As I come to my time with the Lord today my thoughts are filled with wonder at how vast, how holy, how almighty my God, Yahweh is – and the thought – how can this God, this mighty God be close to me, such a small, finite, created being? I had an earthly father like that – I hugely respected him, but never felt intimately close.
“So God says – listen – listen carefully – do you hear My heart beat? You can only hear the heartbeat of someone who is very close to you – yes I am huge and awesome and holy – but the wonder of the work of My Son Jesus is that He has bridged that gap and you can have that intimate closeness you are longing for – remember “in all things”, at all times I am working for your good, your sanctification, your ultimate glorification. Nothing can separate you from My love, I am always for you in the most complete way – and if I gave my Son Jesus on the cross for you, how much more will I give you all things you need for life and godliness. Come here my son – I want to give you a big hug”.
Today I am taking a break from reading in Acts, so that I can do some in depth reading of Galatians, which I am planning to preach from in August. So today I started with and overview and the first 10 vv. I like the little summary of the main themes in the SU commentary: “The sufficiency of Christ and His atoning work; and the dynamic of the Spirit – these are the leading themes of the epistle and give it timeless relevance as much needed in the twentieth century as in first-century Galatia.”
This is the only letter from Paul where he starts straight in, shooting from the hip as it were, because of his anger at their pollution of the gospel. Despite the huge problems in the Corinthian church, for instance, his tone at the opening of his letters to them is much kinder. So why don’t you read the first 10 vv of ch 1 and ask yourself what you can hear Paul saying about the gospel and those who are preaching another gospel, as he calls it, another gospel that is no gospel at all.
To me what stands out from the beginning is that the gospel is completely at God’s initiative, from the fact that Paul sees himself as called specifically to preach it, by God, (v 1) to the purpose and the completion of the gospel as being according to God’s will. (V 5). Its a beautiful concise summary from grace to glory through the rescuing work of Jesus from the present evil age, which I take to mean the old order of the Jews. But the next paragraph is what really jumps at you, the anger, the frustration at changing something so pure and beautiful into something which is useless. I can almost have a vision of someone going into the Louvre and taking a paint brush full of paint and swatting patches across the Mona Lisa, in so doing spoiling it to to the point of making it useless. The underlying painting is still there but the way it is now being presented changes it into a monstrosity, no longer artistic masterpiece. That sort of pollution would be obvious though, whereas the changes that are made to the gospel are usually much more subtle.
The Greek word which Paul uses to describe his anger is “anathema”. You will all know the English expression of something being an anathema. It means totally condemned, cursed and uselessly unacceptable. strong words to use against fellow Christians.
Lord what are you saying to me today? “As much as Paul was specifically commissioned, I have also given you a specific task, ie to teach and preach My gospel. Take the fire and determination of Paul to keep the gospel pure and share it’s precious message as well as you can”.
Does it ever concern you when you hear an adulterated version of the gospel? Can you actually pick up when a wrong gospel is being preached or even told to you. Maybe as we work through Galatians you could become more sensitive to the many ways it can be twisted.