Please Don’t Go: Thoughts on Galatians 1:6ff

 

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“Please don’t go. Don’t go away.”

As long as we are in this world, we will struggle with temptations to leave God. “When, then, the flesh resists, the soul must be intent upon God, and if results do not follow, let not faith fail. And if the enticements of the flesh come upon us, or the powers of the enemy attack us, let the soul keep in submission to God.”[1] To help us not leave, we need to remember how great things are at home with God.

 

Leaving the Gospel of Grace Exchanges Grace for the Curse

Galatians 1:6-9

I am marveling that you are quickly deserting from the one who called you in Christ’s grace unto another gospel. There is not another, but some are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven evangelizes you with another gospel, let him be accursed. Even as we announced before, I am now saying to you again if someone evangelizes you contrary to what you have received, he is cursed.

Christians are called through the Gospel to share in Christ’s glory (2 Thess. 2:14). How rude must it be for us to reject God’s call to his grace or to desert the grace we have received! The gospel of grace isn’t abandoned only when we outright reject it, it can also be abandoned when we change the gospel. How dare we change God’s gospel? Do we think we can improve God’s gospel? Do we think it needs adjustments?

God will not tolerate his perfect gift—the gospel of grace—to be hidden by alterations. Those who would alter God’s precious gospel are accursed. Accursed is from the Greek word ἀνάθεμα. The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “if anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” In Romans 9:3 Paul said, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” There Paul has defined the word for us. To be “accursed” is to be “cut off from Christ.” Why is the penalty for altering the gospel of grace so high? The penalty of altering God’s gospel of grace must be so high because it is a perfect and beautiful gift from the highest heaven, it was paid for with the greatest sacrifice, and to alter the gospel of grace is to rob others from God’s grace.

 

Leaving the Gospel of Grace Exchanges God’s Approval for Man’s Approval

Galatians 1:10-12

For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? If I am seeking to please men? If I were trying to please men, I am not truly the servant of Christ. For I want you to know, brothers, the gospel which I evangelized you with is not according to man. For neither from man was it received nor taught it but I received it from a revelation from Christ.

 

Such a gospel could only come from God. Paul had to emphasize the Heavenly source of the gospel to counteract attacks against his apostleship and the power of the gospel. Since the Gospel was from Heaven and not man, Paul understood we should not seek approval from people because we already have been accepted by God.

Here is the power of God’s gospel—it leads to God’s acceptance of sinful man. The gospel of grace is God’s power leading to salvation (Rom. 1:16). The curse pronounced all the way back in Adam’s Garden was born and reversed on Christ’s Calvary. Since the curse was reversed, the righteousness of God was revealed and the righteousness of God allows sinful people to live as though they were righteous by faith.

Now to seek the approval of men rather than that of God results in the reversal of the blessings poured out through the gospel of grace. The reversal of the gospel of grace is the futile labor for approval which will never truly be reached and will never satisfy our need for acceptance. The ridiculous thought of seeking human approval over Divine approval can be heard when we realize that that pursuit reverses the gospel itself! Forget about the approval of people so that you can enjoy God’s approval.

 

Leaving the Gospel of Grace Leads to a Life Against Christ and Rebellion Against God’s Blessings

Galatians 1:13-22

13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles.

Before Paul was saved, Paul was consumed with his own upward pursuits rather than the God who came down for him. God had a different plan for Paul and God has a different plan for his people today. God had a plan for Paul which began before Paul was even born—God “had set me apart before I was born. God’s plan for Paul was made known to Paul when he was called by God’s grace (1:15). God’s plan for Paul was brought about by the revelation of God’s Son to Paul (1:16). God’s plan for Paul led to gospel preaching among the Gentiles (1:16).

When Paul rebelled against Christ and his gospel, he was rebelling against God’s gospel blessings. Even though it was God’s eternal plan to give Paul grace and to share grace with others through Paul, there was a time when Paul refused these blessings by refusing God’s grace. Why should we continue in rebellion? Why should we continue rejecting God’s grace in the gospel? We may think we are on a path which is only leading up, but if we are not resting in God’s grace we are only going down.

 

Leaving the Gospel of Grace Robs Others of an Opportunity to Worship

Galatians 1:23-24

22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

If we leave God’s grace outside of us, we may never see God’s grace working around us. When Paul was saved by God’s gracious gospel, the door was opened to great gospel work through one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known. The Christians in Judea heard, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” With this report Paul said, “they glorified God because of me.” They worshiped because of Paul. They worshiped because of what Paul was doing. They worshiped because of what God had done through Paul.

I can’t help but be interested in what people will do when they hear of my life. Will they glorify God because of me? Will they glorify God because of how my life has been shaped by grace? Will they glorify God because their lives were shaped through the grace reflected through my own grace shaped life? The only reason Christians glorified God because of Paul was the life shaping and life saving grace given to Paul.

 

Will We Leave God’s Grace?

Remember that Ambrose said, “And if the enticements of the flesh come upon us, or the powers of the enemy attack us, let the soul keep in submission to God.”[2] In other words, let us stay in God’s grace. There’s no better place to be.

How can I abide with God?

  1. Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me” (Jn. 6:57).
  2. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31).
  3. Jesus said, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, ulness you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:3-5).
  4. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (Jn 15:9-11).
  5. “By this we know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 Jn. 2:6).
  6. “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling” (1 Jn 2:10).
  7. “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.”
  8. “And now little children, abide in him, so that when he appears, we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).

 

[1] Ambrose of Milan, “Two Books Concerning Repentance,” in St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth, vol. 10, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896), 358.

[2] Ambrose of Milan, “Two Books Concerning Repentance,” in St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth, vol. 10, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896), 358.

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