Galatians 2: God Accepteth No Man’s Person
Turn to Galatians chapter 2. Paul wrote this epistle to the Christians at Galatia because they had been led astray by a false, works-based gospel. In chapter 1, Paul said to them, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal 1:6). Note that Paul described the true gospel as “the grace of Christ”; because the true gospel is that salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works. The false gospel, that the Galatians fell for, claimed that people got saved by doing the works of the law. In chapter 3, verse 2, as a rebuke, Paul asked the Galatians the following question: “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” And the obvious answer to Paul’s question is that the Galatians got saved by the hearing of faith, not by the works of the law. And that’s the point that Paul was trying to drive home to the Galatians throughout this entire epistle: That. Salvation. Is. Just. By. Faith! (And. Not. By. Works!)
Paul also wanted to make it clear that he lived his life to please God, and not to please men. In Galatians 1:10, Paul said, “… do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” You can’t live your life to please men and to please Christ, it’s impossible to please both; so you have to choose one, or the other. And that’s why Paul didn’t want the Galatians to have a man-pleasing attitude, because having such would invariably lead them astray from God.
And supporting these themes, was the fact that Paul did not get the gospel that he preached from men, but, rather, Paul received the gospel message directly from God. Galatians 1, verses 11-12 read, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It should have been comforting to the Galatians to learn that the gospel that saved them, had it’s origin directly from God, and that it wasn’t something invented by any man.
Now, in Chapter 2, Paul continued his defense of the gospel to the Galatians. Paul shared his past experiences of having to defend the gospel against false Christians. And Paul also related to the Galatians how even saved Christians, like Barnabas and the Apostle Peter, got temporarily deceived into following a false, works-based gospel. This fact should have been comforting to the Galatians, because it showed them that they weren’t the only ones to get deceived into following a false gospel, after getting saved by the true one.
The book of Galatians is very relevant for us today, because much of the church today has fallen away from following the true gospel, and are now following a false, works-based gospel, just like the Galatians had. And so we need to study what Paul said to the Galatians, to get them back to the true gospel; and we need to employ Paul’s same methodology when we help Christians today get back to following the truth.
Let’s read Galatians Chapter 2
- 1-5: The Controversy
Chapter 2 starts out with Paul saying, “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also” (Gal 2:1). As noted last time, Paul did not minister alone, on this trip he took Barnabas and Titus with him. Christians minister best when working with other Christians, because each of us are different parts of the same local body of believers. Romans 12:5 says, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” We’re each members one of another, and that’s why we work best as a team, and that’s why even the great Apostle Paul ministered with other Chrisitans helping alongside him.
Now, in Galatians 2:2, Paul gives the reasons why he went to Jerusalem. Verse 2 begins, “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles …”
First, notice that Paul says, “I went up by revelation”; that means that Paul was led by the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul that he needed to go up to the church at Jerusalem. This shows that Paul was sensitive to, and obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
This reminds me of how Paul followed the Holy Spirit’s leading when Paul went soul-winning in the book of Acts. In Acts 16, it says that they [quote] “… were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia”; that’s Acts 16:6. But then in Acts 16:9 and 10 it says that, “… a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” So there we see an example of Paul & co. being led by the Holy Spirit; the Spirit told Paul where not to go soul-winning, and the Spirit showed Paul where to go soul-winning. Again, this is an example of what Paul meant, in Galatians 2:2, when he said, I went up by revelation, in reference to going up to Jerusalem.
And so we also need to be sensitive to, and obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leading, because serving Christ is not merely an academic exercise; it’s a supernatural thing as well. You see, according to Ephesians 2:10, God has before ordained good works for us to walk in; and so we need the Holy Spirit to lead us to those good works, so that we can walk in them.
As a church, we experienced the Holy Spirit clearly leading us out of California. And so we left. And by obeying the Holy Spirit, we’ve been blessed with much needed spiritual pruning, and the resulting spiritual growth; our church has grown a lot, spiritually, since we moved out here to Washington… And we’ve also experienced, like Paul, the Holy Spirit leading us where to go soul-winning, and where not to go soul-winning. And by obeying God’s leading, God has blessed us with precious fruit. May the Holy Spirit continue to lead us, and may we continue to obey him. And may the phrase, “I went up by revelation,” be part of our vocabulary, and part of our thinking, as it was Paul’s.
