From the Pastor's Desk
Devoted to Destruction
would you call someone who was once an Oklahoma fan and then started to wear
burnt orange clothing with a longhorn logo on it? I would imagine many OU fans would have many
things to say about that, most of which wouldn't be proper for us to repeat in
this environment. But one word that we
could use to describe that kind of person is a turncoat.
turncoat is a person who "shifts allegiance from one loyalty or ideal to
another." It is someone who "betrays
or deserts an original cause by switching to the opposing side or party." Most of the time it is a group that may make
a switch as a whole or when the goal someone thought they were fighting for
seems lost or too costly to achieve.
a military setting, it would literally be a soldier changing uniforms to that
of the former enemy and joining their side of the fight. That would be someone like Benedict Arnold
who literally changed coats from American to British during the Revolutionary
War. Politically, it could refer to a
person, or a group of people, changing their party allegiance. That happened after the fall of the USSR. Many former communists at that time suddenly
became fervent supporters of capitalism.
military aspect of literally changing coats to join your enemy could be one
possible origin of the term. It could
also hearken all the way back to 13th Century England. At that time, two barons turned their coats
of arms from one lord to another, indicating a change of allegiance and hence
the term turncoat.
is also a spiritual application of the term turncoat. As we continue on looking at the book of
Galatians, we see where Paul accuses members of the churches in Galatia of
being deserters, traitors, turncoats to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. They had been genuinely saved through Paul's
preaching and teaching of salvation being by grace alone through faith
alone. But then false teachers came
along and they started to think that maybe there was something more to
salvation after all.
book of Galatians may have been the first letter that Paul wrote, around 48 or
49 AD. It was written primarily to four
churches located in the southern part of the province of Galatia that Paul
started on his first missionary journey.
Those churches would be Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.
are two main themes and two obvious reasons for Paul writing this letter. One he wrote it to defend the true gospel
message of Jesus. False teachers were
coming to these churches and convincing the people that Jesus was good but that
to be really saved you also had to perform works.
Paul wrote this letter to defend his apostleship. These same false teachers were also
undermining Paul's authority. They said
that he was not a true apostle because he wasn't one of the 12 hand-picked by
Jesus Himself. They claimed he was only
a self-appointed impostor. Let's
continue on now with our look at that book this morning by reading Galatians
is amazed that the believers in the churches in the region of Galatia are so
quickly turning away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Or as we've already alluded to, Paul is
amazed at how quickly they have become turncoats to the truth, spiritual
calls them that because they are turning away from the gospel of grace and are
embracing another gospel. The true
gospel is the good news of a God who is gracious to undeserving sinners. In grace He gave His Son to die for us. In grace He calls us to Himself. In grace He justifies us when we
believe. All that God has done for us
and is doing for us is because of grace.
the Galatians converts, these men and women who had received this gospel of
grace, were now turning away to another gospel, a gospel of works. The false teachers who were busy pulling them
away from the truth are also called Judaizers.
Their so-called gospel is summed up for us in Acts 15:1.
important for us to understand exactly what these false teachers were
teaching. Apparently, they did not deny
that you must believe in Jesus for salvation.
The problem was that they also stressed that you must be circumcised and
keep the law of Moses as well. In other
words, they believed that you must let Moses finish what Christ had begun. Another way of putting it is that you
yourself must finish, by your obedience to the law, what Christ had begun. You must add your works to the work of
Christ. You must finish Christ's
is this such a problem? Why is Paul
going to such great lengths to correct what these false teachers are
saying? I mean, isn't Paul being just a
tad bit narrow-minded? Isn't he being
just a bit intolerant of the sincere beliefs of someone else? After all, the Judaizers did preach salvation
through Christ, they just weren't preaching salvation through Christ
alone. As far as we can tell, they never
denied that it was necessary also to believe in Jesus as Messiah and
Savior. That's close enough isn't it?
it is true that the Judaizers seem to have insisted on the observance of
certain Jewish rites and ceremonies unknown to the Gentile churches founded by
Paul. But is that any different than the
denominational differences we experience amongst churches today? Some churches baptize babies, others
don't. Some take communion every week,
others less often. Some churches only
use the King James Version of the Bible, some more contemporary versions. Some churches only sing hymns, some only
choruses, some a mixture of both. There
are churches that emphasize certain gifts of the Spirit more than others and
some who don't use instruments at all while others employ entire bands.
our society and culture would like us to believe is that these differences
don't matter, and many of them don't. Frequency
of communion, version of the Bible read or your style of music aren't very
important differences. Our society would
say that all differences don't matter and who are we to tell someone else they
are wrong? Who are we to say that we are
the only ones who know the truth? Maybe it would be better for us to spend time
with others who believe differently than we do.
