Pseudo Good News.
Obviously, I am not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. – Galatians 1:10 NLT
After a brief, yet heartfelt greeting, Paul cuts to the chase. He is writing to new believers living throughout the region called Galatia (now modern Turkey), and he wants to warn them about a problem he sees going on among them. He pulls no punches, but is extremely blunt with his assessment of the situation. “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ” (Galatians 1:6 NLT). Paul is completely baffled by the reports he has heard coming out of Galatia. Of the 13 letters that Paul wrote that became part of the canon of Scripture, this is believed to be the first one. It was likely written some time around 49 A.D. Since the time of Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Gospel has spread throughout the known world. It had made its way to Galatia and Gentiles were coming to faith in Christ. But as the Gospel spread, so did a lot of false teaching. There was no New Testament Scriptures at this time. There were few, if any, elders or leaders for these new congregations of believers springing up all over the place. There was little in the way of an established doctrine for the Church. Much of what Paul and others wrote in these letters became what we now have as the New Testament. Their writings, penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became the foundation of the doctrine to which we still adhere today. They were addressing issues and problems that were creeping up as the Gospel spread and the Church grew in numbers. Immediately after Pentecost, most of the early converts to Christianity were Jews, but that had begun to change as the Good News was carried around the world. Increasingly more and more Gentiles, or non-Jews, were coming to faith. And because Jesus and His disciples had been Jews, there was a strong tie to Judaism in those early days. Many of the Jewish converts were of the opinion that belief in Christ was simply an extension or add-on to their Jewish faith or heritage. In other words, becoming a Christ-follower also required that you become a Jew, submitting to all the Jewish laws and traditions. In time, a group who held an extreme form of this view rose up. They came to be known as the Judaizers. It seems that they were having a strong influence in places like Galatia, telling Gentile converts that their faith in Christ was incomplete or inadequate. They were teaching that faith in Christ alone was not enough. More was required of them. They must also become converts to Judaism, all males must go through the ritual of circumcision, and they must keep the Law and adhere to all Jewish traditions and customs. As you can imagine, this caused a great deal of confusion for these new believers.
And it caused a great deal of anger in Paul. This became one of the major themes in his letters. He warned his readers, “You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News, but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7 NLT). Paul makes it clear that what these believers are hearing is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is some kind of an aberration. It is a “different way,” but not the one true way. It is a false gospel, but not the true Gospel concerning faith in Christ alone. And Paul gives his feelings about this pseudo gospel and those who are promoting it: “Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who practices a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you” (Galatians 1:8 NLT). Paul was anything but tolerant and inclusive. He was not a proponent of the heresy that all religions lead to God. He was not politically correct or willing to accommodate all views. As far as he was concerned, there was one Gospel and it did not include conversion to Judaism or adherence to the Law. The Gospel Paul preached required faith in Christ alone and nothing more. It was faith-based, not works-based. It had no place for earning or merit. What made the Good News good news was that it was a free gift, unhampered by human effort or achievement. Gone were the days when sacrifice and law-keeping were the required means of pursuing a right relationship with God. No amount of either one had ever truly made anyone right with God. But with His death on the cross, Jesus had satisfied the just demands of God once and for all. He had paid the price for our sins with His own life. No more lambs needed to be sacrificed. No more hopeless attempts at trying to keep the Law to perfection were necessary. Salvation had been provided by Christ and was not dependent on the efforts of man anymore.
So Paul boldly and aggressively deals with this issue right up front. He is anything but subtle. And he makes it clear, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God” (Galatians 1:10 NLT). Paul is a servant of Jesus Christ. He answers to Him and Him alone. He cared more about what God thought about him, than what men did. This was not a popularity contest for Paul. He had been commissioned by Jesus Himself to take the Good News of salvation in Christ alone through faith alone to the world. He would not tolerate the teaching or preaching of any other gospel. He would not put up with those who attempted to redefine the Gospel as Jesus plus anything.
Father, it is so easy to try to add to the Gospel. We so want to put our twist on it. We want to add rules and requirements that are unnecessary and only muddy the water. We crave achievement and recognition for our efforts. We have been brainwashed to believe that we have to DO something to earn Your forgiveness and favor. But salvation is a gift. It was made possible by what Your Son did on the cross. It has nothing to do with human effort or earning. As we read through the letter of Galatians, help us see where we may be trying to add to the Gospel even today. Open our eyes and help us give up all attempts at self-righteousness and once again place our faith in the righteousness of Christ alone. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men