Going back to Galatians 2:2, Paul said, “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” So here we see the purpose of Paul’s trip to Jerusalem. Paul went to present the gospel that he preached to those who were of reputation, in order for those people of reputation to test his gospel, and to let Paul know if he was preaching the right thing, or if he had been running in vain all those years, by preaching the wrong gospel.
Now who were these people that Paul presented his gospel to for testing? Well, again, in verse 2, Paul said they “were of reputation.” And then in verse 6 Paul refered to them as [quote] “these who seemed to be somewhat.” And then, in verse 9, Paul actually gives their names, and says they were [quote], “James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars.” So it was the three Apostles, James, Peter, and John, that Paul brought his gospel to for testing. And it’s interesting that Paul doesn’t refer to them as pillars, per say, but rather as those who seemed to be pillars. We’ll get a little more into why he referred to them that way, but, suffice it to say, Paul didn’t want the Galatians to blindly follow any man’s teaching, no matter what their reputation. Rather, Paul wanted the Galatians to test the gospels that preachers preached to them, just like Paul had his gospel tested.
So now we have the scene set before us: Paul met James, Peter, and John, in private, so that he could show them the gospel that he preached. Again, the later half of Galatians 2:2 reads, “… and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.”
And it’s important to understand what Paul was saying here about the possibility of having run in vain. Paul was saying that if he had been preaching the wrong gospel, those past 17 years, or so, since he got saved, if he had been preaching the wrong gospel, then he would have been running in vain all those years; and all the work that Paul thought he had accomplished for God, would have been for naught, for nothing. It’s like what Paul said, in Phillipians 3, about how everything that he had accomplished in the Jew’s religion, he now counted as dung, because he was preaching the wrong gospel then. Likewise, if Paul had been preaching the wrong gospel, as a Christian too, then he would have been running in vain; he would not have been pleasing God, he would not have been actually saving souls with the wrong gospel, and he would not have been earning eternal rewards; all his work would have been in vain.
And, sadly, such is the case with most people who call themselves Christians today. Most Christians today are actually preaching a false, work-based, repent-of-your-sins-to-be-saved gospel, and so they’re not pleasing God, they’re actually working against God, wittingly or unwittingly.
But, of course, Paul was preaching the right gospel; the other Apostles added nothing to what Paul was preaching, rather they extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul, affirming that he was preaching the right thing… And Paul was likely being facetious when he talked about the possibility of him having run in vain; because Paul knew that he was preaching the right gospel; I mean, it was God himself who first shared the gospel with Paul, so there couldn’t have been any doubt, in Paul’s mind, that he was preaching the right thing.
But that does beg the question as to why Paul’s gospel was being tested in the first place? And, to answer that, let’s turn to Acts 15 and get the backstory to Galatians 2. So turn to Acts 15:1, but keep your place here in Galatians 2. Now Paul was having his gospel tested, (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Paul was the one doing the testing,) as the result of a dispute that Paul had with some false Christians who had infiltrated his church, and started teaching a false gospel there. Acts 15, starting in verse 1, reads: “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question” (Acts 15:1-2). And so certain men came to Paul’s church saying that you had to be circumcised to be saved; now saying that you have to be circumcised to be saved is a false gospel. Saying that you have to do any kind of work to be saved is a false gospel; because salvation is just by faith, not by works. And we know that the men who were preaching this false gospel weren’t just deceived believers, but were actually false Christians, because Galatians 2:3-5 says they were false brethren: (do you still have Galatians 2 marked? Ok, look at verses 3-5…) “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”
Paul called these men “false brethren unawares brought in.” And note how Paul describes the motivation of these false brethren, in Galatians 2:4, he said they, “… came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.” So these false brethren had a nefarious agenda; they didn’t just want to sneak into the church, so that they could innocently hang out with real Christians. But they actually wanted to spy on the Christians, they wanted to asses the freedom that they had in Christ, in order to bring them into bondage, in order to enslave them, spiritually, to a false, works-based gospel.
And note the adversarial, war-like language Paul used to describe the agenda of these fake Christians; Paul used phrases like “spy out,” and “bring us into bondage,” because the false brethren’s goal was to infiltrate the church, like spies, and capture these Christians with a false gospel. And that is why fake Christians aren’t supposed to be let into the church; because they’re out to destroy real Christians; fake Christians are out to purposely lead real Chrsitians astray! Which is why Paul said, in Romans 16:17-18, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” So we’re to mark and avoid fake Christians who try to come in among us and cause divisions by teaching a false gospel.
Note, in Galatians 2:3-5, that these fake Christians tried to compel Titus to be circumcised, but Paul said that they didn’t subject themselves to these false brethren, at all, not even for an hour; Paul said: “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour …” And why didn’t they give in to them? Paul said they didn’t give in, in order that [quote], “… the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” So Paul especially didn’t follow that false gospel in order to protect the other Christians that were following Paul; Paul didn’t want to lead the Christians at Galatia astray. Christian leaders have other Christians that follow them, right? and so it’s doubly important for Christian leaders not to get led astray by a false gospel. That’s why James said, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (Ja 3:1). Christian leaders get disciplined by God more quickly, and more severely, than other Christians, because if a Christian leader goes astray, other Christians go astray with him. And so those of us who are in the ministry must strive to walk in the truth of the gospel all the more, and not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of those who are infuenced by us.
III. 6-10: The Vindication
Next, look at Galatians 2:6-9. Here’s where the other Apostles determined that Paul was indeed preaching the right gospel. Galatians 2:6-9: “But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: but contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (for he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”
So the other Apostles affirmed that Paul was preaching the right gospel; he passed their test, so to speak. And Paul said that they added nothing to him, meaning they didn’t add anything to the gospel he preached; in fact, they gave him the right hand of fellowship, and commended Paul to his ministry of preaching to the Gentiles.
Now, when you look at Galatians 2:6-9, you’ll notice that Paul seems to be taking the other Apostles down a notch. I mean, he’s talking about James, Peter, and John, the James, Peter, and John; but Paul says of them, “these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:)” So why was Paul kinda downplaying their reputations? Well remember Paul was trying to teach the Galatians not to be man-pleasers, but, rather, to be God-pleasers. Again, Paul said, in Galatians 1:10, “… do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” And so here, in chapter 2, Paul is continuing his don’t-try-to-please-men theme to the Galatians. He didn’t want the Galatians to be awestruck with any human being, not even the Apostles, because a Christian’s focus is supposed to be on Jesus Christ, and not on any man… When Jesus warned people not to exalt themselves, the way the Pharisees exalted themselves, Jesus said, in Matthew 23:8, “… one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren”; so we’re all equal, we’re all brethren, and only Jesus is our real Master. This is the point that Paul was trying to make to the Galatians when he said, of the Apostles, that God accepteth no man’s person.
And the thing is that it’s really the Holy Spirit who accomplishes great things through men of God. And so that’s why we shouldn’t exalt even godly men; because the exaltation belongs to the Holy Spirit, the exaltation belongs to God alone. Galatians 2:8 says, “(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)” Paul said that it was the Holy Spirit who wrought effectually through Peter, and that it was the Holy Spirit who worked mightily through Paul. So by taking the Apostles down a notch, Paul was basically saying, Don’t exalt even us Apostles, just exalt the Holy Spirit. “… He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).
- 11-14: The Past
Because the problem with exalting human beings, the problem with exalting even great Christians, like the Apostles, is that all human beings are sinful, and can be led astray. And so if we’re idolizing even a godly man, and he gets led astray, then we’ll get led astray with him. And that is exactly what happened with Peter; Peter got led astray, and then a bunch of Christians, that were following Peter, got led astray with him. Look at Galatians 2, verses 11-14: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” What happened here is that Peter got led astray by the false brethren unawares brought in, who said that one had to be circumcised and follow the law to be saved. And so Peter started following the ceremonial laws again, and then a bunch of other Christians followed Peter, and got led astray with him. And, again, this is why Paul didn’t want the Galatians to exalt any man, not even the Apostles, because the Apostles could get led astray too.
And note that, in Galatians 2:12, that it tells us percisely why Peter was led astray by these false brethren; it’s because he was [quote] “… fearing them which were of the circumcision.” And so it’s fearing man, it’s trying to be a man-pleaser, that gets us Christians into trouble; it even got Peter into trouble.
Now our church is loosely associated with IFB churches, Independant Fundamental Baptist churches. Not that we’re of that denomination, we’re not really of any denomination, but we share the same core beliefs as they do, we both preach that salvation is by faith on Jesus, and not by works, and we fellowship with a lot of IFB people online.
But one thing that we’ve noticed with the IFB people is that they seem to fear man maybe a little bit too much, they seem to be man-pleasers sometimes, at least some of them do, in that they exalt their pastors perhaps a bit more than they should; kinda the same way that Paul warned the Galatians not to do with the Apostles.
