We begin a study of Galatians. It is not a letter to one church, but a whole region of congregations. A region Paul knows well. This was one of the first writings we have of the Apostle Paul and it happens to also be one of his most harsh – right from the start.
A. In 2016 only 32 percent of people between 18 and 49 got their news by watching TV. Of that same group 49.5 percent got their news online. Social media is credited for changing way Americans view the news, view politics, and promote causes. The reality is, there are many twisted truths on social media and slanted truths on TV news channels. There is enough truth in many of the stories to make them believable and to sway us emotionally to some cause. We jump on the band wagon and get all our friends social media join our cause.
B. Why are we so quick to believe a story on social media? The fact is, because one of my friends reposted it. I trust you therefore I should trust the story you posted. But sometimes that child who just wants a Christmas card is not all it’s promoted to be.
C. The book of Galatians was written to region that is somewhat undefined. But for the most part is a region is on the northeast portion of the Mediterranean Sea. Paul traveled through this area on his first missionary journey. He was born in Tarsus, not far away. So when Paul writes this letter to these churches, they are probably churches he personally helped to start.
D. So Paul begins his open letter with these words (READ Gal 1:1-2). Right from the start you get a feel for the tone of the letter. While Paul will defend himself, he is really defending the gospel of Jesus. A message that Paul don’t just hold dear, but a message in which he is convinced is the only way to have eternal life. Everything else is fake news.
E. For Paul there is one true Gospel. He summarizes it in verses 3-5. The simplest presentation of the gospel is that Jesus died to deliver me from my sin and was raise to conquer the consequence of sin – death. What the gospel does is deliver me from the evil of this world and places me in the loving hands of my heavenly Father.
I. The Messed Up Message
A. We are not dealing with Christians who struggled for knowledge. We are dealing with churches who deserted truth and grasped on to something false.
B. Paul simply was beside himself that people would go down this road, a road that didn’t offer them more grace, more joy, or more freedom, but offered them only a false sense of religion. Our text begins (READ Gal. 1:6-7).
C. Paul was not filled with venom with people whose opinions differed from his own. He was absolutely convinced that there is a true gospel message and that everything else that teaches how to be saved is false. There is no opinion about this in Paul’s mind. It is fact. Such a fact that he is amazed that these people, whom he personally taught, would now basically call the message a lie. That is beyond comprehension for Paul. He is astonished, amazed, that they would desert the grace of Christ for…what?
D. Paul’s point is very harsh, but very clear. You don’t mess with the message of Jesus. You don’t have the authority or power to change God’s message of salvation. How strongly does Paul believe this? Listen to again (Read Gal. 1:7-9).
E. Now, let’s really be honest here. If we, in this worship, witness what we believed to be an angel, I know we would pay close attention to what that being said. Paul is not saying that angels were coming from heaven and rewriting the message that Jesus taught and was then shared by the early church of Acts 2. He is trying to make a point by going to an extreme.
F. But do you feel the passion behind the words? Paul says that such people who would teach a different message of salvation that is contrary to what has been revealed, let those be cursed! Hold on to that thought. That is a Jewish phrase. When you look at that teaching in the OT and in Judaism, a curse upon you is disowning you, throwing you out of the camp, putting you under the wrath of God himself. That is where Paul is. You mess with the message, you answer to God, not men – not Paul, not me, not the church – you answer to God. That is a harsh statement.
II. How Do You Know The True Gospel?
A. We will hear more about what this fake gospel as we continue, but it begs the question. How do you truth? How do you know that the message that I preach concerning the salvation that comes through Jesus is the only true message and not just my opinion of the message? Can we simply agree to disagree on this topic? Paul say that is not a matter of opinion. In a day and age where we go along to get along, where tolerance is valued higher than truth, this is a difficult statement to accept. So how do you know truth?
B. In many ways we are more blessed than Christians in Paul’s time. We have the written word that they were just getting in bits and pieces. There need for prophetic messages were great and some charlatans used that for personal gain. But that is not the case here. This was a core church problem in the first century. It was as much about Jew vs Gentile as it was about Jesus. Today we see it as denominations fighting among denominations.
C. Man has messed up the message because we refuse to honor the author – God. Paul says “faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17).” Peter would tell us that men were carried along by the Holy Spirit when they wrote God’s message down, not some story they invented (2 Pet. 1:20-21). Paul told Timothy that all scripture is God’s very breath of life for us and that through it we are to reprove, rebuke, exhort and encourage (2 Tim. 3:16).
A. There are opinions about things we don’t have clarity on in the Bible. There are subjects we debate because God did not reveal only one answer to us in scripture. But the gospel message that grace comes through Jesus – that salvation is only through him and that it is open to everyone – not just people like you – well, that is up for debate.
B. Grace is extended to everyone. There isn’t a sinner so great that God cannot save. Maybe a church they are not welcome in, but that is not God’s message. God loves you and is calling you to come to him through a repentant faith.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister