The Bad Good News – Galatians 1:6

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” –Galatians 1:6

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” This was not what Tom wanted to hear. He was sick, and not just that kind of sick. He was sick of hearing the same bad news every time he went to the oncologist. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could take it. The positive spin and the optimism of the doctors was encouraging the first couple of times, but now Tom was just ready to be better. What was the point of having any good news if it was drowned out by the bad? The doctor noticed Tom’s thoughts were drifting and quickly tried to continue the conversation.

“So do you want the good news first or the bad?”

Some have argued that the thrust of Paul’s argument in Galatians is about his apostleship, which makes some sense as it is how he opens his letter. By looking at the whole letter, however, it becomes quickly evident that Paul’s focus seems to be more on “the gospel.” Paul argues; what the gospel is, who it pertains to, and what it means once one accepts the gospel. His whole reason for writing the Galatians is because there was a group sharing with them another “gospel,” one which Paul claims is no gospel at all.

The gospel means “good news.” Graeme Goldsworthy states that, “The gospel is the proclamation of what God has done in Christ… Obedience to the gospel is first and foremost faith.” To proclaim anything else wouldn’t be the gospel. To understand the thrust of Paul’s argument in Galatians, one must first understand what “the gospel” is. Once one knows the “good news,” the “bad good news” will be easy to spot.

C. H. Dodd points out a pattern which emerges when looking at the preaching of “the gospel” in the New Testament. There is proclamation of the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. There is a focus on the ministry Jesus did during his life leading to his death. His resurrection from the dead and his exaltation is at the apex of the gospel message. Then there is a shift to the gift of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost. The preaching of the gospel ends with a call for the audience to repent and accept Christ in faith.

There was a group telling the Galatians that they had to do more than just believe in Christ. They told them that it took more than this. “We have some good news and some bad news,” they said. They were telling the Gentiles that they had to become Jewish first to become Christians. They weren’t preaching a different God or a different Christ. They were speaking of a different means other than “faith” as a cost for membership in God’s family. Paul is writing the Galatians with urgency, because it would completely ruin the work of Christ for the church to accept a different message.

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” -2Timothy 4:2-5

The gospel is the proclamation of God’s coming kingdom. It is the message of the judgment of those who oppose His current and future reign. The gospel is the story of mankind denying God, and God sending his Son to pay the price for their wrongdoing. It isn’t about prosperity. It isn’t about Jesus as an archangel. It isn’t about circumcision.

The gospel needs to be praised, it needs to be protected, and it needs to be preached.

What are you doing to protect the gospel?


The UnThanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving was last week. This is a holiday full of family traditions. I know my family has them. A common tradition among many people is to sit around the table, and one-by-one share one thing they are thankful for. Maybe it is a new job/car. Maybe it is family or friends. Maybe it is the delicious food. Sure enough, most people can at least find one thing that they are thankful for during this holiday.

Now imagine sitting in a “Bizarro” world. There is no Superman anymore. It is like a Seinfeld episode gone wrong. In this world, every one at the Thanksgiving table says not what they are thankful for, but they say what they are unthankful for instead. Maybe it is family or friends. Maybe it is untimely circumstances. Maybe it is Obamacare. Hopefully it isn’t the meal. It would be a truly eerie feeling to be a fly on the wall during a situation like this. It’s a Bizarro World, so it is okay for flies to have feelings.

This is one of only a couple letters in which Paul doesn’t give a word of thanksgiving to the church he is corresponding with. And when Paul doesn’t give a thanksgiving, it is not good! It was customary during the time to have a section of praise to the people being written to. Imagine how the people must have felt when they realized this section was skipped. They knew that when this section was skipped that Paul must have been upset. They knew Paul was writing with urgency.

Paul didn’t include a thanksgiving, possibly because he had nothing to be thankful for.

The people were about to accept a false gospel, and Paul wanted to make sure that they knew he didn’t agree with it. He wasn’t happy with them. He wasn’t thankful.

If Paul were to write a letter to you, what would he have to say in his thanksgiving? Would he say anything at all? Or would he be so worried about what is going on in your life, or with your friends, or in your church, that he wouldn’t even take time to touch on what he would be thankful for?

Take time today to remember someone who you are thankful for today, and let them know how much you appreciate them! And take time today to make yourself someone who others might be thankful for.

Oh!.. and if you don’t have anything nice to say, follow Paul’s example, and say nothing at all.

The Preeminent Patriarch – Galatians 1:3

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…” -Galatians 1:3

Growing up, my parents used to do this event with me and my sister periodically. One of them individually would take a night, and make it specifically about us. It would be maybe me and my mom going to “Toys R’ Us,” or my dad and I going to see one of the George Clooney “Batman” flicks. My parents saw the need for us to know the importance of not just our family love and unity, but they also saw it important to share with us their individual love and devotion. Those memories are moments I cherish, suspended in time, and they’ll remain that way until I die.

Within the first two verses of Galatians, Paul already refers to God as “Father” twice. Some say that he might be doing it formulaically. Some might recon that Paul is differentiating God the Father Trinitarianly from Jesus the Son. I think Paul has more in mind here.

Until Jesus came, only the Jews were seen as the “Children of God.” With the dawn of Christianity making its way up the horizon, the news was spreading that this movement was now accessible to all people – not just people from Israel. Now any one who believed in Jesus and his work on the cross would be seen as a child of God.

God is not just the Father of the Jews, but He is now the Father of all who come to Him in faith.

There were Jewish Christians who came to Galatia and were telling the people that they had to become Jewish. These Christians were being told that they weren’t really “Children of God” until they got circumcised and made a commitment to the Feasts and other customs of “their people,” the Jews. Paul is reminding these believers in his opening sentences that they already are God’s children. He is reminding them that God is their Father.

There are a couple truths we must realize about God being our Father. First, there is the realization that we are His children. We are heirs of His Kingdom! There are promises that pertain specifically to us. Secondly, we must view God as the patriarch of our lives – He is the head of the household. Especially at the time, within the household, the father/husband/proprietor was seen as the leader of the family. Part of what Paul is saying isn’t just that we hold the promises, but that we need to respect God has our Father.

He is our Dad who cherishes us. He takes us out to see Batman with George Clooney even though objectively it is the worst movie to the franchise. He is our Father and expects those who are His children to follow Him, respect Him, listen to Him, and obey Him. We are His children; not just the Jews, not just those in Galatia, but everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.

Apostleship, Authority, and Accountability – Galatians 1:1

“Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…” -Galatians 1:1

The early 1900’s was an exciting time for the church in America. The Pentecostal movement had been birthed, and what started with a small assembly in the middle of no where, had now stretched to the distant shores of the U.S. coast. This movement was even starting to expand globally! Places like the Azusa Street revival were becoming more and more normal, as people were gaining interest on how they could experience God in a way they hadn’t experienced Him before.

During this period, there rose a group of men and women whose passion it was to preserve this move of the Holy Spirit. They saw that with this movement growing so quickly, it would be easy for some one who was uneducated or misinformed to teach falsely on God or the Holy Spirit. People could come and take advantage of innocent people, and use this move of the Spirit for their own selfish ways. This reason was one of the main reasons Harvest Time’s fellowship, The Assemblies of God, was formed.

With Harvest Time being in the Assemblies it means we hold to the doctrine that they set forth. There are specifically sixteen of these “fundamental truths” that all A/G churches and pastors must adhere to and agree upon. The denomination holds our church accountable to teaching the correct gospel, and us being in the denomination puts us in fellowship with millions of like-minded believers.

At the start of his letter to the Galatians, Paul takes longer than usual to explain the authority given to him as an apostle. There was a group that came to Galatia from Jerusalem, and they claimed that their apostleship was better than Paul’s because they were from Jerusalem (the hub), and Paul was sent from a church in Antioch. They came to Galatia and were telling them that they needed to become “Jewish” to be truly accepted as a Christian.

Paul wanted to remind the Galatians that his authority wasn’t given to him just by the church in Antioch. They might have sent him on his missionary journey, but ultimately Paul’s authority came from Christ. The Galatians were in a tight spot in that they were denying the right that Paul had as their spiritual authority. They were no longer letting him hold them accountable, which is why Paul is writing this letter with such urgency.

I think there are many people today that do not have a spiritual authority in their lives. I’ve heard of stories of non-denomination churches where the pastor will cheat on his wife and keep his position, because there is no accountability. I’ve heard of pastors who owned church buildings who sold them under their congregations feet when they got let go of their pastorate. Without accountability people are left to their own devices, and even churches are left to rely on the handful of people in their four walls.

The early church wasn’t like this. Though each church had a pastor, the church as a whole would meet and discuss issues. There is an example of this in Acts when they discuss whether Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised. Each member of the church had the spiritual authority of their pastor. Each pastor had a spiritual authority of the Twelve Apostles. The Twelve were held accountable by God.

Maybe you don’t have anyone to hold you accountable. I am blessed with a wonderful senior pastor who will sit down with me and wrestle with me over tough issues. He is patient with me and gives direction not just to me and our pastoral staff, but also to the entire congregation. If you don’t have someone who can hold you accountable, someone with whom can correct you when you are wrong, I encourage you to find someone. Christianity isn’t meant to be done alone. God put pastors and leaders in our lives for a reason. Learn to be submissive not just to God, but also whoever is your spiritual authority.

I bet even your pastor has someone who he has holding him accountable.

And So It Begins – Galatians 1:1-10

It was the late 1930’s. The United States was just getting through the treacherous Depression. People were starting to frequent theaters again. They started feeling the stability of an economy with a somewhat stable foundation. America might have been in between wars, but there was still a war going on at home.

The racism that had permeated since the 1800’s was starting to regain concentration in the country. With people forgetting about the financial crisis, they were then able to focus again on “the problem” at home. Especially in the South, The Jim Crow Laws became common practice at public establishments. Restaurants, Schools, Buses, and even Doctors at Hospitals were segregated with the slogan that it was “separate but equal.”

Imagine it being 1965 and LBJ had just pushed Civil Rights deeming The Jim Crow Laws were unconstitutional. You are the governor of a state in the South, and decide to undergo a construction project to eliminate the segregated restroom facilities and drinking fountains in a few of your state parks. You draw up the plans, go over them with the necessary committees, and pass everything on to the construction crews hired for the project.

Everything seemed to be going fine until you hear the production has stopped at one of your parks. Then you get another call. Then another. By the end of the day, you hear that construction has stopped at every park you were working on. After talking to the construction companies you found out that the local mayors and townspeople are coming and telling the construction workers that you as the governor do not have the right to change their parks. You are shocked that these people are denying not just your authority, but the authority of the President as well.

Paul was in a similar situation when he penned this letter to the Galatians. Before the birth of the church, only the Israelites were seen as the People of God. After Jesus was resurrected though, it became something that was offered to everyone. Paul preached this message on his first journey when he met a group in Galatia. Most of the people who started following Jesus from there weren’t Jewish.

There was a Jewish group, however, that came from Jerusalem after Paul left. They are known as “Judaizers,” and they were telling these new believers that they had to become Jewish to really be a Christ Follower. These Jews said that Paul didn’t have the authority to tell the Galatians what the Gospel was. They were deceiving many of the Galatians into accepting their claims.

Paul hearing of this, sat down and wrote his first epistle, the letter to The Galatians.

“Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

“To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:1-10