See there are some periphery doctrines that the IFB churches adhere to, that are wrong; like saying that pastors, or elders, must be sent out by other pastors, before they can start a church. That doctrine’s wrong because, in Acts 14:23, it says that Paul & co. [quote] “… ordained them elders in every church …”, indicating that they ordained elders in churches that already existed, that already had elders teaching in them, before they were ordained. So the biblical example of the ordination process occurred after the church was established (not before), to confirm a pastors who were already pastoring well. This can also be seen in Titus 1:5, where Paul told Titus to [quote] “… set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city …”; so, again, the implication is that churches were already established in every city, and that elders were already teaching in those churches, but something was lacking; the approved elders needed to be ordained in those churches, probably in order to differentiate them from the false teachers.
So that’s an example of a false doctrine that most IFB churches adhere to; the “sent out” heresy, as I like to call it. And, just this past week, a couple of IFB pastors, and about a half a dozen of their followers, accused our pastor, Pastor Yaghtin, of being a fake, because he wasn’t sent out by another man. And these IFB people basically tried to destroy our church. Fellow believers in the Lord trying to destroy our church because of this false doctrine. It was a bit surreal. And when we showed these IFB people Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5, they had nothing to respond with. Nothing. In fact, they wouldn’t respond directly to those verses. But, then again, how could they? They’re wrong, and those verses prove that they’re wrong.
And the connection to Galatians 2 is this: just as Peter feard the circumcision, and got carried away with following their traditions, over the gospel; and just as Peter’s followers unquestionably followed Peter, and got led astray with him; so have these IFB pastors, and their followers, gotten caught up in following the “sent out” tradition of men, even to the point of ignoring the Bible verses that prove this doctrine wrong. And even to the point of trying to destroy our church. May God have mercy on these pastors, and on their followers; may God help them not to be man-pleasers, but rather God-pleasers, and may God lead them to repent, and start following the Bible in this matter.
And we really should correct, and pray for, our brothers, when they get caught up in false doctrine. Just as Paul corrected Peter, because it actually helped Peter; Peter repented and he got back to preaching the right gospel again. And you can see this when you compare Galatians 2 with Acts 15; because it’s in Acts 15:1-2 where the false brethren lead Peter and the other Christians astray, and where Paul rebukes Peter; but then, a few verses later, starting in Acts 15:7, Peter is back on track again, and preaching the right gospel.
And it’s encouraging that Peter was only temporarily led astray. It’s encouraging because it shows that, just as Christians can get led astray, they can also get led back to the truth. And so when we see real Christians led astray by false doctrine, even led astray by a false gospel, we need to correct them; and we need to correct them in hopes of leading them back to the truth.
- 15-16: The Issue
Now let’s look and see exactly what it was that Paul said to Peter that helped Peter get back to the truth. Turn to Galatians 2, verses 15 and 16. Actually, let’s start with verse 14: “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
Note, quickly, in verse 14, that Paul said that “they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel,” when they were trying to follow the law to be saved. Now when you hear that someone “walked not uprightly,” you’d think they were not following the law. But here Paul said that they walked not uprightly, because they were trying to follow the law; they were trying to follow the law to be saved. Not walking in the liberty of the gospel is not walking uprightly; trying to do works to get saved is not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.
But it’s Galatians 2:16 that’s the crux of Paul’s argument. Note that Paul basically says the same thing, three different times here, to drive home his point; Galatians 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Over and over and over Paul said that no one is justified by the works of the law; that we’re only justified by faith on Jesus. Paul repeatedly drove home this point, in order to wake Peter up, and in order to wake up the Galatians! and get them back to the simple, true gospel once again; that salvation is just by faith, and not by works.
And Peter did wake up, Peter went back to preaching the right gospel again. And Paul had confidence that the Galatians would wake up too; Paul said to them, “I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded …” Paul said that in Galatians 5:10, in reference to them getting back to the true gospel.
But what about the Christians in America today? Will they wake up? The Christians in our society seem to be going through a great falling away from the true gospel. And the thing is, today’s Christians are essentially falling for the same works-based false gospel that Peter and the Galatians fell for. It’s just worded a little differently.
Now if you ask any Christian today, Can you get saved by following the law? they’ll say, No, of course not. Christians know, if you ask them straight up like that, that you can’t get saved by following the law. Nonetheless, Satan has deceived most modern-day Christians into trying to follow the law to get saved; and Satan has done this by simply giving “following the law” a new name; he now calls it, “repenting from sin.”
