Christians need to stand firm for the truth of the gospel. We need to resist those who invade our churches and tell us that there are special rules, rituals we must perform in order to make God happy. These false teachers tell us that God is not satisfied with our simple faith in the blood of Jesus Christ for salvation, but requires something more for salvation.
The Apostle Paul had to face down many false teachers like this in his day. Some of them, who happened to be born Jewish, tried to force him to begin circumcising gentile converts to Christianity. The reason they wanted to do this was to elevate themselves above the Gentile believers: they were already circumcised themselves, thus of the gentiles had to become like them, it would imply that Jewish believers were spiritually superior to begin with, and should be obeyed and followed in many other things as well. What these “judaizers” were trying to do was to take away the joy of these young, new, believers, and make them their own spiritual slaves:
This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you (Galatians 2:4-5 NIV).
We need to be on the guard for false believers who infiltrate our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ. They are offended not just with us, but at the God of the Bible, who would grant grace to us freely without demanded us to change to be just like these false, self-righteous believers. Their goal in their religiousity is not to elevate God in our hearts, but to elevate themselves in our hearts, thus making us their slaves. We must never give in to them for even a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for all.
We should never let any other Christians take away the simple joy of our faith by saying that we need to follow some special religious calendar or eat food in a special ritualistic way in order to be saved:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:16-23)
In my previous posts I explained how the Paul of the Bible, although not one of Jesus’ original disciples, was a full fledged “apostle” of Christ because he had received the gospel directly from Christ like the other apostles. The other apostles had received it in face to face conversations with Christ while He walked on Earth, but Paul received it in a vision after Jesus descended to heaven (Galatians 1:16, Acts 9:17). I further went onto explain how Paul was able by direct revelation to preach the gospel with wisdom and understanding without ever receiving significant training from the other disciples (Galatians 1:17-24).
Yet despite the fact that Paul had not learned it from them, his gospel was the same as theirs, because he, like they, had received it directly from God. After years of preaching, Paul went up to Jerusalem to meet with the other Apostles, who agreed with him that he was preaching the gospel truthfully:
Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. (Galatians 2:1-3)
What happened here is that Paul met privately with the leaders of the home church in Jerusalem, to assure them that he was speaking the same gospel as they were: grace by faith in Jesus Christ, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). He brought along with him Titus, who was a test-case. Titus was a gentile believer who, unlike the Apostles, had never under gone ritual Jewish circumcision. Paul claimed that Titus did not have to be circumcised: he was complete in Christ simply by believing and obeying the gospel, there was no need for him to follow the Jewish rituals. The Apostles agreed with Paul, and did not compel Titus to be circumcised.
When Jesus came to Earth as a man 2,000 years ago he chose twelve men to be his disciples, to learn the gospel from Him directly so that they could teach it to others after he ascended into heaven. But one of the 12 men betrayed Him, as He knew he would, and so the disciples were one man short. Ultimately, God chose to add the Apostle Paul to their number, a man who may have never met Jesus in the body, and actually persecuted the Christian “sect” in it’s early days. Paul later became the most fluent and persuasive writer of the 12 Apostles, and penned more of the New Testament than any one other man, except perhaps the Apostle John. I think the reason why Paul was given this special mission was to keep the rest of the Apostles humble. God sometimes gives the greatest assignments to some of the least qualified people: this is so that God’s servants do not individual steal the glory due to God.
In order to be included as an Apostle, Paul needed to receive the gospel from Christ directly, just as the disciples had. So for this reason Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision on at least one occasion (Acts 9:1-9). The visions were private, but God publicly endorsed Paul’s calling by giving him the ability to perform miracles, just as had been given to the other Apostles (Acts 19:11-12).
Here is how Paul explains his calling to receive the gospel in his own words:
But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. (Galatians 1:15-17 NIV).
First of all, Paul recognizes that it was always God’s plan for him to be a preacher of the gospel. God had set him apart from his mother’s womb, even before Paul had become a Christian. Paul’s mission was not the result of any inherent superiority on his part, but rather God’s mercy, for he was called by God’s grace. When Paul was converted he was indwelt with the Holy Spirit as all Christians are, so that God’s son was revealed in him. Paul realized that he had been called to preach Jesus among the Gentiles. In order to confirm that this was a direct Apostolic mission from God, Paul’s immediate response was not to consult any human being. Therefore he did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before him, but he went into Arabia, that is, the mostly uninhabited desert. There, no doubt, God revealed to him more of what he needed to preach.
