In our previous study we considered the fleshly religion: that which is in opposition to the gospel. We now turn our attention to the nature of the true gospel, as demonstrated by Paul’s experience. We shall consider what the true gospel is.
But I certify you, brethren that the gospel which was preached of me is not after [according to] man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Gal.1:11
c2.1 Not of man
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.
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. I Cor. 1:21
It is important to grasp this truth because many who are religious, 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.
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. II Tim. 3:7
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.
That thought 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. The further tragedy is that if people are ‘won’ this way, that is by formula, then they have to be kept by formula, ‘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.
c2.2 By revelation of Jesus Christ
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.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.Gen.3:15
Adam didn’t work that one out, he couldn’t, he had to be told. From that point on God by degree revealed the plan of salvation, which was in His heart from before creation, through the fathers, the prophets etc. 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. In our preaching the practical outworking is clear. We preach and God does the work. He convicts and brings people to repentance. We read in Acts 2 that when Peter preached he didn’t give an appeal to the crowds, rather it was those under conviction who appealed to Peter as to what to do!!
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:37-38
Our preaching should not be of the flesh, not of carnal 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.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,Gal.1:15
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.
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 words/works?
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.Eph.2:4-9