What an indictment. And yet so horribly prevalent in our modern church.
Paul dons the gloves from the very start of this letter. He was an apostle of God and certainly he makes it very clear that he was not appointed by man or by any institution!
Paul had been given the Gospel direct from God and he was determined to preach it as he had received it. He wasn’t going to allow the Gospel to be manipulated by any socio-economic or political expediency, nor would he allow different cultures to pick and choose what suited them. I am not ashamed of the Gospel, he wrote to the Romans!
No greater privilege can be bestowed than to be called of God to truly represent His Word. Paul was very aware of that esteemed honour. “I did not confer with man,” he states emphatically. He did not have to go to the “head-office” at Jerusalem to find the Gospel.
Paul also doesn’t pull any punches in his relationships. This “mighty man” of God was not faintly impressed by men and their ministries. In fact, he dared to challenge Peter, accusing him of being a hypocrite. And he included Barnabas in his criticisms by suggesting that they both feared man. Peter was not straight-forward, said tenacious Paul!
The Gospel is simple, in fact almost offensively simple to the complicated intellectual. A different Gospel was being preached. I marvel. I am astounded. Shocked! Shattered to the very core!
It is important for us to understand that Paul was not just disappointed or just a little bit put out. He was very disturbed. You were running so well! What happened? You have become estranged. You have fallen from grace!
Obviously these things can and do happen and it should be a source of major concern to those holding leadership office in the modern church. And just as Paul responded, so we should not get offended when God’s men grieve with similar passion and concern about the state of the church. Paul was distraught and did not hide his feelings.
A little leaven affects the whole lump! Yes, it doesn’t take much worldliness to cause chaos. Leaven is a pervasive transforming influence, a Christian cancer, and it abounds. Continuously we have flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh and all this needs is a little bit of help from the devil’s friends and allies.
Maybe we should be reminded of the Church at Ephesus. “I know your works” says the Lord, “that you have persevered, laboured and not become weary.” They had chalked up many good works that had benefited and impressed the community, not to mention that they had also exposed some false prophets. But they had lost their first love. They had forgotten about Jesus in all their eagerness to serve and minister.
It is a huge problem when you have forgotten about Jesus. Repent, or else you will lose your lampstand. It was as serious as that. The Galatians were foolish, senseless! They had been unwise and fickle and had not obeyed the truth.
From the days of the early church till now, the devil has been hard at work. He operates in many and varied ways but the major undermining influences revolve around “legalistically” plying his trade with the do’s and don’t and all the heavy religious stuff or else getting involved with and encouraging those so deceived by “cheap grace” and unconditional “freedom” that they become easy targets for what can only be described as charismatic witchcraft and fortune-telling!
The devil’s strategy has always been to join in something genuine and then simply take it over the edge! Today, we seem almost too ready, almost obsessive, about something new. Fancy ministries and “mountain top” experiences are all too alluring as we frenetically seek God to move and bring revival.
But the Gospel message is and always has been, simple and clear. It is not by works. It is not about religion. It is not about the church business or fancy ministries. But it is by faith, and faith alone and that in turn is solely and profoundly about Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. Jesus is faith. Jesus is hope. He is life. He is truth. Jesus is the only way! There is no access to God, the Father and His love, outside Jesus.
As Paul states: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ in me.” In other words Paul had died to self. His great ego problem that saw him hound and fight against “the way” had been laid at the foot of the cross. Only “these of faith” are the true sons of Abraham.
Paul had given up his independent right to himself as he declared: “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”
If you leave the Cross out, you have nothing. Jesus did not come to be a good example. Jesus did not come to “fix up” the world or to be a “quick fix” in anybody’s life. Jesus did not come to be our magic genie, to serve our every whim and fancy.
But Jesus did come to deliver us from sin! To deliver us from the curse of the law. To deliver us from our egos. To deliver us from the love of the world. To get us born again. To baptise us in the Holy Spirit. And to see our lives bear fruit.
As Paul states, we received the Spirit by the hearing of faith. The Gospel is the power unto salvation for those who believe. There is a process. We hear the Word preached. We have “listening” ears. Then follows conviction of sin, thanks to a soft heart. Repentance follows and then salvation and regeneration!
Bewitched! How easy it is to get led astray. The false teachers, who bend ears, and false prophets who tickle ears, are roundly condemned by Paul. He denounces them as “troublers” who “pervert” the truth. Let them be accursed, says Paul outrightly. “Don’t yield to them for one hour.”
Again, that is very interesting reaction against the modern inclination to just let everything false or questionable, just ride in the hope that it will die a natural death if it is not truly from God. That was Gamaliel’s advice but I do sense that when the wise man uttered these words he was more than just a little convicted that what they were witnessing in and through those early disciples was genuinely from above.
Such is the concerted, all-round, end-time attack on true Christianity that false teachers and prophets are almost on every street corner propounding their pet philosophies and opinions hidden in the sort of Christian mystic mist that currently pervades.
And many are scared to oppose what seems a bit freaky just in case they might be “quenching the spirit!” How the devil loves zealots who lack discernment. Paul’s major Galatians’ hassle was against legalism, liturgy, formal rights and rigid religion but it is just as bad when that type of “religion” is replaced by a noisy, undisciplined “super-spiritual” freedom that really has no basis in God’s truth.
Indeed, on our knees in sheer repentance, we should be asking God to forgive us for the things we have made it. Every great move of God we have managed to turn into “religion” -- noisy or otherwise.
The bottom line of our humanistic declaration is that it’s God’s job to bless and protect us. The sin of presumption sees us mould and manipulate God’s Word. God says look up but the devil counters by telling us to look down, and around and Satan aids and abets our deception as we try to turn spiritual truth into material and physical blessings.
The world ministers powerfully. Ask King Solomon how he managed to turn a great CV, a great inheritance, a great ministry, all the wisdom and money in the world into an absolute debacle. Simply, he gained the world and lost God! It took him 13 years to build his palace and only seven years to build God’s temple, a self-destructing ratio!
Are we spending more time on our own “palaces” than God’s “temple” in our lives?
Solomon’s wisdom became a problem. Initially he was quick to acknowledge God as the source of his brilliant ideas, schemes and judgements, but later he started taking this wisdom for granted. Finally it all produced rather sad fruit.
King Solomon, who in the youth of his great relationship with God wrote the inspired Proverbs, became the old king writing about “chasing the wind” in a “meaningless” world in the book of Ecclesiastes!
It is becoming increasingly harder to believe. Original sin was motivated by the offer of being like God and knowing the difference between good and evil. That is what was available to Adam and Eve. And thanks to their fall, this intellectual challenge continues to muddy the water.
Our own “will” and “intellect” is a gift from God but we subsequently have made it our God! We worship our individuality and our right to think and believe what we like. The irony, of course, is that we make God answer to our wills and intellects. The simple bottom line is nothing ever happens in our lives and in our relationship with the Lord until we give up our independent right to our wills and intellects.
Unbelief is a problem! Worldliness is a problem! Becoming lukewarm or backsliding is not like catching the annual dose of flu.
Disobedience is also problematic. If you love Me you do as I say, says the Lord. We obey because we love Jesus not because of any rules of disqualification. This is subtle but vital, a key to understand. It is not about “earning” but about “loving” Him so much.
The fear of God is the same. Fear revolves around just how awesome God is, not the rules and regulations.
Instead of analyzing Galatians verse by verse, chapter by chapter, just read it through from beginning to end in one sitting rather like you would read a book. Do this a few times and you will profoundly see Galatians in the context of being a letter from a very concerned father in the faith earnestly baring his heart.
Christians can fall from grace. They can be removed from Christ. You can lose your lampstand, like the Ephesians. You can get spewed out, like the Laodiceans. You can get blotted out, like those at Sardis. God will not be deceived. God will not be mocked. As you reap, you will sow.
Oh, that we would not be foolish Galatians!