Afterwards, Paul returned to civilization and made contact with other believers. But he did not come to learn the gospel from them, God had already gifted him with the knowledge he needed to preach it:
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days.19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judeathat are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. (Galatians 1:18-24)
Paul’s gospel that he received was not any different than the gospel that the other Apostles preached. But he had to recieve it directly from God, in order to have the authority of an Apostle, as God had intended for him. Today, when someone becomes a Christian, I do not recommend that they go off into the desert by themselves, seeking direct inspiration from God, for God has promised them none. Rather, normally, God works through His written word, the Bible, and through fellowship with other believers. Any so-called vision from God that is at odds with the one true gospel is not from God and must be rejected (Galatians 1:8). The early Christians recognized Paul’s preaching as valid because it was the exact same message that the other Apostle’s were preaching.
We American Christians like to have our careers all planned out from the moment we graduate from Highschool. We like to be sure by the age of 18 where we are going to go to college, how long it is going to take us to graduate, what our degree will be in, and what job/career we will have for the rest of our life. It is only natural, that some of us choose to go in the ministry. Many American Christians decide at a very young age to become missionaries and preachers.
But ultimately, it is God who decides what we will do with our lives. We need to be submissive to his leading and do our best to do what we think he wants us to do, not what we want to do. Many Christians want to go into the ministry, and yet that is really not the plan that God has for them. I myself enjoyed studying the Scriptures by from a young age and participating in church life, so as a teenager I was very open to the idea of becoming a missionary someday. And yet, at the age of 31, it hasn’t happened yet, nor is their any strong indication that it every will. I am willing, but I honestly do not think that I am called to do that. I am strongly convinced that I am supposed to be raising a family and doing work as a forklift driver in Wisconsin, which is exactly what I am doing.
But there are other people who have the opposite experience of me. They have no plans or desire at first to go into the ministry, and yet God changes their hearts and calls them anyway. The Apostle Paul himself falls into this group. He was trained from child-hood to become a rabbi: he had no intention of joining a minority sect and preaching the name of Jesus for salvation. And yet that was God’s plan for him:
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14 NIV)
Originally Paul was persecuting and killing Christians, and yet God changed His heart and chose Him to be an apostle for Jesus Christ:
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (Galatians 1:1)
The point is that our plans are not always the same as God’s plan for us. Nobody can really choose to become a pastor or a missionary, it’s a decision that God makes. Surely there were many devout Christians in Paul’s day who would have wanted to be Apostles–specially mandated preachers who had been given the gospel message directly from Christ. But God did not choose them. Instead He chose a man who didn’t even want to be an apostle. I think this is typical of the way God works. He doesn’t often do what we want, rather He teaches to change our will to match with his. This is good for us. So let us be open-minded when we ask God about His will for our life. Let us be genuinely willing to do whatever He has planned for us.
On this website I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus Christ the Son of God (second person of the trinity) came to Earth to die on the cross for our sins. His sacrifice will save all those who believe in Him and repent of their sins. You cannot work your way into heaven, because you are wicked. You must believe and be transformed by the saving Grace and power of God. Those who are saved will spend eternity in perfect fellowship with God. God will love them and care for them for ever. But those who do not believe will be damned to hell forever for their sins.
This gospel is not my gospel. I didn’t make it up. I heard it from others, who ultimately got it from the New Testament, which is the writings of the twelve Apostles, who were witnessess of Jesus Christ. These men received the gospel through personal contact with Jesus Christ and or direct visions from God. They were not the originators of the gospel, they were only God’s messengers. They had no mandate to alter the gospel according to their individual preferences, only deliver it to others in the same form that God had revealed it to them.
In the opening of the book of the Galatians the Apostle Paul explains that he, himself, did not make up the gospel message which he preached:
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12).
It is natural for us as human beings to want to make other people happy. This is not necessarily a bad thing: we need to genuinely care for other people and want what is best for them. It is much better to be a people-pleaser than an argumentative person. However, we should not simply do whatever makes other people happy: it is more important to do what is right than what is popular.
This principle is extremely important for Christian ministers. It is not their job to preach whatever message will make make the community happy, but preach the message that God has given them to preach: the one true gospel. We must preach atonement through the blood of Jesus Christ whether it is popular or not. Churches should not become too focused on church membership or sermon broadcast ratings. The only way that anyone will ever escape the wrath of God is through the blood of Christ. God has commanded us to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. We must faithfully preach this message to all wherever it is popular, and wherever it is not popular.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:9)
There are some false teachers and clergy in this world that claim to have special “apostolic authority” from God, to proclaim God’s message for man. Oftentimes, what they mean by “apostolic authority” is that everything that they say is inherently true, because they have a special standing with God that normal Christians don’t have. They claim that their teachings are equally as authoritative, or perhaps more authoritative than the Bible itself. They demand that their followers obey everything they say unquestioningly, because of who they are.
