By Scott Brown
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly
“Who do you think you are?! Do you really think that there is anything you can do that is so good that it is better than the righteousness of Jesus? Do you really think there is anything you can do that is so terrible that it is more horrible in the eyes of God than seeing His Son on that cross?” This was the verbal berating I endured which opened my eyes to the beauty of eternal security and the sureness of God’s grip.
Until that realization, everything I did as I served in the church and shared the gospel was only out of a sense of fearful obligation rather than an overflow of joy. I was so scared that God would wash His hands of me if I didn’t perform well enough or work hard enough to keep the favor I couldn’t earn. I was miserable because I didn’t understand the true gospel. I was adding to the gospel, which only took away from it.
It wasn’t until I understood that the gospel isn’t an example to follow or a debt to repay but an announcement of freedom was I truly able to serve God with gladness and rest in Him. Similarly, Paul is reminding the Galatian believers that the true gospel is: From God (Galatians 1:1-3). The gospel was not invented by the apostles or schemed up in the back of a dark room by power hungry people. The gospel is neither a psychological tool for behavior manipulation nor a political tool used for personal ambition.
The gospel is, as it always has been, God’s plan for the salvation of all who believe. The gospel that saved Paul and empowered his ministry was entirely from God. Likewise, the grace that restores us and the peace that reconciles us is all from God. He is the author and finisher of our faith, so great a salvation can come only from the mind of God. Paul establishes here that his call is from God, his salvation is from God, and the gospel is entirely from God.
By God (vv. 4-9). The Judaizers who had crept into the fellowship in Galatia were distorting the gospel. Now that they believed the gospel, they must be circumcised to be saved. If Christ’s righteousness is not enough to save then what can any of my righteousness add? What is lacking? What great work can we contribute? Jonathan Edwards said it best, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”
Jesus did everything for our salvation on the cross and all we must do is receive it by faith as we turn from our sin and trust Him alone. Any authority that adds anything to the gospel makes it no gospel at all but a lie and a curse.
About God (v. 10). Paul saw himself as a slave to the gospel. He was not trying to build his following but only to serve His Master faithfully. The gospel not only saves us but it lays claim to us and empowers us to gladly serve our King. The gospel is not showing that God needs us or that heaven is somehow diminished without us.
The gospel shows forth the glory of God as He saves us by His grace and invites us to join Him in His great work of building His Church by His power. May we make it our aim to, like Count Zinzendorf, “Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.”