Study 5: Gal. 1:11-24
The true Gospel (Part a)
The gospel is a revealed truth from God. It is not an invention of men’s minds; it is not a discovery that man has made in his quest for knowledge nor is it a product of men’s wisdom, for by the wisdom of this world God can never be known.
It is important to grasp this truth because many who are religious, many who are ‘theologians’ think that by their rationalising truth can be gained. We are emphatically told that this is not the case. No effort of man, in whatever sphere of learning or activity brought the gospel to us, in fact one could say that man’s ever increasing knowledge has hindered the receiving of the revelation from God.
Man’s ideas of salvation is wide of the mark, there is nothing in any of us that can give salvation to any. Not even the apostle Paul who was a Hebrew of the Hebrews could claim that. And that leads us to what might be called one of the curses of evangelical Christianity: decisional salvation. That is, preachers telling their congregations how to be saved by following a particular formula once they made a decision to follow Christ. For example a preacher may preach the gospel, which may be technically perfect, but then tells people that to become a Christian one has to follow the ‘abc’ of salvation; says the sinner’s prayer, signs a decision card and that’s them in the kingdom! I am not mocking, for many do this, sincerely believing they are doing right, and no doubt God uses this at times to bring people into real salvation; but the point is that it is a carnal, man- made approach.
I remember once talking to someone who claimed to be saved, when asked his testimony he said he was in someone’s house and was asked whether he was a Christian. Replying in the negative this man was given a card and told to read it; after which he was told it was the sinner’s prayer and as he had said it he was now a Christian! Yet this man’s life was in a mess and clearly not saved at all, yet he believed it and as far as I know continues in this deception.
An isolated incident? No, the story is repeated throughout evangelical circles, people are being deceived into thinking they are saved when in fact they are not. The further tragedy is that if people are ‘won’ this way, that is by formula, then they have to be kept by formula, that’s the spirit they are of. ‘Saved’ by rules, then trying to live the life by rules no wonder there are problems in the lives of so many professing believers. Does this explain why there is so much carnality and death in such places? If it doesn’t give the complete answer then it does go some of the way to explain it.
Instead the gospel is God revealed. It was He who took the initiative; God Himself chose to save us and then let us know. There isn’t any guess work here; God has made it plainly known, if only we would listen and take note. God revealed it to us and had He chosen not to we would have never had known, and all hope would have been lost.
From the very outset when Adam sinned and plunged the race into a fallen state God revealed what He would do:
Adam didn’t work that one out, he couldn’t, he had to be told; and from that point on God by degree revealed the plan of salvation, which was in His heart from before creation, through the prophets until Christ came and fulfilled His Father’s purposes here on Earth; it is a revelation from God and we had no part in it.
Our preaching should not be of the flesh, not of carnal methods and clever salesman like methods; it needs to be in the Spirit bringing God’s word to the people and then God will bring conviction and repentance.
Continuing the thought we see that Paul makes it clear that it was God who separated him from his mother’s womb and called him. Consider, for this is true of all human beings. When we were conceived we had no part in it, when we were born we had no part in it. We made no contribution to our conception or birth. It was all done apart from us. God it was who created the processes of natural generation, and it follows God’s determined plan in that respect. None of us had a part in our own birth!
Spiritually we have the same picture! No child of God did anything to obtain new birth, the life was conceived and it came to birth without any input from us. Later in this epistle Paul talks about us having a heavenly mother! Gal.4:26. If we are born again then we too have the same spiritual mother- heavenly Jerusalem- but we did nothing to be born again. It is at God’s pleasure, not men’s, that we are born again -not of the flesh, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of men but of the will of God. Jn.1:12-13.
God called us by His grace; what a word! Grace! It has the same root meaning as gift. God giving us what we don’t deserve, life – eternal life. Who can claim that they deserve salvation? No one, we only deserve eternal damnation, yet God in mercy reached out, sent Jesus to be made sin for us and take our punishment so that we could be the recipients of His salvation. It is He who reaches out to us. We can never reach out to Him by our own efforts.
It is all of grace, how then can anyone reduce the gospel to a formula of works?