I mean, almost any Christian that you talk to today will say that you have to repent of your sins to be saved. It’s really a shame; this is a false gospel. As we also discussed in chapter 1, ‘repenting from sin’ is just another way of saying, ‘following the law’; because 1 John 3:4 says that, “… sin is the transgression of the law”; so the Bible defines sin as transgressing or breaking the law, therefore repenting from sin is following the law; it’s that simple; if sin is not following the law, then repenting from sin is following the law. And if someone says that you have to repent of your sins to be saved, then they’re really saying that you have to follow the law to be saved. And why can’t the modern-day Christian see this? How did such a simple deception, a simple word game, manage to fool the majority of Christians in our society?
Well part of it has to do with Christians having a man-pleasing attitude, instead of having a God-pleasing attitude; a lot of Christians unquestionably follow popular teachers, and unquestionably follow local pastors, just because these teachers and pastors are in positions of authority. The problem is that most teachers and most pastors today are preaching this false, repent-of-your-sins-to-be-saved gospel.
Take famed theologian J.I. Packer, for instance. He says that [quote] “repentance means … one’s whole life is lived differently.” And Packer goes on to say that [quote] “the idea that there can be saving faith without repentance … is a destructive delusion.” But, no, it’s really Packer who’s deluded; because the Bible does not say that you have to repent of your sins, or change your whole life around, in order to get saved.
And another popular false teacher, R.C. Sproul, says [quote], “… if [a] person has true faith, that true faith will manifest itself in a life of obedience.” But, again, no! this is simply not true. Unfortunately, many saved by faith Christians live a life of disobedience; and, yes, these Christians are losing out on eternal rewards, via 1 Corinthians 3, but they’re still saved! Salvation is just by faith, salvation has nothing to do with works, or obedience to the law!
And so then this false, repent-of-your-sins-to-be-saved gospel, trickles down from such theologians as Packer and Sproul, to the local pastors in America. I looked at the websites of about 10 churches in our area, Spokane Washington; and, of the 10 sites that I looked at, 2 of them taught the true gospel, and 8 of them said that you had to repent of your sins to get saved, or some variation thereof.
A church called Calvary Spokane said on their website, “We believe that salvation comes through the repentance of our sins and by believing upon the person and work of Jesus Christ” (http://www.calvaryspokane.com/about/webelieve/). Notice how they tried to add faith, to their works-based false gospel; they said that salvation comes through repentance of sins, and by believing on Jesus.
Next Westgate Christian Church said, “Christians who have adhered to God’s Word and have been obedient to God in Christ are saved unto the resurrection of life” (http://westgatechristianchurch.com/about/). Really? You have to adhere to God’s word and be obedient to God to be saved? That’s not the gospel!
Then there was Crossover Church which said you have to [quote] “Be willing to turn from your sins (repent)” to be saved (http://crossoverchurch.info/want-to-know-god).
And Suncity Church said, “Salvation is a free gift which cannot be earned but received only by faith and the repentance of sins” (http://suncitychurch.com/people-profiles/what-we-believe/). It sounded so good, til that last part!
And Foothills Christian Church said, “He now calls us to repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness (Acts 17:30, John 1:12). If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again …” (http://foothillscc.net/the-gospel/).
I hope you understand that these people are all crazy! I mean, these are all false gospels! You don’t have to repent of your sins or be obedient to God’s law, in order to be saved. It’s simply not true. And if you add the works of repentance from sins to the gospel, it’s no longer the gospel; because now you’re saying that works are a requirement for salvation, and that faith is not enough. In other words, faith + works negates the faith part… And doesn’t it seem like we’re in the great falling away period right now? I mean, most churches are teaching a false gospel. The city of Spokane desperately needs our church. This city desperately needs someone preaching the right gospel to them.
Paul wrote this entire heart-felt, Holy-Spirit-inspired epistle to the churches at Galatia in order to rescue them from such a false gospel as has captured the city of Spokane today. May our church be like a modern-day epistle to the city of Spokane, and may God use our church to rescue many people from this false, works-based, repent-of-your-sins gospel. (And if you want to see the sources for any of the quotes in my sermon, go to our website, NewCovenantBaptist.org, and click “Resources,” then click “Preachers of false … gospels.”)
- 17-20: The Life
Next, in Galatians 2:17-20, Paul wrote about how Christians are supposed to live after salvation. While we don’t have to do any kind of work, or repentance of sins, in order to get saved, that doesn’t mean Christ wants us to sin, or that he’s ok with us willfully sinning. Look at Galatians 2:17-18: “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”
Christians still sin; after we get saved, we still sin. 1 John 1:8 says, of Christians, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”; so we’re lying to ourselves if we say that we don’t sin anymore.