They are sincere; they have original thoughts. If they're wrong on some point, maybe we
could influence them to a right way of thinking.
you know what Paul would say to that? He
would say, "No! There is right and
wrong; there is black and white. If
anyone preaches or teaches something that is wrong, according to God's revealed
Word, then they are in trouble with Him.
was so adamant about opposing these false teachers because they were distorting
what it takes and what it means to be saved.
What we believe about salvation is the most important thing. It isn't just that the Galatians have turned
from the gospel of grace; it is actually much worse than that. To turn from the gospel of grace is to turn
from the God of grace. It is impossible
to forsake the gospel without forsaking God.
reason why the Galatian converts were deserting God who had called them in
grace was that they were being troubled.
The Greek verb translated trouble means "to shake or agitate." The Galatian congregations had been thrown by
the false teachers into a state of turmoil.
trouble was caused by false doctrine.
The Judaizers were trying to pervert or distort the gospel. It says in the Holman that they wanted to
change the good news. That word could be
translated reverse. They were not just
corrupting the gospel; they were actually reversing it, turning it back to
front and upside down. You can't modify
the gospel or try to supplement the gospel without radically changing its
the two chief characteristics of the false teachers are that they were troubling
the church and changing the gospel.
Those two things go hand in hand.
To tamper with the gospel is always to trouble the church. You cannot touch the gospel and leave the
church untouched, because the church is created and lives by the gospel.
church's greatest troublemakers are not those outside the church who oppose,
ridicule and persecute it. The church's
greatest troublemakers are those inside who try to change the gospel. It is they who trouble the church. The only way to be a good church member is to
be a good gospel-person. They best way
to serve the church is to believe and to preach the gospel.
first reaction to the Galatians abandonment of the gospel message is utter
astonishment. He simply couldn't believe
how quickly they deserted the truth.
Paul's utter astonishment then turned to indignation. He was so indignant over the false teachers
and what they were teaching that he pronounced a solemn curse upon them. The Greek word that is translated cursed here
is the word anathema. It was used in the
Greek OT for the divine ban, "the curse of God resting upon anything or
anyone devoted by Him to destruction."
story of Achan provides an example of this.
God said that the spoil of the Canaanites was under His ban. No one could take it or use it because God
had devoted it to destruction. Even
though Achan knew what God had said, he went ahead and stole some things
anyway. He and his family were then
killed as punishment.
here is saying that he believed and wanted these false teachers to come under
the divine band, or a divine curse. In
other words, He wished that God's judgment would fall upon them. If God's judgment was on these false
teachers, Paul would expect the Galatian churches to also reject them and their
teaching. They should refuse to listen
to them or even receive them because they are men who God has rejected.
calling down a curse from God on these teachers may seem a bit harsh to us.
Maybe he was just giving a knee jerk reaction out of personal venom toward
rival teachers. I don't think so
Tim. The curse of God which Paul desires
is universal in its embrace. It actually
rests upon any and every teacher who distorts the essence of the gospel. There is no exception to it. Paul includes himself and even angels. He is so zealous for the gospel that he even
desires the curse of God to fall upon Himself should he be guilty of perverting
is a very good reason why Paul is so adamant about this: why he feels so strongly about this false
teaching. The glory of Christ is at
stake. To make men's works necessary for
salvation, even as a supplement to the work of Christ is derogatory to His
finished work. It is to imply that
Christ's work was in some way unsatisfactory and that men need to add to it and
improve upon it. It is to declare the
cross redundant. Gal. 2:21.
addition to that, men's souls are at stake.
