A Different Gospel (Gal. 1:1-12)

A Different Gospel
Galatians 1:1-12

Before Covid hit, for several years, I was a volunteer for Heart to Heart Hospice. I visited different individuals in different facilities and sat with them for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. I might watch TV with them, play games (I learned how to be play cribbage with one patient). I might read to them - I read several westerns to a man in Durand. Then he got transferred to Holly and I drove down there several months and read to him, and then he returned to Durand and I continued to read to him until he passed away.

When I first introduced myself to a new patient, I always introduced myself as the minister for the church here. And, when I offered the list of things we could do together, I always included reading the Bible. One man finally took me up on that offer - at the assisted living facility here in Swartz Creek, right around the corner from us - down Miller Road.

I asked if he would like me to read the Bible to him and he said yes. We started in Matthew and he actually did most of the reading. I let him read a paragraph or so and then I would summarize what the text was saying, emphasizing important points. This man had been in the Catholic church when he was a child but had not gone to church for a long time. He had a slow-progressing form of bone cancer. He was always feeling good enough for us to read together. We read 1-2 chapters a day, each week.

The man’s father was an alcoholic and this man had held some bitterness in his heart against his dad. The man also held some bitterness against his mom because she allowed herself to be abused by her drunken husband. That bitterness also spilled over toward some of the people in the assisted living facility - the workers and some of the other patients.

But one day when I went in to visit with him and read from God’s word together, the man told me, he said, “Paul, this reading the Bible is really doing me some good. It’s changing my behavior. I’m being more patient with the workers and with some of the people who live here.” I responded, “Yes, that’s what will happen when you allow the Spirit of God to teach your spirit.”

We continued reading - every week unless I was out of town. We came to the last chapter of Matthew, to the text where Jesus talks about baptism and I was excited to talk to him about the one step Jesus put into His gospel that puts someone into contact with His blood. We read together Matthew 28, but then the man asked a different question - it was a spiritual question and it was a good question - but it took the conversation in a different direction.

So, I thought, “Well, we’ll go into the book of Acts next and that will give me plenty of opportunity to talk about obeying the gospel.”

The next week, the man went into the hospital. I went to see him at the hospital - I think he was at Hurley. When I went up to his room, he had a former co-worker and friend there with whom he worked together at GM. We had some small talk and then I asked him if I could read the Bible to him. He said, “Sure.”

As I was turning to the book of Acts, the man looked over at his friend and said, “This is what I should have been doing all those years I was working for GM!” That made me feel good.

I found Acts and I began reading to him - chapter 1 - and summarizing what was happening. Then chapter 2… I got down to Acts 2:14 and the man interrupted me. He said he was getting tired and he asked if I could stop there and maybe come back another day. I said, “Sure.” That was on a Thursday, the day I normally visited.

He died Saturday.

He had not had a chance to obey the gospel of Christ. The apostle Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 that when Jesus comes back again, He is going to take vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can’t hold out hope for that man - even though it clearly seemed like he was moving in the right direction. The Bible does not hold out hope for people who don’t obey the gospel; in fact, the Bible is actually very clear in the opposite direction.

The gospel of Christ is God’s power to save man, for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom. 1:16). In the gospel of Christ is revealed the righteousness of God as it leads to faith and builds on faith.

The apostle Paul had to deal with people in his time, just as we do, who have - under the influence of Satan - perverted the simple message of the gospel of Christ. Let’s feed on Paul’s warning this morning from Galatians 1:1-12 and take serious his admonition not to change or alter the gospel of Jesus Christ. If man does not properly understand the Gospel message of Christ, how can he properly obey the gospel message of Christ?

Paul’s authority - The first thing - which is very unusual for Paul’s letters - Paul does is to tell his Christian audience that he is an apostle! He is not an apostle sent from men. There were apostles who were sent out by the church, like Barnabas. But Paul was not in that category. Paul was an apostle “through Jesus Christ and God the Father.” When someone challenges the teachings of the apostle Paul, of course, the true and accurate response is: That man was an apostle of Christ.

Jesus set the teachings of the apostles on the same level as His own teachings. In Luke 10:16, Jesus states to His apostles: “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Meditate on that statement - to reject the teachings of Paul, as an apostle of Christ, is to reject Jesus Christ, which is to reject God the Father. We must take the teachings of the apostles seriously! It’s no joking matter.

When someone decides they want to brush off or reject the teachings of the apostles because they are not Jesus Christ, they are rejecting a very clear teaching of Jesus Christ: listen and obey My apostles! Just what teaching out of the mouth of Jesus can we reject and not offend Him?

