“Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism.”
Galatians 1:11 (MSG)
In his introduction to the Book of Galatians, Eugene Peterson starts off by saying, “When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them “in their place.’” Sounds kinda sinister, don’t it? Maybe this why the apostle Paul felt he was put in a position to ask, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among as crucified?” (Gal 3:1) These days we could say “O foolish Christian” but with SO MANY different denominations, theologies, doctrines and the like, somebody is bound to argue the dot and tittle about the word change. Sad, but true.
However, we don’t need to go all the way into chapter three of Galatians to get a sense that Paul is really unhappy with the folks that went into the churches he planted in Galatia and basically undermined him. Martin Luther would paraphrase this scenario, “They said to the Galatians: “You have no right to think highly of Paul. He was the last to turn to Christ. But we have seen Christ. We heard Him preach. Paul came later and is beneath us. It is possible for us to be in error—we who have received the Holy Ghost? Paul stands alone. He has not seen Christ, nor has he had much contact with other apostles. Indeed, he persecuted the Church of Christ for a long time.” Hmm…then there’s this.
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different Gospel.” (Gal 1:6) Then Paul being Paul would allow his language to get stronger, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you then what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8) As a man who has who has only walked in the dust of Jesus for a mere 18 years I can relate to Paul’s frustration. There’s been many-a-time when someone else decided to tighten up my nutshell of a Gospel message with a dispensation or two. Sometimes all you can is let out a heavy sigh.
None the less, one of the biggest turn-offs a new convert can have about Christianity is the legalism that folks seem to wanna attach to it. “I can’t have spiritual liberty unless I do this list of chores and dump this amount of money in the basket? Forget that then!” And to be technical about this… “Legalism, which teaches that justification or sanctification depends upon a person’s own efforts, thus denying the sufficiency of the Cross, is the most persistent enemy of the Gospel of Grace.” So…
It basically undermines the simplicity of the two commandments Jesus gave us. Love the Lord, your God, with pretty much everything you got and love your neighbor as yourself. Sometimes I get to thinking the legalist wants to skirt that second one because they really don’t wanna love their neighbor (just themselves) but that’s another Freedom Fighter for another time. Sometimes ya gotta be aware of where you’re trending. Anyway…
One of the things I agree with Martin Luther on is, “The world bears the Gospel a grudge because the Gospel condemns the religious wisdom of the world. Jealous for its own religious views, the world in turn charges the Gospel with being a subversive and licentious doctrine, offensive to God and man, a doctrine to be persecuted as the worst plague on earth.” Luther made this statement back in 1538 A.D. and I don’t see any reason why it still doesn’t apply in 2021 A.D.
Many different thinking’s have made their way into the church buildings and onto the pulpits. The last thing the Church of Christ needs is to be reconfigured so its socially acceptable. Besides, I don’t believe the Gospel was designed to the “IN” thing to do. We have to remember that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world because it already is, but that He came to save it because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so all who believe on Him will not perish but have eternal life. That’s the main thing.
I read somewhere that the Epistle of Galatians is the Magna Carta of our Christian spiritual liberty. In the coming weeks I hope to continue to share my journey through it. As I have dug into it a bit further, I’ve seen it as a confession and creed to maintain that liberty, do you? You guys have my e-mail address at the bottom. Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris is a husband, a father, has an education in Biblical doctrine and is a graduate of The Colony of Mercy. He has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Think About This: “Legalism is natural to the human heart. Grace in its true New Testament meaning is foreign to human reason, not because it is contrary to reason but because it lies beyond it. The doctrine of grace had to be revealed; it could not have been discovered.” —A.W. Tozer