But, when we do sin, when we are found to be sinners, (as Paul put it,) it’s not because of Christ; Christ is not the minister of sin. Rather, we make ourselves transgressors; we’re responsible for our own sinning. James 1:13-14 says: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” That’s what Paul was saying in Galatians 2:18 when he wrote, “I make myself a transgressor …”; we sin because of ourselves, not because of Christ.
And this passage, by the way, refutes Calvinism’s false definition of predestination, which says that God is the author of everything, including the author of sin. But that can’t be true, because Paul says, here in Galatians, that we make ourselves transgressors; so God is not the author of the sin in our lives, that’s on us, we do it to ourselves.
But we’re not supposed to make ourselves transgressors again. Even though we’re saved through faith alone, (and so our salvation is never on the line, we can never lose it, no matter how much we sin,) it’s still not Ok to willfully sin; because we’re supposed to live our lives for God. Look at Galatians 2:19: “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”
Now that’s an interesting phrase, in the first part of that verse: “I through the law am dead to the law …” The law kills us; it kills us in the sense that it shows us that we fall short; that we’re sinners on the way to the punishment for our sins: the second death. But, once we put our faith on Jesus to save us, we’re dead to the law in the sense that we’re freed from it; we’re freed from the law’s condemnation, through faith on Christ; and we’re freed from futily trying to earn our salvation by following the law.
“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” And so the end result of being dead to the law is that it frees us up to live unto God. Because we’re no longer selfishly trying to earn our salvation through works, we can now do works as a kind of free-will offering unto God. “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”
Christians, please live unto God. And I say this to myself as well: Marshall, please live your life unto God. Don’t build again sinful works that lead to the things of death, because you are no longer a slave to sin; in your inner man, you are freed from sin, so choose to live for God! Choose to build with good works, and to reap eternal rewards, from them, in heaven.
You know, there’s nothing wrong with being motivated to do good works by the heavenly rewards that you get for doing them. Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and presecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven …” (Matthew 5:11-12). So Jesus said to rejoice, and be exceeding glad when something happens to you, or when you do something that gets you rewards in heaven. So doing good works for rewards is a biblical motivation, it’s a proper motivation. You might even say that working for rewards is a command, because Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Matthew 6:19-21: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” So, again, it’s biblical to be motivated to do good works by the eternal rewards that you get for doing them.
But the best motivation for doing works unto God is out of love for God. God first loved us, and gave himself for us, and so we should, in turn, love him, and live this life, in the flesh, for him. Look at Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” We are crucified with Christ, our old man is dead, but we’re alive, and we’re really alive for the first time; because we have a regenerated spirit, quickened by the Holy Spirit; and it’s all because of Jesus; because he loved us, and he gave himself for us; and so let’s live for him. The God of the universe came down to earth and took our punishment, that we deserve, to save us from it; now that’s love. So let’s live for him. He commanded us to preach the gospel to all nations, to tell everyone what he did for us; so let’s do it. Let’s live this life in the flesh for Jesus. Let’s save souls. Let’s edify the brethren. Let’s do the works that have been prepared for us to do; and, yeah, let’s do it for rewards, there’s nothing wrong with that! but, most of all, let’s live for God because he loved us first, and because we love him back!
VII. 21: The Conclusion
Ok, now I want you to consider this one last thing, as we conclude the sermon: if living for God and preaching the gospel is the best thing that we can do with our lives, then working against God and preaching against the gospel is the worst thing that we can do with our lives; and that’s exactly what preachers of false, works-based gospels are doing; they’re living in opposition to God by preaching that Christ died for nothing. Look at Galatians 2:21: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” If people can get saved by following the law, or by repenting of sin, then they don’t need Jesus to save them! If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain! This is the bottom-line message of false, works-based gospels; they are, in essence, saying that Christ died for nothing, because they’re saying that righteousness can be attained apart from Christ. And so if you really love God, and if you really want to live for life for him, then don’t say that salvation is by works, don’t say that you have to repent of your sins to be saved, because, again, that’s saying that Christ died in vain.
As Christians, our life is to be centered around the true gospel, that salvation is just by faith on Jesus, and not by works or repentance of sin. This is the message that saved us, and this is the message that we preach to save others. And prepare yourself for this simple, true gospel message to be attacked. Because it will be attacked. And don’t let yourself get fooled by Satan’s word games, and don’t let the brethren get fooled either. Live your life unto God by defending and preaching the true gospel: “… that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”