saved by grace. We can't say it enough. We're saved by grace. What is grace? Grace is a disposition in the heart of God toward us. Start there, it's in the heart of God. It's God's attitude toward us. A disposition of love and benevolence and generosity toward us, to lavish on us, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to us who deserved eternal condemnation because we'd broken His laws. So to understand grace, it's in the heart of God. It results in gifts and good things flowing out from God to us. It comes to us through Jesus Christ. We receive it by faith and it's directly contrary to what we deserve.
Now, the last part is probably one of the more famous aspects of the definition of grace, unmerited favor. That is so weak and pale compared to the full-blooded understanding of grace. Unmerited favor is when you go find a total stranger and give him a $20 bill. Alright. Friends, eternal life is no $20 bill, and we were not total strangers. We were enemies. We were murderers. We were law breakers and we deserve condemnation, and God is giving us a river of blessings by grace. “Grace and peace to you.” Not by works but by grace we are saved. And in direct opposition, throughout this book they are going to be in direct opposition. You're either going to be saved by grace or you're going to be saved by works/law/self-righteousness. So in Galatians 2:21, he says, "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing." And later he says in Galatians 5:4, "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."
The Deliverance of the Gospel
Then he gives us a marvelous quick synopsis of the Gospel message. If you know what to look for, these are sweet, sweet words and they're in the hymn, one of the verses of the hymn that we just sang. I leaned over to Christy, I said, "Do you realize that the rescue theme and Christ interposed his blood?" That's right from Galatians 1:3-4, it's beautiful. Look what it says, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," verse 4, "Who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father to whom be glory forever and ever, amen." That's a very brief, quick summary of the Gospel message. It focuses on Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who gave Himself for our sins. This is the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Jesus interposed His precious blood. He stepped in between us and the lightning strike of the wrath of God. He took that strike for us. On the cross He died in our place. He interposed His precious blood, He laid down his life, He gave Himself. Why? For our sins. The Gospel is incredible. The Gospel tells us it was far worse than you could've possibly imagined about yourself and the answer is far more glorious and the future is far brighter than you possibly could have imagined for yourself.
It's really, really bad news and really, really good news. The really bad news is we were sinners, we were violators of the law of God and God's wrath was against us because of that written code that stood against us and was opposed to us. Jesus took that guilt on Himself. He took the condemnation that those sins deserve. He died in our place. He did it, it says, “to rescue us from the present evil age.” As I've said very plainly, we could not save ourselves. This is about rescue. We could not rescue ourselves, and so God sent His Son with deliverance and He rescued us, it says, from this present or the present evil age. Well, this is something that can only really be seen by faith, you can only see it with eyes of faith, this evil age that we live in. But many verses talk about it, don't they? Colossians 1:13, says, "He, God the Father, has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us or brought us into the Kingdom of the beloved Son." That's a rescue mission.
Jesus was sent by the Father to take us up out of Satan's dark kingdom and bring us into the beloved Kingdom of Christ. And so Ephesians 2:1-3 talks about how it was for us before we were Christians. It says, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live." You were living dead spiritually. You were the living dead. You were dead in your transgressions and sins as you lived. As you walked, it says, "And followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air." That's Satan. He is "the ruler of the kingdom in the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath”. But God, because of His great, rich mercy and grace to us in Christ, delivered us and rescued us by Jesus' blood. Amen? Hallelujah.
That's the rescue. We were enslaved to Satan's kingdom and could not save ourselves. So God sent His Son to rescue us from this present evil age. We are free now, we're free! We are free sons and daughters of the living God. We are free. We're free from sin, we're free from the law and its power to condemn us and send us to hell. We're free from hell itself, we're free from condemnation. But that freedom is not to be used for lust. It's not to be used for evil. We are now free to serve God as Jesus did. And Paul is going to get into that in Galatians 5. It's not freedom in the libertarian sense, it's a freedom to please God, and now we can do it by the Spirit. That is not a message of self-salvation, is it? That's a rescue in which Jesus has freed us, and so, therefore, to God be the glory, amen?
"We were enslaved to Satan's kingdom and could not save ourselves. So God sent His Son to rescue us from this present evil age. We are free now, we're free!"
To God be the Glory
Look what it says, "According to the will of our God and Father to whom be glory forever and ever, amen." In self-salvation, you get the credit, you get the glory. You rescued yourself. But in salvation by grace, God gets the glory and we are going to go up there in Heaven when we're done and we're going praise Him forever and ever for saving us. It's good to do it now, don't you think? Just thank Him, say, "Thank you for saving me. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your grace. I didn't deserve it. Thank you." Then Paul turns and it's like night and day here, or really day and night, praising God for the glory and then we go into bitter astonishment here.
IV. Paul’s Bitter Astonishment
Verses 6-7, "I am astonished that you were so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different Gospel, which is really no Gospel at all." Paul's usual pattern is warm thanksgiving and greetings. He thanks God for the Ephesians. He thanks God for the Philippians, richly and warmly thanks God for them. He thanks God for the Thessalonians and all the ways that God worked in their lives. He even thanks God for the Corinthians, for goodness' sakes. They were a messed up church. They had all kinds of problems, every problem you can have in pastoral ministry, the Corinthians had. They were all there and yet he thanks God. Listen to this, 1 Corinthians 1:4-6, "I always thanked God for you because of His grace given to you in Christ Jesus, for in Him you have been enriched in every way in, all your speaking, in all your knowledge, because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you."
Galatians didn't get that. Galatians didn't get any box with a ribbon handed. No gift. They get, "I am astonished at you." Why? Why so different? Why does he treat the Galatians so differently than everyone else? Well, because they're turning away from the Gospel itself and he is in deep concern about them. He's not sure if they genuinely, finally turned away from the Gospel of grace. If so, he says, "Then you aren't really Christians," and this is incredibly grievous to him.
He is astonished. He says that they are so "quickly deserting the one who called them by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different Gospel, which is no Gospel at all." There's two issues here. There's a sense of sadness, a sense of shock for him, a sense of bitter disappointment. You could say, "Well, it's personal. He did all that work and it's turned out so badly." I don't deny that that might have been in his mind, but that's not what's motivating him to write here. Oh, it is personal, but it's not about Paul. It's about God. You're abandoning God, the one who called you. You're turning your back on Him.
And what's so amazing is that it's happened so quickly. This isn't second and third generation now. This isn't your grandkids. This is you. I don't get the sense of decades here. I get the sense of months, if not a couple years. After such a short time they have turned their backs on God and on the Gospel of grace. And they're turning to what he calls "a different Gospel which is no Gospel at all." What does he mean by that? The word 'gospel' means good news. How is it good news that you can save yourself if you're perfectly obedient to the law of God? How is that good news? That's bad news. As a matter of fact, it's a yoke, that it says at the Jerusalem Council neither we nor our ancestors were ever able to bear. No one can bear it. You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Can you bear that yoke? It's a crushing burden.
It's no good news, it's no Gospel, it's no good news here, it's no Gospel at all. Grace and law are opposites. The law couldn't save. We looked at that in the Book of Hebrews a year or so ago. The law held no salvation. There was no cleansing of the conscience from law. There was no way it could deliver anyone from sin. And so Paul then utters a curse on the false teachers in verses 7-9. Look at verse 7, "Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion, are trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ." Trying to reverse the Gospel. "They're trying to revise it, which means to reverse it," says Tim Keller. I love that image.
They're turning away from the full Gospel here. They're turning away from the truth and they're being thrown into confusion. There are some people that are confusing you. Now, isn't it beautiful, the clarity of mind that saving faith brings. Suddenly you can see things. You understand who God is. You understand the world that God made. You know how you fit into it. You understand your sins. You get it all. You see it clearly. That's why I think John 9, that man born blind that Jesus spits and makes mud and then he washes and he can see, is not just a physical miracle, an actual miracle, but it's a metaphor, a spiritual image of our own salvation. John Newton thought it so when he wrote Amazing Grace. "How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found. I was blind, but now I can see". But now these false teachers come and things are confusing, they're throwing you into confusion. Satan is the god of confusion. And things aren't so clear anymore. Now they don't understand and now they're depressed and discouraged. Later he's going say, "What happened to all your joy? Remember how happy you were. You're not happy anymore."
