Galatians 1:6. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel l- 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.
The word `gospel’ appears 13 times in Letter to Galatians. Paul writes to Christians in Galatia to defend the gospel, to stop them from missing the point or being sidetracked. For Paul the gospel is neither a discussion nor a debate. It is an announcement about a person – Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah There can only be one gospel because there is only ONE Jesus – the Son of God who was raised from the dead! Jesus in Himself was unique. And so was His glorious resurrection. Dead people stay dead – thats the way it works! But God raised Christ from the dead to DEMONSTRATE his uniqueness.
And that Gospel brings us
Galatians 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
Peace is not just an absence of conflict but a deep inner wholeness and contentment which comes from being reconciled to God. And all God’s blessings come by grace – the free gift of God, from “the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins” (verse 4)
Oswald Chambers: We say that Jesus preached the gospel, but he did more. He came that there might be a gospel to preach.
The gospel is not only about who Jesus IS and what He has done for us – but HOW He has accomplished such a great salvation. – by His death on the cross. Some people preach an anaemic Christianity. They leave out the cross – they ignore Christ’s blood poured out as a sacrifice for you and for me. But Christ’s CROSS is the centre of the one true gospel! Christ gave himself for our sins. Christ died, Paul insists, to rescue us from the present evil age. Whether people realise it or not we ALL need rescuing!!! And gospel is the the only lifeline we have! How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation!!!! Yet the Galatians were being led astray.
Gal 1: 6. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by 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. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 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 him be eternally condemned!
This gospel which Paul had preached and Galatians had gladly received is ONLY way of salvation – for them OR for us! This good news of Jesus Christ who is alive today, risen from dead, Jesus who died for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, to offer us grace and peace – if only we will accept it!!.
In the first three chapters of this letter Paul gives FOUR reasons why this gospel he is preaching is the one true gospel and the only way of salvation. And the first TWO reasons we find in chapter 1 are wrapped up in the way that Paul first received and experienced the gospel. Paul did not hear the gospel from other Christians. And Paul certainly did not invent the gospel himself. The truth is that Paul’s gospel came directly from his Damascus Road experience.
Gal:1 11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
That revelation came to Paul when he met with the Risen Jesus Christ on the Road to Damascus. Paul’s experience has become a figure of speech in all areas of life. When a politician has changed his mind we say he has had a “Damascus Road Experience.” There have been many theories to explain the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Hallucinations. Lightning. Epilepsy. When someone told the famous London preacher Joseph Parker that Saul’s conversion was caused by epilepsy, the London preacher replied: “Fly abroad, thou mighty epilepsy!”
When we think about the Paul’s Damascus Road experience there are two things we need to hold in tension.
Firstly, Paul’s Damascus Road Experience was UNIQUE. Saul of Tarsus was the only person to be converted going along Damascus Road in the mid 30s AD by seeing a vision of Risen Christ! All the other apostles, all the other historically significant eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus had also been with Jesus during his earthly ministry. Paul was the only one who met Christ only after his resurrection. So there was a HISTORICAL PECULIARITY to Paul’s conversion experience.
In Acts 26 we read of Paul giving his testimony.
Acts 26: 13 About noon, O King, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions.
14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 “Then I asked, `Who are you, Lord?’ “`I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.
When He met with the Risen Jesus, Paul realised TWO vitally important truths.
1. That JESUS IS ALIVE AND therefore 2. that JESUS DIED FOR SINS
Paul had been wrestling with a problem. Jesus had been crucified. That meant that he was cursed by God and therefore Jesus could not have been the Messiah, NOT the CHRIST. But solution to that mystery lay in the RESURRECTION Jesus is RISEN from the dead. Therefore Jesus IS LORD, therefore Jesus died for OUR SINS not His own, Jesus IS the CHRIST! This Double Whammy- the resurrection (implying that Jesus is Lord) and the cross (where Jesus died for our sins) this is what transformed Paul’s life. And the realisation of the cross and the resurrection should turn OUR lives upside down as well.
Paul’s gospel came from his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road. Some Muslims today suggest that Christianity did not come from Jesus but was invented by Paul. But that is nonsense – the gospel Paul preached came from Christ Himself. And lots of the other teaching we read in Paul’s letters also came directly from his experience of the Risen Christ, or from other visions and revelations Paul experienced .
Paul’s experience was unique! So we shouldn’t impose that pattern of conversion on every new Christian!! There are no 1st class and 2nd class conversions: crisis conversion as distinct from a pilgrimage of faith. NOT ALL CHRISTIANS will have a dramatic conversion as Paul did!
Paul’s Damascus Road experience was unique. But at the same time Paul’s Damascus Road experience was also TYPICAL. By that I mean that Paul’s conversion was a type, a pattern, a paradigm. Paul’s conversion DOES show us the difference Jesus makes to a life. Paul’s Damascus Road experience is indeed a pattern for the difference God makes through the transforming power of Christ.
