Liberated from Legalism - pt 3 [5-9-21]



Let's start with a reading of Galatians 1:11-12:

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.


Let's go back to verse 1 to check out a similarity with our passage today. Verse 1 says, "Paul, an apostle - not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead." Notice the similarity between that and verse 11: "For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel." This is really important. That's why Paul states it two different ways. It was the Risen Christ himself who commissioned Paul as an apostle. Jesus Christ, and Christ alone, revealed the gospel to him.


It's important to know that Paul is an apostle called by Christ.

The first thing we ask is, why did Paul feel a need to defend his apostleship? The answer is in verse 7: "There are some who trouble you

and want to distort the gospel of Christ." Another translation of "trouble" is "pervert." Paul is talking about turning something into its opposite. By adding law to the gospel of Christ, the false teachers were effectively destroying grace, turning the message of God's undeserved favor toward sinners into a message of earned and deserved favor. Here's a truth you might want to write down:

"God has created us without cooperation, and He wants to save us the same way."

C.F.W. Walther


Here's what's at play. In order to discredit the gospel of grace, Paul's opponents had to discredit him. All the churches Paul founded were built on the true gospel of grace. Nothing else. But these troublemakers were adding things to the gospel. Circumcision. Obeying Jewish ceremonial laws. Following the dietary laws. They were adding…adding…and adding to the one true gospel of grace.


In one way or another, people today do their own version of adding to the

true gospel of grace. I love the way John Mason puts it:

  • "Jesus will always be everything He's always been for eternity. Any and all attempts to make Him 'relevant' to today's issues or belong to a supposed cause is futile and proof that you more than likely don't truly know Him, but your own version of Him."

Every generation of Christians deals with what started with those who opposed Paul…people adding things to the true gospel of grace. And the reason we fight so hard for the truth is that, the moment you add anything to the gospel of grace, you lose everything. Jesus + Everything = Nothing; but Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Here in these closing verses of chapter 1, Paul is defending the true gospel of grace.


I think Paul Washer sums it up best when he says, "I have given God countless reasons not to love me. None of them have been strong enough to change Him." Do you hear the beauty in that? If Paul's opponents were right, and there are things we have to do in order to earn or maintain God's favor {or to fit in or to belong} then it is absolutely true that there would be things we can do to lose God's favor. The true gospel of grace is

all about what Jesus did on the cross. He won and secured our salvation.


So Paul's opponents, the Judaizers, have gone out to undermine the Galatian churches. They think they're going to set the churches straight. Paul wasn't chosen to be an apostle. Paul heard the true gospel secondhand. His version is seriously flawed. That's why Paul says, these are the facts, and here they are again. Verses 1 and 11.


Now notice how verse 12 is an argument for verse 11:

For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul is making the case for the truth of his preaching. He did not make things up on the fly. He didn't pick-and-choose from things he heard secondhand in order to cobble together a message. No…no…no…it is not according to man. It came from God.


Here's how Paul puts it in Romans 1:1:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

That clearly lines up with Galatians 1:1 & 11-12. But there's something

more. Paul's gospel does not square with natural human desires. That is a

good thing. Paul's opponents have adjusted the gospel to fit their own proud desires and preconceived notions. They have done what so many do today. Here's what I believe or here's what I think or here's where my cultural inclinations lean, so I'll make the gospel fit into it. Here's how Paul later puts it in Galatians 6:12:

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

In other words, their gospel was rooted in the thoughts and ideas of men. It had everything to do with how clever or informed they thought they were.


Here's something you might want to write down:

THE GOODNESS OF GOD TOWARDS THE BELIEVER IS ON THE BASIS OF HIS SON, FOR NOTHING GOOD DWELLS IN YOU.

- Joshua Humphries

That is exactly the worldview God revealed to Paul. Nothing good comes

from the flesh. And yet Paul's opponents wanted to tie Gentile converts to certain rituals and activities as foundational to salvation.


Let's take a moment and let that sink in. There's a battle going on here. It's a battle over belief - a belief that saves and a belief that condemns. As Paul reminds them in verse 9, "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." Those are strong words. Those last four words refer to devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell. That is a powerful rebuke. Jesus once said, in Matthew 18:6, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." The choice for the Christian is simple. The one true Gospel or damnation.


Paul echoes what Jesus taught. Strong words against damnable teachings. And the worst thing is, these damnable teachings can be so subtle, and sound so reasonable, that people are blinded to their horribleness. Over 100 years ago, Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle observed:

"Such is the simplicity and innocence of many Christians in this day, that

they actually expect false doctrine to look false, and will not understand that the very essence of its mischievousness, as a rule, is its resemblance to God's truth."

Beware of the hundreds of little things that are added to the gospel that pull us away from the truth. Whether it's Jesus and environmentalism or Jesus and yoga or anything else in between, the world offers so many distractions from the one true gospel of grace. I've heard from people who have told me they can't believe anyone who called themselves a Christian would vote for a Republican. I've heard from people who have told me they can't believe anyone who called themselves a Christian would vote for a Democrat. I've heard from people who've said if you're a Christian you have to get the Covid-19 vaccine. I've heard from people who've said if you're a Christian you really shouldn't get the Covid-19 vaccine. If you've been chosen by God to follow His Son, then nothing you do or don't do can disqualify that calling. Beware of those who try to add qualifiers to your position in Christ.


Let's now move on to verses 13-14. The big question here is, how will Paul make his case for the truth of his apostleship and his gospel? He's not going to just throw something up against the wall and hope it will stick. He's going to present a strong case. Which he starts doing in verses 12-14:

For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.


Paul received the one true gospel from an appearance of the Risen Christ.

In this appearance, Jesus commissioned Paul to personally preach this gospel. He begins his arguments with a blunt statement of who he was before he became a Christian. "For you have heard of my former life in Judaism." In other words, Paul is referring to a common body of knowledge about what he was like. Word travels. People knew what a horrible person he was. Paul reminds them of a huge negative, recorded here in Acts 9:1-2:

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Before Paul came to Christ, he was one of God's most violent enemies. He so hated the cross of grace and mercy that he lashed out with all his might.


Paul was obsessed with destroying the church. Here's how bad it got:

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

- Acts 7:54-8:3


Next week, we're going to look at the point of this little piece of ugly

biography. In the meantime, here's something you might want to

remember:

What happened to Paul was such a radical transformation that it made people nervous.

The man who once terrorized the church is now willing to give his life in

defense of the one true gospel of grace. Amazing love, how can it be! Until next Sunday: