I just read through the first chapter of the book of Galatians and it’s got me thinking. The Apostle Paul’s words in chapter one are so strong that it makes you almost shudder, “…even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” and then he repeats it again for emphasis.
The words “eternally condemned” have a pretty straightforward meaning: “let them go to ‘h-e-double toothpicks’ pronto!” As a matter of fact it seems like Paul has got a toothpick in his side when he writes these words to those damned (quite literally) heretics that plagued him wherever he went: the legalistic Judaizers.
These smooth talking dudes carried an Old Testament scroll in one hand a newly sharpened scalpel in the other. If they could add “just one thing” to the gospel (aka “circumcision”…aka “ouch”) they would be “satisfied.” Why? Because they believed that these newly converted Gentiles were disgusting. These “Gentile dogs” needed to, at the very minimum, get circumcised if they were to be acceptable to the Jewish Christians of churches of Galatia.
But it’s never just “one thing”…there’s more…there’s always more.
These Judaizers really wanted these Gentiles to follow the law of Moses as well. They wanted them to convert to a kind of Christian/Judaism mix.
Paul reacts with bewilderment, fury and disdain. The book of Galatians in the result.
I think if Paul were walking planet earth today those old feelings would rise like bile in his throat. I truly believe that his anger would be pointed toward those who, under the banner “Christian theology”, try to add “just one thing” to the free gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
It doesn’t matter what the one thing is. Faith plus just one thing is a sure recipe for heresy soup. It doesn’t matter what the “one thing” is:
- Water Baptism
- Saying a prayer
- Walking an aisle
- Turning over a new leaf
- Turning from all your sin (I’ve yet to meet the dude that could pull this one off)
- Stopping smoking
- Surrendering all (not met this dude either)
- Going to church
- Obeying the ten commandments (good luck with that)
The problem is that we all fall short, horribly short. The purpose of the 10 commandments is not to give us a stairway to heaven but to show us that, apart from Jesus, we are all on a highway to hell. Think of trying to keep these commandments like trying to leap the Grand Canyon with nothing but your current leaping ability. Trying to work our way to heaven through keeping the 10 Commandments results in a great big spiritual SPLAT!
It is only through the grace of God that we are saved. We trust in Jesus alone for the free gift of salvation and he gives it to us, no strings attached. Those who are seek to add strings are weaving a spiritual noose for themselves.
Stop for a moment and think about the gospel message you are presenting to those around you. Does it focus on what Jesus has done for us or what we “must do” for Jesus? Does it add anything, and I mean anything, to simple faith alone in Christ alone? Does it overtly or covertly infuse self-effort into the free gift of God’s grace? If it does then realize that the Spirit of Jesus was using Paul’s fingers to pen the book of Galatians with you in mind.
Check out the latest Dare2share Uncensored Podcast to get a more intense and extensive explanation of today’s little rant. It’s called “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”