The poison entered her mouth, and within minutes it took effect. Her body shook as she understood that without the antidote, there was no hope. As the light faded from her eyes, they injected the concoction that saved her life. Her story is the story of every believer. God offered a powerful remedy for man, but it was so simple it was hard to grasp!
Before I begin I want to offer a word about “philosophy of ministry”. There are those who ask Why we don’t teach about John 3:16 every week:
There are some who wonder why we don’t preach the Gospel at every message. I know there are churches that encourage you to invite unsaved friends so they can hear about Jesus in church. Don’t get me wrong, we should preach the Gospel, and people should meet Christ here – but that is not the primary mission of the church. Let me illustrate:
Pastor Jerry Shirley wrote: “Evangelist Freddy Gage tells of visiting 2 churches back to back, and it was a great lesson in opposites. He said that 1 church was dying, the other was growing and thriving. The first had a big sign out front that said, “All welcome…come on in.” And it was dying. The other was thriving, but it’s sign wasn’t on the outside, but just inside the door…you could only see it from the inside as you made your way out… “you are now entering the mission field”. That sign was saying, “go out and bring them in from the fields of sin!” Just as Jesus said, “go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.” Nowhere does the Bible command sinners to come to church!”
You see, the Bible contains two messages. About 15% of its contents are about “finding God” and 85% are about “following God” when I have found Him. Yet, many churches preach 85% Gospel, as though the call of the church is to be the place where the lost are reached. The Great Commission is the call to each of us as we are “going”. The local church is to disciple and train those who want to follow Christ. If we turn the cause of the church to allow seekers to come to Christ, we risk the ability to raise the bar of training beyond the presentation of the Gospel. Why is that a danger? Because people harden into carnality that they define as spirituality because they are “A OK” in the area of the Gospel (having accepted Christ) and they remain immature in their walk with God. The point of the church is that we grow up believers. Having babies is not being a parent – it only BEGINS the process. That is the message of John 21, where Jesus tells Peter to STOP being a fisherman and START being a shepherd.
Having this caveat in place – there are portions of Scripture that ARE about the Gospel and finding God – and Galatians is one of them. The letter is written because people heard the message of the Gospel that Paul preached – but then heard another message from others – and were abandoning the simplicity of the Gospel. We cannot make sense of the issue if we fail to first understand the basic Gospel that the Apostles preached.
First, we will examine the word “Gospel“, then the progression of the use of the term, then end with a survey of the facts of the Gospel.
Perhaps the easiest way to be sure we are all on the same page is to start with the word GOSPEL. The word in Greek is “Euaggelizó” is from eu (well or well done) and aggelos (the word for angel, messenger and message). The term Gospel simply means the “good news” or “good message”. It was used in two distinct ways inthe New Testament:
First, the four evangelists used the term Gospel in three distinct ways:
1) It is used as a “title” to their works (as in Mark 1:1) and simply refers to their message as good news concerning Jesus and His coming.
2) Jesus used it to proclaim His offer to the Jewish people of first century Israel when He proclaimed His presence among them. This is normally referred to as “the Gospel of the Kingdom”. For instance, in Matthew’s Gospel, the word isused three times to share this idea – “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” (4:25 cp. 9:35, 11:5). Mark uses it several times this way as well.
3) The evangelists used the term prophetically – to speak of the Apostle’s Gospel – the way of salvation – that needed to be shared in all the world as in “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mk. 16:15).
Next, the Apostle’s recorded messages clue us in to what was contained in their core message at the start.
John captured it this way in John 20:30-31: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book ; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God ; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
John expressed that the heart of salvation could be found in knowing the work of Christ.
Peter’s was every bit as specific about this in his first recorded sermon in Acts 2 to a Jewish group celebrating Shavuot (Pentecost) in Jerusalem can be summarized as follows: Acts 2:14-40
“14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. … 22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. … 32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. …36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
Note that Peter made the work of the Master be at the heart of his message, but ended with the need to respond to that message.
Paul echoed this message in a long treatise in Romans that included the fact that man is born condemned and must have the Gospel to be brought into relationship with the living God.
1:14 I am under obligation …. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. …3: 9 … both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 3:11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…4:21 and [Abraham] being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification…10: 8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART… 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. … 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? … 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
The Gospel of the Apostles included the facts:
- Jesus came and paid the penalty for our sin.
- His work must be personally heard and responded to in faith.
- That act of faith judicially allows God to substitute the sacrifice as an acceptable payment for you sin personally, when you choose to believe and submit to His message.
- Our salvation will be enacted by the grace of God in the faith of our response – and we shall be His.
Note that Paul goes to great pains to say there is no work that one can do to earn the Gospel. There is a faith response to the sacrifice of Jesus plus NOTHING. The simplicity of the Gospel alone was the antidote. In the complex days we live in, we forget the simple message:
Epehsians 2:1 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Before we go on… Do not lose the mystery of the Gospel. The sacrifice was not small, and the change was not subtle. God changed everything about everything by giving up His most precious Son.
Now to our study in Galatians…
The Underlying Argument of Galatians:
The argument of the book of Galatians is the most technical of all of Paul’s Epistles. The letter has to do with the ‘formula’ for justification before God. Paul divided the evidence for his argument into three types of material – a personal testimonial
to the Divine origin and sanction of the simple Gospel formula (1:10-2:21); a theological framework for the simple Gospel formula (3:1-4:31); a practical argument of the effect of liberty (5:1-6:10). In the years that I have taught the Bible, one of the letters of Paul that has caused more debate then perhaps any other among those of us that believe that God’s promises to Israel continue to be literal and future is the letter to the Galatians. It deserves careful study. Growing up in a church, all I knew of the law was largely based on the mistaken notion that it was defective. I learned the old, “Law bad, Grace good!” motto. Sadly, that is as far as some ever get in the letter. We can, and must look more closely!
A Personal Testimonial to the Divine origin and sanction of the simple Gospel formula (1:10-2:21)
On a busy Friday night at a restaurant where Cliff Johnson had recently started waiting tables, the owner suddenly emerged from the kitchen and handed him money. “We’re in trouble!” he said. “We’re out of quarters, and customers are waiting. Go next door and get me $40 worth.” Cliff ran to the supermarket next door, but a cashier said she wasn’t allowed to give out that many quarters. Determined, he sprinted to a convenience store two blocks away, but it was closed. At a gas station farther down the road, the clerk took pity and gave him the four rolls of quarters. Twenty minutes after he’d left, Cliff handed the coin rolls to his boss. “Where are the quarters?” he asked. “Right here,” He said breathlessly. His face sank. “I meant chicken quarters.” Well, the boss thought he had communicated clearly, didn’t he? But it proved otherwise. And it is a lesson to us about the nature of communication.
(sermon central illustrations)
“One of the most frequently used phrases in Christian circles is “the gospel.” Amazingly few adults know what this term means. It could either refer to its literal translation, “good news;” or to the perspective that salvation is available only through the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ and a person’s acceptance of Christ as their savior. Less than four out of ten adults (37%) knew this; 34% had other, inaccurate perceptions of the meaning of the term; three out of ten adults did not offer a guess. Even among born again Christians, only 60% correctly identified at least one meaning of this expression. (1994)… [From Barna Research Online – Beliefs: Salvation. www.barna.org]
Six Truths of the Unchangeable Gospel (1:1-10).
1) The Gospel message was DIRECTED. God chose me to tell you what I did – we must take it SERIOUSLY.
Paul, chosen by the God who raised up Jesus and my brothers to the Galatian believers (1:1-2)
Paul, makes the point that he was chosen by God for a reason. He told the believers in Galatia that he was not to be classed with those who come with letters of recommendation from men. He was not made an apostle by any council or church. He was made an apostle by a personal encounter with Jesus. He knew that he had a unique place in redemptive history. He carried an authority to govern and teach the early church.
The trouble was that a group of supposed believers had come to the churches of Galatian, after Paul had been there, and challenged his apostolic authority. They pointed out that he was independent, overly enthusiastic, and he was missing the proper credentials.They were trying to get the Galatians to reject his authority as an apostle. Paul was greatly disturbed by this news. He knew exactly who he was and the misrepresentation was leading people astray.
2) The Gospel message was DELIBERATE. God directed the work for a specific purpose – we must take Him at His Word.
Grace and peace from God and from our Savior, who offered Himself to rescue us from the evil of our day as God directed. Glory to Him! (1:3-5).