The essence of the gospel - Having mentioned Jesus Christ and God the Father, Paul states in verse 1 that God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead. Of course, the resurrection of Christ is the heart and core of the Christian message. When we grasp that Jesus rose from the dead, it gives substance and foundation to everything else Jesus taught and, actually, everything else the apostles taught.

We’ll talk more about the specific challenges to the gospel in the Galatian region in just a moment. Notice in verse 2 that Paul is writing to churches of Christ in the Galatian region.

In verse 2, Paul extends his normal greetings to his fellow Christians: Grace and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, but then in verses 3-5, Paul gives the “essence” of the gospel message. If you were to state the essence of the gospel message in a single sentence, how would you do it? Here’s how Paul did it:

“Jesus gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” That’s the essence of the gospel message.

When I was in college, I had a professor who told us that the theme of the Bible in one sentence is (and notice how closely it relates to Paul’s statement in verses 4-5): “The salvation of man through Jesus Christ to the glory of God.”

1. Jesus gave Himself for our sins.
2. Jesus gave Himself so that He might rescue from this present evil age.
3. Jesus gave Himself according to the will of our God and Father.
4. Jesus gave Himself for the glory of God forevermore.

That is the essence of the gospel. But, there is more to the gospel than just that. In fact, in Galatians 3:8, Paul will apply the word “gospel” or “good news” to the message God gave to Abraham back in the book of Genesis. So we could broaden our understanding of the word or message of the gospel to include everything from the beginning of the Bible to the end - everything that has to do with God’s plan to save man from sin is a part of the gospel message. The Hebrew word for “gospel” is used 24 times, 7 in the prophecy of Isaiah. Let’s keep that in mind as we continue our study…

Some people desert Christ (ver. 6) - We will notice in verse 10 that some people choose to seek the favor of men rather than the favor of God. This is the source of all false gospels - wanting to appease the crowd of men first and foremost as opposed to wanting to please Jehovah God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let’s take a moment to see just what challenges the Christians in Galatia were facing… Notice in 2:14 that Paul was accusing Peter of compelling the Gentiles to live like the Jews. In 2:21, Paul states that he does not nullify the grace of God in teaching that Christ died for us and that righteousness comes through Him. If righteousness came through the Law of Moses, then Christ died needlessly.

Instead, in 3:13, Paul states that Christ redeemed Jews from the curse of the Law, being made a curse in place of the Jews. The Law of Moses, Paul says in 3:24 was a tutor to bring us to Christ so that, by faith we could be baptized into Christ and so put on Christ. In that way, we become children of God (3:26-27) and we become descendants of Abraham (3:29).

The Christians in Galatia, then, were begin challenged - not to turn their backs on Jesus Christ per se - but to add aspects of the Law of Moses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Specifically, they were being challenged to add circumcision to the gospel of Christ. Now, we understand how important circumcision was to the Jew. It was given to “Father” Abraham in Genesis 17, with the warning that if someone was not circumcised he would be excluded from God’s people. In Exodus 12, we learn that if someone was not circumcised, he could not celebrate the Passover Feast. So circumcision was extremely important to the Jew.

We could also see how the Jew would try to compel the Gentile to be circumcised, even if they were baptized into Christ. The problem is that circumcision was no longer a part of the gospel of Christ, not under the New Covenant. Notice Paul’s clear words in Galatians 5:2-4: “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

Again, we observe that the Galatian Christians were not being encouraged to abandon Christ per se - they were simply being tempted to add the Law of Moses to salvation in Christ. But, even though circumcision had been a part of Christ’s law under the Law of Moses, the teachings that one must be circumcised as a part of being a Christian was now a teaching of man, not a teaching of Christ!

Some want to distort the gospel of Christ (ver. 7) - Let’s make an application of this principle now in our modern society. Just how much of the gospel of Christ can we distort and still obey the gospel of Christ?

Can we distort the nature of God and not distort the gospel of Christ?

God is unchanging and eternal
God is Spirit
God is omnipotent and omnipresent
God is omniscient
God is wisdom and light
God is majestic and beautiful
God is life and immortal
God is One and Three
God is holy and righteous
God is jealous and perfect
God is truth and God is good
God is merciful and God is full of wrath

Can we distort the nature of God and not distort the gospel of Christ?

Can we distort the nature of man and not distort the gospel of Christ?

Man was created in the image and likeness of God.
Man was created on the 6th day of a week of creation.
Man was created as the pinnacle of God’s creation.
Man was created as the center of God’s world.
Man was created with a free will to respond to God.
Man has an intellectual nature which he is to engage in his obedience to Christ.
Man has a volitional nature which he is to engage in his obedience to Christ.
Man has an emotional nature which he is to engage in his obedience to Christ.
Man has a spiritual nature which he is to engage in his obedience to Christ.

