Sermon on Galatians 1:1-10
Text: 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 — 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Recently, an insurance company posed a question on one of its television ads. In essence, it asks if you are tired of all of the competing insurance companies promising that you will save this amount of money. ‘Save $300 here.’ ‘No, save $400 here.’ The announcer then tells you that, if you really want to save money, this is the insurance company you should use. This is the only insurance company that will really save you money. All of the rest are imposters. Whichever insurance company you decide to use is completely up to you. It has to be one that takes care of your needs, but there is no right one or wrong one. The same cannot be said of the various religious messages that clamor for your attention. There is a great difference between them. This morning, as we begin a study of the book of Galatians, Paul starts off by reminding us of THE ONLY MESSAGE THAT MATTERS 1. Because It Comes From God and 2. Because It Concerns Your Eternal Salvation.
Since we will be spending the next couple of weeks studying this letter of Paul, we would do well to look at a little background. The recipients of this letter were from a region in the eastern part of modern-day Turkey. Rather than addressing the letter to one congregation or an individual, Paul wrote this letter to a number of congregations in this region that were dealing with the same problem. The problem that they were facing was that some teachers had come into their midst and taught that, in addition to believing in Jesus as your Savior, you had to keep the Old Testament ceremonial laws, as well. The thrust of this letter is showing that following this way of thinking will lead to your eternal condemnation.
First of all, Paul defends the message that he brought to them as having come from God. He says in verse 1, “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.” He notes that he is “an apostle.” He is one who was sent out with this message. The message that he was sent out with was “not from men nor by a man.” He did not go to them with another’s agenda. He was not merely aping what others had told him to say. Rather, he was sent “by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” This is what made his message unique from all the other messages that the Galatians were hearing. These other people came with their own ideas. They came with teachings that were made up. What Paul had to say to them was from God himself. Paul received this one on one teaching from Jesus Christ in the time between his conversion and his first missionary journey. This is why the message that he proclaimed was like no other. His message was the only one that mattered.
We see the same sorts of situations today, as well. There are many religious messages that compete for your attention. They all claim that theirs is the truth. Sometimes, these religious leaders will claim to have had a vision from God, who told them that this is what they are to proclaim. Other times, they will use the Bible, but they will twist it and bend it, so that it ends up saying something that is not true. These people will sound so sincere in their teaching. God speaks his condemnation on such man-made teachings in Jeremiah 23:31, “‘Yes,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, “The LORD declares.”’” When you place their message next to the true teachings that are found in God’s Word, you see that they quickly fall apart. If the message does not come from God, if it is only found in the minds of human beings, it doesn’t matter. The message that we have before us is the only one that matters because it comes from God.
Another difference is found in the motivation for proclaiming the message. Paul speaks about this in verse 10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Many of the messages that are proclaimed are aimed at making people feel better. It might be the teaching that you do something for your salvation, because that appeals to my sense of self-worth and accomplishment. ‘Look what I did to be saved.’ We, also, see it in the thought that is popular in many Christian circles and is championed by Joel Osteen, among others. This thought is that if I give to God, he will give back to me in greater measure. If I give $1,000 to God, he will give me $10,000 back. Obviously, that is appealing, because I will end up getting rich, if I give enough to God. Another teaching that sounds so good to the human ear, is the idea that the church is here to take care of social issues. I feel good about myself, because I helped the homeless. This is not to say that we are not to be concerned with the welfare of others or help where we can. The problem comes about when this is the only message which is proclaimed and not the heart and soul of what the Bible says. It is not the message that matters. The message that matters comes from God, not human beings. Ultimately, it is the only message that matters. These other messages may serve a purpose, but the only message that matters deals with our eternal salvation.
This is such a vital matter that Paul wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” The Galatians had been taught what was correct, but these false teachers had come in and misled them, so that they were abandoning the truth for a lie. The gospel message was being perverted, saying that you had to do something to be saved. This can also be a danger for us. Sometimes, we may think that we have met God’s requirements by way we do, such as going to church on Sunday morning. Surely, God must take that into account. Again, it sounds logical and appeals to the human heart. However, as it says in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Following this type of thinking will only lead to eternal death. The reason for this is that, if we are going to follow this teaching, if we think that we add something to our salvation, we have to do it all. We have to be perfect in every one of our words, thoughts, and actions. We can never sin against God, even once. We have to always put God first in our lives. We have to always be loving and kind to everyone, even those who are not kind to us. The list goes on and on of how we have to live, if we are going to earn our salvation. If we are not perfect, we will be lost forever. That is why this message is so dangerous. It is not a message that brings life. It can only bring eternal condemnation.
We thank our God that this is not the main message in the Bible. It is necessary. It gets us ready to hear the main message, the only message that matters. Paul alludes to this beautiful gospel message when he describes Jesus in verse 4 as the one “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” This is the only solution to sin’s effect in the world. It is found in Jesus who “gave himself up for our sins.” His entire life was one of sacrifice. This sacrifice began when he left heaven and came to this earth. He lived the perfect life in our place. His life was “according to the will of our God and Father.” He further carried out this will by going to the cross. There he, literally, “gave himself up fo our sins.” He was the sacrifice that was necessary for our salvation. He paid for every one of our transgressions against God. His resurrection seals the fact that we have been rescued “from this present evil age.” Now, instead of an eternity apart from God, we have an eternity of blessing with God to look forward to. This is why this is the only message that matters, because it deals with our eternal salvation. Following any other path will only lead us away from God. This message of the gospel is what leads us to God. How blessed we are to have been taught this message. How great is the love of God that we believe the only message that matters.
Paul, also, shows the importance of this gospel message with the strong words that we find in verses 8&9, “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” If anyone should teach and promote a message of salvation other than through Christ alone and his work on our behalf, Paul says, they should be “under God’s curse,” that is to say, they should be eternally condemned to hell. The reason for this is that they are leading people astray from the one way to be saved, which is through Jesus Christ. They are telling people to put their confidence in something other than the substitutionary work of Jesus. If they listen, they will be lost. This underscores the importance of proclaiming the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. This reminds us to we pray for those who proclaim the gospel message, that they might always proclaim no other way to be saved than through Jesus Christ. The message that God wants to be shared with all the world is found in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” That is why this is the only message that matters.
There are many Christian voices clamoring for your attention. Go to a Christian book store and you will find so many books telling about salvation and getting right with God. Unfortunately, a great number of those books are full of false doctrine. They distort the truths that are found in God’s Word about wealth and the end of the world, to name a few. As horrible as those books are, there are so many that distort the message that God wants all people to know. They put conditions that must be met, such as making your decision for Christ. All of these are doing the same thing that the false teachers were doing in Paul’s day. Jesus saves you and you, also, must do this. We pray that the Lord would always help us to see the central message of the Scriptures as the only message that matters. This message does not come from what people think, but from God himself. It is the only message that teaches us how we are saved. May God keep us true to the only message that matters. Amen.
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