V. Paul’s Curse on the False Teachers
Confusion has come in and so Paul utters a curse on them or on anyone that preaches a false Gospel. "Even if we or an angel from Heaven should preach a Gospel other than the one we preach to you, let him be eternally condemned." What an incredible statement. Let him go to hell forever and ever. Let him burn in hell forever, if he comes and preaches a false Gospel. He reaches for a lofty language, "Even if an angel from Heaven should come." Radiant, shining like lightning, like the angel that came and rolled back the stone and sat on it and his appearance was like lightning. If you ever saw an angel like that come and he stands in all this radiant glory and he preaches a Gospel other than the one we preach to you, let him be eternally condemned. Because Satan, you know, he can masquerade as an angel of light. He can do that, and so his messengers can look like servants of righteousness too. Paul uses that language. So even if you get a bright shining angel telling you another Gospel, let him be eternally condemned. But he actually adds himself to that.
"If I should come back later in two or three years and say, 'I think I've come to a new understanding of the Gospel. I've got a whole new way of understanding this and I start... I realize now the way that we harmonize the Old Testament and the New Testament is Christ plus law equals salvation.' If you ever hear me say that, then let me be eternally condemned." Doesn't matter who says it. What matters is that the Gospel itself can never be changed. And he says it again. He repeats it. He says, "I've already said. So now I say again if anyone is preaching to you a Gospel other than the one you accepted, let him be eternally condemned." It doesn't matter. So he says it twice. Paul's ultimate goal here is to please God and not men. He said, "I'm not trying to be popular here." I wonder if the Judaizers said that about him. "Paul's just trying to make it easy, easy believeism, don't have to keep any of these laws, he's got a big following in every Gentile city he goes. He's just trying to be popular."
VI. Paul’s Ultimate Goal: To Please God
Paul says, "No, I'm not, I'm trying to be faithful, trying to be faithful to the God who gave me this Gospel, that's what I'm trying to be. Am I now trying to please men or God? Am I trying to win the approval of men?" Now, that is such a temptation, isn't it? Do you feel that pull on your hearts? Trying to please people, trying to please human, a human audience. The irony with whole Judaizer-legalism thing is, the shoe is on the other foot. They're living for a human audience. They're living for the Sanhedrin or the Pharisees, with legalists that taught them their legalism to try to please them. There's always a human audience with legalism, always. "So I'm not trying to please men, but I'm trying to please God. If I were trying to please men I would not be a servant of Christ." That's his ultimate goal.
Now, what applications can we take from this beginning as we begin to look at Galatians? First, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven to us. You've heard it preached this morning, how God sent His Son, Jesus, who lived a sinless life perfectly obedient to the law we could not keep.
He kept it perfectly, and he is offering to you and to me a gift, a free gift of perfect righteousness, like a beautiful robe. He's just saying, "Here, put this on. It's my righteousness. I get all the credit, but you get the glory and the beauty and the salvation that comes. Put it on and you give me all that nasty, wicked sin and I will take the wrath and the punishment that that sin deserves." That's the exchange of the Gospel. Trust in Him, trust. Don't leave this place unconverted, unconvinced, because there is no other message. If you reject this Christ righteousness gift, the only thing left to you is your own works righteousness and it will not save you. Trust in Him. And if you've already trusted in Christ and been a Christian for years, understand what I said a number of minutes ago, the Gospel is still for you. "It's not the ABCs," as Tim Keller said. I love this, "It's the A to Z." Again and again you're going to come back to this, I am forgiven in Jesus. I'm forgiven in Christ. I can't use my good works to calm my conscience. That is such a thing we struggle with, right? Whenever you're guilty, whenever you violate God's law in some way and you are guilty and you've done something sinful, works righteousness says, "God demands some kind of works, a list of things and once you do those seven things you can start feeling good about yourself again." That's works righteousness. Throw it away. It is wickedness.
You come back again to the cross, you come back again to Jesus and say, "I'm a sinner. I'm a sinner, you know who I am. Thanks be to God that you saved me by your grace. Forgive me, cleanse me, renew me and restore me." And then when He does that, get up and walk in the power of the Spirit and serve God in righteousness and holiness, and live in that pattern the rest of your lives. We have a lot more to say in Galatians, but we'll stop right here. Let's close in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the things that we have learned. We thank you for the Gospel message. We thank you for the power of the Gospel to transform us. I thank you for the example of the Apostle Paul in preaching it to us. God, I pray that we would realize there's no middle ground between Christ's righteousness and self-righteousness. I pray that we would embrace by faith the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and embrace by faith the gift of perfect righteousness and embrace by faith the gift of the Holy Spirit who empowers us now to walk in newness of life. Help us to understand this true Gospel we pray in Jesus' name.