But the true Apostles themselves, The Apostle Paul and the 11 disciples of Jesus, did not claim to have this kind of authority. Yes, they had a message from God, but they did not expect to be believed regardless of what they said. They demanded complete obedience not to themselves, but to the original gospel message, realizing that they themselves were humans who were capable of error. The Apostle Paul reminds us in the book of Galatians that all people must be obedient to the original gospel, and not listen to any false gospel even if they hear it from the mouths of an angel or great preacher:
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:8-9)
Therefore, don’t be fooled by human clergy with their man-made traditions and claims of special authority or infallibility. All humans are fallible. Believe in the Bible, the inspired word of God. Believe in that one message by which we will all be judged: atonement comes only through the blood of Jesus Christ. We must believe on Him and repent of our sins. Our sins are so great and so awful that only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from them.
Becoming a Christian is an exciting thing. It starts with the horrifying realization that you are a wicked sinner estranged from God, but leads to true contentment and satisfaction in your life as you accept the wonderful news that God wants to have you as his child for ever, and has already sent Jesus as a sacrifice in order to make this adoption possible. All you have to do is believe and accept the free gift, which results in a changed life through the Holy Spirit. If your faith is genuine, you will continue to gladly serve God and deny yourself, surrendering to Jesus as Lord of your life.
Yes the truth of God–that Jesus died for your sins, and that salvation is by grace through faith–is very exciting. But some Christians begin to stray from the truth after the initial excitement dies away. They get tired with the gospel message, and start adding to it. Their initial joy in grace through faith is now diluted by a self-imposed responsibility to add to their salvation through works or religious ritual. But we should never lose sight of the original gospel, the only gospel: salvation by the blood of Christ. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatian church harshly rebukes these young Christians for getting sidetracked by false teaching:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 NIV).
Paul here–one who has risked everything he has to proclaim the good news of Christ crucified–simply cannot understand how these Christians are willing to throw away something as wonderful as the gospel so quickly and easily. They are not only giving up on the gospel, but they are turning their back on the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ, that is to say, God Himself, who called them through His Holy Spirit. Yes, by changing the gospel they are giving up on grace, that is they are rejecting the free gift that God has given them! They are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. This was the result of certain false teachers who were throwing them into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. The word Gospel means “good news.” It is good news because is the testimony to the only way that we can be saved from our sins. All other false gospels are innappropriately named, because they end in bad news: the news that they do not work, the news that those who follow them will end up in hell because they have not kept their undefiled belief in Jesus the Son of God. Do not desert the gospel: do not desert salvation by grace through faith in the atoning power of Christ’s blood. All other gospels are false gospels.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5 NIV).
As Paul begins his letter to the Galatians, he makes sure to wish them Grace and Peace. Grace is the undeserved spiritual blessings that God gives believers, and peace is the restored relationship repentant believers have with God because Jesus has died for our sins. Although Paul is sincere in wishing them grace and peace, he does not actually give it to them: the source is God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here he explicitly gives credit to both God the Father and God the son for the spiritual blessings they lavish on believers. Jesus proved His undying love for us in that he gave himself for our sins. If He had not died for our sins, all humans would burn forever in hell, but now forgiveness is offered to those who believe. Jesus did this to rescue us from the present evil age. Our day and age is considered “evil” in the sense that it is literally full of wickedness: Jesus saved us from contamination by the sin that is constantly surrounding us in our contemporary culture. But this age is als0 “evil” in the sense that it is full of pain and suffering and let downs. We have been saved from the limitations of human life in the sense that God has promised us a resurrection that will be free from the things that are keeping us down. There will be now suffering, no loss of joy, no interruption in our fellowship with God in heaven. This wonderful salvation, affected by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, was done according to the will of God the Father. God is perfect both in power and in love. Therefore, we should join with the Apostle Paul in gladly proclaiming his glory forever and ever.
In the opening of his letter to the Galatians, The Apostle Paul gives greetings not only from himself, but also from all the brothers and sisters who are with me. The Apostle Paul is always comfortable calling other Christians brothers and sisters, because they are all family. We are all spiritually equals, and we should never despise or harass another believer in Jesus Christ. We are to be unified, not acting in competition with each other, but loving each other like family with undying loyalty.
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the churches in Galatia: (Galatians 1:1-2 NIV)