As we study Galatians, God keeps talking to us about the gospel (the good news that Jesus gave himself for our sins so that sinners who trust in him can be made right with God). Why? Because the gospel remains the most important thing.
As crazy as things are right now, the gospel is still the most urgent topic we could think about together. It is the only solution to the sin beneath the headlines. It is the only way to get to the roots of the human condition. It is the only hope, the core of Christianity, and the absolute truth at the center of absolute truth. We can’t grip the gospel too tightly.
This week’s sermon adds another idea to the list of reasons we need to hold on to the gospel. Let’s start by reading the passage.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6-12)
The Gospel Came from God, Not Man
We have the gospel because God gave it to the apostles to hand down to us in scripture. They didn’t discover it by their intelligence, logical deductions, or by using the scientific method. Einstein was not one of the 12 apostles. Neither was Sherlock Holmes or Isaac Newton. The only reason they had the gospel was because God chose to uncover it and show it to them.
Why is it significant that the gospel came from God and not man? It means man cannot change it.
There were people in the Galatian churches trying to add Jewish law to the gospel, claiming that one needed to trust in Jesus and follow the law of Moses in order to be made right with God. But Paul wouldn’t stand for it.
Paul had been an exemplary Jew before abandoning the law to trust in Jesus instead.
13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 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. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Galatians 1:13-17)
Paul knew that the gospel didn’t come through man because no man had taught it to him. It did not come through his former adherence to Jewish laws and traditions. He didn’t even consult with other people after receiving the gospel. He didn’t need to because he had received the gospel directly from God. He had been set apart from the womb, called by grace, and sent to preach salvation through faith in Jesus.
Paul and the other apostles were just messengers, relaying the good news from God to people. To add to the gospel would be like mailman adding a postscript to a letter before putting it in the mailbox.
When then do Christians try to add to the gospel? I’ll offer two reasons:
1. We Believe Our Good Works Help Justify Us
Picture a good person and a bad person. Which one is closer to being right with God? Neither! Apart from faith in Jesus, all people are imperfect, unholy, sinful, and equally separated from God. Good works add nothing to our salvation.
We forget this all the time. That’s why we are prone to look down on non-Christians in their sin as if we’re better than they are. But we’re sinners too. The only difference is that God has mercifully and graciously forgiven us because of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Getting this wrong is also why many of us are insecure about our salvation. We worry that we’re not being good enough to maintain our justification with God. But our goodness contributes nothing to our salvation—it’s all and only Jesus.
2. We Find Faith Too Difficult
We try to add good works and religious activities to the gospel because we know how to do those things. We want trusting Jesus to be like joining a gym or stating a diet. We want to add Christianity to our other self-improvement efforts. But it’s way more dramatic than that.
As we continue to study Galatians, we’ll see that becoming a Christian involves dying to ourselves and living an entirely new life powered by faith in Jesus rather than ourselves. When one becomes a Christian, they don’t start having faith, they transfer their faith from themselves to their Savior.
This is why we have to work to remember the gospel together by regularly partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We need to stay in the gospel. We need to live in light of the gospel. We need to share the gospel with others.