Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The Bewitching of the Galatians (Transcript)
Sounds like some Hollywood science fiction movie.
But we're not talking about the Martians or the Venutians, here. We are talking about some aliens, though, who seem to never stop invading the Church, and bewitching people who really should know better.
The Galatians were not the invaders, they were the ones invaded. They were invaded by the aliens we call the Judaizers or the Circumcision Party.
Here's how it happened. Paul the Apostle, in his missionary journeys, had been to the area called Galatia and preached the gospel. By the grace of God, a good number believed the gospel and were saved. They became the churches of Galatia.
This would include some towns you may have heard of, such towns as Lystra, Derbe, Pisidia and Iconium.
But after Paul had preached the gospel to these folks and, you might say, founded these churches, along came some alien false teachers who sort of went behind Paul's back and told the people that Paul was not really the Apostle he claimed to be.
They said that he was leaving part of the gospel out. They said things that the people began to believe. Things that were so outrageous that Paul was not only a good bit peeved with the Galatians, calling them foolish, but he even went so far as to ask them, “Who has bewitched you?”
But you know what's alarming? The errors that the Galatians fell into are still alive and well in churches today. The evil false teachings that the Galatians were lured by are still luring unsuspecting believers today.
Well, what are these false teachings?
I want to talk about nine of them, which are distinct, yet related to each other.
1. They were bewitched to turn away from the true gospel.
We read in Chapter 1, verse 6, "I'm amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel." "Which is really not another gospel", he says in verse 2.
First of all, what is the gospel? You know, many believers are unable to clearly say what the gospel is. They know they're born again, they know they're saved, they know they believe in Jesus Christ, but when it comes to saying what the gospel is, or explaining the gospel, they really have to think.
Well, here's the gospel in a capsule version:
First of all, the gospel is Jesus Christ Himself. That's the good news. But the other good news ("gospel" means "good news") is that Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross, was buried and rose again from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.
He is Lord. And when someone believes in Him as Savior and Lord, they are saved by God. And it's by grace, which means it's a totally free gift, through faith, through believing in Him. Through faith alone without works adding to that salvation at all. That's the gospel.
Well, what were the Galatians turning to? It's what Paul called a "different gospel" and here's what that different gospel was: Grace plus works.
Now, I should explain, when we're born again, when we become a new creation, when we're saved, we will have good works. God works in us, He tells the Philippians, both to will and to do for His good pleasure. We are His poiema, His "poetry". He's built good works into us, and they will come out, in one form or another.
But those works don't add to our salvation. They don't gain our salvation, and they don't keep our salvation. Our salvation is gained and kept entirely by grace...through faith.
What does it mean, then, that they had a "different gospel"? Well, it was being perverted or distorted to the opposite of the true gospel. The true gospel is by grace alone, and they were being taught a gospel by grace plus works.
Don't be bewitched by that. If anybody ever tells you that you need to DO something in order to keep your salvation, or to get your salvation, don't believe them. That's another gospel, which is not a gospel at all.
2. They were bewitched to turn away from Christ Himself.
Look again at Verse 6, Chapter 1. "I'm amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel."
See, they were turning... when you turn away from grace, you turn away from the Grace Giver. This takes away the relationship that causes our lives to flourish.
When we understand grace, and walk in unity with Jesus Christ, by grace, our lives flourish. We have the fruit of the Spirit. We have an ability to live the Christian life that we don't have when we turn it into a series of laws and rules, and think that we're gaining something in our salvation by following those laws.
Doctrine is important. But it's important because it reinforces a close relationship to God. It's not a matter of academics. Doctrine should reinforce a close relationship to Jesus Christ. And of that doctrine, grace is foundational.
Don't be bewitched to turn away from Christ Himself, and make your Christian life just a matter of following "do's" and "don't's". Those will come by the fruit of the Spirit as we walk closely with Him.
3. They were bewitched to reject the authority of the Word of God.
Paul was an Apostle, after all. We read in Chapter 1, verse 11 and 12, "For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it. But I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Now, as the saying goes, don't try this at home. Paul was in a very unique position as an Apostle, to receive direct revelation. And that revelation has ultimately been put down in the written Word of God. And that's all the revelation that we need.
The Word of God is sufficient for life and godliness. You don't need to go look for direct revelation from the Lord. Because you're not going to get it.
Paul had been given the gospel directly from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And he spends a lot of time in Chapters 1 and 2 defending his apostleship. Because that became important for the Galatians to understand, that when he spoke to them the gospel, and when he wrote them, in this case the letter to the Galatians, that this is the Word of God.
You may remember the salvation of Paul, when he was miraculously saved on the road to Damascus....from there he went into the wilderness of Arabia, alone. He didn't go meet with the other Apostles. He went alone with God, in the desert of Arabia, and met with the Lord directly for years. And during that time he, by direct revelation, received the gospel from Jesus Christ Himself.
And He preached that gospel to the Galatians. And they were bewitched to reject the authority of the Word of God. Don't you be bewitched by that thought, that the Word of God is not sufficient. That you need something more. That a false teacher has something that's revelation from God. If you have anybody that says "I have new revelation from God," [or] that contradicts the Bible, you can immediately know that that's a false teacher.
4. They were bewitched to forget what else happened on the Cross.
Let me read Galatians Chapter 2, Verse 20. This is one of the most important verses in the Scripture. "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and delivered Himself up for me."
You see, when Jesus was crucified on the cross, something else happened on the cross. We who are Christians were crucified with Him, in a mysterious way, but nevertheless an actual crucifixion of our old self. Our old man is dead now because we were crucified with Christ, and we were made a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says you've been made "a new creation...old things have passed away, behold all things have become new." And that's why Paul was asking the Galatians, what could works or law add to what had already been accomplished?
He says in Chapter 3, Verse 1, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?" And he says that right after Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ..."
At the same time, we have been justified, that is, declared righteous by God. Totally righteous, in right standing with God, as though we had never sinned. And so he's saying, you foolish Galatians, what can you add to that? Having begun by the Spirit, are you going to be made perfect by the flesh? By following the Law? By doing something to complete your salvation, to gain your salvation, or to keep your salvation?
No, and don't you be bewitched by whoever who would tell you that you need to do something in addition to believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, for your salvation.
5. They were bewitched to forget what the Law was for.
You see, they thought that the Law could give life. That's what the Judaizers taught them. "Oh yeah, grace is fine. But you need to add these works to gain life, or to maintain life."
Well, in Chapter 3, Verse 21, he says this, "Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteous would indeed have been based on law."
You see, the law couldn't give life. If it could, then righteousness would be by the law. We would be made righteous, in right standing with God, by the law. But he goes on in that chapter, where Verse 22 says that the law confines all under sin. In other words, the law shows us that we were under sin.
And so the law is a tutor, Verse 24, a tutor that leads us to Christ. Shows us that we need a Savior who will save by grace. Because we're not going to cut it if we need to gain or keep our salvation by the law.
But after faith, after believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, after we're made a new creation, we're no longer under a tutor, Verse 25. The law has fulfilled its purpose in leading us to Christ, that we might be saved by grace through faith.
Don't be bewitched and think that we need to go back to that law in order to maintain or gain that salvation.
6. They were bewitched to forget that the Old Covenant was made obsolete.
This is really made clear in Hebrew 8, which would be great for you to read. The Old Covenant was done away with precisely because we can't keep the law perfectly, and that's the only way that the law would gain anything.
And because we can't keep it perfectly, God gave a New Covenant in Jesus Christ, which is unilateral. He totally did it on His part, and then gave us the gift of salvation and righteousness through this New Covenant.
Don't be bewitched by going back to the Old Covenant and thinking that the following of those laws will gain or keep your salvation.
7. They were bewitched such that they didn’t stand fast or stand firm.
Chapter 5 of Galatians, Verse 1 says, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Therefore, keep standing firm, and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."
Don't fall back into that. Stand firm in the fact that you are saved entirely by grace.
And then in Verse 4, he says that the Galatians had "fallen from grace". Falling from grace doesn't mean that they lost their salvation. It means that they got off of the ground of grace, and got onto the ground of law. And that quenches the Holy Spirit and actually hurts their relationship to Jesus Christ.
They forgot about faith and love, which is the fulfillment of the law.
Don't be bewitched by that. Stand fast. When anybody tries to lure you away from grace, you stand fast and stick with the Word of God.
8. They were bewitched to forget to walk by the Spirit.
Chapter 5, Verse 16, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." "You will not fulfill the lust of the flesh," one translation says.
They were bewitched to forget about walking by the Spirit. They went back to the law, and began to say that we're going to complete our salvation by these laws.
When you walk by the Spirit, it leads to the fruit of the Spirit, and leads away from the works of the flesh. So our life is actually more abundant when we walk by the Spirit and not by the law.
Don't be bewitched by that. You stand firm and walk by the Spirit.
9. They were bewitched so that they forgot to bear one another’s burdens in grace.
You see, not only are we saved by grace, and kept by grace, but when we do sin, or when we find another who sinned, we need to treat that with grace. It needs to be corrected, but it needs to be done so by grace.
Grace is not self-righteous. Grace doesn't say, "I'm wonderful, and you're not, and you better get your act together."
No, look at Chapter 6, Verse 1. "Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual [See that? You who are filled with the Spirit, walking by the Spirit, you who are spiritual] restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself lest you too be tempted."
See, grace is not self-righteous. It's gracious.
And grace keeps us going. Verse 9, "And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap, if we do not grow weary." And it's grace that keeps us from not growing weary, as we walk in grace and the Spirit of God.
Grace glories in the Cross. It doesn't glory in our own successes, like self-righteousness does ("Oh, now I'm doing really well. You're not, so you have to get it together, buddy!") No, it's not that attitude at all. It's the attitude that we're all under grace, now let's walk by the Spirit together.
Don't be bewitched. Don't be like the Galatians who fell from grace and forgot these things that they had been taught by the Apostle Paul.