"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel." Galatians 1:6 NKJV
The good news is the grace of Christ. The bad news is a different gospel. God seems to prefer giving us the good news first, and then the bad news. As a matter of fact, it would appear that God only apprises us of the bad news that we might appreciate the good news. He tells us that He created the heavens and the earth and that they were good. Then He tells us how Satan wrecked the heavens and man wrecked the earth, and what He plans to do about it. He tells us that He created man and that he was good. Then he tells us that man fell into ruin and how He intends to rectify that ruin...and then some!
The worst news is that the Galatians were deserting good news for bad news, shocking the apostle Paul into amazement. The older we get, the more it takes to shock us. It didnít take much to amaze me when I was three years old. Things that my family took for granted were astounding to me. Even at sixteen I was far more readily astounded by new information than I am today. When the apostle Paul, with his great education and experience, is caused to wonder, to marvel, I want to know what precipitated it.
What "stone-walled" the apostle was the seemingly universal defection of his converts in Galatia from the truth of God to the error of men, and that it occurred with such rapidity. These were people, mostly pagan Gentiles, who had heard Paul preach Christ crucified and had responded to Godís offer of free salvation with great enthusiasm. They had been regenerated, "born from above," and their Christian lives and ministries had begun with great promise. Now, together with their pastors, they had "done a one-eighty" and were effectively denying the very truth that had "birthed" them and given them such excitement in life and such success in ministry at the beginning.
I was once called to pastor a church that had recently split. Ninety percent of the people had left. The pastor, who had served faithfully for twenty-two years, was suddenly viewed as unsatisfactory. Even after he resigned and left, the congregation couldnít get together. Hundreds simply walked out, never to return. Now thatís surprising! But the defection in first century Galatia was far more so.
By now we are used to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy experiencing a trickling war of attrition and to Protestant churches decimated by massive walkouts, but this was much more! Virtually all the believers in an entire Roman colony were junking the message that had saved them and given them confidence and happiness, for its very opposite. They were abandoning the grace of Christ, where God does all the saving and man does only the being saved, for a different and contrary message where God requires and accepts manís merit, performance, and production. The infinite generosity of God which provides salvation instantly, completely, and eternally--together with the peace that attends it--was being discarded in favor of probation, with its uncertain future and accompanying stress. The gift righteousness of God traded for the "filthy rags" of manís personal righteousness! These believers had "dressed" themselves in Christ as their garment of righteousness and toga of adulthood and now were returning to a works righteousness that had never saved nor sanctified one single person.
They were turning away from a person--God the Father--and "entering" (literal Greek) a different gospel. From truth to tradition! How senseless they were, and all who have followed their example in the last nineteen centuries. Church history is the seemingly endless account of this mindless departure from God and His grace. To reject the grace of God is to reject the God of grace. You and I, and all who have ever believed in this present Dispensation were called in Christís grace...pure grace...unadulterated grace. Grace that is undiminished and undiminishable. That is how God calls sinners to salvation. It is the only way that He calls us to Himself. Well-meaning people may invite the lost to "commit your life to Christ" to be saved. No one has ever done that. No unsaved person can commit their life to God. Nor can God save on the basis of our giving something--even everything--to Him. At Calvary He did all the giving. At Calvary He gave Himself! Religion will always deny that His death is all-sufficient for our salvation, though Scripture constantly affirms it. Religionís Christ merely "throws the door of Heaven open" leaving something for the sinner to do to be saved. The Christ of the Bible shouts "Tetelestai" ("Finished, Completed, Paid in full") from the cross because that is what He did. He paid our debt in full.
The Galatians had begun their Christian lives by believing exactly what Paul taught, that nothing less than the death of Christ could save them and that nothing more than that was needed. At the instant of believing exactly what Paul taught, that nothing less than the death of Christ could save them and that nothing more than that was needed. At the instant of believing they had been eternally saved and so could never lose their places in Heaven. Now they were believing and teaching legalism. What did their children believe, and where are they spending Eternity?
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