Galatians 1 shows us the before and after of the transforming power of Christ.
BEFORE 13 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 Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
AFTER 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that 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.
Sinner to saint. Opponent of Christ turned into missionary! Because the Risen Christ then immediately gave Paul a job to do. He sent him on a mission!
Acts 26: 15 “Then I asked, `Who are you, Lord?’ “`I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 `Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
So Paul’s Damascus Road Experience was both UNIQUE and TYPICAL – typical because not all but certainly very MANY Christians have encountered the Living Jesus Christ and experienced lives changed. These countless Damascus Road experiences of other Christians are evidence that helps us all trust in the reality of Paul’s experience, and the truth and certainty of gospel he proclaimed and we proclaim. THIS is the gospel entrusted to us – the gospel we believe and proclaim. God’s grace will transform our friends and neighbours, if they see Jesus alive in us – and if we explain to them the gospel of Christ’s cross and resurrection!
So here are the first two reasons Paul gives why the gospel he preached is the one and only true gospel. That gospel was revealed to Paul directly by God in that encounter on the Damascus Road. And that gospel changed Paul’s life and the lives of countless Christians since – including us who believe here today! Galatians 2 begins by giving us a third reason why we can be certain that Paul’s gospel is indeed the one true gospel. Paul’s gospel was confirmed by the rest of the early church.
Galatians 2 1. Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
6 As for those who seemed to be important- whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance- those men added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 9 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
So Paul claims that the leaders of the Early Church confirmed that the gospel he preached was true. And we can rely on this claim for al least two reasons:
Firstly, if some meeting like that had not happened at some point then the apostles or other church leaders would certainly have stood up and opposed Paul publically – Paul would never have been accepted into the Early Church;
Secondly, if Paul’s gospel had not been confirmed, then letters like Galatians would never have been widely read and collected and added into the New Testament. If Paul’s gospel was not true then his letters, like so much rubbish which was floating around in 1st and 2nd Centuries, would have been condemned by the churches as heretical and gathered up and burned.
But the fact is that alongside the four records of Jesus’s life by Matthew Mark Luke and John, Paul’s letters formed the heart of the faith of the growing churches. So we need have no doubts – the gospel Paul preached was accepted and confirmed by the rest of the Early Church. It is indeed the true gospel!
And Paul fourth defence of the truth of his gospel comes in Galatians 3. There he points to his readers’ own experience. It is God the Holy Spirit who brings to Christians every experience of salvation, from first to last! It is all the work of the Holy Spirit! And the Galatians themselves had received the Holy Spirit precisely at the point when they had believed Paul’s gospel!
2 ,,, Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Can you see what Paul is saying here. His whole argument rests on the presumption that
receiving the Holy Spirit, being born again and beginning the Christian life is a VISIBLE experience – something so evident, so dramatic, that it can be used by Paul to demonstrate that HIS gospel is true. That was the case for Paul on the Damascus Road. It was true of very many believers in the Early Church. When Peter and John prayed for people and laid their hands on them in Samaria in Acts 8, or when Paul prayed for the Ephesians in Acts 19. When the Holy Spirit came into people’s lives that was evident by speaking in tongues or words of prophecy or overwhelming joy or a peace which passed understanding in the midst of persecution and suffering. In the Early Church the work of the Holy Spirit was very often spectacular and public, visible and evident to all. For Paul receiving the Spirit is something people would recognise and point to! Paul even links receiving the Spirit and the working of miracles. He slots them in the same sentence almost as if they are referring to the same events in the experience of the Galatians.
Galatians 3:5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
In the early church the arrival of the Holy Spirit is often expressed in miracles of healing and of deliverance from the demonic. Such events were frequent and normal. So everybody would know when somebody had received the Holy Spirit! That was the case throughout the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It should really be called the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit. The witness of the early church was very simple. Time after time God did something extraordinary in their midst, the people around asked “how did that happen?” and the first Christians simply replied, “God did that!” All kinds of signs and wonders. “God did that!”
God’s wonderful salvation and this gift of the Holy Spirit came to the Galatians when they believed the gospel Paul had preached. And this is the gospel which has released the power of the Holy Spirit into our lives even today.
So if anybody asks us why we are sure that the gospel we believe is the one true gospel, Galatians gives us four answers. We can be sure because this gospel was revealed directly by God. It is the gospel which transformed Paul’s life and which has transformed our own lives too. It is the gospel believed and confirmed by all the first Christians, the whole of the Early Church,. And this is the gospel which released God the Holy Spirit into the lives of the Galatians and which still releases the power of the Holy Spirit into our own lives today. With such a wonderful gospel, we should be the people who are not afraid to believe what we preach and to preach what we believe!