Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. (Gal 2.4-5; ESV 2016)
From the very beginning of the church people began coming up with variations of the one true Gospel delivered by Christ to his Apostles (see Acts 15.1, 24; Titus 1.10). Among the many false teachers were those who said that the non-Jewish people who believed in Christ had to become Jewish, get circumcised, and follow the law of Moses to truly be right with God (Acts 15.1; Romans 1-4; Galatians; 2 Cor 11.1-14).
In Galatians we find in action what was accomplished through many of the New Testament letters, namely, the bold and unyielding preservation of the Gospel. We can certainly learn from the example of Paul. Especially in a world that values opinion over fact, and preference over truth. Let’s unfold a few points from the text:
There is a truth of the Gospel: The gospel of Jesus Christ is not many things to many people. It is not a varied and ever-changing message that conforms to the whims and pressures of any person or culture. It is not vague. It is not undiscoverable. It is not what you or I think is true about God and salvation. It is not subject to any college, seminary, bible teacher, or church denomination. It is a bedrock of unchanging truth embodied in the person and work of Jesus the Christ, as witnessed by the Apostles, who recorded and proclaimed that truth through the New Testament. Its truth is conveyed in passages like Acts 2, 10, and 1 Corinthians 15. It is powerfully unfolded in the book of Romans, and concisely defended in the book to the Galatians. Here is a summary of the truth of the Gospel proclaimed by the Apostles:
- The Gospel was foretold in the scriptures, which reveal God’s redemptive plan to rescue sin-filled man from the penalty and power of sin: God’s wrath and a sinful nature.
- The Son of God, Jesus, became flesh through the miraculous virgin birth. Fully God and fully man he humbled himself to the will of God the Father. Living a sinless life, he became obedient to the point of death on a cross and was buried. He rose again on the third day defeating sin and death, and appeared to his followers commissioning them to carry the message of salvation to all peoples.
- Jesus ascended to the right hand of God. Having satisfied God’s righteous requirements for justice he now stands as the mediator between God and man. Thus faith in Jesus is the only way a person can receive God’s mercy and be restored to a right relationship with him. Jesus will come again to judge the earth, to receive his church to himself, and to rule over all, forever.
- All who repent and believe in the gospel are totally forgiven, adopted as sons and daughters, and freely receive imperishable new life through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit, who secures and sanctifies them as they await the return of Christ. All of this is accomplished by the will of God through his free gift of grace and is not attained or maintained through any human effort.
There will be those who try to distort the truth of the Gospel: Not every preacher is preaching the truth of the Gospel. Not every missionary is carrying a message from God. Not every church embraces the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reality is that while we live on this earth there will be pastors, teachers, philosophers, leaders, denominations, churches, schools, and individuals who promote a false gospel. There will even be those who begin proclaiming the true Gospel and end with a message that is twisted and unrecognizable from the truth (1 John 2.19). This should be a caution to us in the following way:
We should grow so familiar with the Gospel that we can rest assured that we have embraced its truth for ourselves. As a consequence of this reflection we will also be able to identify false gospels with greater ease . Think of the Gospel as an epic Mansion. Like children on an adventure, we should be eager to see where every hallway leads, to open every door, and explore every room. We should be so familiar with every square inch of the Gospel that we could walk through it with our eyes closed and describe every detail to those unfamiliar with its wonder. We should make a study of every tapestry, look in every chest, and spend long hours in its drawing room pondering the wonder of the Gospel. In growing so familiar and confident in the Gospel we can surely see through the secrecy of false teachers.
We must be unyielding in our defense of the Gospel: Paul and his companions recognized the inconsistency of the false brothers spying out their freedom in Christ. Please note that these were those teaching or promoting a false gospel – not those who had been led astray by them. Those led astray are rebuked, reminded of the truth and called back to it. Those who lead astray are to be silenced because they upset whole families (Titus 1) and ultimately the church. This is exactly what Paul was doing with this letter to the Galatians. He recognized the terrible danger of giving these men any platform in the church. This is why he writes “to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment”. In other words they stopped their mouths, shut them down, and silenced them. Doesn’t that sound offensive to our “everyone gets a trophy” upbringing? What if we offend them? Doesn’t everyone’s opinion matter and have value? Perhaps with ice cream and candy bars, sure, but not with the word of God. The Gospel is not a matter of opinion and preference but a clear message of salvation offered by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Apostles didn’t yield even for a moment and neither should we. We have essentially two options: We can not offend them and risk distorting the gospel, or we can offend them and preserve it for those who will believe. This leads us to the final point.
The Gospel is not only about us, it’s also about those who will believe: Paul’s words we have been studying briefly in this post end with a powerful statement of purpose. They didn’t yield to the false brothers so that “the truth of the gospel would be preserved for you.” The Apostle didn’t surrender the truth to these false brothers not only because they spoke a deadly lie, but because in guarding the truth they were preserving it for those who would believe. Let me put it this way:
- Dad – Your full belief in and submission to the Gospel isn’t only about you it’s about your children and grandchildren. Lead your home through the wonderful truth of the Gospel regularly. Never grow weary of it or think that it is old news. Plant your flag. Hold your ground. Preserve the Truth.
- Mom- The same is true for you. Your love for Jesus and embrace of the Gospel truth is a powerful testimony to the little ones God has entrusted to you – and I might add, it is a softening ointment to the hearts of your children and grandchildren preparing them to hear and receive the Gospel for themselves.
- Christian – Your belief in the Gospel and its impact upon your life is not only for you but for the neighbor, co-worker, friend, and family member who will believe. Take these words to heart and seek to know the Gospel as well as you know yourself (if not better). Be eager to know it. Be bold to proclaim it. Be ready to defend it. Be steadfast as you live according to it.
- Pastor/Elder – Your life, understanding, teaching, and defense of the Gospel are crucial to the well-being of the church and of those who will believe (Titus 1). Push-over pastors and gutless men need not apply to this most important role. Wolves lurk in the shadows and men with courage and gospel clarity need to take up the defense. Preach the Gospel. Defend it with sincerity and courage. Adorn it with passion and purity. Those who will believe are waiting.