The time had come to answer the claims of those who were leading people astray. This was not an ego battle – but raising the standard of truth in the face of the Father of Lies.
There is a true story of a man that was working in his garage. He was the kind of person who did not like to be interrupted while engaged in a project. Knowing this, his wife walked into the garage and stood quietly at his side for several minutes, waiting for the proper time to speak. At last, her husband looked up, the signal that she was free to say what was on her mind. Very calmly, and without a trace of panic, she said, “The house is on fire.” You know, there definitely is a time to forsake the customary, polite, social graces and bluntly state the problem. The burning house was a time for immediate communication.
As John MacArthur says, “Since it offered no grace and provided no peace, the law system being taught by the lying Judaizers is attacked even in this simple greeting.”
3) The Gospel message must not be DISTORTED. A change in God’s message is a perversion of truth – it must be rejected.
I am stunned that you are accepting a perversion of the Gospel brought by trouble makers. No one must be allowed to change the truth – send them out accursed if they try! (1:6-9).
4) The Gospel message cannot be DILUTED. God is the Master and we serve Him – obedience to Him must not be trivialized.
Do I now live for popularity? It cannot be, or I would not faithfully serve my Master, the Lord! (1:10)
5) The Gospel message was not CONTRIVED. Jesus passed these truths to me – they must be heeded carefully!
I did not invent the message, nor get it from another man. Jesus taught it to me! I had an excellent education in Judaism, and even began as a persecutor of the church. Yet God who chose me pulled me to Himself and revealed the Gospel to me – calling me to bring it to you. I didn’t take the message to men, but went to the desert to meet with God. (1:11-17)
6) The Gospel message was POWERFUL. It was evidenced by the miraculous change in my life (1:18-24).
After three years I came to Jerusalem and spent fifteen days with Peter. I saw only James and Peter and then went back to Cilicia until the elders sent for me, excited that people heard that I ceasedpersecuting the church and joined with them! (1:18-24)
Paul had a right to be stunned when the people of Galatia moved away from the Gospel he brought to them. He had seen countless people set free by the power of God. He experienced the powerful change HIMSELF! “The strongest argument for the Gospel of Christ is the personal testimony of someone whose life has been changed by it. Charles Bradlaugh, an avowed infidel, once challenged the Rev. H. P. Hughes to a debate. The preacher, who was head of a rescue mission in London, England, accepted the challenge with the condition that he could bring with him 100 men and women who would tell what had happened in their lives since trusting Christ as their Savior. They would be people who once lived in deep sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents. Hughes said they would not only tell of their conversion, but would submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories. Furthermore, the minister invited his opponent to bring a group of non-believers who could tell how they were helped by their lack of faith. When the appointed day arrived, the preacher came, accompanied by 100 transformed persons. But Bradlaugh never showed up. The result? The meeting turned into a testimony time and many sinners who had gathered to hear the scheduled debate were converted.” [Source unknown - www.bible.org/illus/g/g-65.htm ]
Two Pastors I read recently shared this insight: “One of my favorite games to play with young people as a youth pastor was “Capture the Flag.” The game has two teams and there are, basically, two ways to advance in the game. One objective is to capture members of the other team when they come into your territory, and put them in jail. The other objective is to capture the flag of the opposing team. Capturing their flag results in outright victory. The game is over.
In the Christian life, we are called upon, on occasion, to skirmish with the agents of the opposition, to fight individual battles and gain important territory. We can get a bill passed to stop partial-birth abortion, remove pornography from some newsstands, or achieve justice in some area of our society. But Paul is not writing about skirmishes here in the book of Galatians: he is writing about the flag. If the Gospel is lost, it does not matter how many of our opponents are out of commission. The game is over. So remember this, please…the gospel is not negotiable.
What if the girl at the beginning of our story was given the wrong antidote for her poison? She would be LOST. So will those who accept a Gospel that has been substituted for the one given by God! It is a message of a substitute Who took on Himself the judicial price of my sin. I am guilty and He paid. I owe His everything, for He gave everything to save me. I am now His and not my own! There is no other antidote.
If being good was enough, Jesus need not have died.
If religion was enough then His sacrifice was needless.
God’s great love and Jesus’ great choice leaves us with one great option -CHOOSE LIFE. You will gain Heaven by giving God the remainder of your life for His glory, and His purposes.