Today, we began a new series called “Eviction Notice.” This is about weeding out the law and self-righteousness in our lives and living truly by faith in grace. In this first part, we went through a little bit of a history lesson regarding the message of grace in the early church. As I often teach, understanding scripture requires knowing context. So many restricting and condemning doctrines come from a very surface reading of scripture with no consideration of context. We must always seek to know WHO is talking, TO WHOM are they talking, WHERE they are talking and WHEN they are talking. It is also important to consider whether the word something GOD said or something MAN said.
We examined, in detail, Galatians 1:6-17. In verses 6-9, Paul admonishes the church in
to not receive any Gospel other than what he had preached. What other Gospel
was being preached? What was happening was, after he would preach the message
of righteousness apart from works and establish a church, Judaizers would
follow behind and preach that you had to still obey the Law to be saved – particularly
the law of circumcision for Gentiles who wanted to become Christians. Galatia
Talk about how to motivate Gentile men NOT to become Christians! These religious leaders were teaching a different Gospel than Paul preached. They preached Christ, but that you still needed to obey law in order to be accepted. Paul goes on to say “let them be eternally cursed.” Now, Paul is not saying – as some have used this passage to imply – that if someone teaches something that is not correct, God is eternally condemning them. If you make your righteousness about your works, you are eternally condemned. There is no peace in righteousness by works. You will never be righteous by your works. This is why Jesus came in the first place. Why “let” them be eternally condemned? Shouldn’t Paul have encouraged them to try and preach the truth back at them? No. Remember, these are baby Christians. The entire message of grace was even younger than the church itself. Paul was one of the only ones who, at that time, had real revelation knowledge. These baby Christians were not equipped to argue with scholars on the law.
I think a great example would be with our children. I teach my kids that God created the earth in six days. I know that is truth and they know that is truth. Their teachers in school are going to teach a vastly different account of how we all got here. They will even imply that what my children believe is backwards and foolish. But I tell my children NOT to argue with teachers. They are very knowledgeable in their foolishness and can easily use intellect to crush the faith of a young believer. I watch kids in church who love God graduate high school and go to college. Within one semester, all the professors have “convinced” them there is no God and that to believe in God is idiotic. Thankfully, most have returned to the way they were brought up, but, without deep revelation knowledge of God’s Word, it is easy to be intellectualized out of your belief. I think this is what these Judaizers were doing to the church in
and elsewhere. It “made
sense” to be required to follow the law to please God. That is all they had
known, but Paul says to not let ANYONE (even himself) talk them into a
different gospel than the gospel of grace.
As part of the history lesson, we went to Acts 15 when Paul and Barnabas went to
to help clear
up a similar matter. Jerusalem ,
in the heart of Israeli territory, was quickly falling back into law after
receiving Christ. Specifically, they did not want the Gentiles to be able to
claim “child of God” status without having to obey all the law they had obeyed
(kind of) for generations. Eventually
the church leaders agreed that Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised, but that
there were going to be four rules they must keep. Now, they felt they were okay
with these four rules because they were given by God BEFORE the actual law was
given. They were still missing the point. Jesus did not just come to fulfill the
Mosaic law but any law that would separate God and man. Jerusalem
The more I study Paul’s writings, the more I see that God used him to save the early church. I believe that, without Paul, we would not be here as Christians today. The early church – even by the leadership of the disciples who walked with Christ, was quickly falling back into law living. The belief in Jesus as Messiah was layered on top of their belief, but they were still legalist Jews by nature. Paul spent 14 years (Galatians 2:1) studying and receiving this message. He points out that he did not get this message from the disciples or any man, but from God himself. I often wondered why (and even Paul wondered at times) Paul, who was a Pharisee, was chosen to bring the Gospel to Gentiles and not the Jews. I believe what we saw in Acts 15 shows that he had more impact on the Jews than we realize.
I think God needed someone who was not there for the physical ministry of Christ and who understood all of the Old Testament to be able to connect all the dots. You know, sometimes when we physically experience something we can miss some of the deeper, spiritual meaning. Paul didn’t see it all happen, but he knew what happened and he knew well all of the things that were being fulfilled by Jesus. He had to have 14 years of “a-ha” moments as he gained that revelation and then passed it on to us in the New Testament. We must also get that deep understanding of grace or we too can fall into the trap of turning our Christianity into a list of rules and rituals that have no power to grant us fellowship with God or to actually overcome sin.