Can we distort the nature of man and not distort the gospel of Christ?

God designed the gospel message as it is to meet the needs of man has he is.
Can we distort the nature of the gospel and not distort the gospel of Christ?

Man is to believe the gospel (Heb. 11:6; John 8:24). Belief is an act of the will. Faith is not a miraculous gift of God implanted into the hearts of men. Faith is an act of the will whereby man examines the evidence and then draws conclusions based on that evidence (John 20:30-31).

Man is to repent of his sins (Acts 17:30). Are there any sins that man does not have to repent of and he can still be saved? Paul gives a list of “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. Are these sins of which man needs to repent in order to be saved? Can we say that a man can continue living in these sins and still be saved? Doesn’t that distort the gospel?

Man must confess his convictions in Christ in order to be saved (Rom. 10:9-10).

Must must be immersed into water for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). This is a biblical doctrine which has been distorted and perverted by Satan and people who preach Satan’s doctrine, perhaps more than any other aspect of the gospel of Christ.
Satan teaches that you are baptized in order to associate with a specific church.
Satan teaches that you are saved by faith without having to be baptized.
Satan teaches that baptism is simply showing your faith in a visible way.
Satan teaches that baptism can be through the act of sprinkling.
Satan teaches that baptism can be through the act of affusion (having water poured over the head).
Satan teaches that baptism is simply a command of Christ without having any connection to salvation from sins.

How much of the gospel can we distort and still be saved?

All of these are distortions of the biblical doctrine of baptism and that’s why it is so important for us to listen to the words of the Holy Spirit about baptism and not man’s words (John 3:3-5). You can’t be saved by obeying man’s doctrines! You can only be saved by obeying what the Holy Spirit teaches. Otherwise, we’re obeying a distorted gospel of Christ.

Notice what Paul writes in verses 16-18 and verse 25: “walk by the Spirit,” be “led by the Spirit,” “live by the Spirit,” and again “walk by the Spirit.”

Can we distort the nature of the gospel and not distort the gospel of Christ?

“We” cannot preach a gospel different than what you have heard! Notice that Paul wrote if “we” - if an apostle - were to teach anything different than what had already been preached, they would be accused! Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 16:22 that if anyone does not love Jesus, he is accursed. Here, the person is accursed who distorts the gospel of Christ. He is put into the same category as someone who does not love Jesus Christ!

But not only that…

An “angel” cannot preach a gospel different than what you have heard! Notice that! Paul writes that even if an angel came out of the spirit world - the unseen world - and preached something different than what had already been preached, that person, that angel would be accursed. In other words, God revealed His will in the first century and there is no further need for a revelation from God and there is no further revelations from God. The gospel does not need any additions and it does not need any modifications.

The Bible - the gospel message - as it is is adapted to man as he is. If you adapt the gospel message to fit a changing culture, then you distort the gospel message so it is no longer suitable for man’s needs.

That’s why it can’t be distorted!

The “bondservant” of Christ seeks to please Him. Who do we seek to please in our teaching? Our friends or family or Jesus Christ? In 1 Thessalonians 2:4, Paul tells us that God is the one who examines our hearts; therefore, we need to seek to please Him.

A minister-friend of mine was antsy about studying with someone about some false ideas that person held. My friend was fidgety because he did not want to offend his student. I encouraged him to teach the truth with kindness, love, and patience, but with courage - to be sure he didn’t offend God in his study with that person. Does that concern us at all? That we might offend God as we talk about the gospel to other people?

Paul’s gospel is not according to men. If the gospel was “according to men,” we could change it. We could adjust it. We could take out the parts that we didn’t like. Just about two weeks ago, a man told me that we don’t have to believe Genesis is a literal account of the creation because the “majority of Christian scholars” say that Genesis is not literal. Seriously? How much can we reject out of the mouth of God and not offend God? This book is not “according to men!” Rather…

The gospel came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. This lesson is not about the “inspiration of the Bible” - I’ll have a lesson on that in September! - but King David said, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). That’s the idea of inspiration. That’s the idea that the gospel came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. We can’t distort the words out of the mouth of God! How can we get to heaven if we distort the message that came out of heaven which tells us how to get to heaven?

Take home message: Don’t distort the gospel of Christ! Understand the text, embrace His words, obey His commands, in order to enjoy His blessings!

Start an evangelism conversation: How would you describe your concept of Jesus Christ?


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