Paul here is not concerned about some trivia doctrine; he's writing
about something that is fundamental to the gospel. He's also not only talking about those who
merely hold false views, as bad as that would be, but he's talking about those
who teach them and mislead others by their teaching. To corrupt the gospel is to destroy the way
of salvation and so to send to ruin souls who might have been saved by it. Jesus also warned about causing others to
stumble. Mark 9:42.
course, today, we live in an age in which it is considered very narrow-minded
and intolerant to have any clear and strong opinions of one's own, let alone to
disagree sharply with anybody else. As
for actually desiring false teachers to fall under the curse of God and be
treated as such by the church, the very idea is inconceivable to many
people. I would guess that if we cared
more for the glory of Christ and for the good of the souls of men, we too would
not be able to bear the corruption of the gospel of grace.
Paul was accused of being a people
pleaser. His adversaries said that he
would change his message to fit his audience in order to simply attract a
following and have each group like what he was saying. Paul did admit to being all things to all
people; but he only did that in order to win them to Christ. It is relevant and viable for us to seek to
connect with people and seek to get to know them in order to try to influence
them for the gospel.
fact, his opponents said that Paul was making religion too easy and that he was
doing it to ingratiate himself with others.
Paul was doing the opposite of that.
If it was possible to earn salvation through works, that might be
possible to be fulfilled. Paul taught
that religion is a matter not of satisfying the claims of the law, but of
trying to meet the obligations of love.
That is not making it easier, it's actually making it harder. Paul would not be and could not be a servant
of Christ if he pleased men. If we're
the servant of men, we can't be a servant of God. Matt. 6:24.
we can't be seeking to always please people.
We can't be seeking to tickle people's ears and change and alter the
gospel in order to have people like us, or in order to attract a large crowd
here to our building. We shouldn't be
seeking to please people; we shouldn't be going out of our way to try to offend
them either. Our job; our goal; our
business is to preach the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
question that we need to ask ourselves is this:
are you seeking to please men by your religion? Are you trying to impress people with how
righteous you are and with how involved you are with good, church-related
activities? Is your motivation for being
involved in good church-related activities being well liked and accepted by
others? Do you think that it's a way to
be liked; a way to be included in certain social groups; or a way to get ahead
in some endeavor?
any of those attitudes and mindsets describe you, they your religion isn't
worth very much. We are one thing if
nothing else: servants of God. If we are servants of God, then we take
orders from Him and from Him alone. That
means we need to not seek to shape our character and our life according to
society or according to what people want from us or what they might think of
us. It doesn't matter what other people
think of us. That truth is hard to apply
because we all want to be liked and accepted.
But the only person that matters is the Lord Jesus Christ.
instead of being religious we need to seek to be righteous before the
Lord. Jesus has given us His
righteousness; that's what enables us to live for God and before God. Because of Christ and who He is and what He's
done for us, we can be fearless; we can be bold; we can be courageous as we
live for Him.
also need to make sure that we don't subtly and even unintentionally deliver
and preach a different gospel message.
Our culture rejects truth and says that it is all relative. They say there is no absolute truth, or if
there is, there is no way that we can know it or find it. Paul didn't think that way at all. He believed in a God who is capable of
revealing Himself adequately and accurately to human beings. Paul believed that there is absolute truth;
that absolute truth comes from God and that we can know what it is.
it's not what Paul thinks or what Paul says.
It's not what I think or what I say.
It's not what any teacher or preacher or leader thinks or says, no
matter how eloquent they are or no matter how big their church is, how many
books they've written or how many people watch them on TV.
is all about God. It matters what He
thinks and it matters what He says. We
can know what He thinks and we can know what He says because He has given us
His Word. Paul didn't think that he was
some sort of intellectual zealot who had a corner on truth. He believed that God is all-knowing and that
He is all-powerful and therefore able to reveal to us His divine nature, His
plan and His will accurately and adequately.
we still believe in the concept of revelation from God or not? Do we still believe that the Word of God is
the actual Word of God? Do we believe in
the falleness of humanity? Do we believe
in the need for redemption and rescue because of our sin? Change, radical change for the better is
possible in a person's life. That change
comes from God and through God. When
such change comes upon us, it comes with a new sense of vocation a new call on
our lives to serve God and to serve others in some form.
our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to living a life of righteous
truth, righteous truth found in the Word of God. Don't distort it; don't change it; don't
downplay it or ignore it. Live what God
says; proclaim the gospel as you live your life for the Lord. If there is some profession of faith you need
to make today, some work of God in your life that you need to share with us, we
invite you to do that now as we stand and sing.
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